As summer melts into fall, this issue's lead story takes you along on a wilderness hunt for moose. Readers might be struck by the unseasonably hot October weather in the north woods. Though this story does not mention global warming, it could have, because moose can't tolerate heat. Almost every outdoor or environmental story could note the impact of global warming—a problem as big and undeniable as any elephant in the room.
In a recent poll, the National Wildlife Federation found 71 percent of hunters and anglers nationwide (67 percent in Minnesota) now view our warming climate as a threat to fish and wildlife. But who knows what to do about it?
College students are among the worried; and many are taking action, as our Conservation Volunteer outreach intern, Ellie Rogers, taught us this summer. An environmental studies major, she told us about students trying to make campus living as sustainable as possible.
In this issue you'll find some of Ellie's writing in Field Notes. And if you have yet to send your 2006 donation, you'll read her fund-raising appeal on the cover wrap. She writes: "This magazine had its start in 1940 as the official publication for Conservation Volunteers—a group of avowed conservationists pledging to practice and promote good stewardship of Minnesota's natural resources. You, dear reader, are today's Conservation Volunteer."
Students who understand their stake in the future of natural resources are today's conservation volunteers too. They are initiating and practicing stewardship on campuses around the state. In St. Paul, Ellie and a colleague led a project to create Macalester College's first green roof, which replaced an impermeable surface with a cover of plants to boost insulation values and slow storm-water runoff. Their student group—MacCARES (Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society)—recently won a $10,000 grant to install a green roof on a larger building. A community of Macalester students, administration, and facilities managers is trying to think and act sustainably in big and small ways—from using geothermal heating for a new athletic facility, to bundling up and turning down the heat in dormitories.
Carleton College in Northfield built a 360-foot-tall wind turbine, which generates electricity for the college and the local power company. During its 25-year life, the turbine will more than pay for itself and cut carbon emissions by 1.5 million tons. Across town, St. Olaf College is capturing wind energy too. Its long list of sustainable practices includes composting waste materials and converting some of its farmland to woods, wetlands, and prairies.
The University of Minnesota-Morris also models sustainability: It has put up a wind turbine, started serving local and organic foods, planned a biomass gasification project, and conducted a water resources study that led to conserving 2 million gallons of water a year.
Bemidji State University and Macalester are among the world's 320 universities and colleges that signed the Talloires Declaration, which recommends actions to foster environmental literacy and sustainability. Drawn up at a conference in Talloires, France, in 1990, the declaration grew out of findings that "for the first time in world history, the human species is drastically altering the face of the earth and the composition of its atmosphere. . . . The integrity of the earth, its biodiversity, and the security of nations are at risk." Universities, as educators of society's leaders, "bear profound responsibilities to increase the awareness, knowledge, technologies, and tools to create an environmentally sustainable future."
This fall, as young people go back to school, let's take a closer look at what some students have to teach us about conservation in action. Take a campus tour, visit a college Web site, and consider if your business or community could become a partner or initiate a green project.
For students like Ellie Rogers, the threat of global warming is a catalyst. "We're acting," she says. "We can do it. So can everyone else." As conservation volunteers, we'd do well to follow their lead, and to support leaders wise enough to do the same.
Kathleen Weflen, editor