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A challenge to sustain Penn

To the Editor:

I attended the Founder's Day Symposium on sustainability and left feeling thoroughly uninspired. As a student who feels a deep commitment to working toward solutions to the environmental crisis, I was greatly discouraged by what amounted to 120 minutes of professors patting themselves on their backs for the progress Penn has made in the field of sustainability.

While President Gutmann opened the symposium suggesting that the panel could offer some real-world solutions to environmental problems, I was repeatedly baffled by its evasiveness.

When audience members inquired about what steps Penn has already taken and would be taking in the future, the Panel spewed back vague verbiage ("We will improve on all dimensions") or marginalized the issue ("The fact that the president of the University considers the environmental efficiency of the car she buys indicates great change").

While I'm paraphrasing, the gist is there. And if you were in the audience, I'd bet you'd be shocked too at how little can be said in so many words.

So, do I have anything to do besides gripe? Well, yes. I offer a challenge.

Our founder, Benjamin Franklin, was a leader among his countrymen and understood the importance of symbols in inspiring change. He famously designed the "Join or Die" political cartoon of a serpent separated into segments to engender support among others for the American Revolution.

He understood that leaders must lead by example, and he lived according to the values he preached.

So, President Gutmann, I challenge you - no, I dare you - to do the same.

I suggest, to truly commemorate Founder's Day, that you lead the charge for environmentalism by adopting a lifestyle indicative of those values. Would you be willing to hold the distinction as the first president of the University of Pennsylvania (and perhaps any university) to use a compost toilet?

This would close an ecological loop by recycling your presidential excrement as fertilizer to local farms, save water by not using plumbing, save energy by not using the extremely energy-taxing water treatment plants and prevent your waste from, well, going to waste.

And let me personally pledge that if President Gutmann is willing to use a compost toilet, I will do my best to make sure it is constructed.

Environmentalism means personal sacrifice. If we are to ever reclaim this planet, we must be willing to not eat strawberries when they are not in season, we must be willing to spend more money on free-range beef, we must be willing to turn off the lights and we must have leaders who show us the way.

President Gutmann, I dare you to be a beacon of hope, to show us that we can live a sustainable life - if we only give a crap.

Zachary Bell

The author is a College freshman

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