Dr. Stephen Mulkey, who was Unity College President Emeritus from 2011-2015, spoke Thursday to the SRU community about sustainability and ways to combat climate change.
During Mulkey’s time as president at Unity College he helped to make the college the first to not receive any money from fossil fuel companies, and the first college in the U.S to use sustainability in all academic programming.
Mulkey’s presentation, titled, “The Long Game: Sustainability and Reality in the Environmental Century,” was sponsored by SRU’s president’s commission on sustainability. Mulkey showed research data showing the state of the current state of the world, saying that many dubbed him “Dr. Doom” because of the decline of the world, including rising sea levels and an increase in greenhouse gases.
“What we’re talking about here is the maintenance of civilization as we understand it and whether or not we can maintain our quality of life moving forward into the next century,” Mulkey said.
Mulkey said during his presentation that originally he thought good progress was being made to help cool the planet, but once the United States dropped out of the Paris Climate Agreement some of his optimism was gone, losing many years that could have helped to make progress.
“On any meaningful human timescale, the climate of the 20th century is gone forever,” Mulkey said. “The return to that normal climate through natural processes would require millennia and probably wouldn’t happen. Without major change, the disruption to the Earth’s system will accelerate over the coming decades.”
One suggestion Mulkey had for combat the harmful changes was to include sustainability in higher education and getting away from being funded by fossil fuel companies.
“Building a sustainable civilization I think must be the mission of higher education,” Mulkey said. “It must be the operational framework for everything we do.”
Mulkey also talked about how for decades many have denied these harmful changes and how fossil fuel companies have affected politics. He recalled being invited to speak at the Florida House and Senate, where a senator called him a liar and he was dismissed.
“Good news is I finished on time,” Mulkey said. “I walked into that room assuming that legislators would want to know what the science said. They could care less.”
Mulkey encouraged those in attendance to bear witness to climate change, tell facts, make sustainability part of the foundation of higher education, and practice nonviolent civil action.