Tyler Middlestadt

This Monday, over 60 business leaders and university officials gathered to discuss how Cal Poly can continue to improve its stature as the leading public university in the West, only this time, there was a much more pressing concern: protecting our future.

The event was the third bi-annual Baker Forum, created by a generous endowment from members and friends of the President’s Cabinet, a 45-member senior advisory group of state and national leaders in business, industry, government and the community, to honor the president and his wife Carly Baker’s 20 years of leadership and service to Cal Poly. President Baker is now in his 27th year as university president.

The theme for this year’s forum was “Achieving Sustainable Solutions to the Global Energy and Environmental Challenge.” As ASI president I was honored to participate in this event and as an experienced advocate for sustainability in higher education the theme was ironically familiar.

Nearly 100 students were on hand for the Baker Forum keynote address where David Goodstein,vice provost and professor of physics and applied physics at CalTech, delivered a somber message about the state of the world’s energy and fuel supply and the imminent challenges that are ahead.

He was careful to point out that we are on the verge of a major energy crisis with no simple solution. He went on to state that, without significant immediate action to address the impending challenges, he predicts civilization as we know it will cease to exist within a century.

If that’s not enough to capture your attention I don’t know what will. The purpose of his keynote speech however, was not just to spread “doom and gloom” fear at Cal Poly, but to inspire the President’s Cabinet and university leaders to embrace Cal Poly’s role in developing and advocating for effective technological and policy solutions in the race against the end of cheap oil.

As the forum drew to a close, it was clear that Cal Poly is well positioned to play an important role in addressing energy and environmental challenges, and that the university’s top advisors, college deans and President Baker himself not only agreed, but were committed to ensuring that Cal Poly will be a leader in producing the young professionals, civic leaders and technological innovations that will be necessary to address the looming energy crisis on the horizon.

The recommendations coming out of the forum were not only for Cal Poly to create models for sustainable solutions to be demonstrated on campus, including renewable energy, sustainable transportation and environmental stewardship of our agricultural lands, but also to challenge our students to solve pressing problems facing industry today, and assist them in the transition to a sustainable non-fossil fuel economy.

In addition, the President’s Cabinet has expressed interest in drafting a position paper outlining the parameters of an enlightened energy and resource policy, and defining Cal Poly’s role in implementing such an initiative. This is an exciting time for Cal Poly students who want to play a role in protecting the future, through stewardship of our environment and natural resources.

We already have several clubs working on realistic solutions to hydrogen energy, bio-fuels, solar energy, green building, sustainable agriculture and many more. Like Dr. Goodstein, I too believe we have a serious challenge ahead, but where we differ is that I believe that solutions are within reach and I believe that Cal Poly students, with the support of our faculty and administration, will be largely responsible for implementing immediate solutions, developing future trends and ultimately ensuring that the future is safe and healthy for our children’s children, and the seven generations that follow.

Tylor Middlestadt is the ASI president and Mustang Daily columnist who committed to following through with the Baker Forum recommendations and ensuring that students play an important role in the process. He can be reached at 756-5828, tmiddles@calpoly.edu, AIM: CPASI President

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