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2009 News Releases
Seniors encouraged to be both revolutionary and evolutionary at Convocation
September 14, 2009
Longwood University seniors were urged at Convocation to "throw out the old rules" in pursuing sustainability and acting as responsible stewards of the environment.
"You have the creative capacity and the motivation to overthrow the oil economy in this nation," Dr. Walter Witschey, professor of anthropology and science education, said during the annual ceremony that officially kicks off the new academic year, held Sept. 10 in Jarman Auditorium. "To effectively ban the use of gasoline. To get rid of every automobile gas tank; to get rid of 70,000 gasoline filling stations; to get every gasoline tank truck off the highway; to shut down the refineries; to overhaul a society that is overdosing on fossil fuels and internal combustion engines.
"There will be huge resistance to your revolution. There is massive costly infrastructure in place. There is governmental inertia. There are investment dollars to be lost. There are even strong personal reasons of cost and convenience not to revolt. To move away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources will not be easy. But it is a revolution you can lead and win. Here we sit in the richest nation on the planet, with 4.5 percent of the world's population, drinking 26 percent of the world's oil. We are consuming two and a half times as much as we produce. Dear citizen leaders: this is unsustainable!
"Neils Bohr (Nobel Prize-winning physicist) said 'Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.' You have the power in you to change your own thinking, and change the behavior of others. You can find the solution within this deep difficulty. You can move us to a hydrogen economy, wind power, solar power. Take a note from Henry Ford. He said 'If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.' Don't ask people what they want. Become a revolutionary. Throw out the old rules."
Witschey, who directed the Science Museum of Virginia for 15 years before coming to Longwood in 2007, also urged the seniors to "act locally and act globally" and to engage in "evolutionary" in addition to "revolutionary" behavior in their pursuit of sustainability.
"I'd like you to behave, toward sustainability, with both a local and a global perspective...Within the past two weeks, the European Union has banned the production or import of incandescent light bulbs. The EU demonstrates legislative action at the global level to effect change, to reduce greenhouse emissions, and to produce overall cost savings in energy use."
Evolutionary changes, he said, are "small, incremental, and valuable. They set a good example. For you, it means skipping one road trip, changing one light bulb, or recycling one can. It includes using a fuel-efficient car or a hybrid. It is personal, it isn't very flashy, and it requires your personal responsibility and thoughtfulness. I encourage you to act locally and act globally as well, to make sustainable living a reality."
Witschey is an active archaeologist whose specialty is settlement pattern theory of the ancient Maya. In the last several months, he noted, he and his wife; Longwood President Dr. Patricia and Dr. Raymond Cormier; and the rector of the Longwood Board of Visitors, Dr. Helen Warriner-Burke and her husband, all made separate trips to the Maya region.
"The world is littered with the fragments of unsustainable cultures," he said. "Mesopotamia doesn't look like a Fertile Crescent; it looks like a salt desert. The jungles of Mesoamerica are filled with huge cities, grand monuments, mysterious pyramids, royal tombs honoring rulers who led the people - led them to food shortages, starvation, relocation, and societal collapse. Today their great cities are tourist curiosities and a stark reminder of the wisdom of embracing sustainability. In our society, stewardship is a Judeo-Christian moral value. We are called upon by our religious beliefs, our peers and friends, and our unborn descendants to be good stewards of the earth and its resources."
Witschey praised the scheduled speaker, Yared Fubusa, a 2000 Longwood graduate who is the founder and executive director of the Gombe School of Environment and Society in his native Tanzania. Fubusa, a doctoral student at Utah State University, was unable to make the trip from Africa. He will speak at a sustainability conference at Longwood in the spring. "He is an exemplary role model" in sustainability, Witschey said.
In a longtime Longwood tradition, Longwood seniors were "capped" by their "little sisters" or "little brothers," with the senior class president, Ashley Jarrett, the first person capped. She was capped on the Jarman stage by junior Katie Bartoszek, assisted by the vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Wayne McWee, another Longwood tradition. The capping involves customized, outrageously decorated mortarboards prepared by their little brother or little sister.
Three Longwood faculty received awards at Convocation for superior teaching. Dr. Melanie Marks, professor of economics and director of the Center for Economic Education, received the Maria Bristow Starke Award for Faculty Excellence; Dr. Lisa Kinzer, associate professor of music, the Maude Glenn Raiford Award for Excellence in Teaching; and Dr. David Shoenthal, assistant professor of mathematics, the Junior Faculty Award.