Summers are getting hotter, said a retired UF professor. The Paynes Prairie basin isn’t draining, and local crops are suffering. Their farmers are, too.
Deborah Scheuer, chair of Gainesville’s Climate Reality Project and former UF associate professor, said she sees climate change everywhere she looks. One place she doesn’t is on the university’s list of priorities.
UF’s Office of Sustainability is taking steps to change that.
With the help of students and faculty, UF is in the process of updating the university’s Climate Action Plan. The plan was developed in 2009 and is set to undergo complete revision by 2021, said Hannah Ulloa, the UF Office of Sustainability spokesperson.
Ulloa said the new plan will be broken into six objectives: energy, transportation, infrastructure, academics, finance and resilience.
The goals of these six objectives are still largely undefined. The office hosted a listening session Wednesday to better understand student, faculty and community concerns before revising the plan, Ulloa said.
Some attendees suggested the office develop an environmental sustainability curriculum for UF professors to use, she said. Others asked that the new plan expand alternative forms of transportation for students and faculty to commute to campus, Ulloa said.
Faculty and student travel make up only 20 percent of UF’s total energy usage, said Matthew Williams, the director of the UF Office of Sustainability. A remaining 76 percent of energy is expended on-campus air conditioning and electricity systems.
Wednesday’s session was the first of many to come, Ulloa said. As of Thursday, she and her team were still parsing through pages upon pages of feedback and suggestions written by the session’s attendees.
“Hearing other people echo our ideas and even come up with new ones was really, really inspiring to see,” Ulloa said.
The plan will only pertain to UF’s main campus, Williams said. It will be collaboratively funded by many departments on campus and around Gainesville, he added.
Environmental sustainability is not included in the criteria that determine a university’s rank, UF’s number one legislative priority.
Still, UF Spokesperson Steve Orlando said it’s a top priority of the university.
“I have no reason to think otherwise,” he said.
According to the 2020 Appropriations Project Bills database, only about 8 percent of this year’s requested legislative funding contributes to environmental sustainability efforts.
Scheuer, the retired UF professor, is an avid runner. When she leaves her house in the morning, she’s sweating before she makes it to the end of the street. She returns with a headache.
“It’s like running in a sauna,” she said. “It’s only going to get worse.”
Still, Scheuer said she can handle the heat. It’s her neighbors she’s concerned about, the ones who can’t afford air conditioning. It’s the farmers who work outside and grow her produce for a living.
“I’m not worried about me,” she said. “I’m worried about the people who have no escape.”
Contact Hannah Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @haphillips96.
The Office of Sustainability hosts a listening session for the new Climate Action Plan Wednesday. Students, faculty and staff brainstormed ways to update the 2009 plan.