Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eco-Conference Call

In addition to teaching at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, I'm also the new Sustainability Coordinator and the faculty adviser for the student environmental group LiveGreen. The group was founded a year ago in collaboration with some Pittsburgh campus students who were doing an exchange in Qatar. The Pittsburgh campus has always been keen to have the two groups work together, although we have been a little less optimistic about what that collaboration could yield, given our situations are very different. (There is no recycling here, we're not an autonomous campus, we don't have a democratic system, most students don't live in dorms, etc....)

One step towards that fabled collaboration was to finally arrange a conference call between the two groups. Conference calls are easy on our end- every conference room and practically every classroom is set up for distance meetings and teaching. Not as easy for Pittsburgh- which needs to book one of a few special rooms. Then we get into the issue of timing- Doha is currently 7 hours ahead of Pittsburgh, meaning meetings have to be a little late or early for each party. We scheduled a 4 pm meeting for us, 9 am meeting for Pittsburgh- pretty decent timing considering most simulcasts from the States hit us at 8pm to 2 am...

The meeting was beneficial in that it gave the Pittsburgh campus a better sense of the difficulties we're having setting up recycling and developing sustainable habits here. We also discussed idea sharing and the idea of having a book/reading discussion each month during our conference calls. Then- we mentioned the idea of a huge big joint project: instead of us traveling there and creating little change during a week visit (and likewise if they visited Doha), we could meet somewhere in the middle, in Africa, and participate in an eco-service trip. I think it could be a fantastic global experience for the students (but would require planting quite a few trees for all that carbon offsetting...). So I'm in the process of looking for eco-service opportunities in Africa and convincing others that yes, we could do this. Ah- the curse of travel. It only makes me want to travel more. :)

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