Convocation speaker challenges students to make positive individual impact

The UCCS convocation speech for academic year 2011-12 touched on Vietnam and 1970’s music to emphasize environmental initiatives and the difference one person can make.

In his address entitled “You Can’t Do Just One Thing,” Tom Huber, professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, referred to the All Campus Read selection, “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan. Yet beyond that book’s message that all individual actions create far-reaching consequences, Huber talked about conscious decisions to make the world a better place.

Huber told an audience of mostly new freshmen about UCCS students whose involvement had positive repercussions and asked people what they might do to make their own positive marks on the world.

“My own life is all I can hope to control,” Huber said, quoting songwriter Tom Paxton’s Viet Nam era anthem, “Peace Will Come.” While the lyric originally referred to creating peace, Huber said, controlling one’s own life can also mean controlling how we waste or conserve the resources we use, and that no matter what choices we make, we will always be interacting with the planet and other people.

Using an example from Beavan’s book, Huber explained how the use of a paper towel affects the world’s tree population, dependence on landfills, the amount of toxins released into the ecosystem, and even the effects of erosion when trees and their roots are eliminated from the environment. The topic of erosion brought him to the history of the Pikes Peak Highway, and ecological damage associated with maintaining the gravel road.

Huber explained how a UCCS student researched and made a report on the gravel situation. The Sierra Club ultimately used that report in litigation to make the city of Colorado Springs take responsibility for the damage and pave the road.

Huber related another instance of a UCCS student making a critical difference when he talked about a campaign to eliminate bottled water sales on campus. The student, involved with the campus organization Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability, was motivated by the detrimental impact of water sold in disposable plastic bottles. Not only is the purity of bottled water less regulated than that of local tap water but the bottles create a vast and unnecessary amount of waste. She spearheaded efforts to make sale of bottled water a campus ballot initiative that students would decide upon.

When it was defeated, she made a personal effort to bring back the initiative in the next student body election, and it passed. Since then, campus leaders support using refillable containers and many campus fountains are equipped with spouts for filling them.

Citing the examples of motivated students making a difference, Huber reminded the audience members that they have the same power, and finished his speech with a question.

“So, what are you going to do?” he challenged.

See an abridged video, filmed by IT Media Services, here:

Full version here.

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