UW–Madison signs Second Nature Resilience Commitment

an iceberg floats in the sea in front of a group of homes

(Photo from the United Nations.)

Following on the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s recent STARS silver rating for campus sustainability, Chancellor Rebecca Blank has announced that UW–Madison will sign the Resilience Commitment administered by Second Nature. Chancellor Blank made her announcement at the Climate Fast Forward Conference in Madison on Nov. 8, 2019.

Resilience refers to the ability of institutions, infrastructure and communities to prepare for the impacts of climate change. The Resilience Commitment will not only help UW–Madison address current and ongoing effects of climate change on campus, it will also amplify the benefits of collaboration and partnership with local, state and global communities. In this way, the university will bring to bear the Wisconsin Idea on its sustainability efforts.

In her remarks, Chancellor Blank emphasized that the Resilience Commitment reflects a holistic approach to sustainability: “It’s not only about carbon emissions and climate change, though those are major issues; it’s also about public health, conservation, and environmental stewardship. … This is an important first step toward a long-term and sustainaed commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.”

Second Nature is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit dedicated to encouraging climate action via institutions of higher education. The organization’s Resilience Commitment requires that UW–Madison create and support a Climate Action Plan, as well as submit yearly progress reports to Second Nature. The Climate Action Plan will guide the university’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, assess and address resilience thresholds, and incorporate resilience into the curriculum.

“In signing this commitment, we join a number of other universities around the country that have taken a public stand to say: ‘We are facing a global crisis, and we recognize that higher education has a major role to play in addressing it,’” said Chancellor Blank.

Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute; Missy Nergard and Cathy Middlecamp, co-directors of the Office of Sustainability, and alumni Dave and Sarah Epstein, who are members of the GHI Board of Visitors, worked with the chancellor on the Resilience Commitment.

“By signing this commitment, the chancellor is sending a clear message that our university is stepping up to confront today’s climate crisis,” Patz says. “The commitment is substantial—but absolutely needed—and will require a serious effort from across campus operations and future planning to teaching, research and outreach.”

Nergard sees the commitment bringing together the campus and community to collaboratively address dynamic challenges that affect health, infrastructure and financial vulnerabilities. “This commitement really enables the full breadth of the university’s research enterprise and knowledge capacity to work toward solutions that serve our local and regional neighbors, as well as the State of Wisconsin and the world,” she says. “We’re not just solving a single issue that impacts us today, we are coming together to work through highly complex issues that affect he people and places that surround us, for generations to come.”

The original version of this story appeared first at wisc.edu.

By Nathan Jandl/ November 8, 2019