Kaitlin Bear '05
After spending nearly three years as an instructor with the Montana Outdoor Science School, Kaitlin Bear has taken up residence in a more conventional classroom, teaching science at Moorestown (N.J.) Friends near Philadelphia. In Montana she traveled to classrooms in the Bozeman region as well as teaching at summer science camps and year-round field days, "exploring some of the most beautiful landscapes/ecosystems imaginable." Yet, she says, what's most important in introducing children to the natural world is helping them experience their own surroundings. "As an educator, I try not to overemphasize those spaces and environments that the children have a hard time relating to, such as the rainforest," she says. "I try and bring it closer to home by looking at local trails, parks, the schoolyard or even their own backyards." It's not an easy process: "Younger generations are becoming very disconnected from their surroundings due to the increase in urban development and technological advancements" such as the Internet and computer and video games, she says. Ultimately, her most important role may be "simply to lead by example" — not only as a teacher but as an alumna. As a board member of Graduates for a Greener Hamilton, she says, she can "help connect recent graduates to environmental career opportunities."
Bob Fryklund '80
Bob Fryklund '80 doesn't sugarcoat the problem. "Dealing with carbon could prove to be one of the costliest endeavors in history," he says. "Are you willing to pay?" Fryklund is. He has provided a $150,000 gift to Hamilton for a new faculty position in environmental economics and a long-term survey to assess values and attitudes affecting sustainability. The former geology major is now vice president for industry relations for IHS, a leading provider of information services to energy and engineering companies, financial companies and international agencies and governments. "I help clients understand the risks and choices they face to deliver today's and tomorrow's energy," he says. "It varies from advising governments on how to build international oil branches to helping companies understand the economics of U.S. shale." It also means he continually confronts "tough choices" as well as "lots of myths" about resources and environment around the world, which has "helped broaden my understanding and championing of sustainable development." Funding a faculty position, he believes, is another kind of investment. "The decisions we make now about the environment and energy will effect not just the next generation but the one after that and the one after that," he says. "These decisions require a strong thirst for facts and analysis as well as communication and education."
J.K. Hage '72
When the law and consulting firm Hage & Hage LLC bought a former bank building on Utica's Genesee Street recently, it was a two-part decision: to go green, and to do it in a distinctive structure rather than build from scratch. J.K. Hage '72 says the firm's focus on technology made the first part an easy call: It seemed "sensible," he says, to "create a pleasing and healthy living and working environment as an aid to sustained innovation." The second represented a different kind of commitment. "Though it would have been less expensive to build a new building," Hage says, "doing so could not have replicated the impact 283 Genesee Street has had, and will have, on the City of Utica." He calls the structure "a magnificent example of mid-century modern architecture in the center of a 19th-century, Erie Canal-inspired downtown." Features include geothermal heating and cooling, energy-efficient glass and lighting, a "green" roof and even recycled materials in the furniture. It's not a risk-free venture, he concedes: "Innovation requires investment, environmental innovation no less so." But he credits his family and his Hamilton experience with giving him "the sense of belonging and the courage of independent thought" that a commitment to sustainability requires.
Peter Holzaepfel '05
Growing up on a small island off the coast of New Hampshire, Peter Holzaepfel developed "a strong connection to the natural world" and a heightened sense of how small variations in temperature could dramatically affect the weather — a reality that is now central to the issue of global warming. Later, "classes on environmental politics and philosophy, environmentally conscious peers and faculty, Adirondack Adventure and the Glen among other elements of life at Hamilton certainly shaped and focused my appreciation for our shared environment and gave me the tools and education to be effective on the issue in the professional world," he says. A corporate engagement manager with The Climate Group — a nonprofit that engages Fortune 500 companies and governments to encourage action on climate change — he works with corporate members to establish emission-reduction targets and advise them on a range of environmental issues. He also serves on the executive board of Graduates for a Greener Hamilton. "Without innovation and new technologies, solving the climate crisis will not be possible," Holzaepfel says. "Government policies such as renewable portfolio standards, energy-efficiency standards, tax breaks and rebates as well as carbon trading are the incentives, or create the incentives, to develop and deploy new technologies."
The recently retired chairman, CEO and president of Hormel Foods Corp. and his wife, Beth, established the J.W. Johnson Family Professorship in Environmental Studies — the largest endowed professorship in Hamilton's history — with a $2.5 million gift in 2006. The chair is held by Eugene Domack, professor of geosciences and a highly regarded expert in the paleohistory of Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf (see page 27). In dedicating the professorship, Johnson noted the evolution of environmentalism in the four decades since his graduation, through the "first-stage" and "second-stage" steps of changes in behavior and new applications of known technology. Now, facing "the challenge of balancing the demands of a growing world population to the finite capacities of our air, our water, and our soil," he said, "Beth and I want to inspire the next level of environmental advance, a 'third stage' based upon core, foundational scientific discovery.... Beth and I are placing our bet on the student and faculty scientists of Hamilton College."
Matthew Kahn '88
The author of Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment (Brookings Institution Press, 2006), Matthew Kahn is a professor in UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Department of Economics. "Attracting and retaining the skilled is the key to urban growth," Kahn believes. "I'm convinced that green cities act as magnets that attract and keep the skilled. Such 'brain centers' will continue to be cutting-edge cities. As U.S. cities de-industrialize, this access to 'the best and the brightest' gives cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles a bright future." The attraction, Kahn says, is quality of life: "People value quality of life, and environmental amenities (along with street safety) are a major part of day-to-day high quality of life" — including in L.A., where the infamous smog has waned in recent years. "One of the reasons my family moved to Los Angeles is because we think that it is beautiful," Kahn says. And while his research is important, so is the classroom experience. "I have never forgotten the lessons I learned from Hamilton's great teachers," Kahn says. "Sidney Wertimer would like my teaching style. I try to mimic his enthusiasm and his commitment to undergraduate education."
Matt Levine '83
I like to think of myself as part cultural critic, part grocery anthropologist," says Matt Levine, a freelance analyst and market-research writer as well as the founder and editor of the Web site www.naturalbusinessnews.com. His own "Levine Report" on the site has been described as "like Hunter S. Thompson on oat bran." It's a world where incisive voices are badly needed, Levine says; the term "natural" itself, applied to foods and other consumer products, is abused so often that many truly natural and organic companies no longer even use it because "they believe the claim merely provokes consumer skepticism." Nevertheless, the trend is clear: "While many are merely talking the talk, 'greenwashing' their image, the fact is that … green practices provide benefits to the bottom line," he says. In addition, though many green products continue to bear higher price tags, "the costs of conventional items often have hidden and unacknowledged costs that are subsidized by the public. These occur in a variety of ways, ranging from contaminated groundwater to health problems to other social costs that are mostly ignored." Put all the confusion in context, though, Levine says: "One thing that I consistently like to remind people is that if you get to complain about your supermarket, whether it's Whole Foods, Safeway, Pathmark or Price Chopper, you're one of the lucky people on the planet, because the majority of the world have to worry about whether they'll have enough food to eat or clean water to drink."
Amanda Locke '97
A watershed forester who oversees New York City-owned forestland around 13 reservoirs in Westchester and Putnam counties for the city's Department of Environmental Protection, Amanda Locke is responsible for managing "diverse, vigorous forests" — which in turn contribute to healthier water by minimizing erosion and sediment, filtering contaminants and increasing oxygen concentrations in the reservoirs. A key facet of the job: "choosing which trees to remove and supervising their removal so that the forest as a whole can grow better." Locke notes that cutting down trees to protect forests seems "counter-intuitive" to some. In reality, though, forests are "very dynamic systems with trees dying and new trees being created every day," she says. "As foresters, we simply manipulate the birth and death of trees to produce outcomes that meet the needs of human beings — think toilet paper, your desk, the wood framing of your house — while still maintaining the resource." But while well-managed forests are resilient, they're not impervious. "The forests in the area in which I work are increasingly under threat from human-induced changes in the environment," Locke says, including not only pollution and climate change but devastation by deer and exotic species. "These threats to our forests have been created by human actions, and the compounding effect significantly increases the likelihood of catastrophic changes to our forests if we don't act to manage them."
Michael Mathres '96
As director of Climate Capital Network, Mathres — winner of the 2004 Millennium Prize for Social Entrepreneurship — devotes himself to managing a network of 25,000 professionals, providing strategic advice and "accelerating capital flow in solutions to climate change." He was on the Hill and in Washington, D.C., in November to outline his plan for a low-carbon economy. He predicts an explosion in low-carbon products, services and technologies, a "third Industrial Revolution" that will create "the biggest economic, social, environmental and political opportunity of this century, driving innovation, creating millions of new and sustainable jobs, and providing energy independence and security." Businesses, Mathres says, must confront climate change at both the "micro" and "macro" levels. At the micro level, they must become "carbon-conscious" and look for innovative ways to "reduce their footprint — energy, supply chain, transportation, waste management, etc." At the macro level, governments, and investors must set policies and strategies that encourage "a total economic and industrial shift toward a low-carbon future." But, he says, we cannot "stop" climate change: "To use an analogy, humanity is traveling in a train toward a concrete wall at 100 mph; hopefully we can slow this train down and limit the damages."
Whang Phang '76
Having grown up in an area where food is not as abundant as in this country, the idea of producing food efficiently is always in my mind," Whang Phang says. That interest found an outlet his senior year, when Robin Kinnel, the Silas D. Childs Professor of Chemistry, "introduced me to the joy of exploring organic chemistry." It was a path that led ultimately to the Environmental Protection Agency, where Phang is a senior toxicologist in the Health Effects Division of the Office of Pesticides, evaluating toxicity studies on pesticides and conducting risk assessments of their effects. Phang's perspective as a scientist is both reassuring and cautionary. EPA-registered pesticides "produce very little concern for both the environment and human health" thanks to continual testing and monitoring, he says, and "the United States has many layers of regulations to ensure every citizen is protected." However, "enforcement differs from one administration to another," he says. "It is also every citizen's duty to do his or her part in protecting our environment. Additionally, it is our duty to demand appropriate application or enforcement of the environmental regulations currently in place by local and federal authorities."
In the 1950s, when Tom Succop attended Hamilton as an anthropology major, a handful of administrators and professors took an interest in the campus landscape, but he recalls that the general attitude was "Let's just get the grass cut." That began to change in 1974, when President Martin Carovano asked Succop "to advise the College on ways to counter the demise of the stately elms and the aging maples." The ravages of disease left the elms beyond help, but Succop's return to campus — this time as a landscape architect — nevertheless marked a sea change. Over the years, he expanded and diversified the campus "palette" by introducing hardy evergreens, flowering ornamental trees and new varieties of shade trees; recommended moving cars and parking lots away from the center of campus; and "tried to bring together, physically and visually, the Hamilton and Kirkland campuses." The culmination of this campus aesthetic came in 2005, with the designation of campus flora as the Hamilton College Arboretum. That step, Succop says, "was a way of signifying the importance of our environmental education, of our commitment to sustainability and to our environment."