Dear Future St. Kate’s alum,
A recent Star Tribune news story highlighting the commitment of Macalester College to meet its power needs via solar and wind power prompted me to write. The ’green’ approach of colleges like Macalester and St. Olaf is in stark contrast to that of St. Kate’s.
While other institutions of higher learning seek to decrease their carbon footprint, St. Kate’s is squandering the beautiful physical landscape it inherited. As I celebrate my 30th graduation anniversary from the college, I’m saddened to know that nearly 50 percent of the natural green space I enjoyed is now covered with playing fields, new buildings and worst of all, parking lots.
The playing fields – which are used only a handful of days each year – were once home to trees and native plants that naturally purified runoff and slowed erosion. Today, those fields are sprayed with toxic pesticides and fertilizer that run off and are flushed through the storm drain system into the Mississippi – yes, even here in St. Paul we’re able to contribute to the growing ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico.
A small forest of trees on campus has been sacrificed to make room for parking lots. Natural storm water runoff can be treated through infiltration by the natural landscape. Impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, cause concentrations of storm water that can cause flooding to those downslope and downstream, trigger erosion and introduce pollutants such as phosphorous and nitrogen into lakes and rivers. Additionally, this water is lost to us as it cannot infiltrate and recharge natural springs and groundwater systems. Even the Dew Drop is not immune, as a paved path now circumvents its shores. Perhaps St. Kate’s should adopt the line from the Joni Mitchell song “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” as the college rouser?
One of the greenest things an organization can do today is to ‘recycle and reuse.’ Rather than recycling existing buildings or constructing on top of older structures, St. Kate’s continues to launch fundraising campaigns to build more buildings – forcing even more land to disappear.
I’d like to challenge St. Kate’s – and ask current students to hold the school accountable – to take a look at what’s left of the campus and find ways to preserve it – not destroy it. If not, when you return 30 years from now for your class reunion, you may find only a cement desert stands where once one of America’s most beautiful campuses existed.
Class of 1985