POULTNEY, Vt., May 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Green Mountain College awarded 122 bachelor's degrees and 21 master's degrees in an outdoor ceremony on the Poultney campus this morning.
Carol M. Browner, president Barack Obama's director of the White House Office on Energy and Climate Change Policy, delivered the commencement address on the College's Griswold Library lawn and received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Artist Mel Chin, who creates work that combines elements of botany and ecology, received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.
Prior to her appointment as a policy advisor to president Obama, Browner served as director of the Environmental Protection Agency from 1993 to 2001 — the longest tenure of any EPA head.
Browner referred to recent human and environmental disasters, including the West Virginia mining accident and Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as consequences of continued reliance on fossil fuels.
"As sad as these events are, they don't tell the full story: the most pressing and serious consequence of our dependence on fossil fuel is climate change."
She called for Congress to pass an energy bill that will set strong standards and create opportunities for clean energy technologies.
"If we want to offer . . . markets for wind turbines, solar panels, and battery driven cars, we need Congress to pass comprehensive energy legislation — we need them to do it now, we need them to do it this year," she said.
Browner also referred to the connection between domestic job growth and a cleaner environment.
"The sooner the U.S. puts a cap on our dangerous carbon pollution, the sooner we can create a new generation of clean energy jobs here in America and the sooner we can position our companies as the global leaders in the clean energy revolution," she said.
"If we wait until we can see and touch the consequences of climate change, it will simply be too late," she said. "If we don't act now — if we maintain the status quo and continue to rely on fossil fuels, we will face challenges of an unprecedented scale-drought, saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies, disrupted agricultural production, and the spread of disease and poverty."
Browner complimented the College on green initiatives including a new $5.8 million combined heat and power (CHP) biomass plant that opened on Earth Day, April 22. The new plant will use locally-sourced woodchips to provide 85% of the school's heat and generate 20% of its electricity. Earlier in the ceremony, GMC president Paul Fonteyn announced that the College's renovated SAGE Hall recently received Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It is the first LEED gold certified building in Rutland County, and the first renovated college residence hall in the state of Vermont to receive this certification.
Senior speaker Jillian Bunge of Whitehouse, Ohio, who will work for Americorps in Billings, Mont., this summer, implored fellow graduates not to lose sight of the ideal of community service. "We are still grappling with big questions, finding ourselves, and growing up. GMC has trained us to ask the right questions, allowed us to discover certain things about ourselves, and provided a place for us to blossom."
Green Mountain College is a four year liberal arts college that takes the environment as a unifying theme for undergraduates in 22 major programs.
SOURCE Green Mountain College