The Oberlin Project: Why We Need It Now


I was heartened when visiting with my good friend David Orr in Oberlin, Ohio recently to hear about the Oberlin Project.  Similar to the transformative Adam Joseph Lewis Center envisioned and implemented by Adam Lewis, David and many others, the Oberlin Project is a bold initiative between the City of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and other partners that will “…revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture and forestry, and use the entire effort as an educational laboratory relevant to virtually every discipline.”[i]

Why is this initiative so important now?  As David highlights in his recent article What Do We Stand for Now, “…the era of cheap fossil fuel is over.  The era of rapid climate change is upon us.”[ii]

As we begin to accept these realities, we need to begin now to establish working examples of post-carbon communities that are fair and decent places to live, resilient to climate change and spikes in energy prices, and provide sustainable economic development opportunities.

Because the impacts of climate change will be pervasive, leaving no-one untouched, and because the solutions will be driven by changes in human behavior, the Oberlin Project’s inclusion of the psychology of climate change is an important dimension of the Project.  As Cindy McPherson Frantz, Associate Professor of Psychology at Oberlin College says, “The leaders of tomorrow need to understand psychological processes because both the problem and potential solutions to climate change have origins in human thought and behavior.”[iii]  As an example of how the Project is training students to be leaders in this area, a journalism student is developing communications pieces on energy that will maximize the potential to change attitude and behavior.

My mentor Ralph Abele once said “Be careful what you choose to be stubborn about, because you just might prevail.”  I’m grateful that David and all those working on the Oberlin Project are putting their “stubborn moral idealism” to work for the benefit of all of us.

[i] David Orr, What Do We Stand For Now?, Oberlin College Alumni Magazine, Fall 2011, p. 19

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid., p. 28