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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial

When the University was built in the ’70s, the oil crisis was at its peak. Old-timers remember: lines that stretched for miles, gas guzzlers that cost a fiefdom to fuel, a sudden, gripping national interest in internal Middle Eastern politics. Years later, gas is again at a premium, but no longer is it priced at the exorbitant levels it was. This time around people think about scarcity not because of the cartels, but the realization that the earth’s resources are finite. Like a rock star post-bender, we’ve come to realize the good times can’t last forever.

Now, as we look around us and see crumbling buildings, slapped together by hacks who have long since moved on to other government contracts, we should think about how those buildings will be replaced. Our sister school, UMass-Lowell, is spearheading what has become known as the Green Chemistry movement, which takes toxic materials and transforms them into neutral, or at least not as harmful, substances. The possibility is there, one would think, to turn this waste into something beneficial, and this is the goal of Green Chemistry.

Could this have ramifications for our school?

The idea of ecologically sensible buildings is not a new one, and the Winthrop Square redevelopment proposal currently being mulled over by Mayor Menino is said to be planned along these lines. As we begin our process of rebuilding, why not borrow some of the techniques being considered by the Belkin group in building the Winthrop skyscraper? First, it obviously makes ecological sense, but few would be willing to adopt a new, and potentially expensive, method simply because the “Green” label is slapped on it. It would have to make economic sense as well. But the energy savings culled from such a project would result in a building that pays for itself. Anyone with solar panels on their house can tell you that past the initial expenditure are long-term savings.

By taking the impetus granted by Lowell’s foresight, we can make the UMass system a national leader in conservation matters, and this benefits the nation in addition to advancing our own reputation. Our current buildings are a shoddy embarrassment studded by the gleaming Campus Center looking out onto Dorchester Bay. The Campus Center is already built along some of these ideas: as we build and replace, we have a unique opportunity to create a beautiful, sensible, sound series of structures that will be a credit to our school and its students.

The eternal pressing matter of course is- who’s going to pay for all of this? The poor taxpayer of course should be excluded from consideration. But there is widespread interest in issues such as global warming and climate change, and likewise new initiatives are popping up everywhere, and people are thinking about ecological issues in a way they never have before, fueled in part by a few Hollywood blockbusters. Surely private funds must be available somewhere. Jack Welch, the former GE powerhouse, certainly has an interest in new green technologies. We’re not trying to drop any hints, but…

We need new buildings. Sooner, rather than later. A few risks, some creative thinking, and the generous amounts of brainpower the UMass system has at its disposal can plant a new Boston campus that will grow and produce beautiful fruits well into the future.