Center for the Environment and Rocky Mountain Institute To Offer National Youth Environmental Summit on Catawba Campus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SALISBURY, NC – The Center for the Environment at Catawba College and the prestigious Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) will collaborate to offer a National Youth Environmental Summit that promises to bring 200 high school students from across the nation to the Catawba College campus in Salisbury.

RMI sustainability designers, scientists and engineers will join a diverse group of Catawba professors and other visiting presenters to offer the landmark experience for high school students. The young leaders will engage in whole systems thinking strategies as they explore sustainable solutions to the environmental challenges we face. Topical areas for problem-solving activities will include alternative energy, air and water quality, land preservation, sustainable development and green building.

The event, “Redesigning Our Future,” is a five-day intensive experience for rising high school juniors and seniors who have a commitment to environmental leadership. Scheduled for July 20-24, 2011, with follow-up activities through May 2012, the summit will provide knowledge and analytical skills that will help the participants return to their school and communities empowered to have a tangible impact as environmental leaders.

“If we are to ensure a sustainable future for our communities, nation and world, we must re-design the way we think and live,” says Center Executive Director John Wear. “The ideas of today will become the solutions of tomorrow, so today’s youth will ultimately carry this torch of sustainability.” The summit organizers expect the participants to become environmental leaders as they promote practical solutions and lead by example.

One of the distinctive elements of the summit is that it will involve multiple disciplines.  Students will explore the concept of environmental leadership through the perspective of their own skills and interest in the arts, humanities, education, history, business, science and technology. They will learn how essential elements of these varied disciplines – creativity, expression, innovation, observation, experimentation and teamwork – are also critical to their effectiveness as environmental leaders.

“Some participants will be gifted musicians, writers, artists, designers, performers or public speakers,” says Wear. “Others may have aptitude in science, math and technology. They will be assigned to groups by areas of interest that tap into their specific passions but will also be encouraged to informally cross-pollinate their ideas with those from other groups.”

The summit will take place at a time when the United States lags behind other countries in environmental stewardship. The National Geographic Greendex for 2009 measures environmental sustainability of consumer behavior in 65 areas related to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods. Overall, the U.S. ranked last among the 17 countries included in the Greendex survey. The U.S. also ranked last in the sustainability of our behaviors in three of four sub-categories: housing, transportation and consumer goods.

“Never in modern history have our environmental and economic challenges been so evident and so inextricably linked,” Wear says. “If we are to address the challenges of today and ensure a sustainable tomorrow, we must cultivate the minds and voices of our nation’s youth.”

RMI began in 1982 as a small group of colleagues who were concerned with energy policy. Over the years, it has assumed a position of international leadership in research on sustainable design, practice and policy. Amory Lovins, co-founder and chairman, was recently recognized by Time magazine as “one of our world’s 100 most influential people.”

Catawba College offers degree programs in Sustainable Business and Community Development, Environmental Science, Environmental Education and Environmental Studies. Its Center for the Environment was founded in 1996 to provide education and outreach centered on current environmental challenges and to foster community-oriented sustainable solutions that can serve as a model for programs throughout the country.

Wear, the founding director, was named Conservationist of the Year in 2003 by the N.C. Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards Program. In 2007, Catawba signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Five new residence halls, which will house summit participants, meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) specifications. In addition, renewable energy (geothermal, solar thermal and photovoltaic) is used in multiple campus facilities.

The cost for participants is $875, which includes tuition, meals, lodging, activities and materials. Scholarship assistance is available. To learn more or to apply for participation in the summit, visit or call the Center at 704.637.4727.