It’s hard not to see East Quad now without thinking of what we will lose.
Last December, LMU announced that two new student residence halls would be completed by Fall 2020 where Huesman and Sullivan Halls are now, boasting over 600 beds to accommodate larger class sizes in the future.
“People have been taking doorstops as souvenirs and the letters from the front door,” said freshman film studies major and Huesman resident Augustus Bell. “Most of us are saying ‘good riddance,’ and ‘finally, this place is going to be no more.’”
It’s understandable why students might be happy for this change. Huesman has been around since 1947, and modern needs for more high-density housing aren’t being met from a structure built during the Truman administration.
While there is plenty to be excited about for this new green project, there are still other environmental concerns as to how it will impact LMU.
The University has certainly prided itself in being a green school, and it has the credentials to back it up. LMU was ranked at 19 by the Sierra Club’s “The Top 20 Coolest Schools 2018,” and the University has been a leader in several green initiatives like the recycling program and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Designed by Steinberg Hart, the project was funded through the selling of Green Bonds through the California Educational Facilities Authority, making LMU the first university to do so. Ideally, more students on campus reduces the need for large-scale commuting and burning fossil fuels through cars.
The buildings will also likely follow LMU’s standards for sustainable living as seen by other previous buildings, like water conservation and solar thermal energy.
Unfortunately, there are some major environmental downsides to this project, namely noise pollution from construction equipment. Without proper sound barriers, this will be a major problem, especially for quiet studying.
A more concerning loss is the Lion’s Garden, LMU’s community garden by Sullivan Hall. It not only provides fruits, vegetables and herbs, but also allows the opportunity to practice gardening skills and be involved with fellow students.
Community gardens by themselves also have plenty of benefits, especially for urban areas that might suffer from food deserts. These gardens could also be environmentally beneficial in comparison to commercial farming, though the circumstances would have to involve a lot of smart urban planning.
This could be accomplished by incorporating green infrastructure (a topic I’ve previously written about), providing an area for biodiversity to thrive and halting sprawl that could encourage runoff pollution.
If the garden was not threatened by the construction of new housing, maybe LMU could have increased the functionality of the garden through those guidelines.
It is imperative that our community has clear communication with the administration to ensure that our collective goals of an environmentally progressive campus are met and that those goals aren’t greenwashed, especially if features like the Lion’s Garden are at risk.
Specifics on how this new project will uphold Green Bond Principles and other environmentally conscious guidelines must be declared upfront, so the community can check for inconsistencies and compromise for ways the measures can be improved so we can get closer to our initial goals.
This is not an argument against high-density housing; more high-density housing is the best solution against a lack of affordable housing. “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) complaints over aesthetics can’t stand up to the real benefits of high-density housing like an increase in labor productivity, a reduction in traffic and being less environmentally destructive than low-density housing.
NIMBYism is antithetical to environmentalism in all the worst ways, and projects meant to further green causes shouldn’t be tripped by irrational reactionaries.
Still, this project does not offer any answers as to where some of our existing environmental and social hallmarks will go. If it does, those answers haven’t been made clear.
We need a garden. We need green infrastructure. We need a community. That’s not incompatible with the project.
If we silently assume green promises will materialize, there won’t be any accountability as to whether we’ll continue to be a model for other schools or if we’ll just sign off green-sounding ideas while ruining our previous successes.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a freshman environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.