This week’s interview is with Terry Link, recently hired as the Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB). Terry began his position at GLFB in February 2009 after founding and working as the Director of Campus Sustainability at Michigan State University. Terry’s work at MSU is well known and his impact on sustainability advancements both within MSU and beyond has been large.
In a parting email address, Terry reflected, “For the past ten years I have been attempting to build new relationships across former boundaries within MSU using “sustainability” as a magnet that could attract us toward a more holistic consideration of our present and future lives in community. While that work has a considerable way to go, I am pleased that there is a growing chorus of voices from across campus that have stepped up to help our community make significant strides toward a more sustainable enterprise that addresses the needs of our human family and the natural world.”
Terry’s work on campus sustainability will be missed but in his new job to eliminate the causes of hunger through the Greater Lansing Food Bank, we know his positive impact will continue. Continue reading to learn more about Terry’s work as Director of Sustainability at MSU.
How did you get started in campus sustainability?
I helped to start the campus movement. My work began in the early 1990’s working with sustainable investments and the Talloires Declaration. I later led the successful creation of the University committee on sustainability and ultimately the Office of Sustainability at Michigan State University.
What advice would you give to others in your position who are just getting started?
In what area(s) do you see the biggest room for growth in the campus sustainability field?
I would say investments, pay equity and income gaps between the well paid and the lowest paid are the biggest areas of potential growth.
One area pretty much under the radar is the use of university endowments and pension funds to push sustainability forward. The driving agenda has been simply on returning as much financial capital back to the institution as a growing income stream, without nary a consideration if whether that approach had downsides. With the unraveling of the mortgage and real estate markets and the stock market, the whole underbelly of the economic system should be up for reconsideration. What you are hearing from most of the mass media and pundits is a tweaking of the system as opposed to a fundamental reconsideration of what myths it is built on.
Luckily this isn’t entirely true. Economic scholars like Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, David Korten and others have suggested different ways to shift the economic system to serve humanity and preserve and restore the environment. Higher education investors are primarily stuck in the old game. The UNEPFI “Principles for Responsible Investing” (PDF) provides some guidance for ways forward. A 2007 study from UNEPFI showed a number of large Institutional Investors moving towards these principles and pushing the economic system to more transparency and more consideration for ESG – Economic, Social and Governance – criteria in making investments. I would add the need to put a little more of campus endowments and pension funds in local (or at least state or region based) community investing vehicles that build stronger local communities from which to do more trade between communities.
How are you tracking your progress toward sustainability?
Is there a particular insight (learning experience or “ah-ha” moment) you have had working on campus sustainability?
In what ways are students involved in your work?
How were you involved in efforts to advance sustainability in the curriculum at Michigan State?
What are you most looking forward to in 2009?
Any additional parting thoughts?