Is the university a biosphere?

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(not to be confused with a Bio-Dome, which I can say with a fair amount of certainty it is not)

Depending on how loosely you define a biosphere, yes. Merriam-Webster says that a biosphere is “the part of the Earth in which life can exist” or “living organisms together with their environment.” In reference to the first definition, Florida Gulf Coast University is a part of the biosphere but, barring a particularly interesting apocalypse which leaves the entire world uninhabitable except for a few hundred acres off of Ben Hill Griffin in Estero, it will never be a biosphere itself. However, that definition is a bit pedantic as there’s no reason to limit biosphere to “of the Earth.” If we find an inhabitable planet surely we’ll refer to its biosphere so since there’s nothing inherently Earth-dependent I think the second definition is more apt. In this case, FGCU is definitely a biosphere. The students and administrators of our university have done a great job in making sure to find the best possible balance of allowing organisms to live naturally in their environment with the human intrusion necessary on a campus. A few years ago I visited one of my friends who was attending Northwestern and their campus is night and day compared to ours which goes for the vast majority of universities around the nation.

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(I didn’t ask, but this doesn’t look LEED certified to me)

In addition, we absolutely change the environmental impact of our community through education. By making colloquium a required course, FGCU exposes students that never would have even considered taking it (me) to environmental issues they should be concerned with, the writing and arguments of many prominent environmentalists, and small things that they can do in their everyday lives that help the environment. That focus on the “micro” is the best way FGCU changes the environmental impact of our community because every person that decides to do something environmentally harmful (littering, wasting electricity, etc) because obviously their action isn’t going to change anything on a global stage which is what the people on TV and such are always talking about is ignoring the effect it has on their local environment.

Surely the university has had harmful effects on the environment. Over the last 20 years it turned a swamp, natural environment into a fairly good-sized university. That doesn’t happen without some displacement of native species and changes to the surrounding environment as a whole. However, I think FGCU does a good job of trying to offset these harmful effects by not only investing in the future through education but through tons of little things it does right now: LEED certification, bear-proof trash cans, prevalent recycling cans, the preservation of trails, and so on.

 

Photo credits:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115683/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Northwestern_University_buildings

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