Monday, April 23, 2007

Alternative Futures?

This past weekend, I attended the Campus-Community Partnership for Sustainability's second annual Earth day conference held this year at Eastern Kentucky University. For more about the partnership check out the website:

Before returning home, I swung up to northern Kentucky, to the Gateway Community and Technical College Boone Campus in Florence, KY for a meeting of the KCTCS Educational Technology Solutions work group. We were treated to a demonstration of some really kick-ass technology that literally brings images bouncing off the screen at you.

Both the conference at EKU and the work group meeting at GCTC involved dedicated educators and other serious-minded individuals concerned about what the future holds for Kentuckians and how best to prepare for that future. But beyond that broad commonality, it was if these two events were held in different universes, not simply different towns in the same state.

In Richmond, at the Sustainability conference, sessions focused on issues such as how do we develop localized networks to grow and supply food, to supplant our reliance on international food chains which depend heavily on fossil fuels (and are vulnerable to problems such as the melamine contamination of grains that caused the recall of pet foods). In Florence at the Educational Technology Solutions (ETS) workgroup meeting, we talked about how to use high technology to integrate our students into a global job market.

At the Richmond conference there was a session (presented by EKU students) that focused on plans for bike paths and walk ways to make it easier for folks in Madison county (where Richmond is located) to leave their cars behind and walk or ride to work, school and shop. In Florence, one participant described plans to provide all the top administrators at his college with the latest generation of high definition video conferencing in their offices and predicted (in all seriousness) that not only would the administrators use this to connect with people all over the world, but that it would allow them to talk to each other without the inconvenience of getting up and walking to the other end of campus.

You see -- different universes!!

I do not believe that the concerns of these two groups are necessarily totally at odds with each other. The work of the Campus-Community Partnership for Sustainability and the work of the Educational Technology Solutions work group, could benefit each other, could inform each other. That is it could if we could break them out of their separate universes and see that they are both trying to get a handle on the same future. Right now, even if the members of the two groups were to meet, I suspect that they would talk right past each other.

The Partnership for Sustainability people are talking about "how shall we live?" While the Educational Technology folks are talking about "how shall we get a living?" Neither group really recognizing that the two questions are inseparable from each other.

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