As I was searching for a book to bring on my vacation in Colombia this past July, I discovered Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, by Alan Weisman. Gaviotas is the name of a distant village in the middle of the Colombian eastern savannah. Beginning in the 1960s, it was brought to reality thanks to the imagination and efforts of hundreds of women, men, and children, who all shared the same goal: proving to the world that sustainable living is possible even in the most deprived areas of our planet. Gaviotas is an experiment, a “living lab”, that is a particularly relevant model for a world marked by increasing environmental challenges.
Though it might sound a bit odd, the more I read about the Gaviotans and their village, the more I thought about McGill and our Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF). Like the Gaviotans, when creating the SPF in 2010, McGill students and staff decided to take ownership of their future and show the world how by coming together, creating the tools it needs, and thinking in systems, an institution and its stakeholders can make their sustainability dreams a reality. The results can even defy expectations. The SPF has become the largest dedicated sustainability fund of its kind in North America, with an average yearly total of $870,000.
It is, thus, no surprise that since stewarding the SPF, I have always felt like I was overseeing a real treasure. The same values that uphold the SPF–ambition, optimism, engagement, perseverance, rigour, learning, and adaptation–are also promoted in Gaviotas. That is how, without warning, a vacation book made me fall in love with the SPF… again!
The SPF, like many other great initiatives on McGill campuses, makes our community what it is. It strengthens our commitment to sustainability and connects our efforts. As McGill is now entering a new sustainability action planning phase under Vision 2020, McGill’s Sustainability Strategy, I am happily returning from summer and looking forward to supporting you in accomplishing your craziest sustainability dreams for our campuses; our own Gaviotas, our own village. Welcome back!
Originally published on September 6, 2016