Sustainability in Action?

I ran across this article written by Erica Frye today while checking out the web for sustainability news.  After reading it, mixed emotions of slight happiness clashed with absolute lividity.

It was the title that caught my eye: Madrone League: Open Source Sustainability Education.

This grabbed me because the “Madrone League” was an idea from Gifford Pinchot, president of my current school,  Bainbridge Graduate Institute. The Madrone League is supposed to be a collaboration between graduate schools whose main focus is upon sustainability. An alternative to the Ivy League, if you will.  Pinchot has been working on this collaboration for close to five years now, creating dialog between schools like Presidio in order to create as strong a bond as possible before announcing the project to the public.

The overall message of the article is a good one. The goal of the Madrone league is to “bring the best of sustainability to students inexpensively via web-based content.” According to Frye,

They have a vision of education as global, participant-driven, and open source. In the spirit of TED Talks, learners around the world would have access to the brightest minds and expert knowledge that are typically inaccessible to the masses, and even to most educational institutions. Inversely, tapping a worldwide audience would provide a larger student pool to support even the most specialized topics.

This is amazing, and exactly what the world needs right now.  Bringing sustainability education to the masses might create enough will to save the planet someday.  I commend Presidio for what it’s creating, but not the way it’s going about it.

The Madrone League was supposed to be exactly that- a league.  Not a program designed by a single school. When Pinchot came up with this idea, he approached Presidio as a way to re-create a bond between the schools that had been lost since the time that the Bainbridge Graduate Institute shared it’s curriculum with Presidio to show it what a sustainable course load should look like.

But here it is now.  Presidio takes all the credit for Pinchot’s hard work and doesn’t even mention BGI or Gifford Pinchot except that they’ve been “talking” with them. Is this how a “league” is supposed to start? By one member stealing the idea of another and taking credit for it?

Gifford Pinchot himself has even commented on the article, with grace and diginity.  He still seems to be holding out his hand in the spirit of community.

At what point do you stop reaching out to someone who keeps slapping your hand away?

Alex Salkin is an MBA candidate at Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He can be reached at


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erica Frye on October 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Alex,

    I’m the author of the piece you’re citing and I apologize for not making it more obvious that Miller and Lovins were NOT representing the Madrone League as a Presidio venture.

    I did my best to get information from their short stage talk and a chaotic interview backstage, and I’m sure there are important details that weren’t said or that I failed to capture accurately.

    My hope is they will follow up with a more formal announcement discussing the partners and ideas more clearly, in their words.



    • Thank you for your apology and clarification, Erica. I also look forward to a formal announcement, which your article may have given a push for. I’m sure publicity for this venture will lead to good things.



  2. Thanks Alex and Erica,

    I hope we are all feeling better. Hunter had the best of intentions and it is all working out. The Madrone League will be supportive of both Presidio and BGI. For more see my comments on the original Triple Pundit post.



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