Intentions of NEC

A new Earth conversation…


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It reckons with the most consequential questions of our time:

In these political and cultural times, what is taking place in our country, and why is it happening?

What do we understand is taking place in terms of climate and ecological breakdown, and why is it happening?

What are the implications of these changes for the Earth and all living beings?

How do we choose to conduct ourselves in this time of grave danger?

Given what we know, how do we live now?

These questions are at the core of the UHF Council process.


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It re-envisions the role of the University and higher education in these unprecedented times, political, cultural and environmental.

A new Earth community begins with the idea that a relatively stable external environment on which universities and colleges depend for their traditional roles can no longer be assumed. NEC asks us to understand that climate change is presenting human civilization with an existential challenge. It asks the question: what role can universities play in these unprecedented conditions?

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It draws momentum from Clark’s strong faculty resources and long history of integrative work on humans and environment
More than forty Clark faculty members work on issues related to environment – as geographers, scientists, historians, psychologists, anthropologists, policy experts, humanists, artists and more. Clark has been a leader in innovative thinking around the human / environment relationship since the founding of the School of Geography in 1921.



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It is grounded in Clark’s commitment to a culture of dialogue
Since the launch of the Difficult Dialogues (DD) initiative in 2005, we have seen that more intentional conversations engender reflection and collective listening, and can spark new insights and approaches to action. Drawing from the DD work, other forums for these practices include the Higgins School of Humanities symposia and faculty fellowships, TRIO conversations, the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, and Climate Change Teach-Ins. The NEC Collaboratives, UHF Councils for students and First Year Intensives draw strongly on these precedents.



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It holds community, relationship and collaboration as core values and resources
The values and skills of relationship, community and collaboration are critical to meeting the environmental and social challenges we face. They are needed in our lives and work with each other, and in our understanding of who we are in the natural world. Both in the NEC curriculum (Councils, Collaboratives and more) and actions growing from it, our campus community and region are the ground for cultivation of those practices. From there, a wide range of opportunities for engagement are available through LEEP, internships, our healthy local, regional and national networks.



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It embodies and furthers Clark’s strong commitment to sustainable practices
From the “We are Still In” commitment to the Paris Accord to our pioneering co-generation plant (launched in 1980) and other sustainable practices throughout the campus, Clark is exemplary in its commitment to being a learning laboratory for environmental consciousness. The NEC links with a strong network of activities and connections already underway, including Sustainable Clark.



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It encourages us to see ourselves as part of an interdependent Earth, and to re-envision the human / environment relationship for the future together
Time in nature, including a weeklong immersion of observation and exploration and a steady rhythm of other outdoor sessions, are central to the work of the initiative, as we deepen our awareness of our interdependent relationship with the natural world.