Pioneer in green building movement to headline Purdue Green Week activities

October 8, 2012  

David Orr

David Orr
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Discovery Lectures Series talk by an international environmentalist, author, educator and pioneer in the green building movement on college campuses will highlight activities for Purdue University's Green Week 2012.

David W. Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College in Ohio, will speak at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 22 in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. His talk, which is free and open to the public, is titled "Designing Resilience in a Black Swan World."

"Dr. Orr's career as a scholar, teacher, writer, speaker and entrepreneur spans fields as diverse as environment and politics, environmental education, campus greening, green building, ecological design and climate change," said Leigh Raymond, political science professor and director of Discovery Park's Center for the Environment, which is co-sponsoring Orr's talk. "The talk will be of strong interest to the Purdue community because of Dr. Orr's historic work in the green building movement, particularly on university campuses in the U.S."

Leigh Raymond

Leigh Raymond
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Orr, who also serves as the James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont, is a well-known environmentalist and is active in environmental education and environmental design. In 1996 he organized construction of one of the greenest buildings in North America, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College.

That facility has been named by the U.S. Department of Energy as "One of Thirty Milestone Buildings in the 20th Century" and by the New York Times as the most interesting of a new generation of college and university buildings. The center purifies wastewater and is the first college building in the United States powered entirely by sunlight.

Orr has six honorary degrees and has written seven books, most recently "Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse" (2009). He co-edited three books and has lectured at hundreds of colleges throughout the United States and Europe.

In an influential 2000 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Orr proposed the goal of carbon neutrality for colleges and universities and subsequently organized and funded an effort to define a carbon-neutral plan for his own campus at Oberlin. Hundreds of colleges and universities, including Oberlin, have made that pledge.

Orr has received the Millennium Leadership Award from Global Green (2007), the Bioneers Award (2002), the National Wildlife Federation Leadership Award (1993), the Benton Box Award from Clemson University for his work in environmental education and a Lyndhurst Prize (1992) acknowledging "persons of exceptional moral character, vision, and energy."

In 1987 Orr organized studies of energy, water and materials use on several college campuses that helped to launch the green campus movement. He also led the first-ever conference on the effects of impending climate change on the banking industry in 1989. Co-sponsored by then-Gov. Bill Clinton, that conference featured prominent bankers throughout the mid-South and leading climate scientists including Stephen Schneider and George Woodwell.

Orr holds a bachelor's degree from Westminster College, a master's degree from Michigan State University and a doctorate in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as a trustee for several organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment provided a $1 million gift to Discovery Park in 2005 to sponsor the ongoing Discovery Lecture Series. Previous lectures have focused on nanotechnology, health care, the environment and global entrepreneurship.

The Center for the Environment is working to facilitate and promote problem-driven research, learning and engagement at Purdue, focused on improving the understanding of complex environmental systems, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and addressing important environmental challenges.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources: Leigh Raymond, 765-430-3651,

David Orr, 440-775-8312,

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