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HARVARD, like most large organizations, operates without much of an eye toward environmental consequences. From the thousands of disposable cups used by the food services to the reams of shiny, unrecycled, Veritas-watermarked stationery dispatched by its offices each day, the ecological impact of its actions is largely something left to the world outside.
The University's ownership of Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, N.Y., part of which is needed by Consolidated Edison for a widely disputed power project, has thrust it into the uncommon position of being involved in an ecological crisis not of its own making. And it would seem that this is one situation which the University will eventually be forced to face.
The project has been tied up in court for ten years and may be tied up for ten years more. But Harvard is being looked upon by the environmental groups involved as a possible savior in the case now--not eventually.
Con Ed has spent more than $20 million to defend this losing project. An equal amount will be required to take it further and an estimated $500 million to take it to completion. The power company has dropped the project from its ten-year development plans and appears to be supporting it merely to save face with its stockholders.
A Harvard commitment to fight the taking of its bequeathed land for environmental rape at this time--as the case heads for the United States Supreme Court--could be effective not only in making Con Ed think twice about pursuing its white elephant further, but also in establishing, for once an environmentally sound policy for the University.
IT ALSO could help alleviate the possible fears of future donors who might think twice about giving land if, by some chance, the University might knuckle under and sell it to an outside group for an environmentally unsound use.
It seems incredible that the University could spend ten years cowering in a corner hoping to be relieved of its responsibilities by the courts without taking any action at all. Hopefully, it won't sit back now and let that continue to happen.
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