Green MBA Heads into the Woods

What does a walk in the woods have to do with being a business student?

Tom Wessels with the first Green MBA cohortThe nineteen students enrolled in the newly launched MBA in Organizational and Environmental Sustainability (Green MBA) program at Antioch University New England (ANE) found that to hike with Tom Wessels, professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at ANE and a teacher in the Green MBA program, is to feel layer upon layer of history breathe.

Professor Wessels’s hikes are legendary. On these walks he “reads” the landscape on literal, metaphoric, psychological, historical, and political levels. His 1997 book, Reading the Forested Landscape, beautifully explores the natural history of New England in ways that reveal connections between the land and eons of history. In his recently published book, The Myth of Progress, Wessels demonstrates how our current path of continual economic expansion and indiscriminate use of resources runs counter to the laws of sustainability in nature.

It is quiet, and humid, as we move deeper into Pisgah State Park. Here the land has never been farmed, the stonewalls built to keep sheep contained disappear, and there are no cellar holes and other signs of past of human inhabitants. This ecosystem has survived for thousands of years; cycles of codependence continually moving and balancing. It is a place to be revered, listened to, and respected. There is, I sense, a deep and abiding awareness, and gratitude, among all on the hike that we are a part of something much larger than our individual existences.

“Systems can only grow so large because resources are finite. The more resources we use the more we degrade our natural world and all the services it provides. Our human systems should be based on the law of self-organization, which means that as they grow they should become more complex. This complexity results from the parts in the system becoming ever more specialized with each part of its efforts to support itself and the other parts in the system. What results are systems that increase their efficiency of energy and material use and become more stable through time, “— postulates Tom Wessels.

At Antioch University New England there is a central tenet, “Because the world needs you now.” This is, perhaps, at the center of each student’s decision to embark on graduate studies at this school. It is both motivator and goal.

ANE’s Green MBA program intertwines numerous disciplines and philosophies and, in the process, attempts to forge a new way to think about the world, the future, and how one might be of service.

“Getting my Green MBA is not the goal; discovering how to make a difference in the world is,” declares student Preston Alexander.

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