Greta Thunberg and the Power of Words

This post was written by Faith Vasko ’20

Greta Thunberg. The face of climate resilience. Notice how I didn’t say change? Because that’s what Greta is trying to stop. Change means an ending, resilience is the ability to recover. Words are important. Greta recently released a preview for the film Nature Now in coalition with several climate organizations, such as Conservation International, exposing the solution to climate breakdown. The proposed solution from the Queen of climate resilience? Trees.

Photo by Santtu Perkiö on Unsplash

Her partner in the film, writer and climate activist George Monbiot, further elaborated that trees are “natural climate solutions,” saying, “nature is a tool we can use to repair our broken climate.” This type of language, framing nature as a “tool,” has been an influential concept in my time as a MBA candidate in The Sustainable Innovation MBA program. In our first week of classes, Taylor Ricketts, the Director of the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont, presented on Ecosystem Services.

Through the business lens, the concept of value is important. The value of ecosystem services is that they provide benefits to society. There are several ways in which to classify these services as well as how they can be applied. In framing ecosystem services as valuable natural capital for business opportunities, ecosystems and biodiversity is then quantified. This allows ecological economies to be emphasized.

This ideology, similar to biomimicry — in looking to how mimic natural processes in design and production — was new territory to me just like the University of Vermont this past August. Taking these concepts I learned in class, with the access to the campus experience, I was able to further my curiosity by beginning work under a Gund Faculty Fellow and Doctoral Candidate researching the non-material relationships and benefits from cultural ecosystem services in the face of scientific uncertainty.

I am grateful and excited by the expansion of opportunities learning fosters and the rabbit holes they can lead you to. Greta has exemplified this notion of expansion in spreading the message of climate activism. Nature is a tool, and with the right language applied —such as ecosystem services and ecological economies— its value can be communicated to transform and create sustainable business ventures while supporting the environment.

Getting to Know Our Faculty: Rick G. Vanden Bergh

Dr. Vanden Bergh came to UVM in the fall of 2000 after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a Ph.D. in Business and Public Policy and an MBA. Prior to academia, he worked in banking in Colorado, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Dr. Vanden Bergh’s areas of research include: firm strategy in the political environment and the effects of political institutions on business investment. For the past several years Dr. Vanden Bergh has been exploring issues in the energy sector including an exploration of how the political environment affects investment in renewable energy. Dr. Vanden Bergh was instrumental in designing the new Sustainable Innovation MBA curriculum. He teaches two courses for the Sustainable Innovation MBA program including a course on Business Sustainability & Public Policy.

What do you enjoy about teaching in The Sustainable Innovation MBA program?

The diversity of backgrounds of the students really contributes to engaging conversations in class.

What surprises you the most about the students?

Each year, I am surprised again by the student’s level of passion for solving super challenging problems. I think this level passion helps students to manage the intensity of the SI-MBA program and to maintain energy throughout the year.

While there’s a great deal to learn in your course, what’s the single biggest idea or concept you hope students take away to use in their business careers?

Think deeply about choices. Important business and/or public policy decisions involve both benefits and costs, and to fully understand these requires careful analysis.

What’s your media diet like lately? What are you reading, listening to, streaming, or watching?

I just finished reading Becoming Nicole by Amy Nutt and am reading two other books, Deep Work by Cal Newport and The Third Pillar by Raghuram Rajan. These days, two of my favorite podcasts are “Stay Tuned” with Preet Bharara and “After Hours” with Youngme Moon, Mihir Desai and Felix Oberholzer-Gee.

What do you do for fun when you’re not in the classroom?

When the snow flies, I ski (nordic and alpine) and snow shoe. Other times of the year, I like hiking, mountain biking and gravel-road biking. For passive viewing entertainment, I love to watch premier league and champions league soccer.

Anything else?

Be humble about your views/opinions and be open to hearing and understanding alternative perspectives. I find my own thinking is not well developed unless I can explain the argument of a person with a different perspective.

Getting to Know Our Faculty: Dita Sharma

Dr. Pramodita (Dita) Sharma, Ph.D. (University of Calgary) is the Sanders Chair & Professor of Family Business at the Grossman School of Business, University of Vermont. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. Her research on succession processes, governance, innovation, next generation commitment and entrepreneurial leadership in sustainable family enterprises has been honored with several international awards. Editor of the highly ranked Family Business Review, she is amongst the most frequently cited scholars in family business studies. She teaches Entrepreneurial Family Business in the MBA program.

What do you enjoy about teaching in The Sustainable Innovation MBA program?

The passion of students to launch and work in a mission-focused company, making our world a better place to live in.

What surprises you the most about the students?

Because of the nature of student who gets attracted to this program, their responses to family business dilemmas are uniquely different from what I hear from other students at UVM or beyond.

While there’s a great deal to learn in your course, what’s the single biggest idea or concept you hope students take away to use in their business careers?

What’s my “A” (assumption)? Everything we write, say or think has at least one underlying assumption. Making it a habit to ask and answer this question, shortens the pathway to have an impact in life and career.

For any organization, look for its founding mission, evolution, and who controls the ownership — management/governance now (that is, in whose hands is the remote control). That clarity can help to connect with them as humans and having an influence without authority.

What’s your media diet like lately? What are you reading, listening to, streaming, or watching?

The Origin of Species.

What do you do for fun when you’re not in the classroom?

Walk, hike, yoga.