Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Daffodil Lectures on Sustainability and the Environment at UMass Amherst Were Terrific!

Last weekend I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Daffodil Lectures at the new Integrated Sciences Building at UMass Amherst. The panel was moderated by Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette of UMass Amherst, who has done a lot of climate research in the Arctic, and consisted of Dr. Raymond Bradley, the renowned climate scientist, who is also of UMass Amherst, Andrew Revkin, a graduate of Brown University, my alma mater, and the founder of the blog Dot Earth, and former New York Times reporter, who is now a Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University in NYC, and Dr. Bron Taylor of the University of Florida, who is a Professor of Religion and Nature.

Dr. Raymond Bradley spoke about the world's population now being at 6.3 billion and increasing at a rate of the addition of the greater Boston area every 2 weeks. He spoke about the associated increases in methane, phosphates, and CO2 and polar bears whose bodies are filled with such man-made toxins as PCBs. He spoke about our need to reenvision land use.

He presented a graphic with a red circle boundary and said that we are pushing the earth beyond sustainability levels. He noted how such man-made inventions as the steam engine, which gave rise to the use of coal, and the internal combustion engine, to the rise of fossil fuels, have yielded a relentless rise in greenhouse gasses over the last century and a half. He noted that it is the cumulative emissions of CO2 and their effects since the Industrial Revolution that matter.

Dr. Bradley put up a quote of Al Gore's, dated December 10, 2007, that said "what were you thinking, why didn't you act." His presentation was very clear and very powerful.

Andrew Revkin (whose godson, by the way, is a UMass Amherst student, and who introduced him) began with saying that we are facing a "super wicked" problem with 9 billion people expected to be inhabiting this earth at the end of the century. In 1800, he said, there were 1 billion humans, and today, in 2010, there are 1 billion teenagers (alone). He spoke of the horrible poverty in parts of the globe and highlighted through a photo of how in Guinea students have to go to an airport parking lot because that is the only place that is sufficiently lit for them to do their homework at night. He showed us a photo of a home in Holland that "floats" since the sea levels are rising and the owners want to be prepared for the worst. He emphasized the paucity of investment over the years in energy research, where we need sociological and technological breakthroughs. He said that this generation is Generation E and that there is no "Planet B" so we should care about our planet.

Dr. Taylor spoke about his worldwide travels and how the natural world can bring deep spirituality to one's life. He talked about his books and especially about the "deep green religion."

There was a music ensemble afterwards and a wonderful table with all sorts of appetizers and desserts. This event was a very fitting tribute to the 10th anniversary of what is known as the Commonwealth College at UMass Amherst.

Above I have included several photos of the panelists.