By Lauren Newton
MA in Sustainability Candidate
Last week, the North Carolina Power Dialog allowed students to participate in civil discourse through a different lens: their own. The US has made a climate commitment of 30% cuts in global warming pollution by 2030. Unfortunately, energy-related issues in the United States have been politicized to the point that young stakeholders often feel disempowered and forced to accept the status quo of political stalemate.
The mission of the national Power Dialog was to allow 10,000 students to engage in face-to-face dialog with state officials and energy experts in more than thirty states nationwide. Students and faculty for North Carolina’s dialog hailed from Wake Forest, Appalachian State University, Duke University, Guilford College, and NC A&T University.
The student participants of the Power Dialog were given the opportunity to speak up, for their opinions must be strongly considered when making critical decisions about the planet’s future. Wesley Skidmore, a sophomore at Wake Forest who is majoring in physics and mathematics, reflected on the experience: “The Power Dialog provided me with an excellent opportunity to engage in a complex discussion about North Carolina’s energy regulations, and gave me a chance to voice my qualms and opinions to representatives from the companies and agencies who will play a large part in determining North Carolina’s future plans for energy.”
The event was attended primarily by undergraduates from participating colleges and universities. Graduate students, however, played a critical role. Students in the Applied Sustainability class in Wake Forest’s M.A. Sustainability program collaboratively developed an issue guide prior to the event to help guide moderated breakout discussions. “My experience as a graduate student in Sustainability has allowed me access to a debate I’m usually excluded from…” explained Kelsey Gaude, a graduate student at Wake Forest.
The issue guide was informed by a series of in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in civil society, government, and the energy sector. For example, Gaude interviewed stakeholders from NC A&T University’s Center for Energy Technology and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute: “They believe the topic is critical, so anyone willing to engage is an ally.” The following perspectives emerged on how North Carolina could proceed in meeting the US climate commitment:
1. Stay the current course toward GHG reductions
2. Increase efficiency in our buildings and infrastructure
3. Increase the deployment of renewable energy technologies
4. Increase education and advocacy for greenhouse gas reduction
M.A. candidates acted either as moderators or scribes in each of three breakout sessions to discuss these themes. Scribes were challenged with the task of accurately capturing participant perspectives and stories in just a few words. For M.A. Sustainability candidates, who could have been considered “experts” in the discussion but served as neutral moderators, without adding personal commentary, was equally challenging.
While the dialog succeeded in giving students access to powerful stakeholders like the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the US EPA, it was at times difficult for students to embrace their own power and voice. In one breakout session, for example, the conversation was at times dominated by sparring between the state’s primary utility provider and another expert stakeholder. While the dialog’s intentional foray into civil discourse was applauded by several industry and governmental stakeholders, the instinct for some to engage in a more polemical debate was difficult to resist.
Once breakout sessions concluded, participants from all three groups rejoined for a collective debrief on action items. Increased education and advocacy were identified as emerging priorities for North Carolina, and staying the current course toward GHG reductions is simply not enough. “Different minded people were able to find common ground, which was a fantastic way to see how progress can occur,” concluded Gaude. Students of all ages should continue to develop confidence in their ability to communicate across difference, to view complex issues from multiple perspectives, and ultimately to discover viable solutions–for they have the greatest stake in the future of the planet.
View the North Carolina Power Dialog photos below on Flickr.
Nominations for the Campus Sustainability Awards are now open! Students, faculty and staff who have demonstrated or initiated successful sustainable practices on campus are eligible. Nominate yourself or someone else as a Champion of Change in one of the following categories:
- Resource Conservation
- Academics and Engagement
- Service and Social Action
- Bright Ideas
Nominations will be evaluated based on demonstrated ways the nominee has advanced the WFU campus sustainability goals, measurable impact among constituents and other criteria. Click here to learn more about the award categories, winning criteria and previous winners. To nominate yourself or someone else, complete the online nomination form by 5:00pm on Monday, March 28, 2016. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on April 22, 2016.
The NC Power Dialog will engage North Carolina college and university students in meaningful dialog with regulators, legislators, representatives from the energy sector, and peers about the federal Clean Power Plan and, more generally, opportunities for a renewable energy future for North Carolina. The Dialog will be held Thursday, April 7th, 2016, from 5:00 – 8:30pm at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.
The program will include a brief opening panel discussion with state regulators and representatives from the energy sector, moderated by students in the Wake Forest MA Sustainability. Participants will break into smaller dialog groups to discuss perspectives on North Carolina’s opportunities to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Following the group discussions, participants will reconvene to discuss common themes and opportunities with the panelists.
Click here to learn more about the NC Power Dialog and to register to participate.
“If you elect people who don’t believe in government […] and the system fails – it’s the classic self-fulfilling prophecy.” Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, was among three experts who came to Wake Forest on February 16 for Truth, Lies, and Politics: Ideology, Rationality, and Choice in an Election Year, a panel discussion hosted in Wait Chapel.
The discussion, moderated by Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Presidential Endowed Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest, exposed the ways that mistrust in the idea of government, is not only toxic, but also erroneous in its inception. “Sewing that mistrust is part of a political program that actually produces the government that it tells you is already there,” explained Jed Purdy, Professor of Law at Duke University.
Each panelist brought a unique perspective on the obligations citizens have to be informed about issues like climate change and economic inequality, the impact of media on our democracy, as well as the relationship between ideology and belief.
Harris-Perry challenged panelists with a series of thought-provoking questions aimed at considering whether we are inclined to understand others’ choices when our perceptions are obscured by the rhetoric we hear. Dr. Keith Payne, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose lab studies how inequality shapes the human mind, argued “I think we have to meet people where they are in terms of what’s moving them emotionally. This is done with individual story-telling as opposed to the kind of science we base those stories on.”
Panelists debated the way individuals respond to apparent facts and figures set forth by the media. Oreskes made clear the distinction that “climate change is not a scientific disagreement,” stating that we simply “have a political disagreement about what to do about it.” Oreskes, whose research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, suggested the real question becomes, “How do we understand people’s choices in a world where those choices are structured by rhetoric, by advertising, by think tanks who we know promote disinformation?”
Alyshah Aziz, a Politics & International Affairs major from the class of 2016, described the panel as a “refreshing change of pace,” noting that of all the panels at Wake Forest she has attended, she has never seen “such honest conversation and disagreement between panelists that included cutting into one another’s sentences, especially not in Wait Chapel.” Ideological polarization is difficult to talk about when everyone agrees, and “this panel was one for the books,” Aziz said.
Dr. Adrian Bardon, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest, reflected on the panel as a whole, stating, “It is hard to see how we can make progress on issues of urgent public interest if ideological polarization prevents different groups from agreeing on a basic picture of the problems at hand. This is why the issue of polarization and the science communication environment may be the most important issue we face.”
The panel was co-sponsored by Wake Forest’s Office of Sustainability, the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, Department of Philosophy and the Thomas Jack Lynch Philosophy Fund, Department of Psychology, School of Law, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Department of Communications, Wake the Vote, College Democrats, The Arch Society, The Euzelian Society and Student Environmental Action Coalition.
Click here to view photos from the event.
Click here to read an article about the panel published in Old, Gold and Black.
View the event video below.
This article was originally published by the WFU News Center.
Wake Forest University Professors John Knox and Justin Catanoso are attending the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, as representatives from more than 190 countries seek to work out a new international agreement on climate change.
Known as COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties is the annual meeting of all countries that want to take action for the climate. The conference started Nov. 30 and continues through Dec. 11. Knox and Catanoso leave this week.
Knox is an internationally recognized expert on human rights law and international environmental law and serves as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. Catanoso is director of the university’s journalism program and is a veteran journalist supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Both serve as board members for Wake Forest’s Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and both have been busy raising awareness leading up to COP21 about why the Paris talks are so important.
“What makes it a little bit unusual is that each country will be deciding for itself what it can do,” said Knox. “There will not be a one-size-fits-all type of agreement.”
Before Thanksgiving, Knox and Catanoso hosted “Roadmap to Paris: Your Guide to the International Climate Talks” on campus, discussing the likely trajectory of these climate talks. They are both encouraged that this year’s talks will result in real impact as the largest countries responsible for carbon dioxide emissions — United States, China, India and the European Union — among others, are on board. A likely agreement will chart a path toward the world’s reduced reliance on coal, oil and gas and expanded use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
To review the available coverage and learn more:
- New York Times article featuring Knox
- Raleigh News & Observer article by Catanoso featuring Knox, also ran in The Charlotte Observer
- Greensboro News & Record op-ed piece by Catanoso about how Pope Francis — who will have a delegation in attendance for the first time — may influence climate talks
- Thought Economics interview with Knox
- WGHP appearance by Catanoso to discuss climate change and Paris
- Winston-Salem Journal article featuring Knox and Catanoso
By Bonnie Davis and Lisa Snedeker of the WFU News Center
Stop by the WFU Transportation Fair from 11:30am-2:00pm outside of Benson to learn more about many of the transportation options that yield better air quality and increase wellbeing. Whether you need a bike tune-up, want to check out electric vehicle options, or want to find a fun hiking and biking trail, a variety of resources will be available. The fair is co-hosted by the Office of Sustainability and Parking and Transportation.
Conflict between predators and people have existed as long as we have. Most large predators were eradicated from North America and Europe over the past few hundred years. And even as we have cemented ourselves securely atop the global food web we still sometimes find our lives and even our livelihoods at odds with top predators.
On September 28, Craig Packer, a preeminent ecologist at the University of Minnesota, traveled to Wake Forest to discuss one such case. Across much of Southeastern Africa, lions and people regularly come into conflict. Livestock and, all too often, people become prey to lions. This conflict has led to extensive culling of lions across the region and has created the very real possibility of a future without lions.
Craig Packer has spent the last 4 decades researching the African savannahs, the intricate ecological connections which make them work, and the role that lions play in that system. He has seen firsthand the decline in lion ranges and populations as human populations have expanded and sought to tame the wild. This naturally led him to a growing focus on conservation along with his basic research. The challenges faced, though, are deeply challenging, with corrupt governments, overly idealistic conservationists, and local populations uninterested in conservation all standing in the way.
Packer reminds us that facing these challenges and saving lions will not be easy or cheap but it can be done. The only real barrier to conservation is our unwillingness to take meaningful action.
By Max Messinger (BS ’13, MS ’15)
On the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, change agents for sustainability across the Wake Forest campus gathered for the Champions of Change campus sustainability awards. The awards program recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability into operations, teaching, and engagement. Dean of the School of Divinity, Gail O’Day, and Chief of Staff for the Office of the President, Mary Pugel, presented the awards.
Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.
- The Office of the Registrar and the Surplus Property Program won in the Resource Conservation category. This year, the Office of the University Registrar completed four projects that saved over 13,000 pieces of paper, as well as printing and mailing costs for the university. Since its start in 2011, the Surplus Property Program has diverted nearly 250,000 lbs. of waste from the landfill, repurposed over 3,000 pieces of furniture and other items for use on campus, captured close to 30,000 lbs of residential electronic waste through a free pickup program, and helped the university avoid over $1 million dollars of new purchase costs.
- Department of Religion faculty member Steve Boyd was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Steve was recognized for his leadership of the Religion and Public Engagement Program and his statewide organizing of Scholars for North Carolina’s Future. Since its approval in 2011, 17 students have graduated with the Religion and Public Engagement concentration, and a record 12 more are set to graduate this year.
- Ron Von Burg was recognized for Teaching, Research and Engagement. Ron teaches the popular interdisciplinary undergraduate course Humanity & Nature; taught the communications workshop and led a graduate research course on Coasts and Climate Change in Belize this year for the new MA in Sustainability; and directs undergraduate students in writing and performing plays for school-aged children and “moot court”-style debates on sustainability issues annually. He is also an alumnus of Wake Forest’s own sustainability-across-the curriculum workshop, the Magnolias Project, and is co-facilitating that workshop for the second time this year.
- JL Bolt and the construction team of Facilities and Campus Services and Frank Shelton with Residence Life and Housing were recognized for a Bright Idea partnership. The construction team upcycled discarded bed frames from residence halls into white boards, bulletin board frames, safety bed rails, storage racks, benches, tables, mirror replacements, and mail boxes.
Additionally, Green Team captains Barbara Macri and Kate Ruley were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. As the Green Team captain for Human Resources, Barbara facilitated a department-wide sustainability goal-setting pilot, working collaboratively to develop a range of goals to meet the varying needs of her colleagues.
Kate coordinates the tracking of our institutional food purchases, identifying and calculating what we spend on regionally-grown, organic, and fair-trade-certified items. She mentors the team’s sustainability intern, and advocates for sustainable choices in menu development and procurement.
65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.
Have you facilitated a change to a sustainable practice on campus? Are you teaching a sustainability-focused course or leading a research effort with sustainability-centered outcomes? We want to hear about it!
On April 22, 2015 Wake Forest will host our second annual Champions of Change award ceremony.
We will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:
- resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
- academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
- service and social action, and
- bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).
For a conservation event with potentially apocalyptic connotations, Thursday’s “Pledging Responsibility for Oceans and Environmental Change Today” in Brendle Recital Hall was frank, optimistic and self-aware: panelist and scientist Nancy Knowlton even pledged to keep audience members “not utterly depressed,” to noticeable titters.
The panel, an effort to engage the public on the importance of oceans and their nascent fragility as a result of climate change, garnered a sizable crowd, perhaps partially due to the celebrity of the panelists speaking: Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic oceanographer; Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History; and Amanda Leland, vice president for Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund.
Despite the preliminary call for optimism, the scientists made the audience aware of the current dire state of the world’s oceans. Overfishing and pollution have ravaged our oceans to noticeable decline: species are becoming extinct, including New England’s famed Atlantic cod. Forty percent of fisheries are in jeopardy.
The implications, Leland stated, are as environmental as they are economic: Somali pirates originated as fisherman who ran out of fish to extract. In addition, three million of the world’s population depends on the oceans as its only source of protein.
Knowlton and Leland revealed that the solution to ocean deterioration lies largely in policy, and that increased management of fishing policies can improve fish quantities in the ocean and decrease overall waste.
However, in a visit to an undergraduate and graduate lab classroom earlier that day, Earle argued that extracting any organisms from the ocean would be problematic to the structure of the food chain, according to Wake Forest professor Dr. Katie Lotterhos, who attended the earlier session and whose area of research is marine biology.
Hope for ocean renewal is within reach, the scientists said, with policy and attitude change: “Fish are not just clumps of meat waiting for us to extract them,” said Earle.
Instead, proper fishing and ocean regulations have the capacity to revitalize communities, ecosystems, and expose the “ocean’s natural resilience.”
Lotterhos, who invited the three scientists to campus, hoped the event left people “feeling cautiously optimistic.”
“We will have to take responsibility soon if we want to have sustainable ocean ecosystems, but it is not too late yet,” she said.
By Elena Dolman (’15), Staff Writer