This weekend, UR will play host to one of the largest sustainability conferences on the East Coast. The two-day initiative, spearheaded by Movement and Dance Senior Lecturer Judith Hook and Computer Science Professor James Allen, will feature nationally-renowned speakers, focusing on sustainability issues on local and global levels.

Sustainability defines the efforts of individuals and organizations to create an ideal situation for humans and the natural environment, both now and in the future.

“Sustainability, to me, means I’m going to leave the earth as well off, or better off, than it was given to my generation,” Economics Event Chair for the Undergraduate Finance and Economics Council and sophomore Rosellen Marohn said.

The issue of sustainability has become a national concern in recent years. This particular conference, which is called “Pathways to a Sustainable World,” will focus on local economies and foods, as well as community building. The conference will put an emphasis on taking action, the influence of higher education in the sustainability movement and determining what is working in contemporary society.

The structure of the conference is modeled after the Bioneers’ Annual Conference, which, according to the Bioneers’ Web site, is a forum for connecting the environment, health, social justice and spirit within a broad progressive framework.

“Bioneers are everyday people committed to preserving and supporting the future of life on Earth. [At the conference], attendees will hear inspiring talks by innovators across a wide range of areas, with plenty of opportunity for discussion, local food and community building,” Hook said.

The conference is part of the nation-wide initiative called National Step It Up Day, which uses over 900 events and conferences to encourage the passing of environmental legislation, specifically a call for Congress to lower carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Eight speakers will be featured as lecturers and panel discussion participants. Many are involved with environmental activism on a professional level, such as David Orr, a professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin and author of “The Sustainability Revolution.” But some, like Judy Wicks, the founder of White Dog Caf in Philadelphia, Pa. and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, are small business owners who are involved in the promotion of local economies and food.

“It’s not going to be just a bunch of hippies and tree-huggers sitting around talking,” sophomore Jonathan Chester said, who has created an individualized major to study sustainability. “Efforts have been made to bring in people who are actually working in the field of sustainability and actively participating in raising awareness and education.”

The conference begins on Friday with two pre-conference workshops from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Hubbell Auditorium and then proceeds with talks by Michael Shuman, author of “The Smallmart Revolution and Going Local: Creating Self Reliant Communities for the Global Age,” and Wicks. The day ends with a panel discussion and dinner reception, featuring locally grown foods.

Saturday follows a similar schedule, focusing more on education and action. The featured speakers will be David Abram, an ecologist, anthropologist, philosopher and author of “Spell of the Sensuous,” Lois Gibbs, an environmental activist and author of “Love Canal: The Story Continues,” Orr, Ladonna Redmond, a food security activist and CEO of the Institute for community Resource Development in Chicago and Christopher Uhl, professor of biology at Penn State University and author of “Developing Ecological Consciousness.”

Rochester students from a number of organizations will be participating in different ways throughout the conference. The Undergraduate Finance and Economics Council, Student Activities, the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Sustainability Roundtable, Grassroots, the Undergraduate Student Geological Organization and the Undergraduate Anthropology Council are event sponsors. In addition, students will be responsible for speaker introductions and students from the Department of Movement and Dance will also be performing intermittently throughout the conference program.

“The issue of sustainability has really fallen on the shoulders of today’s college students and their generation,” Marohn said. “We need to address these issues so we can take care of it as soon as possible.”

Students interested in attending the conference should know that the $20 ticket can be purchased with declining dollars at the Common Market and registration can be done online at www.ecotransformation.org. For more information, contact Judith Hook at hook@mail.rochester.edu.

Fischer is a member of the class of 2008.



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