Background on CUSA’s Sustainability Lecture Series
To help foster dialogue between social and natural scientists on the challenges of sustainability in the 21st century, the Center for Unconventional Security will convene a seminar series to bring a select group of scholars, researchers, experts, and business leaders to UC, Irvine to present a variety of perspectives on choices and challenges related to sustainability.
Greening through Information Technology
February 2 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Calit2 Auditorium
Bill Tomlinson, PhD
Associate Professor, Informatics Department, Bren School of ICS, UC Irvine
Green IT is a field that explores the juncture between two growing trends – the spread of environmental concern across many human communities, and the rapid adoption of digital tools and techniques for manipulating information. Information technology is transforming societies around the world, affecting many different topics from communication between people to the workings of international politics. Green IT brings together these two areas, examining the role of information technology in supporting human responses to the world’s current environmental issues. Human minds are not well suited to thinking about problems that occur over long periods of time, large distances, and vast complexity; nevertheless, environmental problems often occur on these scales. By helping bridge from human scales to environmental scales, information technology can help our civilization launch an appropriate response to these critical concerns. This talk presents a range of Green IT projects, some by Professor Tomlinson’s research group and others by organizations around the world.
Re-booting Sustainable Development: Why it Hasn’t Worked and What to do About it
February 9 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Calit2 Auditorium
Director, Trade and Investment, and European Representative, International Institute for Sustainable Development (Geneva)
The notion of sustainable development was launched two decades ago, and quickly attracted a broad following worldwide. It appeared to offer a means to organize economic development in a way that would address the challenges of poverty and social exclusion while ensuring the health of the planet that sustains us, and a great deal of energy and enthusiasm has been invested in it. Despite that, the enterprise has been a failure. Any sober assessment of trends over the past quarter-century must conclude not only that we have failed but that we have failed spectacularly. We have made a series of assumptions about our societies, our leaders and our international processes that have proved mistaken. And yet sustainable development remains the only acceptable future for humankind. If we are to reach it, or even advance significantly towards it, we will have to change our approach sharply. We will have to take steps to ensure that economic policy – like trade, investment, tax or subsidy policy – offers strong incentives to behave in ways that support sustainability. We will have to change the approach to international consensus-building. And we will have to accept that sustainability will require not an adaptive set of changes but instead that change will have to be transformative. The combination of the economic crisis and a series of looming environmental crises now make it imperative that we not fail in this endeavor.
Ethics and Sustainability
February 16 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Calit2 Auditorium
Richard A. Matthew, PhD
Associate Professor, Departments of Planning, Policy & Design and Political Science and Director, Center for Unconventional Security Affairs
Global environmental change poses significant challenges to human welfare and security. This is not simply a technical matter to be resolved through innovation and adaptation, but one that also involves ethical reflection and practice. Progress on investigating the ethical dimensions of environmental change has been slow for two key reasons. First, so much environmentalism cloaks itself in a discourse of prudence and security that moral concerns tend to be side-stepped or minimized. Second, many scholars of environmental ethics concentrate on the harm humans to do the natural world, encouraging us to assign intrinsic value to nature and extend moral concern to other species. As important as this line of inquiry may be, it has been criticized for ignoring and even trivializing the needs of the poor and vulnerable. The concept of sustainable development suggests other ways of linking ethics and the environment. It explicitly asks us to think about how to reduce poverty and improve the welfare and security of the world’s poor while protecting the natural resources and ecosystems that development practices often overexploit and damage. It also asks us to consider the world future generations will inherit. And it demands that we explore the many ways humans exploit and harm each other through the medium of nature.
Sustainability and the University
February 23 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Humanities Gateway 1800
Lisa Shaffer, PhD
Executive Director, Sustainability Solutions Institute at University of California, San Diego.
Universities create the future through discovery, education, and example. Campuses throughout the UC system and around the world are developing sustainability programs in response to the challenges facing society, and in recognition of our obligation to contribute to a more sustainable future. Lisa Shaffer will describe some of the experiences, challenges, and successes in sustainability programs at UC San Diego and other institutions, from “greening” the campus as a model and living laboratory for its inhabitants, through teaching, research, student engagement, and outreach. She will address the challenges of academic culture; the lack of incentives for interdisciplinarity; the tension between research and teaching emphasis; and the need for “boundary organizations” and how hard it is to create them in a university system.
Business and Sustainability
March 2 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, UCI Student Center, Doheny Beach A
Toshiba AEC, Inc.
Kirwan Rockefeller, PhD
Director, Sustainability Leadership, UC Irvine Extension
Vice President, CTG Energetics, Inc.
Protecting the environment and promoting business are often discussed as competing goals. Yet, there is a growing recognition that the next wave of innovation and development will come through fusing environment and business. From the movement for energy independence through renewable sources to efforts to promote economic recovery through green jobs, the creation of a sustainable economy is one of the core challenges of sustainable development. This panel will present three perspectives on the role of business and sustainability and provide an opportunity for audience members to interact with panel members to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the development of a green economy.
Sustainability and Food Security
April 6 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Calit2 Auditorium
Bryan L. McDonald, PhD
Assitant Director, CUSA and Postdoctoral Scholar, Planning Policy & Design, UC Irvine
Sustainable Agrifood Systems (SAS) Fellow, UC Irvine
Throughout history, human societies have struggled to ensure that all people have access to sufficient food to lead active and healthy lives. Despite great global effort, events of the early 21st century clearly demonstrate that food remains a pressing challenge which has significant implications for security. Rising food prices have motivated unrest in many parts of the world and increased the number of people who do not receive proper nutrition. National and international food safety incidents have raised awareness of the ability of the food supply to transfer health threats to people and animals. Agricultural and food production activities are key drivers of environmental and climate change while also likely to face significant impacts from these changes in coming decades. This talk will provide an introduction to the major issues impacting global food security as well as linking food security to other pressing security challenges facing people and societies including sustainability and global environmental change. This talk will also discuss results from a recent survey of the UCI community about food and sustainability and provide an overview of efforts underway to promote sustainable food at UC, Irvine.
Political Rhetoric or Policy Reality? Tracking Trends in Environment, Peace, and Security
April 27 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Calit2 Auditorium
Geoffrey D. Dabelko, PhD
Director, Environmental Change and Security Program, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars (Washington DC)
Over the past 25 plus years, the understanding of environment and security links has evolved to reflect changing threat and opportunity scenarios. Today, “environmental security” has become a popular phrase used to encompass everything from oil exploration to pollution controls to corn subsidies. While environmental advocates and security actors remain wary of each other’s focus, means, and ends, both scholars and policymakers are working to better understand these linkages and respond to them. Today, the wide range of potential climate change impacts is reenergizing broader debates over human security that suggest redefining security beyond purely militaristic terms. At the same time, the traditional security community’s increased concern with climate change (and the social reactions it may produce) has helped garner wider attention. The number of U.S. and overseas policy responses is dizzying. In his address, Geoff Dabelko will highlight key environmental security policy developments and situate today’s initiatives within a context of nearly three decades of efforts.
Background on CUSA’s Sustainability Seminar Series
While its roots may be traced back decades and even centuries, the concept of sustainable development only became a prominent and perennial feature of world affairs in the late 1980s with the publication of the Brundtland Commission’s landmark 1987 report, Our Common Future. Although critics have assailed the concept for being an oxymoron, redundant or vague, it has nonetheless been widely endorsed by political, business and community leaders, and embraced by different cultures and socio-economic classes around the world. Proponents have represented sustainable development as an invaluable approach to designing unified solutions to linked challenges.
The concept of sustainable development acknowledges the urgency of global problems, recognized critical connections between them, and sought to devise a framework for thinking about how they could be jointly addressed. The core elements of this framework are often understood to be economics, environment and equity, and the goal is to balance the requirements of each in a way that satisfies the needs of the present generation without compromising the prospects of future generations. While there is general agreement on the value of the goals of sustainable development, demographic, economic and environmental trends present considerable challenges to particular efforts aimed at improving sustainability.
Creating more sustainable societies will require addressing challenges and will require involving multiple perspective`s from the social and natural sciences, as well as political, community and business leaders. Our sustainability seminar series brings together scholars, researchers, experts, and business leaders to consider a variety of perspectives on choices and challenges related to improving the sustainability of water, energy, food, transportation and security systems.
CUSA would like to thank these sponsors for their generous support of this seminar series: