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Environmental Affairs Symposium

Symposium 2008

October 14-16, 2008
Lewis & Clark College


      Sustainability, as the definitive environmental vision of our times, stands in danger of succumbing to its recent success. Today, as college campuses, corporations, and cities across the country scramble to embrace sustainability, it is worth asking what exactly we are trying to achieve. In fall 2008, Lewis & Clark College’s 11th Annual Symposium on Environmental Affairs drew together students, scholars, practitioners, and community members, who considered how sustainability operates in time and space. Does, for instance, sustainability mean eternal equilibrium, or is there a role for destruction and restoration? Are local systems always more sustainable than larger-scale systems, for instance in the case of food? What exactly would global sustainability look like in today’s complex world? Must sustainability address ecological, economic, and social processes all together, or is there a justification for piecemeal sustainability? Environmental Affairs Symposium 2008 was part of an ongoing effort to deepen Lewis & Clark’s embrace of sustainability as a learning community that values the interface of thought and action.

Tuesday, October 14

Panel Session: What do We Want to Sustain at Lewis and Clark College?

4:00 PM, Templeton Student Center

     As Lewis & Clark and other institutions of higher education embrace sustainability as a goal, the concept and relevant scale become less and less clear: what originated in the late 1980s as an interrelated political, ecological, and cross-national conversation about economic development has in recent years concentrated primarily on good green practices by specific organizations. Different constituencies each conceive of “sustainability” on their own scale: students tend to think in terms of their next four years, while institutional leaders think in terms of long-term fiscal health. And few institutions of higher education think sustainability beyond their physical boundaries. How do these particular scales affect a college in all of its dimensions: as a place of learning and research, as an abiding institution, and as —in the case of Lewis & Clark— a bounded location nestled in the SW hills, but also part of Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and this diverse world? Who are we, and what do we want to sustain?

Panelists:

  • Jim Proctor, Professor/Director of Environmental Studies Program, Lewis and Clark College
  • Meagan Nuss ‘08, Alumna (ENVS), former Symposium and Sustainability Council student chair
  • Susan Buckingham, Professor/Director, Human Geography, Brunel University

Panel Session: Urban Development and Gentrification in Portland

5:30 PM, Templeton Student Center

     How do we sustain neighborhoods? New Urbanism holds a neighborhood to be a complex interplay of economic, cultural, demographic, and physical elements. By situating these phenomena in North Portland, how do issues of race, land use, and economic growth affect neighborhood sustainability? How may neighborhoods evolve in better directions in light of the pressures of (dis)investment, the rise in popularity of urban living, the drive toward density, green living and building, and dynamic change?

Panelists:

  • Carl Abbott, Professor of Urban Studies, Portland State University
  • Sylvia Evans, NE Coalition of Neighborhoods
  • Erin Flynn, Economic Development Director, Portland Development Commission

Keynote Address: Micro-Managing Sustainability - Gender, the Household, and the State

7:30 PM, Agnes Flanagan Chapel

Dr. Susan Buckingham, Director of the Centre for Human Geography, Brunel University

     Dr. Buckingham explores the relationship between scales, particularly between the national and the household. Government injunctions for households to take action to minimize their impact on the environment, while at the same time resisting legislation to restrain business and industry, arguably places an unequal responsibility on the household. Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that women, even in advanced economies, undertake the majority of household tasks (shopping, cleaning, cooking and care of children, frail family members and elders). The consequence of this is that devolving the responsibility for sustainability to the household disproportionately impacts on women. Two relationships are central to this argument: the gendered division of labor, and the relationship between the home/individual and the state – one we might call citizenship. Dr. Buckingham’s discussion raises issues such as the appropriate scale to legislate on sustainability, the responsibility of the individual, the consequential in/justices of decision making on sustainability. It also interrogates what we mean by sustainability, scale and citizen.

Wednesday, October 15

Panel Session: Time and Space in Sustainable Art

4:00 PM, Templeton Student Center

     Far more than just a way to give sustainable practices an aesthetic spin, art can help us probe to the depths of what we desire in sustainability. Furthermore, scales of time and space are central to artistic representation. How, then, do artists associated with sustainability wrestle with questions of scale? How do they connect local and global processes, for instance, or envision the possibility of some sort of equilibrium in a society characterized by huge changes over time? This panel brings together notable figures from the Portland art scene to exchange views over these and related questions.

Panelists:

  • Tom Webb, Editor, The Bear Deluxe Magazine and Executive Director, Orlo
  • Linda Tesner, Director, Hoffman Gallery, Lewis and Clark College
  • Varinthorn Christopher, MFA-Social Practice student, Portland State University
  • Darin Dougherty, President, Seed Architecture
Panel Session: Climate Change and International Development

5:30 PM, Templeton Student Center

     There has been in recent times an increased awareness of global warming, from Al Gore’s movie to President Bush’s acknowledgment of climate change. But what does this mean for global sustainable development? To curb emissions, economists have developed policy prescriptions via cap-and-trade permits or carbon taxes. Can we resolve, however, the need for increased social and economic development in industrializing countries with a like increase in global emissions? Is there a fair and safe way to encourage development while balancing the threat of climate change?

Panelists:

  • Lance Gunderson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Emory University
  • Michelle Diggles, Visiting Assistant Professor of International Affairs, Lewis and Clark College
  • Jay Odenbaugh, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Lewis and Clark College
  • Robert Brown, Research Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
Keynote Address: Pondering Scales of Sustainability: From People to the Planet

7:30 PM, Agnes Flanagan Chapel

Dr. Lance Gunderson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Emory University

     Humans and nature have co-evolved over millennia, but it has only been during the past century that human impacts have expanded to the planetary scale. As our access to energy resources have increased, so have the scales at which we humans have been able to manipulate and alter environments. As we enter the new millennia, notions such as sustainability, impending climate change and energy reserves expand our thoughts about the nature and types of changes over time (into the future) and across spatial scales (from our backyard to the planet) we might expect. Scale has many meanings, but in one context it refers to the measureable extent (and resolution) in space and time of system structures and processes. Systems of people and nature (socio-ecological systems) persist at different scale ranges. Lessons from understanding how systems are structured and vary over time and space scales will be presented. Some of the conclusions include 1) cross-scale interactions produce surprising changes, 2) stabilizing decreases system resilience and increases vulnerability to dramatic (and often unwanted) changes, and 3) the consequences of our actions (and inactions) are becoming more dire. Systems that are sustainable have features of being open and flexible to change, have an adaptive capacity for renewal and reorganization, are functionally diverse, and rely on novel and creative processes. The inherent uncertainties, complexities and dynamics suggest that we must learn our way into sustainable futures.

Thursday, October 16

Panel Session: Sustainable Jobs Brownbag Discussion

12:00 PM, Templeton Student Center

Panelists:

  • Aimee Fahey, Staffing Specialist, Ecos Consulting
  • Stephen Achilles, Senior Program Manager, Portland Energy Conservation, Inc.
  • Minda Heyman, Director, Center for Career and Community Engagement, Lewis and Clark College
  • Katie Holzer ‘08, Researcher, Bureau of Environmental Services, City of Portland

 Panel Session: Regional Food Sustainability

4:00 PM, Templeton Student Center

     The modern sustainability movement has chosen food as one of its flagship issues. Efforts to create more sustainable food systems have increased interest in local production and consumption models, but questions remain. What is the ideal spatial scale for food production and consumption? What of the role of migrant labor? Is an emphasis on food an avoidance of much more difficult questions about sustainability in other sectors of production and consumption?

Panelists:

  • Robert Goldman, Professor of Sociology, Lewis and Clark College
  • Ramon Ramirez, President, Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United
  • Piper Davis, Owner/Retail Production Manager, Grand Central Baking
  • Scott Exo, Executive Director, Food Alliance

Workshop: Strategies for Sustainability

5:00 PM, Templeton Student Center

Community members join the keynote speakers, panelists, students, and faculty members to brainstorm ways to apply some of the strategies discussed over the past two days.

For more information on the Symposium, please contact the Environmental Studies Program at (503) 768-7719 or envs@lclark.edu


2008 Symposium Readings

Susan Buckingham “Approaching Environmental Issues”

Susan Buckingham “In The Hands of Women”

Susan Buckingham “Microgeographies and Microruptures”

Lance Gunderson “Scales of Observation”

C.S. Holling “Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems”

Brian Walker and David Salt “In the Loop: Phases, Cycles, and Scales”

2008 Symposium Media

Click here to view streaming video of the keynote addresses.

Images from the Symposium

Download the official Symposium poster

Environmental Affairs Symposium

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