Fall environmental forum
bleeds sustainability


By Alec Campbell

Innovation and the advancement of technology are a top priority in the world today. Obviously, the world would never advance if production of all things stopped. However, sometimes modern technology can hurt the environment. An example is the constant emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere by gas-powered cars.

Although cars were a great invention and have made life much easier, are they worth the pollution?

Every day, Americans hear news on how to save the environment and why citizens should participate in pollution-reducing practices. How can we make the world more energy efficient while still continuing a respectable production rate?

October 8 Elon University hosted its fourth annual Fall Environmental Forum. This year's conference was titled "Roadmap to The Future: Tomorrow by Design." This day provided some answers on how to make the world a more efficient place and increase sustainability in all aspects of life.

Hart blends capitalism, sustainability

Dr. Stuart Hart, a professor at Cornell University, was one of the keynote speakers at the forum. In a speech titled "Creating a Sustainable Value," Hart began by explaining to the audience that a concrete definition of sustainability cannot be presented.

He asserted that this concept is quite ambiguous and encompasses a wide range of ideas. "What could be more ambiguous than sustainability?" asked Hart.

He said it is important for the United States, as a capitalist society, to find a way to become more efficient in all realms of life. He said Americans must find a way to use resources more effectively in order to continue technological advances for the betterment of society.

Hart's presentation was largely based on keeping citizens informed and creating an interest in a sustainable future. "We have to generate a shareholder value," he said. To do this, lowering costs, reducing risks, creating a reputation of legitimacy, continually advancing and having future plans are essential to a sustainable future.

Alternative vehicles on display

Supplementing the speakers' presentations on sustainability was an alternative-fuel vehicle display. Jack Martin, a professor in the school of technology at North Carolina A&T State University, exhibited his Volkswagen Golf TDI, which runs off of vegetable oil. The vegetable oil is used to make a substance called biodiesel, a fuel that will generate power for any diesel car.

"You can put biodiesel in any diesel car and it will run," he explained. Biodiesel is a compound constructed out of grease, vegetable oil and lye. Through a specialized process the three substances produce this state-of-the-art fuel. Typically the fuel costs about 70 cents per gallon to produce, but it sells at regular diesel prices.

Carlos Nieto, a representative of Cox Toyota Supercenter in Burlington was at the conference to explain the advantages of Toyota's Prius, a hybrid car that combines the use of electric power with gas power. He said the Prius generally gets between 51 and 55 miles per gallon on the highway, and it creates significantly less smog-forming emissions than standard sedans.

"The biggest advantage of the hybrid cars," he said "is reducing emissions." In fact, it has been claimed that one could drive from Anchorage, Alaska, to Miami, Fla., a driving distance of 5,200 miles, and produce less smog-forming emissions than a whole can of air freshener.

When driving a hybrid car at a slow pace, power is generated electrically. When the car exceeds speeds of 55 miles per hour, it switches over to a power source that's a combination of gasoline and electricity. The car is self-charging - no need to plug it in when you're not driving. The charge comes during the process of driving; when pressure is applied to the brake, kinetic energy is stored which, in turn, recharges the battery.

Nieto explained that these cars are being slowly introduced and accepted by the public, and he expects they will eventually take off in the future.

Other activities in the fourth annual fall environmental forum included: a culinary clash featuring Elon chefs preparing food from local farmers; film showings; and breakout sessions giving attendants a chance to meet a variety of people and participate in discussions dealing with sustainability. The conference was hosted by Elon's Center for Environmental Studies.



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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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