Orr, Hart focus talks on
environmental awareness


By Ashley Feibish

Keynote speakers David Orr, professor and chair of the environmental studies program at Oberlin College, and Stuart Hart, Samuel C. Johnson professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University, presented lectures Oct. 8 at Elon University's fourth annual environmental forum, "Roadmap to the Future: Tomorrow by Design."

Orr's lecture focused on politics and a concept of sustainable ecological design that could help create a more environmentally-friendly world. He reminded audience members that America is the most wasteful country on earth. "This is not an issue that is between left and right," Orr said. "I think conservative and liberal are flip sides of the same coin. This is about what kind of world we want to leave behind. This is a time that is dangerous, but also of incredible opportunity."

Orr described the work of environmentalists around the country, and asked Elon students and administrators to take heed their message and ask themselves if it is possible to create a campus that is its own model for ecological design. "There is another revolution going on," Orr said. "It's about ecological design, which is how to make things that fit into a long-term context and cultural context. We are ready to make our human presence in the world in a dramatically different way."

Bob Powell, a teacher in the engineering school and North Carolina A&T, was tuned to the message. "I've heard David Orr speak before, and I knew the good stuff he would say," Powell said. "He really helped bring real value to understanding the business of economics."

Cornell's Hart delivered a talk titled "Creating Sustainable Value." Hart said we should tie the idea of sustainability in with the capitalist system's business agenda in a way that makes sense.

"Sustainability is an intuitive idea," Hart said. "There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That's how capitalism can be used as a tool to give us a totally sustainable world. Almost all of these things have to do with making continuous incremental improvements to the current productions system that the company operates. We can design environmental quality in processes we use and thereby dramatically reduce the waste."

Martha Hamblin, an Alamance County resident and chairperson for the group GASP for Clean Air, said she attended the conference to learn about capitalism and sustainability. "People who are pro-capital think it's impossible to bring them together (capitalism and sustainability)," Hamblin said. "We're growing rapidly (in Alamance County), but we need to grow wisely. If we can attract businesses that practice sustainable work, we'll be ahead of the game."

Cindy Shea, the sustainability coordinator at UNC-Chapel Hill, was in attendance at the forum during the morning and afternoon presentations. "I have great respect for both Dr. Orr and Dr. Hart," Shea said. "They are both able to take abstract global events and empower people in hopes for a more sustainable future.

"The biggest message is that we need to go beyond small-increment improvements."

Sen. Hugh Webster (R-N.C. Dist. 24) attended several of the day's events, including the morning speeches, where he was part of the program, and an afternoon panel titled "Academia by Design."

"The hope is for resident awareness of a rational policy of progress and preservation of our earth," he said. "I feel better about our chances (after hearing Hart and Orr speak)." Webster said he is not as concerned about his generation as he is for the next generation. "The mistakes we make will only affect me for 10 to 20 more years," Webster said. "If we mess up, it's going to affect your generation for 80 years. You should be more interested in what we're doing than us old folks."

Elon University's Center for Environmental Studies hosted the all-day event, which also included an organic meal, environmental films and documentaries, afternoon panel sessions and an alternative-fuel vehicle display.



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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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