Experts Orr, Hart
at Elon's fall forum

 

By Jacquie Anderson

The Center for Environmental Studies at Elon University presented a sustainability forum titled "Roadmap to the Future: Tomorrow by Design" Oct. 8 in McKinnon Hall. The forum featured keynote speakers David Orr, a professor and chair of the environmental studies program at Oberlin College, and Stuart L. Hart, Samuel C. Johnson professor of sustainable global enterprise and a professor of management at Cornell University.

Orr kicked off the morning with a speech that focused on global warming and the importance of sustainability in creating a safe world for the children of tomorrow. He also emphasized the importance of students' knowledge of the environment in the fight to maintain our dwindling resources.

"We need to get younger people in their 20's into leadership positions," Orr said. "You need to learn as students to role up your sleeves and get to work becoming a presence on this planet."

When asked what beginning step students should take in order to become more aware of their environment Orr responded: "You have to begin to relate your field of study to the environment. We need to be students of how this world works."

Commerce can work toward sustainability

Hart's speech was titled "Creating Sustainable Value: Fusing the Business and Sustainability Agendas," and it focused on balancing environmentalism with the corporate world. "The world of commerce is the single most important vehicle to becoming a sustainable community," he said.

Hart explained that the reason sustainability is so difficult for many businesses to understand is because there are many meanings to the word "sustainability."

To illustrate his points in a way the audience could better understand, Hart drew a matrix that split a company into four parts: today, tomorrow, internal and external. In the four quadrants created by the matrix, Hart separated a plethora of environmental buzzwords. Using this matrix, Hart explained the processes and ideas a business must consider to reach the goal of sustainability.

"There is no best way or one-size-fits-all solution. We hope the methods that work will out-compete the ones that fail," he said, adding that the best ways a business can do this are to stop being wasteful in use of resources, to concentrate on recycling, to have discussions about the situation of a product after its useful life, to be willing to embrace disruptive innovations and to consider the welfare of families "at the bottom of the pyramid" that have been ignored by global conglomerates.

Hart explained that businesses need to consider adopting disruptive innovations that are more effective in maintaining the environment, and while doing this companies need to consider more than just the upper classes of the world. He cited as an example LED, or light-emitting diode, technology; it is cheaper and more energy-efficient than today's standard lightbulbs, but the companies that could be producing LEDs are making a lot of money selling the old technology.

"Eventually the new innovations will take hold, but unfortunately I'm afraid we will be the last ones to change," he said.

Sen. Hugh Webster (R-N.C. Dist. 24) spoke briefly at the conference, and compared the actions and repercussions of being unfair to a minority group to how we are dealing with our environment. "I don't know how to get security, but I do know how to get insecurity," he said. "Don't forget: if you mistreat and abuse a minority group enough you will get your payday and you will see insecurity."

Cars, organic foods and more at forum

Other highlights of the forum included a "Wall for the Future" and a fuel-efficient automobile show in the Moseley Center parking lot.

The "Wall for the Future" featured slips of paper, each with the profile of a child's face printed on it. Event participants wrote the names of children on the pages, which were then placed on a wall to represent the children for whom we are working to preserve our resources in order to sustain a beautiful world for them. Participants and visitors to the forum had the opportunity to record the name of a child they knew to place onto the wall in tribute to the children of our future.

The hybrid car show was sponsored by the Elon Safety and Police, and featured biodiesel and hybrid cars from Volkswagon and Toyota.

Jeffrey Coker, an Elon biology professor, said he attended the forum and car show because he is looking into putting solar accessories on his home, and wanted to check out the technology. He had enjoyed another conference event at Harden Dining Hall earlier in the day. "I went to the Battle of the Chefs Goes Organic and I found it enjoyable," he said. "The food was all locally grown which was cool, but the real highlight of my day has been checking out the alternative fuel vehicles."

The vehicles proved to be an audience pleaser, which is no surprise, due to the impressive technology incorporated into them. Jack Martin, a representative of TS Designs Inc. explained the complex engineering on some of the vehicles. The Volkswagon TDI 2000 model owned by Eric Henry, president of TS Designs Inc., runs simply on vegetable oil. "Alcohol and lye are added to the oil, mixed, settled and out of that you get biodiesel and glycerin," he explained. This product is completely compatible with diesel and can be refilled for 25 cents a gallon.

The Toyota Prius is a gas/electric hybrid vehicle that runs on batteries that are placed at the back of the vehicle. If it is charged overnight, the car can run on electric power to last a weekend trip. "Electric vehicles are going to make a big comeback for short trips," said Martin. The Prius retails for $21,415 and gets up to 50 miles to the gallon.

Overall the forum was a big success, drawing both students and non-students to Elon's campus to listen to the informative speakers, eat organic food and view environmentally friendly products. Other events featured at the forum included an environmental film festival and afternoon breakout sessions titled "Academia By Design," " Food By Design" and " Communities By Design." For more coverage on the events check out Elon's Web site.

 

 

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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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