Community discusses
environment's future


By Carrie Morgan

An environmental forum titled "Roadmap to the Future - Tomorrow by Design" was held at Elon University Oct. 8 for all students and members of the community. Hosted by Elon's Center for Environmental Studies, the forum included: two keynote speakers, David Orr and Stuart Hart; an organic culinary cook-off; an alternative-fuel vehicle show; and a film festival. Several smaller informational sessions and discussion groups also focused on local agriculture, "green" initiatives and regional planning.

"The only big question in front of us is whether we will have a habitable world in the 21st century," said Orr, professor and chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College.

He discussed the importance of teaching students to become mindful of the environment no matter what field of study they pursue. "We need to be students of how this Earth works. You can do it in any field, but you have to learn to relate your work to the Earth."

Hart, the Samuel C. Johnson Professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University, discussed the role of businesses in the future of the environment. He pointed out several strategies that businesses can take to move forward in sustainable product development.

"It's not just improving things that already have problems, but having to make things inherently clean," said Hart.

He also discussed disruptive innovations, explaining the need to change certain business practices and established habits. "Disruption is where most of the growth happens, and it happens outside of the mainstream markets, in the niche markets," said Hart. "We need enormous companies to become incredibly successful and we need to create the independent sense of hope in the future."

Another feature of the forum was an automotive exhibit which showcased several alternative-fuel vehicles.

Jack Martin brought his biodiesel vehicle to the show and discussed how it runs on modified vegetable oil. "We get the fried grease from Zach's Hotdog Stand and Wings to Go," said Martin. "There's an abundance of oil out there right now."

Biodiesel vehicles run on a renewable resource and have lower polluting emissions compared to petroleum diesel.

Cox Toyota of Burlington displayed two Prius hybrid vehicles that run on Hybrid Synergy Drive. The Prius uses a combination of gasoline and battery power to get around, allowing them better fuel economy and emissions benefits.

Sen. Hugh Webster (R-N.C. Dist. 24), a self-proclaimed "long-time conservationist" attended several of the events. "The goal of the forum is getting ideas as to how we can have progress in the standard of living but secure the world for the people coming after us," Webster said. "We need to establish that we can all work together."

Kirk Eldridge, a member of Elon University's Environmental Studies Board of Advisers, was pleased to see that both students and the community had taken an interest in the events. "My observation was that people were excited," Eldridge said. "There were a couple hundred at least turning out. It was pretty equal community and student involvement."

To see more details on the Elon forum, go to:



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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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