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Environmental Degradation Symposium to explore climate change, policy

Aminata Kinana ’18 and the Rosenfield Program organized the Environmental Degradation Symposium. Faran.

On Feb. 8, the College will host a symposium on Environmental Degradation and Conflict. Sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights, the symposium will feature events addressing the impact of climate change and divisions within environmental policy on a local, national and global level.

In an email to The S&B, Rosenfield Program Director Professor Barbara Trish, political science, explained that the theme for the upcoming symposium was inspired by ideas raised in the Fall 2016 symposium “Global Politics of Migration and Refuge.”

“A couple of the speakers touched on the idea that the refugee crisis in Syria was — at least in part — related to drought,” Trish wrote. This striking connection left an impact on the program committee, and seemed like an important theme to explore this year.

Diverging from symposia of years past, the events next week will all be held on Thursday instead of being spread out over three days. According to Trish, “Rosenfield is experimenting with different symposia formats, wanting to find the right structure to make it easy for students and faculty to attend events,” Trish wrote. While students and faculty may not be able to attend every talk, hopefully at least one or two will fit into everyone’s schedule.

The symposium will consist of four events, all located in JRC 101.

At 11 a.m., Lisa Dale, professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute will be giving the Scholar’s Convocation, “Environmental Policy, One Year Into the Trump Administration.” 

Security Analyst Shiloh Fetzek will speak on “Climate Change and Security, Risk Mapping and Risk Management,” at 4 p.m. Fetzek is senior fellow for international affairs at the Center for Climate and Security, a non-partisan policy institute focused on the threat of climate change on national security around the globe.

At 5:30 p.m., students, faculty and other community members are invited to have a free meal with the speakers. Intended to facilitate more personal dialogue, the buffet dinner will be “a venue for members of the college community, the broader town/regional community as well as speakers to relax and get to know each other better,” wrote Trish.

The last event of the day will be a panel discussion addressing local environmental issues from various perspectives. “Both Sides Now: Public Policy and Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa,” will feature panelists Brandi Janssen ’98, Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, Bill Stowe ’81, CEO of Des Moines Water Works, Mark Kennett, local farmer and owner of Kennett Ag. Services and Roger Wolf, director of environmental programs and services for the Iowa Soybean Association.

Last year, Stowe was front and center in the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against drainage districts in three Iowa counties. The Water Works’ approach to addressing pollution was criticized by many, including the Iowa Soybean Association.

“I think we’ll hear about different visions of ‘sustainable’ agriculture as well as the role each panelist sees for himself (as well as the state and the consumer) in realizing that vision or visions,” Trish wrote. “I intend to listen carefully to those speakers, trying to understand the different perspectives on this topic, which is so critical for the future of this community and the state.”

The symposium is sure to provide a balanced discussion on the various environmental issues that face our local and global communities today. As environmental protection and scientific support for climate change are currently under threat on a national level, this is a timely opportunity to become informed and engaged in the conversation.

The event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies Concentration, the Program in Practical Political Education and the John Chrystal Fund for Distinguished Foreign Visitors.

Aminata Kinana ’18 and the Rosenfield Program organized the Environmental Degradation Symposium. Faran.
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