Earth is Running Out of Time

“My profession is traveling around to bum people out.” So began the University of Michigan’s Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability given recently by Bill McKibben, described by the Boston Globe as “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” McKibben’s news is grim. “We are running out of options” to protect the planet—and humanity itself—from the crisis of global warming. McKibben compared the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere every day to the heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs exploding. As to the planet’s increasing temperature, some parts of Pakistan and Iran have reached 129 degrees in the last two years, the highest reliably recorded temperatures in the planet’s history and too hot to sustain life. The war and humanitarian crisis in Syria are directly connected to drought and raging fires like California’s recent catastrophe have become common news events.

McKibben pointed out that the frequency and impacts of hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean and southern U.S. were exacerbated because climate change has heated the oceans. Warmer ocean water absorbs more heat that in turn raises the intensity of storms creating hurricanes. And the amount of carbon deposited in the oceans from burning fossil fuels has increased the water’s acidity destroying coral reefs and threatening all marine life.

“This is the biggest problem we have ever faced,” McKibben told the overflow audience in Hill Auditorium. A commitment is needed similar to that we had to marshal in World War II to defeat Hitler, McKibben asserted. And the deniers of climate change have continuously been proved wrong. “We won that debate long ago.” Instead of wasting time defending what science has already definitively documented, he said, “It’s now time to fight.”

After the “bumming out,” Bill McKibben offered hope in the world’s first global, grassroots climate-change movement, called 350.org, now active in 81 countries. In China alone 350.org volunteers have staged over 200 demonstrations against fossil fuel. The number 350 is the upper limit in parts per million of the concentration of CO2 safe for the atmosphere. It’s now over 407 parts/million and rising. Bill McKibben called on his Michigan audience to take specific actions to combat climate change, including divesting any fossil fuel stocks they own and he specifically called for divestment by the University of Michigan’s endowment portfolio. He also called for shutting down Enbridge’s risky Line 5 pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac and encouraged audience members to join a petition drive calling for its closure.

The annual Peter M. Wege lecture at the University of Michigan has featured in the past leaders such as the Dalai Lama, former Costa Rica President José Figueres, Achem Steiner, Larry Brilliant, Bill Ford and former Vice President Al Gore.

Pictured above: From the left, Diana Wege, Bill McKibben, speaker for the 16th Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan, Jonathan and Marissa Wege. McKibben, former writer for the New Yorker, called his speech on the climate-change crisis, “Down to The Wire: A Hot Fight in a Hot World.”

Wearing shirts that read, “Michigan and the Climate Crisis,” in late October these four University of Michigan students were among the organizers of week-long events on campus confronting the global crisis of a warming planet. From the left, Ben Iuliano, Kristen Sanchez, Iris Rivera, Zachary Hajian-Forooshani.

Here is a video of the lecture

Need for Inclusion in Environmental Non-profits

Pictured above: Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss congratulates Dr. Taylor after the University of Michigan professor delivered The Wege Lecture at Aquinas.

Artist and Wege Foundation Trustee Chris Carter introduced Dorceta E. Taylor Ph.D., Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment, as the presenter for the 21st Annual Wege Foundation Speaker Series in early April at Aquinas College

Dr. Taylor’s Untold Stories of the Conservation Movement opened with poet Phyllis Wheatley who was brought to this country as a slave in 1761 as an eight-year old. Educated by her owners the Wheatleys, in 1773 Phyllis published a book of her poetry, the first African-American to publish in the colonies.

While Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are well known as nature writers, few Americans have ever heard of Phyllis whose poetry influenced them. These images from one of Wheatley’s poems could easily be mistaken for Emerson’s:

The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays, On ev’ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays, Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display To shield your poet from the burning day. But the ‘burning day’ for Wheatley as a slave would have been quite different than for the Cambridge poets.

Dr. Taylor also recounted the environmental abuse inflicted by the early settlers when they stole the Native tribes’ lands because the white sportsmen believed it was their right to have good hunting grounds. She talked about the Trail of Tears in 1838 when President Andrew Jackson drove the Cherokees off their ancestral homelands in the Southeast forcing them on a brutally cruel trek west to Oklahoma.

The inequity for minorities is not over in the environmental world, Dr. Taylor said, when 38% of the population are minorities but they hold only 15% of the jobs in environmental organizations. “You need to go out and recruit them,” she told the attentive audience.

Andrew Goodwillie and Sara O’Connor, two of Peter Wege’s grandchildren, at the 21st annual Wege Speakers Series at Aquinas College.
Two of Peter Wege’s children Jonathan and Diana Wege, Chair and Vice-president of The Wege Foundation, at the reception for Dorceta E. Taylor Ph.D. after her talk on the history of social injustice in the conservation movement.

SCHOLAR AND ACTIVIST DORCETA E. TAYLOR Ph.D. TO LECTURE AT 21ST ANNUAL WEGE SPEAKER SERIES ON THURSDAY, APRIL 13

 

Director of diversity, equity & inclusion at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment to talk about the social inequalities of conservation

Grand Rapids, Michigan – February 28, 2017 – The Wege Foundation will host the 21st Wege Speaker Series on Thursday, April 13 at 4pm at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center.

This year’s speaker is Dorceta E. Taylor, Ph.D., director of diversity, equity & inclusion at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment, where she helped launch the first Environmental Justice Program in the country. She also holds dual doctorates in Sociology and Forestry & Environmental Studies from Yale University. Her talk is titled, Untold Stories of the Conservation Movement: Race, Power & Privilege.

Dr. Taylor offers extensive knowledge of environmental history, politics and justice as it relates to social equity. As a distinguished author, she has published influential books about the racial and socioeconomic ties to conservationism. The importance of sharing these stories has influenced her approach to teaching.

“The conservation movement arose against a backdrop of racism, sexism, class conflicts, and nativism that shaped the nation in profound ways,” said Dr. Taylor. “I think a thorough understanding of the past informs present thinking and actions.”

In Dr. Taylor’s latest book, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection, she tells the often forgotten stories about the movement with a clear focus on injustice. Dr. Taylor offers a fresh look at the conservation movement and its impact on vulnerable members of our society.

“The lack of diversity in the environmental movement is a major issue,” said Mark Van Putten, President and CEO of the Wege Foundation. Van Putten also serves as a Board Chair of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, which has partnered with Dr. Taylor on projects to assess and improve the diversity of the movement’s leadership and staff. “Dr. Taylor provides a unique perspective as both a scholar and an activist that will advance the conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion in West Michigan,” said Van Putten.

Partners for the 21st Wege Speaker Series event include:

  • Aquinas College
  • Grand Rapids Urban League
  • Latina Network of West Michigan
  • LINC UP
  • NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch
  • Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
  • West Michigan Environmental Action Council
  • West Michigan Latino Community Coalition

The Aquinas College Performing Arts Center is located at 1703 Robinson Road S.E. in Grand Rapids. The public is invited and the event is free. Limited seating, please register soon at aquinas.edu/wegespeaker

 

Fifteenth Annual University of Michigan Wege Lecture

bill-clark_605-e1478097402115Dr. William Clark, Harvard Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, delivered the 15th Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan this fall. Dr. Clark began by saying he was a bit intimidated when he found out who the previous lecturers had been. “I might not have come if I’d known I was following the Dalai Lama!”

The distinguished list of Wege Lecture speakers also included the former Prime Minister of Norway Dr. Gro Harlem Brundland, the former President of Costa Rica Jose Maria Figures, Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States, and Chairman of Ford Motor Company William Clay Ford, Jr. The first University of Michigan Wege Lecture was given October 17, 2001, by Dr. Rosina M. Bierbaum, former EPA official under President Clinton and at the time the new Dean at the time of the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

The title of Dr. Clark’s lecture was Pursuing Sustainability: Linking Science And Practice. He focused on the need for innovative thinking from the world of academia to solve the problem of Earth’s finite resources continuing to support the ever-growing number of people depending on it.

For the plus side, Dr. Clark noted that people are now “living longer and better” than ever before in human history. “ But that is not sustainable.” He pointed out we have saved eagles, restored forests, and the ozone is recovering. Yet with the current global population of 7.5 billion on its way to 10 billion, science has to get creative if humanity is to sustain the quality of life that has improved for everyone in the last 150 years.

Accomplishing this, according to Clark, will require world leaders to manage our human, social, manufacturing, natural, and intellectual assets. That means linking innovative scientific research with the actual real-world practices of sustainability. But, as with the American eagle, Dr. Clark says it can be done.

ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION AND RESEARCH AT U-M

Beyond Fossil Fuels: U of M Wege Speaker

The Industrial Revolution changed the world of work from farms to factories is over. A new economy is needed. Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica (1994-1998) and the first CEO of the World Economic Forum, has a plan to do just that. The Costa Rican West Point graduate—who broke up the audience when he noted his country has no army—is calling for a new global economy driven by reducing carbon emissions.

“The 200 years of the Industrial Revolution have ended,” Figueres told the University of Michigan audience as the speaker for the 14th annual Peter M. Wege Lecture in Sustainability. “It’s time to leave the carbon—the fossils and the coal and gas and oil in the ground.”

This former president led his native country into preserving more land per square mile—now 25% of Costa Rica—than any other nation proving his visionary thinking can become reality. The enthusiastic and entertaining Figueres sees his carbon-reduction economy as the ideal way to address climate change, poverty, and unemployment. Converting the world from systems that pollute the environment to an economy based on reducing carbon will create what he calls, “The greatest economic opportunities ever.”

Figueres sees a whole new realm of employment needed to develop technology that can pull carbon out of the atmosphere as the world converts to renewable energies. “We have the resources to do it,” he said, noting South Korea and Costa Rica are already doing it.

What needs to happen is a collaboration that includes governmental vision, private-sector participation, capital, a communications strategy, and centers of academic excellence. “Just like all of you in this auditorium,” he said about the academic centers pointing at the audience filled with University of Michigan students and faculty.

Jose Figueres doesn’t see climate change as the doomsday scenario often depicted, but rather as the gateway to an entirely new working world in carbon reduction that can make life better for everybody on Earth.


Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica who delivered the 14th annual Peter M. Wege Lecture at the University of Michigan March 28, 2016, is pictured with Dr. Jonathan Bulkley, retired professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment and former co-chairman of the Center for Sustainable Systems. In 2011 Peter M. Wege and The Wege Foundation created the Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professorship in Sustainable Systems to honor Dr. Bulkley’s distinguished career of 43 years at SNRE as well as the close friendship between Peter and the professor that began in 1991 and lasted until Wege died in 2014. At the dinner following the lecture, SNRE faculty member Shelie Miller was announced as the first recipient of the five-year Bulkley Professorship. Dr. Miller’s most recent honor is a Jefferson Fellowship given by the National Academy of Science for a year’s assignment with U.S. Agency for International Development to end global poverty.

Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica who delivered the 14th annual Peter M. Wege Lecture at the University of Michigan March 28, 2016, is pictured with Dr. Jonathan Bulkley, retired professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment and former co-chairman of the Center for Sustainable Systems.

In 2011 Peter M. Wege and The Wege Foundation created the Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professorship in Sustainable Systems to honor Dr. Bulkley’s distinguished career of 43 years at SNRE as well as the close friendship between Peter and the professor that began in 1991 and lasted until Wege died in 2014.

At the dinner following the lecture, SNRE faculty member Shelie Miller was announced as the first recipient of the five-year Bulkley Professorship. Dr. Miller’s most recent honor is a Jefferson Fellowship given by the National Academy of Science for a year’s assignment with U.S. Agency for International Development to end global poverty.


Pictured at top:

Jose Maria Figueres on the right is pictured after delivering the 14th Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan. On his right is Dan Brown, new dean of the School of Natural Resources and the Environment; next to Brown is Dr. Shelie Miller who had just been announced as the first recipient of the Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professorship in Sustainable Systems given by the late Peter M. Wege and The Wege Foundation; on the left is Mark VanPutten, CEO of The Wege Foundation.
One of Dr. Miller’s many accomplishments is winning the highest award the U.S. government gives to young scientists called the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

 

THE REAL COSTS OF OIL

The Case for Justice at the Ends of the Pipeline

Crystal Lameman
Intergovernmental Affairs Spokeswoman for the
indigenous Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, Canada

Thursday, April 21, 2016 / 4 – 5 pm
Aquinas College Performing Arts Center
Followed by a reception

Throughout the Great Lakes region, oil flows via pipelines and railroads from Canada to destinations throughout the American Midwest. This April, Crystal Lameman is coming to Grand Rapids to shed light on the devastating environmental and human impacts of tar sands mining at one source in Alberta, Canada. Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, will speak about her Nation’s legal fight to defend their homelands against the over-development of thousands of fossil fuel extraction sites. Join us and learn about how our demand for these resources is destroying the ecosystems that have sustained indigenous families for thousands of years and threatening our collective future.

Lameman is the Intergovernmental Affairs and Industry Relations Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager for the Nation.

RSVP by April 11, 2016 to aquinas.edu/wegespeaker

Click here to view the full press release

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See below for a video of the Aquinas College lecture. This video of the entire lecture is also close captioned.

Click below for a video of the interview for West Michigan Week (WGVU public television) with Crystal Lameman and Rachel Hood, Executive Director of West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

Mazria’s Road To Zero: Phase Out All CO2 Emissions by 2050

Peter Wege’s grandson Andrew Goodwillie used the occasion of Earth Day to remember his grandfather when he introduced architect Edward Mazria as this year’s 19th annual Wege Foundation Speaker. “To ‘Grampie,’” Andrew told the crowd at Aquinas College’s PAC, “every day was Earth Day, not just one day a year.” Andrew went on to say about Peter M. Wege, who died in July 2014, “My grandfather dedicated his life to making West Michigan and the world a better place. He inspired us all.”

Goodwillie introduced Mazria’s talk on an international movement to reduce carbon emissions from buildings by saying, “Grampie never met a building he didn’t want to turn into a green building.” In 2006 Edward Mazria founded Architecture 2030, a think tank created to accomplish exactly that.

Since half the energy used in the U.S. is consumed by buildings, Architecture 2030’s mission is to reduce by 50% the amount of fossil fuels in the built environment by 2030. The long-term goal is to reach zero emissions from buildings by 2050. Because 75% of all greenhouse gas comes from urban centers, the 2030 movement targets cities, with Seattle having been the first.

In the nine years since Mazria launched Architecture 2030, eight more cities have signed on with pledges from both the public and private sectors to meet the 50% reduction by the 20230 deadline. The day after Mazria’s Wege Lecture, the city of Grand Rapids voted to begin the process that will make it a 2030 city by the end of the year. (See related news article.)

By 2030 today’s 7.2 billion people will be joined by 1.1 billion more, mostly in cities. Constructing enough new space to house that many more people is equivalent to adding another New York City every 35 days. “We must lock in our energy needs,” Mazria emphasized, “because if we stop emissions now, over time the planet will be able to reabsorb the carbon.” Architecture 2030 intends to help Earth make that happen by cutting energy used by buildings in half within fifteen years.

Three generations of the Wege family meet with architect Edward Mazria after he gave the annual Wege Lecture at Aquinas College.  From the left, Peter O’Connor, husband of the late Peter M. Wege’s granddaughter Sara holding their baby Peter Charles; Mary Goodwillie Nelson, Wege’s daughter; Edward Mazria and Andrew Goodwillie, Mary Nelson’s son who introduced Mazria at the Wege Lecture.

Catalyst Radio: Architecture environmentalist Mazria is keynote for Wege Speaker Series

 

This year’s Wege Speaker Series is the 19th annual environmental lecture event, beginning April 23 at Aquinas Performing Arts Center.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW

In this episode of Catalyst Radio we feature an interview with the keynote speaker of the upcoming annual Wege environmental lecture series, Edward Mazria. Mazria is the founder of Architecture 2030 – a nonprofit research organization with a stated goal to “transform the building environment from being a major contributor of greannhouse gas emission, to being a central part of the solution to the climate and energy crises.”

Edward Mazria will be in Grand Rapids April 23 at Aquinas College Performing Arts Center, presenting his talk, “The Road to Zero.”

Every spring since 1997, the Wege Foundation has invited scientists, authors and thinkers to present a free public lecture on environmental issues and their connection to healthy economies and communities — a connection referred to by Peter M. Wege as “Economicology.” This is the first speaker series since the passing of Wege Foundation founder Peter Wege in 2014. Some previous have been Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Chief Prosecuting Attorney, Riverkeeper; Tom Kiernan, CEO, American Wind Energy Association; and Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda, Dean University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.

We talk with Wege series keynote speaker Edward Mazria, via telephone.