April 12, 2011

Lord Krebs: Sustainability Requires Sacrifice

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Lord John Krebs, the principal of the Jesus College of Oxford University, spoke on Monday about climate change and the United Kingdom’s plans to reduce carbon emissions.

Krebs’ lecture is one of more than 30 events focusing on sustainability this month as part of Cornell’s third-annual sustainability month.

He argued that the United Kingdom would need to make compromises in growth to curb environmental damage.

“Is growth a sustainable future? Can we keep on getting richer? And I want to ask just briefly: Why do we want to get richer?” Krebs said. “Above a [per capita income] of about $13,000, people don’t get any happier as they get richer. It’s not the case that you’re happier or healthier as you get richer.”

Duncan Hall ’14, one of the students who attended the lecture, said he thought it was “extremely interesting,” although he admitted he had not heard about the event in connection with sustainability month.

Andrew Schoen ’12, said he enjoyed Krebs’ lecture, but was not aware that the event was part of sustainability month.

Daniel Roth, the sustainability manager for Cornell’s Sustainability Office, said the month of coordinated events could help promote the idea of an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability.

“The idea was more or less to help communicate that sustainability isn’t just about the environment. It’s about social justice; it’s about economic development; it’s about energy issues,” Roth said. “In a lot of ways, sustainability month was a real communications focus among all the different parts of campus involved in sustainability.”

Roth said there was no “steering committee” that planned the majority of the April sustainability events, but rather, the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee manages a communications group that helps coordinate organized events on the University event calendar. In addition, the committee promotes the events in local media via press releases and posters.

Mark Lawrence, web and communications manager for Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, said sustainability month was the result of collaboration between the Atkinson Center, student groups, and other organizations, like the Sustainability Office.

“At the [Atkinson] Center here, we consider sustainability to be an integrated system of studies across environment, economic development, and energy,” Lawrence said. “If you look at climate change just from one view you may be missing the whole problem and you probably won’t come to a satisfactory solution that works for everyone.”

The Atkinson Center deals mainly with securing grants for and promoting environmental research and other projects, he said.

According to Lawrence, sustainability month at Cornell ties together many campus activities centering around Earth Day on April 22.

“We recognized that there were a lot of activities going on on campus that were related to sustainability across academics and student things,” Lawrence said. “We wanted to promote them — the list changes every year, but there are always exciting things on it.”

The full list of activities, which can be accessed on the Atkinson Center’s website, includes events ranging from lectures on sustainable economic growth to a social justice career fair.

Original Author: Byron Kittle