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Sustainability, ethnology all part of Environmental Congress

April 15, 2015

The messages ranged from environmental to ethnological preservation of indigenous people during the Fourth International Congress on Critical Perspectives on Energy, Environment, Technology and Water Development, and Protection Worldwide held at Clarion University.

Dr. Robert McAfee, climatologist to the Arkansas Governor's Commission on Global Warming and chair of the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology's Carbon Caps Task Force, keynote speaker, led off the conference with "Dividing Up Carbon Pie." He focused on the most important number 350 parts per million, referring to what he termed, "the urgent need, to stabilize the carbon footprint."

He said an endeavor similar to the United States effort in World War II would be necessary to achieve the goals of halting coal plant construction and decommissioning existing plants; an immediate transfer to non-carbon based energy technology; dramatically increasing investments in developing nations to help them out of poverty; and becoming 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050.

Clarion University President Joseph Grunenwald delivered the welcome for the two-day Congress and explained Clarion University's efforts to receive LEED certification for its newly constructed buildings, which are expected to provide a 40 percent energy savings and 20 percent water savings over the next five years. Congress co-chairs Dr. Valentine James, provost and academic vice president, and Paul Bylaska, vice president for finance and administration, provided the opening remarks.

This is the second time Clarion University has hosted the Congress, brought to Clarion by James, who originated the conference during his previous tenure as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, N.C.

Carlos Velazquez, an Otomi Indian, mechanical engineer, and former director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs of the Southern Cherokee Nation, brought ethnology into the conference through two presentations concerning the Inuit Indians of Canada's newest province, Nunavut. In "Environment first injustice: Inuit," he spoke about the tribe's move from their traditional home on the rapidly declining sea of ice, to government built homes on land, and the ethno-stress created by the disruption of their cultural beliefs. His second presentation, "Reality of the Vanishing Ice on the Inuit," spoke about the tribe's effort to share their traditions.

In "Empowering Sustainable Energy Practices," Dr. Patricia DeMarco, executive director of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association in Springdale, spoke of the famous conservationist's message of living in harmony with nature. She highlighted renewable energy resources - wind, water, passive solar, fuel cell, manure digesters, and renewable central power systems - andexamined alternate ideas of travel using wind power and lighter than aircraft.

Dr. Joshua Pearce, a former Clarion University faculty member now teaching at Queen's University, Ontario, Canada, spoke about "Distributed Technology for a Just and Sustainable World: From Solar Photovoltaic Systems to Open Source Appropriate Technology." He noted the advantages of distributed technology through the Internet, which allows a more immediate disbursement of new research, and reviews and revisions by others in the field.

Dr. Andrew Lau, associate professor of engineering and coordinator of first-year seminars for Penn State College of Engineering, addressed "Digging Deep Into Sustainability for New Meaning in Engineering Design." He spoke about the key characteristics of sustainability education and how to design technology to bring forth sustainability.

Four Clarion University faculty members also presented at the conference:

Dr. Solomon Obotetukudo, assistant professor of communication, presented two sessions: "Can the Leopard Shed Its Skin: The Rhetoric of China's Development Initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Political Realities of Sustainable Development," where he extrapolated that (mis)perception to the recent Chinese projects in Africa by revisiting the realpolitick of sustaining development from the perspective of leap-frogging; and "What's in the Name, Soudan? Multiple Heritage as a Curse of Sustainable Development in Sudanese Africa," examining the origin of the name, Soudan/Sudan, in the context of Sub-Saharan African development, tracing the lack thereof, to the competing and conflicting issues of national identities and international meddlesomeness.

Dr. Laurie Occhipinti, professor of anthropology, "Sustaining a Culture, Sustaining an Ecosystem: The Wichi of the Western Chaco," discussing the efforts of this indigenous culture in Argentina to maintain their traditional culture sustained through the natural environments.

Dr. Gerald Thomas, professor of geography, "Sustainable Development vs. Economic Growth," exploring the relationship between the notion of a sustainable world and what might be required to bring that about, versus the traditional approach to ending poverty, which is continued economic growth.

Dr. Frank Vento, professor of earth science, "St. Catherine's Island, Georgia; Implications for Changes in Climate and Sea Level."

In conjunction with the Congress, Dr. James Rose, professor of art at Clarion University, coordinated an art competition in keeping with the Congress' theme. The winners were:

First, Samantha Reynolds, "Iron Tree." Reynolds received her B.F.A. degree in art during December 2009 commencement. She is a daughter of Raymond and Donna Reynolds of Fallentimber and is a graduate of Glendale High School.

Second, Chloe Boden, "Looking At Nature." Boden, a senior art major, is a daughter of Dave and Mary Boden of Franklin and is a graduate of Rocky Grove High School.

Third, Anna Murray, "Coffee." Murray, a senior art major, is a daughter of Sharon Murray of Punxsutawney and a graduate of Punxsutawney High School.

The Congress was instituted to provide leadership and encourage partnership, a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing environmental problems, and a forum for discussion on innovative technologies concerned with the conservation policies and legalization, ecology, emerging technologies, alternative energy and total expenditure for the utilization of regenerative energies worldwide. Other matters of interest to the Congress are impact of molecular nanotechnology on energy and environment, industry, development strategies and the built environmental, protection, urbanization, waste water treatment, and technology-society interface, focusing on the technological gap between the developed and developing countries. The Congress places emphasis on the educational values in the pursuit of sustainable development and environmental management that nurture the environment and improve the quality of life without compromising that of future generations, and looks for providing foundations for future endeavors through the identification of new and innovative areas of environmental research, development and professional practices.

Clarion University is the high-achieving, nationally recognized, comprehensive university that delivers a personal and challenging academic experience.

Last Updated 1/11/21