Middlebury

Bill McKibben to mark anniversary of his landmark book "The End of Nature" at climate crisis symposium on Sept. 22-24

September 8, 2005

"The devastating hurricanes and cyclones that hit the Caribbean and the Pacific last year are testimony to the increasing impacts of climate change.  Our whole economies are being destroyed by these severe weather events . Our rights to exist in our islands is at peril because of the actions and irresponsibility of others."

? Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu Ambassador to the United Nations, who will speak at the climate crisis symposium at Middlebury College

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.?What is the state of the climate crisis on the 16th anniversary of the publication of Bill McKibben's "The End of Nature," one of the earliest books for a general audience highlighting the perils of climate change?  McKibben himself will reflect on the topic when he gives the keynote lecture at the Middlebury College Clifford Symposium on Sept. 22-24 titled "Renewal: Perspectives and Possibilities in an Age of Climate Crisis."  More information on the conference is available on the conference Web site http://go.middlebury.edu/clifford.   

Bill McKibben, author of
 "The End of Nature"

A scholar in residence in environmental studies at Middlebury, McKibben will be joined by speakers from around the world in a variety of fields, including leaders of indigenous communities already affected by climate change from Alaska, the South Pacific and Canada.  Also participating will be scientists such as leading paleoclimatologist and author Bill Ruddiman, representatives of religious communities, and Meg Boyle, executive director of the Boston-based nonprofit The Climate Campaign. 

The symposium will address:
 the current state of climate science;
 effects of the climate crisis on indigenous communities; 
 religious and ethical perspectives on climate change; 
 solutions to climate change related to business, investment and policy.

The symposium lectures, panel discussions and dance performances are all free and open to the public.

"The goal of the symposium is not to focus solely on dire predictions commonly attributed to climate change but rather to assess its impact and seek solutions while we emphasize how communities that feel its consequences are coping with its effects right now," said Peter Ryan, Middlebury College associate professor of geology and environmental studies, and organizer of the symposium.  "We want to discuss climate change from a wide range of perspectives, including economic, scientific, cultural and religious, to emphasize the complexity of the issue while demonstrating its many facets.  It has the potential to impact our lives in many ways and therefore it concerns all aspects of society, not just scientists and environmentalists."

The event also marks the 40th anniversary of the Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program, the oldest undergraduate environmental studies program in the country. 

"This symposium, offering a variety of perspectives on and approaches to climate change, is a reflection of the many disciplines represented by the liberal arts and a particularly appropriate way to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of Middlebury's environmental studies program, which is interdisciplinary in nature," said Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz.

The symposium will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, in Mead Chapel with McKibben's keynote address, "How Big is Too Big? Global Warming and Moral Choices." Published in 1989, McKibben's "The End of Nature" is now available in 20 languages on six continents. 

Sixteen years after the publication of what has become a classic environmental work, McKibben will discuss the latest science on global warming as well as the meaning of that science?the idea that humans are suddenly casting a much larger shadow over the planet's operations.  He will ask what this thought means for our sense of who we are, and whether it is a power we should try to relinquish if we can.

On Friday, Sept. 23, at 1:30 p.m., the symposium will continue with the dedication of Middlebury College's new wind turbine, which was completed in August.  Located next to the college's Recycling Center, the turbine produces electricity for this building. Any extra electricity it creates is used elsewhere on campus. See the College's web site for more information on the turbine.

From 3-4:30 p.m., leading paleoclimatologist and marine geologist Bill Ruddiman will give a lecture titled "Anthropogenic Warming Began Well Before the Industrial Era," followed by a discussion in Room 216 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall.  Ruddiman is the author of the recently published "Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate" and has written many articles published in Scientific American, Nature and Science magazines.  He is also professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.  Prior to his arrival there, he was for many years a senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and a program associate with the National Science Foundation.

"The Birdhouse Project"-a performance of dance and music that celebrates movement, birds and the land?will take place twice during the symposium?at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and at 12 p.m. on Saturday in front of McCardell Bicentennial Hall.  Directed by Middlebury College Professor of Dance Andrea Olsen, the performance includes more than 20 faculty, alumni and student dancers, original music by composer David Rothenberg, and a set by Vermont visual artist and birdhouse designer Carl Phelps.  Olsen presented "The Birdhouse Project" in New York City last spring.

On Friday evening from 7:30-9:30 p.m., a panel discussion titled "Global Changes, Local Impacts: Climate Change and Indigenous Communities" will take place in McCardell Bicentennial Hall.  The speakers include Craig Fleener, regional wildlife biologist with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Groups in Fort Yukon, Alaska; Darren Ranco, assistant professor of Native American studies and environmental studies, Dartmouth College; Enele Sopoaga, ambassador to the United Nations from Tuvalu, a nine-island nation in the South Pacific; and John Mameamskum, director-general, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach in the Canadian province of Quebec.

The final day of the symposium, Saturday, Sept. 24, will begin with a discussion panel from 9:30-11:30 a.m. titled "Religious and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Change" in McCardell Bicentennial Hall.  Participating in this panel will be Laurel Kearns, associate professor, sociology of religion and environmental studies, Drew University Theological School; Paul Gorman, executive director, Amherst, Mass.-based National Religious Partnership for the Environment; and Barbara Lerman-Golomb, communications director, New York-based Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. 

The symposium will conclude with "Solutions: Policy Initiatives by Government, Business and Civil Society," a discussion with three panelists, including Meg Boyle, executive director of the The Climate Campaign, a youth-led coalition active on 125 college campuses that brings together student groups, local organizations and environmental networks throughout the Northeast.  Joining her will be Rachel Harold, an investor programs fellow at the Boston-based Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), a national network of investment funds and environmental organizations that works to advance environmental stewardship on the part of businesses, and Michael Dorsey, assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.  The panel will take place from 1-3 p.m. in McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

Following the last discussion panel, John Elder, Middlebury College professor of English and environmental studies, will offer a summary of the symposium and some final thoughts with the help of several Middlebury College students.

The Nicholas R. Clifford Symposium was established by the Middlebury College board of trustees in1993 to honor the distinguished career of Nicholas R. Clifford, Middlebury College professor emeritus of history.  He was a member of the Middlebury College history department from 1966 through 1993, and served as vice president for academic affairs on three occasions, from 1979-1985, in 1989 and from 1991-1993.  Clifford is a former trustee, and was a co-chair of the college's Bicentennial celebration committee.

For more information, visit the symposium Web site http://go.middlebury.edu/clifford or contact Peter Ryan, Middlebury College associate professor of geology and environmental studies, and symposium organizer, at pryan@middlebury.edu or 802-443-2557.

To follow is a schedule of symposium events:

Thursday, Sept. 22
7:30 p.m.  Keynote Address
"How Big is Too Big? Global Warming and Moral Choices," by Bill McKibben, author and Middlebury College Scholar in Residence in Environmental Studies, on the 16th anniversary of his book "The End of Nature"
Mead Chapel on Hepburn Road off College Street (Route 125)

Friday, Sept. 23
1:30 p.m.  Wind Turbine Dedication Ceremony
Recycling Center, off College Street (Route 125)

3-4:30 p.m.  Lecture with Discussion
"Anthropogenic Warming Began Well Before the Industrial Era" by Bill Ruddiman, author and leading paleoclimatologist
Rm. 216, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College St./Rte. 125

4:30 p.m.  Dance Performance 
"The Birdhouse Project" is directed by Middlebury College Professor of Dance Andrea Olsen with original music by David Rothenberg, and a set by Vermont visual artist and birdhouse designer Carl Phelps. 
In front (quad side) of McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College St. (Rte. 125)

7:30-9:30 p.m.  Discussion Panel
"Global Changes, Local Impacts: Climate Change and Indigenous
Communities" 
Speakers:
 Craig Fleener, Regional Wildlife Biologist with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Groups in Fort Yukon, Alaska 
 Darren Ranco, Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College
 Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu Ambassador to the United Nations
 John Mameamskum, Director-General, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach in Quebec, Canada
Rm. 216, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College St./Rte. 125

Saturday, Sept. 24
9:30-11:30 a.m.  Discussion Panel
"Religious and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Change" 
Speakers:
 Laurel Kearns, Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion and Environmental Studies, Drew University Theological School 
 Paul Gorman, Executive director, National Religious Partnership for the Environment
 Barbara Lerman-Golomb, Communications Director, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
Rm. 216, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College St./Rte. 125

12 p.m.  Dance Performance 
"The Birdhouse Project" is performed by 20 students, alumni and faculty dancers, directed by Middlebury College Professor of Dance Andrea Olsen with original music by David Rothenberg, and has a set by Vermont visual artist and birdhouse designer Carl Phelps. 
In front (quad side) of McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College St./Rte. 125

1-3 p.m.  Discussion Panel
"Solutions: Policy Initiatives by Government, Business, and Civil Society"
Speakers:
 Meg Boyle, Executive Director, The Climate Campaign
 Rachel Harold, Investor Programs Fellow, Coalition for Environmental Responsible Economies (CERES)
 Michael Dorsey, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College
Rm. 216, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Bicentennial Way off College St./Rte. 125

The symposium lectures, panel discussions and dance performances are all free and open to the public.  For more information, visit the symposium Web site at http://go.middlebury.edu/clifford or contact Peter Ryan, Middlebury College associate professor of geology and environmental studies, and symposium organizer, at pryan@middlebury.edu or 802-443-2557.