SUNY Oswego joined with more than 1,550 other colleges and universities Jan. 31 in "Focus the Nation," a countrywide day of teach-ins about environmental issues.
Oswego students, faculty and community members heard a talk by a founder of Greenpeace International and a keynote address by an expert from SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry. They also learned about efforts by local governments and their own college to go greener.
"'Focus the Nation' is about movement, motivation, volunteerism," said President Deborah F. Stanley. "All of us are being called to volunteer in this effort to seek knowledge, share knowledge and ultimately to have a positive effect on climate change for ourselves, but also for the future."
Stanley's talk was preceded by a session with Patrick Moore, co-founder and former director of Greenpeace International, who later broke with the group and now is a proponent of nuclear power. He spoke on sustainability and nuclear energy. Moore joined the Greenpeace movement as an undergraduate in British Columbia. He was active in the group's campaign against nuclear testing and worked to save the whales. In recent years he became convinced that nuclear power is the only way to provide the energy the world needs and simultaneously to reduce humankind's carbon footprint. As a consultant, he now works to spread that message.
Saying that Greenpeace lumped nuclear weapons and nuclear power together, he argued, "Do not ban beneficial uses of a technology just because the same technology can be used for evil," Moore said.
"Imagine a society where our energy is from clean sources: nuclear, hydroelectric and wind; all our automobiles are plug-in hybrids and every one of us retrofit our homes with ground-source heat pumps," Moore said. "It is not pie in the sky. Think about the feasibility of it and the practicality of it."
Noting that 50 percent of the nuclear fuel in use today is from dismantled Russian weapons, he said, "We are truly turning swords into plowshares."
Keynote speaker Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Peter Black of the SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry spoke on "Natural Resources' Universal Pattern and Sustainability."
"All matter, energy, structure and time - on earth, in our solar system, and in the universe - exhibits the same lopsided distribution pattern," Black said. He used multiple examples, such as a small amount of carbon in the atmosphere as compared to all carbon stored in the form of coal and oil in this planet to demonstrate the point. He argued that humans, which are a significant percentage of the animal life on earth, use a disproportionate amount of the planet's resources. The expectation is that humans should be a significantly smaller fraction of animal life for the system to be sustainable.
Black argued that "water plays a principal and vital role" in the sustainability of the environment. Once again, the distribution of potable water and all water on this planet demonstrates the lopsided distribution pattern.
Black focused his research on the hydrological study of drainage basins, or watersheds. By examining each of the numerous water sources that contribute to watersheds and the complex conditions that affect them, scientists can develop extensive research techniques to help predict water quality and management needs.
Oswego professors opened the day by sharing their knowledge of the causes and possible solutions to global warming. Kestas Bendinskas of the chemistry department gave an overview of conclusions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, followed by a presentation by Al Stamm of meteorology on the effects of carbon dioxide and the other gasses on climate change. The panel included Alok Kumar of physics, Andy Nelson of Rice Creek Field Station, and Bob Ballentine of meteorology, moderated by Nola Heidelbaugh and Mike Pawlyk '09.
Local government officials explored global warming from national, state and local perspectives, in a panel moderated by Professor Bruce Altschuler and Tim Farnsworth '09. Oswego Common Council Vice President Constance Rebeor Cosemento '66 said the city was "on a recycling mission," including mulching organic waste like leaves. Former New York State Senator Jim Wright '71, who chaired the Senate Energy Committee for a decade, said that New York state was leading the nation in its environmental record, ranking 49th in terms of its carbon output per capita. He said that many choices to improve energy efficiency involve a greater cost. "We will have to make a number of difficult choices," he said. "That is why days like this are important."
Cosemento and Wright were joined on the podium by Assemblymen Will Barclay and Robert Oakes, who described New York state environmental initiatives. Oswego County Administrator Phil Church outlined the county's plan to burn methane and described the cost that environmental decisions bring. Professor Steve Rosow concluded the panel discussion, arguing that all these decisions have significant ethical and moral aspects to them, besides being scientific and economical.
Oswego's participation in "Focus the Nation" was sponsored by SUNY Oswego and its Civic Engagement Coalition. Thad Mantaro '98, Oswego's civic engagement coordinator, organized the event with students of the college.
— Michele Reed (Kestas Bendinskas and Jim Russell '83 contributed to this story.)
Upper Photo: Patrick Moore, co-founder and former director of Greenpeace International, spoke on sustainability and nuclear energy.
Patrick Moore, co-founder and former director of Greenpeace International, discusses environmental concerns with Molly McGriff '08, a psychology major and director of civic engagement, a member of the Student Association executive board.
Keynote speaker, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Peter Black of the SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, spoke on "Natural Resources' Universal Pattern and Sustainability."
Lower Photo: Former New York State Senator Jim Wright '71 (center) speaks at a "town meeting" on the environment. Joining him on the podium, were, from left, Oswego Common Council Vice President Constance Rebeor Cosemento '66, Oswego County Administrator Phil Church, and Assemblymen Will Barclay and Robert Oakes. Also speaking, but not pictured, was Professor Steve Rosow.
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