Lecturer speaks on whether civilization is worth the cost
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 23:10
“Our world is really in trouble, our view isn’t working and we need a new view.”
That was the premise of George Woodwell’s lecture Thursday night as part of the Teale Lecture Series, entitled “Civilization: Is it Worth the Cost?”
Woodwell is the founder and Director Emeritus of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass., a facility focused on environmental issues such as climate change. They operate projects around the world in conjunction with governments and other organizations.
Appropriate for the election season, the premise of Woodwell’s lecture was that in order to change “our view,” we need to change our government. Woodwell described our current state of governance as a “corporatocracy,” where corporations continue to profit without bearing the costs of harming the environment. Global warming is a major focus of the Woods Hole Research Center, and the issue of carbon emissions came up often, including references to oil sands and the BP oil spill.
“If the costs were applied to corporations, we would not be doing what we are doing,” Woodwell theorized.
He described our current course as “suicidal,” but admitted that progress has been made. Woodwell praised acts passed by the Nixon administration that protected the environment, the most significant being the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also referred to examples of environmentally friendly acts that he believes can be easily reproduced across the country, such as a school in Rhode Island that covered the roofs of its buildings in solar panels. Woodwell also stressed the importance of academia in researching and advancing environmental protection.
The audience at the lecture showed a diverse group of listeners, representing students, faculty and outside visitors.
Maggie Chase, a 7th-semester environmental engineering major, described Woodwell as “a smart guy, a lot of history with all of the environmental research. He gave really great tips about what college students can do and how the academic community can improve. I thought he was equally hopeful and also cautionary.”
Also present in the front row was UConn President Susan Herbst, who introduced George Woodwell as the newest part of the Teale Lecture Series. The Teale Lecture Series focuses on bringing renowned scholars and scientists to UConn to lecture to the public about the environment. This coincides with the university’s recent push to become more “green,” with a number of improvements across campus, including the application of new fuel-cell technology.
Following the lecture, Dr. Herbst described her excitement for the series: “I think the Teale Lecture Series is one of the leading components of our environmental sustainability initiative, and we’ve got this intellectual leadership side of it and all of what we do everyday: try to pick up trash, try to recycle, try to conserve and try to learn.”