UC Berkeley News


Sustainability was promoted at last weekend’s Cal Day, as it is every day on the Berkeley campus. (Steve McConnell photo)

This year’s Sustainability Summit definitely has an agenda
It just isn’t printed on paper. Walking the walk, organizers plan for the day’s big events to make a minimal mess

| 16 April 2008

Reflecting the growing importance of sustainability on campus, Berkeley’s fifth annual summit on the issue is expanding to a half-day, with workshops on everything from greening your own life to the energy frontier far beyond fossil fuels.

Kicking off a busy program of activities centered around the celebration of Earthweek, the 2008 Sustainability Summit will take place Monday, April 21, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

For the first time, a morning packed with interactive sessions will culminate in a keynote speech over the lunch hour. “It’s a way to reach more of the campus,” says event emcee Lisa McNeilly, Berkeley’s director of sustainability.

This year’s summit, open to faculty, staff, and students, is organized around the idea of “achieving sustainability as one — one person, one campus, one nation, one planet,” McNeilly says. “The focus is on what each individual can do to be more sustainable, to reduce carbon emissions. It’s very timely.”

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who has placed sustainability among his top priorities for the campus, will deliver a message via videotape during the opening ceremony, which starts at 9 a.m. At the 2007 summit, Birgeneau announced Berkeley’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2014, six years earlier than the target set by California’s strict Global Warming So­lu­tions Act.

Breakout sessions will bring faculty, staff, and student experts together with those eager to learn about sustainable food systems, green building construction, water conservation, waste, and a post-petroleum future. Want to know what the campus is doing to green its food systems? Or if tap water is a more sustainable choice than bottled? You can stop by a 10 a.m. breakout session with Chuck Davies, associate director of Cal Dining, and two conservation-and- resource-studies majors involved in food ecology.

If you have a few questions for McNeilly, who became Berkeley’s first sustainability director in January, she’ll hold a “chat” during one of the 11 a.m. sessions.

Tackling one of sustainability’s toughest issues, “Energy: Beyond Fossil Fuels,” will be Professor Dan Kammen, who works on clean- and renewable-energy syst­ems in the Energy and Resources Group and at the Goldman School of Public Policy. He’ll talk about emerging renewable technologies and energy efficiency in the 11 a.m. session.

Threading through the summit will be social-justice issues, starting with two breakout sessions. Participants in “Climate: The Science and Social Justice” at 10 a.m. will hear from both Fahmida Ahmed, a campus sustainability specialist, and Richard Norgaard, a professor in both the Energy and Resources Group and agricultural and resource economics. And in “Who’s Involved in the Environmental Movement?” at 11 a.m., a panel will take on the question of “why white, middle-aged women seem to predominate” in that movement, according to the summit program.

Social justice will also be the theme of the lunchtime keynote by Michel Gelobter, a Berkeley Ph.D. and leading U.S. climate strategist who until recently was executive director of Redefining Progress, an Oakland-based public-policy institute devoted to sustainability. Redefining Profit was a key player in designing California’s tough new limits on greenhouse gases, and also formed the Climate Justice Corps to train thousands of youth in climate activism.

Gelobter will speak during a lunch catered by Café de la Paz, a Shattuck Avenue restaurant, which plans to use real plates and cutlery instead of paper and plastic, and serve local, sustainable foods.

Among other green steps planned for the summit: Coffee and tea will be served in compostable cups, and no paper agendas will be handed out.

The summit, organized by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability, is the first of a week of events planned in recognition of Earth Day, the global day of environmental awareness on April 22. Earthweek at Berkeley promises a variety of activities, from a Habitat for Humanity green build-a-thon to a film festival of nine independently made environmental films, from a transportation-and-energy farm to a green picnic featuring local, organic, sustainable food from Berkeley Farmers’ Market vendors.

The schedule for the April 21 sustainability summit is online at sustainability.berkeley.edu/summit; the schedule of campus Earthweek events is at earthweek.berkeley.edu.

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