Twin events at UO feature experts on climate change

Climate change is a multi-faceted crisis, experts agree – and so is the University of Oregon’s response.

For the second year running, the university on Wednesday, April 10, will host complementary events – free and open to the public – during which professors, students and visiting experts will present different facets of this important global challenge and drive the public discourse into new areas.

The 2nd Annual UO Climate Change Research Symposium, running from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the EMU Fir Room, will feature presentations by professors and students in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

Then, at 6:30 p.m., the 2nd Annual Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Lecture will be held in the university’s Many Nations Longhouse, featuring presentations on the challenges faced by indigenous people who are disproportionately affected by climate change and natural disasters.

“By combining these two events we’re hoping to build a critical mass around ideas and efforts to address climate change,” said Ron Mitchell, symposium organizer and a professor in political science and environmental studies. “This is an opportunity for people to educate themselves about various and disparate aspects of a global problem without ever leaving campus.”

The symposium will address climate change through the human perspective; the status of climate change efforts by the university and the city of Eugene; “climate justice” in a panel-led discussion; the economics of climate change; local strategies for progress; and the politics and institutional responses associated with climate change.

Presentations will be made by professors and students from environmental studies, history, English, law, sustainability, economics and other departments. During a morning session, for example, English professor Gordon Sayre will present “A Brief History of Climatic Theories since Antiquity,” while an afternoon lecture by political science undergraduate James Puerini will focus on climate change and partisan politics.

“The symposium brings together individuals whose problem-driven research and works of art transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries,” Mitchell said. “The sharing of perspectives and exchange of ideas will produce a lasting dialogue that will enrich the depth of academic discourse at the university.”

The Indigenous Peoples Lecture, meanwhile, will feature keynote presenters Frank Kanawha Lake, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, and Kyle Powys Whyte, an assistant professor of philosophy and affiliated faculty for peace and justice studies, environmental science and policy and other areas at Michigan State University.

Lake works for the USDA Forest Service-Pacific Southwest Research Station, Fire and Fuels Program, on tribal and community forestry and related natural resource issues. His research focuses on restoration ecology and traditional ecological knowledge related to tribal management and fire ecology of forest, grassland and riparian environments of the southern Pacific Northwest and northern California, with an emphasis on the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. His research interests include ethnobotany and fire management related to how fire affects culturally significant habitats or species.

Whyte is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, Okla. He writes on environmental justice, the philosophy of technology and American Indian philosophy; his most recent research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate change impacts on indigenous peoples.

“Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by climate change and natural disasters, yet they are often marginalized from policy and academic discussions,” said Kathy Lynn, an adjunct research assistant in Environmental Studies who is organizing the lecture with Mark Carey, an assistant history professor in the Clark Honors College. “Moreover, discussion of indigenous people and climate change opens up much broader discussion about environmental epistemologies across diverse cultures, as well as environmental management, race and class dynamics and the intersection of local, national, and global issues.”

-- story by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications