“We are not fated to fry the earth”

PRESS RELEASE 7 August (post event)

Prof David Orr on biodiversity in a hotter time and what we can do about it

BANGALORE, 7 AUGUST 2012: “All systems are under a contingent death sentence because of climate change, unless we choose to reverse it,” said Prof. David Orr, noted environmentalist and professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College, USA. He was delivering the inaugural lecture on the science of global warming and the challenges before humanity at Biodiversity Asia 2012, the 2nd Asia Regional Conference of the Society for Conservation Biology here on Tuesday.

Dr. Orr presented evidence from a range of studies to warn that things were going to get hotter, faster and in more unpredictable ways. “The truth is that we are in trouble, and we in the scientific community have to be truth tellers,” he said. He emphasized the need to create sustainable models of living and not talk about sustainability as an abstraction. Energy consumption for instance could be reduced by 40 percent by using available, off-the-shelf technologies. He also called for conservation biology to lead a global alliance involving NGOs, responsible corporations and others, to address the challenge of climate change and destabilization.

Earlier, Prof Kamal Bawa, founder president of ATREE spoke of the need for strengthening a network of conservation biologists across Asia, given the huge conservation challenges in the continent and the threats from rapid economic growth, population growth and increasing consumption. This was also important as we have a shared geography, and since species and ecosystems do not recognize political boundaries, he added.

Other speakers included Dr. Raman Sukumar, Director, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science; Dr. Simon C. Nemtzov, President of the Asia Section of the Society for Conservation Biology; and, Dr. Eleanor Sterling, Director Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, and SCB Co-Chair. Ms Rohini Nilekani, founder and chairperson of Arghyam Foundation introduced the speaker. A book on Invertebrate Diversity of the Western Ghats published by ATREE was released on the occasion.

Biodiversity Asia 2012 is being organised by ATREE with support from several other organisations. It will feature important updates on conservation research in Asia. Researchers will focus on Asia, with its human dominated ecosystems; poverty and dependence on natural resources; and the strain this produces on natural ecosystems and biodiversity.

For more information
Contact Meetu Desai +919902962935, meetu.desai@atree.org or Samuel Thomas +919434045123, samuel@atree.org for interview opportunities and other help.

David W. Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College and a James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont. He is the recipient of five honorary degrees and other awards including The Millennium Leadership Award from Global Green, the Bioneers Award, the National Wildlife Federation Leadership Award, a Lyndhurst Prize acknowledging “persons of exceptional moral character, vision, and energy.” He has been a scholar in residence at Ball State University, the University of Washington, and other universities. He has lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has served as a Trustee for many organizations including the Rocky Mountain Institute (www.rmi.org) and the Aldo Leopold Foundation (www.aldoleopold.org). He has been a Trustee and/or advisor to ten foundations.

His career as a scholar, teacher, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur spans fields as diverse as environment and politics, environmental education, campus greening, green building, ecological design, and climate change. He is the author of six books and co-editor of three others. Ecological Literacy (SUNY, 1992), described as a “true classic” by Garrett Hardin, is widely read and used in hundreds of colleges and universities. A second book, Earth in Mind (1994/2004) is praised by people as diverse as biologist E. O. Wilson and writer, poet, and farmer, Wendell Berry.

In 1987 he organized studies of energy, water, and materials use on several college campuses that helped to launch the green campus movement. In 1989 Orr organized the first ever conference on the effects of impending climate change on the banking industry. Co-sponsored by then Governor Bill Clinton, the conference featured prominent bankers throughout the mid-South and leading climate scientists including Stephen Schneider and George Woodwell.

In 1996 he organized the effort to design the first substantially green building on a U.S. college campus. The Adam Joseph Lewis Center was later named by the U.S. Department of Energy as “One of Thirty Milestone Buildings in the 20th Century,” and by The New York Times as the most interesting of a new generation of college and university buildings. The Lewis Center purifies all of its wastewater and is the first college building in the U.S. powered entirely by sunlight. But most important it became a laboratory in sustainability that is training some of the nation’s brightest and most dedicated students for careers in solving environmental problems. The story of that building is told in two books, The Nature of Design (Oxford, 2002) that Fritjof Capra called “brilliant,” and a second, Design on the Edge (MIT, 2006), that architect Sim van der Ryn describes as “powerful and inspiring.”

Orr’s political writings appear in, The Last Refuge: Patriotism, Politics, and the Environment in an Age of Terror (Island Press, 2004), and articles such as “The Imminent Demise of the Republican Party” (www.commondreams.org) written in January of 2005.
In an influential article in the Chronicle of Higher Education 2000 Orr proposed the goal of carbon neutrality for colleges and universities and subsequently organized and funded an effort to define a carbon neutral plan for his own campus at Oberlin. Seven years later hundreds of colleges and universities, including Oberlin, have made that pledge.

Recent projects include a two year $2.2 million collaborative project to define a 100 days climate action plan for the Obama administration (www.climateactionproject.com ), and a project with prominent legal scholars across the U.S. to define the legal rights of posterity in cases where the actions of the present generation might deprive posterity of “life, liberty, and property.” He is also active in efforts to stop mountaintop removal in Appalachia and develop a new economy based on ecological restoration and wind energy. He is the author of forthcoming Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Also read article Can We Avoid the Perfect Storm?

About Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) www.conbio.org/
The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is an international professional organization dedicated to promoting the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity. Its mission is to advance the science and practice of conserving Earth's biological diversity. The Society for Conservation Biology envisions a world where people understand, value, and conserve the diversity of life on Earth. We envision SCB, a global community of conservation professionals, as a leading scientific voice for the study and conservation of Earth's biological diversity.

The Society's membership comprises a wide range of people interested in the conservation and study of biological diversity: resource managers, educators, government and private conservation workers, and students make up the more than 5,000 members world-wide. The Society was founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 8, 1985.

About ATREE www.atree.org
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) is a research organisation in the areas of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. It was ranked 19th among the top environmental think tanks in the world, as per the 2011 Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program survey carried out by the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

ATREE was established in 1996 by three academics who felt the need of an institution that used science to address the environmental, social and economic consequences of the decline of India’s natural resources.ATREE’s mission is to promote socially just environmental conservation and sustainable development by generating rigorous interdisciplinary knowledge that engages actively with academia, policy makers, practitioners, activists, students and wider public audiences.
ATREE is recognised as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.