Fall 2013 Frontiers in the Environment

September 11 – Inside Food: How a Consumer Company Works Toward a Sustainable Food Supply

Jerry Lynch, Chief Sustainability Officer, General Mills

Portrait: Jerry LynchSociety’s ability to sustainably feed 9 billion people in the next 50 years is shaping up to be a massive, complex undertaking. Hear how one food provider, General Mills, is tackling its part of the challenge.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


September 18 – Crossing Institutional Silos for Sustainable Solutions

Randel Hanson, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Minnesota Duluth

Portrait: Randel HansonAs “anchor institutions” for their surrounding communities, colleges and universities are increasingly looked to for modeling sustainable transformations. Yet teaching sustainability while living unsustainably is a common reality in today’s educational institutions. This talk explores the Sustainable Agriculture Project at the University of Minnesota Duluth, a 10-acre organic university farm that teaches sustainability while growing substantial amounts of vegetables for the UMD Dining Services. In collaborating across institutional domains, we are creating resources for both academics and operations as we take the University itself as an object of study for transformation. And eating great food t’boot!

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


September 25 – The Palm Oil Problem: Tracking Deforestation and Carbon Emissions From a Booming Oil Palm Industry

Kimberly Carlson, IonE Postdoctoral Research Scholar

Portrait: Kim CarlsonUsed in products ranging from granola bars to soap, palm oil is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world. The high-yielding oil palm tree has been vilified as a leading driver of deforestation and carbon emissions, yet until recently, little robust research has confirmed this allegation. New satellite remote sensing analyses document oil palm’s accelerating expansion into Southeast Asia’s tropical forests and peatlands. Carlson will assess the environmental consequences of the rapidly growing oil palm industry, identify gaps in our understanding of how plantation expansion alters ecosystems and explore potential solutions to reconcile palm oil production with conservation.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


October 2 – Peak Cropland: Saving Room for Nature While Feeding Humanity This Century

Joe Fargione, Science Director, The Nature Conservancy, North America Region

Portrait: Joe FargioneWill humanity’s appetite leave any land for nature? With growth in population, meat consumption and biofuel production, demand for crops will increase, threatening the loss of millions of acres of habitat. New research evaluates the potential for global cropland to peak this century, sparing land for uses such as nature conservation. Accelerating the arrival of peak cropland depends on two factors: increasing crop yields through sustainable intensification of agriculture and reducing birth rates through educational and economic opportunities for girls. Investments in these areas, along with sensible biofuels policy, could achieve a peak and decline in cropland this century.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


October 9 – Energy Transformation

Ellen Anderson, Former Minnesota State Senator and Senior Energy & Environment Advisor to Gov. Mark Dayton

Portrait: Ellen AndersonThis decade is the most transformational era in our energy system since rural electrification. Anderson will discuss the drivers of change in our energy world. Most importantly, she’ll consider whether the change is for the better. What does it mean for Minnesota? And why does one Midwestern state matter in this energy transformation?

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


October 16 – Aggregating an Agroecosystem: Novel Approaches to Teaching and Learning

Paul Porter, Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Portrait: Paul PorterAcross the planet, humans have transformed the landscape in an effort to feed, fuel and shelter themselves. Even the most exotic travel turns up an agroecosystem, which has at its core the human activity of agriculture. With the Earth currently supporting over 7 billion people, the scale and boundaries of agroecosystems are daunting. Porter is an entrepreneurial teacher who will discuss innovative ways of experiencing and teaching agroecosystems, both in the classroom and on the ground.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


Bonus Thursday Talk

October 17 (Thursday) – The Satellite Record of Climate; Observations, Not Beliefs!

Compton Tucker, Scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

Portrait: Compton TuckerSatellite data of many types have led to an unprecedented knowledge of the Earth’s coupled land-ocean-atmosphere climate system the past 40 years. Measurements of gravity fields, atmospheric temperatures, clouds, land & ocean photosynthesis, surface temperatures, sea level, surface topography, and the Sun’s irradiance are all possible with Earth-orbiting satellites. These observations through time, coupled with non-satellite geophysical monitoring, show unequivocal evidence for human-caused global warming.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


October 23 – The Land Grant University and Rural Resilience: A Minnesota Story

Kathryn Draeger, Statewide Director of the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Adjunct Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Portrait: Kathryn DraegerThe University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships were formed in the late 1990s to build community-University partnerships to test and apply sustainability principles. In 2008 statewide director Kathy Draeger relocated her family to Big Stone County to practice what she preached. What she has seen is a rekindling of farm-based entrepreneurial ventures, renewable energy production, and growing emphasis on “buy local.” Draeger will discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the state’s local economies. A limited number of U of M Regional Sustainable Development Partnership books (Northern Winter Greenhouse Manual and From the Farm to Table) will be handed out.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


October 30 – The Importance of Food Literacy

Chris Lambe, Director of Social Responsibility, The Mosaic Company

Portrait: Chris LambeHow much do you know about your food system? Given that fact that our global food supply will have to increase 70 percent in the next 40 years; given the amount of information and disinformation about our food system circulating on the Internet; and given the fact that most of us enjoy eating, isn’t it time to uncover the facts, understand the choices we will have to make and start a real dialog about food? Lambe will explore some of the trade-offs we will have to consider, including one of the hottest debates in food: mineral fertilizer versus organic fertilizer.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


November 6 – Divestment: A Call to Arms vs. Sustainable Investing: A Catalyst for Global Change

Matthew Fitzmaurice, Co-Founder & Managing Member at AWJ Capital Partners LLC

Portrait: Matthew FitzmauriceThe movement to divest of fossil fuel–related companies has garnered a lot of attention recently. Some view it as a solution to climate change and its attendant issues. Fitzmaurice will discuss what has and can be achieved through divestment. He also will articulate why the movement needs to quickly move beyond divestment to additionally articulate “sustainable investment” goals. Fitzmaurice brings a valuable perspective to this important global discourse because he understands both the movement’s views and also the “institutional” investment community’s views. He hopes this new view might bridge the gap and allow results to be achieved more quickly.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


November 13 – Redefining Agricultural Productivity: From Stuff Produced to People Fed

Emily Cassidy, IonE Graduate Research Assistant

Portrait: Emily CassidyAgriculture occupies more of Earth’s surface than any other human activity. What is the purpose of agricultural lands? Although most people might agree that the purpose of agriculture is to feed people, that’s not typically how we define agricultural productivity. Emily Cassidy will present the results of a study she and colleagues recently published redefining agricultural productivity from the conventional “stuff produced per area” (tons per hectare or bushels per acre) to number of people fed. Emily will discuss how small changes in diets can feed more people and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


November 20 – Resonate! How 90 Seconds of Cello Music Is Helping People Connect With Climate Science

Daniel Crawford, Undergraduate, College of Liberal Arts;
Scott St. George, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Geography, College of Liberal Arts;
Todd Reubold, IonE Director of Communications

Portrait: Daniel CrawfordAnthropogenic climate change is one of the most challenging problems humanity faces, but public opinion surveys show that many people are skeptical about global warming. In this seminar, Crawford, Scott St. George and Reubold will share their experiences with using music to help climate science reach out to new audiences. Their first collaboration — a music video that reconfigures global temperature data as a cello composition — has been described as “amazing, and eerie” and “an effective tool to show people that our planet is changing.” Join us to learn what global warming sounds like!

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


November 27 – No Frontiers Seminar


December 4 – Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges

Alexandra Klass, IonE Resident Fellow and Professor of Law, Law School

Portrait: Alexandra KlassThis presentation addresses the development of physical and regulatory infrastructures for transporting oil, natural gas and electricity in the U.S. Hydraulic fracturing has allowed oil and natural gas development in parts of the country that were not major producers when pipeline networks were built. Is the regulatory structure put in place decades ago sufficient for the expansions needed today? Likewise, wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources are being developed far from population centers, with the electricity they produce transported through transmission lines. Does it still make sense for states to be responsible for siting and construction of interstate lines?

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


December 11 – Tracking the Wild Ones: Understanding the Consequences of a Changing World on Wildlife Populations

James Forester, IonE Resident Fellow and Assistant Professor of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences

Portrait: James ForesterAcross the globe, spatial patterns of land cover and human land use are changing rapidly. Coincident with these changes are shifts in the spatial and temporal patterns of weather and climate. For wildlife species at the edge of their geographic ranges, these changes can be dramatic and potentially limiting. Forester will discuss initial steps to quantify how wildlife populations are responding numerically and behaviorally to these novel combinations of climate, weather and land cover.

Read the presentation summary
View the recording


Archives: Spring 2014 | Fall 2013 | Spring 2013 | Fall 2012 | Spring 2012 | Fall 2011 | Spring 2011 | Fall 2010 | Spring 2010 | Fall 2009

The opinions expressed in Frontiers in the Environment are those of the speakers and not necessarily of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.