Frontiers in the Environment: Spring 2011 Archive

Bringing the New Green Economy to Scale

Terje Mikalsen, chief executive officer, Tysvar, LLC
(2/2) The coming transition to the New Green Economy reflects the most significant economic change since the Industrial Revolution. What comprises the New Green Economy, and how will it come to live?  The mechanisms of economic change and the ways momentum is created will be the subject of this talk. In addition, Mikalsen will review the leadership skills important for the New Green Economy leaders who will bring this space to scale. View presentation.


The War of Words About Science

Don Shelby, anchor (retired), WCCO-TV
(2/9) Why is it so hard to talk about science?  Why is the public divided over established fact?  What's wrong with the message? View presentation.


Oil: Can’t America Just Get Over It?

Michael Noble, Executive Director, Fresh Energy
(2/16) Despite the most advanced exploration technologies the world has ever known globally over the last decade, we are using four times more oil than we’re finding on an annual basis. If deep sea drilling 3 miles below the Gulf of Mexico surface and mining tar sands from northern Alberta are the way to get at the last, best oil on Earth, isn’t it time we try something different? What are the realistic prospects and policies for reducing reliance on oil? More importantly, do Americans have the political will to move in the direction everyone knows we need to go? View presentation.


Through the Trees: How Tree Rings Can Help Us Understand Environmental Change in Minnesota

Scott St. George, Assistant Professor, Geography
(2/23) Many of the decisions we make about environmental issues are based on experience. Whether we're setting limits for the use of scarce resources, estimating the risks posed by natural hazards, or deciding how to manage protected areas, our plans for the future often reflect our understanding of the past. The problem is that, when it comes to the environment, our society has a fairly short memory. In this presentation, Dr. St. George will discuss how the study of ancient trees is expanding our perspective on the natural history of the northern Plains and helping to answer questions about what the future may hold for Minnesota's environment. View presentation.


Ego, Markets, and Technology Ambivalence: Navigating the Energy Transition

Rolf Nordstrom, Executive Director, Great Plains Institute
(3/2) If only we could power the world with words, there is enough written about the clean energy transition to solve our energy woes for the foreseeable future, and more all the time. So what new could there possibly be to say? Nordstrom will attempt to delve beneath the rhetoric to distill some “first principles” that are at work in the running debate over energy and climate, and offer a few compass headings for navigating from where we are to where we need to be. View presentation.


Science and Politics on the Rain Forest Development Frontier

George Weiblen, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Biology
(3/9) Papua New Guinea (PNG) is unique among nations possessing tropical rainforest insofar as 98 percent is privately owned by tribal societies. The island of New Guinea also harbors the world’s third largest lowland rain forest wilderness, so it is of great interest to conservationists. Rural landowners have tended to reject conservation in favor of logging contracts that sacrifice forest resources for roads, royalties and other developments. What can be learned from the repeated failure of conservation initiatives in PNG? Conservationists have tended to focus on the most isolated forests because they are usually larger and of superior quality instead of on logging areas where the need to implement conservation strategies is greatest. Weiblen has led an effort to establish a forest research reserve in an active logging concession where tribal landowners receive annual royalty payments in exchange for environmental stewardship. View presentation.


Managing Complex Dilemmas:  Leadership for Global Food Safety and Security

Will Hueston, GFSL Endowed Chair, Veterinary Population Medicine
(3/23) While the last decade has seen great advances in agricultural production efficiency, food processing and storage technology, global supply chains and foodborne disease prevention, global food safety and security remain major international problems.Global food safety and security are complex dilemmas that can not be completely defined or understood.  No simple technical “solution” exists because the dilemmas themselves are in constant flux.  Global food safety and security represent a class of grand challenges sometimes called ‘wicked problems’ or ‘social messes’. Addressing these wicked problems is a global imperative that demands a new style of shared leadership with extensive stakeholder engagement, a systems approach within the context of “one health” and a focus on incremental improvements with flexibility to adapt as the problems themselves evolve. View presentation.


Terra Populus: Linking Population and Environment  Over Space and Time

Steve Ruggles, Director, Minnesota Population Center
(3/30) Over the past two centuries, the Minnesota Population Center has developed the world's largest data collections on the human population. Ruggles will describe an exciting new collaboration between MPC and the Institute on the Environment that will link the population data with global data collections describing land use, land cover and climate. The new data infrastructure - named Terra Populus - will provide an unparalleled resource that scientists can use to study the interactions of population and environment. View presentation.


Environmental Progress in China: What We Think Ain't
Necessarily So

Terry Foecke, Managing Partner, Materials Productivity LLC
(4/6) Reviewing factories for energy efficiency potential in what has come to be called “The World’s Workshop” in the Pearl River Delta of southern China reveals huge potential: reductions in energy intensity of 40 percent plus are quite common, with simple payback periods of less than two years.  As everywhere else in the world, however, actual implementation seems frozen, waiting for … what, exactly?  Beyond the glowing stories about wind turbines, electric vehicles and overwhelming investment in R&D compared to the U.S., the real winners and losers in environmental progress in China drive policy and practice, with some startling unintended consequences.  We will review and discuss our results from a “deep dive” into part of a massive supply chain for a consumer products giant, and propose a new way of thinking about integrating environmental protection with Business As Usual. View presentation.


Tweak, Adapt, or Transform: Building Resilient Agricultural Systems for the U.S. Corn Belt

Lisa Schulte-Moore, Visiting Scientist, Institute on the Environment
(4/13) Conservation of ecosystem services in agricultural regions worldwide is foundational to, but often perceived to be in competition with, other societal outcomes, including food and energy production and thriving rural communities.  Perhaps no where is this more clear than the U.S. Corn Belt, which garners phenomenal agricultural productivity for human benefit while sacrificing topsoil, water quality, flood control, and native biodiversity.  Dr. Schulte Moore discusses the results of her social-ecological research on the strategic integration of perennial vegetation over landscapes and watersheds as a win-win solution to achieving substantial gains in environmental benefits and expanding rural market rural populations and vitality.
View presentation
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Decay Fungi and Biofuels: How a Rot Got Hot

Jonathan Schilling, Assistant Professor, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
(4/20) Wood-degrading fungi are unique and very important decomposers in forests, but most of us learn about these fungi as pests in lumber. Accordingly, most research has been focused on key aspects of wood biodeterioration related to strength loss or defects. Increasingly, however, wood-degrading fungi are in focus for their ability to thoroughly deconstruct wood and other nonedible plant tissues, a key stumbling block in commercial conversion of biomass to fuels or other chemicals. This is leading researchers, this presenter included, to look at the mechanisms of wood decomposition as a system instead of simply probing for wood preservative targets. In his talk, Schilling will outline how this type of research can help define a mechanism that is critical in the global carbon cycle while yielding information toward applying a fungal approach in industrial bioprocessing. View presentation.


Experiences in Dealing with Climate Literacy in Minnesota

Mark Seeley, Climatologist/Meteorologist, Extension
(4/27) Working with the NOAA National Weather Service and Minnesota State Climatology Office for the past 33 years in outreach education has brought many challenges.  Mark Seeley will share some stories of success and failure and present some examples of recent partnerships in climate adaptation planning.
View presentation
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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.


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