Thursday, October 21, 2010

All welcome at Environmental Change Institute events

All welcome at Environmental Change Institute events

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Are you interested to know how environmental change is being addressed in research and teaching at the University of Illinois? Do you have a stake in the way agriculture confronts climate change in the years to come? If your answer to either question is yes, let me invite you to a couple of events slated to take place early next month. Both will be hosted by the unit that provides a home for Environmental Almanac on campus, the UI Environmental Change Institute.

The Environmental Change Institute, or ECI, was created in 2008, thanks to a generous gift from the Alvin H. Baum Family fund and matching funds from three UI colleges: Business, Law, and Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Its mission is to enable society to avoid, mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change through the support of scholarly research, innovative teaching, and public outreach initiatives.

On the afternoon of Monday, November 8, ECI will host its annual research symposium. At this event, members of the campus and wider communities are invited to hear firsthand accounts of the activities ECI sponsors, in the form of brief presentations by faculty members and graduate assistants.

The range of inquiry enabled by ECI funding is indicated by the diversity of the research questions symposium presenters are addressing, among them: How do land the values of land managers affect response to climate change threats? How much carbon is lost from forests into streams? Do consumers shop more on the Internet when fuel prices increase? How effective are small-scale solutions in enhancing food production, energy, and water management?

The symposium will also offer the opportunity to hear from faculty who are developing new courses that address environmental change. These include a course that explores the two-way relation between environment and democracy; a course that teaches students to think about buildings first in terms of energy use and sustainability; one that seeks to educate citizens and future leaders in the science topics define our world; and even one that will involve students in the very practical business of developing the world’s first solar-powered, cost-efficient bike sharing system.

Presentations at the research symposium will be brief because there many of them, but a reception following will allow for audience members and presenters to mingle.

On the day following the symposium, Tuesday, November 9, the Environmental Change Institute will host its second annual summit, an all-day colloquium on the topic, “Climate Change: Agricultural Solutions, Adaptation and Mitigation.” This event will bring together research scholars, business leaders, and policymakers to discuss the causes, effects and consequences of agricultural practices on earth’s changing climate patterns. Speakers at the summit will address topics that range from chemical management and soil fertility to the potentials of organic and sustainable farming.

In the opening address at the summit, climatologist and meteorologist Mark Seeley of the University of Minnesota will outline the changes climate science anticipates in the next 50 years and discuss some of the implications of those changes for land use, landscape and infrastructure.

Both the summit and the research symposium will take place at the iHotel and Conference Center on South First Street in Champaign. You can find further details and register for the summit at the Website of the Environmental Change Institute at


Next Monday evening, October 25, on the UI campus journalist Jeff Biggers will speak on the subject of his current book, “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland,” which explodes the idea that coal is clean or cheap. Biggers’ talk, which is part of 2010 Illinois Sustainability Week, will take place at 6:30 p.m. in room 100, Gregory Hall, 810 S. Wright St. You can find a full listing of Sustainability Week activities at