Conference turns a corner

Fifth annual sustainability conference focuses on solutions

Get with the program:
To check out the dozens of sessions and register for the conference, visit General admission is $25; students attend for free.

Scott McNall explained that in 2005, the This Way to Sustainability Conference actually began as two separate events—one put on by Chico State students themselves, and one by the university. Beginning the following year, the conference melded into the single event that it is now, hosted by the Associated Students of both Chico State and Butte College.

“A lot has changed in five years,” said McNall, executive director of Chico State’s Institute for Sustainable Development.

For starters, the event costs $50 less than it did last year for the general public, making it more accessible. Organizers helped pare down the costs by replacing a dinner banquet with a more affordable reception.

Perhaps most significant, the focus of the conference has shifted over the five years from, as McNall put it, “talking about climate change to discussing [at this year’s conference], ‘Now what are we going to do about it?’ … There is no debate on climate change. … We have an adaptation issue.”

McNall is excited about the appearance of Thursday-morning keynote speaker Nico Stehr, a professor of cultural studies at Zeppelin University in Friedrich-shafen, Germany, who is going to address the issue of how society can (and must) adapt to rapid climate change.

Ten keynote lectures (all free to the public) will be featured over three days of the four-day event beginning on Nov. 5.

“I will really want to hear Cravens and Anderson,” McNall continued, referring to former associate editor of Harper’s Magazine Gwyneth Cravens and Dr. D. Richard “Rip” Anderson, who are part of a Thursday (Nov. 5) keynote panel discussion on nuclear power and climate change. “I am really curious about hearing their thought processes going from being anti-nuclear to pro-, and about the safety issue [of nuclear power]. Third-generation reactors don’t create as much waste, and don’t have the same security issues and disposal issues [as earlier reactors]. Changing technologies give us the opportunities to rethink positions.

“Our energy use is socially determined; it’s not a given,” offered McNall. “Five percent of the world’s population [the United States] consumes 20 percent of the world’s energy, and we can do better than that.”

“We have got to figure out how to reduce our carbon emissions—community by community, nation by nation and internationally,” added McNall. “One of the things the conference tries to do is to help people understand they have control over the outcome.”