Aiken Lecture: Global Climate Change—No Time to Waste
Release Date: 03-23-2007
Jerome Ringo has made a habit of leading African-Americans into new realms. He was the first African-American ranger at the world’s largest Boy Scout camp, the only African-American delegate to the Kyoto global warming treaty negotiations, and, in 2005, he was selected as chairman of the National Wildlife Federation, the first African-American in US history to lead a major conservation organization.
Now he’s working on bringing more people of color—“ and just more people, period” he said—into the battle against climate change.
He’ll address this work and other dimensions of the looming problem of our warming planet as the lead speaker for the University of Vermont’s spring Aiken Lectures, “Global Climate Change—No Time To Waste,” Thursday, April 5, 2007.
The event will be held at UVM’s Recital Hall on the Redstone Campus, 4:00 pm-6:30 pm; it is free and open to the public
Both Sides of the Fence
“It is clear that poor people and people of color are going to suffer a disproportionate impact of global warming—so we must work together on this. This is everybody’s issue,” Ringo said, now the president of the powerful Apollo Alliance that works for US energy independence and job creation.
Ringo might seem an unlikely environmentalist, having spent more than 20 years working for Louisiana petrochemical industries. Instead, he says, “it gave a real clear perspective on the other side of the fence,” as he went on to become an organizer of environmental justice groups in low-income communities in Louisiana.
Drawing on his diverse experiences, he will speak on “Climate and Atmosphere: Shared Critical Resources, Responsibilities and Values.”
“This year’s lectures are asking: how do we—practically—get beyond the hostility that so often rises when we have differences of opinion about conservation?” said Larry Forcier, UVM professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and an organizer of the event.
To explore this question further, following Ringo’s address, the focus will turn to conflict resolution on the international stage. The second Aiken lecture will be given by Dr. Lawrence Susskind, one of the countries most experienced environmental dispute mediators and professor in the department of urban studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He will speak on “Negotiating International Consensus and Taking Collective Action.”
“Larry Susskind makes it clear that academics don’t just sit down and talk about abstract things, they’re actively helping in the formation of public policy,” Forcier said, noting Susskind’s involvement, like Ringo, in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.
And many other real-world situations: Susskind has mediated more than fifty complex disputes related to public health, environmental hazards, and worker safety, including important negotiations within the World Trade Organization. He founded and for 13 years was president of Consensus Building Institute a not-for-profit organization that provides mediation services to clients worldwide. Susskind joined the MIT faculty in 1971.
Governor Aiken’s Legacy
The full 2006-07 Aiken lecture series is titled, “Conservation And Conflict Resolution: George D. Aiken's Legacy And Beyond.”
The fall 2006 portion focused on forests, and this spring edition expands out “to consider the whole global ecosystem and global warming,” Forcier said, noting that the lecture series seeks to draw on Aiken’s pragmatic approach. “We honor Aiken’s sense of let’s be wise, let’s move ahead, let’s bury disagreements that are petty,” Forcier said.
Born in Dummerston, Vt. in 1892, George Aiken was a United States Senator for 35 years (1940-1975). He was revered as a pragmatist who deftly navigated Capitol Hill’s partisan waters through the McCarthy Era, Vietnam, and the rise of the environmental movement.
“By applying Senator George Aiken's art of wise compromise,” the lecture organizing committee notes, “we can come to better understand and celebrate our shared values and more willingly plan for and implement a healthy common future.”
More information is available at http://www.uvm.edu/aiken.