On February 3rd, we held our third satellite event of the year: Sustainable Revision. Our three featured speakers from Ohio State's Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Developmental Economics shared with our attendees the different ways sustainability has been incorporated into various contexts in an effort to create a better world for all.
Our first speaker, Dr. Zoë Plakias is an assistant professor in the department. She discussed sustainable agriculture, and whether or not industry-wide organizations favor certain farms in the United States over others. In the US, we have mandatory organizations, such as the USDA, that regulate the farming industry with the goal of making food better for consumers. However, certain farms did not agree on whether or not the continuation of these organizations was beneficial because of their push for sustainable farming. Dr. Plakias studied how, for instance, the organic farmers of the Peach & Nectarine industry favored these mandatory organizations, but the Rice farming industry in California did not. But from the differences between rice farmers, the California Rice Commission was born. This organization banded together a diverse group of farmers to come to a mutual agreement over farming systems and methods that reflected the interests of practicing sustainable farming. The story of the California Rice Commission makes Dr. Plakias believe there is hope to find common ground among US farmers to create a more sustainable future – and with a growing need for agriculture, we will need to work together now more than ever moving forward.
Our second speaker, Dr. Neil Drobny, the program coordinator for Environment, Economics, Development & Sustainability (EEDS) and a lecturer in the Fisher College of Business, discussed sustainability in business – “strategies and practices that embody acute stewardship of energy, water materials, and natural resources which enable durable enterprises to deliver a prosperous future” for the world. In his talk, Dr. Drobny described the timeline of sustainability in business, and how it has evolved over time; up until the 1950s, we considered the environment an inexhaustible resource and took advantage of it while expanding business in the US. From roughly 1950 to 1990, we had our “wake up call,” realizing the man-made environmental destruction occurring as economic infrastructure bloomed, and businesses shifted focus onto regulatory compliance. And since then, companies have made great strides in adopting more environmentally-friendly, sustainability-oriented practices. One of those strides was the creation of the Corporate Sustainability Team, which helps create strategic principles for sustainable business and create wealth in a sustainable world. Thanks to work by Dr. Drobny and others like him, many companies within the Columbus area, such as our beloved Jeni’s Ice Creams, have committed to sustainable business, and it only grows from here.
And our final speaker, Dr. Joyce Chen, is an assistant professor in the department, whose expertise lie with studying migration and human capital. In her talk, Dr. Chen discussed sustainability in regards to the displacement and subsequent migration of populations. By 2050, she warned that climate change will displace 18 million people worldwide because 17% of current landmass will be underwater due to rising sea levels. And displacement is already happening, if we turn to Bangladesh – climate change-induced flooding has displaced thousands upon thousands of people in Bangladesh, and has made them turn to migration as a form of adaptation. Looking at how they’ve adapted to their situation – populating other areas of the country, building temporary homes high off the ground, kids going to school on small, overcrowded boats – is a case study we can examine now to extrapolate onto what we could expect in the future. We have to take preventative - not reactive – measures to climate change, in order to stop the rise of sea levels, reduce extreme weather patterns, and preserve the land that people inhabit now.
During our event, we also viewed an inspiring TED Talk by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, discussing the sustainability initiatives Bhutan has taken to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and will continue to make so other countries around the world can do their part in saving the only planet we have. Watch the video here: This country isn't just carbon neutral - it's carbon negative.
TEDxOhioStateUniversity would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our speakers and attendees for another successful event. See you at our next Satellite event on April 14th!