URI fall Honors Colloquium to examine ‘global environmental change’

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Lectures, films, exhibit, book clubs, cabaret run Sept. 9 to Dec. 9

KINGSTON, R.I. – August 18, 2008 – The University of Rhode Island’s 2008 Honors Colloquium, “People and Planet – Global Environmental Change,” will explore human-caused global change, its consequences and potential responses through a series of lectures, films, exhibits and a cabaret.

The series of free, weekly events featuring international experts and URI faculty members will run from Sept. 9 to Dec. 9. Most events will take place on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Chafee Social Science Center, 10 Chafee Rd., on the Kingston campus.

“Humans have been affecting our environment on a global scale for millennia,” said Steven D’Hondt, URI professor of oceanography who is coordinating the colloquium with professors Art Spivack and Judith Swift. “This year’s Honors Colloquium is going to examine those changes and outline the kinds of choices people might make collectively to minimize their effects.”

“It won’t be an indictment of how we got to where we are,” added Swift. “Instead, we will look to the future on these issues – what do we know, what do we need to know, what are we going to do to address it, and what are the consequences of those choices.”

The foundation of the colloquium is a series of lectures examining the history, science, effects and solutions to global warming and other environmental changes. Included in the lineup of speakers are Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change; Charles Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus; Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences; Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board; and Robert Socolow, director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University.

“The information contained in the lectures will be presented so it is accessible to those without a scientific background, so the general public will be able to gain a clear understanding of the issues,” said Spivack.

In addition to the lectures, URI faculty members will use film clips to discuss the topic in a sometimes irreverent way. For instance, Rebecca Robinson and John Merrill will use documentary clips to unwrap the arguments in a discussion entitled “The Great Global Warming Hoax?” on Sept. 16, while Kate Moran and Thomas Zorabedian will examine clips of Hollywood films to interpret the issues through the respective lenses of a scientist and a film buff on Sept. 30.

The final event, on Dec. 9, will be “It’s a Shore Thing: A Coastal Cabaret,” which will use music to take a whimsical look at global environmental change along Rhode Island’s coastlines.

Throughout the fall season, an exhibit of maps created by Rhode Island’s leading cartographers will be on display at several locations in the state. Entitled “Climate Change in Rhode Island: A New Geography for the Ocean State,” the exhibit will show how climate change might affect the region’s coastal communities and ecosystems. From the serious to the silly, maps will examine the historic flooding that created the Scituate Reservoir, link increasing temperatures to increasing violence, and document the number of Dunkin Donuts stores in Rhode Island that may be flooded as sea level rises.

In collaboration with public libraries throughout Rhode Island, URI’s Honors Colloquium will partner with book clubs to recommend readings on climate change, its economic impacts, mitigation strategies, and the role of local action to address the global problem. Towards the end of the semester, URI faculty and graduate students will visit interested book clubs to lead discussions about the books.

The major sponsor of the 2008 Honors Colloquium is the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, while sustaining sponsors are the URI Office of the President, the URI Honors Program, the Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment, and the Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment. Leadership sponsors are the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Arts and Sciences, with additional support from the Environmental Data Center, the URI Department of Natural Resources Science, R.I. Center for the Book at Providence Public Library, R.I. Office of Library and Information Services, R.I. Sea Grant College Program, U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, URI Classroom Media Services, URI Coastal Institute, URI’s colleges of business administration, engineering, environment and life sciences, human science and services, nursing, and pharmacy, the URI Division of Student Affairs, the URI Division of University Advancement and the Alumni Association, the URI Foundation, the URI offices of the Provost, Vice President for Administration, and Vice Provost for Information Technology Services, and University College.

For further details about the colloquium, including an updated schedule and information on parking, go to www.uri.edu/hc or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or debg@uri.edu.