In June, I attended the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI)’s Conference at Clark University. I had never been to Clark, which is located in Worchester, MA, but had heard good things about it from one of my Nature Conservancy colleagues from China who had gotten her masters degree there. It is a little hard to get there, but has a beautiful campus that is easy to get around. The plenary sessions of the conference were held in a particularly beautiful and airy space, Tilton Hall.
The conference itself had a great range of talks and panels relating to consumption and sustainability. I presented a paper on “The Consumer/Citizen Relationship across Time and Space: Millennial Perspectives on Responsible Citizenship in Different Issue Domains,” which built on insights from my political science seminar on citizens, consumers, and the environment. In the seminar, students are required to write a 20-25 page research paper on responsible citizenship applying concepts and theories discussed in the class to a particular issue area that they are interested in – water, energy, climate change, etc. I thought it would be interesting to systematically examine the approaches they took and the citizenship-related ideas they used in their papers. The analysis was an interesting window on how the concept of citizenship translates both across issue areas and generations.
Overall, the students used a wide range of concepts in their papers, but made particularly extensive use of ideas from our readings on communitarianism, consequentialism, the engaged citizen, and social capital. One of the overarching conclusions of the paper and from the course is that responsible citizenship as an overarching frame of reference may be more appealing to younger generations than sustainable consumerism, which increasingly may be seen as a necessary but insufficient component of a citizen’s responsibilities.
The Charlotte Teachers Initiative (CTI) is an initiative focused on strengthening teaching in the Charlotte area. It hosts a wide range of seminars for teachers led by college professors in the region as well as special events on particular topics for both teachers and the public. I was invited to speak at one of these events in October on “Exploding Canons: Sustainability in Charlotte and Beyond.” It was preceded by a reception and information expo with tables from dozens of sustainability and education related organizations from the area, and moderated by Rob Phocus, energy and sustainability manager for the City of Charlotte.
I was one of several speakers from Davidson College, UNC Charlotte, Wake Forest University, and two Mecklenburg public schools, and started off the event with a presentation on the “Politics of Sustainability.” I talked about the transition from “government to governance” in the context of environmental issues, and the idea of multi-scale polycentric governance that Eleanor Ostrom and others have described as the current reality of sustainability politics. I used two case studies from my own professional experiences to explore the challenges of sustainability issues – one from my work in China with the Nature Conservancy and one from my work as a Co-Founder of GoodGuide.
The audience had some great follow-up questions and comments, and overall I thought the event went really well. I particularly enjoyed meeting some of the teachers and faculty members who have participated in CTI, and learning about all of the organizations that are working on sustainability-related projects in the Charlotte region.
In September, I gave a presentation as part of Davidson College’s ongoing faculty series on “Policy and…” Every month over the course of the semester, several faculty and staff members presented on different aspects of policy from the vantage point of their own research and professional work. My topic was Policy and the Environment, and as the first speaker in the series, I first discussed what we mean by “policy,” tracing the words origins back to no less a source than Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
I then explored its use in the environmental context, and how environmental policy has evolved over the last several decades. I concluded with a discussion of information-based governance and policy, such as the use of eco-labels and ratings to encourage pro-environment behavior, which has boomed in recent years and is the focus of my research.
My presentation helped frame the next two presentations, which were focused more on local issues of environmental policy and the preservation of natural forests and habitat from destruction and development. These faculty panels are great opportunities not only for students to learn more about what their professors are working on, but also for faculty to learn more about each other’s work. I had some nice conversations with several of my colleagues after this and other similar events about various connections between our areas of interests and expertise. This is one of the benefits of being at a liberal arts college – there is a real opportunity and possibility of engaging in substantive discussions and even collaborations with faculty from very diverse backgrounds who you would not likely ever even meet at a large university.
Back when the Democratic National Convention was in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago, Davidson College organized a panel event on energy and sustainability on campus as a non-partisan complement to the events going on downtown. Moderated by the Sustainability Editor from Bloomberg News, the panel included the Mayor of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, the CEO of Siemens USA, and the Director of Duke Energy’s Smart Energy Now program.
I was also asked to serve on the panel to represent Davidson and to talk about environmental policy and environmental entrepreneurship. I was quite honored to be asked to participate in the event, and looked forward to having a stimulating conversation with the other panelists. I thought it went pretty well — turnout was very good, and people I talked with afterwards – staff, faculty, students, community members — seemed to find it engaging and interesting. If you are interested, you can see for yourself — below are links to a write-up about the panel in the local online newspaper (written by the Chair of my Political Science Department, Shelley Rigger) and to a full video recording of the event.
You can watch the whole thing if you’d like (it is about an hour long and covers a great range of topics), or you can skip to the good parts; that is, of course, when I am talking 🙂 (9:54, 21:25, 31:38, 1:01:00, and 1:06:13).
Here are the links…
– Daybook Davidson | VIDEO: Energy Panel Electrifies Davidson Crowd in Duke Family Performance Hall
– Energy panelists face tough questions from college audience | DavidsonNews.net
I recently served on a panel on sustainability at the Sterling Rice Group (SRG)’s second annual forum on innovation in Boulder, CO. I shared some of my research on consumer preferences for different forms of eco-labels, and also talked briefly about GoodGuide. I was joined on the panel by Ivan Barkhorn, Managing Director of Redstone Strategy Group and Catherine Greener, Co-Founder and Principal of Cleargreen Advisors, who shared some of their perspectives and experiences related to corporate sustainability.
I participated in the rest of the event as well, and very much enjoyed the other speaker’s perspectives on innovation, which came from a wide range of both business and academic backgrounds. The talk about Galileo and innovation by an astronomy professor was particularly memorable. SRG is also doing a lot of interesting work itself on understanding the factors that drive consumer demand and society’s evolution, and did a great job of organizing the forum — it was implemented very professionally and creatively.
To learn more about the Forum, visit http://www.bolderinnovation.com/.