PITTSBURGH—Chatham University is cohosting the 2013 Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) conference, which takes place June 19-22 at Duquesne University. Taking advantage of the social, geographical, and environmental opportunities that the greater Pittsburgh region has to offer, the AESS conference’s theme “Linking rural and urban societies and ecologies” will guide the exploration of social-ecological systems in an increasingly urbanized and politicized world — through food, architecture, climate change, water, business, energy, transportation, education, values, fairness, and wellbeing, among others. Fracking, food security, energy, and sustainability progress in Pittsburgh will be the focus of several panel discussions throughout the conference. More details about the AESS Conference, including the full conference program and schedule, are available at www.aess.info.
As part of the conference, a photography exhibition of the Aral Sea global disaster will be on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 22, in the lobby of Mellon Hall at Duquesne. This exhibition accompanies the two-part panel presentation titled “The Lessons of the Aral Sea Disaster: A photographic journey through loss and sad beauty,” which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. The presentation will be led by Ambassador Dilyor Khakimov, permanent representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations and Mike Edelstein, professor and director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
The tragedy of the Aral, which in the space of two generations has turned from one of the world’s most beautiful deep blue seas into a shrinking, brackish water reservoir, is that it stands as a vivid example and evidence of humankind’s irresponsible attitude towards ecosystems, and then towards acknowledging and solving environmental problems. Uzbekistan and the entire Central Asia region are faced with the continuing deterioration of social, ecological and economic conditions in the wider zone of the ecological disaster. Over recent generations, the
Aral Sea shrank by seven times, the volume of water decreased 13 times, its mineralization increased tenfold, all of these making the sea an unsuitable place for living organisms.
Meteorological evidence already links the loss of the Aral with climate change in the region today. There are important lessons to learn from the environmental, socio-economic and technological decisions humans made in the Aral that tie into how we consider our responsibility to nature within large-scale projects. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during his travels to the Aral Sea area in April 2010, recognized that the problems that the Aral region suffers from have planetary-scale consequences. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest inland sea on Earth, providing ecosystem services, climate control and enabling human habitation. Today it is almost completely desiccated; the resulting water, livelihood and contamination problems remain for millions of people living in this region.
About the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS)
AESS is an independent faculty- and student-based professional association in higher education, designed to serve the needs of environmental scholars and scientists who value interdisciplinary approaches to research, teaching, and problem-solving. Founded in 2008, AESS seeks to provide its members with the latest environmental information and tools to create better courses, strengthen research, develop more satisfying careers, harness the power of a collective voice for the profession, and enjoy each other’s company at national and regional meetings. A major aim of AESS is to encourage interdisciplinary understanding of environmental science, policy, management, ethics, history, and all of the other vital contributions of traditional disciplines. From its beginning, AESS has been envisioned as a community of environmental scholars and scientists, not a confederation of disciplines. Fundamental to its members’ embrace of higher education is the notion that broad advances in environmental knowledge require disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches to research and learning.
About Chatham University
Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa., has a long history of commitment to the environment and today is a recognized leader in the field of sustainability. Chatham is also one of only 22 schools in the U.S. to be named to The Princeton Review’s 2013 Green College Honor Roll and is mentioned in a 2012 Forbes article as one of the places contributing to Pittsburgh’s transformation into a destination for “green living.” Building on its accomplishments, Chatham is breaking new ground by building one of the world’s first fully sustainable campuses in higher education. Located on 388 acres just north of Pittsburgh, the new, Eden Hall Campus integrates sustainable development, learning, and living throughout its design. Here, students of all disciplines learn to solve complex sustainability and environmental challenges facing urban environments through immersion in a range of fields, including food and sustainable agriculture, energy and climate, water, design and planning, and our community and health. Eden Hall Campus opens fall 2013 and will be the future home of Chatham’s School of Sustainability and the Environment, which offers such academic programs as the Master of Sustainability, Master of Arts in Food Studies, Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership, and coming Fall 2014, a Bachelor of Sustainability.