Online Exclusive!!! Symposium addresses controversial environmental issues

Energy Futures for Texas: Local and Global Perspectives, a symposium organized jointly by TCU and the University of Oxford that addressed controversial environmental issues and the necessity of the Texas and the U.S. to be more environmentally responsible, was held yesterday at the Fort Worth Hilton.The daylong symposium was organized primarily by 14 environmental science graduate and undergraduate students- 12 of which attended a two-week lecture series at the University of Oxford that addressed climate change issues from a European perspective.

TCU senior Bethanne Edwards, one of the 12 students who traveled to the lecture series, said yesterday’s symposium was intended to provoke conversation about energy usage and climate change on both the local and global level.

The goals of this were to start a dialogue between all these different players in the energy game,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to get people, not only in academia but business and political leaders, thinking about what our goals are and what we can do in the future with energy.”

Along with the 140 people in attendance there was a panel of 13 speakers including TCU Provost Nowell Donovan, representatives from a variety of traditional and alternative energy providers, a medical doctor, a lawyer, an architect, a physicist and a number of university professors that have done research on environmental issues.

Michael Slattery, director TCU’s Institute for Environmental Studies and TCU geology professor, said the purpose of the symposium was to engage in a dialogue about “complex, difficult and certainly controversial environmental issues.”

More than a year ago, Slattery was awarded a Vision In Action grant that afforded the 12 students to travel to England. He also acted as moderator of the symposium.

He said having the symposium in Texas was important because serious discussion about environmental issues usually occurs on “the coasts.”

“When we think of environmental issues we tend to think of them being a West-Coast-East-Coast thing,” Slattery said. “It’s the Ivy Leagues on the East Coast in New England states and the Stanfords and Berkleys on the West Coast that take the lead on such things. I just think: why not Texas?”

The general consensus among the speakers was that serious steps need to be taken to limit global warming and energy consumption.

Peter Pfeiffer, an architect who specializes in sustainable, or “green,” commercial and residential building practices, spoke about the most energy efficient ways to set up a home.

“It’s much easier to control your energy consumption with a house that has the majority of its windows facing north and south,” Pfeiffer said. “Those of you involved in subdivision planning keep that in mind. Run your streets east west.”

Pfeiffer said this mistake in subdivision planning leads to what he called the “triple whammy.”

“You’ve got too much sun coming into the house in the hot afternoon and the solar radiation eats up the house,” Pfeiffer said. “This makes you close your blinds and the house gets dark. A house gets dark. What do you do? Turn on the lights. The third whammy is you get to pay more for air-conditioning.”

Dr. Maynard Dyson, a pediatric pulmonary specialist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, spoke about the negative health effects of air pollution.

He said poor air quality can produce a number of hazardous health effects including: premature birth, infant death, stunted lung growth, asthma exacerbations, respiratory illness, cardiac death and lung cancer.

Edwards said a major problem is the unwillingness of the U.S. government to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

“As far as climate change they’re so much more open with dealing with the issue in general,” Edwards said. “They’ve already gotten to the point where their governments have accepted that climate change is something that’s happening, and they’re addressing issue further than we are.”

Edwards said the solution to the world’s energy crisis is investing in many different energy sources.

“There are so many options out there,” Edwards said. “We need to make people understand we have to diversify and invest in lots of different energy sources. I’m optimistic that we can change people’s minds in that way.