Symposium Looks at Sustainability and Resilience

Posted: May 14, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: May 15, 2014 at 6:54 am

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By Michele McDonald

George Mason University climate change and sustainability experts will discuss how to create more resilient societies at a first-ever symposium on Monday.

“We humans are conducting a very dangerous experiment with our planet,” says Jagadish Shukla, University Professor and director of the Climate Dynamics Program. “There is overwhelming agreement among scientists that we are heading to a very different planet.”

The Symposium on Building Sustainability and Resilience will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday at the Mason Inn Conference Center and Hotel on the Fairfax Campus. Virginia’s new secretary of natural resources, Molly Ward, and Mason president Ángel Cabrera will deliver keynotes.

“As the recent international and national reports on climate change highlight, it is not too soon to be taking sustainability seriously—very seriously,” says Thomas Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy. “And that means taking sensible steps to adapt to climate change and think of everything through the lens of resilience to climate-driven change. This symposium is to kick-start a university-wide examination of the best ways to address the coming challenges.”

And Mason experts are helping to tackle those challenges. “The symposium will showcase a selection of the programs on Mason’s campus that focus primarily on environmental sustainability and, in particular, the question of how to prepare for climate change,” says Andrew Light, University Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at Mason. Light is currently on leave to serve in the Office of the Special Envoy on Climate Change in the U.S. Department of State.

Mason experts will present:

  • Building Resilience from the Physical Sciences: The Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies by James Kinter, center director.
  • Building Resilience from the Social Sciences: The Center for Climate Change Communication by Edward Maibach, center director.
  • Building Resilience for Public Policy: New Initiatives on Climate Adaptation and Response by Gwynne Taraska, interim director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy.

Shukla will lead a panel discussion about using Mason resources to enhance resilience from the perspective of the campus, local community, state, nation and world. “We at Mason are able and willing to help the Commonwealth of Virginia realize its vision of sustainability,” Shukla says.

Panelists include:

  • Karen Akerloff, research assistant professor, Center for Climate Change Communication
  • Evan Feinman, deputy secretary of natural resources, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Andrew Light, Office of the Special Envoy on Climate Change, U.S. Department of State, and University Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy
  • Thomas Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy
  • Andrew Wingfield, provost’s Sustainability Fellow, Mason

The roles of private citizens to public institutions to the government will be explored.  “You and I can do something; George Mason can do something; the government can do something,” Shukla says.

For those interested in attending, please email Kelly Heflin,, or call 703-993-3744.

Write to Michele McDonald at

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