Spring Sustainability Symposium

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Written By: Catherine Papp

Students, members of faculty, and representatives from local businesses such as PNC, Alcoa, and the Pittsburgh Zoo, pleasantly mingled early Friday morning over breakfast during the Sustainability Symposium in anticipation of the feature event – James Balog’s Chasing Ice documentary. A self-taught photographer with a science background, Balog was and is passionate about capturing the interactions between humans and nature. From this passion, in the wake of global warming controversies, the ice project was born. Balog assembled a team to document first-hand the depletion of the ice caps, tracking the changes to the landscapes of Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and Montana overtime.

What they found was astounding. Balog, who was once a climate change skeptic, could no longer deny that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of the Earth. Although off to a rough start due to technical problems with circuitry, Balrog’s photographs corroborate evidence of retreating glaciers due to changes in global temperature. His most alarming capture is the recession of the Ilulissat Glacier in Greenland; in just 75 minutes, 1.8 cubic miles, equivalent to 3000 Capital Buildings, broke off in chunks of ice 600 feet tall. The rate at which glaciers are receding is unprecedented in history, and Balog wants to use his photography as a message – that despite what anyone thinks, they are touched in some way by atmospheric changes. This is already evident due to the increased weather-related disasters in the US since 1980. Taxpayers will notice the effects when they are forced to increase funding for military defense to ensure safety from uprisings related to resource scarcity around the world.

The symposium concluded with awards given to companies striving to make a difference in the fight against climate change. The first, the Green to Gold Award, was given to American Express and accepted by Tim McClimon, President of the American Express Foundation and Vice President of Social Corporate Responsibility. Burns and Scalo was awarded the Pennsylvania Sustainable Small Business Award. Concluding remarks were given by our very own Dr. Robert Sroufe, Murrin Chair of Global Competitiveness.

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