Navigating Sustainability: The Hudson and Beyond

Navigating Sustainability: The Hudson and Beyond

On April 15, 2010, the Earth Institute, Columbia University and the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities will convene a panel discussion on “Navigating Sustainability: The Hudson and Beyond” at Barnard College.  The Environmental Consortium brings together representatives from 52 member institutions, including Columbia, within the Hudson Valley region to more fully engage in the region’s environment. The mission of the consortium is to harness higher education’s intellectual and physical resources to advance ecosystem-based environmental research, teaching, and learning through interdisciplinary and collaborative programs.

The panelists come from varied fields and will contribute to the discussion on reconciling different perspectives on sustainability.  According to Margie Turrin, Columbia’s Environmental Consortium representative and education coordinator at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, "Framing the question of how to best move towards a sustainable future begins by examining both the larger concepts that drive our decisions and the behaviors that result from these concepts.  We are very pleased to bring together this interdisciplinary panel to lead us in a discussion of how to align often competing ideals to adjust our path forward.”

Stephanie Pfirman, professor of environmental sciences at Barnard and member of the consortium, also weighed in on her reasons for organizing the panel: "How can we balance conflicting interests in deciding on – and then implementing – the ‘best’ course towards sustainability?  This panel examines the critical ethical, political, economic, engineering and planning issues that need to be resolved in order to make change happen."

The event will kick off this year’s River Summer, an intensive faculty development program of the Environmental Consortium.  Already in its sixth year, the River Summer program takes faculty in the consortium out onto the Hudson River to analyze the development of the watershed within an interdisciplinary framework. Using the geology, hydrology and landscape of the river as a foundation, River Summer focuses on understanding the Hudson's natural resources within the context of its cultural history.  Place-based field experience is grounded in team teaching and participation among institutions that are geographically and ethnically diverse—from research universities to liberal arts and community colleges.  Through River Summer, the Hudson Valley becomes an extended laboratory and classroom, where faculty members can gain new resources to enrich their teaching at their home institutions.

A live webcast of the discussion will be available.  This exciting format will allow members of the consortium and the public to view the panel from remote locations and submit questions to ask the panelists in real time.  Participants can forward questions to

The panel will be moderated by Geoffrey L. Brackett, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Pace University.  Members of this expert panel include:

Patricia J. Culligan, Professor of Civil Engineering, Columbia University
Theodore J. Eismeier, Professor of Government, Hamilton College
Bruce Jennings, Director of Bioethics, Center for Humans and Nature
Marilyn Power, Faculty in Economics, Sarah Lawrence College
Meg Walker, Vice President, Project for Public Spaces

The panel will be held from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Lehman Auditorium (Room 202), Altschul Hall, Barnard College Campus.  If you are interested in attending the event in person, please RSVP to Jane Tipermas at

For more information about the Earth Institute, please visit
For more information about the Environmental Consortium, please visit