The world is undergoing change at a rate and scale unlike any experienced in human history. This session will explore what climate change, population growth, urbanization, resource consumption and other trends mean for our future. How can we meet the challenges of rapid change, identify its opportunities and forge new strategies and partnerships for conservation and sustainable human enterprise? And how can the power of storytelling and imagination help create a desirable future? Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins and Hugo Award-winning author China Miéville will explore visions of dystopia, utopia and realistic futures.

The Earth is changing so rapidly due to human activities that many scientists believe we've entered a new geologic epoch: the Anthropocene, or "age of humans." Are we pushing the planet past its ability to provide food, clean water, energy and natural resources to growing numbers of people? Are ecosystems being overwhelmed by a loss of biodiversity and an infusion of invasive species? Kevin Noone, co-author of a major report on "Planetary Boundaries," will describe the latest thinking about the Earth's limits to growth, while Erle Ellis will offer another view, exploring opportunities presented by global change.

The American environmental movement has long been criticized as dominated by middle- and upper-class white people and their concerns primarily about pristine wilderness. But the country is becoming less Caucasian, with minorities expected to represent 54 percent of America's population by the year 2050, and recent opinion polls show that minority communities are highly concerned about the environment. Keynote speaker Rosario Dawson, an accomplished Hollywood actress and highly regarded voice for immigration reform, women's rights and environmental protection, will explore what the "browning" of America means for the future of the environmental movement.

As the world's human population continues to grow, the world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. More than half of all people live in cities, a figure expected to grow past 70 percent later this century. Such concentrations of people and infrastructure pose tremendous challenges, but they also promise opportunities for more efficiency and prosperity. This session will explore innovations in energy, food, health and economic development as pathways to more livable cities.

Improving sustainable practices in business and industry isn't just good for public relations; it can make a real difference in a company's bottom line. This session will explore initiatives in three major industries -- construction, clothing and brewing – and examine the success of a Chicago green business incubator that's being considered as a model for Madison, Wisconsin.

The climate of the Great Lakes region is changing at an accelerating rate, posing risks for natural resources and the communities and businesses that depend on them. This session will explore the observed and potential impacts of climate change on the region's forests, wildlife, winters and the Great Lakes themselves.

The arts have emerged as a powerful tool for environmental education and community engagement. This session will explore projects and strategies that use the arts to engage audiences from pre-school to adult and get communities involved, energized and thinking about environmental challenges and solutions.

Large public institutions have tremendous buying power. How can they use this leverage to strengthen sustainable and local sources of food? This session will look at the challenges and opportunities presented by the needs and purchasing decisions of universities, public schools and other big food buyers.

Distributed energy resources -- including solar, wind, waste-to-energy and co-generation -- are affecting many aspects of our electric grid. Microgrids are drawing increased international attention as a means of harnessing these forces for the mutual benefit of end users, third-party providers of energy services, and utilities. The microgrid is a localized grid that can seamlessly enable plug-and-play interconnection of any type of distributed resource while efficiently transferring both electrical and thermal energy between sources and loads, and smoothly disconnecting/reconnecting to the main grid as needed to provide resiliency. This session will explore the impact of these forces and key stakeholders on the future of microgrids, including the benefits and limitations that microgrids provide for addressing the major economic, environmental and sustainability challenges that lie ahead for our electrical energy system.

Climate change, deforestation and other environmental drivers pose tremendous challenges to human health, from heat waves and other extreme weather events to outbreaks of novel diseases. This session will explore a range of challenges and health system responses to rapid environmental change.

A variety of factors, including climate change, urbanization, and changing technology, require approaches to phosphorus reduction to be innovative, collaborative and tackled at a watershed scale. This session will explore innovative approaches that include both statewide efforts and projects in the Yahara watershed, with attention to the roles of public, private and non-profit sectors.

Nelson Institute graduate students conduct research on a wide range of topics – future energy resources, health, wildlife habitat, food systems, toxicology, environmental history and much more. A select group of students working on masters and doctoral degrees will provide quick overviews of their work.

This panel session, organized by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, will describe the Academy's efforts to work with energy and climate leaders throughout Wisconsin to compile a road map of actions and strategies that can position Wisconsin to play a leadership role in clean energy and reducing our carbon footprint. Panel members will present a preview of the road map's emerging recommendations and discuss opportunities in energy conservation, efficiency, renewable energy and transportation where Wisconsin can lead, and where many Wisconsin businesses and communities are already leading.


2014 Conference Program

Current Conference Information

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center
Madison, Wisconsin

7:30 AM
Check-In Opens (will remain open throughout the day)
Exhibit Area Opens
Continental breakfast will be available in exhibit area.
9:00 AM

Imagining the Future in a World of Rapid Change

No Going Back
Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Limits of Utopia
China Miéville, Award-winning science fiction author; associate professor of creative writing, Warwick University in England
10:15 AM
Refreshment Break and Exhibits
10:45 AM

Welcome to the Anthropocene:
Visions of the Human-Made World

Planetary Boundaries: Implications for Global Sustainability
Kevin Noone, Director, Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Anthropogenic Landscapes and Planetary Opportunities
Erle Ellis, Associate professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; senior fellow, The Breakthrough Institute
12:15 PM
1:30 PM

Concurrent Sessions

  1. Creating More Livable Cities Description
    • Marcia Caton Campbell (Moderator), Executive Director, Center for Resilient Cities
    • Ted Petith, Owner, GreenLink Projects LLC
    • Monica White, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies and Community and Environmental Sociology, UW-Madison
    • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Senior Associate, Center on Wisconsin Strategy
    • Jeffrey Sledge, Faculty Associate, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison

  2. Doing Well by Going Green: Innovation in Business Sustainability Description
    • Gary Vaughan (Moderator), Founder and Owner, Guident Business Solutions; Lecturer in Economics, Lawrence University
    • Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability, MillerCoors
    • Randy Peterson, Senior Director of Engineering, Corporate Services and Sustainability, Lands' End
    • David Baum, Co-Developer, Green Exchange
    • Jeff Niesen, Executive Vice President, Boldt

  3. Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region Description
    • Dan Vimont (Moderator), Assistant Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research; Co-Chair, Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts
    • Val Bennington, Assistant Scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, UW-Madison
    • Michael Notaro, Associate Director and Associate Scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, UW-Madison
    • Benjamin Zuckerberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, UW-Madison
    • Chris Swanston, Director, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, U.S. Forest Service

  4. Creative Environments: Community-Building and Education through the Arts Description
    • Karen Crossley (Moderator), WE Badger Volunteers Coordinator, Morgridge Center for Public Service
    • Maria Moreno, Multicultural Outreach Specialist, Earth Partnerships for Schools, UW Arboretum
    • Brenda Baker, Artist and Director of Exhibits, Madison Children's Museum
    • Victor Castro, Artist-in-Residence, Madison Public Library, and Karin Wolf, Arts Program Administrator, Madison Arts Commission
    • Jay Salinas, Co-Founder, The Wormfarm Institute

  5. Buying Big, Buying Local: Lessons Learned from Institutional Food Purchasing Description
    • Colin Higgins (Moderator), Student Leader & Student Program Coordinator, UW–Madison Office of Sustainability
    • Erin Silva, Associate Scientist, Agronomy, UW-Madison
    • Claire Nagel, Food Service Administrator, Mendota Mental Health Institute
    • Claire Strader, Coordinator, Dane County Institutional Food Market Coalition
    • Nate Herndon, Executive Chef, Promega Corporation

  6. Microgrids and the New Electric Distribution Paradigm Description
    • Tom Jahns, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UW-Madison
    • Steve Pullins, Chief Strategic Officer, Green Energy Corporation
    • Don Peterson, Executive Director, Energy Products and Services, MG&E

  7. Global Health across Natural and Built Environments Description
    • Valerie Stull (Moderator), Ph.D. Student, Nelson Institute Environment and Resources Program, UW-Madison
    • Kurt Sladky, Director, Zoological Medicine and Special Species Health Service, UW School of Veterinary Medicine
    • Susan Paskewitz, Professor, Medical Entomology Laboratory, UW-Madison
    • Vijay Limaye, Ph.D. Student, Epidemiology and Nelson Institute Environment and Resources Program, UW-Madison
    • Jason Vargo, Research Associate, Nelson Institute SAGE and the Global Health Institute, UW-Madison

  8. Tackling Phosphorus: Innovation in Watershed Management Description
    • Carl Korfmacher (Moderator), Principal and Owner, Korfmacher Resources, LLC
    • Elizabeth Katt-Reinders, Policy and Communications Director, Clean Lakes Alliance
    • Amanda Minks, Water Resource Management Specialist, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
    • Dave Taylor, Director of Special Projects, Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District
    • Emily Jones, Water Quality Specialist, Clean Wisconsin

  9. Wisconsin Ideas: A Creative Look at Graduate Research in the Nelson Institute Description
    • Sagan Friant (Moderator), PhD Candidate, Environment and Resources; The Bushmeat Trade: Pathways for zoonotic disease transmission in Nigeria
    • Omar Ohrens, PhD Candidate, Environment and Resources; Puma-human conflict and the relationship to rural depopulation in the Altiplano region of Chile
    • Francis Eanes, PhD Candidate, Environment and Resources; Where in the World Are You? Bioregionalism and the Study of Place in Wisconsin
    • Rachel Murray, MS Candidate, Environment and Resources; Adaptations to climate change and globalization in farmer managed irrigation systems in Nepal
    • Teresa Arrate, MS Candidate, Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development; Community Engagement through Environmental Education for Women: Outreach Proposals for the Regional Museum of Science and Technology in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico
    • Jeong Eun (Anya) Lim, PhD Candidate, Environment and Resources; Attitudes toward tigers around the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea

  10. Action, Not Angst: A Climate-Smart, Green Energy Future for Wisconsin Description
    • Jane Elder (Moderator), Executive Director, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
    • Mary Schlaefer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation
    • Tyson Cook, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin
    • John Imes, Executive Director, Wisconsin Environmental Initiative
3:00 PM
Refreshment break, poster sessions, exhibits
3:45 PM

A Livable Future with Everyone in It

Ecology, Economy and Justice in a Rapidly Changing World
A panel discussion featuring Paul Robbins, China Mieville, Sarah Moore, Ariane de Bremond, Monica White, Erle Ellis and Kevin Noone
5:00 PM