News Center

News from the Reed College public affairs office

Search: or



The Challenges Ahead: Emerging Environmental Issues

Richard White, Jane Lubchenco, and Buck Parker bring perspectives from history, science, and public policy to examine today's complex environmental problems in lectures co-sponsored by Reed College and Illahee

PORTLAND, OR (August 18, 2005) - Our ability to meet the environmental challenges of the future will depend on both policies and people - people who understand the implications of their actions and the actions of their leaders, and people who possess the experience and skills to develop solutions to multi-faceted problems.

This fall Reed College is partnering with the environmental non-profit Illahee to present the lecture series "The Challenges Ahead: Emerging Environmental Issues." Using an interdisciplinary approach that draws from the resources of the sciences and social sciences, the lectures will highlight selected environmental issues facing society and what we need to know to be effective in addressing them.
Three leaders in the environmental debate, Richard White of Stanford University, Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University, and Buck Parker of Earthjustice will explore what the public can do to address these looming problems. The lecture series is sponsored by Jeffrey Kenner.

All the environmental issues lectures are free and open to the public.

All lectures are held in Kaul Auditorium on the Reed College campus. For more information, the public is asked to call the Reed events hotline at 503/777-7755.

"Mistakes We Should Stop Making: How Past Policies Have Shaped Emerging Issues"
Richard White

Margaret Byrne Professor of American History, Stanford University
7:30 p.m., Thursday, September 29

Americans are notoriously a people who live in the present and the future. The past, particularly when it is unpleasant, is something we want to put behind us. Increasingly, however, our gravest environmental problems are legacies of our past. Global warming, ozone holes, the depletion of fisheries, the pollution of waters, soil exhaustion, declining bio-diversity and other environmental problems are not recent phenomena. They are the product of historical processes of considerable duration: in some cases a half century, in other cases a century, and in still other cases even longer histories of human activities. Their pasts seem pertinent to their futures.

What is equally true and even more disquieting is that many of the grave problems of our future arose not during a period of environmental neglect but, at least in the United States, during a century of rising environmental concern and regulation. In many ways, the United States, a country with a long record of environmental legislation and management, has been one of the greatest contributors to current global environmental problems. More has been involved than a lack of research or will. In some cases solutions have become the problems. Ignoring this legacy will be disastrous for any serious attempt to deal with our current and emerging environmental problems.

Richard White is widely regarded as one of the nation's leading scholars in three related fields: the American West, Native American history, and environmental history. Professor White came to Stanford in 1998 and is the author of five books, including The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republic in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, which was named a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize. Among other honors, he is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.

"The Environment and Human Well-being: Unprecedented Challenges to Society"
Jane Lubchenco

Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology, Distinguished Professor of Zoology, Oregon State University
7:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 4

Jane Lubchenco discusses the recently released Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a landmark study, co-chaired by Lubchenco, which reveals that approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth, such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards, and pests are being degraded or used unsustainably. Scientists warn that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years. For more information, visit

Lubchenco is a foremost environmental scientist and marine ecologist actively engaged in teaching, research, synthesis, and communication of scientific knowledge. Her expertise includes biodiversity, climate change, sustainability science, coastal marine ecosystems, the state of the oceans, and of the planet. Professor Lubchenco founded and co-leads the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program that teaches outstanding academic environmental scientists to be more effective communicators of scientific information to the public, policy makers, the media and the private sector.

"Moving an Environmental Agenda When the Government Won't"
Buck Parker
Executive Director of Earthjustice
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 5

Vawter ("Buck") Parker explores the function of environmental law in emphasizing the rights of the communities, including the international community and future generations; the growing importance of the ability of citizens to enforce environmental laws at the very time that ability is being undermined; and the significance of science in environmental decision-making and how that is also threatened.

Parker is executive director of Earthjustice. He is a 1967 graduate of Stanford University in 1967 and a 1972 graduate of Harvard Law School. Buck practiced law for eight years in Portland often representing conservation groups pro bono, before joining Earthjustice (then Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) in 1980. Before becoming executive director of the organization he served as litigation coordinator and, later, general vice president. Parker established and directed Earthjustice's international program in the late 1980s and 1990s.  He serves as a member of the board of trustees of the Canadian environmental law group Sierra Legal Defense Fund and of the board of directors of the Campaign for America's Wilderness. 

 For further media information or to receive images from "The Challenges Ahead," please contact Beth Sorensen, office of public affairs, at 503/777-7574 or at