Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability

Each year the Center for Sustainable Systems based at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, invites an internationally recognized expert to deliver the Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Michigan. This annual Lecture Series focuses on critical issues of sustainability and honors Peter M. Wege for his many outstanding contributions to the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and to the environmental field. This Lecture Series addresses important sustainability challenges facing society in the 21st century including: energy security and declining fossil resources, global climate change, freshwater scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss; and sustainable development strategies for mobility, buildings, and other complex systems for meeting human needs in both developed and developing countries.

Dr. William Clark
Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Rackham Auditorium

This Wege Lecture on Sustainability will kick off the 3-day celebration of the Center's 25th Anniversary. 

About Dr. William Clark

Professor Clark is the Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  Trained as an ecologist, his research focuses on sustainability science: understanding the interactions of human and environmental systems with a view toward advancing the goals of sustainable development. He is particularly interested in how institutional arrangements affect the linkage between knowledge and action in the sustainability arena.

 

José María Figueres
Monday, March 28, 2016 - 5:00pm
Rackham Auditorium

 About José María Figueres

 In 1994 Mr. Figueres was elected President of Costa Rica and was the nation’s youngest elected president of the 20th Century. After he left the presidency of Costa Rica in 1998, Figueres has been involved in global issues such as climate change, sustainable development, and technology. In 2000, Figueres joined the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, and later he worked with Concordia 21 in Madrid. Since 2010, he has been Chairman of the Carbon War Room, an independent non-profit organization focused on the global transition to a low-carbon economy. And in 2012, he was appointed as the new President of the Carbon War Room.

About the Lecture

Lowering carbon emissions represents the largest economic opportunity humanity has ever faced.  Getting it right is the challenge, and the big imperative of our times.

The full talk may be viewed at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fU2HsDVuGY

Janine Benyus, biologist and author of "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature"
Monday, March 31, 2014 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor

About Janine Benyus

Janine Benyus is a biologist, innovation consultant, and author of six books, including Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. In Biomimicry, she names an emerging discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s designs and processes (for instance, solar cells that mimic leaves).

Since the book’s 1997 release, Janine has evolved the practice of biomimicry, consulting with sustainable businesses and conducting seminars about what we can learn from the genius that surrounds us. Her favorite role is biologist-at-the-design-table, introducing innovators to organisms whose well-adapted designs have been tested over 3.8 billion years.

In 1998, Janine co-founded the Helena, Montana-based Biomimicry Guild with Dr. Dayna Baumeister. The Guild is an innovation consultancy providing biological consulting and research, workshops and field excursions, and a speakers’ bureau. The Guild helps designers learn from and emulate natural models with the goal of developing products, processes, and policies that create conditions conducive to life.

In 2005, Janine founded The Biomimicry Institute (TBI), a nonprofit organization based in Missoula, MT. TBI’s mission is to nurture and grow a global community of people who are learning from, emulating, and conserving life’s genius to create a healthier, more sustainable planet. Programs include the development of biomimicry courses in a range of educational settings from K-12 schools to universities as well as non-formal venues such as zoos, museums and nature centers. TBI also offers biomimicry workshops for designers (engineers, architects, etc.) as well as biologists through the Biologist-at-the-Design-Table training. TBI’s Innovation for Conservation program uses proceeds from bio-inspired products to conserve the habitat of the mentor organisms. In 2008, the TBI launched www.AskNature.org, an open-source database of biological literature organized by design and engineering function. In early 2009, as part of its K-12 educational outreach work, TBI released Ask the Planet, a CD of children’s biomimicry songs, written and composed by Amy Martin featuring numerous celebrity artists including Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams and Bruce Cockburn.

Janine has received several awards including a Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment award, the Rachel Carson Environmental Ethics Award, the Lud Browman Award for Science Writing in Society, and the Barrows and Heinz Distinguished Lectureships. In 2009, Janine was honored with a Champion of the Earth award in Science & Innovation from the United Nations Environment Programme. She traveled to Paris to accept the award on Earth Day and then participated in a two-day conference hosted by Business 4 Environment.

An educator at heart, Janine believes that the more people learn from nature’s mentors, the more they’ll want to protect them. This is why she writes, speaks, and revels in describing the wild teachers in our midst.

About the Lecture

Biomimicry is the practice of learning from and then emulating life’s best ideas to create a more sustainable world. By mimicking nature's time-tested strategies, biomimics are learning to capture fog like a desert beetle, preserve vaccines like a resurrection fern, resist bacteria like a shark, and gather energy like a leaf. Based on 3.8 billion of years of R&D, these designs sip energy, shave material use, eliminate toxins, and turn waste into opportunities.

Once a specialty science, Biomimicry has spread virally in the last 15 years. Hundreds of Biomimicry start-ups are making headlines with nature-inspired technologies that solve global challenges and disrupt business as usual. Leading companies such as Natura, Arup, Airbus, Boeing, HOK, IDEO, Interface, Levi’s, and Nike use biomimicry in their labs as well as their boardrooms, finding inspiration for product and management redesign.

Since the publication of her seminal book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus and her colleagues at Biomimicry 3.8 have developed a methodology for bio-inspired design while introducing millions to its potential. They’ve worked with over 250 corporate clients and professors from more than 100 universities to embed biomimicry in both design and decisionmaking. They’ve been “biologists at the design table” with some of the world’s greatest innovators, reimagining everything from solar manufacture to city planning. 

In this talk, Janine will give an insider’s view of the latest biomimicry advances on the drawing board and in the market. She’ll discuss the worldwide spread of the meme, and how it is being heralded as a “one of the top 20 breakthrough business ideas” (Harvard Business Review, HBR List), “a paradigm shift for the world of design” (Smithsonian National Design Awards), and “one of 10 innovations that will change the way you manufacture” (Society of Manufacturing Engineers). At this critical tipping-point for the field, she’ll describe what’s needed to take biomimicry global while cultivating ethical thought leadership that will focus Biomimicry on what’s worth doing.  Come learn what all the excitement is about from the founder of this practical, radical, and powerfully hopeful approach to innovation. Hear what happens when inventors become nature’s apprentices, creating world-changing technologies that create conditions conducive to all Life.

A public reception will follow the talk

Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Monday, March 11, 2013 - 5:00pm
Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor

About Achim Steiner

Since 2006, Mr. Steiner has served as the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The six priority areas of UNEP are:

  • Climate change
  • Resource efficiency
  • Disasters and conflicts
  • Environmental governance
  • Harmful substances and hazardous waste
  • Ecosystem management

Before joining UNEP, Mr. Steiner served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 2001 to 2006, and prior to that as Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams. His professional career has included assignments with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations in different parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Germany, Zimbabwe, United States, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya. He worked both at the grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of international policy-making to address the interface between environmental sustainability, social equity and economic development.

Mr. Steiner, a German and Brazilian national, was born in Brazil in 1961. His educational background includes a BA from the University of Oxford and an MA from the University of London with specialization in development economics, regional planning, and international development and environmental policy. He also studied at the German Development Institute in Berlin as well as the Harvard Business School. He serves on a number of international advisory boards, including the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development.

About the Lecture

Rooted in a tradition of critiquing past development choices, environmentalism has increasingly emerged as a science and empirically-based provider of analysis and risk assessment as to the environmental change phenomena occurring in our atmosphere and biosphere. The need for moving beyond questioning to providing answers and alternatives has meant that the ‘environmentalism of the 21st century’ must itself confront significant drivers of change. By drawing on ‘lessons learnt’ and exploring the implications of some of the most recent concepts shaping the environmental discourse of today – such as planetary boundaries, decoupling, the green economy, natural capital, tipping points and irreversible change, inter-generational equity and environmental rights – the lecture will reflect on some of the key reference points which will define the strategic directions for an evolving ‘environmentalism in the 21st century'. Change has become an imperative - the question is whether this environmentalism can move beyond the planetary perspective to incorporate the social and economic realities that motivate the choices people make about the future.

The Center for Sustainable Systems and School of Natural Resources and Environment present the Wege Lecture in collaboration with the following co-sponsors: College of Engineering, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, Institute for Social Research, Michigan Energy Institute, Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, and School of Public Health.

The full talk may be viewed at:  http://lecb.physics.lsa.umich.edu/CWIS/SPT--BrowseResources.php?ParentId...

A transcript of the talk may be read at: http://css.snre.umich.edu/assets/TRANSCRIPT_Steiner_WegeLecture2013.pdf

Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda
Monday, March 26, 2012 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor

Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda, Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment and Director of the Children's Environmental Health Lab, delivers the 11th Annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability. The lecture begins at 5:00 p.m. in the Rackham Auditorium, and is followed by a public reception.

Marie Lynn Miranda became dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, on January 1, 2012. Miranda was previously a faculty member in the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program and the Global Health Institute at Duke University. She also was a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics within Duke Medicine.

The Detroit native has devoted much of her professional career to research directed at improving the health status of disadvantaged populations, particularly children. She is the founding director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, a research, education and outreach program that fosters environments where all children can prosper. She has held the director post since 1999. CEHI’s peer-reviewed work is cited widely, including in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current integrated science assessment on revisions to the national ambient air quality standard for lead. CEHI also works closely with a wide range of organizations and non-profits in addressing children’s environmental health issues in the community. In 2008, CEHI won the EPA’s Environmental Justice Achievement Award.

This event was sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Systems, School of Natural Resources and Environment, Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, School of Public Health, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, School of Social Work, and Michigan Radio - Environment Report.

Streaming videos of the 11th Wege Lecture and Q&A session may be viewed at:  http://lecb.physics.lsa.umich.edu/CWIS/SPT--BrowseResources.php?ParentId=675

Larry Brilliant, MPH, MD
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor

Dr. Larry Brilliant, University of Michigan alumnus and president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, delivers the 10th Annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability. The lecture begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Rackham Auditorium, and is followed by a public reception.

Dr. Brilliant joined Skoll Global Threats Fund after serving three years as a Google VP and the first executive director of Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm. He is a medical doctor and MPH, board-certified in preventive medicine. He lived and worked in India for 10 years and was one of a four-person United Nations' team that led the successful World Health Organization smallpox eradication program in India and South Asia. He later founded the Seva Foundation, whose projects have given back sight to nearly 3 million people worldwide through their work to eliminate preventable and curable blindness.

In 1985, he co-founded The Well, a pioneering digital community and he holds a telecom systems patent. He was a professor of international policy and epidemiology at the University of Michigan and has authored two books and dozens of scientific articles on infectious diseases, blindness and international health policy. He volunteered as a physician during several disasters, including the Asian Tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and the Bihar Floods. After the anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001, he volunteered as a first responder for the Centers for Disease Control's bio-terrorism effort.

Dr. Brilliant chairs the National Bio-Surveillance Advisory Subcommittee, created by Presidential directive, and is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Advisory Council on Catastrophic Risks. He was elected to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2008. He sits on the boards of the Skoll Foundation and several other nonprofits.

Recent awards include Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People and top 20 Scientists and Thinkers (2008); UN Global Leadership Award (2008); TED Prize (2006); Peacemaker Award (2005); International Public Health Hero (2004); and two honorary doctorates. In 2009, The Final Inch, the documentary about polio eradication which Dr. Brilliant inspired and was funded by Google.org, was nominated for an Oscar.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Systems, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, Office of Vice President for Research, and the School of Public Health.

This Lecture and the Q&A session may be viewed at: http://lecb.physics.lsa.umich.edu/CWIS/SPT--BrowseResources.php?ParentId=631

John P. Holdren
Monday, March 22, 2010 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Rackham Auditorium

holdrenbio.jpg

Dr. John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Prior to joining the Obama administration, Dr. Holdren was Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy and Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, as well as professor in Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Director of the independent, nonprofit Woods Hole Research Center. From 1973 to 1996, he was on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where he co-founded and co-led the interdisciplinary graduate-degree program in energy and resources.

Dr. Holdren holds advanced degrees in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics from MIT and Stanford and is highly regarded for his work on energy technology and policy, global climate change and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as foreign member of the Royal Society of London. A former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, his awards include a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the John Heinz Prize in Public Policy, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the Volvo Environment Prize. He served from 1991 until 2005 as a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s board of trustees.

During the Clinton administration, Dr. Holdren served as a member of PCAST through both terms and in that capacity chaired studies requested by President Clinton on preventing theft of nuclear materials, disposition of surplus weapon plutonium, the prospects of fusion energy, U.S. energy R&D strategy and international cooperation on energy technology innovation. In December 1995, he gave the acceptance lecture for the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization of scientists and public figures in which he held leadership positions from 1982 to 1997.

President Obama nominated Dr. Holdren in December 2008; the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination March 19, 2009.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Sunday, April 20, 2008 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Crisler Arena

View video of the event

William Clay Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ford Motor Company
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 5:00pm to 6:15pm
Rackham Auditorium

View video of the event

Lord Browne of Madingley, Group Chief Executive of BP
Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - 5:00pm to 6:15pm
Rackham Auditorium

Read a full transcript of his lecture.

Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the United States
Monday, October 24, 2005 - 5:30pm to 6:45pm
Power Center for Performing Arts

This lecture paralleled the movie, "An Inconvenient Truth". (2-minute trailer)

Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, thrice-former Prime Minister of Norway; recent Director-General of World Health Organization; Chair of UN World Commission on Environment and Development
Friday, October 29, 2004 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Dr. Peter Newman, former Professor of City Policy and Director of Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia; now Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Dr. Joseph L. Sax, Professor of Environmental Regulation, Emeritus, U-C Berkley, School of Law
Wednesday, November 6, 2002 - 4:30pm to 5:50pm
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Dr. Rosina M. Bierbaum, Dean of School of Natural Resources & Environment
Wednesday, October 17, 2001 - 4:30pm to 5:45pm
1800 Chemistry

Panel response:

Carl P. Simon, Director, Center for Study of Complex Systems

Stephen W. Director, Dean, College of Engineering

Douglas S. Kelbaugh, Dean, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning

Dr. Bierbaum's slide presentation

Dr. Bierbaum's transcript