Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Six experts talk sustainability at second Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series

Nineth Kanieski Koso/The Daily Northwestern
Brown University Prof. Kim Cobb speaks on the roles of equity and diversity in climate activism.

Six sustainability experts spoke on environmental issues to about 200 people at the second annual Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series summit at Norris University Center on Wednesday.

The summit, “Earth-Human Interactions: Sustainability and Development,” hosted events which discussed challenges to and advancements in energy, the climate and urban environments. The Civil and Environmental Engineering department developed the event.

McCormick Dean Christopher Schuh said the summit aimed to address sustainability problems and solutions caused by human action. He said he hoped to inform and inspire future sustainability leaders.


Chalmers University of Technology Prof. Anders Nordelöf said building more electric vehicles is one of the first steps toward a sustainable world. He said companies should avoid mining for materials in manufacturing and prioritize recycling.

Doug Aitken, executive director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland, said the mining industry is essential to producing the minerals required for a sustainable world. Aikten added that the industry needs to break the “vicious cycle” of traditional mining methods and start building “virtuous cycles” and practices.

“(Mining) doesn’t need to be an industry that creates environmental damage. It can be an industry that creates environmental opportunities,” Aitken said. “But that’s going to make or require a huge amount of changes.”

Urban Transformations

Georgia Institute of Technology Prof. Brian Stone Jr., director of the university’s Urban Climate lab, said American cities were built anticipating a stable climate. Now, cities need to be developed differently because of growing climate instability, according to him.

University of Chicago Urbanism Lab Director Emily Talen said cities should focus on becoming easily walkable and bikeable, though gentrification poses a significant barrier.

”How can we do this move from left to right and not be exclusionary?” Talen said. “As we try to create more walkable places … what is happening and you see it all around you is that people are getting pushed out.”

Climate and Environment

Vice President and Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability at Duke University Toddi Steelman, a wildfire expert and researcher, said global warming can lead to a longer fire season, causing more wildfires and deaths.

Director of the Institute for Environment and Society at Brown University Kim Cobb said climate change activism must focus more on justice and equity.

“The devastating loss is disproportionately borne by low income, historically marginalized communities,” Cobb said. “We need to lean into solutions that are scalable, profitable, durable, effective, but it also needs to be equitable.”

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