UT To Host Environmental Semester

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee is set this month to start a semester-long effort to enlarge and enhance awareness of the environment.

Environmental Semester, patterned after the successful Africa Semester in 2003, will encourage collaboration among academic disciplines on campus to tackle many of the thorniest environmental problems facing the region and the world.

UT professors Mary English and Neil Greenberg are co-chairs of the program.

English, of UT’s energy, environment and resources center, said students, faculty, staff and the general public will take part.

“This will be a focused semester that stresses the common themes of good campus environmental stewardship and UT’s strong research, education and community outreach on behalf of the environment,” English said.

Many UT colleges and departments will offer classes that look at the environmental aspects of their fields of study, she said.

Greenberg, of UT’s ecology and evolutionary biology department, said this kind of interdisciplinary contact is very important to the semester’s success.

“More than a hundred courses across the entire UT curriculum have connections to conservation and environmental issues,” Greenberg said. “We hope we can keep our Web site open as a perpetual resource for faculty, students and members of the community that want to discuss environmental issues and need some expertise.”

UT’s Ewing Gallery of Art will host an exhibition Jan. 12 through March 9 by Agnes Denes, a conceptual and environmental artist.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an attorney on the Natural Resources Defense Council with decades of experience in environmental legal advocacy, will speak Jan. 26.

“We hope to have someone speak on the U.S. economy’s dependence on crude oil imports and what this means to our national security,” English said.

“In addition, we’ll have a clean energy conference in February that will be run by students with help from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which is based in Knoxville.”

Later in the semester, English said, Minority Student Affairs will host a discussion on environmental justice, “which will deal with the heavy environmental burdens that are sometimes placed on minority populations or people with low incomes.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning science author Edward O. Wilson will speak March 15 on “The Future of Life,” his novel that looks at the future of the environmental movement.

More details on Environmental Semester events are available at http://environmentalsemester.utk.edu.