Science ‘conversations’ tackle key environmental issues

Published 25 June 2008

If the Earth was spaceship, what would we need to do to steer it back in the right direction?

That is a question scientists and researchers in Southern Cross University’s School of Environmental Science and Management will be tackling in a new ‘Science Conversation Series’, starting on Friday (June 27).

Coordinated by lecturer Dr Anja Scheffers the seminars, to be held once a month, will be open to all interested members of the public. They will also be available online on the SCU website.

The seminars will cover topics including soil and sediment cycles, biofuels, hazardous waste dumps, the global threats facing whales and dolphins, Indigenous knowledge and the use of plant resources for food, fuel and conservation.

Dr Scheffers said the fast-paced development of modern civilisation was placing increasing stress on the earth’s resources.

“With spacecraft being launched in the 1960s our view of the Earth was changed. For the first time, we could look from the outside of our small blue planet and became more aware that we might eventually deplete the earth’s resources and stress our life-support systems to breaking point,” Dr Scheffers said.

“Increasing concentration of greenhouse gases are warming the climate and the loss of natural habitat from the expansion of agriculture and urbanisation is resulting in the extinction of many plant and animal species.

“Figuring out how to steer ‘spaceship Earth’ in the right direction requires a scientific understanding of how things work – and that’s what we hope to provide in this new series of talks.”

Dr Scheffers said the series was designed to promote discussion within the community on these important issues.

The first seminar will be held on Friday, June 27, from 3pm to 4pm at the Lismore campus, lecture theatre U2.31.

The topic will be ‘Cycling of key elements in soils and sediments: impacts on our water, soil, and air’. It will be presented by Professor Leigh Sullivan and Professor Richard Bush.

The Science Conversation Series will include:
July 25: ‘Biofuels: curse or cure for climate change’ – Professor Jerry Vanclay
August 29: ‘Are hazardous waste dumps an environmentally sustainable solution or just a nasty surprise gift wrapped for future generations?’ – Professor David McConchie
September 26: ‘Global status and key threats to the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises’ – Associate Professor Peter Harrison
October 31: ‘Knowledge for life and skills for living – humans within their ecosystems’ – Professor Judy Atkinson
November 28: ‘Plant resources for food, fuel or conservation’ – Professor Robert Henry

More information on the Science Conversation Series is available from Dr Scheffers on 6620 3392 or email anja.scheffers@scu.edu.au

The seminars will be available as downloads after each event from the website: http://scu.edu.au/environment-science-engineering/

Media contact: Brigid Veale, Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.