Students for a Sustainable Stanford hold panel on agriculture and climate change

Feb. 13, 2015, 1:17 a.m.

On Feb. 10, over 100 Stanford community members attended “Crops and Carbon: Agriculture and Climate Change Demystified,” a panel sponsored by the Climate and Energy subgroup of Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) and the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. The panel was the third in a quarterly series focusing on demystifying various issues associated with climate change.

Emma Hutchinson ‘17, co-leader of the Climate and Energy subgroup (C&E), said that the group hopes to raise public awareness of the interdisciplinary importance of global climate change through the panels they host. C&E ensured that they remained unbiased in their presentation of the topic by including panelists from all sides of the issue both from within and outside Stanford.

“Our goal is always to bring in people with very different views and very different backgrounds and put them all in the same room together,” Hutchinson said. “This is a topic that really matters in today’s society, and through the conversation you see it from all angles.”

Following introductions by the leaders of C&E, the panel was moderated by Pamela Matson, Dean of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. Audience members listened to five panelists, including executives at Pie Ranch and the Climate Corporation, an ecology researcher from the Carnegie Institute for Science and two Stanford Earth science professors.

To select a topic for the panel, C&E brainstormed ideas during their meetings and voted on several to present to the School of Earth Sciences. Matson, the panel’s co-sponsor, selected the final topic: the relationship between agriculture and climate change – the topic for which she felt most comfortable moderating.

“It’s just a really unique conversation and I don’t think it happens that much on campus,” Hutchinson said.

The panel’s discussion topics ranged from the role of new technology in measuring and decreasing agricultural waste to ways that agriculture can combat or even capitalize on climate change.

“It covered a lot of really cool ‘next big things’ with regard to agriculture,” said audience member John Latimer ‘18.

Other attendees agreed and said that they found it interesting how the panel incorporated advanced technology and statistics into a practice as old as agriculture.

Hutchinson thought that the panel was a positive experience for students in C&E and SSS as well, noting that it was a good way for group members to gain experience in event planning and coordination. She also hoped that the interdisciplinary nature of the panel helped get everyone excited about all aspects of handling the effects of climate change.

The panel’s focus on boosting public awareness aligns with SSS’s main goal of increasing the visibility of sustainability efforts on and off campus. In addition to C&E, SSS consists of four other subgroups, all of which are hard at work on sustainability projects of their own. Their projects include piloting an aqueous ozone project in Stanford Delta Delta Delta and Florence Moore Hall; lobbying for xeriscaping, or landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, in the Meyer soon-to-be open space and around campus; building bluebird houses at the Dish and hosting Environmental Justice Week, which took place two weeks ago.

“I really feel like this is a unique group on campus in that everyone here wants to change the world,” Hutchinson said.

SSS is also working with the Green Alliance for Innovative Action (GAIA) to create a list of long-term sustainability goals for Stanford to achieve by the year 2050. SSS co-president Zack Gold ‘15 is excited about the progress that SSS is making and noted that the University has been receptive to their initiatives so far.

“We’re hoping to work with the faculty and administration in really pushing Stanford to continue to be a leader in a lot of [sustainability] things that Stanford can really do,” Gold said.

Given the enthusiasm and dedication of SSS members, Gold and Hutchinson believe that the group has the ability to continue advancing Stanford’s sustainability agenda. They hope to continue working with other student groups as well as with the general student body to promote the sustainability movement.


Contact Zachary Birnholz at [email protected].

Zachary Birnholz is a freshman hoping to major in either the sciences, the humanities, or in engineering. Originally from Los Angeles, Zachary enjoys reading, running, learning, thinking, going on adventures, and mint chip ice cream (along with many other activities and flavors). He can be contacted at zacharyb ‘at’

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