The oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico presents unprecedented challenges to protecting the area's surrounding ecosystems. It's a topic that will be top of mind during conversations about water quality issues in the Pittsburgh region and around the globe as the city hosts the United Nations' World Environment Day (WED) activities this week.
"Carnegie Mellon is playing a key role in organizing the Water Matters! Conference and inviting professionals from government, industry and academia to Pittsburgh," said Professor David Dzombak, faculty director of Carnegie Mellon's Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.
The Steinbrenner Institute is a sponsor of the "Water Matters!" conference June 3, held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which will feature thought-leaders from across North America.
The selection of Pittsburgh as the North American host city by UNEP is a testament to the area's commitment to environmental and sustainability issues — ranging from energy and resource conservation to the protection of waterways, ecosystems and green spaces.
"The shrinkage of heavy industry in our region has spawned a variety of new directions," said Dzombak, the Walter J. Blenko Sr. Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Among [the new directions] was a recognition of the value of our natural resources here and of opportunities to use our natural resources in different ways for economic development and not just for exploiting resources like coal, oil and gas, all of which started here in western Pennsylvania. There's been a real transformation in how our natural resources are viewed."
He added, "One of the challenges for the Pittsburgh region is fine particles generated in the combustion of coal. Fine particles penetrate deeply into the lungs and pose human health risk. At Carnegie Mellon, we're a leading research center on fine particles in the atmosphere."
Three keynote speakers and three panels will focus on "Water and Your Health," "Water and Energy" and "Water as an Economic Driver."
"We hope that the conference will inspire more people to work on and improve our water infrastructure and steward our water resources as well as contribute to a more widespread awareness of the importance of our water resources," said Dzombak.
Following on the heels of Pittsburgh's recent role as host of the September 2009 G-20 Summit, World Environment Day once again allows the region to showcase its successful transformation from an industrial area to a present-day model of green economy industries, organizations and initiatives.