On March 25-27, students and the campus community will gather to discuss urgent environmental issues at "Environment Today: Biodiversity and Environmental Justice."
The weekend-long series of lectures is sponsored by Heinz College.
"Biodiversity is critical to sustaining not just human life, but all life," said Carnegie Mellon University's Peter Madsen.
"Unfortunately, animal and plant species on the planet are becoming extinct at a rate not seen since the demise of the dinosaurs."
Madsen is the Distinguished Service Professor for Ethics and Social Responsibility with appointments in the Office of the Vice Provost for Education and in Heinz College.
He says the attendees will explore relevant environmental issues from a variety of perspectives through lectures and discussions led by professors and professionals who are experts in their fields.
It will also provide an understanding of biodiversity and environmental justice and their relevance to our everyday lives, the health of our economy, society and the planet.
Many agree reduced biodiversity comes about because of human actions and behaviors that destroy natural habitat. Madsen says these behaviors now need to be addressed if species decimation is to be halted.
"With respect to the issues raised in the environmental justice movement, the urgency is just as real," he said.
This movement refers to the disproportionate burden that certain disadvantaged groups bear by means of their exposure to air pollution, ground water contamination, climate change or other forms of environmental hazards.
Presenters include distinguished ecologists, public policy specialists, historians, activists, conservationists and respected educators.
CMU students Dyanna Becker (E'11) and Erica Spiritos (E'11) have been central in the effort to make this year's Environment Today a success.
"We wanted to address topics that are timely, global, and controversial, and are looking forward to the varying perspectives that each of our speakers has to share," said Spiritos.
"To build on the information and ideas introduced in the lectures, it is our hope that the newly incorporated discussion sessions will provide a forum for students to brainstorm how they might take action in their own lives with respect to the issues raised."
Madsen hopes attendees will become energized and seek ways to solve the problems these issues pose — either by taking proper steps individually or by being more active in groups dedicated to environmental matters.
"We hope all who attend will come to see the level of urgency that is attached to both of these issues."