Experts to Mull Urban Ecology

Experts to Mull Urban Ecology

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

US Agriculture Secretary Daniel Glickman highlights the list of leading environmental and public policy experts who will speak at the Ecological Cities Conference Nov. 10 and 11 at the Boston College Law School.

Glickman will deliver the plenary address at the event, which is expected to draw an audience of 250 guests, including speakers from a variety of government, academic and scientific backgrounds, along with leaders of local community groups and environmental activists.

The conference, which is being hosted by the Watershed Institute of Boston College, will also include remarks by the founder and director of the Ecological Cities Project, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Rutherford Platt. Other speakers will be: Alan Berkowitz, head of research for the Institute for Ecosystem Studies; Richard Pollack of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Mindy Lubber, regional administrator of the New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency.

A series of moderated panel discussions on subjects such as "Urban Renaissance and the Implications for Urban Ecosystems," "Biodiversity" and "Public Health" also will be featured at the event.

The Ecological Cities Project is an initiative sponsored by University of Massachusetts-Amherst that aims to enhance the protection and management of urban ecosystems and related open lands in the United States through regional conferences, research, publications, and Internet resources. The upcoming BC conference is the first of a series of regional events to be held throughout the country, organizers say, with an eye to improving US urban ecological policy.

"The key for the conference will be to ask, 'How are we thinking about our urban ecosystems and how does that relate to building a city?'" said Watershed Institute Executive Director Charles Lord.

The two-year-old Watershed Institute is a non-profit group that works to protect and restore urban ecosystems through education, research and outreach initiatives.

Lord, who heads the institute with chairman Maxwell Kennedy and director of education Research Assoc. Prof. Eric Strauss (Biology), explained that urban planners and developers do not always consider ecological issues when planning their projects. This neglect, he said, results in the kind of pollution problems that for decades plagued local urban waterways such as the Chelsea River, the Charles River and Boston Harbor.

"It is important that people begin to see cities as ecosystems," said Lord. "People in cities have to interact with the environment and that means we literally have to rethink all the ways city neighborhoods interact with waterways."

The Ecological Cities Conference Web site offers more information about the event.


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