Yale professor: Society needs to innovate, change to ensure Earth is preserved for future generations

New Haven Register; September 21, 2016

NEW HAVEN >> Welcoming participants from across the United States and 10 other countries, Yale University professor Dan Esty opened the first-ever Yale Sustainability Leadership Forum Wednesday with his list of 10 ways society needs to adjust to ensure Earth is preserved for future generations.

Closing out that list was a renewed focus on innovation and calls for all of society to become part of the fight against climate change.

“Change is really hard to bring about even when the status quo is not working,” Esty said. “Because we cling to it.”

“Sustainability requires not just change, but transformative change,” he added.

Further, not innovating for a more sustainable future is not an option anymore, Esty said. And that includes everyone.

“I think every household and every individual will be called upon to participate,” he added.

While environmental sustainability is about preserving the planet for future generations, that can be achieved simultaneously with economic growth, he said.

The focus can no longer be on short-term gain, he said, adding that he thought it would be appropriate to fine companies for any emissions caused in manufacturing or operations, not just the emissions over permitted levels.

Esty, the Hillhouse professor of environmental law and policy and the director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, was the first of more than 10 speakers who will give presentations at the first-ever leadership forum the campus has hosted. Many other presenters also are Yale professors and affiliates, including Mary Evelyn Tucker, Todd Cort and Lisa Dale. Esty will close out the conference Friday morning with a presentation titled, “Climate Change as a Case Study.”

Edward Wittenstein, director of international relations and leadership programs at Yale, introduced Esty Wednesday and said the university has long been dedicated to sustainability at an academic, as well as practical, level. There are 15 institutes connected to the study of environmental sustainability on campus, Wittenstein said, and Yale also has dedicated a large number of resources to reducing its own carbon footprint.

Wittenstein also said Yale was also home to the first School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the nation.

The forum was designed to bring together policy and industry leaders to talk about sustainable practices in all areas of society, including business, law, education and public health. When asked whether educating the public about the importance of environmental sustainability was an important part of the fight against climate change, Esty said that simple education was not enough.

“People recycle today because they’ve been educated to do it,” he said. “We have changed behaviors in some ways by re-education, but there’s a limit to that. We need incentives.”


Source: Cross-posted from New Haven Register