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Free Live Stream This Weekend From Omega Sustainability Conference Featuring Renowned Speakers
Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy demonstrated just how real the threat of climate change is, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) is hosting Where We Go From Here: Opportunities & Solutions for an Interdependent World, a conference that addresses the imperative for examining sustainability issues from a holistic perspective based on the interconnection between human behavior, economic and social systems, and the environment. The conference is Oct. 4-6, and will feature keynote speaker President Bill Clinton, 2005 MacArthur Fellow Majora Carter, environmentalist Paul Hawken, economist Jeremy Rifkin and other major leaders in sustainability. The conference will be available free to the public via live stream on Saturday, Oct. 5 and Sunday, Oct. 6.
As the problems of climate change and dwindling resources manifest themselves more clearly and urgently, the conference will assess the shortcomings of current sustainability efforts—and create a road map for going forward that places whole-systems thinking front and center.
“With ever more frequency and intensity, we are seeing the effects of being out of balance with the earth and each other. We cannot solve this problem without considering the whole—understanding the big picture and finding our place within it," said Robert “Skip" Backus, chief executive officer at Omega and the visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). “We are thrilled that President Clinton will deliver the keynote speech. Omega is proud to initiate the discussion about where we go from here, and to serve as a model for a whole-systems approach to sustainability."
Founded four years ago, the OCSL includes the first green building in America to receive both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications, and has evolved into an emerging environmental leader, offering programs that teach the regenerative environmental practices modeled by the building. Omega Institute is integrating similar designs into other facilities on its Rhinebeck, New York campus. A recent addition to the Omega Women's Leadership Center is the first commercial project in the U.S. to meet Passive House certification standards—the building uses very little energy and the space is designed to reduce heating costs by 75 percent.
“Recognizing our interdependence—to each other and to the planet—is key to finding solutions to our pressing environmental challenges," said Backus.
Where We Go From Here will include keynote talks, panel discussions, stories from the field and a tour of the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living.
Leading economists, environmentalists, philanthropists, designers, architects and activists round out the list of speakers, including:
- President Bill Clinton, Founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the U.S., was the first Democratic president in six decades to be elected twice, and led the U.S. to the longest economic expansion in American history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs. After the leading the White House, President Clinton established the Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs),and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results. clintonfoundation.org
- Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, is an authority on economic sustainability. His books include The Third Industrial Revolution and The Empathic Civilization. foet.org
- Janine Benyus, a biologist, consultant and author of six books, including the classic Biomimicry, is cofounder of the Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes the study and imitation of nature's remarkably efficient designs. biomimicry.net
- David W. Orr is a professor, founder of the Oberlin Project and author of Ecological Literacy. oberlinproject.org
- Majora Carter, recipient of a MacArthur “genius" Fellowship, founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 when few were talking about sustainability, and even fewer, in places like the South Bronx. Since 2008, her consulting company, Majora Carter Group, has exported climate adaptation, urban micro-agribusiness and leadership development strategies for business, government, foundations, universities and economically underperforming communities. majoracartergroup.com
- Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, author and entrepreneur who founded some of the first natural food companies in America to rely solely on sustainable agriculture. paulhawken.com
- Bob Berkebile is an influential sustainable design architect and community planner, a founding principal of BNIM Architects and a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Nature Conservancy and Center for Global Community. bnim.com
- Robert “Skip" Backus is chief executive officer of Omega and the visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. He helped lay the foundation for Omega's environmental and conservation initiatives, including campus recycling and composting, sustainable purchasing and support of local agriculture, water conservation and 100 percent sourcing of campus electricity from wind and solar technology.
- Carla Goldstein, JD, is Omega Institute's chief external affairs officer and cofounder of the Omega Women's Leadership Center. An attorney with 25 years of experience in public interest advocacy, she has contributed to more than 100 city, state and federal laws, and has worked extensively on issues related to women's rights, poverty, public health and social justice.
- Peter Buffett is an Emmy Award-winning musician, composer, philanthropist and author of the New York Times best-seller Life Is What You Make It. peterbuffett.com
- Maya Azucena is an award-winning singer, activist and cultural ambassador. At the 2010 United Nations Summit, she was selected by the Office of Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as the exclusive performer at the Every Woman, Every Child event. She is also a cofounder of the multimedia website MDGFive.com, which raises awareness for maternal health. mayaazucena.com
- Rob Hopkins, author of The Power of Just Doing Stuff and The Transition Handbook, is cofounder of the International Transition Network, a charitable environmental organization. The Independent lists him as one of the top environmentalists in the United Kingdom. The Observer calls him “one of Britain's 50 New Radicals."
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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
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