Scientists, Researchers, Activists to Discuss Environment Issues at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Biologist and environmental movement pioneer Barry Commoner will be the keynote speaker at a special forum at the University of Massachusetts celebrating the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. On Tuesday, April 25, "The Future of Our Global Environment: What We Have Done, What We Must Do" will be held at 7 p.m. at Mahar Auditorium on the UMass campus. The event is free and open to the public. The UMass Office of Waste Management and the UMass environmental sciences program are co-sponsors of the forum, part of the Amherst Give-Your-Car-a-Break Week events.

Commoner recently stepped down as director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS), a biology think-tank he helped organize in 1966 at Washington University, in St. Louis. The CBNS was later moved to the campus of Queens College of the City University of New York. Commoner is best known in the science community for his studies of plant viruses, and for his watershed research into the role of free radicals in cell metabolism. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and author of numerous books on biology and ecology, Commoner has long insisted that scientists have a moral obligation to keep the public well-informed about the effects of science and technology on the human habitat.

In his speech, Commoner will examine the environmental movement over the last 30 years, and will discuss new areas of concern. He says he is particularly worried about biotechnology, and fears the industry is making the same mistake the petrochemical industry made 50 years ago - namely, it is taking material from nature to create new entities without knowing if the combined material is compatible with the natural world.

A panel of experts drawn from local colleges and environmental organizations will discuss many aspects of air pollution, global warming, and environmental action. Panelists will include the following:

Amherst activist Lois Barber, who co-founded EarthAction, a network of organizations, journalists, and lawmakers focusing on global environment, peace, and social justice issues. Launched in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the EarthAction Network includes more than 1,700 partner organizations from 150 countries. An author, teacher, and artist, Barber says she is "an organizer, by nature."

UMass geosciences department head Raymond Bradley, who has advised governments and international agencies on climate change, based on his extensive studies in the Arctic, China, the Andes, and central Europe. Bradley appears tonight on a special PBS program on global warming, "What''s Up with the Weather?" According to Bradley, "We have no evidence that there was (ever) a decade (as warm as) the 1990s."

Jens Christiansen, a professor of economics and environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College. He will discuss the economic and political aspects of global environmental issues, especially climate change and how the international community must address it. Christiansen is involved in creating an environmental studies program at MHC to offer students an interdisciplinary perspective on environmental questions.

Christine Lindstrom, the campus programs director for MassPIRG''s student chapters. She will discuss how Massachusetts grassroots organizations have brought recycling, pesticide use, and other environmental issues to the forefront in local political elections. For the past eight years, she has coordinated numerous grassroots initiatives, including the campaign to update the Bottle Bill and the Filthy Five campaign.

Plant pathologist William Manning, of the UMass department of microbiology, who has served on the most recent EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which is mandated to develop the new, national, air-quality standard for ozone. Manning says "large areas of the U.S. are not in compliance with the Federal Clean Air Act for ... ozone, including all of Massachusetts."

For more information, call John Pepi, waste management, at 413/577-3013, or Guy Lanza, environmental sciences, at 413/545-3747.