RU’s Student Leadership Summit Planned for Oct. 23-25

Roosevelt’s Center for Student Involvement (CSI) is accepting applications for its annual Student Leadership Summit which takes place Oct. 23 – 25 at Camp Tecumseh in Indiana. Students who exhibit leadership skills or want to learn more about becoming a leader on campus and in their community are strongly encouraged to apply. Applications can be picked up in WB 323 during normal business hours. The application deadline is Oct 9th, 2015.

Contact the Chris Littrell, assistant director of CSI, with any questions.

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Chicago Idealist Grad School Fair at UIC on Oct. 5th

Students and alumni of the Sustainability Studies Program and of RU in general: check out the Idealist Grad School Fair scheduled for 5-8pm on Oct. 5th at UIC.  Here you can:

  • Learn about admissions requirements and application deadlines for graduate programs in social work, public policy, nonprofit management, international affairs, public interest law, social entrepreneurship, and many more
  • Speak with graduate admissions advisors from local, national and international universities (including our very own Roosevelt University)

The fair is free and open to anyone considering graduate school. Watch these two short videos to see why you should attend the fair and what it looks like.

Day/Time: Monday, Oct. 5th, 5-8pm
Place: UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL

Hosted by the University of Illinois, Chicago, Department of Public Administration and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

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The Pope as Environmental Advocate

Editor’s Note: As the Pope gets ready this morning to address the US Congress in Washington DC, it’s worth noting that his public statements and official writings on climate change and the human relation to nature have created an unprecedented global dialogue on these pressing ecological issues. The pontiff’s critique of capitalism and technology is both politically challenging and refreshingly rigorous given the imperatives of climate change, environmental injustice, and persistent global poverty. Here we reprint an essay by Rebecca Bratspies of New York City, originally published on The Nature of Cities blog on 23 Sept 2015.  

Pope Francis visits the United States in late September 2015.  He will speak in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia, including an address at the United Nations and to a full Congress. His visit will be an opportunity for reflection and—who knows—might possibly be a turning point in the United States’ long, tortuous debate about climate change. The Pope’s recent Encyclical on the Environment and Climate Change, Laudato si, was certainly a welcome acknowledgement that an unimaginable crisis is upon us. His urgent appeal not only recognized the immensity of the sustainability challenge we face, but also called for immediate action.

By situating a duty to care about environmental degradation squarely within the Catholic religious tradition, Pope Francis may have shown us a path beyond the political and ideological thicket that has for too long stymied any genuine public conversation about climate change here in the United States. As Rob Verchickput it, Pope Francis has the power to “vouch” that climate change is real, that it is happening now, and that urgent action is required.

With any luck, his visit to the United States will give him many opportunities to be the climate change “voucher” we so desperately need. Speaking directly to the likes of Oklahoma Senator Inhofe, the infamous “Senator with a snowball,” the earnest chemist turned priest might be able to open hearts and minds too long closed to the frightening changes going on, and to the deep injustice that climate change perpetrates against the most vulnerable among us. Barring unforeseen catastrophes, Pope Francis’s words will dominate the news cycle. That means that he has a unique opportunity to focus global and national attention on the looming ecological catastrophe that is climate change, and to bring its tragic consequences into the popular media’s 24/7 coverage of his visit.


Catholic Church England and Wales/

I was recently asked by Newsday to reflect on what I would say to Pope Francis. What came to mind immediately was a line from the New Union Prayer Book: “No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire.” For me, this line from the prayer welcoming the Sabbath encapsulates the sustainability challenge—how to meet the needs and aspirations of 7.4 billion people while also keeping our impact on the earth within planetary boundaries.

As a species, we are failing miserably in this task. We poison our air, land, and water to “build our fire,” while pumping alarming amounts of carbon into our atmosphere in the process. Unchecked, human exploitation of the planet has created environmental “haves” and “have-nots”—permitting a “throwaway” lifestyle for the few, while leaving billions in abject poverty.

This disparity is as true within nations as it is between them. Looking more closely at how just one or two pollutants affect people in a single city can help make the distributional justice concerns clear. The New York metro region as a whole ranks unfavorably high for air pollution—the 12th worst metro area in the country. In 2014, Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island all received F grades from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution. The health impacts New Yorkers suffer because of these unacceptable levels of pollution are nothing short of disastrous. According to the New York Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, ozone and particulate matter, two common pollutants from combustion of fossil fuels, are directly responsible for 3,400 premature deaths in NYC each year. For perspective, that means that on average, eight to ten times as many New Yorkers are killed by just these two pollutants as are murdered in any given year.

The morbidity effects are even more striking. These pollutants are responsible for more than 2,000 asthma-related hospital admissions, and over 6,900 asthma-related emergency room visits, each year.

These statistics are grim and getting worse. And, the distribution of this environmental suffering is staggeringly unequal. Asthma rates rise dramatically as income goes down. In New York, asthma rates for those with annual household incomes below $15,000 is more than double the rates for households with annual incomes exceeding $75,000 (15 percent versus 6.8 percent). Over 17 percent of African-American children suffer from asthma, compared to 8.7 percent for white children and 11 percent for Latino/a children. Children under four years of age from low-income areas are more than four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than children from high-income areas. Here, in these few statistics about the relationship between one disease and one or two pollutants, we see the entire climate justice problem writ small.

The Pope has been an eloquent voice for the current and projected victims of climate change. Over the next few days, he will have the biggest possible platforms from which to try to turn that eloquence into action. Pope Francis will address the entire world as he opens the United Nations Sustainability Summit.  He will then speak to the United States during an unprecedented address to a joint session of Congress. The Pope’s remarkable popularity with Catholics, non-Catholics, and, indeed, even with atheists, suggests that his words will matter.

Both addresses will give Pope Francis the opportunity to make real the crises of climate change. The ice is melting, the seas are rising, and we are on track for catastrophe. Those suffering first (and perhaps most) contributed least to the problem and benefited least from the development and exploitation that got us here. Pope Francis can help every-day Americans appreciate that climate change is far more than an esoteric scientific question—it is an immediate, moral one. He can breathe life into New York’s asthma statistics, and bring home the grave environmental inequalities our lifestyle creates.

I hope that Pope Francis will use his American visit to emphasize that while sustainability is a question of survival, it is also a question of justice—environmental justice. Billions of people live in penury, contributing virtually nothing to the planetary crisis, while we privileged few tear the world apart to make our fires. The children of New York deserve more; the children of the world deserve more!

Rebecca Bratspies
New York City
Reprinted from The Nature of Cities

Posted in climate change, ecology, ethics, news, policy, pollution, social justice | 1 Comment

In a Time of Extinction, a Call to Life: Music and Spoken Word Performance in Rockford IL, Sept. 28th

In a Time of Extinction, a Call to Life”
Monday, September 28th, 2015, 7:00pm
Rockford Theater
323 Park Avenue Rockford, IL 61101
Sponsored by Severson Dells Nature Center
Call 815-­335-­2915 for reservations
Free and open to the public!

Kathleen Dean Moore

Kathleen Dean Moore

Author/Philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore and Concert Pianist Rachelle McCabe combine to present a very moving and powerful presentation on the theme of extinction. Their collaboration began when McCabe heard Moore speak about climate action, a speech that she heard as music. They are both convinced of the power of music, and of the need for more powerful calls to action.

“Frederick Nietzsche wrote that we have art in order not to die of the truth,” Moore says. “This performance is art that allows us to tell the terrible truths about global warming and mass extinction, in a way that enters into peoples’ hearts, rather than breaks them.”

Rachelle McCabe (photo: OSU)

Rachelle McCabe (photo: OSU)

Both the creative process and the performance are unusual, maybe unique. McCabe chose the music and performs a powerful interpretation. Moore has *written to* the music, weaving words into the silences between the variations, creating an echoing conversation, a call and response.

Supported by Forest Preserves of Winnebago, Wild Ones Rock River, University of Illinois Extension, Sally and Jim Roberts, Forest City 350 Climate Coalition, Winnebago County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Kathleen Dean Moore is one of the Northwest’s best known nature writers, winner of the Oregon Book Award and the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Award. Her recent co-­edited book is Moral Ground: Ethical Actions for a Planet in Peril. Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emerita at Oregon State University, she speaks around the country  about the moral urgency of stopping a global carbon catastrophe.

Rachelle McCabe, concert pianist and Professor of Music at Oregon State University, enjoys an international career as an artist-­teacher and as a solo recitalist and highly respected chamber musician. She has performed extensively in the United States, Canada, Southeast Asia and England, and has been heard on NPR’s Performance Today, the CBC, and PBS television.

Testimonials for the Program

“A POWERFUL blend. The music and words harmonized in a symbiosis hard to imagine before hearing it tonight. The two of you become a unique performance.”

— Brooke Collison, Oregon State University

“It was truly exceptional. I had no idea what to expect. I was deeply moved by the power, eloquence, wisdom, urgency, and insight of the presentation. The synergy of the music and the reading was brilliant. Why? Because there was such integrity in the sharing of voices. The symmetry between the two of you was magnificent. The Rachmaninoff piece (and the performance) was stunning and your language (and delivery) sent me to so many different places, mainly emotional. And that’s what I needed. Not another intellectual experience, but rather a revitalization of the emotional connection to the planetary emergency.”

— Mitchell Thomashaw, former president, Unity College

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88th Annual Water & Environment Conference in Chicago Sept. 26-30

Roosevelt students and faculty are invited to attend the 88th Annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference, or WEFTEC 2015®, the largest conference of its kind, from September 26th to 30th at McCormick Place South, Chicago IL.



WEFTEC attracts approximately 20,000 water industry professionals who will participate in hundreds of events, including educational workshops & sessions, tours of local treatment facilities, and the community service project hosted by our WEF Students & Young Professionals Committee. The water quality industry is responsible for treating water so that it is not a threat to public health, protecting fragile ecosystems through pollution and sediment control, plus more!

The conference features a special opportunity for local students who are interested in or currently studying in the areas of Biology, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Technology, Mathematics, Natural/Earth Sciences, Sustainability, and Public Health to experience a “Weekend at WEFTEC.” Check this link for more program details.



In addition to WEFTEC, the Water Environment Federation has a dedicated membership network of students and young professionals who truly believe in being stewards for the global water community. The WEF student membership package is designed for the specific needs of students — who will become future water quality professionals — as it offers WEF student members a solid foundation on which to build their careers, develop leadership skills and gain instant credibility with water quality leaders.

Learn more about WEF student membership here.

Even if you are unable to attend WEFTEC for a full weekend, take advantage of visiting its  exhibition floor where more than 1,000 exhibitors display the latest in water quality research technology and services. The exhibition floor is complimentary for students, young professionals and academic professionals and requires a simple online registration prior to entry. Visit  for more information.

For questions, contact Dianne Crilley at

Posted in activities, conferences, ecology, events, pollution, science, students, water

Water, Sustainability, & the City: A Public Lecture by RU Alumnus Damon Williams on Sept 29th

SUST Williams Event Flyer 2015-09-29Roosevelt University’s Chicago Campus will host a public lecture by alumnus Damon Williams (BS, ’69 physics) on Tuesday, September 29 at 4 p.m. in the Wabash Building, Room 616. Though Chicago is located on Lake Michigan and thus has an excellent municipal water source (for the most part), we do not have an unlimited supply and thus need to find better ways to conserve our freshwater resources and improve the quality of the wastewater we treat and release in our Chicago area waterways.

Williams, a civil engineer who has had a successful career as a water/wastewater management professional, most recently in Phoenix AZ, will discuss wastewater treatment, water recycling, urban water conservation in arid environments, current drought and conservation measures in California, and what those issues can teach us about how we use (and abuse) water in Chicago.

The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served (but no bottled water — only Chicago tap!). For more information, contact Professor Mike Bryson (, Professor and Director of the Sustainability Studies Program.

This event is co-sponsored by RU’s Sustainability Studies Program and the Department of Physical Resources. Click here for a pdf version of the event flier.

Posted in alumni, cities, education, events, Roosevelt, science, water

New Report Finds that a Transition to Low-carbon Cities Could Save US$17-22 Trillion Dollars

Hi folks, this is Graham Pickren, new faculty member in Sustainability Studies here at Roosevelt University.  I’ve just joined the program after completing my PhD in geography at the University of Georgia as well as a postdoc at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.  I’m excited to be here!  I’ll be blogging here regularly and am looking forward to being a part of the conversation about sustainability issues in Chicago, the Midwest, and beyond.  I have a wide range of interests, including urban geography, urban political ecology (I’ll be blogging about what that is in future posts), and debates about transitions to some kind of alternative, ‘green’ economy.

Towards keeping that conversation going, I’m sharing some good news from the Guardian this week, where they covered a new report from the Global Commission on Energy and Climate that analyzed the cost savings that accrue from cities making investments in better infrastructure, waste management, public transit, and green buildings.  All told, the report finds cities can save $17-22 TRILLION dollars while avoiding the equivalent of 3.7 gigatonnes of carbon emissions a year, which is more than India’s current total emissions.  The real kicker from the Guardian article is this quote:

The finding upends the notion that it is too expensive to do anything about climate change – or that such efforts would make little real difference. Not true, said the researchers.

Specifically, the report cites a few successful projects from around the world that demonstrate the wisdom of placing cities at the forefront of building more resilient (and resourceful) communities:

  • Bus Rapid Transit: The economic returns of Johannesburg’s Bus Rapid Transit system in its first phase were close to US$900 million.
  • Building efficiency: Singapore’s “Green Mark” program, for instance, which aims to cover 80% of its buildings by 2030, could see a reduction in building electricity use of 22% and net economic savings of over US$400 million.
  • Cycling: Copenhagen’s planned Cycle Super Highways are estimated to have an internal rate of return on investment of 19% per year.

“Cyclists at red 2” by heb@Wikimedia Commons

One of the real stumbling blocks for significant action on climate change has always been the incorrect notion that transitioning to low-carbon futures is simply too expensive to be pursued.  Politicians can easily hide behind these kinds of statements, but politicians also think in terms of dollars and cents (votes too?).  For better or worse (I’m leading towards worse…), economists have the ear of our political leaders here in the US and elsewhere.  So studies like this one provide real ammunition for the political fight that these kinds of transitions entail.

Of course, amidst all the good news here, we can still debate the explicit assumption that economic growth as currently understood (increases in GDP) is commensurable with any kind of sustainable future.  Alternatively, notions of ‘degrowth’ have been around for a long time but are starting to game some traction.  A recent issue of the journal Sustainability Science featured a group of articles probing the details of degrowth as a philosophy and practice.  An editorial introducing the special issue on degrowth argues that

“the pathway towards a sustainable future is to be found in a democratic and redistributive downscaling of the biophysical size of the global economy.  In the context of this desired transformation, it becomes imperative to explore ways in which sustainability science can explicitly and effectively address one of the root causes of social and environmental degradation worldwide, namely, the ideology and practice of economic growth.”

There’s a big debate going on here, but for the sake of brevity it’s worth simply stating that there are a number of paradigms at play when we think about transitioning to a more sustainable future.  Whether that future equals conventional economic growth + low-carbon infrastructure or a more radical restructuring of our very notions of sustainability and a good life is something I feel is at the heart of what sustainability studies is all about.  In future posts, I’ll take on this debate more directly, but for now I urge the interested reader to check out the editorial in Sustainability Science for an excellent primer.

Posted in biking, cities, climate change, economics, planning, policy, science | 1 Comment