Weston Roundtable Series

collage of photos

Thursdays, 4:15-5:15 PM
1163 Mechanical Engineering, 1513 University Avenue

*unless noted otherwise in the list


The Weston Roundtable is made possible by a generous donation from Mr. Roy F. Weston, a highly accomplished UW-Madison alumnus. Designed to promote a robust understanding of sustainability science, engineering, and policy, these interactive lectures are co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Office of Sustainability. These lectures build on the tremendous success in past years of the Weston Distinguished Lecture Series and the SAGE Seminar Series.

Spring 2019 Schedule

photo of Joshua S. Goldstein

Thursday, January 24
Joshua S. Goldstein
Professor Emeritus of International Relations, American University

Can Nuclear Power Help Solve Climate Change?
As climate change nears potentially disastrous tipping points, is a solution hiding in plain sight? Several countries -- notably Sweden -- have successfully replaced fossil fuels by combining renewable energy with a quick buildout of nuclear power. Following their example, the world could dramatically cut fossil fuel use by mid-century, even as energy consumption continues to rise. Goldstein coauthored the new book, A Bright Future, which climate scientist James Hansen calls "the only viable path for rapid global decarbonization."

photo of Amy Kalkbrenner

Thursday, January 31
Amy Kalkbrenner
Associate Professor, UW-Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health

How Reliance on Combustion Impacts Our Health and What We Can Do
Harmful impacts of air pollutants on human health go beyond the lung. We now know about links with cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, and developmental disorders like autism, even with low levels of exposure. Air pollution is not one entity, but a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals, often arising from combustion in vehicles, power plants, and waste incinerators. How is environmental epidemiology dealing with this complexity to inform actions and policy to best protect the public’s health?

photo of Bill Howe

Thursday, February 7
Bill Howe
Associate Professor, Information School, University of Washington, Co-sponsored by UniverCity Alliance

Beyond Open vs. Closed: Enabling Public-Private Collaboration with Semi-Synthetic Datasets
Data too sensitive to be "open" typically remains "closed" as proprietary information. This dichotomy undermines efforts to make algorithmic decision systems more fair, transparent, and accountable. Access to proprietary data is needed by government agencies to enforce policy, researchers to evaluate methods, and the public to hold agencies accountable; all of these needs must be met while preserving individual privacy and affording oversight by data owners on how the data is used. In this talk, I’ll describe the algorithms we’re developing to generate privacy-preserving and bias-corrected synthetic datasets, and touch on the legal protections that govern their use. These datasets are intended to be shared with academic and private collaborators to experiment with advanced analytics without incurring significant legal risk, and to focus attention on pressing problems in housing, education, and mobility.

photo of Anu Ramaswami

Thursday, February 14
Anu Ramaswami
Charles M. Denny, Jr. Chair of Science, Technology, & Public Policy Humphrey School of Public Affairs University of Minnesota, Co-sponsored by UniverCity Alliance

Sustainable Urban Systems: A New Trans-disciplinary Science
Cities are part of larger engineered systems, like the electricity grid, water supply and transportation systems, which bring natural resources and services to urban populations. The sustainability of cities therefore depends on complex relationships between ecosystems, built infrastructures, and the people and institutions that govern them. Understanding these dynamics requires a a skillful conceptual framework to integrate the theories, laws and models from many disciplines, including environmental science, engineering, ecology, architecture, urban planning, behavioral science, public health and public affairs. This lecture will explore such a tool, the social- ecological-infrastructural-systems (SEIS) framework.

photo of Samuel Tefera

Thursday, February 21
Samuel Tefera
Assistant Professor, Center for African and Oriental Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Planned to Fail or Failed in Planning? The Commune Program and Development Challenges of Pastoral Areas in Ethiopia
The lecture presents a synthesis of the state of pastoralism, policy and development interventions in Ethiopia. It looks into past and present trends, changes and continuities in legislative, livelihood and political contexts.

photo of David S. Wilcove

Thursday, February 28
David S. Wilcove
Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Homeless and Hunted: Deforestation, the Wildlife Trade, and Biodiversity Conservation in Southeast Asia
From orangutans to helmeted hornbills to flying frogs, Southeast Asia harbors an extraordinarily rich fauna that is gravely threatened by two main forces: deforestation and, increasingly, capture for sale as pets, medicines, trophies, and trinkets. I will discuss how deforestation and the wildlife trade are affecting Southeast Asian biodiversity, with a focus on birds. I will also explore how we can use ecological and economic research to develop effective policies to counteract these threats – in some places, some of the time.

photo of

Thursday, March 7
4:30-6:00 PM
1310 Grainger Hall Wisconsin School of Business 975 University Avenue

Business not as usual: Stewards of a sustainable circular economy
The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management invite you to explore the financial and environmental benefits of a circular economy. The latest in sustainable resource management, a circular economy lengthens the life-cycle of products and resources by embracing the age-old adage reduce, reuse, recycle. A circular economy essentially explores the idea that economic growth is not tied directly to the use of finite natural resources, but that instead, material and resources can be reused and recycled in innovative ways that promote progress and economic growth. Join us for an enlightening discussion of this model and its benefits with invited speakers: Mathy Stanislaus Circular Economy Fellow-World Resources Institute Senior Advisor – Platform for Accelerating Circular Economy (World Economic Forum) Jeff Zeman Principal Environmental Engineer, Kohler Company Brian Wycklendt Director Lead and Recycling Strategy, Johnson Controls Inc

photo of Erkan Istanbulluoglu

Thursday, March 14
Erkan Istanbulluoglu
Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle

Climate Variability and Watershed Response as an Integrated Biophysical System
Watersheds respond to climate variability and human impact in a range of ways including hydrological states and fluxes, vegetation biomass and plant functional types, soil erosion landsliding, and sediment yields. Gradual changes in biophysical states could also lead to changes in the watershed response to extreme climatic events such as floods and droughts. We will discuss examples of watershed response to change agents from semi-arid and humid climates and explore types of numerical models for modeling of watershed systems.

photo of Jesse Jenkins

Thursday, March 28
Jesse Jenkins
Postdoctoral Environmental Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

Strategies for Deep Decarbonization of the Electricity Sector
Electricity is the linchpin in global efforts to confront climate change. Despite agreement on the need to decarbonize electricity, there remains considerable uncertainty and debate about the relative importance of various low-carbon resources. Do cost declines for wind, solar, and batteries put us on a glide path to zero carbon? With new nuclear and carbon capture and storage projects struggling to compete—or even complete!—should we abandon these reliable low-carbon resources, or redouble efforts to overcome challenges to their adoption? What role does energy storage or demand flexibility play in all of this? In this seminar, Dr. Jenkins will present insights from two recent publications on affordable and effective pathways to a zero carbon electricity sector.

photo of Kate Clancy

Thursday, April 4
Kate Clancy
Food Systems Consultant Senior Fellow, MISA Visiting Scholar, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Adjunct Professor, Friedman School, Tufts University

Building Successful Interdisciplinary Projects
Despite widespread acknowledgment that interdisciplinary research (IR) is among the most important ways to drive sustainable development, many collaborations fail, and it has not been embraced by many researchers and institutions. The extensive literature on IR provides guidance on the "ingredients for success”: these elements are illustrated by the experience of a seven-year project conducted in the Northeast US on enhancing food security in the region. The lecture offers lessons on how to develop and manage robust interdisciplinary projects, and ideas on how to build more IR capacity.

photo of Bill Lynn

Thursday, April 11
Bill Lynn
Research Scientist, George P. Marsh Institute, Clark University

Deep Sustainability
Sustainability is more than preserving a global elite’s lifestyle or ensuring humanity’s mere survival in an era of rampant environmental change. It is rather about sustaining the wellbeing of people, animals, and nature across the planet, now and into the distant future. Sustainability needs, therefore, to be both scientifically and ethically sound. Its facts and values need to be transparent and accountable to society, while its goals must serve the good of the entire community of life.

photo of Cassandra Thiel, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 18
Cassandra Thiel, Ph.D.
NYU School of Medicine, Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science

Clinically Sustainable: The Possibilities and Challenges of Environmentally Sustainable Healthcare Delivery
Healthcare systems are a critical part of society. Yet, sadly, the vast amounts of energy, water, and physical supplies used in medicine contribute to human disease and planetary degradation. US healthcare is responsible for 10% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and 9% of air pollutants, but the sector is beginning to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices. This lecture will explore current Life Cycle Assessment research to quantify emissions in clinical care. We will discuss model health systems and the challenges of implementing sustainable practices in this unique field.

photo of Jay Labov

Thursday, April 25
Jay Labov
Senior Scientist (Retired), National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Are Wisconsin’s Standards for Sustainability Sustainable?
Educating students about global sustainability has never been more important. In the United States, the question is how to do so at the pre-college level because individual states and school districts oversee and manage so much of our educational policy. The good news? In 2017, the State Of Wisconsin adopted the Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States (NGSS). In 2013, the effort to develop standards that call for the learning of science by doing science, making connections across disciplines, and incorporating principles of engineering and engineering design into the learning of science. Standards for sustainability comprise a significant component of the NGSS. Educators in Wisconsin and the 18 other states that have adopted the NGSS to date thus have a powerful support for their efforts to help students both understand and engage with concepts of sustainability. Effective implementation of standards is a systems problem, however. Institutions of higher education, including UW-Madison, are part of this system. Thus, this session will focus on the potential that standards hold for making education about sustainability a statewide priority, explore components of the education system that could prevent such implementation from being realized, and suggest how UW-Madison can champion a statewide effort to infuse sustainability into education at all levels.