ESA meeting kicks off with award to Senator, opening plenary

The ESA meeting kicked off last night with the opening plenary session and presentation of the ESA Regional Policy Award.  ESA’s Director Katherine McCarter welcomed everyone to the meeting, citing the fact that her first ESA meeting as director was also in Albuquerque in 1997. She pointed out that the meeting’s theme, “Ecological Knowledge and a Global Sustainable Society,” is particularly relevant given the world’s financial crisis. The time is ripe, she said, for ecological knowledge to come to the forefront of political and social decision-making as we revamp our financial system.

ESA’s President Sunny Power then introduced Sarah Cobb, a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico. Udall won this award in its second year in part because, said Power, “of his continued efforts to return bipartisanship to science policymaking.” Although Udall could not attend, he sent a recorded DVD message which was played on a big screen. (For the record, the Senator looks exactly like his press photo.)

The ten-minute message spoke about the interface between science and policymaking, describing the differences between an institution where facts and quantities rule, and one where emotions, interests and social impact have the most clout. He spoke of his efforts to bridge that gap, and said that “science can and should produce more enlightened policy.”  He accepted the award with honor because, as he put it, “it means I’m on your team.”

The Senator, who has a lifetime environmental voting record of 95 percent according to the LCV scale, was indeed a worthy recipient. We hope that he continues (as he mentioned in his acceptance speech) to push for the passage of clean energy legislation in Congress.

The opening plenary speaker, Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, then gave a riveting talk about the world’s impending water crisis. Her talk touched on the dangers of our current consumption levels for world ecosystem health, but also emphasized that engendered within ecosystem health is public health. She called for a change in the way we value water: not just seeing water as valuable when it provides energy for production or for human drinking sources, but also for the ecosystem services that water ecosystems provide, such as filtration in wetlands and recharge on floodplains. She ended with a social take that called into mind environmental justice. She said, “Everyone in the world should have enough water before anyone has more than enough.”

Stay tuned for more photos!