Embracing the Anthropocene

“We all share the enormous task of finding solutions that will allow human and natural life to continue to thrive here in Florida and on a rapidly changing planet,” said UF President Kent Fuchs at the 25th annual Public Interest Environmental Conference at the Levin College of Law.

Embracing the Anthropocene

For our guests who are visiting from elsewhere, on behalf of the University of Florida, I offer you my warmest welcome.

Let me first highlight that this is a student-organized conference.  And, in fact, it has been a student organized conference for 25 years, which, I am told, makes it the longest-running conference at our law college.

This speaks volumes about our students’ passion for, and commitment to, public interest law and its intersection with protecting our environment and sustaining our natural world.  So: Many thanks to Co-Chairs Adam Bentley and Megan Lancaster for continuing a noble legacy.

To me, it makes perfect sense that students would take the lead here, since it is they among us who will experience the greatest consequences of climate change and other human influence on the environment.

It will fall to them … sorry about this, students! … to adapt in a world where coastal cities must try and hold off the sea or migrate to higher ground. Where coral reefs become rarer and where biodiversity plunges. Where extreme weather becomes the norm. A much warmer world. A radically different world.

How to prepare? I think this conference describes a way forward with its theme: “Our Future: Embracing the Anthropocene.”

I take this to mean not embracing in the sense of inevitability. Rather, “embracing” conveys the truth that we all share the enormous task of finding solutions that will allow human and natural life to continue to thrive here in Florida and on a rapidly changing planet.

We already know some of these solutions. Others will emerge in the form of rapidly evolving technologies – technologies such as weather modification and genetic engineering that are already raising difficult ethical questions. What impresses me about your program is its recognition that finding a path forward will depend on all of us.

This is represented by the experts, advocates and students gathered here not only from environmental law, but also from geology, biology, and other disciplines across the university, as well as public advocacy and private groups all across Florida.

We refer to this sort of gathering in academic settings as “multidisciplinary.” But in the context of our shared planet I prefer the word “community.”

By your presence and engagement in this work you represent a community of experts, students and public interest advocates – all putting your heads and your hearts together on behalf of our global community.

With daily headlines highlighting the urgency of reckoning with climate change … and with our home state of Florida so clearly in the crosshairs … your gathering could not be more timely or more needed.

Thank you for being here, thank you again to our Levin College of Law student organizers, and I wish you provocative, productive and inspiring discussions.