IonE sponsors bioenergy conference

The Institute on the Environment tackles major human issues.
Roger Thurow gives his keynote speech for the Global Sustainable Bioenergy Conference Wednesday night at The Minneapolis Marquette Hotel.
September 16, 2010

Enough. That was the resounding message at Wednesday night’s keynote speech at the Institute on the Environment’s Global Sustainable Bioenergy Convention.
The IonE is sponsoring the conference, which is the last of five conferences being held globally in attempts to bring experts and advocates together to develop resolutions to make bioenergy a feasible solution for the world’s energy needs in the future.
The world is facing two major dilemmas, IonE Director Jon Foley said.
First, there is a global food crisis. Across the world, 25,000 people die of hunger each day, said keynote speaker Roger Thurow. “That is the equivalent of 60 fully-loaded jumbo jets being crashed each day,” he said.
The second major problem is climate change. Both this and world hunger are major issues that run parallel to each other.
“It is not optional to solve one problem,” Thurow said. “We have to solve both.”
Enough — the time to solve these problems is here and now, was the overall theme of the speech.
Thurow said he hopes to spark outrage about the number of people who are chronically malnourished, as well as inspire people to do something about it.
“It is an outrage that we have brought hunger with us into the 21st century,” he said. “Shame on us.”
Thurow also explained how much aid has been dedicated to subsequent global problems, such as AIDS, pointing out that the same attention has not been given to feeding the hungry.
The speech was the highlight of the three-day conference, held at the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis. The workshop’s goal is to cumulate ideas and identify potential funders for bioenergy resolutions, said John Sheehan, Scientific Program Coordinator for the IonE.
Similar workshops have been held in Africa, Asia Latin America and Europe.
The majority of the conference, which lasted from Tuesday to Thursday, was speeches and breakout sessions on sustainable bioenergy.
“In other words, [we] put more meat on the bones of what bioenergy means,” Sheenan said.
But the speech was an important reminder to attendees that the hunger crisis must be solved as well, possibly in collaboration with the energy problem.
“There are potential synergies between biofuels and hunger,” Thurow said. “We can’t have success while hunger is rampant.”
University of Minnesota senior Ashley Bennett said the speech was inspiring.
“It’s easy to get really focused on school and other things, so it is inspiring to see someone so passionate about [solving problems],” she said.
The next steps will be to continue gathering supporters, including scientists, policy makers and funding, Sheenan said. “At this point what we’ve done is a completely voluntary effort. [We’ve] scraped together what money we had to organize meetings and discussions.”
For now, the IonE and conference organizers hope to shift focus from what is most probable, to what is most desirble, Sheehan said. Solving both hunger and energy crises is the idea.
“I’m pretty haunted,” Foley said of the problems facing the world today. “On your way home tonight, think about what you are going to do about this.”

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