Symposium to focus on environmental challenges of global population growth

November 2, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Ecological Sciences and Engineering Interdisciplinary Graduate Program is leading a campus-wide symposium on Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 8 and 9) to highlight the environmental issues of population growth.

"Solutions for 7: 7 Billion People - 7 Grand Challenges" will examine biodiversity, climate, energy, food security, land-use change, social equity and water in the context of the global challenges they pose and the opportunities they present.

"We're seeing the impact from our planet's rapid population growth in the form of collapsing fisheries, famine, mass extinctions, deforestation, rising global temperatures and many other phenomena that harm both the world's ecosystems and our global society," said Michael Schuster, symposium chair and a doctoral student in ecological sciences and engineering.

"At the same time, we are presented with an enormous opportunity to respond to these challenges in innovative ways to ensure a brighter future for coming generations. That's the context for this year's symposium."

The fifth annual event, which is open to the public, is in the Hall for Discovery Learning and Research in Discovery Park. Attendance to all events is free, but registration is encouraged because space is limited. To register, go online to

John Seager, president and chief executive officer of Population Connection and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official during the Clinton administration, will deliver the keynote address at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 8) as part of the Discovery Lecture Series. His talk is titled "A World of 7 Billion: Population, the Environment and Social Equity."

The film "Mother: Caring for 7 Billion" will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 9) in the Purdue Electrical Engineering Building, Room 170. Free popcorn will be provided for the screening, which is sponsored by the Ecological Sciences and Engineering-IGP, the Environmental Science Club and Boiler Green Initiative in collaboration with the Agronomy Club.

"The world's population has now reached 7 billion people, a staggering level of growth for a planet whose population was only 6 billion just over a decade ago," said Purdue agronomy professor Linda Lee, head of the ESE program. "With this growth - and future growth - comes major challenges that will force humanity to reconsider its responsibility to the planet."

A research poster session for graduate and undergraduate students is from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday (Nov. 9) in the Hall for Discovery and Learning Research atrium and Room 131.

Technical discussion sessions are planned on the subjects of "Sustainable Energy: Policy, Economy and the Environment" and "Population Centers: Environmental Challenges in an Urban Reality" from 12:30-2 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 9) in HDLR, Rooms 143 A-B.

A second session will follow that afternoon from 2:15-3:45 p.m. in the same location on "Agricultural Challenges: When Food, Energy and Ecosystems Compete," concurrent with "The Bottom 2 Billion: Is Science and Engineering Leaving Them Behind?"

Seager, who joined Population Connection in 1996, also served as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Peter H. Kostmayer, D-Pa., and was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs and Interior committees. Seager has written on population topics that include the links to poverty, future outcomes and the concern about population decline in highly developed nations.

Population Connection is a grassroots group for population education and advocacy with 140,000 members and supporters, including 50,000 educators.

Event sponsors are Discovery Park; Office of the Vice President for Research; Purdue Water Community; College of Health and Human Sciences; schools of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Industrial Engineering; Purdue Global Engineering Program; the departments of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Forestry and Natural Resources, and Botany and Plant Pathology; and the Environmental and Ecological Engineering Program.

The annual symposium, a student-led interdisciplinary event, provides undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to present their research and interact with experts in various environmental fields. It also raises awareness about the ESE program and other environmentally focused initiatives at Purdue and beyond.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources: Michael Schuster,

                 Linda Lee, 765-494-8612,