AlumNights – Future of the Planet 

By Jane Shulman

The message: We must change the way we think about energy use if we want to avoid further environmental devastation of the planet and the eventual extinction of our species. It won’t be easy, but it is possible.

The messengers were Concordia faculty members who presented at The Future of our Planet, the second instalment of the AlumNights series of weekly panel discussions being held through the month of November.

Judith Patterson of Geology presented evidence that the planet is running out of oil. Damon Matthews of Geography explained that carbon dioxide emissions from transportation are a leading cause of climate change. And Jim Grant of Biology noted that environmental effects of our energy use will eventually lead to an uninhabitable planet.

They discussed alternative forms of energy and suggested that governments must improve access to public transportation and develop strategies that make it easier (and less expensive) for people to make green choices.

The series was conceived by Professor Linda Dyer, of the Management Department, and Professor Saul Carliner, of the Education Department. Dyer and Carliner were inspired by a workshop they attended at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services last year.

“One of the exercises involved each faculty member speaking for 10 minutes as if it was the first class of the term,” explained Dyer. “Saul and I were amazed at how interesting it was to have a lay person’s view of all the exciting things that were being done, and we started talking about how we could bring this to people in a public way.”

Dyer and Carliner envisioned a panel format, where each professor could speak on a broad theme from their research and teaching perspective, and then answer audience questions. The hope was that faculty would enjoy the change of pace of speaking in a different forum, where preparing students for exams and essays was not part of the equation.

The pair wrote a proposal that eventually landed on the desk of Arts and Science Alumni Officer Derek Linetsky. Seeing an opportunity to develop the idea into an alumni event, Linetsky set out to discover what themes would interest people most.

The first AlumNights panel, The Fallout of the American Presidential Election, was held the evening after the elections. The Faculty Club was packed and Dyer said the evening popped with lively discussion and debate.

While the panels target Concordia alumni, Dyer has been pleasantly surprised to see a number of students in attendance. She said they are a positive addition to the discussions.

“It’s just been so exciting to see this turn into something real,” said Dyer.


Concordia University