21st Westheimer Peace Symposium to Focus on Water Issues

Theme Is 'WaterCARE: Conservation, Access, Responsibility, Equality'

October 14, 2011

Water, the lifeblood of the Earth and all living things, will take center stage as Wilmington College presents the 21st annual Westheimer Peace Symposium Oct. 19.

This year’s theme is “WaterCARE: Conservation, Access, Responsibility, Equality.”

The symposium is free of charge.

The all-day event will include Charles Fishman presenting “The New Age of Water: Re-Imagining How We Use Water, and How We Think About It” at 10 a.m.; Dr. Aaron Wolf, “Healing the Enlightenment Rift: Rationality, Spirituality and Shared Waters,” 1:15 p.m.; Wilmington College Chorale, “Water Song,” 2:45 p.m.; the showing of the film Gasland, 3:45 p.m.; and Chad Pregracke, “Helping to Clean America’s Rivers,” 7:30 p.m.

All presentations will be held in the Hugh G. Heiland Theatre in Boyd Cultural Arts Center with the exception of the showing of Gasland, which will be held in the McCoy Room of Kelly Center.

Charles Fishman says have been living through a 100-year-long golden age of water. We never think about water's availability, we never hesitate to run a bath because of the water bill, and we never worry about whether our tap water will make us sick.

But that golden age of water – where water is unlimited, safe, and free – is over. We are at the dawn of a new age of high-stakes water, an era in which supplies and systems are under pressure from growing populations, surging economic growth, and dramatic swings in weather.

In this new age of water, we'll pay more, but we'll waste less. And we'll have to be much smarter about every drop. We won't lack water – the global water crisis is mostly a scary myth. But we won't be able to ignore our water anymore. The current generation of college students will reach adulthood with a much different view of water than the one held by their parents.

Fishman, award-winning investigative journalist and author of The Big Thirst, will share a persuasive, fascinating, and urgent primer on the history and future of water, from a factory in Vermont with water so clean it is considered poisonous, to villages in India that have 24-hour-a-day cell phone service but no water service at all.

Fishman has spent the last three years circling the globe – from Las Vegas to New Delhi – to uncover how the world of water is changing, and what the enormous implications are for each of us, no matter where we live.

Dr. Aaron Wolf noted that, from the Klamath basin in the Pacific Northwest to the Jordan River in the arid and hostile Middle East, water conflicts are inherent and increasingly disruptive.

Water which crosses boundaries – be they economic sectors, legal or political jurisdictions, cultural divides, or international borders – sets the stage for disputes between users trying to safeguard access to a vital resource, while protecting the natural environment. Without strategies to anticipate, address, and mediate between competing users, intractable water conflicts are likely to become more frequent, more intense, and more disruptive in the American West, the United States, and around the world.

Oregon State University's Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation is a broader, more integrative approach that explicitly integrates human, policy and scientific dimensions of water resources within the framework of governance and sustainability, and focuses training and research on all facets of water conflict transformation.

The program serves as a training, resource and information hub for students, citizens, officials, and business leaders in Oregon, across the United States and internationally, facilitating dialogue on critical water issues across diverse values and perspectives.

The College Chorale, Wilmington College’s premiere student choral group, will perform a program of music consistent with the day’s theme focusing on water. Music professor Catherine Roma directs the group.

Roma noted that, as the Westheimer presenters re-image water use and responsibility, rivers and preserving their beauty, and the “moral dimensions of planetary stewardship, “the College Chorale will “create the sound portrait of precious waters, rivers and rain to complement WaterCARE.

The group will draw from musical traditions of the Caribbean, Africa and the United States.

“Our aural soundscape will accentuate the sustaining, life-giving and spiritual force of rain and water,” she said.

The film Gasland looks at the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history that has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology called "fracking" or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a "Saudi Arabia of natural gas" just beneath us.

But is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country road trip to find the answer to this question. A nearby Pennsylvania town that was recently drilled reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire.

This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called Gasland. Part verite' travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown, Gasland is a cross-country odyssey with unexpected humor, uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination.

Q&A following the film will be facilitated by a representative of a community group that is currently fighting against fracking in Yellow Springs.

As a teen, Chad Pregracke started picking up trash from the Mississippi River. Over a decade, Living Lands and Waters, known as “America’s only “industrial strength” river clean-up organization, has pulled over 4 million pounds of garbage from America's rivers.

Living Lands and Waters relies on volunteers to aid in the protection, preservation and restoration of the natural environment of the nation's major rivers and their watersheds, to expand awareness of environmental issues and responsibility encompassing the river, and to create a desire and an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility for a cleaner river environment.

Pregracke will tell a compelling and often humorous story of growing up on the river and how his river experiences led to his unique vision to clean up the Mississippi River.

From the darkness of underwater shell-diving to brightness of open-air community cleanups, his story embodies the importance of setting goals (one river and one piece of garbage at a time) and illustrated how determined hard work and persistence pay off.


21st Annual Westheimer Peace Symposium

Time: 10:00 AM until 9:00 PM
Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Location: Heiland Theatre and Kelly Center

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