Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter theme semester to explore water, related issues

Water covers 70 percent of the Earth, makes up more than half of the human body and is necessary for life. But only 3 percent of Earth's water is fresh and less than 1 percent is available for human use.


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Careless use of water is creating a global crisis, from shortages and pollution to the rampant spread of water-borne diseases, government conflicts and damaged ecosystems. Even the Great Lakes, which surround Michigan and contain 20 percent of the Earth's fresh surface water, are threatened with toxic chemicals and invasive species.

The Winter 2011 Water Theme Semester will give students and community members a chance to dive into the complex issues related to water. The semester is sponsored by LSA, the Program in the Environment, the Exhibit Museum of Natural History, the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and the Michigan Society of Fellows.

Lectures, courses, films, symposia and an ice concert will explore water from diverse perspectives. Water in art and literature, its role in history, the origins and physics of water on Earth and beyond, and the global crisis will be discussed. Solutions to pollution and water conservation also will be examined. A water-careers fair is on tap for Feb. 16 and a Huron River clean up is planned for April.

"The good fortune that has placed us in the Great Lakes basin, where water is seemingly abundant, requires us both to consider the water-related challenges close to home and the horrible problems of millions across the world who are not as fortunate as we in this respect," says Terrence McDonald, dean of LSA. "The organizers of the water semester should be applauded for all the opportunities they have provided for us to consider these critical issues."

The semester kicks off at noon Wednesday with a free ice percussion concert on the Diag by Michael Gould, associate professor at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the Residential College, and friends, using instruments made from ice.

Two free public lectures in January are among the semester's highlights.

Cameron Davis, senior adviser on the Great Lakes at the Environmental Protection Agency and former president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, will discuss: "Knowing Our Place: The World's Water and the Great Lakes" at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Hussey Room in the Michigan League.

Sylvia Earle, award-winning oceanographer and a National Geographic Explorer in Residence, will deliver the keynote lecture "The World Is Blue" at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 in Rackham Auditorium. Earle will discuss new technologies vital to understanding global warming, sea level rise, changes in ocean chemistry, biodiversity and marine ecosystems.