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Earth's water supply topic of forum

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 06 - October 3, 1996

"Sharing the Earth's Water Supply" will be the topic of the first program in the Quality of Life in the Global Environment series of the Choices and Challenges forums at Virginia Tech.

The program will be held October 17 at the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center. It will explore underlying historical, ethical, legal, and cultural traditions that influence our thinking about water and the natural environment and the links between our personal decisions and our public environmental policies.

The forum will take place from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and is open to the public free of charge, although pre-registration is recommended.

The forum's main session, from 12:30-3 p.m. in the Donaldson Brown auditorium, will feature eminent presenters from the fields of environmental and water policy, natural-resource law, environmental ethics, and history. The session will be broadcast by the PBS Adult Learning Satellite Service to the Hotel Roanoke and other downlink centers around the country.

"Many parts of this country and large areas of the world are facing inadequate supplies of water," according to Doris Zallen, who heads the Choices and Challenges Project in the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. "This is a situation that threatens human health, impairs prospects for agriculture and industry, and jeopardizes the survival of animals and plants. Water is crucial for life. In making decisions about how to share this fragile resource, we will be determining the quality of life of all of earth's residents," Zallen said.

Examining the earth's limited fresh-water resources will serve as the entry point for an exploration of the way humans see their place in nature. "Water-related issues-made real by contemporary case studies-will be used to clarify the ethical, cultural, religious, and legal traditions that have led us to our current view of the natural world and that form the basis of our present ways of thinking about the environment," Zallen said.

There will be a video introduction featuring two case studies, the Colorado River Basin and the Florida Everglades, to focus the conversation of the main session. The main session moderator is Richard C. Collins, professor at the University of Virginia and director of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation. Collins has 15 years' experience as a mediator-facilitator in resolving resource and environmental conflicts.

Panelists for the session are Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project in Cambridge, Mass., and author of Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity; Donald Pisani, professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and author of To Reclaim a Divided West: Water, Law, and Public Policy 1842-1902; Dan Tarlock, professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology and author of Law of Water Rights and Resources; F. Henry Lickers, director of the Department of the Environment for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, and member of several health and environmental policy committees; and Anthony Weston, associate professor of philosophy at Elon College in North Carolina and author of several books, including Back to Earth: Tomorrow's Environmentalism.

Participants at Virginia Tech can also choose from a number of smaller sessions held before and after the main session. Morning session options include government-policy issues, history of American environmentalism, ethical issues, religious traditions, and a water tutorial. Afternoon options include water issues in Appalachia, the Lake Gaston pipeline dispute, cross-cultural views of nature, and literature and ecology.

For brochures and registration forms, call 1-5182. For more information about the conference or the Choices and Challenges Project, call 1-6476; the Internet address is choices@vt.edu.