UI professor emeritus: Global population boom begetting challenges

UI professor emeritus: Global population boom begetting challenges

URBANA — Just within the lifetime of University of Illinois Professor Emeritus David Sherwood, the world's population has tripled to nearly 7.6 billion, and though the rate of growth is declining, U.N. data predict there will be another 2 billion of us by 2050.

"So we've got a lot of folks who are going to join us in the next 33 years," said the 81-year-old Sherwood, who is the former director of the UI Reproductive Biology Training Program and professor emeritus in the colleges of Medicine and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

He will be discussing the challenges created by human population growth on Oct. 8 in the second program of a public seminar series, "The Arc of Human History: Challenges to Sustainability," at First Presbyterian Church of Urbana, 602 W. Green St., U.

As part of the congregation's commitment to taking care of creation by making it an important component of church life, Sherwood has organized an expert panel of speakers — all UI professors — on several timely topics, including challenges to sustainable mineral and energy resources, fresh-water resources and sustainable food availability as well as worrisome trends and practical solutions regarding extinction and biodiversity in the modern era.

Sherwood said he doesn't have a particular favorite in the upcoming series.

"I organized it, because I thought they were all important," said Sherwood, a coordinator of the congregation's earth care team.

The whole series kicks off at 11 a.m. Oct. 1 — after worship services — at the First Presbyterian Church of Urbana with the first program featuring the documentary film, "Journey of the Universe: Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation." Ensuing programs — five altogether — will continue each Sunday at the same time and place through Nov. 5.

The documentary, which is a collaboration of philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme, a California Institute of Integral Studies professor, and Mary Evelyn Tucker with Yale University's Forum on Religion and Ecology, is grounded in contemporary science and explores man's place in the universe.

Sherwood said the seminar series, which is open to the public, is part of a larger commitment in the congregation to taking care of the Earth.

In the late 1990s, Sherwood said the Presbyterian Church decided that earth care should be a component of all aspects of church life, and 20 years later, began certifying earth care congregations — those with activities within worship services, emphasizing the importance of taking care of creation, as well as educational and outreach opportunities. This series is part of their educational and outreach efforts.

He said there are more than 200 Presbyterian congregations in the U.S. that are earth care certified, including Urbana and the First Presbyterian Church in Champaign.

'Arc of Human History: Challenges to Sustainability'

All seminars are free, open to the public and begin at 11 a.m. in the fellowship hall at First Presbyterian Church of Urbana, 602 W. Green St., U. Parking is available in the Orchard Street lot east of the church building.

Oct. 1: "Journey of the Universe: Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation." A documentary film grounded in contemporary science that explores man's place in the universe.

Oct. 8: "The Challenge of Human Population Growth." David Sherwood, professor emeritus, University of Illinois College of Medicine and Liberal Arts and Sciences. For those born before 1950, Earth's finite resources are being shared with three times as many people as when they arrived. Sherwood will describe key factors associated with population that greatly influence human impact on the environment.

Oct. 15: "The Challenge of Sustainable Mineral and Energy Resources." Stephen Marshak, professor, UI Department of Geology. In any building are a myriad materials from the Earth, and the energy used to manufacture these and all other Earth materials comes mostly from fossil fuels or radioactive elements. The discovery, extraction, production and use of the material foundations of modern society have consequences for the environment, and many of these resources are either running out, or come only from places that do not have friendly relations with the U.S.

Oct. 22: "The Challenge of Sustainable Food Availability." Evan Delucia, UI professor, Department of Plant Biology. In the quest to feed an increasing human population, more land under native vegetation is converted to row-crop agriculture. Land conversion and changes in management practices affect the exchange of greenhouse gases and energy with the atmosphere. Diversifying agricultural practices can restore the climate-regulating value of this landscape and increase ecological services without compromising food production.

Oct. 29: "The Challenge of Sustainable Fresh Water Availability." Ximing Cai, UI professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Due to global warming and growing population, many places around the world face water stress threats. This presentation will give an overview of freshwater conditions around the world and what can be done to sustain water security for humans and the rest of nature.

Nov. 5: "Extinction and Biodiversity in the Modern Era: Worrisome Trends and Practical Solutions." Jeffrey Brawn, UI professor, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. The rate at which Earth is losing species is unusually high and expected to increase. Brawn will review why and where we are losing species and, more importantly, what we can do about it.