Antoinette WinklerPrins, Director for Environmental Programs, Johns Hopkins University, Advanced Academic Programs, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences shares her take on the top environmental challenges of today. She pairs each issue with a film selection from our 24th Annual Festival to help understand each challenge better.
1) Climate Change: Here in the second decade of the 21st century this is perhaps the biggest environmental challenge as it is so broad in scope yet with impacts are all scales and so much yet unknown in scale and consequence. Models are ever more sophisticated but down-scaling remains a challenge, yet it is as the local level that human and other populations will sense the increase in climate variability, with much greater variance than we are used to dealing with. This impacts human societies as well as species distributions and ecosystems functioning.
2) Sustainable Agriculture: Industrial agriculture has been tremendous at feeding the world, but as currently practiced is environmentally and socially unsustainable with innumerable environmental and human health consequences. Rethinking how food is produced will help restore natural and human communities and bring agriculture back into being a sustainable use of the earth.
3) Deforestation: The challenge of preserving standing forest while supporting local livelihoods has been an environmental challenge for decades. Conceiving of the forest not just of standing lumber but of its ecosystem services has helped stem their destruction, yet it continues throughout the world, especially in places where vigilance and alternatives do not exist.
4) Oceans: Long neglected as a space worthy of conservation, its vastness seemingly taking care of all of the assault rendered upon it, the care and conservation of the world’s oceans is finally garnering as much greater attention as its terrestrial counterpart. Home to innumerable species, many still unknown, and the source of livelihoods for people everywhere, the care of the oceans is paramount as it continues to be the world’s garbage dump and subject to the consequences of global climate change.
5) Mining Impacts: The environmental consequences of mining, never far from the focus of environmentalists, become sharpened again with the ascendancy of hydraulic fracking. Pitting communities against each other and reaching into landscapes that had appeared to have escaped from mining’s harm, the environmental and social consequences of 21st century mining are important to consider by those living far away from their central stage.