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Center Celebrates its 20th Anniversary with Slate of Renowned Thought Leaders

September 21, 2016

Category: Academics, Alumni, Environmental Science, Events

 Center for the Environment Facility
at Catawba College

The Center for the Environment at Catawba College is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. One of the ways it is commemorating this milestone is by hosting a slate of speakers who are thought leaders in their fields.

Throughout its two-decade history, the Center has brought renowned speakers to the campus to share new ideas and broaden our knowledge of important issues. This fall the speakers promise to shed light on topics of current concern and tell audiences what they can do to help.



Dianna Cohen
Dianna Cohen, co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition, will speak at the Center on September 29 on "Plastic Pollution: Its Impacts on Our Health and the Health of our Planet and What You Can Do." An artist, Cohen uses plastic bags in her art works.

She helps to raise awareness of ocean waste – the majority of which is non-degradable plastic – and everyday strategies to cut down the amount of single-use, disposable plastic we use and throw away.



Dr. Paul Ehrlich & Dr. Pete Myers
On October 20 prize-winning American biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich, best known for his warnings about the consequences of population growth on limited resources, will join Dr. Pete Myers, founder and CEO of Environmental Health Sciences, for a presentation titled "The Current Mass Extinction Event: Causes and Cures."

Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies Emeritus at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Crafoord Prize (a substitute for the Nobel Prize in fields of science where the latter is not given), the Blue Planet Prize, and numerous other international awards. 

Myers is now actively involved in work to anticipate the interactions among biogeochemical forces set in motion by humans. He received a Laureate Award for Outstanding Public Service from the Endocrine Society this year and in November will be awarded a Champion of Science Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.



Erin Brockovich
Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, best known for her involvement in one of the largest direct action lawsuits in U.S. history, will speak at on November 7 in the Robertson College Community Center on the Catawba campus.

Her topic will be "Community Power: How We Can All Make a Difference in Creating a Healthier Planet."  

While working as a file clerk at a Los Angeles law firm in 1992, Brockovich uncovered documents that ultimately led to more than 600 residents of Hinkley, California, filing a lawsuit against utility giant PG&E. The $333 million settlement they received is the largest of its kind in the history of the United States.

The story of Brokovich's life and involvement in the case was the subject of the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, which starred Julia Roberts in the title role.



Dr. John Daniels
Finally, Dr. John Daniels, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNC Charlotte, will speak November 17 on the potential uses of coal ash and the research he and others are conducting on this topic.

"We are very fortunate to be able to host this amazing group of thought leaders in commemoration of the Center's 20th anniversary," says Center Executive Director John Wear.  "The Center has served as a catalyst for transforming ideas into action since its inception in 1996. This fall's speakers will bring that level of involvement to a new level. They will show us what we can do to improve our health and the health of the environment."

All the presentations are free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information or to register, visit or call (704) 637-4791.


The Center for the Environment was founded in 1996 to educate the college community and the public about environmental stewardship and sustainability, provide value-added education for students through interaction with thought leaders and opportunities for experiential learning, and bring diverse people and groups together to catalyze sustainable solutions to our most persistent environmental challenges. For more information, visit

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