January 7, 2019 - January 9, 2019

This conference was sponsored by the National Council for Science and the Environment and was held in partnership with myriad organizations, including the  Environmental Law Institute. For a list of event sponsors/partners, please go HERE.

NCSE 2019:  Sustainable Infrastructure and Resilience

No part of the planet is untouched by the impact of the more than seven billion human inhabitants. Collectively, we face pressing challenges such as extreme weather from climate change, growing urbanization, and resource scarcity. These challenges make cities and ecosystems more vulnerable. They trigger an urgent call to develop a sustainable, healthy, and just world. Human ingenuity and collaboration across the scientific, business, and education communities have led to solutions to ensure that society can mitigate and respond to these challenges.

More recently, the concept of resilience has become integrated into thinking about sustainable systems and infrastructure. Creating resilient, sustainable infrastructure will require coordination across all levels of government and should engage the private sector, academia, and planning agencies. Collectively these institutions should ensure that resilience planning is collaborative and inclusive, stimulates investment, and drives research.

Sustainable Infrastructure will include technical solutions, such as predictive tools that can be used to better anticipate storms, advanced metering that pinpoint outages in real time, and social media as an emerging tool for sharing data and widespread communication. For long-term success, a broad definition of infrastructure must  be used to include not only the built environment and physical solutions, but also the social, natural, and cyber dimensions.

Built – The roads, bridges, public transit, and utilities we rely upon. More than $6 trillion annually for the next 15 years will need to be invested internationally to keep pace with growing demands for sustainable infrastructure. While this estimate anticipates building new infrastructure that keeps pace with higher standards of resilience, it does not include unanticipated impacts that may arise from extreme weather events.

Natural – The healthy ecosystems that sustain crucial services to sustain life, such as water, air, and soil. It includes forests, oceans, coral reefs, grasslands, mangroves, rivers and lakes to name a few. Nature has quantifiable and unquantifiable values to ecosystems, humans and the planet.

Social – The interdependent mix of facilities, places, spaces, programs, projects, services and networks that maintain and improve the standard of living and quality of life in a community. Social Infrastructure typically includes assets that accommodate social services. Examples include government, public security and safety, public health, schools, universities, hospitals, prisons and community housing.

Cyber – Includes research environments that support advanced data acquisition, storage, management, integration, mining, visualization, and other computing and information processing services. These are distributed over the internet, beyond the scope of a single institution. In science, cyber infrastructure is viewed as the technological and sociological solution to the problem of efficiently connecting laboratories, data, computers, and people with the goal of enabling derivation of novel scientific theories and knowledge.

Collaboration across the scientific, business, and education communities is necessary to build resilience across ecosystems, communities, markets, and traditional infrastructure.

January 9, 2019

ELI Public Seminar

With some of the highest poverty rates in the country, Appalachian communities stand at a post-coal crossroads between potential preeminence in the region’s energy supply and building resilient economies. The disparity of land ownership, long-lasting public health inequities, and unequal access to infrastructure (especially hospitals and highways) have all resulted in distinct environmental justice obstacles for communities throughout Appalachia.

Presently, only 2% of the Appalachian workforce is employed by the coal industry, and many have called for the emergence of new economic developments for greater prosperity. Many public interest groups advocate for an economic transition to foster “green collar” jobs as a major solution to the unemployment gap, and one that would train workers in renewable energy systems. How to catalyze this transition, however, remains uncertain. Competing with renewables is the natural gas industry transforming shale deposits into fuel with concerns that this approach, while offering short-term economic gains, may just reaffirm Appalachia’s historic fossil fuel dependency and lead to environmental problems. With uncertain paths to development and resilience, Appalachia’s fate demonstrates the complexity of how to navigate the intricate nexus of economic insecurity, inequality, and resource extraction in 21st century America.

Our expert panelists explored the potential of green energy innovation for fostering environmental justice and resilient economies in Appalachian communities.

James McElfish Jr.
, Director of Sustainable Use of Land Program, Environmental Law Institute, Moderator
Kate Boyle, Deputy Executive Director, Appalachian Voices
Emily Collins, Executive Director & Managing Attorney, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services
Jillian C. Kirn, Associate, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Cortney Piper, Co-Founder & Vice President, TN Advanced Energy Business Council and President, Piper Communications LLC
Mary Shoemaker, State Policy Analyst, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)


ELI members will have access to a recording and any materials from this session (usually posted w/in 48 hours). If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.