tech councilIn spite of the clear dangers of a warming climate – from more extreme weather to decreased food security – few of us have a solid grasp on how to realistically address the issues or to mitigate their impacts. The translation of knowledge into appropriate action is often the most difficult part of problem solving; it is no different in the case of climate change.

On December 10th, professor of biology and director of the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), Miles Silman, addressed an audience of local business leaders at the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce’s Tech Council Speaker Series. His talk, entitled Real-World Sustainability: Solving Today’s Environmental and Energy Challenges focused on providing realistic ways to address these imposing problems.

With over 20 years of experience conducting research in the Eastern Andes and Western Amazon of Peru, Silman has gained extensive firsthand knowledge of the concrete effects of climate change. As the director of CEES, Silman has had the opportunity to work with an impressive interdisciplinary team of researchers who are not only investigating the environmental, policy, and economic impacts of climate change, but also coming up with novel ways to minimize them. In his role as CEES director, Silman has taken his mission of translational research to heart, taking every opportunity to bring leading edge sustainability research to the public. It was for this reason that the Tech Council invited him to speak during this year’s series. Kevin Cox, co-chair of the Tech Council speaker series committee, said the council wanted to show the community the “extraordinary goals and achievements of [CEES]” and let the area business community “hear firsthand how a Wake Forest center is making a significant impact on this region and far, far beyond in matters regarding sustainability.”

Using global maps to illustrate the layers of major environmental challenges facing us today, Silman focused on how CEES is working to address some of the most pressing issues. From advanced air and space-borne sensor systems and new unmanned aerial vehicles developed at WFU that track deforestation in the Amazon Basin, to a renewable biofuel production circuit that includes farmers, restaurants, and fuel refiners, to sustainability consulting services offered through the CEES sustainability clinic, Silman highlighted some of the projects that are having an immediate impact on our world – on local and global scales.

At the end of the day, local leaders left the room with a deeper understanding of the problems we facing and the extensive work CEES is doing to mitigate them.  Local leaders – from healthcare professionals to restaurateurs and tech entrepreneurs – stayed after the talk to find out how they could get involved.  Even for Silman, “it’s always sobering to take a cold-eyed look at the world we live in and the challenges we face.  But these challenges are also opportunities, and it was a real pleasure to tell the stories of the work being done by colleagues in CEES and their ground-breaking innovations in the area of sustainability.”