Few CPS events can generate excitement across the Eckerd community quite like what occurred March 28. Nobel Laureates Henry Pollack and Pier Vellinga gave a lecture on the causes and potential effects of sea level rise to the state of Florida.
Both men were taking part in a lecture series for Florida’s Rising Seas Project, a state initiative to raise awareness to the threat of sea level rise in Florida. Along with the subsiding states of Louisiana and North Carolina, Florida is naturally low to the sea with its highest point rising just over 300 feet above the waves.
The mood to the evening was set early on by a foreboding blue line ringing Fox Hall. The blue tape, which previously appeared on Eckerd’s buildings during Winter Term, symbolized the potential for sea level rise based on commissioned studies done by Shafer Consulting in 50 years.
This sign of activism was put up by an environmental club on campus. A club representative, sophomore Lauren Goodwin explained “we decided to put up the blue line again to show them [the scientists] that Eckerd cares about the problem of climate change.” The club’s point was well received by the event moderator, Eckerd’s own Dr. David Hastings in the introduction of the lecture.
The lecture itself was a well structured, two-pronged message catering to each scientist’s strong points. Dr. Henry Pollack, Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, led off the talk discussing the current science of global sea level rise and its increasing rate over the last 50 years. On his second slide, Dr. Pollack unveiled a graph demonstrating the trends of global sea level rise since the Kennedy Administration, a new graph from the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report due out later this year. “The general trend in sea level rise is up.”
Many of the lecture’s slides were difficult to see from the back of Fox Hall due to the seating arrangement but Dr. Pollack took extra time to explain each figure and graph for the understanding of each audience member.
Following Dr. Pollack was Dr. Vellinga who explained the practical effects of sea level rise on coastal areas. Dr. Vellinga delivered each slide with the intellectual finesse expected of the man who helped author the Dutch Delta storm evacuation plan.
He explained his current work with the Netherlands and Venice, Italy as comparable strategies. He also capitalized on the Dutch dry humor in a few quips about the increase in beachfront property if sea level rise keeps occurring. But despite the quips, the audience responded to his message about potential changes. Dr. Vellinga stressed that while he showed systems that have worked in other situations, each stretch of coastline is different and need a varying solution.
At the conclusion of the lecture, Dr. Hastings opened the floor to questions. While there were several excellent student questions, there were a few gotcha questions regarding policy from several adults in the room. The session ended when the Tampa Regional Coordinator from Greenpeace went to the microphone to make a political statement regarding an upcoming protest. After this interruption the event was concluded.
The event itself was well received. Junior Jordan Marks was supportive of the talk afterwards especially given Eckerd’s location. “I feel they [the scientists] raised awareness of an issue important to a coastal community.” this is a testament to the positives when Eckerd brings speakers that can connect to the community as a whole. The CPS event was well attended by a healthy mix of those seeking CPS credits, older students who had already completed their credit requirements, ASPEC members, and non-Eckerd civilians. The college could use more events that unite the area in such a meaningful way.