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From the Desk of the Director

Green Society: Making the Future

Jp Gellermann

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in a panel discussion about the future of our community. The panel was a part of an art show titled Expanding Waters, hosted by Creative Pinellas. I found it interesting that an arts organization was hosting an arts exhibit focused on sea level rise and climate change.  The coordinators of the art show had contacted me months ago to discuss the art show and how I thought UF/IFAS Pinellas County could participate. They wanted to provide the audience with the science of climate change and have a discussion on the future of our community.

We worked collaboratively together strategically constructing four panels focused on different subject matter. The first was focused on the science and data surrounding climate change and sea level rise. The panel discussed the past, present, and future of man’s impact on climate, and climate’s current and future impact on man. The data and analysis provided the audience a clear picture of climate change with a slight twist. The moderator of all the panels was one of the artists of the show. She asked questions from an artist’s perspective, a dynamic perspective not normally taken by data driven scientists.

The next panel focused on water conservation and the importance of native plants to reduce the amount of water, fertilizer, and chemicals applied to our landscapes.  The conversation was dynamic and engaging. It ranged from the data driven metrics of calculating water savings from the use of water barrels and the use of improved irrigation techniques such as low volume and drip versus conventional sprinkler heads, to providing habitat via the installation of native landscapes. There were plenty of “ah ha” moments where both the moderator and panelist found themselves learning and discovering something new along with the audience.

The last panel focused on the future, and the future of our community. We spoke of the past and how during different eras people faced different issues and problems. As the population increased these issues became increasing complex because they began to impact a growing number of people. Today our world is full of ‘wicked issues’, issues that are hard to solve because partly they are hard to define. These ‘wicked issues’ are difficult because there are few clear-cut answers, only degrees of solution. One of the topics in the discussion revolved around population growth of our area. How many people will live in Pinellas in 100 years? If the last 100 years is an indicator, we may have closer to 2 million people in the county in 2121 than 1 million. That is doubling the current population. How many more homes, businesses, roads, etc. would we have to build to accommodate that many people? What changes can we make today to provide those folks with a sustainable future? If you look around, and see those little kids playing at your local school or the mom with the baby in the stroller those are the ‘folks’ I am talking about. They might very well be here in 60 years and will either benefit from the good decisions and actions we take today or be left with the implications of the ‘wicked issues’ we failed to address today.

In closing, the artist’s eye is different and unique. The artist sees and expresses things from a different perspective, and it is what modern society needs. We need more creativity and innovation in engineering and science more than ever. We can’t continue to build square retention ponds because a math equation determines it to be the shape and depth. We have to do a little more work and bring in other perspectives to represent the aesthetic to the community of that pond. We need to work with biologist to figure out how it can be built to provide for the insects, frogs, and birds. We have to do more than we have for those who will come after us.

Be well!