December 04, 2012
Author, professor, and geologist Scott Montgomery ‘73 shared his views about sustainability with Knox College students, saying they will witness -- and participate in -- "a really major transition" as renewable sources of energy become more common.
"Sustainability is not a paradise that we reach and (then) we stay there, with halos. It's dynamic," Montgomery said as he delivered the fall 2012 EquiKnox lecture on the Knox campus. "We have to keep up with changes in ourselves and perhaps in the climate and in many things."
Knox College schedules EquiKnox lectures twice a year, near the spring and fall equinoxes, to help students explore new ways to be green.
The Sierra Club recently identified Knox as one of "America's Coolest Schools" for 2012, ranking it as No. 71 among the greenest colleges and universities in the United States. The 2012 "Cool Schools" list was published in the September/October issue of Sierra magazine.
The "Cool Schools" designation recognizes four-year colleges and universities for their commitment to environmental improvements.
The selection of "Cool Schools" is based on an extensive survey about a wide range of sustainability issues. Participating institutions were asked, for example, how they incorporate sustainability into the academic curriculum, whether they offer sustainability-based theme housing, and whether they hold major events focused on sustainability.
In his EquiKnox lecture, "Global Energy and Sustainability: Myths, Realities, Ideas," Montgomery spoke briefly about his years as a Knox student.
"I learned to talk about ideas," said Montgomery, an English major who later earned a master's degree in geological sciences. Now a faculty member at the University of Washington-Seattle, Montgomery is author of Powers That Be: Global Energy for the 21st Century and Beyond.
Global energy trends have gone through "epochal shifts" in recent years, Montgomery said.
For example, China, India, and developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and elsewhere have taken control of "the future of the energy universe, in terms of demand," he said. "From now on, they will control the future of energy."
Another recent change, Montgomery said, is that most of the world's people now live in urban areas, not in rural ones. By 2050, he predicted, "70% of humanity" will live in cities.
That is an important trend because cities are "especially hungry" for electricity, and most electricity is presently produced by burning coal and other fossil fuels, which are affordable but create carbon emissions, he said.
But change is on the way, he said. According to some projections, 30% of worldwide energy will come from renewable sources by 2030.
"A lot has to happen for that to occur, but this is how people are thinking," Montgomery said.
Still unclear is what forms of renewable energy will become the most widely used. Some newer sources of energy are being tested, including hydrogen and space solar power, which is 24-hour solar power, he said.
Knox students said they enjoyed hearing Montgomery's perspectives.
"What jumped out at me was the fact that even among environmental scientists, there's not this uniform idea about the future of renewable energy," said Olivia Wondu, a Knox junior from Rockville, Maryland.
Natalie Donahue, a first-year student from Indianapolis, Indiana, said she enjoyed learning about "the diversity of opinions - how there's so many different ways people think about being green in the future."
"It helps you to form your own ideas about what we can do to be more sustainable."