Anderson ’90 Discusses Complexity of Climate Change Crisis at Kaleidoscope ASM

To help the audience understand human environmental impact, Bruce Anderson ’90 showed artistic representations of water usage around the country and carbon emission from airplanes, illustrating the intricate webs of interdependency between humans and environmental resources.

As part of the third annual Kaleidoscope Series, Anderson, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University, highlighted the difficulties posed by the growing environmental crisis, the importance of innovative solutions and the complexities of climate change at All-School Meeting (ASM) on Wednesday.

Anderson said that this generation has the responsibility to solve the “Super Wicked Problem” of global climate change.

“The ‘Super Wicked Problem’ is essentially novel and unique, we have never seen it before and we’ll never see it ever again; the people who are trying to fix it are also contributing to it,” said Anderson. “Complex interdependencies between one component of the ‘Super Wicked Problem’ and other components of the ‘Super Wicked Problem’ make it an interrelated set of problems.”

He emphasized that helping the general public understand the significance of climate change is crucial in finding a solution to the issue, which will affect our own social and natural systems.

“It is not going to be scientists or engineers who are going to solve this ‘Super Wicked Problem.’ In more cases than not, it will be historians, journalists, writers or artists: people who can change people’s perspectives on the world that we live in,” said Anderson.

“In the end, it’s going to be your generation that brings a unique perspective on why climate change is a problem, because our generation has failed, even after talking about this for 40 years,” he continued.

Anderson stressed the urgency of finding solutions to tackle climate change soon, referencing scientists who have provided ample data that demonstrates what will happen if current energy consumption—primarily of coal and oil—remains constant.


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“Not only do we have to account for our activities on the earth, but have to pay attention to what is going [on] with beyond the planet, the sun, inside the planet, volcanism, poles and ice sheets, and under the crust, chemistry and biology of soils. All of these subsets intertwined make up our complex environment,” said Anderson. In contrast to last year’s Kaleidoscope All-School Meeting series which featured two speakers of opposing ideologies, this year’s speakers collaborated on their presentations. Following Anderson’s speech setting up the scientific background of the issue of climate change, Noelle Eckley Selin ’96 will discuss possible solutions to the problem next week.

“We want the first half of Kaleidoscope to be the frame, to tell the students the essentials of what they should know about the energy and climate dynamic and how it stands in the world now,” said Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students and ASM Coordinator.

“Bruce knows our school, he knows what it’s like to be a student here and he has come back and actually talked to students. He was just in a wonderful position to do the first part of the Kaleidoscope this time around,” said Hoyt. Anderson also spoke on the topic of climate change on campus in January 2011.

In addition to teaching at Boston University, Anderson also works with the public sector on problems related to climate variability. He specializes in water systems, such as hurricanes, super typhoons and mid-winter storms.