Sustainable Futures Speaker Series

This interdisciplinary speaker series, established in September 2005, is intended to stimulate cross disciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. The series is sponsored by the Environment and Community Program and the Schatz Energy Research Center. All members of the HSU community and the general public are welcome to attend these presentations.


Spring 2015

Spring 2015

  • Unless otherwise noted, events are 5:30pm-7:00pm Thursdays in BSS 166 *

February 19
Arne Jacobson
“The Pico Power Revolution: Off-Grid Energy Services for Low Income People in Africa, Asia, and Beyond”

Arne Jacobson is a professor in the Environmental Resources Engineering Department and Director of the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University. He serves as the technical lead for product quality assurance for Lighting Global, which is associated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs. Collectively, these programs have helped enable sales of over 6 million quality assurance solar lighting systems to people in off-grid areas of Africa and Asia.

Arne has a Ph.D. from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree focused on Environmental Resources Engineering from Humboldt State University, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Earlham College. In 2010-11 he served as Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy and International Affairs at U.S. Department of Energy. Arne’s areas of research and work interest include renewable energy technologies, energy access in off-grid areas, and clean energy deployment policy.

February 26
Carolyn Finney
“Righteous Road: Black Faces, White Spaces & Stories of Possibility”

Carolyn Finney, Ph.D. is a writer, performer and cultural geographer. As a professor in Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, she explores how issues of difference impact participation in decision-making processes designed to address environmental issues.

Although Carolyn pursed an acting career for eleven years, a backpacking trip around the world and living in Nepal changed the course of her life. Motivated by these experiences, she returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. Informed by her early life experiences, the aim of her work is to develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations and institutions, challenge media outlets on their representation of difference, and increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to speak to environmental issues and determine policy and action.

Carolyn has appeared on the Tavis Smiley show, MSNBC, NPR and has been interviewed for numerous newspapers and magazines. Along with public speaking, writing and consulting, she serves on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board that is working to assist the National Park Service in engaging in relations of reciprocity with diverse communities. Her first book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors explores the relationship of African Americans to the environment and the environmental movement (UNC Press, 2014). For more information see carolynfinney.com.

April 9
John Meyer
“Environmentalism and the Resonance Dilemma”

John M. Meyer is Professor in the Department of Politics, Environmental Studies, and Environment and Community at Humboldt State University. His new book is Engaging the Everyday: Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma (MIT Press, 2015). He is also co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory.

April 16
Beckie Menten
“Community Choice, Community Power: An In-Depth Look at California’s Emerging Model for Local Electricity Control”

Beckie Menten is the Energy Efficiency Director for Marin Clean Energy (MCE). She designs, develops, and delivers efficiency programs in the MCE service area. Beckie has an extensive background in both energy efficiency and local government, having worked at the city, county, and state level to design efficiency programs and research best practices in energy efficiency.

Prior to joining the MCE team, Beckie was most recently the Program Manager for the Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings program at the California Energy Commission. Beckie also served as the efficiency financing lead at the Energy Commission and brings considerable expertise in evaluating innovative ideas for enabling investment in energy efficiency.Prior to working with the Energy Commission, Beckie worked with the Demand Side Management group of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Beckie has a master of science degree in Environmental Systems from Humboldt State University, where her thesis research focused on development of a seven-county regional Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program on the north coast of California; she received a Switzer Fellowship for her work on the PACE program.

April 30
Janet Fiskio
“Welcome to Blockadia: Poetics and Protest in Climate Activism”

Janet Fiskio is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College. Her research and teaching focus on collaborative, community-based work in food justice and climate activism. She is currently finishing a book project, Counter Friction: Poetics, Performance, and Protest in Climate Justice.


Fall 2014

  • Unless otherwise noted, events are 5:30pm-7:00pm Thursdays in BSS 166 *

September 4

Belinda Batten

“Catching the Wave and Rising with the Tides: Marine Renewable Energy at NNMREC” watch full presentation

Dr. Belinda Batten directs the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC), a collaboration between Oregon State University and the University of Washington supporting wave, tidal and offshore wind energy research, development and testing for the United States.

Dr. Batten is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University. Her research interests include computational methods for control and optimization, mathematical modeling, and dynamics and control of wave energy devices. Batten’s research has been supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy.

September 11

Peter Alagona

“Forty Years of Endangered Species: Conflict and Conservation in California and Beyond” watch full presentation

Peter S. Alagona is an Associate Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He earned his Ph.D. at UCLA, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Stanford. He is the recipient of several awards, including a National Science Foundation CAREER grant and the Harold J. Plous Award for UCSB’s most outstanding junior faculty member. Alagona is the author of more than three-dozen publications on the histories of land use, natural resource management, environmental politics, and ecological science in California and the American West—including After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California (UC Press, 2013).

September 18

Ron Reed and Kari Norgaard

“The Politics of Fire and the Social Impacts of Fire Exclusion on the Klamath”

Ron Reed is a traditional Karuk dipnet fisherman, spiritual leader, and the Cultural Biologist for the Karuk Tribe. Ron comes from a long and prominent family of traditional spiritual leaders and cultural practitioners, and is the father of six children. As the Karuk Tribe’s Cultural Biologist, Ron has been an important tribal spokesperson who has communicated the cultural and health impacts of current river and forest mismanagement to audiences around the world. He also works at home to restore Karuk culture and society through reconnecting people, especially tribal youth, to the natural world. His work has been featured in prominent news outlets around the world including National Geographic, National Public Radio, High Country News and many more.

Ron has served as a member of the Environmental Justice Task Force, California Environmental Protection Agency, and in 2007 was one of half a dozen delegates from California to the first U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta. In addition to the research described here, Ron currently heads up the Karuk portion of a significant intertribal USDA grant on Food Security.

Kari Marie Norgaard is Associate Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at University of Oregon. Her research on climate denial, tribal environmental justice and gender and risk has been published in Sociological Forum, Gender and Society, Sociological Inquiry, Organization and Environment, Rural Sociology, Race, Gender & Class, and other journals, as well as by the World Bank. Her first book, Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life, was published by MIT Press in 2011. Norgaard is recipient of the Pacific Sociological Association’s Distinguished Practice Award for 2005.

Ron and Kari have been working closely together since 2003 conducting important policy-relevant research on tribal health and social impacts of environmental decline. In 2004 their report The Effects of Altered Diet on the Karuk Tribe was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the opposition to the relicensing of the Klamath river dams. Their action represented the first time a tribe had claimed that a dam had given their people an artificially high rate of diabetes and other diet related disease. This work was covered in a front page story in the Washington Post as well as many other national and regional outlets. Since that time Ron and Kari have continued to work on policy driven research projects including work that established Tribal Cultural and Tribal Subsistence beneficial uses in the TMDL water quality process in California for the first time. Together they have co-supervised over a dozen undergraduate theses and have several co-authored publications.

October 2

Sam Arons

“Scaling Renewable Energy: A Perspective from Google”

For the past seven years, Sam has held a variety of roles at Google focused on sustainability and renewable energy. He has led a number of initiatives on the sustainability front including calculating Google’s global carbon footprint and implementing a feature in the Google Finance product to show companies’ carbon scores. Sam is currently a member of the Global Infrastructure team at Google where, as part of the team’s mission to execute a global data center strategy, he helps lead the development and implementation of the company’s global renewable energy strategy. Key efforts of the team include managing the company’s energy portfolio and sourcing as much renewable energy as possible to power Google’s datacenters. Recent examples of the team’s success include a negotiating a utility agreement for up to 407 MW of wind power in Iowa, closing a long-term power purchase agreement for 239 MW of wind power in the Texas panhandle, and signing a 72 MW wind power purchase agreement in Sweden to supply Google’s Hamina, Finland datacenter.

Prior to joining Google, Sam earned a B.A. in Physics from Williams College and an M.S. in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley, where his research focused on wind energy and plug-in vehicles, respectively.

October 9

Joan Ogden

“A Portfolio Approach to Sustainable Transportation”

Dr. Joan Ogden is Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis and Director of the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program at the campus’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Her primary research interest is technical and economic assessment of new energy technologies, especially in the areas of alternative fuels, fuel cells, renewable energy and energy conservation. Her recent work centers on the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier, hydrogen infrastructure strategies, and applications of fuel cell technology in transportation and stationary power production. She has served on California state committees on hydrogen and greenhouse gas issues, the USDOE Hydrogen Technical Advisory Committee, the IPCC panel on Renewable Energy, and on National Academies committees assessing hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Maryland.

Making a transition to a sustainable transportation system requires fast-moving success on three fronts: improved energy efficiency, reduced travel demand, and adoption of low carbon fuels that can be produced from widely available primary sources. There are technical options for moving closer to each of these goals, including adoption of alternative fuels such as electricity, biofuels, hydrogen. By combining these approaches, recent studies suggest it would be technically feasible to significantly reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and diversify away from dependence on petroleum over the next few decades. But actual progress towards these goals has been slower than the technical potential suggests, because of an array of complex transition issues. In this talk, Ogden will examine the options for meeting sustainability and energy security goals in the transport sector, and discuss barriers to their implementation.

November 6

Matt Johnson

“Reconciling Agriculture & Wildlife Conservation: Examples with Coffee Farmers and Birds in Jamaica, Kenya, and India”

Matt Johnson is a professor of Wildlife at Humboldt State University, where he has taught since 1999. He studies wildlife conservation, including the relationships between wildlife habitat and human livelihood. Recent interests revolve around the integration of agriculture and biodiversity. His work has also involved the interdisciplinary valuation of ecosystem services provisioned by wildlife. He lives in Freshwater with his wife and two kids.

November 13

Jesse Abrams

“The Importance of Communities of Place and Interest to the Sustainability of Forest-based Bioenergy Development”

Jesse Abrams is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Ecosystem Workforce Program, Institute for a Sustainable Environment, University of Oregon. His current research includes investigating the social and political dimensions of bioenergy development in six countries across the Americas, studying the impact of state and federal biomass policy on business decision-making and innovation, and researching the institutional context for community fire resiliency. His past work included research on amenity-driven land ownership change, the development of community-based public lands governance models, and public opinions of forest restoration practices. He is co-editor of the book Human Dimensions of Ecological Restoration: Integrating Science, Nature, and Culture (Island Press, 2011). Abrams holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Forest Resources from Oregon State University and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from New College of Florida.

November 20

Trevor Houser, Partner, Rhodium Group

“China’s Energy Future: Domestic Drivers and Global Consequences”

Trevor Houser is a partner with the Rhodium Group (RHG) and leads the firm’s energy and natural resources work. RHG combines policy experience, quantitative economic tools and on-the-ground research to analyze disruptive global trends. Houser’s work supports the investment management, strategic planning and policy needs of RHG clients in the financial, corporate and government sectors.

Houser is also a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, an adjunct lecturer at the City College of New York, and a visiting fellow at the school’s Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on US-China Relations and serves on the Advisory Board of Center for US-China Relations at the Asia Society.

During 2009, Houser left RHG temporarily to serve as Senior Advisor to the US State Department where he worked on a broad range of international energy, natural resource and environmental policy issues. While in government, he negotiated seven bilateral US-China energy agreements, including the US-China Shale Gas Initiative and the establishment of the US-China Clean Energy Research Center. Houser also served as a US climate change negotiator through the Copenhagen conference in 2009.

Houser speaks regularly on international energy market and policy trends at the Peterson Institute for International Economic, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the World Affairs Council, the Energy Information Administration’s annual conference, OPEC-IEA joint workshops and a range of academic and private sector events. He has testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the US Helsinki Commission and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.


Spring 2014


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Fall 2012


Spring 2012


Fall 2011


Spring 2011


Fall 2010


Spring 2010