The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday March 30th

Experts Focus on Nature

A group of 20 students met Friday to hear from a leading expert on environmental challenges that will face the next generation.

The speech, held in the James M. Johnson Center for Undergraduate Excellence, featured Richard Benedick, a former deputy assistant of the Secretary of State, chief negotiator of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and author of the book "Ozone Diplomacy." The topic of the lecture was "Six Billion Inhabitants on Planet Earth: Challenges Ahead."

Benedick's wife, Irene Federwisch, who works for a government agency in Munich, Germany, called the Development Policy Forum, also spoke.

The lecture was sponsored by the UNC Great Decisions Coordinating Committee and the UNC United Nations Organization and was hosted by Great Decisions Chairman Rye Barcott.

Starting the lecture with a tone of modesty, Benedick downplayed his own expertise. "There are undoubtedly many scholars here on campus who know more than me," Benedick said.

Benedick then described the gravity of the situation that mankind faces at the dawn of the 21st century. He discussed the many factors making the world's ecosystem more unstable than ever.

"For the first time, we face environmental challenges that are global in nature," he said.

Benedick used a barrage of statistics and quotes from prominent political and environmental figures to convey how much the fundamental structure of the world has changed in the past 50 years.

He quoted Boutros-Boutros Ghali, former prime minister for foreign affairs of Egypt, as saying, "The next major war in the Middle East is likely to take place over water and not politics."

Benedick finished his speech by saying it was crucial to address the problem by carefully considering policy solutions rather than blindly throwing funds at developing countries.

"It's not money alone that does it; it's where you invest it," he said.

Federwisch discussed the topic as well, focusing on the role her work plays in alleviating the problems of rapid population increases and environmental degradation. "(The Development Policy Forum) fosters dialogue between developed and developing countries," she said.

With their interests and concerns piqued by the two speakers, students were eager to participate in the question and answer portion of the event that followed the speeches.

The speakers were pleased with the dialogue. Federwisch called it "very lively, very interesting."

Senior Melodie Potts from Brevard said, "I think they did a really good job of laying out the issues and linkages between population growth, the environment and development."

Junior Carsten Brewer from Stendal, Germany, also enjoyed the discussion and was impressed with the speakers on a personal level. "They are just regular people too, but they do some things that are extraordinary."

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