Grace Halbert Speech Story In heavily populated areas of the globe, where resources are already stretched to their limit, a sudden decrease in water or food supply could be devastating. The United States military must worry about how the environment can impact national security. “No scientific organization worldwide disagrees that climate change is a problem. We are the cause, we need to change immediately.” John T. Ackerman speaking about Environmental Security at the Office of Sustainability’s first green lunch of the spring semester on Jan. 27 in the Student Center. Ackerman defined environmental security as a condition where environmental goods and services, like water, air, land or fisheries, are used at a sustainable rate. His speech covered topics of biodiversity, climate change, and environmental degradation and how it affects daily life and national security. He painted a grim picture of the world if the environment isn’t improved. Environmental degradation will cause Africa to become a failed continent and could decrease the global gross domestic product between 5 and 20 percent. A conflict over the arctic is impending, as seven countries all claim different portions of the area, which is rich in natural resources. “Technology is the best answer to the problem at hand,” said Ackerman. He says that development of technology to slow, stop or repair the damage humans have done to the environment is the best way to protect national security.
The Department of Defense is now working to respond to these concerns, signing international treaties to alleviate debts owed by countries that are willing to put in place environmentally sustainable practices. “The changing in environment is a concern for people in everyday life,” said Ackerman. “As the environment degrades, so does our quality of life.” Ackerman was the first non-faculty speaker at the Green Lunch series. He served 22 years in the Air Force controlling intercontinental missiles and working in military education. “I found Dr. Ackerman as I was flipping through a Sierra Club newsletter,” says Lindy Biggs, the coordinator of the event. “Reading about him immediately made me think he would be a great guest speaker.” Now serving as an Assistant Professor of National and International Security Studies at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force base, Ackerman’s speech was a condensed version of a lecture given to his own students. “I thought it was interesting because we don’t often have a chance to hear about the military and sustainability,” says Biggs. Images of the almost completely dried lakebed of Lake Chad in Africa drew gasps from the audience, who listened attentively while munching on their lunches. The small room in the Student Center was almost full of riveted students, faculty and staff. “I’m happy to hear that the military is thinking beyond just how to fix problems in America and they’re working to improve conditions all over the world,” says Sara Clark, a sophomore majoring in psychology who attended the lunch. “I studied abroad in Spain last summer and I know that the environment isn’t just a concern in America, but in every country all over the world.”