Speakers at USU to discuss 'ideas worth spreading'

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 2:12 PM


LOGAN -- On Nov. 5, eight diverse speakers will take the stage at the Utah State University Performance Hall to share “ideas worth spreading” for the second annual TEDxUSU.

Norman Augustine, former president of Lockheed Martin and chairman and principal officer of the American Red Cross, is a champion of scientific and technological progress in the U.S. and will be delivering a talk entitled “Survival of the American Dream.” Augustine’s talk will outline what Americans must do to remain competitive in a constantly evolving job market.

“Americans no longer simply compete for quality jobs with their neighbors across town–they must now compete with their neighbors across the planet,” Augustine said. “The only answer to this dilemma is to excel at innovation—which depends on an educated workforce, new knowledge and an innovation-friendly ecosphere.”

In 2005, Augustine was appointed chair of a National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) to examine U.S. leadership in science and innovation.

Their report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” does not paint an encouraging future unless substantial changes are made soon according to Jeff Broadbent, associate vice president for research and associate dean of graduate studies at USU. Quite literally, U.S. survival as a world leader is at stake.

“The survival of American prosperity is a heady topic, and Dr. Augustine’s credentials to address it are impeccable,” Broadbent said. “The Office of Research and Graduate Studies is thrilled to have such an extraordinarily distinguished scholar visit our campus and speak to the USU community. There is no one more qualified to inform us of how science and technology are critical to the survival of American prosperity.”

In addition to Augustine, a trio of USU researchers will discuss issues related to water usage, availability and policy.

Thirty years ago, Bruce Bugbee, a professor of crop physiology and plant nutrition at USU, began working with scientists on a NASA-funded project to develop a life-support system for people traveling away from earth. This task requires a recycling system that produces food from waste and keeps carbon dioxide, oxygen, and water in perfect balance. This project led Bugbee to appreciate the elegance of Earth’s biological systems where plants recycle gasses, purify water, and provide food. Humans are increasingly aware of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change but overlook the impact of limited water on their ability to grow food.

Bugbee and his talented colleagues have sought to improve water use efficiency in agriculture. At TEDxUSU, Bugbee will utilize a variety of unusual visual aids to present an analysis on the enormous water requirement for food production, review the crisis in world water supply, and show how small changes in diet can have a major impact on individuals’ global food-print.

Joanna Endter-Wada is an associate professor of natural resources and environmental policy at USU. Her work focuses on water policy and law in the U.S. West, where she contributes to finding more equitable and sustainable approaches for using this vital resource. She has worked with government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels on water, urban landscape, forestry, fisheries, public land, and wetland issues.

Endter-Wada said she appreciates the many challenges and trade-offs involved in water-related decision making, and in her TEDxUSU talk will answer the question, “How much water do we need to survive?”

“Concerns must be addressed to adequately answer this question,” Endter-Wada said. “How do we ensure that our wants for water do not imperil our need for water?”

David Rosenberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USU and also holds a joint appointment at the Utah Water Research Laboratory. His research uses modeling and visualization of complex data to improve the planning, design, and operation of water systems. Rosenberg’s talk will identify how societies can use near-optimal water management solutions to survive in a world full of complex environmental, social and political considerations.

“Scientists and engineers have developed computer algorithms to efficiently identify single optimal solutions to water management problems,” Rosenberg said. “Managers rarely implement these optimal solutions. By instead exploring all the promising, near-optimal alternatives, we can discover numerous and varied strategies to survive, overcome, and thrive in the face of society’s most pressing resource problems.”

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California almost 30 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes on a diverse mix of topics. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The TED2014 Conference will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, along with the TEDActive simulcast in neighboring Whistler. TEDGlobal 2014 will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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