Most cities yearn for San Luis Obispo’s sunny skies and warm winters. While these days are nice for going to the beach or on a hike, they stem from one of California’s biggest current issues: the drought.
Cal Poly has been making cuts to water usage in an attempt to save water, but local adjustments can’t make up the difference for the entire state. This week, professors from Cal Poly, United Nations University (UNU) and other countries will gather for a Disaster by Drought 2015 summit on campus to discuss a plan of action for combating climate change.
Cal Poly assistant professor Dr. Ryan Alaniz, a member of UNU, was largely in charge of organizing the summit. Alaniz initially extended the invitation to host the summit to UNU.
“I approached the (Cal Poly) administration and they were very enthusiastic about the idea of hosting,” Alaniz said. “This is the first time — I believe in the CSU system — that we’ve had this close of a collaboration with United Nations University.”
The conference will take place Oct. 4-9, and will consist of many different panels and workshops. Alaniz has been planning this summit since last year with sociology graduate Eloise Armour.
“I’ve always been really involved in environmental work,” Armour said. “My mother works for the Green Party in France and does local activism with urban agriculture. She’s actually going to be one of the panelists.”
The list of participants, found on the Disaster by Drought website, includes 14 professors and professionals from around the world.
“You’ll find they’re from all over the world,” Alaniz said. “New Zealand, the UK, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka — they’ve done work in Central America, they’ve done work in Australia, they’re all amazing people.”
While the drought summit may seem like a specialized issue, it has support from every college on campus.
“It’s quite an opportunity, and so every college has provided funding to make this happen,” Alaniz said. “It was a universal thumbs up and encouragement from administration.”
According to Armour, anyone can participate in the summit — even if that means just a few hours for one of the days.
“Anybody can attend at different levels,” Armour said. “Students can volunteer, they can participate in this photo exhibit we have going on, they can attend panels, discussions, Q&A and an awareness gallery that’ll be going on in the library.”
However, students don’t have to miss class to attend different parts of the conference. There’s flexibility in the schedule to drop in and out at different points throughout the week.
“There are different events at different times,” Armour said. “So they could definitely participate at different events. Some professors are giving credit to their students for attending.”
Cal Poly’s involvement has also garnered national attention, according to Alaniz.
“Monday I received an email from the White House saying the Obama Administration is requesting a summary of our findings from the summit,” Alaniz said. “The drought is going to be a perpetual issue, and they want to know how they can prepare, what they can do, and what they can learn from the summit that may help inform policy in the future.”
Alaniz is in charge of creating this summary for the White House.
“I will probably be the lead author, and I will ask all of the scholars to build research agendas for future publication,” Alaniz said. “They’re going to brainstorm on different ideas on what we want to publish on, and how we can come together from our different perspectives to work on a paper and create new knowledge.”
Armour encourages student participation in the summit.
“We really want this to be the beginning of something bigger for Cal Poly,” Armour said. “We want to encourage this school to become the cutting edge center of research in terms of resilience.”
Alaniz is looking forward to the possibilities the summit might bring.
“It’s a really great opportunity,” Alaniz said. “How often do you get to meet people from the United Nations?”