PUBLISHED: 1:58 PM on Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Pacific Rim Forum to focus on energy, environment
There is no doubt that Alaska is dependent on the oil industry. But as this resource begins to wane, it's important that residents of the 49th state and the rest of the Pacific Rim plan for the future by understanding how energy consumption affects not only our state, but the world around us.

The 2006 Pacific Rim Forum, which will be March 30-April 1, will focus on energy and the environment. This interdisciplinary conference will provide a venue for arts and humanities, business, and natural and social sciences to explore the issues of energy consumption and its consequences.

"Our goal is to increase awareness and to encourage more conversation among different disciplines," said Pacific Rim Forum Executive Director Matt Heavner. "What can science tell us about our energy consumption, and what is the cultural evidence for change? What can artists tell us about how to respond to these issues as humans? We want to bring immediate attention to these issues and come together to plan what we can do."

Now in its fifth year, the forum attracts upwards of 150 people to its series of lectures presented by renowned experts in the field. This year's series includes presentations by a number of University professors from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Washington, as well as talks by legislators, state department commissioners, city managers, authors, artists and actors.

"One of the things that makes the Pacific Rim Forum interesting is that it is so diverse," Heavner said. "It's a neat opportunity for the community to hear a number of different viewpoints, from scientists to legislators to artists."

With energy consumption so much in the news, Heavner believes that it is especially important that these issues be brought to the forefront now.

"I was reading articles in the popular press about oil consumption, and then the book "Beyond Oil" came out," he said.

"That got me thinking about how Alaska is so dependent on the oil industry, and how, from a global perspective, we've actually passed the peak production time for this resource. What will this mean for our economy and for the environment? From fisheries habitat to coastal erosion, these things are all intertwined."

Pacific Rim Forum Where: University of Alaska Southeast When: March 30-April 1 Cost: Free

The series is broken into three topics over three days-"Identifying the Intersection" on Thursday, "At the Crossroads" on Friday and "Facing the Future" on Saturday. Thursday's presentations will focus on identifying trends in the past and linking energy and environmental trends. Friday's presentations will focus on current environment and energy issues, and Saturday's presentations will focus on the energy and environmental outlook, and how people should or will respond to these pressing concerns.

"It's important that we talk about how to deal with these issues, because often, people say that they are concerned about these things, but don't feel that they can do anything to change what's happening," Heavner said. "People feel that these issues are so big that one person can't really make a difference."

"Other people may feel that because these problems aren't impacting them right now, they can just ignore them," he said. "But even if oil production doesn't stop for another 30 years, we still need to be planning for how it will effect our economy and what environmental changes will take place."

In addition to the presentations, a number of special events are also planned throughout the weekend. On Thursday afternoon, Composer Stefan Hakenberg will speak on his original composition, "Three Movements on the Energy and the Environment," which will be followed by the world premiere of the piece by Alexander Tutunov. That evening, guests will enjoy a performance of "Hair" at Perseverance Theatre, followed by a talk-back session with the director.

On Friday evening, UAF Geophysical Institute Assistant Professor of Physics Martin Truffer will host two Fireside Chats at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center. On Saturday afternoon, an Energy and Technology Fair will be held at the Visitors Center, and on Saturday night, the Ketchikan University Players will present their original play, "Bed Sheets."

"Though the entire event is going to be really exciting, I personally am looking forward to hearing from glaciologist Martin Truffer," Heavner said.

"He'll be talking about the huge changes that are taking place on Greenland's ice sheets, and how the knowledge we have about southeast Alaska's ice fields are helping us to understand what's happening there."

Events begin at 9 a.m. each morning. Presentations will be held at the UAS Egan Lecture Hall on Thursday and Friday, with all of Saturday's events taking place at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center. Friday night's Fireside Chats will also take place at the Visitors Center.

For more information about the Pacific Rim Forum, and the latest schedule of events and presenters, visit