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New center will focus environmental debate and produce solutions for action

PHILADELPHIAThe Academy of Natural Sciences today announced a new Center for Environmental Policy that will bring together disparate parties in the wide-ranging environmental debate and offer practical solutions for managing the region's natural resources.

The center will be funded by an $82,500 start-up grant from the William Penn Foundation. It will evaluate key issues of environmental policy affecting Philadelphia and surrounding communities and provide a forum for discussion among citizens, industries, government officials and organizations. The center will build public awareness on critical environmental topicsincluding climate change, water pollution, and the role of religionand recommend official policies based on science and inclusive dialogue.

"The center will answer the long-standing need for a non-partisan, science-based organization that is capable of engaging and guiding disparate public and private environmental stakeholders," said Academy President and CEO Dr. William Y. Brown. "The Philadelphia region is fortunate to have a large number of active organizationsfrom grass-roots to the top echelons of governmentthat want to work toward sound and sustainable solutions to better our communities. The Academy is uniquely placed to help coordinate that effort."

The center will build on the Academy's decades-long work in developing the science to understand and protect the environment and how it is affected by people. It is also the outgrowth of the popular 4-year-old Town Square program, including the Urban Sustainability Forums. Founded in 1812, the Academy is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Americas.

"Like many natural history museums, the Academy in recent years has assumed new roles beyond the traditional activities of exploring, collecting, classifying and exhibiting," Brown said. "The Academy is a comprehensive institution, generating and transmitting new knowledge and facilitating positive public action."

The center has four general functions.

  • Public Communications. The Academy will draw on its scientific expertise to play a key role in informing public debate on science-related policy questions.
  • Public Science. The Academy will bring together experts and the public for broad-ranging discussions on environmental and scientific issues.
  • Decision-Making Support. The Academy will invite groups of policymakers and scientists to work hand in hand to develop practical recommendations to complex issues.
  • Formal Academic Research. Academy scientists will expand their work on environmental policy.

The center will not, however, advocate, lobby or directly build constituencies around specific topics, said Roland Wall, the Academy's Director of Environmental Policy, who is the new center's director.

Top of the agenda for the center are these projects, which have already begun:

  • Green Museum Initiative. Working in collaboration with the Clinton Climate Change Initiative and the Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Sustainability, the center is spearheading efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of Philadelphia's museums and cultural institutions.
  • Interfaith Environmental Network. The center is coordinating faith-based organizations in Philadelphia which want to be involved in stewardship of the environment. Nearly 20 churches and religious organizations already are part of the network.
  • The Urban Sustainability Forum. The Academy will continue to sponsor and host this ongoing series of public meetings designed to help Philadelphia become the greenest, most livable city in America. The forum will be an ongoing site for cutting-edge ideas on the urban environment as well as an opportunity for dialogue between experts, decision-makers and the public.
  • Philadelphia Recycling Symposium. Starting in November, the Academy will work with the Recycling Alliance of Philadelphia to sponsor public meetings of city officials, recycling professionals, activists and community leaders to develop policy and raise awareness, marking a weeklong push by the city to emphasize recycling.

Christine Knapp, Director of Outreach for Penn Future said, "We have worked closely with the Academy for three years on the Urban Sustainability Forum and look forward to them taking on this expanded role. The Academy's reputation and resources will offer many opportunities for creative partnerships."

"The Center for Environmental Policy is a logical, next-step in the Academy's commitment to understanding and protecting the environment, especially in changing the negative impacts of people," Wall said.

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Contact: Carolyn Belardo
The Academy of Natural Sciences

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