Dr. Rudi Kiefer, Brenau science professor and director of sustainability, presented two invited talks this month as a service to the community. The first one on Feb. 8, entitled “Even The Weather Isn’t The Same Anymore”, was given to an audience of 80 residents at Lanier Village Estates. The presentation focused on recent findings about climatic change and the implications for locations around the world. Superstorm Sandy received a great deal of media attention, as did the tornado outbreaks of 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Ringgold, and Barnesville. The record shows, though, that such “superstorms” are not a new occurrence in the U.S. Much earlier examples of storms of that kind include hurricane Camille in 1969, the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever hit United States soil and the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak which produced 47 twisters and took 271 lives.
The second talk was at the Hall County Safe & Green Expo 2013, given at the Civic Center in Gainesville on Feb.22 to an audience of local business people and residents. The title of his talk was “Sustainability – A local and global perspective.” Rather than blaming climate change for disasters occurring in the world, the presentation drew attention to two factors: industrial foul-ups and people living in harm’s way. Poor choice of location was a major contributor to the March 2011 Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear disaster, combined with professional negligence for which criminal charges are now pending. Kiefer counters an “it can’t happen here” attitude by showing two U.S. nuclear plants that are located on the same Pacific Rim as Fukushima: Diablo Canyon, Calif. (near an active earthquake fault) and San Onofre nuclear plant (at the beach in San Diego, Calif.). The disasters in Chernobyl (1986) and Haiti (2010) present an ongoing legacy of destruction. Other examples, including the multiple operation scandals at the Brunswick, N.C. nuclear plant, the Love Canal, N.Y. and Bhopal, India disasters as well as the ever-present seismic, volcanic and climatic threats to the “Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore triangle” rounded up the talk.