Aquarion award cites professor for outreach to educate the public about climate change
Western Connecticut State University Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Mitch Wagener has received the 2019 Aquarion Environmental Champion Award for Communications recognizing his wide-ranging efforts over many years to educate the public about the science and consequences of climate change.
At an awards ceremony held June 1 at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Aquarion Water Company President and CEO Charles Firlotte expressed thanks to Environmental Champion honorees for their “outstanding efforts to protect and enhance Connecticut’s natural resources.” The Communications Award citation noted Wagener’s exemplary contributions in developing and coordinating the “Climate and Human Civilization” program at WCSU, an annual series of free public seminars led by faculty and students to explore the scientific evidence of change in the Earth’s climate and various manifestations of its impact including wild fires, natural disasters and species evolution and survival. An important part of each series has been the presentation of constructive actions that can be taken at the individual and community levels to address environmental, health and sustainability challenges caused by climate change.
Dr. Pat Boily, chair of the Biological and Environmental Sciences Department, credited Wagener’s work in reaching out to WCSU faculty members and students from many academic disciplines as well as teachers and students from Danbury High School to participate in a comprehensive public education program. “Not only have his efforts contributed significantly to educating the public about one of the most important environmental issues of our time, but also in engaging and training many students to communicate to the public about the wide range of consequences associated with climate change,” Boily said.
In his acceptance remarks, Wagener observed that public education about climate change is urgently needed to provide clarity about the difficult environmental choices that confront political leaders and society worldwide. “We are now seeing the effects of the climate crisis,” he said. “This is the world that we have made, but we don’t know how to escape. The youth of the world seem to understand what so many others do not — that climate change changes everything, that the status quo is not survivable.”
The “Climate and Human Civilization” series, sponsored by the Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies at WCSU, represents only part of the extensive schedule that Wagener has maintained for more than two decades in speaking about scientific topics before university and public audiences. During the past three years, he has given more than 50 public talks and guest lectures, including 13 presentations since the beginning of 2019.
Acknowledging support from WCSU and the Goodall Center for his outreach efforts, Wagener observed, “Trying to save the world is a rational act. Choosing not to try to save the world is a clear statement that the Earth has no value, that life has no meaning other than to grasp and accumulate.
“What terrifies me is that at all scales of time that mean something to us and to our children and great-grandchildren, and on for several more generations, climate change is permanent,” he said. “”By standing up and speaking up now, we — the generation largely responsible for the problem — take on some significant inconvenience in order to lessen the pain and desperation of our descendants.”
The annual statewide Environmental Champion Awards are sponsored by Aquarion Water Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eversource. The Bridgeport-based public water supply company serves 52 communities across Connecticut as well as customers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The corporate mission statement notes that Aquarion “strives to act as a responsible steward of the environment and to assist the communities it serves in promoting sustainable practices.”
For information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.