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EI Symposium 2010

Programs and Actions on Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change in Higher Education

The first Environmental Innovators Symposium in Tokyo, hosted at Keio University’s Mita Campus, was a success both for the content presented and for the connections and the discussions that developed between presenters and participants.

On December 17th and 18th, 2010 close to 200 participants gathered to discuss the role of higher education in the global effort to mitigate against Climate Change and to adapt to its effects. The goal of the symposium was to bring together a diverse group of participants from many fields, and in that regard we were particularly successful. Participants included representatives from government, environmental leaders, policy makers, climate scientists, architects and urban planners, environmental entrepreneurs, and students, all currently active in countries in Asia and Africa.

During the two day event several questions evolved during discussion, including:

  1. what is the role of so-called first world knowledge in educating the students of developing nations?
  2. What is the benefit of hands-on experience in educating students about climate change?
  3. What is the appropriate balance between local and global activity?

The answers to these questions remain elusive but the discussions that evolved around them could become useful starting points for further examination. It was particularly interesting to see a growing awareness of the different points of view and indeed of the differing problems faced by the participants, many of whom come from countries separated by large economic and social gaps.

Each day of the symposium had a distinct flavor.
On day one the presentations focused on a broad group of topics related to climate change, highlighting the variety of approaches that educators and practitioners are taking in light of the complexity and scale of the problem.
Many experts have come to understand that mediation of climate change is a global problem and therefore will take some time to unravel - simply bringing all of the actors to the same table to discuss the issues has proved a contentious issue. Adaptation on the other hand is local and somewhat easier to take on even with small groups. It is perhaps unsurprising that many of the presentations and discussions at the symposium revolved around issues related to adaptation, including techniques being used and the problems that are faced at the local level. How universities respond to the emerging trend seems likely to become an indicator for success at least in the near future. It may be that a certain amount of fresh thinking is required. Based on the topics raised in the symposium there is already a movement in that direction amongst various groups both inside and outside of academia. One novel example presented at the symposium included the work of an insurance company that is offering climate change insurance to farmers, which suggests that the economic realm is possibly beginning to catch up and even move ahead of the evidence of climate change on the ground.

On day two of the symposium topics were more focused on environmental design, in large part because the day was used to support the first gathering of the International Keio Institute for Architecture and Urbanism (IKI) ( was a particularly special event because two Pritzker prize winners agreed to take part as president barack obama recently pointed out the Pritzker is the Nobel prize of architecture : namely Mr. Fumihiko Maki and Ms. Kazuyo Sejima. Both have global practices and they added a particularly unique viewpoint to the proceedings.

The day was organized around a series of workshops that included many lively discussions. Perhaps because of the diversity of the group involved the debate often returned to issues of local fit and the appropriateness of architects and planners working in countries that are not their own.

Additionally discussion often turned around the role of architecture and planning as tools to affect social change and to reduce energy use. How architects can be taught to create resiliency was also a common theme. In this aspect the projects presented were compelling and positive, however it was also clear that the typical approach to construction, especially in booming economies such as china, has not yet come to a place where such themes are in the mainstream.