Doors open at ECLA’s Annual Conference, 2008

ECLA Annual Conference Doors open on State
ECLA Annual Conference 2008

Yesterday (Monday 5 May) saw the opening of the Annual Conference at ECLA.

This year Annual Conference takes water as its theme for the week. Also chosen as the 2008 topic for the UN-decade Education for Sustainable Development, water is now at the heart of a number of key global political problems, such as inequality, environmental degradation and gender discrimination. The Annual Conference aims to explore these issues in the light of the term’s AY Core Course on Property.

The event is the culmination of a planning process which started in January 2008. A team of faculty members and students worked jointly to produce the final programme. The event also sees ECLA open its doors to undergraduate students from other universities, to ECLA-alumni and to other interested visitors. The Annual Conference 2008 is built on a set of morning lectures by international speakers and on group projects.The lecture series for Annual Conference 2008 includes the following contributions:

Tony Allan, Professor of Geography, King’s College London and winner of the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize is presenting a lecture ‘Global systems enable local security: virtual water – the water, food and trade nexus brings water security and sustainability’.

Maude Barlow, author of Blue Gold, recipient of the Alternative Nobel and founder of the Blue Planet Project is giving a lecture based on her recent book, The Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

David Blackbourn, Professor of History, Harvard University, and author of The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany is presenting a paper, ‘Conquest and Conservation: German Waterlands since 1750’.

Michal Kravcic, Hydrologist, founder of People and Water, and Ashoka Fellow, discusses the ‘New Water Paradigm’.

Petra Dobner, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin,is lecturing on ‘Crossing the Jordan: Global Water and Transnational Constitutionalism’.

The first day of the Annual Conference closed with a panel discussion, which took ‘Berlin’s Water Management – an Example for Others?’ as a topic for discussion. The panel featured Eva Sternfeld, China Environment and Sustainable Development Reference and Research Center, Maude Barlow, and Dorothe Härlin from the Berliner Wassertisch.

Special seminars spanning several disciplines examine different aspects of the issue of water. Seminars address the philosophy of water, the human right to water, dam-building, water as memory and culture, and the metaphorical implications of water and of the shipwreck in particular. Other events at Annual Conference 2008 include round table discussions, film screenings and a presentation based on an art exhibition. A student ‘water fund’ project features as an important component of the week’s activities.

Student coordinator Lena Schulze-Gabrechten said:

‘Considering water as a political issue the Annual Conference tries to connect the global(ized) dimension with the local one. In the form of a public panel discussion, forexample, current developments of water privatization in Berlin are included. I hope these attempts are helpful to make the issue more relevant to everyone.’

The annual Annual Conference at ECLA was set up to give students an opportunity to reflect on how liberal arts studies relate to issues of the present day. Established in 2003 as a forum for inquiry into current affairs, the Annual Conference fulfils an integral part of ECLA’s educational mission by demonstrating the relevance of liberal arts studies to contemporary world events. Students choose the theme of the week and play a substantive role in the production of the programme.

Last year, in May 2007, Annual Conference examined the theme of ‘social entrepreneurship’. The event won a UNESCO award for education in sustainable development and prompted faculty coordinators Catherine Toal and Rafael Ziegler to organize an elective in social entrepreneurship for the fall term of 2007. Catherine and Rafael are also in the process of editing a book of essays based on the event and the elective, Social Investments: Transformations of the Entrepreneurial Spirit

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