Sustainability Fair to feature ‘Before the Lights Go Out’ author

OSWEGO — Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of popular group blog Boing Boing and author of “Before the Lights Go Out,” will headline SUNY Oswego’s 2013 Sustainability Fair on April 17.

Free and open to the public, the fair and its sustainability symposium will run 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Campus Center, concurrent with Quest, the college’s annual daylong celebration of scholarly and creative activity. Koerth-Baker will make a presentation at 2 p.m. in Room 114 of the Campus Center.

Maggie Koerth-Baker
Maggie Koerth-Baker

In the arena, the fair will feature electric vehicles, student sustainability projects and vendor demonstrations, from farming techniques to windmill developers, from reclaimed-lumber products to initiatives at Destiny USA. Koerth-Baker and the other symposium presenters also will speak with visitors to the fair.

Student groups represented at the fair will include SUNY Oswego Eco Reps and the college’s Actively Collaborating Toward Solutions program, one of 10 winners of SUNY’s inaugural Small Grant Sustainability Competition. ACTS seeks to involve college and K-12 students in sustainability projects, from composting to controlling invasive species.

Emphasis will shift toward enterprising ways students, area residents and the rest of the world can contribute to sustainability, from what to do with old tires to raising money for AIDS research by recycling, according to Mike Lotito, engineering coordinator, and Jamie Adams, program coordinator, for SUNY Oswego Facilities Design and Construction’s sustainability office.

Living green

The new symposium — all three presentations will be in Room 114 of the Campus Center — will kick off at 11 a.m. with founders of The Crash Pad talking about how three men under 30 supported their lifestyle of hiking, climbing and biking by designing and building a LEED Platinum hostel in Chattanooga, Tenn.

At noon, Jim Strickland and Laurie Freeman will make a presentation about their decision to live off the grid in the Adirondack Mountains and what it has taken to be energy independent since 2000.

The grid plays a leading — and very fallible — role in Koerth-Baker’s 2012 book, “Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us.” She takes readers from the system’s start in 1882, through the historic 2003 Northeast blackout and out the other side to today. She focuses on practical, achievable steps for all Americans to shape the nation’s energy future — preferably before any next national energy emergency.

“We’re excited and fortunate to have a world-renowned speaker like Maggie come to campus,” Lotito said. “Her insight and understanding of how our electrical infrastructure works and where we’re headed as a society with regard to energy production, efficiency and transmission are invaluable. This offers our students a unique opportunity to participate in a dialogue about a complicated issue that affects us all.”

Koerth-Baker’s appearance is in conjunction with this year’s alternate-reality game, moderated annually by Ulises Mejias of the communication studies department. This year’s theme is “Fracking,” exploring the issues around the hydrofracking technique for extracting natural gas from shale.

Parking is free April 17 for visitors to Quest, when hundreds of talks, panel discussions, demonstrations and concurrent events will take place largely in the Campus Center and nearby Lanigan and Snygg halls.