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Symposium on Sustainable Development

On April 8th 2016 Indiana University held its first Symposium on Sustainable Development. The symposium brought together scholars, business professionals, government researchers trained in various disciplines to discuss challenges and opportunities in creating a sustainable future for the energy industry. Panel discussions were divided between two sessions “Alternative Energy and Sustainable Development” and “Traditional Energy Sources and Sustainable Development”.

Dr. Gardner Bovingdon, Associate Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS) was a panelist on “Traditional Energy Sources and Sustainable Development”. The panel also included Dr. Rizwan Uddin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE); Dr. Hideka Yamaguchi of the Evansville Department of Sustainability, Energy, and Environmental Quality (SEEQ); with Dr. Jessica Steinberg, Assistant Professor of International Studies serving as the moderator.

Following introductions by Dr. Steinberg, Dr. Bovingdon launched the panel discussion by talking about traditional energy and sustainable development in Central Asia. He noted that sustainable development is not yet a reality in the region but merely “a happy dream”, using the International Crisis Group’s report of Central Asia’s crumbling infrastructure to elucidate this point. Economic diversification and modernization need to be put on hold due to corruption. Local economies are heavily dependent on energy and have no credible plan for sustainable development due to counter-cyclical spending. Dr. Bovingdon emphasized the need for outside capital to diversify the energy industry, especially as the region holds high potential for wind and solar energy.

Dr. Uddin’s remarks focused first on the need to solve the problem of defining sustainability, specifically whether to consider ‘sustainable’ as an environmental term or a social term that highlights behavior, attitudes, and practices related to being sustainable. Scientists, entrepreneurs, economists, and social scientists need to come to the table in order to make progress in the field. He then launched into the nuances of using nuclear energy, emphasizing the difficulties in comparing the costs and benefits of nuclear energy with coal. Dr. Yamaguchi discussed the 2011 Fukushima accident and the environmental conversations that occurred in Japan as a result. She emphasized that the accident changed Japan’s energy course as the country moved to end nuclear energy and increase renewable energy. However in recent years this trajectory has changed.  More information can be found in her book "Post-Fukushima Renewable Energy Policy in Japan" published in 2015.

You can watch the full symposium or the panel “Traditional Energy Sources and Sustainable Development” online here:


The program and reception are co-sponsored by IU CIBER, the Center for the Study of Global Change, Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, Center for the Study of the Middle East, and the East Asian Studies Center.