Explorer presents on global warming

Explorer Will Steger spoke to architectural and design leaders on the need for sustainability.

Alex Robinson

Polar explorer Will Steger spoke in front of a crowd of design and architecture leaders Thursday about how global warming was melting polar ice shelves. But unlike his topic, Steger’s words were not warming.

“We’ve already set something in motion that we have no control over,” Steger said.

Steger gave his speech during the College of Design’s international three day conference, which discussed how administrators can incorporate the environment in their teaching.

Conference co-chairman John Koepke said the College of Design is starting to integrate the sustainability issues into all of its classes.

Architects can design more sustainable developments by using environmentally friendly materials, controlling storm water runoff and planting native plants, which don’t require pesticide around the development.

Steger’s message was important for the audience to hear, Koepke said.

“It was a tough message, but there were some hopeful signs,” he said.

Errol Haarhoff, head of the architecture department at Auckland University in New Zealand, said some of the buildings being designed in his country have reduced their energy consumption by 40 percent.

“It’s not the total solution, but it contributes to the solution,” Haarhoff said.

College of Design dean Tom Fisher said he was hopeful the college could make changes to cut down on global warming and make an impact. The college, however, doesn’t have the luxury of time.

In 1986 Steger led the first dogsled expedition to the North Pole without resupplying. Steger said that in 10 years, if global warming trends continue, it would be impossible to make the trek without a flotation device.

Steger has also traveled by dogsled across Antarctica. During his speech, Steger showed pictures of ice shelves he had traveled across during his expedition that are now melted.

If global warming trends continue over the next 100 years, the ice caps over Greenland will melt, causing ocean levels to rise more than 200 ft., Steger said.

The globe is warming faster than scientists originally expected, Steger said.

“It’s too bad that we’re having this talk now, because we knew about this 20 years ago,” he said.

Steger said there still are ways to slow global warming.

“We can get our act together, but we’re going to have to adapt,” he said.

In order to slow global warming, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 80 percent by 2050, Steger said.

The Minnesota Legislature is currently calling for that reduction.

University alumna Danyelle Pierquet is an urban designer and said her job is directly related to the environment.

Pierquet said when she was in school, they were already teaching sustainability.

“We were talking about that stuff 24/7,” Pierquet said. “It just wasn’t marketed as being green.”