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Global Problems Global Solutions

2023 Conference: Pathways to Environmental Justice | Friday, Oct. 27


Registration - 9:30 a.m.
Welcome Address - 10:30 a.m.

Keynote Address: Coping Effectively with Climate Change: Grieving What is Lost, Preserving What Can Be Saved

by Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D. 
Former Executive Director, Rachel Carson Homestead Association 
Board of Trustees Secretary, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens 

Zappala Campus Center  

Data from the U.N. Climate Synthesis Reports document the irreversible changes to our world wrought by human actions over the course of the last 150 years of industrialization. Many people, especially young people, face the future with a sense of despair as we see the world as we have known it changing before our eyes.

It is important to face this grief at the passing of an age to understand the causes. Understanding the loss, and feeling the outrage and anger, can propel action instead of despair. The ways forward are known and moving with varying degrees of success.

Shaping the moral outrage at the destruction of our life support system can create a surge of support for the changes in policy and behavior that will ameliorate or prevent the worst predictions from climate change. It is time for the uprising of the people on the order of the first Earth Day in 1970.

Patricia M. DeMarco PhD.About Dr. DeMarco 
A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Patricia M. DeMarco obtained a doctorate in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. She has spent a 30-year career in energy and environmental policy in both private and public sector positions. Her first book, “Pathways to Our Sustainable Future – A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh,explores positive pathways toward sustainability, based on 28 case studies in Pittsburgh.

Dr. DeMarco served as Executive Director of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association from 2006 to 2011. She is currently the Director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University, where she is a senior scholar and adjunct faculty member. She is secretary of the Board of Trustees for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Allegheny Land Trust. Additionally Dr. DeMarco sits on the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Municipal League, and she is an elected councilwoman and Vice President of the Forest Hills Borough Council.

Her awards include: Lifetime Achievement Award - Women in Conservation from Penn Future 2020; Carnegie Science Award in Environment, 2019; Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light Visionary Award for 2018; and Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences - William R. Freudenburg Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017.

Fighting for a Livable Environment: Protecting Our Parks

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Ryan Room

The Pittsburgh area is in the forefront of efforts to preserve a livable environment, especially through the joint efforts of Allegheny County Council and the Protect Our Parks Coalition. In 2022 this combination won an important victory, banning environmentally destructive fracking (hydraulic fracturing) from county parks.

In 2023 some of the same activists are preparing to address another problem: thousands of abandoned gas and oil wells exist in Pennsylvania, including in county parks. Many of these are leaking toxins, including methane, to the detriment of our communities and environment. A campaign to overcome this is about to be launched.

  • Paul Klein, Allegheny County Council District 11 Representative, Associate Professor, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh
  • Robin Lesko, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch, Initiator of Protect Our Parks
  • Kelsey Krepps, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club

Water Projects for Urban and Rural Communities in the Global South

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Palumbo Science Center, Room 101

The search for water in an industrialized urban area of Mongolia and a remote village in the high Andes of Central Ecuador face similar obstacles. Two case studies will highlight how modernization has threatened access to reliable water sources to meet basic water needs and how cooperation and collaboration, policy and engineering are coming together to manage these infrastructure issues.

  • Jonathan Shimko, Vice President and Water Practice Executive – Michael Baker International
  • Alma Rettinger, Engineers Without Borders, Civil and Environmental Engineer
  • Dr. Azlan Tajuddin, Professor and Chair of Sociology and International Studies, La Roche University (Panel Facilitator)

Lunch Break – 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Climate, Politics & Racism

1:30-2:30 p.m.
Ryan Room

Environmental racism has been defined as “any policy, practice or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (where intended or unintended) individuals, groups or communities based on race.” Dr. Cohen focuses on the especially destructive impacts of the climate crisis on people of color (African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, indigenous peoples, etc.) in the United States.

Presenter: Claire M. Cohen, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. A founding member of the Pittsburgh Green New Deal, she serves on the advisory board of the Pittsburgh Black Workers Center, and also advocates for Medicare For All as a member of Physicians for A National Health Program.

Empowering Organizations to Reduce their Environmental Impact: Saving the World One Purchase at a Time

1:30-2:30 p.m.
Palumbo Science Center, Room 101

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the climate crisis as one of the greatest threats to humanity by demonstrating just how vulnerable we are to its impacts of extreme weather events and food shortages. It also showed us that we need to take urgent action now to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. One way to address the climate crisis is to enable organizations that manage trillions of dollars to allocate that spending to less carbon-intensive products. By providing these organizations with the information and tools they need to make more sustainable procurement decisions, we can create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Presented by Daniela Osio, Procurement and Supply Chain Management Executive, Founder and CEO, Kloopify 

Organizations & Activists for Environmental Justice

2:45-3:45 p.m.
Ryan Room

How can a person become an activist for environmental justice? What are some of the organizations in the Pittsburgh area that provide opportunities for meaningful activism? What are some of the ongoing campaigns and activities in which one can become involved in 2023, 2024 and beyond?


  • Robin Lesko, M.A. in Counseling, Chatham University, Environment Psychology focus, Food and Water Watch, Organizer and Protect Our Parks, Initiator
  • Mike Stout, Izaak Walton League, Former Steel Worker, Singer-Songwriter, Author of "Homestead Steel Mill - The Final Ten Years: USWA Local 1397 and the Fight for Union Democracy"
  • Dr. Paul LeBlanc, Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Political Science, La Roche University (Panel Facilitator)

“Reclaiming Our Island" Film Screening & Discussion

2:45-4 p.m.
Palumbo Science Center, Room 101

Ancestral St. Johnians and Virgin Islanders are being dispossessed from their land and heritage. In this first film of a three-part documentary series, island elders share their personal experiences and stories, highlighting the injustices experienced in relation to the creation and operation of the Virgin Islands National Park, and the struggles they are facing to manage the luxury tourism of their island.

Director: Dr. Crystal Fortwangler,  Assistant Professor and Film Program Director, La Roche University

Graphic Design Exhibit
Infographics: Visualizing an Environment in Crisis 

10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
Cantellops Art Gallery 

La Roche University graphic design students present information graphics on a variety of environmental issues.


    About Global Problems, Global Solutions

    Global Problems, Global Solutions is a free, annual conference. La Roche leads and co-sponsors the conference with local colleges, universities and nonprofits known for their global activism.

    The Global Problems, Global Solutions conferences discuss progress, plans and initiatives related to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Established in September 2015, the new sustainable development agenda seeks to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

      Dedicated to promoting justice and peace in a constantly changing global society, La Roche supports the U.N. in working to make these goals a reality in Pittsburgh and throughout the global marketplace.

      Previous Keynote Speakers

      • Barry Kerzin, M.D., a personal physician of the Dalai Lama, the founder and president of the Altruism in Medicine Institute and the founder and chairman of the Human Values Institute in Japan
      • Jim Withers, M.D., medical director and founder of Operation Safety Net and the Street Medicine Institute
      • Richard V. Piacentini, Executive Director of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
      • Maureen A. Dunn, Division chief of the office of policy and strategy at U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 
      • Robert C. Gallo, MD, Co-Discoverer of HIV Causing AIDS 
      • Former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill 
      • Pulitzer Prize Winner Sheryl WuDunn 
      • Deputy Secretary of USAID, Ambassador Donald Steinberg 

        About the Quainton Center for Global Engagement

        The Quainton Center for Global Engagement facilitates a greater connection between American and international students and scholars.

        Throughout the year the Center offers various on-campus activities, lectures and globally focused programming to heighten the cultural awareness and sensibilities of the community.

        The Center honors the La Roche mission statement by sharing a dedication to international education and promoting an inclusive environment where the campus community as a whole can examine current events and topics facing today’s global society.