Conference on World Affairs panel rethinks urbanization

Determined to serve a buffet of global delicacies ranging from the topical to the titillating, the upcoming Conference on World Affairs indulges audiences across campus and Boulder in “everything conceivable,” Roger Ebert, former director of the conference who passed away on Thursday, once said.

Experts from countless disciplines touch down in Boulder next week to engage in hundreds of unscripted discussions exploring the modern world. The annual conference is an assembly of panels and performances propped up by scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs and other experienced individuals who participate at their own expense.

One panel of note will discuss everything from East Asian industrial sociology to energy sustainability and how it relates to the evolution of labor practices in developing or developed countries.

All events are free to attend and open to the public, thrusting right in front of CU students and community members a rare opportunity to find out who is interested in what and to hear incredible stories from the diverse minds of each panelist.

“Global Urbanization: What’s Lost and Found,” held next Thursday, will feature William Shutkin, president and CEO of the Presidio Graduate School and a social entrepreneur outspoken on the issues of sustainability within urban development.

“That trend toward urbanization is happening, whether we like it or not, around the world,” Shutkin said. “More and more people for the first time in world history are moving from a largely rural agrarian existence to a largely urban and suburban existence.”

The question regarding urbanization, Shutkin said, is how to build sustainable cities.

Suburbs surrounding cities like Denver are dependent on cars, he said, which leads many to argue they are unsustainable, “in terms of land use and urban form.”

While the bulk of the globe experiences a gradual increase in migration to urban centers, the potential pros and cons of city life vary greatly between regions. Urbanization lends to increased diversity, innovation and entrepreneurship, but can cause imbalance between people and nature the more reliant they become on practices harmful to the environment.

“How do you restore prairie and wetland in the middle of cities in African and Asia and North America?” Shutkin asked. “How do you, in a dense urban setting, create meaningful connections between people and nature?”

He believes that great opportunities for innovation exist for the future generations, those who will grapple with the radical changes anticipated by global urbanization.

The Conference on World Affairs is an aspect of a broader movement toward what Shutkin calls a world, “where commerce and ecology can coexist,” which “Global Urbanization” will address.

Cities are not all ecological corruption and filth, though. Shutkin observed that urbanization offers a bright side: “developing a level of comfort and curiosity among different classes because “More people [are] coming to live in urban areas and being exposed to folks from different walks of life and different backgrounds and incomes,” he said.

For more information about urbanization’s impact on international welfare and environment and its future sustainability, attend the panel from 9:30-10:50 a.m. next Thursday in UMC room 235.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Gabriel Larsen-Santos at

Gabriel Larsen-Santos

Gabriel is a senior studying history and doing journalism. He loves reading, writing, meteor showers, and long walks on the beach. Contact him at just to say hi.

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