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SXSW Eco Powers Through a Second Year

The second-annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco conference comes to an end today.

SXSW Eco is an offshoot of the wildly-popular SXSW festival that takes over Austin for a good chunk of March each year, and has since grown from its roots in music and film to encompass technology and education.

SXSW Eco is still a comparatively smaller affair, viewed against the whopping $190 million in estimated economic impact SXSW brings overall. But this year’s festival expanded its focus onto five themes: Scalable, ecological solutions; collaborations between disparate communities on global issues like climate change; advances in technology and design; green economics; and visions for an environmentally sustainable future.

The team with KUT News’ StateImpact Texas has been filing dispatches from Eco, starting with an interview with Michael E. Mann, a Penn State University professor whose work includes the iconic “hockey stick” graph showing a rise in global temperatures since the dawn of the industrial age – work that his made him a target of climate change deniers.

He tells StateImpact Texas:

What we are seeing is that things are happening even faster than we had projected. Whether you’re talking about arctic sea ice decline, or whether you’re talking about the record heat and drought and wildfire that we saw here in the U.S. this summer and the previous summer. So while the changes are actually unfolding even faster, in many respects, than we had predicted, and the science has become that much more solid, the gulf continues between what the science says and what one might gather from the public discourse on this issue.

Being in Austin, local, state and border topics peppered SXSW Eco. Renewable energy advisor Scott Storment described the installation of a wind turbine in Mexico at one panel:

After off-roading for a while they got to the turbine. “And the only way they got the tower there was because the gentleman who owned the land was a narco-trafficker,” Storment said. “Typically, he didn’t let people on his land, but he was a big fan of wind. He told us, ‘If you do do this, I want to buy wind energy.’”

SXSW Eco wraps up tonight. 

Disclosure: KUT Austin is a sponsor of the SXSW Eco conference

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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