Environmental Awareness


On Thursday, Nov. 18, MCLA will present the next Elizabeth and Lawrence Vadnais Environmental Issues Lecture, "Biomass Stewardship, a Practitioner's Journey," to be delivered by biomass specialist Averill H. Cook.

The lecture, to be presented at 7 p.m. in Murdock Hall room 218 on the MCLA campus, is free and open to the public.

The Vadnais Lectures were created by former student members of the Center for Resourceful Living - a cutting-edge environmental studies program founded and overseen by Professor Lawrence Vadnais and his wife, Elizabeth, in the 1970s. This land-based experience began on the Vadnais' farm before moving to College-owned property.

In 2005, MCLA established the Berkshire Environmental Resource Center (BERC) to promote environmental awareness while advancing student and faculty research. The establishment of this Center and the popularity of the series led to its endowment in October 2008, when it became a permanent part of the MCLA's long-term lectureship offerings.

Since that time, audiences have heard from experts on a variety of timely environmental issues.

In the fall of 2008, naturalist and author Scott Weidensaul discussed the importance both economically and ecologically of saving migratory birds and reviewed current threats to bird populations - from insecticides to habitat destructions - to a standing room only crowd. The following spring, Nobel Peace Prize winner William Moomaw also delivered a lecture to a standing room only audience as he discussed environmentally sound housing and the critical importance of reducing carbon emissions.

Then, last fall, one of the first students to become involved with the College's Center for Resourceful Living - Frank O'Brien-Bernini, the vice president and chief sustainability officer for the Owens Corning Corporation - returned to the campus to speak on "Making Sustainability Work in a Large, Global, Public Company."

For this fall's lecture, the MCLA campus and greater community will learn from Cook (pictured left), a biomass energy resource expert, who will discuss his focus on green farming and how plant material, vegetation or agricultural waste can be used as fuel.

A former member of the Massachusetts Biomass Working Group, Cook currently serves on the board of directors of the Biomass Thermal Energy Council. He has worked in agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and the fuel pellet industry for more than 20 years. In 2006, he started Biomass Commodities Corporation, a vertically integrated renewable energy provider.

He also operates Wendling Biomass Consulting, which supports biomass projects throughout the world. Currently, he has projects underway in Serbia, Brazil and Uruguay. His projects in this country include those in Michigan, Mississippi and Arkansas. He also has traveled extensively through Scandinavia and Europe to determine how the industry was developing there.

A 1976 graduate of the University of Vermont, Cook received a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies in the School of Natural Resources and Forestry.