SXSW conference goes beyond networking to inspire environmental integrity

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South by Southwest Eco, a three-day conference from Wednesday to Friday at the AT&T Conference Center, will host 270 speakers from environmentally focused enterprises in the public, private and academic sectors to recognize and discuss challenges of civil society, the economy and the environment.

Mitch Jacobson, program manager for UT’s IC² Institute, said one of the biggest goals of the conference is to develop an instant source for networking. The IC² Institute researches entrepreneurship, business and technology. The conference will include professionals and students with a focus on sustainability in fields including energy resources and environmental conservation.

Jacobson said there is a rapidly growing number of ways to create usable energy, but natural resources are still being depleted.

“It’s frustrating that we have so much information, because the way we use our resources is out of control,” he said.

Although SXSW Eco, in its second year, focuses on networking, another goal is to change the way people define the word “progress,” Deanna Hoelscher, natural sciences adjunct professor, said. Hoelscher, who is speaking at this year’s conference, said society often sacrifices environmental resources and sustainability for progress.

“This conference serves as a reminder that the health of the population and of the world are equally, if not more, important than money,” Hoelscher said. 

Sam Maslin, a business administration graduate student, will represent UT in a panel discussion at the conference this week. As a student, Maslin said he sees how limitless the opportunities are for young adults at the conference.

“A lot of adults that are part of South by Southwest Eco only see it as a networking opportunity,” Maslin said. “When I think about the conference, all I can see is how inspiring it all is.”

Maslin said most students focus on what job they will have in five years, not whether that job will still exist.

“You have to care about the environment no matter what sector of work you’re hoping to go into,” he said.

During the course of the conference, select distinguished and keynote speakers’ presentations will stream live from sxsweco.com/live.

Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: South by Southwest conference goes green