The keynote speech at an international conference on Climate Change and Cultural Anxiety that started April 1 at Colby proved provocative and surprisingly optimistic. Vladimir Jankovic, from the University of Manchester (UK), suggested to an audience including two dozen scholars of the history of climate change that it’s not particularly important whether climate change is provable or measurable. Businesses have incentives to go green, so change to sustainable practices is happening and will accelerate.

In his talk titled “Show Me the Money: Climate Change and the Economy in 2009” cited politicians, economists, and business leaders who see the economic recovery as thoroughly green, since businesses that ignore responsible, sustainable behavior jeopardize their brand.

It may be, he said, “that green business needs climate change more than climate change needs green business.”

Corporations are making changes because markets are demanding change and are putting a premium on green goods and services, because they anticipate regulations that will force the changes in the near future anyway, and because they can gain market advantage from being first or early adopters of new, green practices. In addition the changes will promote efficiencies that will prove good for corporate bottom lines.

Colby Environmental Studies Professor Fei Yu, who gave a formal response before the open question-and-answer period, called Jankovic’s analysis, which countered normal assumptions, “refreshing.” Conference organizers plan to post audio of the presentation and other proceedings here.

The conference, titled Climate and Cultural Anxiety: Historical and Social Perspectives, runs through Saturday, April 4, at Colby and is billed as the first of its kind, bringing together international scholars from a range of disciplines.

Sessions on campus run through the day Saturday and are open to the public. The program is online at http://www.colby.edu/sts/climateanxietyschedule.pdf and discussion papers are available from Alice Ridky (amridky@colby.edu).