Engineering ourselves for the climate crisis

Environmental engineer Leonard Ortolano reflects on his professional trajectory and how environmentalism has guided water resource planning, gives us a brief history of US environmental assessment work, and explores the complexity of water as it relates to climate change.

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Leonard Ortolano
Leonard Ortolano is a professor in the Civil and Environmental Department at Stanford University. His research includes work on (1) policies for environmental planning and management in China and South Asia; (2) delivery of water supply and sewerage services to disadvantaged communities; (3) energy efficiency and the diffusion of wind turbine technologies (4) community-based organizations; and (5) managing risks from chemical products. Professor Ortolano has worked for the U.S. Public Health Service and as a consultant for numerous organizations, including international development agencies such as the World Bank.1 In addition to his research and teaching in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, he was the director of Stanford’s Urban Studies Program from 2008 to 2003, and the director of Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service from 2003 to 2006.  Professor Ortolano received Fulbright-Hays grants to teach as a visiting professor at the Istituto di Ricerca Sulled Acque in Rome in 1978-1979 and as a visiting professor at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris in 1987 to 1988.2  He has done extensive research on China’s Environmental Regulation Programs and is currently conducting research in South Asia on government environmental programs and policies. In 1996, Professor Ortolano was awarded the Lillian and Thomas B. Rhodes Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and in 2005 was awarded the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Alice Blayney
Alice Blayney is a junior at Stanford Majoring in Environmental Engineering- wet environment. She enjoys learning about watershed responses to precipitation and human engineering/interference in the hydrologic cycle. Her fascination of water started as a child living in Southern California during the 1997 El Niño. She later then moved to Michigan and enjoyed the annual progression of the hydrologic cycle and natural environmental responses. After graduation she plans to go to grad school to study environmental engineering or hydrology.

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