Annual Headwaters Conference celebrates 30 years

Headwaters Conference speaker, Joel Clement, on stage.

Annual Headwaters Conference celebrates 30 years

Gabriel Rovick
Photo by Nov 14, 2019

This year’s Headwaters Conference conversation surrounded the topic of Ecological Citizenship in Gunnison and how citizens in the valley can make impacts on lives around them. 

The name “Headwaters” comes from the term for source of water, making the west region the head of where water is coming from: the headwaters.  

“If you think about it, the Continental Divide is right here,” said John Hausdoerffer, Ph.D., the Dean of Western’s School of Environment & Sustainability. “This is the first trickles of water of the West from our snowpack. So, we are the headwaters.” 

The purpose of starting the Headwaters conference was to gather groups of people to talk about how to live well on the edge of civilization. The past 30 years, there have been topics about affordable housing, immigration, sustainable food systems, etc.  

To celebrate the 30th conference, Friday night guest keynote speaker Joel Clement spoke with students and community members. Clement was a whistleblower and an expert on climate change before being reassigned and is now a Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs.  

Before the keynote on Friday, Clement participated in a march with students and community members to spread awareness of the importance of climate change. A group of over 100 people marched to Taylor Auditorium with Clement, who then gave his keynote speech. 

Ecological citizenship, the topic the conference was based on, is about what it means to be an active citizen on behalf of the natural world. There were tours and workshops over the weekend available for students and community members. There were five tours; one group went to the Aspen groves up Kebler Pass, another group went to the Dillon Pinnacles to do some creative writing. 

Over the weekend, it gave the opportunity for students and community members to come together to discuss climate change. Not only were there adults attending the events this weekend, but there was also a kid’s program, where the kids were doing activities similar to the workshops for the adults. At the end of the weekend, the kids who participated in the activities shared what they learned. 

“I think we had 400 Friday night and around 100 throughout the day on Saturday,” said Hausdoerffer about the turnout for the weekend. 

Hausdoerffer wants current students to know the importance of getting involved with the School of Environment & Sustainability (ENVS). If any students have questions or want to learn more, they can head to  

Story by senior Taya Olson.