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EcoSummit focuses on coping with Sarasota’s growth

For tickets to the EcoSummit, Green Living Expo and Ever-GREEN Days, visit this link

The December event aims to open conversations about balancing nature and development.

As state and local governments continue to expand to accommodate growing populations, a local non-profit believes they also bear a responsibility to invest in natural resources.

“If we continue to grow our built environment, we need to grow the natural environment, treating it as if it’s an essential utility,” said David Shafer. “You add roads; add more beaches, more parks. If you add more sidewalks and hard surfaces, you need to add more stormwater treatment, and not just the kind stored in a concrete vault, a living system that can do those actions so much better.”

Shafer and his wife, Jennifer Shafer, are co-executive directors of the Science and Environment Council, a non-profit that aims to bring together stakeholders and key members of the community to develop plans to address environmental concerns. They have been married for 23 years, lived in Sarasota for 14 years after moving from Hawaii, where they both received their Ph.Ds at the University of Hawaii.

The Science and Environment Council will host the EcoSummit on Dec. 5-6 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, an event designed to open conversation surrounding solutions for the balance of nature and human growth.

The Sarasota-Manatee area is the second fastest growing area in the country, according to US Real Estate News. According to the Shafers, growth is stressing “ecosystem services,” such as clean air, clean water, fish and wildlife, recreational water.

“The main theme of this summit is needing to (discuss) the impacts of population growth, development and climate increase,’’ Jennifer Shafer said. “We need to increase the capacity of the environment to accommodate or mitigate those impacts, in order to maintain the quality of life that we have now.”

A key goal of the summit is also to re-establish Sarasota as a leader in environmental solutions, and reconnect the community after the COVID-19 pandemic.