The Center for a Sustainable Environment is pleased to announce the Campus Series on the Scholarship of Sustainability. This nine-week series of presentations and discussions will begin on January 31, 2013.
Scholarship of Sustainability: Spring 2013
The Cultural Contexts of Environmental Decline
The 2013 Scholarship of Sustainability campus series will explore the cultural contexts of contemporary environmental problems, beginning with a recognition that human behavior underlies all problems and that behaviors are complexly linked with cultural patterns and the social institutions based on them. The nine sessions will be held on Thursdays from 4-5:30pm at 124 Burrill Hall, 407 S. Goodwin, Urbana..
The series leader is Eric T. Freyfogle, Swanlund Chair and Professor of Law. Sessions will also feature other UIUC faculty and community conservation leaders, as well as the special guests named below. All nine sessions are open to the public, and UIUC faculty and graduate students are especially encouraged to participate.
The Series is being sponsored by the Center for a Sustainable Environment with co-sponsorship from the School of Earth, Society, and the Environment; the College of Law: and the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.
Accompanying readings for the series, in spiral-bound form, will be available at the initial sessions and, in advance, at the Illini Union and College of Law bookstores.
Earn course credits:
ESE 311 Environmental Issues Today
RLST 270 Religion, Ethics, Environment
LAW 792JJ Current Legal Problems
Graduate-level students can participate in the series for academic credit by enrolling in Law 792JJ Scholarship of Sustainability; those interested in doing so should contact Professor Freyfogle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Upper-level undergraduates can participate by enrolling in ESE 311, Environmental Issues Today; information available from the instructor, Professor Anna Nesbitt (email@example.com).
For more information about the series or assistance accessing materials, please contact us.
Please click here to print a booklet (pdf).
January 31. Beginning the Search. Environmental ills involve human misuses of nature. But how might we distinguish between legitimate use and misuse? How might we best think about the proper human role in nature? Is sustainability a useful measure, and what alternatives goals have been proposed? Ultimately, what are the root causes–cultural, cognitive, and material–of our misuses of nature? Special guest, environmental philosopher J. Michael Scoville
February 7. The Challenges of Normative Thinking. It is commonly said that we should base environmental policy on sound science. But what is science, what are its proper roles, and how and why do we regularly misuse it? Why does the environmental backlash movement regularly frame issues in terms of science rather than public policy? Further, how does our love of individual liberty inhibit and frustrate much-needed, collective discussions of public policy?
“Race, Power and the Environment: Building a Youth Driven Climate Justice Movement” presented by Dr. Antwi Akom, Founding Director of the Institute for Sustainable Economic, Educational, and Environmental Design (I-SEEED). For climate change to become a global priority, for it to become everybody's movement, a stronger connection must be made to everyday people's daily lives. The broad and vibrant response necessary to address climate change and serve as a counterweight to special interests in oil and coal industries requires the engagement of more people, from a wider array of society. In addition, while many people of color and low-income communities regard climate change and the environment as priorities, the climate change movement still remains highly homogenous by race and class and significantly by gender in its leadership.
February 21. Otherworldly Religions. How have religious views affected our uses of nature, and how might religion today push us in good or bad directions? We’ll consider historian Lynn White’s famous argument and responses to it and also look at how we might evaluate religions–even individual congregations—based on environmental factors. (Discussion led by Robert McKim, Professor of Religion and Philosophy UIUC)
February 28. The Commodification of Nature. According to environmental historians a major driver in uses and misuses of nature has been the tendency to fragment landscapes and treat nature’s parts as commodities. We’ll look at the issue of fragmentation–physically, legally, and intellectually–and its resulting problems. We’ll also consider methods of valuing nature, critique the market as a driver, and trace the twentieth-century shift from conservation of discrete resources to the promotion of ecological functions/services.
March 7. Humans Above All. A critical modern assumption is that humans are the only species to possess moral value. Is this morally defensible? We’ll explore the considerable differences between animal-welfare and ecological modes of thought while paying attention generally to the many ways we benefit from other life forms and how we might think about them. As will be apparent, the varied reasons for wanting to conserve other life forms can lead to widely differing assessments and conservation policies.
March 14. Denying Our Ignorance. There is much about nature that we do not understand: how it works, how we change it, and how changes in turn affect us. How should we incorporate this intractable ignorance when thinking and making decisions? How does science deal with it? We’ll look at burdens of proof; the wisdom of precaution; discounting the future; and the cultural challenges of anticipating mistakes and preserving second chances in a society that values individual liberty. Special guest, Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of Science and Environmental Health Network
March 28. The Perils of Individualism. Plentiful evidence suggests that degradation is worsened by the embrace of liberal individualism. Should we reduce our presumptions of autonomy and free choice and reconceive ourselves chiefly as members of a larger land community? We’ll revisit briefly the tragedies of the commons and of fragmentation before exploring new ways to conceive the human place in nature. Special guest, environmental philosopher John Baird Callicott
April 4. The Costs and Possibilities of Capitalism. Much environmental change is undertaken by businesses and other market participants. We’ll consider the rising ecological critiques of capitalism and market competition and identify possibilities for major reform. We’ll also take up the clash between market allocation and political-citizen allocation as well as new ideas of private property and landscape governance.