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Archived web info - Scholarship of Sustainability

Posted by Morgan White on June 4, 2014

Scholarship of Sustainability - Spring 2014

Campus Series on the Scholarship of Sustainability begins Thursday, February 13

The Scholarship of Sustainability is a series of presentations and discussions that welcomes students, staff and the general public to explore the cultural contexts of contemporary environmental problems. The series is generously sponsored by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment (iSEE), with contributions from the School of Earth, Society and Environment (SESE), the College of Law and the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics (SLCL).

The nine sessions will be held on Thursdays from 4-5:30pm at Room 149 of the National Soybean Research Center, 1101 W. Peabody Drive, Urbana, beginning on February 13. (There is a one-session hiatus on March 27, which coincides with spring break.) Ample metered parking is available nearby.

The 2014 Scholarship of Sustainability campus series begins with a recognition that human behavior underlies all environmental problems and that our behaviors are complexly linked with cultural patterns and the social institutions based on them. It will probe the root causes of our misuses of nature; consider the tension between animal-welfare and ecological perspectives; take a critical look at market capitalism and its embedded values; consider environmental justice in its broadest meanings; and ask whether and how religious thought can help and hinder environmental reform efforts. The final session will consider new directions for conservation. 

The series leader is Eric T. Freyfogle, Swanlund Chair and Professor of Law. His many relevant writings include Justice and the Earth (The Free Press), On Private Property (Beacon Press), and Why Conservation is Failing and How It Can Regain Ground (Yale Univ. Press). Sessions will also feature other UIUC faculty and community conservation leaders as well as several special guests. All nine sessions are open to the public, and UIUC faculty and graduate students are especially encouraged to participate. The Series is cosponsored by the School of Earth, Society, and the Environment; the College of Law; and the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics.

Readings: Participants can access readings for the series via links at the descriptions of individual sessions below. Readings are also available in spiral-bound form (317 pp.) for $24 from the College of Law Bookstore, 504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue, Champaign (basement SE corner; open from 9-12 and 1-4 M-F). They will also be available for purchase by cash or check at the first two sessions.

Three U of I courses are associated with the series:


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

Outline of Readings


February 13 :: 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? Speaker: Bill Sullivan, Department of Landscape Architecture. 

Session One Readings


February 20 :: The Costs and Possibilities of Capitalism.  Much environmental change is driven by businesses and other market participants. We’ll consider calls for a new, green industrial revolution.  We’ll also consider ecological critiques of capitalism and market competition and calls for major changes in our economic system. Speaker: Eric Freyfogle, College of Law.

Session Two Readings


February 27 :: Fragmentation and Cultural Flaws. According to environmental historians a major driver of our uses and misuses of nature has been the tendency to fragment landscapes and treat nature's parts as market commodities. We'll look at the issue of fragmentation–physically, legally, and intellectually–and its resulting problems while also considering the limits on our knowledge and its implications.

Session Three Readings


March 6 :: Other Forms of Life. 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 best think about them. As we'll see, our varied reasons for wanting to conserve other life forms can lead to widely differing policies and actions. Speaker: Dale Jamieson, New York University, Environmental Studies Program. Lecture: "Grass Fed Environmentalism: Living Responsibly in the Anthropocene"

This special event is part of campus Ethics Awareness Week. Ethics Awareness Week is an initiative of the National Center for Professional & Research Ethics and is sponsored by the Graduate College and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, with support from the Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society.

Session Four Readings


March 13 :: Climate Change and the Role of Science. Climate change is perhaps the most serious of today's environmental ills. We'll consider the problem and its many implications. While doing so we'll also consider the common claim that environmental policy should be based on sound science. What is science, what are its proper roles, and how and why do we regularly misuse it? Speaker: Eric Snodgrass, Department of Atmospheric Sciences.

Session Five Readings


March 20 :: Seeing and Valuing Nature. Connections with the natural world play a significant role in human well being, and our dealings with nature are shaped by the ways we perceive it and value it. Better ways of living in nature will likely require us to see nature in new, more ecological ways and to appreciate the value of its countless living components and their complex interdependencies. Speaker: Rob Kanter, School of Earth, Society, and Environment.

Session Six Readings


April 3 :: Sharing the Earth. The good use of nature inevitably means sharing the planet in responsible ways. How should social justice enter into environmental issues? How should we divide up the earth's resources and capacities, and what weight should be given to historic patterns of use? Of special interest: sharing the atmosphere and its limited ability to absorb climate-changing gases–the particular topic of this session. Speaker: J. Michael Scoville, Eastern Michigan University, History and Philosophy Department.

Session Seven Readings


April 10 :: 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. Speakers: Robert McKim, Department of Religion, and Brian Sauder, incoming Director of Faith in Place. 

Session Eight Readings


April 17 :: New Directions for Conservation. Efforts to address environmental ills, off to a promising start in the 1970s and 1980s, have greatly slowed in recent decades, with major problems largely unaddressed and with Congress in political deadlock. We'll look at ideas for a revitalized citizen-led movement to bring about needed major changes and some of the challenges that such a movement would face.

Session Nine Readings


Attached Files