Copeland Colloqium 2009-2010

It’s Not Easy Being Green: the Science, Politics, and Ethics of Environmentalism

Meet the 2009-2010 Copeland Fellows

Watch video of 2009-2010 Copeland events

Proposal for a Copeland Colloquium on Global Sustainability

Jan E. Dizard, Charles Hamilton Houston Professor in American Culture (Sociology) and Pick Reader; Chair of American Studies
Jill S. Miller, Assistant Professor of Biology
Joseph G. Moore, Professor of Philosophy
Robert T. Hayashi, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies
Ethan D. Clotfelter, Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience

It goes with saying that we—in the broadest sense of “we”—face daunting environmental challenges. The world today is a markedly different place than it was even a hundred years ago, and it appears that the pace of change is quickening. By any measure, this change is going in the wrong direction, as the Earth’s resources are diminishing, ecosystems are being degraded, the climate is changing, and species diversity is declining.

It has been all too easy for scientists to enumerate the signs and portents of ecological collapse—the disappearance of arctic ice, the failure of one commercial fishery after another, the expansion of dead zones in the oceans, our increasing addiction to fossil fuels, to name only a few causes for alarm. Much more difficult is to articulate plausible policies that can ameliorate if not reverse these ominous trends. Such efforts are clearly interdisciplinary and will require input from scientists (to document trends and develop sustainable technologies), economists (to evaluate the feasibility of policy decisions), activists, artists and politicians (to motivate and enable policy change), as well as historians and sociologists (to provide context and analysis). We propose a Copeland Colloquium to bring together a diverse set of Copeland Fellows in an extended conversation aimed at expanding our perspective on perhaps the most pressing concern in the next one hundred years.

We envision a set of Copeland Fellows whose diverse expertise can help us to not only broaden our understanding of current issues, but to articulate clearly the options, pending choices, and sensitivities for the future. We propose inviting at least four and as many as six scholars, activists, and nature writers whose research has led them to seek changes in public policy and the mobilization of public opinion. Sound science can and must be joined with policy advocacy, and we will invite Copeland Fellows whose work embodies this fusion of reason and advocacy.  In addition to advertising nationally and internationally, we also propose to include among the Copeland Fellows at least one or two people who live and work in or near the Valley but who are not affiliated with any of the Five Colleges. There are many notable nature writers, scientists, and experts on energy policy in the Valley. Of course we will cast our net well beyond the Valley, but would hope to have one or two Copeland Fellows who can relate broad trends to local circumstances.

With the newly launched environmental studies major, we think such a Copeland Colloquium would underscore the interdisciplinary nature of environmental studies. The interdisciplinary character of the environmental studies faculty and the courses we offer will make it easy to integrate the Copeland Fellows into the environmental studies curriculum. They will be welcome as occasional lecturers in our courses. We would also expect them to give occasional public lectures and lead thematic discussions that complement ongoing courses.  It is also likely that, with their experience and expertise, they could add a significant voice to our ongoing discussion of curricular development.

Finally, the proposed colloquium would be an effective way in which to bring together students and faculty (from Morgan Hall to McGuire Life Sciences) in a common conversation involving diverse perspectives on global sustainability. We would also hope that the presence of a nucleus of scholars and activists would energize students in community engagement and perhaps even inspire collaborations among students across fields. The stakes are large and we think a Copeland Colloquium devoted to the environment is both timely and consequential.

It is difficult to imagine a discipline that does not fold into a Copeland theme focused on global sustainability. We envision a set of Copeland Fellows with diverse expertise who can help us to extend our understanding of current issues, and articulate clearly the options, pending choices, and sensitivities for the future. We propose inviting four to six Copeland Fellows including scholars, activists, and nature writers to engage the campus in an extended conversation about the nature of our predicament and how we might best act.

We have identified several potential Copeland Fellows we may invite, but look forward to suggestions from our colleagues in the Amherst Faculty and those applicants following national and international advertising. Among those we have identified, we would like to include at least one Copeland Fellow with experience in environmental issues around the Valley; we hope inclusion of “locals” will inspire our students and colleagues to action perhaps in consultation with the Community Center for Engagement. In addition, we plan to include at least one Copeland Fellow with experience in environmental sustainability in the Third World.

Regarding programming, as in past years we will host weekly lunches with Copeland Fellows and interested students and colleagues. In addition, each Copeland Fellow will give a public seminar during the year and will help us organize and host a one-day symposium on our theme to which we would invite additional scholars from outside Amherst, again from a variety of disciplines. We anticipate that these symposia will complement well issues brought forth in both our senior seminar (ENST-70) and introductory courses (ENST-12) and be of broad interest to members of the Amherst community.