October 8, 2007
Contact: Emanuel Costache '09
Media Relations Intern
Director of Public Affairs
AMHERST, Mass.—Peter H. Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and George Engelmann Professor of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis, will present a talk titled “Winning Sustainability in an Age of Global Change: What is Our Responsibility?” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Pruyne Lecture Hall at Amherst College. Raven’s lecture is sponsored by the President’s Office and is free and open to the public. Raven will also give a biology seminar (open to all) at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, in Lecture Room 4 of Merrill Hall. This talk will examine “How Many Plant Species Will Survive the 21st Century?”
Raven’s approach to sustainability issues is an historical one. He tracks the rapid growth in human population after the development of crop agriculture 10,500 years ago (420 human generations). The 1800s saw the world’s population double from one to nearly two billion; the 1900s saw that number more than triple. “The pressure we exert on our planetary home,” Raven says, “has been tremendous.” Half of the world’s total photosynthetic output is being exhausted, as is half the supply of fresh water. Yet billions live in poverty, and many are literally starving. As Raven sees it, this poses a threat to the productive capacity of the Earth beyond the end of the 21st century. Raven challenges us not only to ask what can be done to reverse these processes, but also to be responsible, moral citizens despite the fleeting pressures of our time.
Raven has served as the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden since 1971. In 2006, he was also named president of the MBG. Raven has won numerous international prizes for his work, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1985. He received his Ph.D. in botany from the University of California at Los Angeles and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley.