The Anthropocene, a newly-coined geologic term, designates the age during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. While subject to the forces of nature, the human species is itself a force that acts upon the natural world. We have altered the sea levels, the composition of the atmosphere and the surfaces and depths of the earth. But unlike nature’s agents of change, our species has now become fully cognizant of our impact. As Andrew Revkin has observed, “Two billion years ago, cyanobacteria oxygenated the atmosphere and powerfully disrupted life on earth, but they didn’t know it. We’re the first species that’s become a planet-scale influence and is aware of that reality. That’s what distinguishes us.”

The UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center’s 2014-2015 public events series, The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities, will explore this time of significant biospheric human influence, with the aim of bringing into focus the challenges that now confront the planet and its inhabitants through the unique, critical perspectives afforded by the humanities and fine arts.

souncloudClick here to listen to podcasts from the 2014-15 IHC series: The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities on SoundCloud.

To view videos of talks from the IHC series: The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities, please visit the Environmental Humanities Initiative.

Past Events

2014 - 2015

artist talk: Music of the Anthropocene

John Luther Adams (composer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Become Ocean)
Thursday, June 4 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Today a growing number of geologists believe we have left the Holocene and entered a new period—the Anthropocene—in which the dominant geologic force is humanity itself.  What does this mean for music? What does it mean for a composer, or for any creative artist working in any medium today?  Can music be engaged with current events and at the same time detached from them? Can music resonate with world around us, and yet still create a world of its own?

Called “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world. Adams composes for orchestra, chamber ensembles, percussion and electronic media. A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, Adams has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University “for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.”

Sponsored by the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Footage from the documentary Strange and Sacred Noise
courtesy of Leonard Kamerling and the Alaska Center for Docuemtary Film,
Univeristy of Alaska Museum of the North

Listen to a recording of this talk by John Luther Adams for the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

John Luther Adams will also appear at the Ojai Music Festival:

Sila: The Breath of the World (West Coast Premiere)
Thu June 11, 3:30-4:45 PM
Libbey Park, Ojai

Festival collaborator and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams returns to Ojai with the West Coast premiere of “Sila: The Breath of the World,” to be performed at a free community event throughout Libbey Park. This new work for an ensemble of 80 musicians received its first performances last July at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival. In the Inuit tradition, sila is the spirit that animates all things – the wind, the weather, and all forces of nature. In “Sila,” composed specifically to be heard outdoors listeners alike are encouraged to move about the performance space freely. The Ojai performance will include musicians from CalArts, ICE, and percussion ensemble red fish blue fish.

For more information, visit www.OjaiFestival.org or call 805-646-2053. Sila is a free event and open to the public.
We encourage audience members to bring blankets or chairs.

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panel: Taking Stock of the Anthropocene: An Interdisciplinary Roundtable with UCSB Scholars

Peter Alagona (History and Environmental Studies, UCSB)
Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook (English and Comparative Literature, UCSB)
John Foran (Sociology, UCSB)
Ken Hiltner (English and Environmental Studies, UCSB)
Jeff Hoelle (Anthropology, UCSB)
David Lea (Geology, USCB)
Christopher Walker (English, UCSB)
Thursday May 28, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Faculty and graduate students will consider key issues and themes that have emerged over the course of the IHC’s year-long events series “The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities,” Speakers will reflect upon anthropocentric concerns of their individual disciplines, and they will offer insight into the cross-disciplinary implications of the lectures, films, and debates that have taken place.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this panel from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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reading: Eden Falls, A LAUNCH PAD reading of a new play

Written by Brian Granger (Lecturer, Theatre, Vanderbilt University)
Directed by Risa Brainin (Theater and Dance, UCSB)
Tuesday, May 26 / 5:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Eden Falls is a darkly comic allegory about two neighboring families, divided by a huge privacy fence and different values, whose lives are brought into sudden conflict with one another when a massive sinkhole opens up in their adjoining yards, swallowing the fence, most of their yards, and expanding throughout the play to engulf nearly the entire fictional town of Eden Heights, Ohio. As their homes become the epicenter for media coverage of this catastrophe, and their neighborhood a  camp for the town’s newly-made refugee citizens, these two families must learn how to share resources, support each other, and rise together, or fall into a dark and sinking future.

Ishmael Harris: BRIAN GRANGER
Treneisha Martinez-Harris: STEPHANIE BATISTE
Takoda Harris: CHARLES GRANT
Bob Brockley, CEO: JEFF MILLS
Monica Hardy, Reporter (and other roles): KELLI COLEMAN
Various Townsfolk: DILLON FRANCIS

Dr. Brian Granger (UCSB Department of Theater and Dance ’14) is a playwright-performer and musical theater scholar currently teaching in the Department of Theatre at Vanderbilt University. His research interests include North American playwriting and Africana musicals on Broadway. His ecological awareness has grown in recent years through past work as a “wilderness” trip leader for the Besant Hill School of Happy Valley in Ojai, California, and as a former member of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-Op. In his dramatic writing, he remains interested in how we treat one another across lines of race, gender, and class. His works for the stage include Dierdre: an a cappella rock opera; Medicine Show (with composer Robert Nafarrete), a musical satire of American racial stereotypes that premiered at Dixon Place in New York City as part of their Not For Broadway: Festival of New Musicals; Baby Wolf (with composer Christian Imboden), an urban re-telling of the epic of Beowulf; Rebel Moon, which was staged here at UCSB as part of the New Plays Festival; an in-progress trilogy of plays exploring the relationship in American/European culture between homosexuality and the Christian Church, of which two parts have been completed (Army of Lovers – part 1, and God Loves Gays – part 3); and most recently, Eden Falls. A scene from Rebel Moon appears in print in Duo: the Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century (Applause Books, 2009).

Risa Brainin is a freelance director, Chair and Director of Performance of the Department of Theater and Dance at University of California, Santa Barbara. Through her program LAUNCH PAD at UCSB, she has developed and directed nine plays with the playwright in residence: Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play, John Walch’s The Dinosaur Within, Barbara Lebow’s Plumfield, Iraq and La Niñera: The Nursemaid, Sheri Wilner’s Kingdom City, Biederman’s Match (based on Max Frisch’s Biederman and the Firebugs) by Beau Willimon, music by Michelle DiBucci, lyrics by Portia Kamons, Entangled by Lila Rose Kaplan, Untitled IV by Ruth Markofsky by Alison Tatlock, and Appoggiatura by James Still which was workshopped at the Perry Mansfield New Works Festival last June, featured in the Denver Center Theatre’s Colorado New Play Summit in February and is premiering at DCT in January, 2015.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities, the IHC’s Hester and Cedric Crowell Endowment and the Department of Theater and Dance’s LAUNCH PAD series.


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talk: Lithorature and Other Anthropocenic Mutations

Jason Groves (German, Rutgers University)
Thursday, May 21, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Center, 6020 HSSB

This talk will explore how, since around 1800, literature has offered imaginative ways of relating to the lithosphere beyond extraction and other destructive petrofictions. First coined in 1992 by Amitav Ghosh in his review of Abdelrahman Munif’s Cities of Salt, “petrofiction” initially referred to fictional writing explicitly about the oil encounter between the Americas and the Middle East. While a global oil culture drives the Anthropocene—to the extent that petrofiction has been construed not just as a genre but as a periodizing gesture of “petromodernity”—it hampers both the imagination and the root of petrofiction to restrict the range of a carbon imaginary based on the extraction of fossil fuels. Literature articulates a shared minerality of the earth and the human through a variety of strata and geological objects. In readings ranging from German Romanticism to the “lapidary style” (Walter Benjamin) of Bertolt Brecht’s War Primer to contemporary climate change fiction, this talk will expose the increasingly fraught entanglements of the lithic and the literary. Just as environmentalist Bill McKibben argues that in this time of ecological disturbance our planet needs a new name (Eaarth), I similarly argue that the concept of literature does not arrive intact in the 21st century, but rather mutagenized in what we might call lithorature.

Jason Groves received his Ph.D. in German Studies from Yale University and is currently a visiting lecturer at Rutgers University. His essays on literature, theater, and ecological thought have appeared in Modern Language NotesPerformance StudiesSociety and SpaceThe Goethe Yearbook, Theory in the Era of Climate Change, and The Yearbook of Comparative Literature. His translation of Werner Hamacher’s For-Philology appeared with Fordham in March 2015. He is currently working on two projects: a translation of Sonja Neef’s Der babylonische Planet (The Babylonian Planet) and a monograph, Mineral Imaginaries: Literature for the Anthropocene, which articulates the shared minerality of the human and the earth in literature since 1800.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food

Pamela C. Ronald (Plant Pathology, UC Davis)
Thursday, May 21, 2015 / 12:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Embracing both genetically-improved seed and ecologically-based farming methods, Pamela Ronald aims to enhance sustainable agriculture. In this talk, she asserts that genetic improvement is a critical component of feeding the world without further destroying the environment. Her book Tomorrow’s Table (co-authored with organic farmer Raoul Adamchak) argues that to advance sustainable agriculture, we must not focus on how a seed variety was developed. Instead we must ask what technology most enhances local food security and can provide safe, abundant and nutritious food to consumers.

Pamela Ronald has written opinion pieces for the Boston Globe, The Economist, and the New York Times.  She is a blogger for Scientific American’s “Food Matters” blog and a cofounder of Biology Fortified Inc, an independent educational non-profit organization.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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The 2015 Arthur N. Rupe Great Debate:The Use of Genetically Modified Organisms in Food

Dr. Angelika Hilbeck (Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zurich)
Dr. Pamela C. Ronald (Plant Pathology, UC-Davis
Moderator: Paul Voosen
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 / 8:00 PM
UCSB Campbell Hall

A key factor in discussions about how best to feed the world’s growing population and address global environmental challenges, the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) remains a contested and often misunderstood topic.   Pamela C. Ronald and Angelika Hilbeck will engage in a scientifically informed debate about the use of GMOs.   Pamela Ronald is Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis.  Coauthor of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food, she was recognized in 2011 as one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company Magazine. Dr. Angelika Hilbeck is a senior scientific researcher in the Institute of Integrative Biology at the Swiss Federal University and cofounder of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. The moderator for the debate will be Paul Voosen, a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Presented by the College of Letters & Science at UC Santa Barbara and made possible by an endowment from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation. Co-presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center as part of its event series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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conference: Sustainable Science Communication: Content, Audience, Media, and Impact

SCREENING: Merchants of Doubt
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 / 7:00 PM 
UCSB Pollock Theater
The screening is free but tickets are required: visit this page for reservations.

CONFERENCE: Sustainable Science Communication: Content, Audience, Media, and Impact
Thursday, May 14 2015 / 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Featured address, 11:00 AM: Matthew C. Nisbet (Communication Studies, Northeastern University)
UCSB Corwin Pavilion

Click here to watch the following sessions from the conference: Session 1 / Session 2 / Session 3 / Session 4 (available soon).

We invite you to an interdisciplinary conference of presentations and discussions on “Sustainable Science Communication.” The event begins with a screening of the new documentary Merchants of Doubt. The conference itself consists of four panels (Content, Audience, Media, Impact).  The conference title “Sustainable Science Communication” emphasizes two complementary issues.  The first is “sustainable science” and the second is sustainable “science communication.”

Sustainable Science. The transition to a sustainable society will require a “third industrial revolution”, in which manufacturing, transportation and communication are conducted within constraints imposed by resource availability and supply risk; limitations on energy and freshwater consumption; and knowledge about the environmental fate and transport of components. According to Paul Anastas, one of the founders of the green chemistry movement, such a transition implies no less than the “the redesign of…the material that is at the basis of our society and our economy”. The substitution of conventional technologies by more sustainable versions should be achieved in a manner that maximizes long-term benefits while minimizing short-term disruption.

Sustainable Science Communication.  Related to this particular issue, but also to environmental and other science-based issues, scientists, engineers, and technology developers in particular and academics in general must become able to communicate clearly to other scientists within and across their disciplines, the public, business leaders, government officials, and policy-makers.  Effective communication about science content, choices, and consequences requires the awareness, development, understanding, and application of ongoing theory, research, and evaluation about effective messaging and an appreciation of barriers that impede science-based decision-making. That is, rather than sound bites, personal preferences, and technical reports, we need a sustainable, shared, and constantly improving basis for deciding how best to communicate the complex and subtle issues of science that affect individuals, communities, institutions, society, and the world.

Questions? Contact Susannah L. Scott (sscott@engineering.ucsb.edu) or Ronald E. Rice (rrice@comm.ucsb.edu).

Sponsored by the Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainability, the Arthur N. Rupe Chair, the Environmental Media Initiative of the Carsey-Wolf Center and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.
For more details, including a full schedule, please visit: http://sustech.ucsb.edu/sustainable-science-communication

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Conference: Approaching the Anthropocene: Perspectives from the Humanities and Fine Arts

Thursday-Friday, May 7-8, 2015
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The conference is free and open to the public. To register to attend, please complete this form.

Scientists have declared that we are in living in the Anthropocene, an age in which human behavior and actions are massively altering the ecosystems of the earth. Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen claims that whereas humans once saw themselves as “rebels against a superpower we call ‘Nature,’” now “we are taking control of Nature’s realm, from climate to DNA. We humans are becoming the dominant force for change on Earth.”  This conference will include papers that explore how literature, the visual arts, and other cultural and ideological constructs represent the altered relationship between humans and the natural world; we will examine ethical, political, psychological and philosophical responses to the human domination of nature.

This two-day conference will feature a keynote address by Timothy Morton, the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. Morton’s publications include Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minnesota, 2013), The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010), and Ecology without Nature (Harvard, 2007). Morton blogs regularly at http://www.ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com.

Conference schedule:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

8:30 AM coffee and pastries

8:45 AM Welcome: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC

9:00 AM The Evolving Anthropocene: Views from Two Disciplines
Chair: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC
Phillip John Usher, French, New York University: “A Humanist Anthropocene? The Case of Extraction Landscapes”
Volker M. Welter, History of Art & Architecture, UCSB: “The Evolution of Umwelt: Stages in the Architectural Design of the Anthropocene”

10:00 AM break

10:15 AM Climate Justice at the Crossroads of Extractivism and Resistance
Facilitator: Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Sociology, UCSB
Janet Walker, Film and Media Studies, UCSB: “Deepwater Horizons: Media Ecologies of the Gulf Coast”
Sarah Jane Pinkerton, Feminist Studies, UCSB: “Invisible-5: Art and Environmental Justice along California’s Interstate 5”
Zack King, Sociology, UCSB: “Scorched Earth Manifesto: The Hydrocarbon Industry’s Vision of the Future”
Christopher Walker, English, UCSB: “Material Speculations: Asteroid Mining and the Limits of Extractivism”
Corrie Ellis, Sociology, UCSB: “Activism in the Anthropocene: Anti-Fracking Activists’ Motivations, Inspirations and Practices”
John Foran, Sociology, UCSB: “The Global Climate Justice Movement of the Future”

12:00 PM lunch

12:45 PM Excess, Limitlessness, Dialectics
Chair: Corrie Ellis, Sociology, UCSB
Lynn Badia, English and Film Studies, University of Alberta, “Absolute Energy: The Conflict Between Planet and World”
Tristan Partridge, Center for Nanotechnology and Society, UCSB: “At the Mercy of the Future: Energy, Excess and Responsibility Amid Anthropocenic Climate Change”
Alden Wood, English, UC Irvine: “’Weaving’ a New Dialectics of Ecology: Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the Anthropocene”

2:00 PM break

2:15 PM The Anthropocene In Situ
Chair: Christopher Walker, English, UCSB
Tammy Lynn Elwell, Geography, UCSB: “Governing Oceans in the Anthropocene”
Daniel Grinberg, Film and Media Studies, UCSB: “Tracing Toxic Legacies: GIS as a Metric of Agent Orange’s Impacts”
Yanjun Liu, Political Science, UCSB, and Cheng Li, East Asian Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Mao’s War against Nature in Chinese Ethnic Borderlands: A Perspective from Ecocinema”
Julie Koppel Maldonado, American University, Anthropology, “Resisting the Forces of the Anthropocene: The Transformation of Places, Communities, and Lifeways”

4:00 PM keynote address by Tim Morton, English, Rice University: “Humankind”

5:30 PM reception

Friday, May 8, 2015

8:30 AM coffee and pastries

8:45 AM Welcome: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC

9:00 AM Depression, Speculation, Rejuvenation
Chair: Brian Tyrrell, History, UCSB
Sean J. Hernandez, Economics, UCSB: “The Darkest of Greens: Measuring the Incidence and Character of Eco-Depression in Undergraduates”
Lili Yan, English, Soochow University & Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College: “’Animals R Us’: A Study of the Question of the Animal and the Anthropocene in The Year of the Flood
Yi Chuang E. Lin, Foreign Languages and Literature, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, “The Waste Land Revisited”

10:30 AM break

10:45 AM Transformative Makers
Chair: Alexandra Magearu, Comparative Literature, UCSB
Kayla Anderson, The New Centre for Research & Practice, “Doing Philosophy: Art as Ethical Testing Ground for the Anthropocene”
Brad Monsma, English, CSU-Channel Islands, “Distributed Agency and the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale”
Leila Nadir, Sustainability Studies, University of Rochester, and Cary Peppermint, Art and Art History, Digital Media Studies, University of Rochester, “Late Anthropocene”

12:00 PM lunch

1:00 PM Imaging The Nonhuman Animal
Chair: Chloe Diamond-Lenow, Feminist Studies, UCSB
Lisa Jevbratt, Art, UCSB: “Doing, Thinking and Looking with Non-human Animals”
Bryan B. Rasmussen, English, California Lutheran University: “Icons of Loss: Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Art of the Anthropocene”
Erin E. Wiegand, Cinema Studies, San Francisco State University: “Visualizing the Factory Farm: Undercover Video, Activist Drones, and Satellite Art”

2:15 PM break

2:30 PM Reading: poet Joseph Harrison, author of Shakespeare’s Horse, Identity Theft, and Someone Else’s Name

3:30 PM Closing remarks

4:00 PM Closing reception

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panel: Poets on the Anthropocene

Harold Abramowitz (Blind Spot)
Amanda Ackerman (The Book of Feral Flora)
Michelle Detorie (After-Cave)
Thursday, April 30, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

Three Southern California poets will read their work and discuss how the profound instability of the natural world informs their poetry, which often confronts the limitations of language while investigating forms that mirror our increasingly chaotic environment.

Michelle Detorie is the author of After-Cave (Ahsahta Press, 2014.) and numerous chapbooks, including Fur Birds (Insert Press), How Hate Got Hand (eohippus labs), and Bellum Letters (Dusie). In 2007, Michelle was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, and in 2010 she won a direct-to-artist grant from the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative for her public art project, “The Poetry Booth.” She recently completed The Sin in Wilderness, a book-length erasure about love, animals, and affective geography. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA, where she edits Hex Presse and coordinates the Writing Center at Santa Barbara City College. She is also the poetry editor for the online literary journal Entropy.

Amanda Ackerman is the author most recently of The Book of Feral Flora as well as several chapbooks, including The Seasons Cemented (2010), I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck (2011), and Short Stones (2012). With Harold Abramowitz, she coauthored the chapbook Sin is to Celebration (2009) and Man’s Wars And Wickedness: A Book of Proposed Remedies and Extreme Formulations for Curing Hostility, Rivalry, And Ill-Will (forthcoming, 2015). She writes as part of the collaborative projects SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS and U.N.F.O. (Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization), whose audio-text project Explanation as Composition was featured at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.

Harold Abramowitz’s books include Blind Spot (forthcoming from Les Figues Press), Man’s Wars And Wickedness: A Book of Proposed Remedies & Extreme Formulations for Curing Hostility, Rivalry, & Ill-Will (with Amanda Ackerman, forthcoming from Bon Aire Projects), UNFO Burns A Million Dollars (with Amanda Ackerman, Gauss PDF), Not Blessed (Les Figues Press), and Dear Dearly Departed (Palm Press). Harold co-edits the short-form literary press eohippus labs (www.eohippuslabs.com) and writes and edits as part of the collaborative projects, SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS and UNFO.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Urban Ecology and the Imagination of the Future

Ursula Heise (English, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA)
Thursday, April 23, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

In the early twenty-first century, the majority of the global human population lives in cities. Future population growth will occur mostly in cities. This shift challenges conventional forms of environmental imagination with their focus on wild and rural habitats. The lecture will explore how urbanization functions as a specific dimension of the Anthropocene, and how narrative fiction – especially science fiction – and poetry might help us re-envision the boundary that has traditionally separated urban from natural spaces. The Anthropocene challenges us to reimagine nature in cities and cities as “novel ecosystems,” and novelists and poets such as Kim Stanley Robinson and Harryette Mullen have recently used strategies of high-modernist urban literature to grasp the functioning of cities as multispecies habitats.

Ursula K. Heise teaches in the Department of English and at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and served as President of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment) in 2011. Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature, environmental culture in the Americas, Western Europe and Japan, literature and science, globalization theory, and media theory. Her books include Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Nach der Natur: Das Artensterben und die moderne Kultur (After Nature: Species Extinction and Modern Culture, Suhrkamp, 2010). She is editor of the book series, Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment with Palgrave-Macmillan and co-editor of the series Literature and Contemporary Thought with Routledge. She is currently finishing a book called Where the Wild Things Used to Be: Narrative, Database, and Endangered Species.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Billy and Teddy: Imagining Animals in the Anthropocene

Jon Mooallem (journalist, author of Wild Ones)
Thursday, April 16, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

While on a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to kill a weakened black bear that had been tied to a tree by his hunting guide. This act of mercy was widely publicized, and sensationalized, and eventually lead to the creation of a new toy: “Teddy’s bear.” The teddy bear marked a shift in the country’s imaginative relationship with bears and other large predators. Until then, such animals were feared and targeted aggressively for extermination. But slowly their reputations were shifting, from monsters to sympathetic and adorable victims – a phenomenon that has continued, ever since, with all kinds of wildlife in the United States, and one that always brings dramatic consequences for the actual animals and their ecosystems.

How do we imagine animals? Why do we sympathize with some species, and not others? Jon Mooallem blurs the lines between biological and cultural studies, describing his own on-the-ground reporting on wildlife conservation for the New York Times Magazine and an array of off-beat historical stories, like that of the teddy bear (and its short-lived, hideous successor, the Billy Possum) to explore both how dramatically our ideas about nature can change and – in this new era, the Anthropocene – how dramatically those ideas wind up changing nature.

Jon Mooallem has been a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine since 2006 and is a writer at large for Pop-Up Magazine, the “live magazine” in San Francisco. He’s also contributed to “This American Life”, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Wired, and many other magazines. He is the author of Wild Ones and American Hippotamus. He and his family live in San Francisco.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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screening: Occupy the Farm (2014)

Q&A with director Todd Darling
Tuesday, April 14 / 7:00 PM
UCSB Pollock Theater

Occupy the Farm captures an intense conflict in which community members employ an ingenious strategy to confront a powerful institution (UC Berkeley) in the effort to preserve public land for urban farming. From preparing the soil to police raids, from lawsuits to overflowing harvests, this film reveals a determined community responding with direct action to address major social need: healthy food and access to public land.

Sponsored by the Crossroads Fellowship initiative on “Climate Justice Futures,” the Carsey Wolf Center, the Department of Film and Media Studies, and the IHC’s Harry Girvetz Memorial Endowment.

For more information, including reservations for a free ticket, please visit: http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/pollock/events/focus-social-issues-modern-cinema-occupy-farm-0

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talk: Depilation and Deforestation: Controlling Nature in the Amazon

Jeffrey Hoelle (Anthropology, UCSB)
Thursday, April 9, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The Amazon rainforest of Brazil is cut down to create cattle pastures and agricultural fields.  Deforestation brings profit, but it is also linked to deeply held ideals of development and progress achieved through the transformation of a dark, threatening forest into a “clean,” cultivated landscape.  While Amazonian deforestation is universally decried as a driver of global environmental change, other forms of Brazilian nature control, such as the “Brazilian wax,” are increasingly popular around the world.  In this presentation, I examine deforestation and depilation (body hair removal) as parallel processes in which natural “covers” are removed or otherwise managed in terms of height, boundaries, and other geo-spatial properties. From the Amazon rainforest to the American lawn and on the bodies of men and women, the ability to control nature is, more often than not, socially rewarded.

The Anthropocene is a geologic epoch that is defined by humans acting on or imprinting the natural world. Amazonian deforestation fits nicely into such a conceptualization of humans as separate from and impacting nature, but what can we learn from a focus on depilation, in which humans act on themselves? Attention to quotidian practices of nature control reveals how ideologies of nature and structural inequalities drive environmental degradation in the Anthropocene.

Jeffrey Hoelle is a cultural anthropologist at UCSB. His research focuses on human-environment interactions, economic development and environmental conservation in the Brazilian Amazon. He studies Amazonian livelihoods and land uses in relation to ideals of work, nature, and masculinity, as well as food and landscape preferences. His aim is to better understand why destructive environmental practices, particularly cattle raising, make sense from the perspective of different actors in the Amazon region. He is the author Rainforest Cowboys: The Rise of Ranching and Cattle Culture in Western Amazonia. Hoelle’s current research focuses on cattle raising and cowboy/cattle cultures in the Amazon, India, and the American West; everyday forms of nature control; and the material and symbolic dimensions of beef and meat consumption.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.


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TALK: Conservation, De-extinction, and the Future of Life

Oliver A. Ryder (Director of the Frozen Zoo project and Kleberg Chair at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research)
Thursday, April 2, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The time in which we currently live has been described as the sixth great episode of extinction on our planet. Governments, institutions, communities, and individuals are undertaking concerted efforts to protect species and the habitats that sustain them. Even so, the number of species on the brink of extinction expands, habitats are fragmented and diminished, and disease, climate change, and invasive species are recognized as growing threats. Media coverage of the environment has diminished, perhaps as the public grows disenchanted with the litany of bad news. Arising from recent advances in genetic and reproductive technologies, the long-held dream of resurrecting extinct species has gained public interest and been promoted by reputable scientists and drawn positive interest from environmentalists. What are the prospects for this hopeful message of de-extinction? What role could it play in the advancement of civilization?

There are vocal proponents and opponents to resurrection of some extinct species, such as the passenger pigeon and wooly mammoth. But what of other species that more recently have become extinct? And can critically endangered species now falling off the precipice of extinction possibly be rescued? Human impacts have long been altering the biodiversity of Earth, but now, at an unprecedented scale and with the possibility of more fundamental alterations to the composition of species and the fabric of life than previously imagined. There are presently great opportunities for and challenges to the conservation of species in our time, and as we should now recognize, for the future of life.

Dr. Oliver A. Ryder is Director of Genetics and holds the Kleberg Chair at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. He oversees a highly productive laboratory group that includes activities in the areas of molecular genetics, cytogenetics, cell culture, and tissue culture cryobanking. He directs the Frozen Zoo® project, a unique resource of cell cultures that has made notable scientific contributions in the field of conservation and other biological disciplines. His professional career has been devoted to developing and applying genetic research methods in support of endangered species conservation efforts for species held in the Zoo and wild populations.  He has authored more than 310 scientific papers, including citation classics in the field of mammalian evolution, conservation science and policy, comparative cytogenetics, and genomics research.  Dr. Ryder has contributed key studies relevant to conservation management efforts for gorillas, California condors, African rhinos, Przewalski’s horses, Anegada iguanas, and numerous other species.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.




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screening: Racing Extinction

Q&A with director Louis Psihoyos
Thursday, March 12, 2015 / 7:00 PM
UCSB Pollock Theater
Admission $10 general / $5 students

Scientists predict we may lose half the species on the planet by the end of the century. They believe we have entered the sixth major extinction event in Earth’s history. Number five took out the dinosaurs. This era is called the Anthropocene, or “Age of Man,’ because the evidence shows that humanity has sparked this catastrophic loss. We are the only ones who can stop it. The Oceanic Preservation Society, the team behind the Academy Award® winning film The Cove, returns for Racing Extinction. OPS will bring a voice to the thousands of species on the very edge of life. An unlikely team of activists is out to expose the two forces endangering species across the globe. The first threat to the wild comes from the international trade of wildlife. Bogus markets are being created at the expense of creatures who have survived on this planet for millions of years. The other threat is all around us, hiding in plain sight. There’s a hidden world that the oil and gas companies don’t want the rest of us to see. Director Louie Psihoyos has concocted an ambitious mission to call attention to our impact on the planet, while inspiring others to embrace the solutions that will ensure a thriving planet for future generations. Louis Psihoyos will join us for a post-screening Q&A.

To purchase tickets please visit: http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/pollock/events/focus-anthropocene-racing-extinction

Sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from The Humanities.

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SCREENING AND TALK: Climate Justice (The Movie): Five Years Inside The UN Climate Talks

Richard Widick (scholar/filmmaker)
Thursday, February 26 , 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

In 2015 in Paris, the United Nations will adopt the next universal climate treaty.  That treaty, envisioned to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2020 as the world’s leading collective response to global warming, is being written now.  Whose interests will it serve?  What can be done?  And what is it like inside the negotiating halls?  Are global warming, climate change, and the integrity of the world’s peoples and ecosystems truly at the center of concern?  Richard Widick, an environmental theorist, social historian, and presently a Visiting Scholar at UCSB’s Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies, has been filming at the UN climate talks since work began on the new treaty in Durban, South Africa, 2011.  Climate Justice goes both inside the talks and into the streets, engaging the economic, social, and political actors that are shaping the treaty and the activists and social movements that gather outside the gates to confront them.  The film has two release date targets.  The first release will be on social media in March, 2015, intending to join the groundswell of media attention and help shape the struggle over the treaty; filming will then continue up through the Paris conference, after which a final cut will be produced intending to document the entire process.  The film seeks to put the major players on the record about their roles as when the world tried to face this potentially existential climate crisis.  Please join us for an advance screening and discussion of this film work in progress.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Toxic Tales from the African Anthropocene

Gabrielle Hecht (History, University of Michigan)
Friday, February 20, 2015 / 9:30 am
Student Resource Building Multipurpose Room

The Anthropocene has become a rallying point for interdisciplinarity across the humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. Yet these conversations easily falter, especially when critics observe that the notion can obscure massive inequalities by attributing the unfolding catastrophes to an undifferentiated “humanity.” The Anthropocene thus poses significant conceptual and methodological challenges to the humanities and qualitative social sciences. How can we theorize temporal and spatial scales that allow us to hold the planetary and the particular in the same frame? How can humanists gain purchase on the nexus of waste, toxicity, and violence that forms the core of the Anthropocene? This talk tackles these questions by exploring material histories of toxic waste in and beyond Africa. This talk is part of the workshop “Energy Challenges in the Developing World,” which will consist of two panels following the talk in which scholars will present their latest research on efforts related to a global transition towards cleaner forms of energy.

Sponsored by the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies, the College of Letters and Sciences, the IHC’s Energy Challenges in the Developing World RFG, and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Climate Data Detectives: On the History and Politics of Knowledge about Global Climate Change

Paul Edwards (History and School of Information, University of Michigan)
Thursday, February 19, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Why does climate change remain controversial despite an overwhelming scientific consensus? Across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, constantly changing, poorly standardized data practices created a need for substantial data detective work before questions about anthropogenic global warming could be answered. The practices of “climate data detectives,” who re-examine and renanalyze historical data, themselves became a focus of controversy in the 2000s. For example, the 2009 “Climategate” episode highlighted popular theories that scientists fudged or even faked historical data in order to promote belief in global warming. A second example: in the 2000s a crowdsourced “audit” of US weather stations alleged a large warm bias in the US historical climate network due to poorly sited thermometers. Although this bias had already been removed from US climatologies by data models, climate change deniers continued to promote its existence to cast doubt on the reality of global warming. In conclusion Edwards will discuss the future of climate science in an age when blogs, independent “audits,” and social media are challenging traditional peer review systems.

Paul N. Edwards is Professor in the School of Information and the Dept. of History at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the history, politics, and culture of information technologies and infrastructures. Edwards is the author of A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), a history of the meteorological information infrastructure, and The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (MIT Press, 1996), a study of the mutual shaping of computers, military culture, and the cognitive sciences from 1945-1990. He has been a Carnegie Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow. Edwards’ current research concerns the history and future of knowledge infrastructures.

Sponsored by the IHC’s Machines, People and Politics RFG and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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SCREENING: Journey of the Universe (2011)

Dir. David Kennard and Patsy Northcutt, 56 min.
Special guest: Mary Evelyn Tucker (Divinity, Environmental Studies, Yale, writer of Journey of the Universe)
Thursday, February 19, 2015 / 7:00 PM
UCSB Pollock Theater
Admission: $10 general / $5 students
For tickets, visit http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/pollock.

From the Big Bang to the epic impact humans have on the planet today, this film is designed to inspire a new and closer relationship with Earth in a period of growing environmental and social crisis. Beautifully filmed in HD, the story begins on the historically rich Greek island of Samos, birthplace of mathematician Pythagoras. Disembarking on the island at dawn, evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme expertly guides viewers on an exhilarating trek through time and space, sharing a wondrous view of cosmic evolution as a process based on immense creativity, connection, and interdependence. After the toll of midnight, he sets sail into the star-lit waters of the Aegean Sea, leaving audiences with a sense of wonder at the mystery, complexity and connectivity that permeates the Earth and universe from the very beginning. Big science, big history, big story, this one-of-a-kind film was written by Swimme and Yale University historian of religions Mary Evelyn Tucker. They weave a tapestry that draws together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology, biology, ecology, and biodiversity with humanistic insights concerning the nature of the universe.

Sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: The Penumbra Falls: Thinking about the Potential Near-future of the Anthropocene

Erik M. Conway (historian, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Thursday, February 12, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

In their new book, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway explore the coming of the Penumbra, the shadow of doubt and denial about environmental and climate challenges spread by corporations, politicians, and even some scientists. Their point of view is from 2393, the Tercentenary of the Great Collapse and Migration, when millions began to flee coastal regions due to rapid sea level rise.  Conway’s talk will be a mixture of fact and fiction, telling a story about one possible future for humanity should we continue the high-emissions lifestyle that has characterized the early twenty-first century.

Erik Conway is the historian at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His duties include research and writing, conducting oral histories, and contributing to the lab’s historical collections.  Conway enjoys studying the historical interaction between national politics, scientific research, and technological change.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Drawing the End of our World: Comics, Climate Change and Pizzly Bears

Andy Warner (comics journalist)
Thursday, February 5, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The comics medium is graphically able to represent the complex and unexpected effects humans have on natural systems, such as how a warming climate can actually mean bigger snowstorms, how escaping exotic pets can cause an ecosystem to crash, and the strange sponge-like effect Australia has on rising sea levels. It’s a great tool for understanding what our effect on the world is now, and what’s to come. Andy Warner’s comics journalism has been published by Slate, Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously, American Public Media, KQED, Symbolia and popsci.com. He will show his own comics on some of the more unusual effects humans have had our changing world, as well as the work of other cartoonists creating comics about science.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Dialogue With Water

Wang Shu (China Academy of Art, winner of the Pritzker Prize)
Tuesday, February 3, 2015 / 4:00 PM
MultiCultural Center Theater

Wang Shu writes: “My architectural designs always come from some kind of memory, memories that are related to some place, an event that sparked some kind of feeling, or a visual impression of some happening or object. When I consider these things retrospectively, these stimuli always have something to do with water. This is hardly strange, because where I live water is a natural element and is everywhere. Architecturally speaking, in my work particular climatic considerations, ambience, application of materials, and aesthetics, are all determined by water.

And yet water is elusive. I can say that my designs begin with memory, yet it is more accurate to say they begin with imagination. This is because those things that are remembered are constantly shifting and changing in the thinking process. Thus, my designs are drawn from memories, but it is more accurate to say these are things precisely of the moment.

Unfortunately, clearly today people’s sensibility toward water is receding. Thus, I often tell people I was born in the seventeenth century.”

Wang Shu is the Dean of the School of Architecture of the China Academy of Art. In 2012, he became the first Chinese citizen to win the Pritzker Prize, the world’s top prize in architecture.

Sponsored by the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this talk from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.


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reading: On Streaming

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke (poet, winner of the American Book Award)
Thursday, January 29, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is an American Book Award-winning poet and the author of Dog Road WomanOff-Season City PipeBlood Run, and Burn, as well as a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer. She is the editor of the anthologies Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous AmericasEffigies and Effigies II and currently serves as a Distinguished Writer at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Hedge Coke came of age working fields, factories, and waters and is currently at work on a film, Red Dust: the dirty thirties, chronicling mixed-blood and Native life.

Streaming, Hedge Coke’s new release, considers the challenges that human impact and climate change present to nature. The poems in Streaming build a rich compilation along the journey from lineages to contemporary concerns. Steeped in migration, travel, work, and labor, the way we move collectively toward our fates coincides with the trial, trouble, and sensuality of living with the world awry and regaining balance. Like migratory birds, we move through time as though temporal flow lifts us with the ease of thermal gliding. This reading welcomes meditative experience.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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ROUNDTABLE: Natural Capital

Thursday, January 22, 2015 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Peter Alagona (History and Environmental Studies, UCSB)
Sarah Anderson (Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, UCSB)
Ken Hiltner (English and Environmental Studies, UCSB; UCSB Sustainability Champion)
Sharyn Main (Santa Barbara Foundation)
Richard Widick (Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB)
Facilitator: Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook (English and Comparative Literature, UCSB)

How much is the ocean worth? Can we calculate the economic value of its contributions to human life- to the global carbon cycle; to ecotourism and recreation; to marine fisheries that feed the world? Would we use the ocean- or any other ecosystem- differently if we had to pay the actual dollar value of the functions it provides? Projects like the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment argue that establishing the value of ecosystem services allows us to materialize environmental risk and ground difficult policy debates amid twenty first-century global-scale environmental and economic crises. This pluri-disciplinary roundtable will examine how the idea of natural capital is shaping our relations to the environment. What happens when natural resources are brought into the marketplaces of the Anthropocene? What are the positive and negative effects, at different scales, of linking economic models to ecosystems? How will financial practices around risk and credit affect government policies on the management of natural resources? What are complements – or alternatives – to a ‘natural capital’ framework?

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Click here to listen to a recording of this panel from the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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screening: Watermark (2013)

dir. Jennifer Baichwal & Edward Burtynsky, 90 min.
Discussant: Casey Walsh (Anthropology, UCSB)
Thursday, January 15, 2015 / 7:00 PM
UCSB Pollock Theater
Admission $10 general / $5 students
For tickets, visit http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/pollock.

Watermark is a feature documentary from multiple-award winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, and renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, marking their second collaboration after Manufactured Landscapes in 2006. The film brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use. We see massive floating abalone farms off China’s Fujian coast and the construction site of the biggest arch dam in the world – the Xiluodu, six times the size of the Hoover. We visit the barren desert delta where the mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean, and the water-intensive leather tanneries of Dhaka.  We witness how humans are drawn to water, from the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach to the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, where thirty million people gather for a sacred bath in the Ganges at the same time. We speak with scientists who drill ice cores two kilometers deep into the Greenland Ice Sheet, and explore the sublime pristine watershed of Northern British Columbia. Shot in stunning 5K ultra high-definition video and full of soaring aerial perspectives, this film shows water as a terraforming element, as well as the magnitude of our need and use. In Watermark, the viewer is immersed in a magnificent force of nature that we all too often take for granted, until it’s gone.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities and the Carsey-Wolf Center.

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talk: High and Dry: On Deserts and ‘Crisis’

Dick Hebdige (Film & Media Studies & Studio Art, UCSB)
Thursday, December 4, 2014 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The body in the swimming pool as metonym for trouble in paradise is a recurrent motif bordering on cliché in Hollywood/ West Coast sunshine noir. As California contends with its severest drought in the state’s recorded rainfall history and intimations of apocalypse proliferate, the trope becomes especially ominous and loaded. This talk poses questions about human agency and environmental blowback against the backdrop of the desert as a staging ground for rehearsals for the end of the world (or ‘life as we know it’) as various as the Trinity A-bomb test at Almagordo, NM in 1945, a performance by Jean Tinguely and Niki Saint Phalle in Nevada in 1962, the Burning Man festival at Blackrock, and the Virgin Galactic citizen space program currently under way in the Mojave. In the process we shall consider how the American desert figures as conflicted space: as dumping ground and crucible, as military compound, leisure site and sanctuary, as a sustainable energy (wind and solar power) platform, and as the index of an unhabitable future. Against the prospect of imminent global immolation we shall return intermittently to track the passage of the corpse floating face down in the pool from a backyard oasis on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles to a pumped out well south of Porterville in California’s Central Valley.

A cultural critic and theorist, Hebdige has published widely on youth subculture, contemporary music, art and design, and consumer and media culture. His books include: Subculture: The Meaning of Style (Methuen, 1979); Cut ‘n’ Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music (Methuen, 1987); and Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things (Routledge, Methuen, 1988). His current interests include the integration of autobiography and mixed media in critical writing and pedagogy.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Dick Hebdige – “High and Dry: On Deserts and ‘Crisis'” from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

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talk: Problems with the Anthropocene: A View from Rural Amazonia

Nicholas C. Kawa (Anthropology, Ball State University)
Friday, November 21, 2014 / 1:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

In recognition of humanity’s increased capacity to alter the earth’s climate and bio-physical environment, the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen has declared that we now live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Ironically, Crutzen’s declaration occurs at a time when many scholars in the humanities and social sciences are concerned with the latent anthropocentrism that dominates much of modern thought. Drawing from ethnographic research in Brazilian Amazonia, this presentation actively questions the conceptual foundations of the Anthropocene and how it frames human history and human relationships to the environment. In doing so, it discusses some of the ways that rural Amazonians conceive of human-environmental relations, which can serve as valuable counterpoints to the views that undergird the Anthropocene.

Nicholas C. Kawa is an environmental anthropologist.  He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Florida in August 2011. His  research  focuses on issues of biodiversity management, agricultural sustainability, and long-term human-environmental interaction in Brazilian Amazonia. Currently, he is developing research in Indiana that examines farmers’ adoption of conservation management practices.

Sponsored by  the Dept. of Anthropology and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Nicholas Kawa- “Problems with the Anthropocene: A View from Rural Amazonia” from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

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talk: Into the Bowels of the Anthropocene: Excrement and the Current Ecological Crisis

Nicholas C. Kawa (Anthropology, Ball State University)
Thursday, November 20, 2014 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The origins of the Anthropocene are typically traced to the Industrial Revolution, a period that led to drastic alteration of the Earth’s climate and bio-physical environment. However, another significant development occurred at the time, one that is overlooked by geologists and climate scientists: the widespread institution of the private flush toilet. With the ability to carry human excrement out of sight, the modern toilet has perpetuated the illusion that our waste can be made to disappear. This presentation discusses both the foundations and consequences of this modernist illusion, using contrasting examples from rural Amazonia and other parts of the world to explore alternative forms of human waste management.

Nicholas C. Kawa is an environmental anthropologist.  He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Florida in August 2011. His  research  focuses on issues of biodiversity management, agricultural sustainability, and long-term human-environmental interaction in Brazilian Amazonia. Currently, he is developing research in Indiana that examines farmers’ adoption of conservation management practices.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropecene: View from the Humanities.

Nicholas Kawa- ” Into the Bowels of the Anthropocene: Excrement and the Current Ecological Crisis” from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

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talk: Fixing Capitalism’s Deepest Flaws

Peter Barnes (entrepreneur, journalist, author)
Tuesday, November 18 / 8:00 PM
UCSB Corwin Pavilion
Capps Forum on Ethics and Public Policy

Peter Barnes argues that because of globalization, automation, and winner-take-all capitalism, there won’t be enough high-paying jobs to sustain America’s middle class in the future. Therefore, to survive economically, our middle class needs—and deserves—a supplementary source of nonlabor income. To meet this need, Barnes proposes to give every American a share of the wealth we own together— starting with our air and financial infrastructure. The dividends would be paid by a nationwide fund similar to Alaska’s Permanent Fund.  The fund’s revenue would come from a variety of common assets, starting with our atmosphere.  The dividends would amount to several thousand dollars per year—money that wouldn’t be welfare or wealth redistribution but, as in the case of Alaska,  legitimate property income. Courtesy of The Book Den, copies of Barnes’ latest book, With Liberty and Dividends for All, will be available for purchase and signing at this event.

Peter Barnes is an innovative thinker and entrepreneur whose work has focused on fixing the deep flaws of capitalism. His books include Who Owns the Sky? (2001), Capitalism 3.0 (2006) and With Liberty And Dividends For All (2014).  He co-founded several socially responsible businesses (including Working Assets/Credo), and started a retreat for progressive writers (The Mesa Refuge). Barnes grew up in New York City and earned a B.A. in history from Harvard and an M.A. in government from Georgetown. He began his career as a reporter on The Lowell (Mass.) Sun, and was subsequently a Washington correspondent for Newsweek and west coast correspondent for The New Republic.


Sponsored by The Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at UCSB and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

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talk: Balancing on a Planet: Can Local Food Improve Health, Increase Equity, and Slow Global Warming?

David A. Cleveland (Environmental Studies, UCSB)
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 / 4:00 PM
Pacific View Room, UCSB Library

One of the biggest challenges we face is fixing our global food system—although it feeds us, in the process it contributes much to sickness, hunger and climate change. The cause of this is a supply-side strategy that emphasizes increasing production and economic growth. Localizing the food system is a popular solution—but can it deliver?

Reception with samples of local foods to follow. UCSB Bookstore will sell copies of Cleveland’s 2014 book Balancing on a Planet.

Sponsored by the  UCSB Library’s Pacific Views Speaker Series, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.
Website: http://www.library.ucsb.edu/events


Cleveland Talk from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

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TALK: Charting a ‘Good’ Path in a Turbulent Age

Andrew Revkin (The New York Times)
Thursday, November 13, 2014 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB
(Please plan to arrive early; seating is limited.)

The environmental movement has long been built around two themes – “woe is me” and “shame on you.”  But in the age of global human influence, the Anthropocene, that approach ends up resembling a circular firing squad. Is the palm oil developer the villain, or the person buying the KitKat bar or “green” biodiesel fuel derived from palm nuts?  Andrew Revkin, building on more than 30 years of environmental reporting, outlines a fresh approach to fostering durable progress on a complex, turbulent planet — one focused less on unachievable goals and more on building the human capacity to produce positive environmental and social outcomes.

Revkin has been writing about environmental sustainability for more than three decades, from the Amazon to the White House to the North Pole, mainly for The New York Times. He has won the top awards in science journalism multiple times, along with a Guggenheim Fellowship. As the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University, he teaches courses in blogging, environmental communication and documentary film. He has written acclaimed books on global warming, the changing Arctic and the assault on the Amazon rain forest, as well as three book chapters on science communication. Drawing on his experience with his Times blog, Dot Earth, which Time magazine named one of the top 25 blogs in 2013, Revkin speaks to audiences around the world about the power of the Web to foster progress. He is also a performing songwriter, was a longtime accompanist for Pete Seeger and recently released his first album of original songs, which was hailed as a “tasty mix of roots goulash” on Jambands, an influential music website. Two films have been based on his work: “Rock Star” (Warner Brothers, 2001) and “The Burning Season” (HBO, 1994).

soundcloudClick here to listening to a recording of Andrew Revkin’s talk for the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Sponsored by the IHC’s  Sara Miller McCune and George D. McCune Endowment and IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.


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talk: The Anthropocene: A New Epoch of Thought?

Kathryn Yusoff (Human Geography, Queen Mary University of London)
Tuesday, November 4, 2014  / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

The Anthropocene is the informal geologic chronological term that serves as a material (and perhaps metaphysical) marker for human impacts on earth forces. While the Anthropocene might not be a proper name for this epoch, it does nominate a threshold moment that signals the demise of the stable environmental conditions of the Holocene that provided the context for Western thought. What this improper naming does open up, however, is a speculative dimension to environmental thought in both the sciences and humanities, and in doing so it reconfigures the relation between the two, provoking new articulations of environmental relations and its figures of thought (such as Nature and the Human). But what does this new epoch of thought demand from us? What politics and aesthetics are proper to this planetary event, this new epoch? And, how can the humanities give a critical extension and speculative explication of this geology?

Kathryn Yusoff is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on political aesthetics, geophilosophy and environmental change (including climate change, extinction and the Anthropocene). She is currently writing a book about “Geologic Life” that examines the genealogies, geontologies and geopolitics of the Anthropocene.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Kathryn Yusoff: “The Anthropocene: A New Epoch of Thought?” from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

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Inaugural Lecture: Should We Welcome the Anthropocene?

Ken Hiltner (English and Environmental Studies, UCSB)
Thursday, October 30, 2014 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

It is now clear that our planet is being impacted on a global scale by a range of human activities – climate change being a prime example. With this realization, comes another: that we have arguably entered a new geological era dominated by human beings, the Anthropocene. While it is often suggested that we should recoil from the Anthropocene and attempt to return the planet to a state comparable to what it was before widescale anthropogenic change, in this provocative talk Ken Hiltner asks whether we should instead welcome the Anthropocene.

Hiltner is a professor at UC Santa Barbara, where he holds appointments in both the English and Environmental Studies Departments. In 2012-13, he taught at Princeton University as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and Humanities. He has written five books and numerous articles engaging with the environmental humanities. He is currently the Director of UCSB’s Environmental Humanities Center.

Sponsored by the Environmental Humanities Center and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Ken Hiltner: Should We Welcome the Anthropocene? from Environmental Humanities Center on Vimeo.

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