Evening discussion: Rebecca Solnit on HOPE (Tues., Dec. 11th, 8:15)

Please join us for an evening discussion of two short readings by essayist Rebecca Solnit on the theme of hope, which I hope (!) will be welcome after a semester of talking about trauma and denial….  Readings will be circulated via the CREST listserv and Dropbox.  They are as follows:

–Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (2004), pp. 1-19 and 63-80; and

–Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (2009), pp. 1-10.

Lunchtime Roundtable on Tuesday, Nov. 13: Energy, Modernity, and Everyday Trauma

Our next event will be a Roundtable discussion on the theme of “Energy, Modernity, and Everyday Trauma.”  As usual, lunch will be provided, courtesy of ACSF, but our timing will be slightly later than normal: food will be available at 12:45, and the discussion will start at 1pm and run until 2:15pm.  The location is Bio Tech G01.  An abstract and some information on our presenters are below.

Energy, Modernity, and Everyday Trauma

Fossil fuels provided the raw material for modern industry, and, more generally, modern societies.  And our inextricable dependence on limited sources of energy continues to be a driving force of history.  Clearly, the production and use of fossil fuels have always had deleterious consequences for the environment and for humans (while also providing almost magical benefits).  But, looking beyond obvious traumas like explosions and spills, and thinking about trauma from bodily, psychological, and environmental perspectives, can we see more subtle ways in which modern energy regimes have been traumatic?  Which landscapes and human groups have been hardest hit?  Why have activists had such a hard time addressing this gradually intensifying addiction?  What exactly are the everyday consequences of living in a culture so colored by the use of fossil fuels?

–Jing Jin is a senior undergraduate, a college scholar writing a thesis on literary representations of oil-related traumas, especially in indigenous groups in the US and Nigeria
–Charis Boke is an anthropology graduate student focusing in part on an ethnography of environmental and social justice activists, some of whom work on energy issues
–Michael Jones-Correa is a professor in government who teaches a course on slow-moving crises
–Anindita Banerjee is a professor in comparative literature who teaches a course on energy, empire, and modernity, and is working on a book project called An Aesthetics of Energy

Oct 10th Discussion: DENIAL

Upcoming discussion, Wednesday October 10th: 119 Farm Street  at 8:15.
This will be a follow-up, of sorts, to our discussion earlier this month on climate change and the humanities, since it seems clear that part of our inability to address climate change stems from a cultural and psychological unwillingness to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem.
Here are the citations:
1. Dickinson, J.L. 2009. “The people paradox: self-esteem striving, immortality ideologies, and human response to climate change,” Ecology and Society 14(1).  (Note that this one is by a Cornell professor, Janis Dickinson, in Natural Resources; she may even come to the discussion!)
2.  Excerpt from Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change (London: Earthscan, 2010): chapter 4,  “Many Forms of Denial,” pp. 95-133 (plus endnotes). (Hamilton is a professor of public ethics in Australia.)

And here are the links:
Thanks, and I hope to see you next month!

Fall 2012 Events

WED., OCT 10: evening discussion of two short readings about DENIAL, 8:15pm, 119 Farm Street.

TUES., NOV 13: lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2, Bio Tech G01, lunch provided;
this one is still under construction, but the theme is Energy, Modernity, and Everyday Trauma.
(Feel free to contact me if this theme is of particular interest to you and you might want to present on it….)

TUES., DEC. 11: evening discussion of three short readings about HOPE, 8:15, location TBA.

Welcome to CREST!

CREST brings together Cornell faculty and graduate students and other Ithacans who are committed to interdisciplinary environmental studies.  It is built on the premise that complex environmental issues can best be understood through familiarity with diverse perspectives–including those of the humanities, arts, social sciences, natural sciences, physical sciences, and every other kind of science.  We strive to foster open communication, close collaboration, and new thinking about the ways in which our “green” scholarly pursuits relate to our teaching and our political commitments.

Events prior to September, 2012



First meeting of NRDC coordinated by Aaron Sachs (History), Laura Martin (NTRES), Amy Kohout (History).

(NRDC stood for Nature Reading Discussion Community and was an interdisciplinary environmental reading group, with evening meetings at someone’s home to discuss books and articles chosen by the coordinators.)


Evening discussion of:

Excerpts from Home Ground (Barry Lopez, ed.)

Marrissa Landrigan, “Speaking in Place”

Geoffrey Harpham, “Science and the Theft of Humanity”

Hugh Raffles, “A Conjoined Fate.”


Evening discussion of:

Michael Pollan, Second Nature


Evening discussion of:

Murray Bookchin, “An Appeal for Social and Ecological Sanity”

Paul Shepard, excerpt from Nature and Madness

Rebecca Solnit, “Landscapes of Emergency”

Rebecca Solnit, “Tangled Banks and Clear-Cut Examples”

David Gessner, “Sick of Nature”


 Lunchtime discussion at Banfi’s of what CREST might look like


Evening discussion of:

Hugh Raffles, In Amazonia: A Natural History


Evening discussion of:

Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience


Evening discussion of:

            Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide


Evening discussion of:

Jonathan Franzen, “Emptying the Skies” (The New Yorker 2010)

Barbara Kingsolver, “Water” (National Geographic 2010)

Arundhati Roy, “Walking with the Comrades,” (Outlook India 2010)

Jonathan Safran Foer, Chapters 1&2 of Eating Animals (2009)


Evening discussion of:

Richard Lewontin, The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, Environment (2002, Harvard UP)


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“Conservation Benchmarking”


Laura Martin (Natural Resources)

Bernd Blossey (Natural Resources)


Rands et al. 2010. Biodiversity Conservation: Challenges Beyond 2010. Science 329, 1298-1303.
Seastedt et al. 2008. Management of novel ecosystems: are novel approaches required? Frontiers 6: 547–553.

Donlan et al. 2005. Re-wilding North America. Nature 436: 913-914.

Minteer and Collins. 2010. Move it or lose it? The ecological ethics of relocating species under climate change. Ecological Applications 20: 1801-1804.
Swetnam et al. 1999. Applied historical ecology: using the past to manage for the future. Ecological Applications 9: 1189-1206.

Since the 1980s scholars have recognized restoration ecology as a distinct sub-field, but the idea that ecosystems can be restored to some former or better state long predates that recognition. In the United States, many conservation areas are currently managed to resemble a vision of the landscape before European contact (e.g. removal of non-native species). However, a number of historians, philosophers, anthropologists, and conservationists have critiqued the use of historical reference communities, on the grounds that they (1) reinforce a nature-culture dichotomy, (2) deny histories of intensive Native American land-use, and (3) are based upon severely biased ecological and historical records. Climate change further challenges the use of historical baselines; climate change researchers suggest that past species assemblages will not survive or thrive in their historical ranges.

In this roundtable we will discuss past and future practices of restoration ecology and conservation biology. We ask that participants: (1) Please look at the 5 articles listed below (19 pgs total), and (2) Please describe your vision of a Finger Lakes ecosystem in the year 2030 (and bring your description to the discussion).


Evening discussion of:

Rebecca Solnit, “The Rainbow,” “Spectators,” and “Framing the View”

Rebecca Solnit, “The Garden of the Merging Paths,” “The Price of Gold and the Value of Water,” “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch” “The Botanical Circus, or Adventures in American Gardening,” “A Murder of Ravens: On Globalized Species,” and “Seashell to Ear”


Evening discussion of:

John Fowles, The Tree


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“The Arrogance of Humanism?: What Is the Role of the Humanities in the Environmental Crisis?”


Michael Smith (History and Environmental Studies, Ithaca College)

Nancy Menning (Philosophy and Religious Studies, Ithaca College)

Sarah Ensor (Cornell, English)

Amy Kohout (Cornell, History)


Wendell Berry, “Damage” and “Healing,”

Please read them and consider how a poetic sensibility can shape our approaches to environmental problem-solving. We would also like each attendee to come to the roundtable having thought about a few of the ways the humanities (history, literature, religion, philosophy, art, ethics, etc.) have informed both your work and your thinking about human/environment interactions more generally.


Evening discussion of:

Selections from David Takacs, Finding Meaning in Biodiversity

Myers et al. 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853.

Zavaleta et al. 2010. Sustaining multiple ecosystem functions in grassland communities requires higher biodiversity. PNAS 107:1443.

Ghilarov. 2000. Ecosystem functioning and intrinsic value of biodiversity. Oikos 90: 408.


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“Water in a Mediterranean Village.”


Gail Holst-Warhaft (Classics)

Sheila Saia (BEE)

Margaret Kurth (Natural Resources)

Michael Bowes (Law).


Excerpts from Holst-Warhaft and Steenhuis, Losing Paradise: The Water Crisis in the Mediterranean

The aim is to initiate a discussion of how and under what circumstances a multidisciplinary approach can be applied to a particular situation of waterstress.


Evening discussion of:

Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History (Longman, 2000)


Discussion with historian and activist Ramachandra Guha, 12:30-2pm, 300 Rice Hall

Ramachandra Guha, “The Indian Road to Sustainability,” from How Much Should a Person Consume? (2006)


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“Subsistence and Sustainability.”

Our next CREST meeting will be this upcoming Thursday, 4/21, from

12:20-2 in *G01* Biotech (lunch provided). The topic of the meeting will

be “Subsistence communities and sustainability”, with 3 speakers:

– Paul Nadasdy, Anthropology, who is studying the politics surrounding

the production and use of environmental knowledge in wildlife

management, land claim negotiations, and other political arenas among

First Nations people in the Yukon

– Hronn Brynjarsdottir, Information Science, who is studying the impact

of IT on attitudes towards sustainability and the profession in the

small-boat fishing industry in Iceland

– Phoebe Sengers, Information Science and Science & Technology Studies,

who is studying processes of modernization in a small, traditional,

subsistence-oriented fishing village off the coast of Newfoundland

Our three case studies all highlight notions of ‘sustainability’ for

subsistence communities that may run counter to urban sensibilities of

what it means to be sustainable.  What lessons can we learn about

sustainability from communities which are, or very recently were, living

close to the land? What implications might this have for how academic

research manifests notions of ‘sustainability’?


Evening discussion of:

Raffi Khatchadourian, “The Gulf War: Were There Any Heroes in the BP Oil Disaster?” (The New Yorker, 3/14/11)

Terry Tempest Williams, “The Gulf Between Us” (Orion Nov 2010)


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“Teaching Environmental Studies: What Is Essential?”

Barbara Bedford (Natural Resources, ecology)
Daegan Miller (History, background teaching environmental studies)
Kevin Pratt (Architecture, green design)
Laura Eierman (Natural Resources, environmental education)

We all teach environmental studies to some extent, but what should our priorities be beyond our immediate disciplinary concerns?  How do we want our students to think about the environment?  What skills do they need?  What scholarly and pedagogical methods or approaches have seemed most successful, based on our recent experiences?


Evening discussion of:

David G. Campbell, A Land of Ghosts: The Braided Lives of People and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“The Ultimate Environmental Discipline?  Exploring the Geographical Imagination at a University with No Geography Department”

Jeremy Foster (Landscape Architecture)
Josi Ward (History of Architecture)
Wendy Wolford (Development Sociology)
Ryan Edwards (History)


Evening discussion of:

Emma Marris, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World



Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“The Possibilities and Perils of Public Engagement”
Cliff Kraft, faculty, Natural Resources

Alexis Erwin, graduate student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Teevrat Garg, graduate student, Applied Economics and Management

Thea Whitman, graduate student, Soil Science

All of our speakers have extensive experience sticking their scholarly necks out in the public sphere,

on issues ranging from invasive species to lake source cooling, climate change, food aid, and funding for “basic” science.

As usual, each presenter will speak for only 5-10 minutes, leaving the bulk of our time for lively debate.

This panel will address some of CREST’s core issues: I think many of us wrestle with the problem of how to

operate effectively within and outside the academy at the same time, especially when it comes to environmental issues.


Evening discussion of:

Thomas Seeley’s book Honeybee Democracy.

We’ll be joined by the author


Lunchtime roundtable, 12:30-2pm, Bio Tech G01

“Cornell’s Commitment to Sustainability: Are We Practicing What We Preach?”

Mike Hoffman (Agricultural Experiment Station)

Lauren Chambliss (ACSF);

Elizabeth Sanders (Government);

Tori Klug (Environmental Engineering); and

Nighthawk Evenson (Natural Resources and Cornell Trustee)


Evening discussion of:

Nancy Langston, Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES (Yale U. Press, 2010, paperback 2011).


Lunchtime roundtable on the topic of Climate Change and the Humanities.

Our speakers will be:

Karen Pinkus, Cornell, Romance Studies; and

Nancy Menning, Ithaca College, Religious Studies.

They’ve both done a great deal of work to think through the ways in

which climate change is not just a technical issue, but

also one that needs to be understood and addressed through culture,

ideology, mindsets, feelings, rituals, and narratives.