2017-2018 THEME: FROM DISRUPTIONS TO DISASTERS: A LENS ON THE HUMAN-ENVIRONMENT RELATIONSHIP

Since its inception, the Earth has had a violent history of disruption and disasters.  Volcanic eruptions, transformations of the atmosphere, meteoritic collisions, mass extinctions, moving glaciers, plagues, disease, wars, politics and belief systems are but some of the perturbations, natural and otherwise, that disrupt the dynamic processes of the earth and all life that has lived on it. Natural and anthropogenic perturbations across a range of scales set the Earth, ecosystems and human communities onto different courses.  While disruptions and disasters have been an integral part of the history and evolution of the planet, the relationship between humans and their environment continues to evolve as perturbations shift in frequency, magnitude and type.  These perturbations arise from both non-anthropogenic  and anthropogenic  sources.  But there is also a growing human-environment interaction that leads to disruptions and disasters at a variety of scales.  While some of the anthropogenic factors depend upon technological advances (e.g., nuclear radiation) other factors are ancient (e.g., the use of fire to clear large areas for agricultural purposes, such as in Ukraine, Indonesia or South America).


Our current world offers a series of profound challenges to humanity.  We are pushing our world towards a tipping point of climate change by our changes to the carbon cycle and use of fossil fuels. The social-political-ethnic-religious theater of rivalries and conflict intensifies as the environmental stage rotates. The biochemical machinery of humans and the biological world is now constantly challenged by exposure to a bewildering array of microbes, chemical, and other disturbance agents—to which, humans and other Earth inhabitants must continually adapt. In all of this, the human-environment relationship is cyclical. Both parts of the relationship manifest change in the other setting up an ever changing dynamic.  


The 2017-2018 College of the Environment Think Tank will focus upon how humanity will confront and take measure of the human-environment relationship from diverse perspectives of biochemistry, ecology, socio-political-religious, somatics, art, and embodiment.

2017-2018 SCHOLARS' RESEARCH:

  • Katja Kolcio, Chair and Professor of Dance
  • Ishita Mukerji, Professor of Integrative Science and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
  • Eiko Otake, Menakka and Essel Bailey '66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment
  • Helen Poulos, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environment Studies