Sustainability, Humanities Highlighted at Summer Institute

Until July 15, Arizona State University is offering a four-week Summer Institute “Extending the Land Ethic” at Northern Arizona University that will explore the connection between ecologist Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” and contemporary notions of sustainability as the central organizing principle. The Institute will examine the relationship between humans and nature and focus on topics such as environmental ethics, ecofeminism, environmental history, green religion and ecocriticism.

The Institute will accept up to 25 professors, graduate students, nonprofit administrators, public officials, and others who teach or research humanities and will include sessions presented by MacArthur Prize recipient Gary Paul Nabhan; Curt Meine, Leopold’s primary biographer; famed Native American writer Linda Hogan; and noted climate philosopher Dale Jamieson. Participants will engage in field trips and panels led by guest speakers that will raise questions about sustainable land and cultural practices.

School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Philosophy Professor Joan McGregor has been instrumental in creating the program as the Institute Director. 

“Today, many programs still frame sustainability as problem-solving through technology: build a better windmill,” said McGregor. “The approach makes sense: it’s linear, measurable, and offers assurance that crises will be averted by new tools. No doubt innovations in engineering are important to sustainability, but, as Leopold cautioned, tools only create more tools, not the wisdom to use them. Bringing the humanities’ perspectives to bear on sustainability will add an element of critical reflection that subjects the term’s meanings to cultural scrutiny, tests the moral questions which disturb a facile form of utilitarianism, and illuminates and incorporates intellectual history.”

The Institute will also be hosting free, public discussions with scholars that will be held at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff:

“Remembering The Whole Leopold: Finding Common Ground in Conservation”
Curt Meine, Conservation Biologist, Environmental Historian, Writer
7 p.m., Tuesday, June 21

“Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Agrarian Ethics in the Face of Climate Change”
Gary Paul Nabhan, Internationally Celebrated Nature Writer, Food and Farming Activist
7 p.m., Tuesday, June 28

 “Climate Ethics: Reason in Dark Times”
Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy, Affiliated Professor of Law, Director of the Animal Studies Initiative, New York University
7 p.m., Tuesday, July 5

 “Earth Speaking”
Linda Hogan, Internationally Recognized Author of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays 
7 p.m., Tuesday, July 12 

“Extending the Land Ethic” is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. NEH Summer Institute partners include the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Institute for Humanities Research and the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, as well as the College of Arts and Letters at Northern Arizona University. 

For more information on the Summer Institute “Extending the Land Ethic,” please visit the Humanities & Sustainability website.