Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture
Michael Pollan: Out of the Garden
April 27, 2017
When Michael Pollan faced his suburban lawn in the 1980s, he looked past the Bermuda grass and saw acreage ripe for invention and discovery. “The garden suggests there might be a place,” he concluded, “where we can meet nature halfway.” His books look at nature close to home: the garden, the farm, the table. Today Pollan tells the story of the path his writing has taken since he planted his first vegetable garden. Beginning with that horticultural adventure, his work has evolved into an exploration of human engagement with the natural world. What’s at stake when we garden, cook, and eat is not only our health, Pollan argues, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth.
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About the Iscol Lecture
The Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture brings eminent scholars, scientists, newsmakers, and opinion leaders to Cornell to address environmental issues of paramount importance to our planet. Hosted by the Atkinson Center, the Iscol Lecture recognizes interdisciplinary scholarship on the frontier of scientific inquiry; provides opportunities for Cornell students, faculty, staff, and the public to gain new knowledge about pressing environmental issues; and enriches the university and community. A faculty committee, representing a cross-section of academic disciplines, selects the Iscol lecturer.
Sheryl WuDunn - April 20, 2016
Navigating Environmental and Economic Conflicts in China and the World
We all strive to improve our lives—to climb up the economic ladder and raise the standard of living for ourselves, our families, and those around us. The same is true everywhere around the world, including China. With economic development and increasing wealth, however, come increasing environmental burdens. In China, air, water, and soil pollution have soared. Small particles make the air hard to breathe, rivers are so filthy they sometimes no longer flow, and even a large portion of the soil, which nurtures the nation’s food, is contaminated. In the United States, decades of strong growth have created the wealthiest nation on earth. What burdens come with that increasing wealth? And what can ordinary people do to navigate the inevitable trade-offs between a healthy environment and a more comfortable standard of living?
About Sheryl WuDunn
One of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World,” China watcher Sheryl WuDunn is a tireless advocate for sustainable development, economic and environmental justice, and human rights. Her New York Times coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests earned WuDunn and her husband, Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize. A third-generation Chinese American, WuDunn was the first Asian American Pulitzer Prize winner—and the New York Times’s first Asian American reporter. Today, WuDunn raises capital for entrepreneurs in alternative energy, social enterprise, and new media at a boutique investment banking firm in New York. WuDunn and Kristof’s 2014 bestseller, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, describes people who are making the world a better place and how we can help them build solutions to global challenges.
Ted Danson - April 20, 2015
Fish Tales: How Ocean Conservation Became My Passion
Ted Danson's recent book, Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them, came as a surprise to those who didn’t know that this famous actor is also a leading oceans advocate. Danson will share his personal transformation from actor to activist and his passion for oceans. He will explore the frightening threats to our oceans and celebrate recent success stories, including over a million square miles of ocean protected and the recovery of important commercial fisheries. The next big initiative targets the countries that control 40 percent of the world’s fish catch. Policy changes can make the oceans so abundant that seafood could potentially feed one billion people a healthy meal each day.
About Ted Danson
For 30 years, actor Ted Danson has been a powerful advocate for ocean conservation. A polluted beach near his home in Santa Monica Canyon spurred Danson to join a community battle against planned offshore drilling. Strong local opposition put a stop to the oil wells. Danson went on to found the American Oceans Campaign, which later merged with Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation and advocacy organization. As a member of Oceana’s board, Danson works for policy change on overfishing and habitat destruction, marine pollution, and climate change.
Luc Gnacadja - April 22, 2014
Grounding Human Security: Land and Soil in the Global Sustainability Agenda
Land is the crucial natural capital resource at the nexus of our food and water security. We need fertile soil—the skin of the land—as much as the air we breathe, yet we routinely take soil for granted. Land degradation is accelerating, especially in the developing world, threatening both environmental health and human security. Soil security is a prerequisite for human security and must be a vital part of the sustainable development goals we set. The global community can work together to balance land degradation and restoration for a more resilient future.
April 23 - Panel Discussion
Waterless Lands and Languishing Livelihoods
The recent United Nations Environment Programme report Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply is the starting point for this panel discussion exploring the potential and consequences of expanding global cropland to meet ever-growing demand. Hosted by the Institute for the Social Sciences Land Theme Project.
Panelists: Prof. Robert Howarth (UN Report Author, EEB); Prof. Gail Holst-Warhaft (IES); Prof. Prabhu Pingali (AEM); Prof. Rebecca Schneider (NTRES)
Facilitators: Prof. Wendy Wolford (DSOC) and Prof. Charles Geisler (DSOC)
About Luc Gnacadja
Mr. Gnacadja served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and UN Assistant Secretary-General from 2007 to 2013. He was a guiding voice for sustainable land development in the negotiations leading up to Rio+20, the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Gnacadja argued, “A land degradation–neutral world is the final piece of the puzzle that unites the challenge of land degradation with the tools at our disposal and the level of ambition needed to achieve the future we want.” The international community affirmed this goal in The Future We Want, the outcome document adopted in Rio.
Born in Benin, Gnacadja earned an architecture degree at the African Crafts School of Architecture and Urbanism in Lomé, Togo, and later studied at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the World Bank Institute. Gnacadja was Benin’s minister of environment, housing, and urban development and represented Benin as the head of delegation to UNCCD and the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity.
A passionate advocate for landscapes and their ecological restoration, Gnacadja continues to work for international policies to ensure land stewardship and restoration, so that future generations will enjoy the benefits of healthy and productive land. Gnacadja received a 2002 Green Award from the World Bank for promoting environment-friendly public expenditure reform in Benin.
Peter Kareiva - April 22, 2013
Overcoming Dogma and Prophecies of Doom to Save Nature
Conservation is on the defensive. One way forward is to embrace the potential for recovery, restoration, and even rewilding, while realizing that nature never stands still. New messages, new science, new alliances, and a new nature are conservation's best hope.
About Peter Kareiva
Peter Kareiva is the Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, where he mentors 600+ staff engaged in conservation science in over 30 countries around the world. Kareiva received his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University in 1981 and immediately joined the faculty at Brown University in Biology and Applied Mathematics. In 1984 he began a twenty years stint at University of Washington before becoming the Director of Conservation Biology at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. After three years at NOAA’s Fishery Center he moved to TNC in 2001, where he has been ever since. He is the author of more than 150 scientific publications and author or editor of eight books, including a textbook on conservation science. Kareiva is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of The National Academy of Sciences. His research concerns the connection between human activities and changes in ecosystem services, as part of the Natural Capital Project which he co-founded with Gretchen Daily, Steve Polasky, and Taylor Ricketts. Kareiva is also studying the linkage between the sustainability initiatives of global corporations and their impacts on ecosystems. In the past Kareiva has published on biotechnology, agriculture, risk assessment, insect ecology, theoretical ecology, climate change, invasive species, and the importance of getting our children into nature.
Peter Matthiessen - April 23, 2012
Big Oil and Our First Climate Change Refugees
Peter Matthiessen takes us on a journey to Arctic Alaska, where climate change is the new reality. In this fragile ecosystem, potentially severe negative effects of large-scale fossil fuel development—especially offshore prospecting and drilling—are already taking their toll on the Arctic sea ice and permafrost, on Arctic wildlife, and on indigenous peoples such as the coastal Inupiat and the Gwich'in Dene ("caribou people").
Matthiessen's sobering conclusions are based on his travels in Alaska over many years and his conversations with these peoples in the course of research journeys to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Prudhoe Bay, the Ututok Plateau in the vast National Petroleum Reserve, and some small beleaguered communities on the Arctic and Bering Sea coasts, whose inhabitants are already our first climate change refugees.
About Peter Matthiessen
In the late 1950s, Peter Matthiessen published the first edition of Wildlife in America, a history of the extinction and endangerment of various animal and bird species at the hands of the human settlements that occurred throughout North American history, as well as historical efforts at endangered species protection. It was one of the first books to call attention to global warming, by mentioning how the polar ice cap formations caused the lowering of the seas, and how the isthmus that Mongoloid people crossed from Asia to present-day Alaska to establish North America's first settlement is now submerged by the Bering Strait.
Since that time, Mr. Matthiessen has written more than 30 books focusing on his personal travels, wildlife and the environment, and Native American issues and history.
Bill McKibben - April 21, 2011
350: The Most Important Number in the World
Bill McKibben is one of America's best known environmentalists and a prominent author. He has written books that, over the last quarter century, have shaped public perception -- and public action -- on climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies. Mr. McKibben is the founder of 350.org, which in 2009 coordinated what Foreign Policy magazine called “the largest ever global rally of any kind,” with 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. In 2010 Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist” and the Boston Globe called him “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist.”
Mr. McKibben's seminal books include The End of Nature, widely seen as the first book on climate change for a general audience, and Deep Economy, a bold challenge to move beyond "growth" as the paramount economic ideal and to pursue prosperity in a more local direction -- an idea that is the cornerstone of much sustainability discourse today. A former New Yorker staff writer and Guggenheim Fellow, he writes for various magazines, including Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, National Geographic and The New York Review of Books.
James E. Hansen - April 19, 2010
Global Climate Change: What Must We Do Next?
Dr. Hansen heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and serves as adjunct Professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute. An active researcher in planetary atmospheres and climate science for nearly 40 years, Hansen is best known for his Congressional testimonies on climate change that widely elevated the awareness of global warming, and is noted as one of the world's most famous climatologists. Hansen's work has evolved from space science to climate science. His early research on Venus clouds led to their identification as sulfuric acid. Since the late 1970s, he has worked on computer simulations of Earth's atmosphere to gauge the human impact on global climate. His Book, Storms of My Grandchildren, was published in 2009.
William A. McDonough - 2009
Cradle to Cradle Design
Mr. McDonough is the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, an internationally recognized design firm practicing ecologically, socially, and economically intelligent architecture and planning in the U.S. and abroad. He is also principal of MBDC, a product and systems development firm assisting prominent client companies in designing profitable and environmentally intelligent solutions.
Timothy E. Wirth - 2008
The New 'New International Economic Order'
As president of the UN Foundation since its inception, Senator Wirth has organized and led the formulation of the Foundation's mission and program priorities, which include the environment, women and population, children's health and peace, security and human rights.
Jane Lubchenco - 2007
Seas the Day: Recovering the Diminishing Bounty of Oceans
A marine ecologist and Distinguished Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University, whose research interests include biodiversity, climate change, sustainability science, and the state of the oceans, Dr. Lubchenco is widely recognized for her tireless efforts to bridge the gap between scientists and society.
Jeffrey D. Sachs - 2006
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time
Jeffrey Sachs is Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and The UN Millennium Project. Named in 2004 and 2005 among the 100 most influential leaders in the world by Time magazine, Dr. Sachs is internationally renowned for his work with international agencies to reduce poverty, debt, and disease in the world's poorest countries.
Gro Harlem Brundtland - 2005
The Global Significance of Sustainable Development
Physician and Director-General Emeritus of the World Health Organization and former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr. Brundtland is recognized internationally for championing the principle of sustainable development as chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development.
Peter H. Raven - 2004
How Many Species Will Survive the 21st Century and
Biodiversity, Sustainability and Cornell
Peter Raven is the Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the George Engelmann Professor of Botany at Washington University. Dr. Raven, a recognized authority in the fields of plant evolution and systematics, is one of the world's leading advocates for conservation and biodiversity, championing research around the world to preserve endangered plants and advance environmental sustainability.
Laurie Garrett - 2003
SARS and Other Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
Renowned medical and science writer at Newsday, and a Pulitzer Prize winner for her hands-on coverage of Zaire's Ebola epidemic, Laurie Garrett has chronicled numerous incidences of infectious disease over the years, calling attention to the decline in global public health.
Dr. Rita Colwell - 2002
Biocomplexity in the Environment: A 21st Century Odyssey
Former Director of the National Science Foundation and noted for refocusing the core agenda of NSF, Dr. Colwell emphasizes the complex interdependencies and global scope of natural systems and the importance of environmental research in the 21st century.
Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich - 2001
Tough Problems in Human Evolution and
Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect
Stanford University biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich are well known for their scientific contributions in population biology, ecology and evolution, and for raising public awareness of overpopulation, resource depletion and environmental degradation.
Dr. Thomas Eisner and Dr. Jerrold Meinwald - 2000
The Chemical Ways of Nature
Cornell Professors Thomas Eisner (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Chemical Ecology) and Jerrold Meinwald (Goldwin Smith Professor of Chemistry) are internationally recognized as pioneers in the field of Chemical Ecology. Together, their research into the chemical interactions of organisms has greatly advanced the search for new medicinals, agrochemicals and other useful substances from nature which hold immense importance to humankind.
Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland - 1999
True, False, and Side Steps towards Understanding- the Case of Ozone Depletion by Chlorflourocarbons and
Our Changing Atmosphere: Stratospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Warming"
Dr. Rowland, the Donald Bren Research Professor of Chemistry University of California - Irvine, an atmospheric chemist and Nobel Laureate, first warned that chlorofluorocarbons were depleting the Earth's ozone layer.