Creating Nature: Premodern Climate and the Environmental Humanities


Thursday, May 23, 2019, 6:30 pm
Paster Reading Room

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Please note: This is a free public event with limited seating. Reserve a seat only if you plan to attend.

Professors Cohen and Elkins-Tanton have long been exploring the ways in which the environmental humanities and sciences can speak together. Their plenary dialogue roams a terrain that includes the relation of personal and immediate experience to knowledge gained through data and long-duration study; climate and weather terms modern and pre-modern, and the possibilities they open for changed experiences of the world; and, continuities and breaks between past catastrophe, imagined futures, and life in the Anthropocene. What changes for us, they will ask, when we realize that we have lost the option to move to a new place when climate makes a home uninhabitable, as we did in the past?

Lindy Elkins-Tanton is the director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, co-chair of the Interplanetary Initiative, and the Principal Investigator (PI) of the Psyche mission, selected in 2017 as the 14th in NASA’s Discovery program. Her research includes theory, observation, and experiments concerning terrestrial planetary formation, magma oceans, and subsequent planetary evolution including magmatism and interactions between rocky planets and their atmospheres. She is a two-time National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow and served on the National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey Mars panel. Asteroid (8252) Elkins-Tanton was named for her.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is the dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. He currently serves, with Stacy Alaimo, as co-president of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE), the largest professional organization in the environmental humanities. His research examines strange and beautiful things that challenge the imagination, phenomena that seem alien and intimate at once. Following his prize-wining book, Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman, and co-edited volume Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking, he’s currently co-writing “Noah’s Arkive: Towards an Ecology of Refuge.” 

In 2017, they co-authored the book Earth, which explores what happens when we think of the Earth as an object viewable from space, a beautiful and self-contained challenge to scale and to human self-importance.