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Sustainability, Aldo Leopold are focus of humanities talk


July 07, 2011

Bryan Norton, a professor of philosophy at the Georgia Institute of Technology will deliver a free talk titled "Aldo Leopold, Sustainability, and Adaptive Management Ahead of His Time," at 7 p.m., July 12, at the Flagstaff Public Library, 300 West Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Norton’s lecture, which is open to the public, is the last in a four-week series sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University in cooperation with Northern Arizona University.

The lecture series examines the historical, literary, religious, philosophical, and cultural dimensions of sustainability and is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer institute, “Reframing the Land Ethic: The Humanities and Sustainability,” which brings an interdisciplinary focus to a popular but little understood topic: sustainability.

The lecture series builds on a 2009 NEH institute on Aldo Leopold, who was a founding voice of environmental ethics. Some scholars find the seeds of sustainability in “The Land Ethic,” a chapter of Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949), which describes a relationship to nature that re-imagines society’s responsibilities to current and future generations. Leopold's vision was informed by the humanities, especially “the wisdom,” he writes, afforded by history, philosophy, religion, and literature. “Reframing the Land Ethic” argues that at its root, sustainability is a humanistic concept.

Norton studies the problems of species loss, degradation and "illness" of ecological systems, the problems of watershed management, and most recently, the problem of placing boundaries around environmental problems so that they can be modeled for study and management.

“Philosophical thinking can often clarify problem contexts and bring to bear careful analysis of concepts and principles of how to act,” Norton says.

The Institute for Humanities Research in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established in 2005. It has taken the lead in promoting excellence and innovation in humanities scholarship by contributing to scholarly research that addresses socially significant issues and engaging the community. 

Contact: Kirsten Keane, 480-965-3000