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History of Biology Seminars

2013 Seminar: History of Sustainability Science

Wed, May 15, 2013 - Wed, May 22, 2013
Woods Hole, MA


The MBL-ASU History of Biology Seminar is an intensive week with annually varying topics designed for a group of no more than 25 advanced graduate students, postdoctoral associates, younger scholars, and established researchers in biology, history, philosophy, and the social sciences.

Among the most exciting and provocative developments on and off campuses in recent years is the emergence of what is called "sustainability science" as an interdisciplinary area of research and education with a broad social interface. But what are the historical roots of this science, and how has it related to and drawn from fields as diverse as, e.g., ecology, economics, sociology, urban planning, agriculture, public heath, ethics, and engineering? How has it reflected, and how has it been propelled or constrained by social, cultural, and political factors and developments? What impact has it had in these respects? The ASU-MBL 2013 seminar will explore the history of thinking about what has come to be called sustainability science from the 19th to early 21st centuries. The seminar will be organized around different approaches to understanding the history of the science and its intersections with society across the natural and social sciences and engineering. 

MBL t-shirt

In addition to the questions above we will ask: What are the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological foundations of sustainability science? What’s new about sustainability science? In what sense, if any, can sustainability science be defined as an intellectually coherent discipline, and why does that matter? How can our understanding of the emergence of sustainability science inform current development of the area? How can the history of the field inform educational programs in sustainability science? 

The seminar is an excellent opportunity for graduate students interested in any aspect of the history of sustainability science. It is also an excellent opportunity for natural and social scientists and engineers to become involved with history, and historians and philosophers to become involved with an important set of issues in an emerging, interdisciplinary area of study. The seminar is intended for all scholars with an interest in these questions and their relations to other sciences and society.

John Beatty, University of British Columbia
James Collins, Arizona State University
Jane Maienschein, Arizona State University
James Collins and Ann Kinzig, Arizona State University