Events & Symposia

Threshold: Biodiversity, Climate, and Humanity at a Crossroads

Thursday, March 9, 2017
Arthur and Janet Ross Hall; 10 a.m.

Presented by the Humanities Institute in collaboration with the Center for Science and Society of Columbia University

Humanity has reached a crossroads in the effort to combat climate change and protect biodiversity. As Earth’s temperature rises closer to the danger limit set forth by scientists and world leaders in the Paris Agreement, so does the risk of a range of truly catastrophic events, including extreme weather, rising sea levels, and mass extinctions. How have we come so close to such a critical threshold? How can we stop ourselves from crossing it?

In Threshold, three renowned scholars will discuss the implications of the climate crisis for the future of life on Earth. By exploring the variety of scientific, cultural and political relationships between humanity and biodiversity over time, these experts will address the elements needed to respond to the most daunting challenge in human history. Threshold will conclude with a panel discussion and questions from the audience on the prospects for a new environmental ethic for the 21st century.


Shahid Naeem is Chair of Ecology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology at Columbia University, and Director of Science in the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, a multidisciplinary consortium aimed at the promotion of research related to environmental sustainability. Naeem has contributed numerous articles, papers and publications to important ecological journals and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ursula K. Heise is the Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies in the Department of English and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. Author of several books, including Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (2016), she co-edits The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Heise was a Guggenheim Fellow and President of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

John Nagle is the John N. Matthews Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana where he teaches courses on environmental law, legislation and property in the United States and China. He received various Distinguished Lectureship awards to teach in China and has (co)authored more than 10 books and has published extensively in prestigious legal journals, including the Yale Law Journal and University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Registration | Ross Gallery 9–10 a.m.

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