Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Threshold: Biodiversity, Climate, and Humanity at a Crossroads

Posted in Adult Education, Learning Experiences on March 3 2017, by Vanessa Sellers

L0011338 Hourglass in red leather covered case, second of two views.Humanity has reached a crossroads in the effort to combat climate change and protect biodiversity. On March 9, the Garden will host the Humanities Institute’s Fourth Annual Symposium, offering a vital discussion between three renowned experts and the larger public on biodiversity and nature conservation in the era of climate change. Convened by the Humanities Institute and the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University, this symposium will serve as a critical introduction to vital issues about the future of life on Earth, as we ask ourselves challenging questions that need expert knowledge and guidance. For example, what does biodiversity mean in the broader context of 21st-century environmental politics and ethics, and in the specific case of the 2016 Paris Agreement? Is there a common, sustainable future possible in this new period of American isolationism? What are the most urgent ecological, political, and ethical laws that need enforcing to ascertain the availability of the world’s natural resources to tomorrow’s generation?

We are fortunate to be able to welcome Professor Shahid Naeem, Director of Science at the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES) at Columbia University—whose research under the motto of “ecology without apology” has laid many of the foundations for thinking about biodiversity and conservation—as his presentation, Sustainability in an Age of Mass Extinction and Isolationism, will show. 

Professor Ursula Heise, Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies, Department of English/Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, adds intriguing visions about post-human landscapes in her contribution, Where the Wild Things Used To Be: Narrative, Biodiversity, and Dystopia.

Professor John Nagle, John N. Mathews Chair at the Notre Dame Law School will compare historical and current eco-legislation in his talk, The Inimitable Endangered Species Act.

All three have made contributions of fundamental importance to the way that biodiversity, endangered landscapes, and species are represented and addressed in literature, law, and a variety of other disciplines in academia and beyond. Threshold will conclude with a panel discussion and questions from the audience on the prospects for a new environmental ethic for the 21st century. In conversation with the wider NYBG audience, the three speakers hope to advance solutions for several of the most pressing questions of our modern age. Please register today at for this important event.


Support for the Humanities Institute provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Barbara Varuolo said:

We are unable to attend this most interesting lecture, and would like to know if there are other dates or venues to attend.

My granddaughter is currently doing graduate study at Stoneybrook University in field of Atmospheric Science and The Environment.

If possible we would try and go to an alternate schedule.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.