UW News

September 25, 1996

UW lectures to probe relationships between and threats to cultural, biological diversity

Award-winning Alaskan naturalist-writer Richard Nelson will launch a 10-part lecture series exploring the complex relationship between cultural and biological diversity and the threats to both next Monday (Sept. 30) on the University of Washington campus. His talk and the others in the series by visiting scholars, writers, researchers and activists are open to the public at no cost. All will be held at 3:30 p.m. Mondays in Savery Hall, room 239.
“The connections between biological and cultural diversity and between environmental problems and threat to indigenous peoples are multiple and complex. But rarely are these connection given sufficient attention, or even pointed out to the general public,”said Eric Smith, UW professor of anthropology and host for the series.

“While many biologists and environmentalists are sounding alarms about the decline in biodiversity, relatively few social scientists and human rights activists are warning about the simultaneous loss of cultural diversity. Since cultural diversity often depends on biodiversity, and may even encourage it, we need to pay attention to how they are interrelated.”

The lecture series is sponsored by the UW College of Arts and Sciences, the graduate program in environmental anthropology and the departments of anthropology, botany and zoology. Speakers, topics and dates of lectures are:

Sept. 30: Nelson, whose work focuses on human relationship to the natural world and has won the John Burroughs prize for excellence in nature writing, will explore American Indian hunting traditions, personal ecology and the roots of conservation.

Oct. 7: Richard Norgaard, a University of California Berkeley economist who teaches and writes about environmental problems and ecological economics, will discuss how modern world views and institutions are destroying the complex connections between cultural and biological diversity which have evolved throughout history.

Oct. 14: Jason Clay, a senior fellow of the World Wildlife Fund and former director of an organization which pioneered the idea of providing rain forest peoples with markets for renewable resources, will look at how such interventions have fostered cultural and biological diversity with an eye to cautionary tales from the real world.

Oct 21: Bobbi Low, a professor in the University of Michigan school of natural resources, will discuss why appeals to altruism and promises of long-term benefits don’t motivate high levels of resource conservation. Instead, she will argue, effective strategies must serve our self-interest and offer short-term benefits.

Oct. 28: Gary Nabhan, director of science at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum who has done pioneering work on the preservation of cultural and genetic diversity in native American plants, will talk about indigenous knowledge and conservation of plant- animal relationships.

Nov. 4: Patrick Kirch, UC Berkeley professor of anthropology and an authority on the archaeology of the South Pacific, will explore prehistoric environmental modifications to Pacific islands.

Nov. 18: Stephen Brush, a UC Davis professor of human and community development who is interested in issues of the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples, will look at “Protectors, Prospectors and Pirates: Contending Agendas for Biological Resources.”

Nov. 25: Gary Meffe, a senior research scientist at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, will talk about the human dimensions of conservation biology.

Dec. 2: Eugene Anderson, a UC Riverside professor of anthropology, will look at the complexities in organizing conservation efforts in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, home of the ancestors of the once powerful Mayan people.

Dec. 9: Devon Peña, professor of sociology at Colorado College and director of the La Sierra Foundation, will explore the politics of ecology and culture, examining grass-roots environmentalism and environmental justice in the multi-cultural American Southwest.

For more information, contact Smith at (206) 543-5231 or .