Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

Piper Logo
January 13, 2014

Lecture Series Examines Human Impact on the Environment

By Shilo Rea

From topics such as diabetes, race and American health, pollution and politics to watershed management, Carnegie Mellon will continue to explore how humankind affects its environment with lectures from visiting experts.

"People often do not think about how the environment links to city environments, and we have been fortunate to have extremely talented faculty working in this dynamic area," said Caroline Acker, head of the Department of History in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "Because of recent flooding incidents and ongoing issues like climate change and global warming, the field is on the rise. More graduate students are coming to Carnegie Mellon to study environmental history, which is very encouraging because it is critical to look at the past to gain a better understanding of how we got to where we are."

Throughout his career, Joel Tarr, the Richard S. Caliguiri University Professor of History and Policy, has explored the relationship between cities, the environment and technology, and the History Department has excelled for several decades in understanding how the human world impacts urban environments.

Tarr, who has additional appointments in the Heinz College and Department of Engineering and Public Policy, studies the history of the urban environment and the development of urban technological systems. He has served on National Research Council committees dealing with issues of urban infrastructure, public transit, water pollution and the human dimensions of global change.

In 2008, Tarr was awarded the Society for the History of Technology's Leonardo da Vinci Medal. The society's highest honor, the medal goes to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the history of technology through research, teaching, publication and other activities. His edited volume "Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and Its Region" was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the American Association for State and Local History.

Additionally, Associate Professor of History John Soluri, an environmental historian, joined the CMU faculty in 1999. Soluri focuses on the relationship between social and environmental change in Latin America with a particular focus on the commodification of biological organisms. His book "Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States" (2005) won the George Perkins Marsh Award for best book from the American Society for Environmental History and traces the development of the banana from Latin American cultures to kitchens in the U.S.

"A Disease of Civilization? Diabetes, Race and the Changing Nature of American Health"
Matthew Klingle, associate professor of history and environmental studies, Bowdoin College
Rescheduled for 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13 (Location TBD.)

"Pollution and Politics Around Post WWII Atlanta: The Long Shadow of Underdevelopment"
Chris Sellers, associate professor of history, Stony Brook University
4:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28 (Location TBD.)

"Lending Nature a Helping Hand: New York City and the Rise of Watershed Management"
David Soll, assistant professor of history, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 3 (Location TBD.)

"The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon and Our Gamble Over Earth's Future"
Paul Sabin, associate professor of history and American Studies, Yale University
4:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 18 in the University Center's Peter/McKenna/Wright Rooms