The Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values

Seminar Theme 1998-1999

Air -- Breath of Life, Winds of Change:
Toward a New Environmental Ethic


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      Nothing unites religious leaders, public policy officials and global citizens more thoroughly than the emerging sense of urgency concerning the need for thoughtful discussion and deliberate planning on the vitally important subject of Air. Satellite Image of Atmospheric Circulation - Click for Current Report Whether in the form of "breath" or "smoke," "whirlwinds" or "global weather" there is no escaping the universal importance of air. All terrestrial life forms exchange gases with their environments as part of the metabolism of living -- simply to stay alive. Where there is no breath, there is no life. Yet, while we all know that nothing can live without respiration, there has been surprising little reflection on the ethical implications of this basic biophysical principle of life. We live unwittingly in an ocean of air, and we have taken life and breath for granted.

      Religious traditions have long reflected upon the importance of breath as the primal manifestation of both Spirit in humans and of the Divine in the natural world. Moreover research scientists are providing us with cumulative evidence of how Earth's atmosphere may operate as part of a self regulating mechanism to sustain life on earth. In addition, public policy officials are increasingly called upon by citizens to provide leadership and devise policy to avert run-away environmental catastrophe driven by current patterns of atmospheric change. Why are not religious leaders, scientists and public policy officials talking to one another on these compelling issues?

      This year's Seminar will explore the connections between values and public policy in the light of what we are coming to learn about air in the Earth's ecosystem. New kinds of awareness imply new forms of ethical obligation, and we will be examining these connections throughout the year as we consider topics like air-borne contamination, acid rain, "pollution permits," the spread of air-borne diseases, aerosol carcinogens and second-hand smoke, indoor toxic environments, global atmospheric and climatic change and many other subjects that highlight the need for humankind to devise a new environmental ethic toward air.


Seminar Schedule

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Day Event Time and Location or
Contact Information

Fall Semester 1998

October 1
Thursday
Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
Ross Gelbspan, Journalist & Author -- "Global Climate Change and Human Denial: The Ultimate Challenge to Our Moral Imagination." (Some Readings and Resources).
For information
contact Tim Weiskel
tel. 496-5208

November 17 Tuesday

Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
Dr. George M. Woodwell, Scientist, President & Director of the Woods Hole Research Center -- "Who Owns the Air? Public Versus Private Interests in a Full World." (Some Readings and Resources).
For information
contact Tim Weiskel
tel. 496-5208

December 15 Tuesday

Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
Dr. Joseph D. Brain, Chair, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health -- "Environment and Lungs: What are the connections?" (Some Readings and Resources).
For information
contact Tim Weiskel
tel. 496-5208

Spring Semester 1999

February 16, Tuesday

Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
Professor William R. Moomaw, Director, Tufts University Institute of the Environment "Climate Change: A Challenge to Science, Politics, Economics and Values." (Some Readings and Resources).
For information
contact Tim Weiskel
tel. 496-5208

March 16
Tuesday

Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
Professor Harvey Weiss, Professor, Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Yale University, "Did Climate Change Ever Change History? Climate Change and the Refraction of the Mesopotamian Developmental Trajectory." (Some Readings and Research Resources)
For information
contact Tim Weiskel
tel. 496-5208

April 20
Tuesday

Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
Professor Theodore Hiebert, Professor, Old Testament Studies, McCormick Theological Seminary,"Air -- The First Sacred Thing: The Conception of rah in the Hebrew Scriptures," and
Professor Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, "Gaia's Spirit: The Past and Present Atmosphere of Earth." (Some Readings and Research Resources)
For information
contact Tim Weiskel
tel. 496-5208

Archive of 1997-1998 Seminar Meetings | Archive of 1996-1997 Seminar Meetings

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Or for further information on specific programs or activities of the Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values contact :


Dr. Timothy C. Weiskel
Director, Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values
56 Francis Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

or call:

tel. 617-496-5208



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