2014 - Human Well-Being and the Environment

The Environmental Science and Policy Program is launching a symposium series to explore the challenges and opportunities we face in enhancing human well-being while protecting the environment. This symposium will bring distinguished thinkers from around the world to explore what we know, what we need to know and what we must do as we move into a century of unprecedented environmental change, technological advancement and scale of human activity.

The event will include research focused seminars and discussion but will emphasize events and presentations that will speak to the broader MSU and Michigan community. In addition to live events and webcasts, the Inaugural Symposium will generate educational materials that can be used in classes and non-traditional education in the spring and beyond.

This symposium is made possible through the generous endowment of Barbara Sawyer-Koch and Donald Koch.


Thursday, April 3, 2014
Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center
Michigan State University




Time Description
8:00am - 8:30 am

Continental Breakfast—Big Ten Room C

Opening remarks - June Youatt, Provost, Michigan State University

8:30am - 10:00 am

Session 1—Big Ten Room C
Dennis Dimick "The Anthropocene: Could This New 'Age of Man' Be our Last?"

Session Chair: David Poulson, Senior Associate Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University

Discusssant: Eric Freedman, Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University

Discussant: Steve Running, Professor of Forest Ecology, University of Montana


10:15am - 11:45 am

Session 2—Big Ten Room C
Marina Fischer-Kowalski "The Anthropocene: Humans Lock-in With Fossil Fuels and Need to Change Paths."

Session Chair: Robert B. Richardson, Associate Professor, Community Sustainability, Michigan State University

Discussant: Anne Woiwode, Michigan Director of the Sierra Club

Disussant:Pia-Johanna Schweizer, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University, Visiting Scholar from the University of Stuttgart, Germany



12:00pm - 1:30 pm

Plenary Speech and Lunch—Big Ten Room C
Bonnie McCay "Changing Climates for Adaptation."



1:45pm - 3:15 pm

Session 3—Big Ten Room C
G. Philip Robertson "Farming for Ecosystem Services: A New Sustainability Paradigm for Production Agriculture."

Discussant: James Byrum, President, Michigan Agri-Business Association

Discussant: Michael Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor Sustainable Agriculture, Michigan State University


3:30pm - 5:00 pm

Session 4—Big Ten Room C
Amanda Lynch "Diversity: Creative Potential or Wasteful Redundancy?"

Session Chair: Julie Libarkin, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University

Discussant: Christopher L. Hoving, Statewide Specialist on Climate Adaptation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Discusssant: Kyle Powys Whyte, Assisant Professor of Philosophy, Michigan State University


7:30pm - 9:00 pm

Evening Session—Auditorium

Opening Remarks - Marietta Baba, Dean of the College of Social Science, Michigan State University

Thomas Lovejoy and Michael Vandenbergh "A Conversation on The Fate of the Earth"

Interviewer: Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief, Michigan Radio


Special thank you to our steering committee: Dr. Thomas Dietz, Dr. Robby Richardson, Dr. Julie Libarkin, David Poulson and Dr. Vlad Tarabara. All your hard work has been appreciated.



Dennis Dimick

Dennis Dimick
Executive Editor, National Geographic Magazine

Speech Title: "The Anthropocene: Could This New 'Age of Man' Be Our Last?"

Dennis Dimick serves as executive editor at National Geographic magazine in Washington, D.C., where he leads coverage of energy, climate, and sustainability issues. He has guided creation of major projects on global freshwater in April 2010, a year-long 2011 series called “7 Billion” on global population, and is working with colleagues on a 2014 series on global food security. In Sept. 2004 he originated and orchestrated creation of a 74-page three-story project on climate change called “Global Warning: Bulletins from a Warmer World.”

Dimick co-organized the annual Aspen Environment Forum from 2008-2012, and he regularly presents slide shows lectures on the collision between expanding human aspiration and Earth’s ability meet our needs. Audiences have included the Aspen Ideas Festival, Chautauqua Institution, World Bank, Woodrow Wilson Center, Harvard University Neiman Foundation, University of Nottingham, Mountainfilm Telluride, The Land Institute, American Geophysical Union, and the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Dimick grew up on sheep and hay farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and holds degrees in agriculture and agricultural journalism from Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2011 he was named a distinguished alumnus of the University of Wisconsin.

He has won many editing awards in Pictures of the Year International, has for 17 years been a faculty member of the Missouri Photo Workshop, and in 2013 received the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award for service to photojournalism, the highest honor from the National Press Photographers Association.

He previously worked at newspapers in Oregon and Washington, and for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife Kim Kostyal and daughters Claudia and Sofia.

A narrated visual provocation: For most of human existence we survived on current sunshine – wood, water, and wind – to power society. Then over the past few hundred years we discovered fossil sunshine – coal, oil, and natural gas – to power our lives. We now primarily rely on this ancient sunlight, the fossilized carbon remains of ancient plants and animals, to turn our wheels and light our world. Fossil fuels have allowed an extraordinary expansion of our food supply, our material wealth, and our population. We have transformed our finite planet – the land, seas, and atmosphere – with a seemingly infinite expansion of our dominion over Earth. Trend lines show this conquest isn't sustainable, wild habitats and species are disappearing, and our planet is being polluted and cooked by the effluent of our expanding aspirations. Is it possible to create a soft landing for civilization? What will it take? Can ingenuity, wisdom, and those same fossil fuels build a bridge to a sustainable future powered primarily once again by current sunlight?

Geology of the Planet: Welcome to the Anthropocene. The Economist, May 2011.

The Anthropocene: A Man-made World. The Economist, May 2011.

Enter the Anthropocene: The Age of Man. Elizabeth Kolbert, National Geographic.

The National Academies of Science/Royal Society report "Climate Change: Evidence and Causes."

American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Climate Science: What We know."


Marina Fischer-Kowalski

Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski
Founder and Director, Institute of Social Ecology, Professor of Social Ecology, Alpen Adria University; Senior Lecturer at the University of Vienna

Speech Title: "The Anthropocene: Humans Lock-in With Fossil Fuels and Need to Change Paths."

Dr. Fischer-Kowalski is a social scientist by professional breeding. She is fascinated by interdisciplinary cooperation "across the great divide" as a way to expose herself to approaches from different scientific perspectives and attempt a radical re-framing of the structure of a problem. She is driven by an obsession for theoretical clarity, and is interested in quite fundamental questions: What is the nexus between social and natural systems? How do they co-evolve? How do they relate in the minds of people, in current biophysical reality, and how did they relate in history? She is curious to ever again take a fresh look, ask questions, and put her prejudices at risk by thorough empirical investigation. Beyond curiosity driven research, Dr. Fischer-Kowalski feels responsible for contributing also practically to developing a more sustainable society. She is glad to be given the opportunity to manage an interdisciplinary team, and hopes the insights gained through such a cooperative enterprise will also provide a productive challenge to the social sciences. Their contribution is badly needed to improve the self-governance of society vis-a-vis its natural environment.

The Anthropocene denotes the geological period when humans acquired the ability to dominate major features of the Earth system – and possibly also acquired the reflexive capacity to make choices about their future. Originally progress in history meant increasing human control over energy sources and increasing human population numbers, processes I will demonstrate by reviewing sociometabolic dynamics across time. Sustainability means getting off this track. The key question is: which signals can we trace so that we might be able to move in another direction?



Dr. Thomas Lovejoy

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy
Professor, Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University

Thomas E. Lovejoy was elected University Professor at George Mason in March 2010. He also holds the Biodiversity Chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and was President from 2002-2008. An ecologist who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon since 1965, he works on the interface of science and environmental policy. Starting in the 1970’s he helped bring attention to the issue of tropical deforestation and in 1980 published the first estimate of global extinction rates (in the Global 2000 Report to the President). He conceived the idea for the long term study on forest fragmentation in the Amazon (started in 1978) which is the largest experiment in landscape ecology, the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems project (also known as the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project). He also coined the term “Biological diversity”, originated the concept of debt-for-nature swaps and has worked on the interaction between climate change and biodiversity for more than 20 years. He is the founder of the public television series “Nature”. In the past, he served as the Senior Advisor to the President of the United Nations Foundation, as the Chief Biodiversity Advisor and Lead Specialist for the Environment for the Latin American region for the World Bank, as the Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution, and as Executive Vice President of World Wildlife Fund-US. In 2002, he was awarded the The Tyler Prize, and in 2009 he was the winner of BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology Category. He has served on advisory councils in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations. In 2009 he was appointed Conservation Fellow by the National Geographic Society. He chairs the Scientific and Technical Panel for the Global Environment Facility which provides funding related to the international environmental conventions. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. (Biology) from Yale University.



Amanda Lynch

Dr. Amanda H. Lynch
Director of the Environmental Change Initiative and Professor of Geological Sciences, Brown University

Speech Title: "Diversity: Creative Potential or Wasteful Redundancy?"

Professor Amanda Lynch, is Director of the Environmental Change Initiative and Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at Brown University. Lynch has published more than 100 articles, policy briefs, book chapters and books in climate science and meteorology, particularly in the polar regions. Her article on the role of Indigenous people in the sustainable management of the Murray-Darling Basin was recently named by the Swiss Academies of Sciences Transdisciplinarity Network as one of the most important publications in interdisciplinary research in 2012. She has provided advice to the Chief Scientist of Australia and the Presidential Science Advisor in the U.S. At present, Lynch is Chief Editor of the journal Weather, Climate and Society, Treasurer of the Society of Policy Scientists, research associate of the Australian National University Institute for Water Economics and Environmental Policy, and member of the National Academy of Science Committee on Emerging Research Questions in the Arctic.

I've been thinking about the ideas around centralization in decisions that seek to ensure sustainability. Many framings of the question draw parallels between ecosystems and human systems. The debates on this topic can be surprisingly heated. Deeply held values are, often only implicitly, invoked. What do we understand about the interplay between efficiency and innovation, effectiveness and flexibility?

Lynch, A., Adler, C. E., & Howard, N. C. (2013). Policy diffusion in arid Basin water management: a Q method approach in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia. Regional Environmental Change. doi: DOI 10.1007/s10113-014-0602-3

Orlove, B. (2005). Human adaptation to climate change: a review of three historical cases and some general perspectives. Environmental Science & Policy, 8, 589–600. doi: doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2005.06.009



Dr. Bonnie McCay

Dr. Bonnie McCay
Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Human Ecology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University

Speech Title: "Changing Climates for Adaptation."

Bonnie McCay is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in the Department of Human Ecology of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Her graduate training was in environmental anthropology at Columbia University (PhD 1976), and her research and teaching have focused on challenges and policies for managing common pool resources such as fish and shellfish, with particular attention to intersections of ecology, community, and social institutions of science, law and property. She has done field research in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Canada, in the Middle Atlantic region of the U.S., and in Baja California, Mexico, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Sea Grant College Program, the National Park Service, and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

Her books include "The Question of the Commons," "Oyster Wars and the Public Trust," and "Enclosing the Commons." She currently serves on numerous editorial boards and on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. Her graduate teaching and mentoring is within the Anthropology, Geography, and Ecology & Evolution programs at Rutgers University.

Policies for the protection of biodiversity and conservation of renewable resources have come under the rubrics of ecosystem science and ecosystem-based management, on the one hand, and market-based management on the other. For marine fisheries these are major and still incomplete changes, but what sense do they make when climate change so rapidly transforms the distribution and fates of species and their habitats? How do science, policy, people, and fish adapt?

McCay, B. J., Micheli, F., Ponce-Díaz, G., Murray, G., Shester, G., Ramirez-Sanchez, S., & Weisman, W. (2013). Cooperatives, concessions, and co-management on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Marine Policy, 44, 49–59. doi:

McCay, B. J. Enclosing the Fisheries Commons: From Individuals to Communities (pp. 219-251).



G. Philip Robertson

Dr. G. Philip Robertson
University Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Science, Michigan State University

Speech Title: "Farming for Ecosystem Services: A New Sustainability Paradigm for Production Agriculture."

Phil Robertson is University Distinguished Professor of Ecosystem Science in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at MSU, with which he has been associated since 1981. Since 1988 he has directed the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program in Agricultural Ecology at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, where he is a resident faculty. He is also program leader for sustainability research in the Department of Energy's Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

Dr. Robertson's research interests include the biogeochemistry and ecology of field crop and cellulosic biofuel ecosystems and in particular nitrogen and carbon dynamics, greenhouse gas fluxes, and the functional significance of microbial diversity in these systems. His undergraduate and graduate teaching includes Agricultural Ecology, Biogeochemistry, and Soil Biology courses.

Dr. Robertson has been a SCOPE-Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1980-1981) and a sabbatical scholar at Cooperative Research Centres in Adelaide (1993-1994) and Brisbane (2001-2002), Australia. His service also includes current membership on the Dept. of Energy's Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC), past membership on the U.S. Carbon Cycle Scientific Steering Committee, chairmanships of competitive grants panels at the USDA (the NRI and Fund for Rural America Programs), and membership on several NSF panels in the Biological and Geosciences directorates. He served as chair of the U.S. LTER Network from 2008-2011, and is a lead chapter author for the U.S. National Climate Assessment. He served on the National Research Council Committee to Evaluate the USDA NRI Program (1998-1999), and chaired the Environment Subcommittee of the NRC Committee on Opportunities in Agriculture (2000-2002). He has testified before the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Forestry, and Nutrition Committee and participated in briefings for the U.S. House and Senate Science and Technology and Agriculture Committees. He has also served as an editor for the journals Ecology, Ecological Monographs, Plant and Soil, Biogeochemistry, and PNAS. In 2003 he was elected a Fellow in the Soil Science Society of America. In 2005 he received MSU's Distinguished Faculty award. Dr. Robertson received his BA from Hampshire College and his PhD in Biology from Indiana University.

Agriculture intensification feeds billions and has immensely improved human welfare, but at a substanial environmental cost. Is there an alternative path? Can we manage farms for significant benefits additional to high yields? Skeptics say no, but long-term research reveals that farming for multiple ecosystem services including high yields is surprisingly possible - and could be a new paradigm for an agriculture that is economically and environmentally sustainable.



Michael P. Vandenbergh

Michael P. Vandenbergh
David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law; Co-Director, Energy, Environment and Land Use Program; Director, Climate Change Network, Vanderbilt Law School

Mike Vandenbergh is a leading scholar in environmental and energy law whose research explores the relationship between formal legal regulation and informal social regulation of individual and corporate behavior. His work with Vanderbilt’s Climate Change Research Network involves interdisciplinary teams that focus on the reduction of carbon emissions from the individual and household sector. His corporate work explores the influence of social norms on firm behavior and the ways in which private contracting can enhance or undermine public governance. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Professor Vandenbergh was a partner at a national law firm in Washington, D.C. He served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1993-95. He began his career as a law clerk to Judge Edward R. Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1987-88. In addition to directing Vanderbilt’s Climate Change Research Network, Professor Vandenbergh serves as co-director of the law school’s Energy, Environment and Land Use Program. He was named to the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law in fall 2013. A recipient of the Hall-Hartman Teaching Award, he teaches courses in environmental law, energy, and property. Professor Vandenbergh has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and at Harvard Law School.


Session 1 featuring Dennis Dimick

Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick Dennis Dimick

Session 2 featuring Marina Fischer-Kowalski

Fischer-Kowalski Fischer-Kowalski Fischer-Kowalski

Plenary Session featuring Bonnie McCay


Session 3 featuring G. Philip Robertson

Robertson Robertson

Session 4 featuring Amanda Lynch

Lynch Lynch

Evening Session featuring Tom Lovejoy and Michael Vandenbergh

Vandenbergh Vandenbergh Vandenbergh Lovejoy Pluta Vandenbergh evening