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Carolyn Merchant headlines “Understanding Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities,” May 14-16
Author: David Santen, Office of University Communications
Posted: May 5, 2009

(Portland, Ore.) April 24, 2009 – Humanities scholars will converge on Portland State University May 14-16, 2009, for the inaugural “Understanding Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities.”

This national event will consider the cultures, histories, values and imaginations at stake in “sustainability.” Carolyn Merchant, author and professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics at the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the conference keynote address, “Melting Ice: Climate Change and the Humanities,” on Thursday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. A broad range of panel discussions will address sustainability on May 15-16.

In addition, an interactive and improvisational event featuring Sojourn Theater, “Re-Casting Expertise: A Game of Public Inquiry,” will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 15 at the Cyan (333 S.W. Harrison St., Portland). The conference is free and open to the public. All events will be held at PSU’s Native American Student and Community Center (710 S.W. Jackson St., Portland, Ore.) unless otherwise noted. Visit for a detailed schedule.

Conference organizers explain that clean air and water, a livable climate, and a healthy standard of living are not the only endangered elements in our social order worth “sustaining.” The broader list goes beyond environment and economics to include community, psychological health, meaningful work, intellectual openness, popular empowerment, a sense of heritage and history, cultural diversity, art and music. Intellectual traditions of the humanities allow for deep inquiry into these issues and values.

The conference format is designed to create dialogue between disparate groups: humanities scholars working in fields such as eco-criticism, green cultural studies, environmental ethics, philosophy of science, and environmental history; local designers, city planners, and social service providers who are building Portland’s reputation as a leader in sustainability; and artists and activists shaping ideas of green ethics and aesthetics.

“Understanding Sustainability” is organized by the Humanities Sustainability Research Project, an initiative of PSU's Portland Center for Public Humanities, and supported by a grant through PSU's Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.
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News Release
For Immediate Release (#09-018)

David Santen, Office of University Communications, Portland State University | 503-725-8765

Marcia Klotz, Department of English and Portland Center for Public Humanities, Portland State University | 503-725-4946