Center for Ethics Continues “The Ethics of the Anthropocene: Crisis Earth” with Spring 2019 Program

Visits from authors, filmmakers, scholars and representatives from NGOs continue discussion of the impact of human activity on the environment.

By: Bill Keller  Friday, January 11, 2019 09:44 AM

This semester’s program debuts with a lecture by Jacy Reese, Co-Founder and Research Director of Sentience Institute. Reese is considered a founder of the "effective altruism" movement, encouraging people, using science and evidence, to do the most good in the world. He co-founded Sentience Institute as a think tank to research humanity’s moral circle. His new book, "The End of Animal Farming," outlines a roadmap for humanity’s upcoming transition to a world without animal slaughter.

About "The Ethics of the Anthropocene: Crisis Earth"

The earth is experiencing an era of rapid environmental change. The impact of human activity is the dominant influence on the planet’s environment and can be found in the soil, water, air and rocks. Scientists have dubbed this new geological era the Anthropocene and are scrambling to understand how these changes affect ecosystems.  

Some businesses, communities, societies and political systems are responding to this change while others are not. Are these responses, or lack thereof, ethical? Who are the winners and losers as humans face down environmental catastrophe in the era of the Anthropocene? How can we face these environmental challenges ethically? When and why do we fail? This year’s Center for Ethics event series, The Ethics of the Anthropocene: Crisis Earth, explores the ethical implications of addressing the environmental damage that humankind has produced.

The fall 2018 semester program included visits from climatologist James Hansen, artist Peter d’Agostino, journalist Andrew Revkin, historian J.R. McNeill, marine toxicologist and author Susan Shaw and professor Mona Bahn.

All Center for Ethics events are free and open to the public.

Spring 2019 Schedule:

"The End of Animal Farming"

Jacy Reese, Co-Founder and Research Director of Sentience Institute
Monday, January 28, 7 p.m., Seegers Union, Great Room (111-113)

Reese is considered a founder of the “effective altruism” movement, encouraging people to use science and evidence to do the most good in the world. He co-founded the think tank Sentience Institute to research humanity’s moral circle, and his new book, “The End of Animal Farming,” outlines a roadmap for humanity’s upcoming transition to a world without animal slaughter.

This is a student-initiated event sponsored by the Student Government Association and the Center for Ethics.

"Climate Depression & Environmental Angst: The Emotional Toll of Ecological Loss"
Jennifer Atkinson, lecturer of interdisciplinary arts and sciences and associate director of the pre-major program and discovery core at the University of Washington, Bothell
Monday, February 4, 7 p.m., Moyer Hall, Miller Forum

As a faculty member at the University of Washington, Bothell, Atkinson teaches “Environmental Grief and Anxiety: Building Hope in the Age of Climate Consequences.” Her lecture will explore that course and discuss dealing with the grief and trauma of environmental loss. 

Atkinson’s recent book, "Gardenland: Nature, Fantasy and Everyday Practice," explores American garden literature as a “fantasy genre” where people enact desires for sustainability, community, social justice, joyful labor, contact with nature and more vibrant and democratic cities. She has also published research on teaching environmental humanities through “multi-sensory” outdoor experience. 


"The United Nations and Global Climate Change"
A Humpty Dumpty Institute Conference
Friday, February 15, 9 a.m – 4 p.m., Seegers Union Event Space

Sessions include:

  • The UN, Public Health and Global Climate Change
  • The UN and Climate Change Adaptation
  • The UN, Climate Change and Small Island States – Potential Climate Refugees
  • Round Table Discussion

The Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to tackling difficult global and domestic issues by establishing innovative and strategic public/private partnerships that provide sensible solutions to serious problems. HDI’s partners include the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, various countries, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, thought leaders and other NGOs.


“Standing on Sacred Ground”
Filmmaker Christopher McLeod with collaborator Caleen Sisk
Tuesday, February 26, 7 p.m., Trumbower 130 (Documentary Screening and Discussion)
Wednesday, February 27, 7 p.m., Miller Forum, Moyer Hall (Interactive Discussion)

McLeod is project director of Earth Island Institute's Sacred Land Film Project, which he founded in 1984. Since 2006, he has been producing and directing the four-part documentary film series Standing on Sacred Ground, which premiered in 2013 at the Mill Valley Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS in 2015. Standing on Sacred Ground features eight indigenous communities around the world fighting to protect their sacred places. He will be joined by project collaborator and Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chief, Caleen Sisk.


"Cultivating Feminism in the (M)Anthropocene"
Cate Sandilands, professor of environmental studies & Trudeau Research Fellow, York University
Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m., Miller Forum, Moyer Hall - CANCELED

Sandilands writes and teaches in the environmental humanities, integrating botany and environmental studies with gender and political studies and the arts. She is the author of "The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy," and co-editor of "Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire" and of "The Elusive Land: Women and the Canadian Environment." Her forthcoming book, "Plantasmagoria: Plants and the Politics of Urban Habitat," considers the relationships between gender, plants and gardening in the Anthropocene. 


About the Center for Ethics: 

Through thematic lectures and events, the Center for Ethics serves the teaching and study of the liberal arts at Muhlenberg College by providing opportunities for intensive conversation and thinking about the ethical dimensions of contemporary philosophical, political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific issues. In service to its mission, the Center for Ethics hosts special events and programs, provides faculty development opportunities, and provides support for student programming. The Center for Ethics and thematic programs are directed by full-time faculty members.

Brian Mello, associate professor of political science, serves as Center for Ethics director; Kimberly Heiman, senior lecturer, biology, and Kammie Takahashi, associate professor of religion studies, serve as program directors.


Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences as well as selected pre-professional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.