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2005 E. James Holland University Symposium on American Values

"Environmental Values in a Consumer Society: Valuing The Land in The Land of The Free"

When Captain John Smith, legendary adventurer and early American, surveyed the New England wilderness, he marveled at a vast land of abundance and beauty where even "a very bad fisher" could easily catch and sell enough cod to be "well content" with the profits. From the earliest arrival of European explorers to the continent of North America, the attitude of Americans toward their landscape has been a combination of awe and exploitation.

If the environment was the forgotten issue of the 2004 Presidential election, a post-election energy crisis and controversial environmental policies have renewed interest in the issue of how Americans live in their land. Regarded by many early European settlers as the habitat of devils, the wilderness exists for Americans now mostly as parks and preserves, a few protected spaces unclaimed by asphalt and concrete.

In America today, the environment often seems pitted against economic necessity. In at least one of its manifestations, the American Dream has led to a way of life that depends on consumption. Energy fuels the dream. But disasters like Three-Mile Island and EXXON Valdez remind us of the cost. We find it increasingly challenging to dispose of our own waste. Even as we continue to "pave Paradise," we worry about climate change, habitat destruction, water consumption, and biodiversity. And as the wilderness shrinks, many feel something in themselves shrinking, too.

Do Americans truly value their own air, water, and land? How does a society make wise choices about the use of its resources? Must economics outweigh conservation when it comes to public policy? Is it possible to reconcile a consumer society to the protection of the environment? And is the environment just one more issue over which Americans are seemingly polarized? The 2005 E. James Holland University Symposium, "Environmental Values in a Consumer Society," brings two renowned speakers-Dr. Peter A. Walker and Dr. Howard Margolis-to the ASU campus to address these and other questions.

Distinguished Speakers

Dr. Peter A. Walker, whose research focuses on how environmental use is shaped by political and social forces, teaches environmental studies at the University of Oregon. He has been a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and through his research in Africa he has explored the relationship between democracy and attitudes toward the environment. Dr. Walker is the author of A Sierra Landscape in Transition: Land Use and Social Change in Western Nevada County, California and has authored or co-authored numerous publications in such peer-reviewed journals as Progress in Human Geography, Society&Natural Resources, Human Ecology, and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. His research has been funded by grants from the prestigious National Science Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He has won two major teaching awards at the University of Oregon, including the Rippey Innovative Teaching Award two years in a row.

Dr. Walker's address to the 2005 ASU Symposium is entitled "Is Environmentalism Dead? Environmental Visions in a Consumer Society." While most Americans today describe themselves as "environmentalists," Dr. Walker says, the country has difficulty "seeking fundamental social and cultural changes" needed to preserve the environment. Dr. Walker asks, "If environmentalism is now 'dead,'" as many are claiming, "what will it take to resurrect the environmental movement in today's consumer society?"

Dr. Howard Margolis, author of Dealing with Risk: Why the Public and the Experts Disagree on Environmental Issues, is a professor in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. He has held research positions at the Institute for Advanced Study, the Russell Sage Foundation, and MIT. In addition to Dealing with Risk, Dr. Margolis's books include Selfishness, Altruism&Rationality (1982), Patterns, Thinking&Cognition (1987), Paradigms and Barriers (1993), and The Discovery of Discovery: What Was Revolutionary about the Scientific Revolution? (2002). He is currently working on a book on behavioral economics. Dr. Margolis has worked as a journalist, government official, and consultant in Washington, D.C. Founder of the "News&Comment" section of Science and correspondent for the Washington Post and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dr. Margolis has been a speechwriter for the secretary of defense and consultant to the National Academy of Sciences. He will also be in Washington, D.C. as a Woodrow Wilson fellow during the 2005-06 academic year.

Dr. Margolis's Symposium presentation will address the question "Can Policy Analysis Resolve Tough Environmental Choices?" "Environmental issues often involve hard choices," Dr. Margolis writes, "trading off what we'd like to have today against what we'd like to leave for tomorrow." In his presentation, he discusses some of the ways policy analysis can help Americans negotiate between the tough choices.