Living in a World of Limits – Spring 2013

Improving the human condition, equitably, sustainably and within limits that protect the natural environment, is perhaps the critical challenge of the 21st century. The Clarke Forum theme of the spring 2013 semester will explore this challenge from multiple perspectives that span and integrate the arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, with a goal of informing the continued infusion of sustainability across the Dickinson curriculum. Topics will range from the local to the global and include practical models for building sustainable communities, social, environmental and health effects of developing natural gas in Pennsylvania and Mozambique, social movements to combat global climate change, and interpreting and responding to planetary boundaries.

Peterson Toscano

Theatrical Performance Artist

Everything is Connected

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Connecting contemporary issues to his own bizarre personal experiences, literature, science, and even the odd Bible story, Peterson Toscano takes his audience on an off-beat mental mind trip. A shapeshifter, he transforms right before your eyes into a whole cast of comic characters who explore the serious worlds of gender, sexuality, privilege, religion, and environmental justice.

This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainability Education, the Office of LGBTQ Services, the Center for Service, Spirituality and Social Justice, the Women’s and Gender Resource Center, the Department of Religion, the Department of Theatre & Dance, and the Churchill Fund. It is also part of the Clarke Forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty Series.

Biography (provided by the speaker)

Drawing on comedy, storytelling, and history, Peterson Toscano creates original content for the stage and the Internet that inspires curiosity about climate change. Peterson’s unique personal journey led him into performance art. After spending 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to de-gay himself through gay conversion therapy, he came to his senses and came out a quirky queer Quaker concerned with human rights and comedy. His university presentations reveal the interconnectedness of power, privilege, justice, and coffee beans. Some of his presentations include, Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? and Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House

Video of the Presentation

Richard Alley – “Joseph Priestley Award Recipient”

Pennsylvania State University

Joseph Priestley Award Celebration Lecture

The Good News on Energy, Environment and Our Future

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Watch Live

Humans have burned trees, whales, and now fossil fuels far faster than they grew back, enjoying the energy but suffering the environmental impacts and then shortages. Now, we are the first generation that can build a sustainable energy system, improving the economy, employment, environment, ethics, and national security.

The Joseph Priestley Award recipient is chosen by a different science department each year. The Department of Earth Sciences has selected this year’s recipient. The event is supported by the College’s Priestley Fund and is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the departments of biology, chemistry, earth sciences, environmental studies, mathematics & computer science, psychology, and physics & astronomy.

Biography (provided by the speaker)

Richard Alley (Ph.D. 1987, Geology, Wisconsin) is Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences at Penn State.  He studies the great ice sheets to help predict future changes in climate and sea level, and has conducted three field seasons in Antarctica, eight in Greenland, and three in Alaska.  He has been honored for research (including election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Foreign Membership in the Royal Society), teaching, and service.  Alley participated in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize), and has provided requested advice to numerous government officials in multiple administrations including a U.S. vice president, the President’s science advisor, and committees and individual members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  He has authored or coauthored over 290 refereed scientific papers.  He was presenter for the PBS TV miniseries on climate and energy Earth: The Operators’ Manual, and author of the book.  His popular account of climate change and ice cores, The Two-Mile Time Machine, was Phi Beta Kappa’s science book of the year.  Alley is happily married with two grown daughters, two stay-at-home cats, a bicycle, and a pair of soccer cleats.

Related Link

Penn State Course: EARTH 104 – Energy and the Environment

Joseph Priestley Lecture
The Priestley Award is presented by Dickinson College in memory of Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen, to a distinguished scientist whose work has contributed to the welfare of humanity. The Priestley Award, first presented in 1952, recognizes outstanding achievement and contribution to our understanding of science and the world.

Video of the Lecture

Michael Mann

Professor, Penn State University

Mann Final PosterThe Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

Monday, April 22, 2013
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 p.m.
A book sale and signing will follow

Mann will discuss the topic of human-caused climate change through the prism of his own experiences as a reluctant and accidental public figure in the societal debate over global warming.

This event is jointly sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues, Penn State Dickinson School of Law and School of International Affairs and co-sponsored by the Departments of Earth Sciences and Environmental Studies.

Photo Courtesy of Greg RicoBiography (provided by the speaker)

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a member of the Penn State University faculty, holding joint positions in the Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences, and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).

Dr. Mann received his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Applied Math from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.S. degree in Physics from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale University. His research involves the use of theoretical models and observational data to better understand Earth’s climate system.

Dr. Mann was a Lead Author on the Observed Climate Variability and Change chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001 and was organizing committee chair for the National Academy of Sciences Frontiers of Science in 2003. He has received a number of honors and awards including NOAA’s outstanding publication award in 2002 and selection by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002. He contributed, with other IPCC authors, to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union in 2012. He is a Fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

Dr. Mann is author of more than 150 peer-reviewed and edited publications, and has published two books including Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming in 2008 and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines in 2012. He is also a co-founder and avid contributor to the award-winning science website

Video of the Lecture

Bill McKibben

Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College; Recipient of The Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism

Mckibben posterFront Line of the Climate Fight

Thursday, April 11, 2013
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.
A book signing will follow the lecture

McKibben will highlight the ways in which environmental groups are working around the country and the world to scientifically and politically challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry before it breaks the planet.

This event is sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and The Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism and co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies.  It is also part of The Clarke Forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty Series and the faculty seminar series titled, Living in a World of Limits.

Portrait of Bill McKibben, author and activist. photo ©Nancie BattagliaBiography (provided by the speaker)

Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him ‘the planet’s best green journalist’ and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was ‘probably the country’s most important environmentalist.’ Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bill grew up in suburban Lexington, Massachusetts. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper in college. Immediately after college he joined the New Yorker magazine as a staff writer, and wrote much of the “Talk of the Town” column from 1982 to early 1987. He quit the magazine when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in the New Yorker. It is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has been printed in more than 20 languages. Several editions have come out in the United States, including an updated version published in 2006.

His next book, The Age of Missing Information, was published in 1992. It is an account of an experiment: McKibben collected everything that came across the 100 channels of cable tv on the Fairfax, Virginia system (at the time among the nation’s largest) for a single day. He spent a year watching the 2,400 hours of videotape, and then compared it to a day spent on the mountaintop near his home. This book has been widely used in colleges and high schools, and was reissued in a new edition in 2006.

Subsequent books include Hope, Human and Wild, about Curitiba, Brazil and Kerala, India, which he cites as examples of people living more lightly on the earth; The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation, which is about the Book of Job and the environment; Maybe One, about human population; Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously, about a year spent training for endurance events at an elite level; Enough, about what he sees as the existential dangers of genetic engineering; Wandering Home, about a long solo hiking trip from his current home in the mountains east of Lake Champlain in Ripton, Vermont back to his longtime neighborhood of the Adirondacks.

In March 2007 McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise.

In late summer 2006, Bill helped lead a five-day walk across Vermont to demand action on global warming that some newspaper accounts called the largest demonstration to date in America about climate change. Beginning in January 2007 he founded to demand that Congress enact curbs on carbon emissions that would cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. With six college students, he organized 1,400 global warming demonstrations across all 50 states of America on April 14, 2007. Step It Up 2007 has been described as the largest day of protest about climate change in the nation’s history. A guide to help people initiate environmental activism in their community coming out of the Step It Up 2007 experience entitled Fight Global Warming Now was published in October 2007 and a second day of action on climate change was held the following November 3.

March 2008 saw the publication of The Bill McKibben Reader, a collection of 44 essays written for various publications over the past 25 years.

Bill is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.

Bill has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He has honorary degrees from Green Mountain College, Unity College, Lebanon Valley College and Sterling College.

Bill currently resides with his wife, writer Sue Halpern, and his daughter, Sophie, who was born in 1993, in Ripton, Vermont. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.

Video of the Lecture



David Orr

Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College

Final Orr PosterDesigning Resilience in a Black Swan World

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.

Black Swan events are those with low or unknown probability, but high, long-lived and often global impacts. Orr will discuss how we should design communities, regions, and nations to improve resilience and prosperity in the context of such events, with a focus on the Oberlin Project and the National Sustainable Communities Coalition.

The event is sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the Office of the President, and co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainability Education and the Department of Environmental Studies.  It is also part of The Clarke Forum’s Leadership in a Age of Uncertainty Series and the faculty seminar series titled, Living in a World of Limits.

IMG_9032Biography (provided by the speaker)

David Orr the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and senior adviser to the president at Oberlin College. He is the author of seven books, including Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse (Oxford, 2009) and co-editor of three others. He has authored nearly 200 articles, reviews, book chapters, and professional publications. In the past twenty-five years he has served as a board member or adviser to eight foundations and on the boards of many organizations including the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Currently he a trustee of the Bioneers, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, and the WorldWatch Institute. He has been awarded seven honorary degrees and a dozen other awards including a Lyndhurst Prize, a National Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation, and recently a “Visionary Leadership Award” from Second Nature. He has lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He headed the effort to design, fund, and build the Adam Joseph Lewis Center, which was named by an AIA panel in 2010 as “the most important green building of the past thirty years,” and as “one of thirty milestone buildings of the twentieth century” by the U.S. Department of Energy. He is the executive director of the Oberlin project, an editor of the journal Solutions, and is a high level adviser to four grandchildren ages 2-12.

Video of the Lecture



Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Extraction – Panel Discussion

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 p.m.

Natural Extraction Panel PosterPanelists:

Peter Bechtel ’81 – Andorinha Azul Ambiental
Tim Kelsey, Penn State University
Veronica Coptis, Center for Coalfield Justice
Erika Staaf, PennEnvironment
Moderated by Julie Vastine, ALLARM

Natural resource extraction has been at the heart of economic growth and, for that reason, remains a source of considerable political and economic controversy.   Both Pennsylvania and Mozambique are currently experiencing a boom in natural gas exploration while they yet confront the economic, social, and environmental consequences of previous forms of resource extraction.  The panel will discuss and compare the two locations, identify commonalities, and see what lessons have been learned.

This event is part of the faculty seminar series titled, Living in a World of Limits and is sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Center for Global Study and Engagement, Center for Sustainability Education, Career Center, Department of Religion, Office of Institutional and Diversity Initiatives, Department of International Business and Management, Health Studies, Department of Environmental Studies, Community Studies Center, Department of Africana Studies and ALLARM.


Peter Bechtel, an ’81 Dickinson graduate, worked with the World Wildlife Fund in Mozambique on environmental resource management and wildlife conservation strategies that integrate livelihoods of local peoples. He is now consulting on how Mozambique can develop its natural gas reserves in responsible and sustainable ways.

Tim Kelsey conducts research on issues such as economic and community implicationTim_Kelseys of Marcellus Shale, public finance and taxation, and land use change.  He teaches courses on community-based research methodologies, economic development tools, and community development.  He has extensive experience across Pennsylvania presenting informal workshops for local government officials, the business community, and others on these issues.  He has been at Penn State since 1991.

Veronica Coptis is a lifelong resident of coalfields in Greene County. Veronica has spent many years organizing against coal extraction. She is a community organizer for the Center of Coalfield Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the environment and communities from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction.  For the past two years, Veronica Coptis was a community organizer with Mountain Watershed Association, Home of the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper, a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the Youghiogheny River Watershed and surrounding areas.  At Mountain Watershed Association she implemented the Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project, which works to educate, engage, and empower communities to protect themselves from shale gas impacts through monitoring and organizing.

Erika StaafErika Staaf is the clean water advocate for PennEnvironment, and works to promote policies that protect and preserve Pennsylvania’s waterways. Most recently, her work has involved defending Pennsylvania’s environment and public health from the threat of gas drilling activities and other extractive industries, and involves a combination of research, citizen organizing and training, media work, coalition-building and direct advocacy.

Julie Vastine ’03 is the director of the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) at Dickinson College.  She is responsible for leadership of the ALLARM program and providing technical assistance to watershed communities.  Julie has worked in the environmental field for twelve years, including time in Washington, D.C. with the international and human rights organization, EarthRights International. A native of the Chesapeake Bay, Julie enjoys working with community organizations to build their capacity to monitor streams and to monitor, protect, and restore water quality in Pennsylvania.



Peter Bechtel ’81 and Ruth Mkhwanazi-Bechtel

Peter Bechtel ’81, director, Andorinha Azul Ambiental, a company specializing in sustainable development
Ruth Mkhwanazi-Bechtel, program director, Vanderbilt University’s Friends in Global Health in Mozambique

Bechtel Final PosterSustainable Development in Mozambique

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 p.m.

For many years, Mozambique has been near the bottom of the UN Human Development Index, but recent discoveries of gas, coal, and mineral deposits have created opportunities for rapid economic development.  While the government places some importance on sustainability, there are ongoing problems related to transparency, top-down decision-making, urbanization and climate change.

The event is sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Center for Global Study and Engagement, Center for Sustainability Education, Career Center, Department of Religion, Office of Institutional and Diversity Initiatives, Department of International Business and Management, Health Studies, Department of Environmental Studies, Community Studies Center and the Departments of Africana Studies, International Studies, Earth Sciences and Economics.

This event is also part of The Clarke Forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty Series and the faculty seminar series titled, Living in a World of Limits.


Peter Bechtel ’81, a graduate of Dickinson College, traveled to Africa with the US Peace Corps. He met his wife, bought a farm, and eventually acquired Mozambican nationality. He has worked in the development field for more than 30 years in Southern Africa, in rural development, nature conservation, and climate change.  He has seen the  devastating effects of climate change on coastal communities in East Africa and is concerned about developing resistance and resilience mechanisms not only for ecosystems but for livelihoods as well.

Peter Bechtel is an award winning ecotourism operator and has achieved the following:

1. Founder of three large national Parks/ Reserves.  The Quirimbas National Park, the Lake Niassa/Nyasa/Malawi Reserve, and the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago Marine Reserve.  He organized the declaration of protected area status, wrote the management plans, and organized ranger teams and protection for both natural biota as well as traditional human livelihoods in all three of these areas.

2.  Founder of the CARE/WWF Alliance, a formal worldwide alliance between two developmental giants to work at the resource health/human well-being nexus.

3.  Launched a process that led to the establishment of the national BIOFUND to finance Mozambique’s Conservation areas.

4.  Won “World’s Best Destination” from the BBC in 2006 for our eco- lodge Quilalea Marine Sanctuary, together with two partners.

5.  Developed climate buffering strategies for marine and terrestrial areas, as well as community livelihoods.

PrincesaRuth Mkhwanazi-Bechtel is the program director of the Community Care and Support Program, a program of Vanderbilt University’s Friends in Global Health in Mozambique. As program director, Ruth oversees development and implementation of community outreach efforts to overcome sociological barriers and increase community members’ access to health services for HIV & AIDS prevention and care. She has more than 20 years experience working in Mozambique and Swaziland on health care and health education, community development, community management of natural resources, food and livelihoods security, and women’s entrepreneurship. She received a master’s of science degree in Managing Rural Care form the University of London, Imperial College in 2005.

Video from the Lecture


 Radio Interview for WDCV Radio, Dickinson College




Michael Shellenberger

Shellenberger PosterPresident, The Breakthrough Institute

Love Your Monsters: Why Technology Will Save the World

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 *
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 p.m.

Environmental expert Michael Shellenberger will describe why technology is the key to dealing with the world’s toughest environmental problems from climate change to rainforest destruction and species extinction.

The event is sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Center for Sustainability Education and the Department of Environmental Studies.  It is also part of The Clarke Forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty Series and the faculty seminar series titled, Living in a World of Limits.

Biography (provided by the speaker)

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus are leading global thinkers on energy, climate, security, human development, and politics. Their 2007 book Break Through was called “prescient” by Time and “the most important thing to happen to environmentalism since Silent Spring” by Wired. Their 2004 essay, “The Death of Environmentalism,” was featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, sparked a national debate, and inspired a generation of young environmentalists. They also Shellenberger Photoco-authored the 2011 book titled “Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene.”

Over the years, the two have been profiled in The New York Times, Wired, the National Review, The New Republic, and on NPR. In 2007, they received the Green Book Award and Time magazine’s 2008 “Heroes of the Environment” award.

In 2011, Nordhaus and Shellenberger started the Breakthrough Journal, which The New Republic called “among the most complete answers” to the question of how to modernize liberal thought, and the National Review called “The most promising effort at self-criticism by our liberal cousins in a long time.”

Shellenberger and Nordhaus are leaders of a paradigm shift in climate and energy policy. They proposed “making clean energy cheap” in The Harvard Law and Policy Review, explained why the Kyoto climate treaty failed in Democracy Journal, and predicted the bursting of the green bubble in The New Republic and Los Angeles Times. The two predicted the failure of cap and trade in the American Prospect, criticized “green jobs” in The New Republic, and pointed a way forward for climate policy in the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Shellenberger is a graduate of Earlham College and holds a master’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in the Bay Area and travels widely.