Keynote address by William Cronon: The Riddle of Sustainability: A Surprisingly Short History of the Future
Over the past three decades, the concept of sustainability has emerged as a prime focus in environmental politics. In this address, Cronon demonstrates that the word “sustainability” has a much briefer history than we might imagine, and that its recent evolution into a centerpiece of environmental politics has a great deal to teach us about the changing nature of environmental ideas.
Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 5:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public
UVM Ira Allen Chapel
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Author, speaker, and environmental leader, Professor William Cronon studies American environmental history and the history of the American West.
In 1992, he co-edited Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, a collection of essays on the prospects of western and frontier history in American historiography. He then edited an influential collection of essays entitled Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, examining the implication of different cultural ideas of nature for modern environmental problems, published by Norton in the fall of 1995.
Cronon’s current writing projects include a history of Portage, Wisconsin, from the end of the last Ice Age to the present. The book will explore how sense of place is shaped by the stories people tell about their homes, their lives, and the landscapes they inhabit. He is also completing work on Saving Nature in Time: The Environmental Past and the Human Future, which focuses on the evolving relationship between environmental history and environmentalism, and what the two might learn from each other.
In July 1992, Cronon became the Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison after having served for more than a decade as a member of the Yale History Department. In 2003, he was also named Vilas Research Professor at UW-Madison, the university’s most distinguished chaired professorship.
Cronon has been President of the American Society for Environmental History, and served from 1994-2014 as general editor of the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series for the University of Washington Press. During the spring of 1994, he organized and chaired a faculty research seminar on “Reinventing Nature” at the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute in Irvine, California. In January, 1996, he became Director of the Honors Program for the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a post he held until 1998, and from 1997-2000 he served as the founding Faculty Director of the new Chadbourne Residential College at UW-Madison. Cronon chaired UW-Madison’s Lakeshore Nature Preserve Committee from 2004-2007, leading its first-ever strategic planning process and leading the team that created its prize-winning website. He is a founding faculty associate of UW-Madison’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), created in 2006, and served as its Director from 2007-11 and again from 2013 to the present. He has been a member of the Governing Council of The Wilderness Society since 1995, and of the National Board of the Trust for Public Land since 2003. He served as President of the American Historical Association during 2012.
Born September 11, 1954, in New Haven, Connecticut, Cronon received his B.A. (1976) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He holds an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D from Yale, and a D.Phil. from Oxford University. He has been a Rhodes Scholar, Danforth Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and MacArthur Fellow, and has won prizes for his teaching at both Yale and Wisconsin. In 1999 he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society and in 2006 was elected a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.