February 15, 2013 Panel of Scholars to Examine the Human Relationship to the Environment and its Moral Implications

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer, John W. Kluge Center, (202) 707-0213
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ada@loc.gov

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress will bring together three scholars from three different disciplines in a panel discussion centered on human perspectives on the environment and the moral implications of those views.

The panel discussion, titled “The Evolving Moral Landscape: Perspectives on the Environment – Literary, Historical and Interplanetary,” will take place at noon on Thursday, Feb. 28, in the Whittall Pavilion on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.

The panel features David H. Grinspoon, the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, in his first public event at the Library. The astrobiology chair, established in the fall of 2011, focuses on an important area of human inquiry—the cultural, philosophical, ethical and societal implications of astrobiology.

Additional panelists are environmental historian Jean-Francois Mouhot, a scholar in the environmental history of Haiti and current Marie Curie Fellow at the Kluge Center; and Matthias Klestil, Bavarian Fellow at the Kluge Center who studies the environmental consciousness in African-American literature.

“Human perceptions of our relationship to the environment vary considerably,” says Kluge Center Director Carolyn T. Brown, who will moderate the discussion. “Each perspective has important moral implications for human behavior. Having these three scholars in residence at the John W. Kluge Center allows us the opportunity to explore this moral terrain from the varying perspectives of literature, history, and interplanetary science.”

Grinspoon began his one-year term at the Library in November 2012. He is researching a new book examining the history of the Earth, with focus on the Anthropocene era, the name some scientists give to the time when humans become a geological force on Earth. Grinspoon is curator of astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and adjunct professor of astrophysical and planetary science at the University of Colorado.

Mouhot has published five books and numerous articles in the field of environmental history, climate change, slavery and the moral issues underlying these questions. He is currently at work on a European Union-funded research project on the environmental history of Haiti, from 1492 to today.

Klestil is a doctoral candidate from the University of Bayreuth, Germany. At the Kluge Center, he is working on his thesis “Reading Green in Black: Environmental Knowledge, Race, and African American Literature in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century.”

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world's best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library's rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.


PR 13-027
ISSN 0731-3527