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An Ecotopian Toolkit for the Anthropocene

Thursday, 13 April 2017Saturday, 15 April 2017

Harrison Auditorium, Rainey Auditorium

An Ecotopian Toolkit for the Anthropocene

Conference presented by Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities

Tool making is a signature trait of the human species. What tools will we make, and require, in the age of the human, the anthropocene: the proposed name for the present geological epoch when humans are the most potent force shaping earth’s systems? Global warming and other anthropocene challenges, including the ongoing sixth mass extinction event, often lead to apocalyptic visions, or apathy. Prompted in part by the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, a classic work whose concerns continue to translate across time and space, we explore a longer history of the anthropocene to help represent—and respond to—our contemporary moment. Might a utopian turn help us navigate warmer, rising waters and build new forms of refuge? What tools can STEAM* educators in universities and museums design and develop via the history of utopia and its hope for better futures?

* Fields of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.


Full Conference Schedule


Keynote Addresses (April 13 and 14)

April 13, 5:00–6:30pm, Harrison Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South St.
Art, Disaster, Utopia
Rebecca Solnit
Writer, Historian, Environmental and Human Rights Activist

April 14, 5:00–6:30pm, Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South St.
Can Scientists (Not) Be Activists?
James Hansen
Director, Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, Earth Institute, Columbia University; Former Head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Performance (April 14)

April 14, 8:30–10:00pm, Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia
Excerpts from A Period of Animate Existence
Troy Herion, Mimi Lien, Dan Rothenberg, Pig Iron Theatre

Conference presented by Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities and cosponsored by Penn Humanities Forum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Kislak Center of the Penn Libraries, and Bartram’s Garden.

Image: Bartram's Robot, 2016, Mason Rosenthal. Photo: Austin Bream.