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In 2000, the Nobel Laureate chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term “Anthropocene” to mark the emergence of a new geologic epoch in which humans have become the most “globally potent biogeophysical force” on the planet. “Anthropocene,” Crutzen explains, “suggests that the Earth has now left its natural geological epoch, the present interglacial state called the Holocene. Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature and are pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita.” If this global transformation signals a paradigm shift in the sciences, it also demands the critical attention of the humanities—for it touches every aspect of human life on earth and its possible futures. 

The 2014–15 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and community members to join a remarkable collaboration of faculty fellows and distinguished visitors to explore the pressing environmental issues of our age. Can the idea of the Anthropocene transform the way we relate to, use, and value the planet? Could it reframe longstanding distinctions between human history and natural history? How do social institutions, cultural practices, and cultural forms—including images, narratives, and media more generally—affect environmental processes? How can history, cultural criticism, philosophy, and political ecology address planetary challenges? And finally, how does the Anthropocene empower us to build bridges between the humanities and the sciences to imagine a sustainable future for the Earth?

Distinguished Lectures

A woman picks wilted crops from parched earth
Andrew Revkin
Science writer, journalist, and author of the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog

Seeking a Good Path in the Anthropocene

September 15, 2014 5:00 PM
Wilks Theater, Armstrong Student Center
Indian women holding empty cermanic pots
Claire Kremen
Professor, Department of Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley

Fixing a Broken Food System: Some Ideas

September 24, 2014 7:00 PM
Pearson 128
A woman speaking in front of a large sign that says "Enviornmental Justice Now"
Julian Agyeman
Professor, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University

Just Sustainabilities: Re-imagining E/quality, Living within Limits

October 2, 2014 4:00 PM
MacMillan Great Room
mountain farming
Leonardo E. Figueroa-Helland
Assistant Professor of Political Science at Westminster College

Indigeneity vs. ‘Civilization’: Indigenous Alternatives to the Anthropocene Eco-Crisis

October 30, 2014 5:00 PM
MacMillan Great Room
details of a spiral shell
Daniel Lord Smail
Professor of History at Harvard University

Humans and Things in Deep Time

November 13, 2014 4:00 PM
MacMillan Great Room
Egyptian painting of agriculture
Wes Jackson
Founder and President of The Land Institute

Solving the 10,000 Year-Old Problem of Agriculture: A Progress Report

February 11, 2015 4:00 PM
John E. Dolivois Room, Shriver Center
A small toy house sits on a rock in a river
Janisse Ray
Author, naturalist, and environmental activist

Being Human in Wild Times

February 17, 2015 4:00 PM
MacMillan Great Room
scene from the artic ocean
Dale Jamieson
Professor, Environmental Studies and Philosophy at New York University

Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed and What It Means for Our Future

March 16, 2015 4:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
Bill McKibben in a crowd protesting climate justice
Bill McKibben
Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College

The Education of an Unlikely Activist

April 8, 2015 7:00 PM
Hall Auditorium
night sky and a mountain in shades of blue
Gregg Mitman, Stephanie LeMenager & Karl Zimmerer

2014-2015 Altman Symposium: Interrogating the Anthropocene

April 9, 2015 4:00 PM
MacMillan Great Room

2014-15 Altman Fellows

Peggy Shaffer

Peggy Shaffer

Peggy Shaffer studies U.S. cultural history with an emphasis on conceptions of nature and construction of public culture. Her books include See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940 (Smithsonian 2001), and two edited collections: Public Culture: Diversity, Democracy, and Community in the United States (Pennsylvania 2008) and Rendering Nature: Animals, Bodies, Places, Politics (with Phoebe S.K. Young, Pennsylvania 2015).

Thomas Crist

Thomas Crist

Thomas Crist is an ecologist with expertise in the study of biodiversity, land use, and ecosystem services. He is the author of numerous papers and a member of the Ecology Society of America's Rapid Response Team. As the former Director of the Institute for Environment and Sustainability, he participated in projects requiring perspectives from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

2014-15 Student Fellows

Thomas Yarcusko

Thomas Yarcusko (2016) graduated from Miami University with an English Literature and German Studies double major. He was an Altman student fellow for the 2014-15 Altman Program, "The Anthropocene." Yarcusko is currently an English Teacher at Notre Dame College Prep.

Catherine Mazanek

Catherine Mazanek (2017) graduated from Miami University with an American Studies major. She was an Altman student fellow for the 2014-15 Altman Program, "The Anthropocene."

Matthew Meeks

Matthew Meeks (2015) graduated from Miami University with a major in Zoology. He was an Altman student fellow for the 2014-15 Altman Program, "The Anthropocene." Meeks is currently a Business and Project Analyst at University of California, San Francisco.

Carly Kimiecik

Carly Kimiecik (2015) graduated from Miami University with a double major in Health Promotion and American Studies. She was an Altman student fellow for the 2014-15 Altman Program, "The Anthropocene." Kimiecik is currently a graduate student in the Ohio State University College of Social Work

Tyler Groff

Tyler Groff is a PhD candidate in English, specializing in British literature, ecocriticism, and critical animal studies. He was the graduate student Altman Fellow for the 2014-2015 Altman Program, "The Anthropocene."

Susan Findley

Susan Findley (Class of 2015) graduated from Miami University with a double major in Zoology and Classics and a minor in Anthropology. She is currently Public Programs Coordinator at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

2014-15 Altman Scholars

Roxanne T. Ornelas

Roxanne T. Ornelas studies the geographies of indigenous peoples with an emphasis on public policy, environment, sacred lands, and human rights. She has published articles in the International Indigenous Policy Journal and other journals.

Jonathan Levy

Jonathan Levy is a specialist in groundwater hydrology. His research examines groundwater/surface-water interaction, quantification of model uncertainty, and the transport of groundwater contaminants including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and bacteria.

Andrew Hebard

Andrew Hebard specializes American literature. He is the author of The Poetics of Sovereignty in American Literature, 1885-1910 (Cambridge 2013). His writing has also appeared in New German Critique, American Quarterly, African American Review, and other journals.

Michelle D. Boone

Michelle D. Boone studies the ecological ramifications of human actions on amphibian populations and communities, focusing on the effects of pesticides, land use, invasive species, and disease. Her work has appeared in Conservation Biology, Ecological Applications, PLoS One, and other publications.

P. Renée Baernstein

P. Renée Baernstein is Professor of History and Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Science. She specializes in the history of Renaissance Italy, particularly gender, religion, and family.  She is the author of A Convent Tale: A Century of Sisterhood in Spanish Milan (Routledge 2002) as well as articles in many journals.  She has been a Fulbright fellow, fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Visiting Professor at Harvard’s Villa I Tatti Center in Florence, and recipient of the Ohio Academy of History’s Distinguished Teaching Award.  Her next book, “Strangers at Home,” is about noble women and family politics in sixteenth-century Italy.