*Freshman Seminar 51K. Technology vs. Nature: From Toggling Harpoons to Geoengineering

Are we at the end of nature? What would it mean if we were? Advanced hunting technologies enabled our ancestors to hunt so efficiently that the human expansion out of Africa drove a wave of extinctions around the globe. No more mammoths. No more moas. Over the last millennia, technological innovation has dramatically reduced many environmental impacts on a per capita basis; but, technology simultaneously enabled a population explosion and caused new forms of environmental disruption. Technology is simultaneously a despoiler and savior of the environment. We will explore the shifting frontier between the natural and artificial through critical examination of globally transformative technologies such as climate geoengineering, Haber-Bosh nitrogen fixation, gene-drives and de-extinction. Solar geoengineering is the idea that humanity could deliberately intervene in the Earth’s climate to limit the risks of accumulating carbon dioxide. It’s the focus of my own research. It serves as the central motivating case though which the class will explore broader questions about environmentalism in the 21st century. We will read selections from great environmental writings such as The End of Nature to Desert Solitaire along with new writing about the Anthropocene.  I aim to help students find their own voice through writing short informal blog posts, commenting on posts by peers, and participating in class debate. The human connection to the natural world cannot be rightly understood in the abstract. So, we will take the class outside, from short explorations on campus, to an organized day-hike.

Note: There will be a required day-hike scheduled on Saturday, September 28th. Course open to freshman students only. 








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Freshman Seminars

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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2019-2020 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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