A series of films and discussions about
energy, sustainability, and the environment.

(Co-sponsored with The Commons and the School of Engineering)

Note: All events will take place in Multipurpose Room 235 in the Commons Center, located on the eastern side of the Peabody campus (for a map, click here and then click on cluster of buildings outlined in red).

Economics and the Environment

Thursday: September 11, 7:00 to 9:00pm
Is the nature of profit-making such that profit-making is opposed to nature itself? What must be done to ensure that corporations pursuing the profits they require for economic survival do not destroy the environment and thus jeopardize the survival of humans? Which businesses have been engaging in ecologically sound practices and which could do better? These and related questions are addressed in The Corporation (2004), the first hour of which will be shown at this event and then followed with an hour of discussion facilitated by three panelists.

Panelists: Florence Faucher-King, Associate Professor of European Studies and Political Science, specializes in Green politics, political parties, and political activism. Matt Grimes is a PhD candidate in the Owen School of Management whose research interests include social entrepreneurship and business’s role in economic and environmental development. Christopher Rowe, Assistant Professor of Engineering Management, has industry experience in environmental engineering and is currently teaching a seminar on environmental ethics.


Food and the Environment
Wednesday: September 17, 7:00 to 9:15pm

Multipurpose Room 235, Commons Center
Over the past two decades, the food consumed in industrialized nations has been engineered at both the macro and molecular level, including genetic alterations. Such engineering is increasingly crucial to the business model of large agribusiness conglomerates, which control the farming, harvesting, processing, and sale of food. What effects do these companies’ practices have on the environment? What effects do they have on human health? And what impact do they have on people’s agricultural knowledge, their understanding of where food comes from and how it is produced? These and related questions are taken up in The Future of Food (2004; 90 minutes), which investigates the business of genetic engineering and presents alternatives to dominant forms of food production. 

Panelists: Kate Lassiter is a PhD candidate in Religion, Psychology, and Culture. She cooperatively farms a one-acre urban green space using sustainable practices so as to feed community members and educate people about the intersection of community food systems and social justice. Kevin Seale, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering, currently teaches a freshman seminar on "Genetically Modified Organisms and the Environment.” He is also director of the Systems Biology and Bioengineering Undergraduate Research Experience (SyBBURE), a privately funded program for exceptionally motivated students who wish to conduct independent research at the cutting edge of systems biology.
CJ Sentell is a PhD candidate in the Philosophy Department. Having written a masters thesis on the patenting of biological organisms, he maintains an interest in agriculture and agrarian thinking and recently returned from a one-month stay in Cuba, where he researched organic farming methods. 


Transportation and Energy
Wednesday: October 8, 7:00 to 9:15pm
Many people see electric cars in our future, but what about the ones in our past? Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006; 91 minutes) examines the political and economic forces that drove GM to destroy hundreds of perfectly functioning electric vehicles that GM itself had manufactured and its consumers loved. What does this history tell us about the future success or failure of efforts such as Chevrolet's much publicized Volt? What role could such cars play in reducing our dependence on oil and cleaning up the environment?

Panelists: Brent Fitzgerald is president of Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility (SPEAR). He has collaborated with students, faculty, staff, and administrators on many projects to “green” the campus, such as helping with the biodiesel initiative, improving the university’s recycling infrastructure, organizing a dorm energy competition for freshman, and establishing a compost demonstration site. Phillip Franck, Associate Professor and Chair of Theatre, is teaching a Commons Seminar on “Issues of Energy, Sustainability, and the Environment in Popular Culture.” His interest in the subject has blossomed over the past several years as he has considered his own impact upon the environment.


Sustainable Lifestyles
Wednesday: October 15, 7:00 to 9:00pm
We hear much these days about the need to minimize our ecological footprint but less about how to do it. One vision of living sustainably is provided by Radically Simple (2006; 35 minutes), a glimpse into the life of Jim Merkel, the first sustainability director at Dartmouth College. This short film shows Merkel practicing permaculture, using a solar cooker, canning homegrown tomatoes, and talking with people about how to calculate their footprint and reduce their consumption. Following the film will be discussion of Merkel’s lifestyle and other ways of living sustainably.  

Panelists: Mary Agee teaches at University School of Nashville, where she has engaged students in creating photo book projects based on preserving urban green spaces and the impact plastics have on our environment and our health. Wilson Hubbell has a degree in mechanical engineering and teaches science and environmental topics at University School of Nashville. John Morrell, a PhD candidate in the English Department, studies Literature and the Environment and is writing a dissertation on representations of climate change in fiction and film.


Sustainable Cities
Thursday: October 30, 7:00 to 9:00pm
With buildings consuming 40 percent of the world’s energy and emitting 50 percent of its greenhouse gases, people are becoming increasingly convinced of the need to build more sustainable cities. Constructing sustainable buildings is key, but more is required—the construction of sustainable communities. How might architecture be used to improve both the natural environment and the social environment, people’s relation to nature and their relations to other people? At this event, discussion of these and related issues will take place after the screening of two 25-minute episodes of PBS’s Design e2 series, which explore the connections among sustainability, architecture, and community.

Panelists: Jonathan Bremer has graduate degrees in urban planning and philosophy and teaches a course on “Green Cities” for the Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt. Christine Kreyling is the architecture and urban planning critic for the Nashville Scene and author of a number of books, including The Plan of Nashville: Avenues to a Great City (2005). Mark Smith (AIA, LEED AP) is Vice President of Architecture at Gobbell Hays Partners, Inc. and founding board member of the Middle Tennessee local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.  


Special thanks to the following for making this series of events possible: Ron Schrimpf, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Faculty Head of House in The Commons, who helped organize and promote the series; the Science and Engineering Library, which paid the screening fees for many of the films included in the series (thanks especially to Tracy Primich, Director of the S&E library, who did much of this work); and Brian Boling of Central Library’s Media Services and Marymae Jansson of Copyright Clearance Services, who, early on in the organizing of this series, provided essential information about how to secure the screening rights for many of the films.