Fall Forum

Each fall, Mass Humanities brings a stellar group of scholars, journalists, and public officials together for a series of public conversations examining fundamental aspects of our democratic culture. Past symposia have focused on the Presidency, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Supreme Court, the role of the media in our democracy, military and civic culture in America and the Internet and democracy, economic inequality, racial conciliation, and fake news.

Science, Democracy, and Climate Change:
Finding the Tools to Save our Biosphere

3:30 – 5:00 PM, Sunday, October 28, 2018

Edward M. Kennedy Institute, Columbia Point, Boston

As our nation was founded, debates arose on how to achieve the proper balance of power between (among others) a more landed aristocracy and laboring citizens; between a central executive, a representative legislature, and the courts; between educated experts and ordinary voters; between private interests and the public good. History has proven the American system of government to be remarkably resilient managing difficult crises and serving as a model for other emerging democracies throughout the globe. Some question, however, whether our current national and international institutions can solve the looming global environmental challenges of our time. Debates continue to rage as to whether climate change is real. Scientific data is rejected by many in ways that seem unprecedented and calculated projections made by experts are seen as suspect. It is impossible to debate potential solutions if we cannot first define the problem. This forum will feature historians, scientists, policy makers, activists and, we hope, a cross section of the general public to explore:

  • how our democracy best handles the increasing skepticism of many towards “scientific facts”
  • whether and how climate change differs from past environmental crises or is just an extension of them;
  • how our democracy changed in ways that seem to make it harder for our leaders to govern; to find common ground; to develop solutions that put the public’s well-being ahead of individual self-gain and the rise of global capitalism;
  • whether internationally-signed accords (that can be invalidated by newly elected governments who did not have a hand in shaping them) are the rights means to enact laws and change daily life practices of billions to ensure the survival of the planet?

Our moderator:

CurwoodSteve Curwood, Executive Producer and Host of NPR’s, Living on Earth

Our panelists:

McCarthyGina McCarthy, EPA Administrator under President Barack Obama now Professor of Public Health Practice at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

KellerEvelyn Fox Keller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science Emerita

2017-wardle-150Rev. Mariamma White-Hammond, AME Church in Jamaica Plain, and local activist