The Issa Lecture

Established in 2010, this endowed lecture honors the late William Louis Chapin Issa which brings to campus notable experts in fields related to the environment and sustainability.  

Past Issa Lectures

Art as Transformation: Using Photography for Social and Environmental Change

LaToya Ruby Frazier

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Associate Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, argued that photography is a battleground of representation and that in order to change society—to seed real change and cultural transformation, especially for the marginalized and the forgotten—we must change the picture we have of ourselves and our communities.  In her talk, Frazier discussed how she has used photography to fight injustice—poverty, healthcare and gender inequality, environmental contamination, racism, and more—and create a more representative self-portrait. Drawing from her book The Notion of Family as well as from works of art by Frederick Douglass, August Sander, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Langston Hughes, she related her conscious approach to photography, opens up more authentic ways to talk about family, inheritance, and place, and celebrates the inspirational, transformative power of images.


The Quest for Environmental and Climate Justice: Why Race and Place Still Matter

Robert Bullard

Climate change is the defining global environmental justice, human rights and public health issue of the twenty-first century. The most vulnerable populations will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks because of where they live, their limited income and economic means, and their lack of access to health care. Climate-sensitive hazards are forecast to increase in the coming years. However, not all of the populations residing within these hazard zones have the same capacity to prepare for, respond to, cope with, and rebound from disaster events. Professor Robert D. Bullard’s presentation focused primarily on the need for empowering vulnerable populations, identifying environmental justice and climate change “hot-spot” zones and designing fair, just and effective adaptation, mitigation, emergency management and community resilience and disaster recovery strategies. He also discussed his book, The Wrong Complexion for Protection, which analyzes more than eight decades of government response to natural and human-made disasters. He offered strategies to dismantle institutional policies and practices that create, exacerbate and perpetuate inequality and vulnerability before and after disasters strike. 


Beyond Words–What Animals Feel and Think

Carl Safina

Does your dog really love you, or does she just want a treat? Carl Safina, marine ecologist and author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, discussed how animal thought and emotion can be considered by looking at the brain, evolution, and the context of behaviors—something long thought to be beyond the reach of inquiry.


Interspecies Ethics

Cynthia Willett

Cynthia Willett, Professor of Philosophy at Emory University, drew upon animal studies and relational ethics to propose transspecies ideals of communitarianism and cosmopolitan peace. Expanding our understanding of human and animal capacities begins with appreciating the capacity in ourselves and other animals for wonder and acts of moral beauty. These capacities call for a paradigm shift in moral philosophy.


Navigating the Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change Ethics in Light of a Thirty-Five Year Debate

Donald Brown

Professor Donald Brown—scholar in residence for sustainability ethics and law at the Widener Environmental Law Center, and former director of the Pennsylvania Environmental Research Consortium—addressed the critical questions of why climate change must be understood fundamentally as a civilization—challenging ethical problem, why an understanding that climate change is an ethical problem has profound practical significance for policy formation, and why ethics has failed to gain traction in climate change policy debates.


Climate Policy and Wise Literature in a Perfect Moral Storm

Stephen Gardiner

Ethical action on climate change is made more difficult by global, intergenerational, and theoretical challenges, and puts us at risk of moral corruption. Stephen Gardiner, Associate Professor of Philosophy at The University of Washington, proposed that literature, including the writings of novelist Jane Austen, can help us understand the threat of this "perfect moral storm.”