The Center for Western US and Asia / Pacific Studies (University of Paris IV-Sorbonne)
organizes its second international conference on
« Nature and Progress : interactions, exclusions, mutations »
8 - 9 November 2002, at the Sorbonne
Does Nature promote or impede Progress ? Can the one be envisioned
independently from the other, or encouraged at the expense of the other ? Is concern for Nature and the environment an incentive to initiate changes in our present day society ? Can, in any way, future progress fail to consider the fate of the natural world ? Such questions should be addressed not merely as part of a philosophical debates; they relate to a careful assessment of our living conditions in this modern world, and require from us an effort to discern the historical changes that have affected the often critical relationship between Nature and Progress.
This cross-disciplinary conference will attempt to examine the terms of the interaction, between Nature and the needs for economic growth and social advance. Special attention will be given to conditions in America and the Asia/Pacific zone, yet other geographical areas may be investigated, to allow for comparisons and provide alternative approaches to the problem.
Nature and natural resources, over time, have been made auxiliary to the tremendous growth of industrial societies; large-scale policies have been devised which served a predatory conception of human progress and saw Nature as a mere instrument of expansion. Power has been the key to this approach and the power struggle has been conducted on different planes: it has surfaced as a philosophical and ideological issue, as a scientific one, as a problem of public or private management of natural resources, and in many other cultural forms in community and national life. The results have been a
succession of quiet and critical phases, of peaceful coexistence and mutual exclusion.
Nowadays, scientists, ecoactivists and environmental groups, politicians and intellectuals of different persuasions, tend to dismiss the traditional logic of Progress that shaped the Western world and sought to legitimize all kinds of expansionist policies. They try to redefine the terms of the relation between Nature and civilized society.
This conference will attempt to give a clear and global account of the
problems that confront indifferently those who sought, and still seek, to impose a triumphant vision of Progress, and those who advocate the
endorsement of a more efficient and rational covenant between humans and their natural environment. It will also engage reflections or debates on the cultural evolutions, ideological changes, social mutations, new researches, new theories, initiatives, policies, attitudes, practical solutions, etc., which would seem to indicate that a different relation to Nature might or should emerge in societies that were traditionally founded on the cult of Progress.
Among the main topics to be considered in this conference the following
might be included:
How the idea of Progress influenced social development and individual
behavior, particularly in America and the Asia/Pacific area.
The concept and rhetoric of environmentalism.
Public interest, private interests and the natural environment.
Nature in the urban/industrial order : from environmental to social
Nature as healer, Nature as danger.
Nature and the consumer society.
Environmental concerns in a mass culture.
Nature and technology : the evolution and future of environmental
sciences; scientists and policy-makers.
In addition, more specific issues could be examined like, for example,
industrial pollution (both private and public) ; nuclear waste ; National Parks ; wilderness and wildlife ; urban sprawl in the desert ; availability and management of water resources ; agribusiness and the environment ; Nature in native cultures ; Nature and the law ; global economy vs global ecology ; the commercial use of ecological themes ; Nature and mysticism ; Nature writing ; popular images of Nature (magazines, films, photographs,etc.).
Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne
1, rue Victor-Cousin
75230 PARIS Cedex 05
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