Friday April 8, 2016 at 4:00 PM EDT
Saturday April 9, 2016 at 5:00 PM EDT

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Smith College, the Neilson Browsing Room 
7 Neilson Drive
William Allan Neilson Library
Northampton, MA 01063

Driving Directions 


The Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative 
The Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative 

A Workshop on the environment and vulnerability

Environmental issues are often discussed in terms of vulnerability, resilience, and human dependency on the environment. In the context of anthropogenic climate change, the need for states to embrace cooperative global action to save the planet is an urgent imperative. However, the focus of current vulnerability discourse in the environmental regime has largely been on geographic positioning and scientific inquiry.

This workshop will extend that perspective to encompass human vulnerability as a central component of the political description of harm and the basis for compelling both national and international responses. Humanity’s complete dependence on the environment arises from our embodiment. But we are also dependent on political and legal structures that are themselves vulnerable to capture, manipulation, misunderstanding, and corruption.  How can both individual human and systemic institutional vulnerabilities be integrated into a compelling narrative of environmental ethics? This workshop will consider the roles played by national and international legal frameworks, as well as by neoliberalism in shaping our approach to the environment. It will build on the insights of critical theories to assess the growing  proliferation of market-based approaches to environmental problems, and examine how forces of globalization and technology can create a ‘false’ sense of invulnerability for industrial societies using the premises  of adaptation (for non-industrial societies) and mitigation (for industrialized ones).

Globalization and other forms of neoliberal restructuring committed to expanding markets, increased production, and consumption facilitate human exploitation of environmental resources and minimize our response to environmental threats. Market-based approaches intensify the pressure to focus on short-term measures of success and increase the influence of powerful and nimble corporate actors that lie outside the reach of international law, and who often work to impede the creation of potential regulatory solutions.