'Environmental moral issues: from literature to science'

Past Event

10 February 2023, 12:30pm - 1:30pm

Seminar Room, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street, (Corner of Catte and Holywell Street), Oxford, OX1 3BD


Most environmental issues were literary, and treated as having a moral dimension, before they became subjects for scientific study.

For example, writers in England, from Blake to Orwell, were deeply concerned with environmental consequences of industrialization. This series of seminars aims for a holistic approach, in grappling with environmental moral issues as confronted and explored in literature and science alike. Among these issues are hunger; mining; deforestation; air and water pollution; public health; and the cost of war.

In the opening seminar, Charles Godfray will speak on scientific approaches to the complex problem of hunger while David Aberbach will outline the literary background, particularly ways in which literature between the time of the Industrial Revolution and World War II reflects the scientific revolution by which extreme hunger became, for the first time in history, conquerable in principle.

This event is organised by Sarah Darby and David Aberbach from the Environmental Change Institute.

No registration required. If you have any questions please contact sarah.darby@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Charles Godfray

Professor Sir Charles Godfray
Director, Oxford Martin School

Professor Godfray is a population biologist with broad interests in the environmental sciences and has published in fundamental and applied areas of ecology, evolution and epidemiology. He is interested in how the global food system will need to change and adapt to the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, and in particular in the concept of sustainable intensification, and the relationship between food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity. In 2017 he was knighted for services to scientific research and for scientific advice to government.

As well as leading the School, Professor Godfray is also a lead researcher of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Oxford Martin Restatements project, a new approach to providing succinct summaries of scientific evidence around highly contentious topics.

David Aberbach

Professor David Aberbach
Honorary Research Associate

David Aberbach is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Studies at McGill University. He did his DPhil at Oxford and has held visiting fellowships at the Kennedy Center for International Development, Harvard University, and the Department of International Development, London School of Economics.

David specialises in literature and social sciences and teaches courses in these areas at McGill; and he has written books on Surviving Trauma: loss, literature and psychoanalysis, Charisma in Politics, Religion and the Media, National Poetry, Empires and War, and Literature and Poverty: from the Hebrew Bible to modern times. Since becoming an HRA in 2019, he written The Environment and Literature of Moral Dilemmas: from Adam to Michael K., and is currently working on literary curricula for school education on the environment and also for scientists. He is also planning seminars at the ECI in which literary and scientific approaches to environmental issues are combined.