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Penn Program in Environmental Humanities' event explores the idea of an 'Ecotopian Toolkit'

March 23, 2017

Prompted in part by the 500th anniversary of Thomas More's Utopia, the "Ecotopian Toolkit" conference at the University of Pennsylvania will celebrate how utopian imaginaries from across disciplines can address environmental challenges.

Hosted by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, PPEH, the conference will be held April 13-15 on Penn's campus and across Philadelphia. It will include an eclectic roster of scholarly presentations and a variety of live performances. Over the course of three days, scholars in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, as well as professionals in technology, architecture and the arts will consider what tools are necessary to maintain and expand species-being in the Anthropocene, the age of the human.

Scholarly presentations along with proposals for ecotopian tools will be presented at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts in Van Pelt Library at 3420 Walnut St. In addition, the Kislak Center will display a curation of literary contributions that highlight various conceptualizations of "ecotopia" from its collections in an exhibition called Utopian Explorations and Science Fiction.

Keynote addresses by writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit: "Art, Disaster, Utopia" and scientist and activist James Hansen: "Can Scientists be Activists?" will help shape the broader concerns of the conference. Solnit's and Hansen's keynotes April 13th and 14th, respectively, will take place at Penn Museum, 3260 South St. They will also participate in a two-hour conversation and question and answer session on April 14 at the Kislak Center.

PPEH artists-in-residence will premier three movements from Period of Animate Existence, an opera about climate change, on April 14 and 15 at the Arts Bank at 601 S. Broad St. Other performances, including the sounds of DJ Astro Nautico and a drag show that will take place during the "Floating Celebration at Bartram's Garden" on the evening of April 13 at 5400 Lindbergh Blvd.

The conversations sparked by the conference will continue throughout April and May during weekly workshops hosted by PPEH partners at Bartram's Garden. The winners of the PPEH design competition for Ecotopian Tools for WetLand will present their creations at the workshops. The six winners are Cecily Anderson, Joanne Douglas, Carolyn Hesse, Gabriel Kaprielian, Mandy Katz and design duo Eric Blasco and Jacob Rivkin.

The "Ecotopian Toolkit Conference," organized by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, is co-sponsored by the Penn Humanities Forum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Fels Institute of Government, Penn Libraries, Penn Green Campus Partnership and Bartram's Garden.

All events for the "Ecotopian Toolkit" are free and open to the public. Some events require registration.

University of Pennsylvania

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