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Saturday, March 28 • 10:30am - 12:00pm
Session 2 Paper Stream 1: Crossroads of Climate Change and the Human Dimension

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Session 2 Paper Stream 1: Crossroads of Climate Change and the Human Dimension

David I. Tafler and Peter D'Agostino: "Deserts Crossroads of Natural-Cultural-Virtual Environments During Climatic Changes" 
“Deserts, which account for the largest percentage of the Earth’s terrestrial surface area and a majority of the western North American landscape, are among the ecosystems predicted to be the most sensitive to global change.” * 

This paper will review the co-authors’ desert experiences, focusing on the US and Australia, as well as serving as a preview of new works-in-progress on climate change and the effects of global warming to address concerns for a sustainable future. 

Deserts have embedded eco-systems that represent linear/cyclical boundaries between static and dynamic forces. Intermittent, ethereal, and virtual desert rivers trace a repository of past climatic and historic events. The dry river systems of the American southwest: the Gila, Salt, Aqua Fria; and of central Australia: the Finke, Todd, Macumba, form historic and spiritual tracks and intersections. Their perennial flow preserves their path, and those paths form grids marking the historic morphology of the surrounding land - "technological, organizational, and ideational" systems, bridges, buildings, communities, and agriculture. 

World-Wide-Walks / between earth,water &sky/ DESERTS ( work-in-progress, 2008 -) is conceived as a trilogy of walk projects in the Chihuahuan, Mojave, and Sonoran deserts.** 

The mix of ‘natural-cultural-virtual’ concepts is most striking at these sites as boundaries for the convergence of nature and culture, spirituality and science. In these deserts, ancient Native American stories of emergence from Mother Earth are told and petroglyphs dating from the Ancestral Pueblo period of c. 1300 to 1600 AD are preserved; and, it is here that the first Atomic Bomb was detonated during the summer of 1945, preceding the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

With accelerating climatic, cultural and technological changes, including current debates on nuclear and solar energy, deserts may again be a ‘ground zero’ embodying the changing episodic-narrative, a labyrinthine marker for envisaging the future. 

* S.Smith, R.Monson, J.Anderson, Physiological Ecology of North American Desert Plants. 

** World-Wide-Walks, performed on six continents over the past four decades, explore elements of natural, cultural and virtual identities: mixed realities of walking through physical environments and virtually surfing the web. 

Lawrence Culver: "Manifest Destiny or Manifest Disaster? Climate, Climate Change, and Westward Expansion in Arid North America"
This paper will demonstrate that the current debate over climate change and climate policy can be connected to a much longer historical context. Climate change has been a subject of heated debate for centuries, and knowledge of that debate can help foster more constructive climate change dialogue and policy in the present. The promises and perils of climate played a central role in the global settlement and colonization efforts of Europeans. Prospective settlers speculated about climate to evaluate the agricultural or healthful qualities of different regions. Some Europeans even speculated that climates could change, whether through natural or human action. Perceptions of climate were informed by science, religion, folk belief, and prior agricultural experience. The U.S. government, dependent on the sale of western lands for revenue, financed expeditions and lavishly illustrated reports that, though filled with cartographic and scientific data, also functioned as promotional real estate tracts. 

When explorers or settlers tried to discern climate, they were primarily “reading” landscapes. A new landscape, and its vegetation, animal life, and surface water held clues to its climate. Settlers lacked modern climate science, and, no less importantly, long-term experience with these landscapes. One example of this was the U.S. Southwest, annexed in 1848 after a war with Mexico driven by southern slave owners convinced the entire region was soon to become a vast cotton plantation. Antislavery northerners were just as convinced the Southwest was worthless desert. Another example was the Great Plains, which witnessed a large in-migration hastened by a wildly incorrect climatic theory: the claim that “rain would follow the plow,” and cultivation would transform arid climates. This theory would prove disastrous. Nor were its consequences limited to North America. Australian settlers, for example, believed it too, and ultimately it would cause environmental and economic havoc on multiple continents. Debate about climate and climate change long predates our era, and has never been solely about climate, but instead about culture, economics, and ideology. By deepening our historical perspective and broadening the terms of climate change dialogue, we can help create a more effective climate policy for our collective future. 

Jennifer Post: "Climate Change, Mobile Pastoralism and Cultural Heritage in Western Mongolia"
The social and cultural impact of climate change today is evident in urban and rural communities around the world. Possibly the most socially, economically and culturally vulnerable are those peoples who move as a way of life, and today, also experience the effects of displacement due to climate change. For those living close to the natural world, the changes impact nearly every aspect of their lives. The evolving cultural forms of Kazakh mobile pastoralists living in the Altai Sayan ecoregion of western Mongolia offer evidence of the significant social and cultural adjustments one such group has made due to climate changes. Responses of these semi-nomadic herders to climate events in lands that range from desert- to forest-steppe can be measured in their instrumental tunes and songs, their production of musical instruments, needlework and felt work, and heritage actions such as work patterns and ceremonial gatherings. While these expressions of tangible and intangible heritage have been maintained in conjunction with their lives and lifestyles for generations, today some have been disrupted. Extreme weather events such a long periods of bitter cold and high winds during the winter, desertification that affects availability of grasses for livestock and dries up essential sources of water, and forced or voluntary movement from grazing lands, have all impacted Kazakh herders economically and ecologically, and this is expressed culturally in their music, woodworking and fiber crafts, and decision-making around community actions and events. The presence (and absence) of their cultural practices provide direct commentaries on change that reveal sources of tension and anxiety that has resonated throughout the region during the last decade. Many herders have stepped away, leaving behind not only their much-needed caretaking of the land, but some have also abandoned their cultural practices. In this paper I draw on my fieldwork since 2004 with Mongolian Kazakh herders, and on research that contributes to current discourses on ecology and pastoralism as well as on climate change and changing culture, to address the impact of climate change on cultural production, including the maintenance of knowledge systems and innovation among mobile pastoral herders in western Mongolia. 


Jay Needham

Jay Needham is a sound artist, electro-acoustic composer, teacher, and scholar. He utilizes multiple creative platforms and his works often have a focus on recorded sound, archives, and the interpretation of artifacts. His sound art, works for radio, and visual art have appeared... Read More →


Lawrence Culver

Dr. Lawrence Culver is an associate professor in the History Department at Utah State University, where his areas of research and teaching include cultural, environmental, and urban history. He received his PhD at UCLA, and his doctoral dissertation received the 2005 Rachel Carson... Read More →

Peter D'Agostino

Peter d’Agostino’s pioneering photography, video and interactive projects have been exhibited internationally. Surveys of his work include: Interactivity and Intervention, 1978-99, Lehman College Art Gallery, New York; the World-Wide-Walks projects at the University Art Gallery... Read More →

Jennifer Post

Jennifer C. Post is an ethnomusicologist whose in-depth fieldwork includes research on music in Inner Asia, especially music among Kazakh mobile pastoralists in Mongolia, on North Indian musical traditions, and on rural Northern New England performance practice. Her current work includes... Read More →

David I. Tafler

David I. Tafler is Professor of Media and Communication at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. As a consultant for the Irish Red Cross Society (IRCS) in Banda Aceh, Indonesia (the ground zero site of the 2004 Tsunami) in 2009, he co-developed and authored a manual on communication... Read More →

Saturday March 28, 2015 10:30am - 12:00pm MST
Katzin Concert Hall, Music Building 50 E Gammage Pkwy

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