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Considering the Planet


April 22nd marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, which, according to Earth Day Network, makes it the largest civic observance in the world with an estimated 1 billion people participating.

If ecology and public awareness pique your interest, put two climate-change-relevant books from Fordham faculty on your Earth Day list:

book-1Shoshana Enelow, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, recently co-published Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project(Palgrave/MacMillan, 2014) with Una Chaudhuri, Ph.D., professor of English and drama at NYU. The book deals with both theories, critiques, and practice of making art in an era when the Earth is undergoing massive changes in climate. Enelow’s play, Carla and Lewis, is part of the book.

“Climate change is extremely hard to conceptualize, largely because of its enormous scale, both geophysically and temporally,” she says. “As one of the characters says in the play, ‘Climate change is enormous, it’s tiny, it’s impossible, it’s happening—all the way up and all the way down.’ We wanted to experiment with different ways of making climate change seen, heard, and felt in the theater.

“The characters of Carla and Lewis came out of our explorations of what we called ‘ecological character’: characters not driven by psychology or sociology (as modern drama’s characters often are) but by evolutionary imperatives like adaptation, co-evolution, species life, etc.


book-2Christiana Peppard, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology, has published Just Water: Theology, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis(Orbis, 2014), in which theology, hydrology, ecology, economics, religion, science, and history all come together.

The book is the first of two tomes that Peppard has penned on water (the second, Valuing Water in the Anthropocene, is still in the works), and it’s geared toward educated nonspecialists and scholars alike.

For Peppard, the issue of water scarcity has personal resonance. She was born in California’s Central Valley, grew up in Colorado, and earned a bachelor’s in human biology from Stanford University. Places like the Central Valley are ground zero in the fight over fresh water, as the rise of large-scale hydraulic technologies such as dams, diversion canals and irrigation, and powerful groundwater pumps, have made agriculture the biggest consumptive use of fresh water worldwide.

Underground aquifers, such as the Ogalalla Aquifer in the middle of the country, are being permanently depleted.

“Tapping this water is like mining a valuable resource because, once it’s consumed, the sources do not replenish on any humanly meaningful timescale,” she says.
“Some cities like Beijing and Mexico City, not to mention parts of California’s Central Valley, are quite literally sinking as the groundwater beneath them disappears.”

Peppard delves into the major issues related to present worldwide consumption of potable water—from climate change and new extractive technologies to the ways the burden of water procurement is higher on women.

She also explores the relation between theology and ethics and shows how fresh water is an apt substance to frame the discussion.

— Janet Sassi and Patrick Verel 


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