About 150 people attended the four presentation sessions that took place throughout the day including an afternoon panel discussion by presenters from the City University of New York Graduate Center, the New York Public Library and the Glendale Public Library. They talked about the importance of libraries in an Internet age.
More than 120 students and faculty attended an 11 a.m. plenary talk, “Between Wasteland and Wilderness,” delivered by David Biggs, associate history professor from the University of California, Riverside.
Biggs discussed environmental history and the various, ambiguous views people hold of nature. He pointed out that photographs of environmental devastation, such as a tire dump or an oil spill in the ocean can appear as simultaneously beautiful and terrible. “Our ideas of nature or wasteland are historically framed,” he said, by literature, by experiences, by views such as atheism or Judeo Christianity. Different perspectives by various preservationists result in different beliefs on whether people should manage the wild and “play God,” or leave it entirely alone as a sacred place, he said. He cited the work of noted marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson whose books “The Sea Around Us,” a scientific prizewinner, and “Silent Spring,” a policy-changing bestseller on the dangers of pesticides, attracted a wide following. Biggs also cited the role of nature and perspectives on nature incorporated into feature films such as Avatar. “Environmental history is stories about stories,” said Biggs.