Last Log Lunch Lecture with CES Director Nicolas Howe Reflects on Department's Future

Pictured: Log Lunch attendees discuss the questions prompted by speaker Nicolas Howe.

The final Log Lunch of the 2021-2022 academic year was closed out by Professor Nicolas Howe, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), on May 6. In anticipation of the department’s self-study, which will be conducted next year, Howe presented a discussion-based Log Lunch to consider the future of the Williams environmental studies curriculum.

“If you look across the country, you see that environmental studies programs… have more young faculty, and more diverse faculty,” Howe said. With the two recently-hired professors and a revised major and concentration path, the department’s future looks bright. 

Professor Brittany Meché, who specializes in militarism, race and empire, and West Africa and the African diaspora, just completed her third year teaching at Williams. In the fall, the department will welcome Giuseppina Forte, a joint appointment between Studio Art and CES, to teach on environmental justice and urban design. Changes to the major and concentration were recently made public, with reduced mandatory courses and expanded interdisciplinary options.

Howe emphasized the need for the department to explore conceptual questions along the lines of what environmental studies is for, what it should be about, and what it means to “think environmental.” 

Audience members suggested adding or incorporating “honoring Indigenous and Native values,” and “climate change and environmental justice.” Howe asked how climate change should be positioned within the major without existing as an “intellectual black hole,” and how the importance of environmental justice should be communicated in the program’s philosophy. He questioned the current problem-and-solution basis of the current CES mission and environmental studies at large, pointing out that it was tautological.

“The concept of the environment and environmental problems is very new, and so is the concept of environmental studies,” Howe explained. “Every year, more and more things become environmental, to the point where, what’s the point of doing it if everything is an environmental problem – what makes it different?”

The week’s lunch consisted of creamy lemon zucchini pasta, a salad of pecan, apples, and goat cheese, accompanied by olive focaccia. Dessert was brown butter toffee chocolate chip cookies.

Log Lunch is a CES program hosted every Friday at noon. During Log Lunch, a vegetarian meal prepared by Williams students is served, followed by a talk on an environmental topic. Speakers are drawn from both the student body and faculty of Williams, as well as from local, national, and international organizations. Learn more here.