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Featuring local and national conservation leaders, Forum themes are relevant to audiences within and beyond the Chicago region. At the Forum, leading thinkers offer ideas on why and how human values are shaped by our engagement with nature.
The 2014 Forum theme was "A Cascade of Loss, An Ethics of Recovery,” and coincided with the centennial anniversary of the death of “Martha,” the last passenger pigeon. The 2014 Forum on Ethics and Nature marked this occasion by exploring the topic of extinction, balancing information with ethical reflection about the possibilities of biodiversity and biocultural recovery.
New to the cross-section of ethics and sustainability? Check out our Primer on Ethics and Sustainability to get started. Ready to dig further into specific subject areas? See our Primer on Food and Agriculture and guest scholar Lucas Johnston's Primer on Religion and Sustainability. Many of our Forum speakers have also written articles for our online journal Minding Nature, and links to these pieces can be found in the sidebar to this page.
Why is nature critical to human well-being? Why is it important that we humans contribute to the well-being of nature? A robust body of research from across disciplines—including ecopsychology, city planning, landscape design, evolutionary biology, conservation psychology, and the health professions, among many others—points to the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual benefits of interacting with nature. This research also offers insights into how human values for nature may be impeded or better translated into sustainable behaviors. This year’s Chicago Regional Forum on Ethics and Sustainability brings together local and national experts to present their perspectives on the relationship between nature and personal and social health, and to engage in a discussion about how our current knowledge can inform community goals and policies for shared natural areas, effective conservation strategies, and ultimately, ethical relationships to place.
Forum 2011: Lifeways and Greenways
In 2011, the Forum theme was “social and ecological connectivity,” and the focus was on the linkages between landscapes, conservation practice, ethics, and the power of narrative. Prominent regional conservationists were invited to articulate why they do what they do, and to share their stories about the ways in which they have become more deeply connected to local cultures and landscapes through their work. The keynote speakers (Peter Forbes, co-founder of the Center for Whole Communities; and John Francis, United Nations Environmental Program Goodwill Ambassador) offered compelling presentations that drew upon their long careers of weaving together conservation ethics and effective communication. This Forum also included a reading from author Tom Montgomery-Fate; poster sessions from local organizations and individuals who presented their work on sustainability and ethics; artists who shared their photography, paintings, and sculpture; and the Bullfrogs Community Choir, who injected their acappella music into the mix.
Forum 2010: Making Connections between Culture and Conservation
The 2010 Forum highlighted the ethical dimensions of four issues important to the Chicago Wilderness community: (1) water, (2) place-based education, (3) climate change, and (4) the community values of ecological restoration. Featured authors who contributed essays to the book Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril were invited to speak directly to these issues. Moral Ground contributors were each put in dialogue with a Chicago Wilderness leader, who responded to the contributor’s talk during the Forum and made further connections to the Chicago region. Breakout sessions in the afternoon for all participants offered time for a more focused discussion on the ethical dimensions of regional conservation goals.