Lecture Series

Living with the Land – Living in a Harsh Desert Environment

Featuring thought-leaders and scholars in their respective fields, the lectures explore and reexamine the delicate balance between the Earth’s ecology and humankind’s impact on our planet. Known for its ecologically significant architecture at Arcosanti and Cosanti, The Cosanti Foundation has long been dedicated to influencing the way the built world is created in balance with the environment.

We invite you to join us in deepening our understanding of how humankind’s habitat in the future will be impacted by climate change’s effect on the environment today.

The Lectures included in the Living with the Land Lecture Series are all entirely virtual. You can watch safely from your own home using Zoom. Zoom is interactive and easy to use – you just need a computer!

Program Cost: FREE

  1. Browse the lectures listed below, pick which one(s) you want to view, and simply click the “watch here” button right before the session starts.
  2. It is recommended that participants download and test Zoom before the lecture starts.
  3. When the lecture starts, you will be able to ask questions or comment using the easy features that Zoom offers. We encourage your participation!
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Paul Hirt

Paul Hirt

How Clean Energy and High Capacity Batteries Are Changing Our World…For the Better!

Several interrelated technologies are quickly transforming the energy and transportation sectors. The changes are coming faster than anyone expected and will profoundly alter how we produce and consume electricity and how we move people and products around.

The old reliable fossil fuel based electric system is being fundamentally transformed by rapidly falling costs for solar panels, wind turbines, and high-efficiency batteries. The electric car and truck revolution is accelerating this trend. Paul Hirt explains the characteristics, causes, and likely consequences of this exciting energy transition that is sweeping the world.

About the Lecturer

Paul Hirt is a Professor of History and Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University specializing in water, energy, and environmental sustainability. Hirt’s publications include a 2012 monograph on the history of electric power in the US Northwest and British Columbia titled The Wired Northwest, a 1994 monograph on the history of national forest management since WWII titled A Conspiracy of Optimism (1994), and more than two dozen articles and book chapters on various topics in environmental history. Dr. Hirt is also an elected member of the Board of Directors of Salt River Project.

Missed the lecture? Click here to watch a recording.

Learn More About Paul Hirt
Matthew Goodwin

Matthew Goodwin

The Roden Crater Project and the Brilliance of Sustainability

This presentation will introduce James Turrell’s Roden Crater project, a site-specific work of monumental art outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, as an example of sustainable thinking. The project cooperates with the surrounding environment and results in something truly beautiful and inspiring.
It is brilliant in its use of light, in its thoughtfulness with its surroundings, and in the ways it directs participants to reflect upon themselves in relation to their surroundings. The project shows us that, far from taking us back to the dark ages, sustainability is both exciting and forward thinking.

About the Lecturer

Dr. Matthew Goodwin is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at Northern Arizona University where he teaches environmental ethics, aesthetics, and phenomenology. He is an Arizona Humanities AZ Speaks Road Scholar, and co-founder of Sedona Philosophy.

Due to the copyright restrictions on several of the images used in this lecture, The Cosanti Foundation was not permitted to record Matthew Goodwin’s presentation.

Learn More About Matthew Goodwin
Jim Turner

Jim Turner

Arizona Water Use and Farming Cultures, Prehistory to the Present

This presentation covers humankind’s water use and food supply interactions with Arizona’s ecology from Clovis Culture hunter-gatherers to proto-farmers to Hohokam irrigation canals, Hopi and Tohono O’odham dry farming, and present-day American farmers. We will examine archaeological studies of how overhunting and climate change affected the wooly mammoth populations and the experiments with agriculture that followed. From proto-farmers attempts to increase growth of certain plants to some of the earliest irrigation canal projects in North America.

The Southwest’s indigenous people developed methods to survive the regions’ harsh climate. The Hopi and Tohono O’odham cultures not only altered their physical environment but developed a cultural belief system that espoused frugality and harmony with their natural surroundings. This presentation will also look at the life works of Professor Robert Forbes, who served at the University of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station in the early 1900s and went on to father Arizona’s first groundwater laws as an Arizona legislator in the 1950s.

About the Lecturer

Jim Turner moved to Arizona in 1951 and earned his masters degree in U.S. history from the University of Arizona in 1999. He has been an Arizona historian since 1976 and he retired from the Arizona Historical Society in 2009 to write Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State. He taught Arizona history at Canyon del Oro High School for his student teaching in 1976, for the University of Arizona in 1999, for Central Arizona College 2009-2011, and has been a presenter for Elderhostel and Arizona Humanities for the past ten years. He is now an author and editor for Rio Nuevo Publishers, where his books include The Mighty Colorado from the Glaciers to the Gulf, Four Corners USA: the Wonders of the American Southwest, and The Navajo Code Talker Manual.

Missed the lecture? Click here to watch a recording.

Learn More About Jim Turner
Robin Pinto

Robin Pinto

The Value and Importance of Water in the Desert: The History of Agua Caliente Spring

Water. In our desert environment, it is a precious resource that none of us can live without. It has significant values, both natural and cultural. A spring of cool, clear water is an oasis, a respite from the heat; it is seen as a place of healing; and many are drawn to it as a traditional, sacred site. Agua Caliente Spring in southern Arizona has been an important community attraction for millennia.
Over the last 150 years, owners, both private and public, have struggled to protect, and at the same time, to share this remarkable resource and its surrounding landscape. The challenge of balancing different, and sometimes conflicting, values is instructive for us today.

About the Lecturer

Robin Pinto studies the evolution of cultural landscapes in Arizona and focuses on four issues of historic change: early settlement and homesteading, New Deal federal work programs, ranching on public lands, and development of our national parks. She has an MLA and PhD from the University of Arizona. She writes landscape assessments for the National Park Service and works with the BLM to study landscape change at the Empire Ranch and Cienega Creek watershed in southern Arizona. She volunteers with a number of land trusts and preservation organizations. With three other historians, she recently published a book called “Cowboys and Cowgirls around Ajo, Arizona.”

Missed the lecture? Click here to watch a recording.

Learn More About Robin Pinto
Allen Dart

Allen Dart

The Antiquity of Irrigation in the Southwest

Before AD 1500, Native American cultures took advantage of southern Arizona’s long growing season and tackled its challenge of limited precipitation by developing the earliest and most extensive irrigation works in all of North America. Agriculture was introduced to Arizona more than 4,000 years before present, and irrigation systems were developed in our state at least 3,500 years ago – several hundred years before irrigation was established in ancient Mexico.

This presentation by archaeologist Allen Dart provides an overview of ancient irrigation systems in the southern Southwest and discusses irrigation’s implications for understanding social complexity.

About the Lecturer

Registered Professional Archaeologist Allen Dart has worked in Arizona and New Mexico since 1975 for federal and state governments, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. He is the executive director of Tucson’s nonprofit Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, which he founded in 1993 to provide educational and scientific programs in archaeology, history, and cultures.

Al has been an Arizona Humanities speaker since 1997. He has received the Arizona Archaeological Society’s Professional Archaeologist of the Year Award, the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society’s Victor R. Stoner Award, the Arizona Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission Award in Public Archaeology, and other honors for his efforts to bring archaeology and history to the public.

Missed the lecture? Click here to watch a recording.

Learn More about Allen Dart
Gregory McNamee

Gregory McNamee

The Gila: River of History

Six hundred miles long from its source in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico to its confluence with the Colorado River above Yuma, the Gila has been an important avenue for the movement of birds, animals, plants, and peoples across the desert for millennia. Many cultures have sprung up on its banks, and millions of people depend on the river today—whether they know it or not.

Gregory McNamee, author of the prizewinning book Gila: The Life and Death of an American River, presents a biography of this vital resource, drawing on Native American stories, pioneer memoirs, the writings of modern naturalists such as Aldo Leopold and Edward Abbey, and many other sources. Think of it as 70 million years of history packed into an entertaining, informative hour.

About the Lecturer

Gregory McNamee is a writer, editor, photographer, and publisher. He is the author or title-page editor of more than 40 books and author of more than 6,000 periodical pieces, including articles, essays, reviews, interviews, editorials, poems, and short stories.

McNamee is the editor of Zócalo, an arts-and-culture magazine published in Tucson. He is a contributing editor to the Encyclopedia Britannica. He is also a contributing editor to Kirkus Reviews, the leading publication of the book trade. He writes regularly for many other journals and sites, and his work has appeared in such venues as Science, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Outside, Smithsonian, AARP, and Native Peoples.

Missed the lecture? Click here to watch a recording.

Learn More About Gregory McNamee
Patrick McWhortor

Patrick McWhortor And Distinguished Guests

Arcosanti at 50: How Arizona’s Unique Urban Laboratory Put Sustainability on the Map

In July 1970, led by a visionary Italian-born architect from Phoenix, Paolo Soleri, a group of urban idealists picked up shovels and began constructing a demonstration project to showcase a new way of designing cities. During the next 50 years, more than 8,000 volunteers would join them, most for six weeks at a time, to build the “urban laboratory” that sits atop a 4,000-foot high mesa just north of metropolitan Phoenix.

Run by the Cosanti Foundation, Arcosanti today is home to about 80 people who live and work in this unique experiment of the urban form. Foundation President & CEO Patrick McWhortor will interview several alumni of Arcosanti to talk about the project’s place in Arizona history, the sustainability movement and the effort to shape the international conversation.

The alumni range from architects to ecologists to historians, who share their perspectives about how Arcosanti influenced generations of environmentally conscious thinkers across the world.

About the Moderator

Patrick is currently the President and CEO of the Cosanti Foundation and has more than 30 years of experience in community leadership, adult learning development, and higher education. He has started, led and grown educational capacity building nonprofits, including the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits. In those capacities, he has developed many adult learning programs for diverse audiences across Arizona. He has also been an adjunct professor of nonprofit studies, philanthropy and public policy at Arizona State University and the Maricopa Community Colleges since 1994.

Missed the lecture? Click here to watch a recording.

Dan Shilling

Dan Shilling

Aldo Leopold: Founding Voice of Environmental Ethics

Forester Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) is justly celebrated as the founding voice of environmental ethics, even though the discipline did not exist when his book, A Sand County Almanac, was published posthumously in 1949. His collection of essays popularized the idea of a “land ethic,” and, like Henry David Thoreau, Leopold eventually became required reading across the curriculum: conservation, philosophy, history, literature. At the time of his death, Aldo Leopold was teaching some of the nation’s first college courses in ecology at the University of Wisconsin, at the same time he and his family were experimenting with land management at “The Shack,” fifty miles north of Madison. Rather than focus on his later Midwestern years, however, this presentation maintains that the seeds of Leopold’s revolutionary thinking can be found in his early years as a forester in Arizona and New Mexico (1909-1924). In particular, the talk explores how Native American attitudes toward the human-nature relationship helped to shape Leopold’s 40-year intellectual journey.

About the Lecturer

Dan is the former executive director of Arizona Humanities, where he worked for nearly 20 years. Since leaving AH, he has co-directed three NEH summer institutes on environmental ethics, given dozens of presentations on place-based economic development, and authored or edited several books, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Methods for Environmental Sustainability (Cambridge 2018). A former high school teacher, Dan holds a PhD in literature from ASU. He has served on dozens of commissions and boards, including that of The COsanti Foundation currently ; to acknowledge his many contributions to the state, ASU presented him its most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Lecture Date: November 21st | 1 – 2:30 pm MST

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