Since the dawn of civilization, access to freshwater, especially in river environments, has helped determine where human populations have flourished on planet Earth.
Over the past two centuries — an age that many geologists are now calling the Anthropocene — humans have reshaped the planet’s biophysical systems, threatening the availability of freshwater and consequentially the stability of ecologies.
This situation has created one of the most important and complex problems that humans will face in the 21st century, according to an international group of researchers convening in Indianapolis this month to launch a seven-year study of how to mitigate the threat of water insecurity.
The researchers will hold the Rivers of the Anthropocene Conference on Jan. 23 and 24 in the Klipsch Theater, on the lower level of the Campus Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in downtown Indianapolis.
The conference, which brings together 25 scientists, humanists, social scientists, artists, policy makers and community organizers from five countries, is open to the public and is the kickoff event for The Rivers of the Anthropocene Project, a long-range research effort. Leaders say the project will take a transdisciplinary approach to help us better understand the complex dynamics between humans and their river environments. Faculty from IUPUI are partnering with faculty from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom as project leaders. The IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute is organizing the event.
“The majority of the world’s population is threatened by water insecurity and biodiversity loss,” said Jason M. Kelly, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute director and a Rivers of the Anthropocene Project director. “Even here in Indianapolis, we face potential water shortages in the next decades. We can solve these problems, but the solutions are not simply technological; they are cultural, social and political. They require experts from across the disciplines working hand-in-hand with communities and policy makers.”
By mapping the ecological, geographical, cultural, social, political and scientific histories of river systems, the Rivers of the Anthropocene Project will provide insight on issues of relevance to public policy, environmental conservation and heritage management.
For the January 2014 conference, presenters will offer case studies from around the globe, with particular emphasis on the Ohio and Tyne rivers. Topics for discussion and papers presented at the conference include human geography and river environments; the challenge of Anthropocene rivers; rivers on a human scale; earth systems; and the relationship between human systems and river systems.
Speakers include Bill Werkheiser, acting deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey; and environmental artist Mary Miss.
Support for the conference comes from Keramida Inc., the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana Humanities, IUPUI School of Science, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at IUPUI, the Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University, the IUPUI Center for Urban Health, Newcastle University, the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, IU Office of the Vice President for Research, IUPUI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and IUPUI Office of the Chancellor.
Admission is $45. Registrants may purchase lunch. Discounted parking will be available on the ground level of the adjacent Vermont Street Garage.