Human-Environment Interactions Research Under Conditions of Climate Change




Photo credit Alessandra Villaamil


Photo credit Alessandra Villaamil


By Alessandra Villaamil

Thousands of miles separate forests in Indiana and Brazil, but human interaction continues to threaten them in the same way.

On Friday, September 3rd, Professor Emilio Moran presented a talk on human dimensions of environmental change, entitled “Human-Environment Interactions Research Under Conditions of Climate Change.” In his presentation, Moran compared deforestation in Brazil to Indiana, revealing the trends of deforestation in both locations are very similar. He concludes that human activity is the main aspect of environmental change.

“Human environmental interaction is the work that brings together the physical sciences with social sciences, coming from different intellectual traditions, different theories that underlie what they do,” Moran said. “We need both the social and the biological side to understand complex environmental issues.”

Moran provided graphics and visuals to demonstrate the effects of human interaction with the environment. By placing a map of Indiana directly over Brazil’s, it becomes clear that humans have significantly changed the face of our planet.

“Land cover change is the biggest change in the planet. We deforested most of Europe around the year 1000, and back in the year 1200, it looked like those pictures of Indiana. Recently, it’s grown back in Europe, but not in this continent,” Moran said. “In some places all that forest emitted CO2 which is still in the atmosphere, warming up the planet and changing its conditions.”

Kenny Broad, director of the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy and associate professor of Marine Affairs and Policy at RSMAS, explains the honor of having Moran visit University of Miami. “Emilio was at the forefront in recognition that dealing with our most pressing environmental problems would require understanding human behavior as well as the natural science aspects of the issue. He brought methods from disciplines ranging from remote sensing to cultural anthropology to epidemiology to bear on various problems. This approach as earned him a place in the National Academy of Sciences,” Broad said. “The Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy is very much modeled after this interdisciplinary approach to studying Human-Environment interaction. In fact, Emilio played a big role in helping us develop our new PhD program in Environmental Science and Policy.”

Moran is a Professor of Anthropology, Environmental Sciences and Geography at Indiana University. He is the director of ACT (Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change), co-director of CIPEC (Center for the study of Institutions, Population and Global Environmental Change), as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences.