News & Events

Dr. Rick Potts speaking at Harriet Elliott event

The Department of Anthropology is proud to host this year’s Harriet Elliott Lecture Series. As one of UNCG’s premier events, the Lecture Series invites the university community and the public to engage with a consequential issue through social, cultural, and historical lenses. This year’s theme is “The Human Dimension of Climate Change.” Our event explores how humans and human institutions respond to climate change in the past, present, and future.
The keynote lecture will be held from 6:00 to 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 4th in Room 101 of the Sullivan Science Building. Our keynote speaker is Dr. Rick Potts, founding director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Dr. Potts’s presentation, “The Past is All We Know of the Future: Will We Survive?,” will reveal what human evolution can tell us about the future of human responses to climate change. A reception with light refreshments and a display of student research will follow the keynote lecture. Free on-campus parking will be available in the Walker Parking Deck. An ASL interpreter will be available at the keynote lecture.
A panel discussion was held from 5:30 to 7:00 pm on Monday, February 4th in Room 114 of the School of Education Building. The panel’s theme, “Climate Change in Our Backyard,” discussed how climate change is affecting human communities within North Carolina and across the Southeastern United States. The panel opened with remarks from three distinguished scholars that were followed with an open discussion and audience questions. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Susan Andreatta, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Our panelists, and short summaries of their remarks, can be found below:
Research Professor Emeritus
Department of Sociology, University of New Orleans
For many, climate change is an abstract concept — it is warmer in the summer or rain storms are more intense.  The gradual changes to our climate slip by as communities slightly adjust. When there is an acute event such as a flood or hurricane, climate change appears as part of the analysis.  For some communities, however, their response to climate change is central to their everyday life.  For these communities, the changes are not gradual, but accommodations are increasingly drastic. For marginalized communities living directly on the edge of the consequences of climate change, their decisions every day must consider their shifting environment.  For our discussion, I explore how communities and families make decisions in this context and what these decisions mean for all of us.  
Research Ecologist and Adjunct Professor US Geological Survey and Department of Applied Ecology, NC State University
Anthropogenic or human-caused climate change is a global problem where coordinated action across nation-states is considered necessary to avoid the worst consequences of rapid warming. But different scales of decisions have played a large role in accelerating our local contribution to climate change. In particular, how have our public and private land use decisions in North Carolina contributed to our culpability in driving rapid global warming and our vulnerability to climatic changes now and in the future? And how are our land use choices intertwined with other issues related to habitat conservation and social equity? These often hidden decisions, spiraling out from individual home purchases to residential zoning patterns to housing and transportation policies that explicitly and implicitly encourage intensive fossil fuel consumption, define our current climate change pathway. Whether we continue on this pathway or change course to rapidly move away from fossil energy sources will involve difficult and contested choices. As part of this panel discussion I hope to unpack and distill these complex issues using examples from my work simulating the growth of megalopolis regions in the Southeast, and my participation in the recently released National Climate Assessment.  
Associate Professor, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, NC State University
As the impacts of climate change become more noticeable, it becomes increasingly clear that some people and places will experience adverse effects more than others.  This is true not only of specific regions and ecosystems, but also of human communities.  In particular, indigenous communities face a disproportionate share of the adverse impacts of climate change.  In the United States, examples from the arctic and from the Gulf Coast feature prominently in discourse about indigenous peoples and climate change, but what about here in North Carolina?  With the largest indigenous population east of the Mississippi River, North Carolina is home to several American Indian tribes with diverse cultures and histories that are deeply interconnected with specific ecosystems and landscapes.  What does climate change and, more broadly, environmental change look like for these communities? In what are they rising (or could they rise) to meet the challenges of change?  My remarks focus on my ongoing partnerships with tribes in eastern North Carolina to document and grapple with climate change, land-use change, and other issues of concern to indigenous peoples.  
For more information, please contact Dr. Art Murphy ( or Dr. Charles Egeland ( 
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