UC Berkeley News


Norman Myers to lecture on species extinction, consumerism’s perils
Haas Award winner, a Berkeley alum, returns to campus in May for a series of talks on crucial ecological issues

| 28 April 2004


Norman Myers

The distinguished environmental scientist Norman Myers, who received his Ph.D. from the College of Natural Resources in 1973, will receive the Haas International Award at Convocation on May 13. The award is given annually to a Berkeley alumnus who is not a U.S. citizen, in recognition of his or her service in a field of endeavor that may include the arts, sciences, classical professions, education, business, or government.

Myers, a citizen of the United Kingdom, has had an impact in several of these fields over the course of his career — or, more accurately, careers. He has been a colonial administrator (in Kenya, more than 40 years ago) as well as a schoolteacher, wildlife photographer, academic, and environmental writer and activist. He has contributed significantly to raising public consciousness about such issues as biodiversity, rainforest preservation, species extinction, global warming, and the environmental impacts of consumerism, among others.

Myers, who most recently visited Berkeley in 1998 as that year’s Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock Professor, will spend a week on campus in early May, lecturing in a variety of forums. On Tuesday, May 4, he will deliver a lecture entitled “The New Consumers: The Influence of Affluence on the Environment” as part of CNR’s William Main Distinguished Visitor Program. Consumer decisions ranging from how much gasoline to purchase to how much meat to eat have impacts on global ecosystems that themselves range from ozone depletion to deforestation; Myers will point out these and other impacts, and attempt to ask how a shift to sustainable consumption, on the part of “long rich” countries as well as emerging consumer societies, may be effected. This lecture begins at 4 p.m. in Alumni House.

On Friday, May 7, Myers will address a seminar on the theme “Mass Extinction of Species: Why We Should Care, What We Can Do About It,” in 103 Mulford Hall at noon. One of the first environmental scientists to pay serious attention to the crisis of species extinction, Myers these days is directing attention to a less-well-considered effect of that phenomenon: the reduced ability of evolution to produce “replacement” species. In this lecture he will look at the main causes and patterns of extinction threats, review the “biodiversity hotspots” strategy that he has developed and promulgated, and consider various action items.

On Monday, May 10, in a “pizza and policy lecture” at 5 p.m. in 114 Morgan Hall, Myers will lead a discussion-style presentation on the theme “Institutional Roadblocks: Why Public Policy So Often Fails to Deliver.” Why is it, Myers asks, that institutional systems — governments, businesses, NGOs, and the like — that attempt to deal with environmental issues so frequently “fail in consistently spectacular fashion”? More important, what can be done about it?

For information on the Haas Awards, visit . For a transcript of Norman Myers’ 1998 conversation with Professor Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies, visit globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Myers/.