Saturday, March 12, 2011
Prof. R.W. Kates - Independent Scholar, Trenton, ME
Robert W. Kates (born Jan 31, 1929) is an American geographer and independent scholar in Trenton, Maine, and University Professor (Emeritus) at Brown University. His personal, reflective website chronicles his lengthy, productive academic career working on integrative issues of human-ecological interdependence and resilience, an overview of which is contained in Kates, Robert W. “Queries on the Human Use of the Earth.” Annual Review of Energy and Environment, 2001. 26:1-26. He notes "[T]he central question of my scientific work has been: what is and ought to be the human use of the earth? It has been pursued collectively, with mentor, colleagues, students, and friends, As with most grand queries, ours is studied not grandly but in reduced ways, as a set of more specific research questions related to hazards, environment, hunger, and sustainable development. Regarding hazard, I tried to understand why people persist in occupying areas subject to natural and technological hazards and how adaptation made this possible. An extended stay in Africa to research both environment and development led to new queries. Why does the Malthusian dilemma persist with concerns evolving from food sufficiency for the population to resource scarcity to the basic life-support systems and the chemical cycles of the biosphere? How has humankind transformed the earth, indeed can life be sustained? Why does hunger persist amid a world of plenty, and what can be done to end it? Can there be a transition to sustainability that over the next two generations would meet human needs and reduce hunger and poverty while maintaining the essential life support systems of the planet? All these themes and the research methods used to pursue them come together in an emerging sustainability science."