Racial Climates, Ecological Indifference

Dr. Nancy Tuana, Dupont/Class of 1949 Professor of Philosophy and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Penn State University

Tuesday, February 21, 2023  7:00 p.m.

McMullan Lecture Hall (Room 122), Selby & Richard McRae Christian Center

The signs of anthropogenic climate change are becoming more pronounced.  Global temperatures have risen over 2°F since 1880, with nineteen of the warmest years on record having occurred since 2000.  Sea level has risen nearly 7” in the past 100 years.  Climate change is already having an impact on the lives and lifeways of many.  Those impacts will only increase over the next few decades.

Climate justice advocates argue for the importance of recognizing that the impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, and stress that these impacts will exacerbate inequitable social conditions.  While attention to differential impacts of climate change is an important dimension of climate justice, it overlooks the ways systemic racism has been and continues to be intertwined with environmental destruction. I contend that climate justice requires a more robust and thorough understanding of the ways ecological indifference and indifference toward the lives and lifeways of some people are woven together in practices that result in environmental destruction. The fight for climate justice must also be a fight against systemic racism and other forms of systemic inequity.


The Dunbar Lecture series was founded by Jack and Wylene Dunbar in honor of Millsaps philosophy professor Robert E. Bergmark.

Past Lectures

2020 Steven G. Smith (Millsaps College), “Am I Politically Responsible?”

2019 Sarah Conly (Bowdoin College), “Against Autonomy—Why We Shouldn’t Always Have Freedom”

2018 Kieran Satiya (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), “The Ethics of Climate Change”

2017 Charles Taliaferro (St. Olaf College), “Can the Evolution of Consciousness Be Explained Without God? Challenges Facing Naturalism”

2017 Charles Taliaferro (St. Olaf College), “Can the Evolution of Consciousness Be Explained Without God? Challenges Facing Naturalism”

2016 Carol Cleland (U. of Colorado-Boulder), “Searching for Alien Life: Will We Recognize It If We Find It?”

2015 Nicole A. Vincent (Georgia State U.), “NEUROENHANCEMENT —Blessing or Curse?”

2014 Colin McGinn (U. of Miami), “The Good Life as Thinking Well”

2013 Dr. Tamar Gendler (Yale U.), “The Costs of Unintentional Racial Bias”

2012 John Bickle (Mississippi State U.), “How to Super-Charge a Brain: Manipulating Brain Genes and Proteins to Enhance Memory – What It Means and Where It’s Going”

2011 Karsten Harries (Yale U.), “Zips and Slashes: Should Moral Considerations Figure in Judging Art?”

2010 George R. Lucas, Jr. (U. S. Naval Academy), “New Rules for New Wars: Military Ethics and Irregular Warfare”

2009 Pheng Cheah (U. of California-Berkeley), “Necessary Strangers: Law’s Hospitality in the Age of Global Migration”

2008 Michael Ruse (Florida State U.), “Can Evolution Explain Morality? Or Is It Dog Eat Dog All the Way Down?”

2007 James P. Sterba (U. of Notre Dame), “Why Everyone Should Agree that Economic Inequality is Unjustifiable”

2006 Lucius Outlaw, Jr. (Vanderbilt U.), “Education, Academic Philosophy, and the Strategic Production of Ignorance”

2005 Eleonore Stump (St. Louis U.), “The Problem of Suffering: Samson and Self-Destroying Evil”

2004 Paul Churchland (U. of California-San Diego), “Impossible Colors: How Objective Brain Science Really Can Explain Subjective Human Experience”

2002 Robert Bernasconi (U. of Memphis), “When Race Was Everything: A Philosopher Looks at 19th Century Anthropology”

2000 Martha Nussbaum (U. of Chicago), “Secret Sewers of Vice: Disgust, Bodies, and the Law”

1998 Robert C. Solomon (U. of Texas-Austin), “Nietzsche and the Passionate Life”

1996 Hilde Hein (College of the Holy Cross), “The Absent Mind: Toward a Feminist Aesthetic”

1995 Tom Regan (North Carolina State U.), “Patterns of Resistance: The Struggle for Freedom and Equality in America”

1994 Charles Scott (Pennsylvania State U.), “What Paris is Doing to Us”

1993 Ralph A. Smith (U. of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign), “Once More: The Traditional Humanistic Ideal of Education”

1992 Richard T. DeGeorge (Kansas U.), “Modern Science, Environmental Ethics, and the Anthropocentric Predicament”

1991 Hilary Putnam (Harvard U.), “Ultimate Questions”

1990 Alison Jaggar (U. of Cincinnati), “How Can Ethics Be Feminist?”

1989 John E. Smith (Yale U.), “Recovering the Value Dimension in Education”

1988 Robert E. Bergmark (Millsaps College), “Knowledge, Belief, and Commitment” in four installments:
“What Can We Know?” “What May We Reasonably Believe?” “How Ought We Reasonably to Live?” “What May We Reasonably Hope?”