Mitchell Lecture on Sustainability: facts, values and better decisions

The 21st century will see unprecedented transformations in human life and vast changes on planet Earth. Key among these are the problems of sustainability, but emerging technologies — especially the intersection of nano-, bio-, information and cognitive technologies — also have the potential to reshape human life. These challenges will require difficult decisions based on both science and our values.

Thomas Dietz, professor of sociology and environmental science and policy at Michigan State University (MSU), will discuss these challenges and the decisions we face when he gives the 2017 Mitchell Lecture on Sustainability at the University of Maine on Thursday, Sept. 21. The free public talk, “Facts Versus Values: How Can We Make Better Decisions?” beginning at 1 p.m. in Hauck Auditorium will include remarks by Sen. George Mitchell.

Tickets are required and are available online. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.3196.

Although there seems to be a broad consensus that we should improve human well-being while protecting the environment, research shows that there are many obstacles to good decision making by individuals, organizations and government. How can we do better? While the obstacles we face are formidable, research on decision making provides ideas on how we can move forward to make decisions that better reflect both the facts and our values.

Dietz holds a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis. At MSU, he is assistant vice president for environmental research and was founding director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program and associate dean in the colleges of Social Science, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Natural Science. He has co-authored or co-edited 11 books, and more than 100 papers and book chapters. His current research examines the human driving forces of environmental change, environmental values and the interplay between science and democracy in environmental issues.

Launched in 2007, the Senator George J. Mitchell Lecture on Sustainability serves as an extraordinary forum in which the university community, the general public, and many others can learn from and interact with some of the world’s leading thinkers about the challenges and opportunities involved in accelerating the transition to a sustainable world. Sharing the stage with these extraordinary thought leaders, Sen. Mitchell offers his compelling insights about the importance of sustainable development, a subject he first addressed in his 1991 book, “World on Fire: Saving an Endangered Earth.”

The lecture is co-sponsored by UMaine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, School of Economics, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, School of Food and Agriculture, Center for Research on Sustainable Forests, Honors College, Darling Marine Center, Department of Communication and Journalism, and the Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program.

For more information, contact David Sims, Mitchell Center communications and outreach coordinator at 207.581.3244 or