Gilbert F. White Lecture Series


Upcoming Lecture:

Check back for 2018 Program


Previous Lectures:

Thursday, October 5, 2017 | 6:00 PM EDT

Koshland Science Museum | 525 E St NW, Washington, DC 20001



Dr. Jennifer Wolch

William W. Wurster Dean and Professor of City and Regional Planning

University of California, Berkeley

"Urban Trifecta: Green Infrastructure, Public Health, and Social Justice"

Parks and open space systems are urban green infrastructures that support public health. Proximity to parks stimulates physical activity, helping to protect residents from chronic health challenges, especially diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer. Spending time in natural open space is also critical to the emotional health of people throughout the life course and for child development, including mental, emotional, and cognition well-being. Research on unequal access to parks and open space reveals that in many cities, low-income residents and communities of color have disproportionately poor access to these environmental assets, intensifying health inequities that are already stark. Together, findings from public health and environmental justice research argue for city planning strategies that ensure adequate and fair access to parks and opportunities for physical activity and to natural open spaces where children can engage in unstructured play, explore their environs, and learn about and from nature. At the same time, efforts to build more environmentally sustainable and resilient cities call for natural or green infrastructure (such as bioswales, horizontal levees, and stormwater parks), along with restoration of riparian corridors or wetlands, enlarged urban forests, and additional green cover. If implemented, such green infrastructure could provide much-needed park and open space resources. Parks and green infrastructure strategies may also encourage local and migratory animals to come into the city, presenting expanded opportunities to interact with nature. However, natural, green infrastructure—whether efforts to increase access to parks or sustainability/resilience planning strategies—may also make neighborhoods more attractive, triggering gentrification, displacement, and other regressive impacts. Planners and policy makers need to grapple with this set of complex social, economic, and environmental issues. Cities must aggressively fight to protect housing affordability—through construction, preservation, novel forms of tenancy, and innovative financing strategies—while designing parks and green infrastructures in poor neighborhoods and communities of color that are ‘just green enough’ to protect public health, enhance quality of life, and protect vulnerable residents from sea level rise.


Speaker Biography:

Jennifer Wolch is William W. Wurster Dean and Professor of City & Regional Planning in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously director of the Center for Sustainable Cities at the University of Southern California (USC), she also served as Dean of Graduate Programs in the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, Chair of the USC Department of Geography, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the USC School of Urban & Regional Planning. Her past research focused on homeless and poverty in American cities, geographies of human service delivery, state-nonprofit sector relations, and animal geographies. Dr. Wolch’s most recent research focuses on sustainable urbanism, parks, public health and environmental justice, and animals in design and planning. Dr. Wolch has published over 140 scholarly articles and book chapters. Her books (sole authored, co-authored, and co-edited) include Landscapes of Despair: From Deinstitutionalization to Homelessness (1987); The Power of Geography: How Territory Shapes Social Life (1989); The Shadow State: Government and Voluntary Sector in Transition (1990); Malign Neglect: Homelessness in an American City (1994); Animal Geographies: Place, Politics and Identity in the Nature-Culture Borderlands (1998); and Up Against the Sprawl: Public Policy and the Making of Los Angeles (2004). She has also worked as a planning consultant and expert witness and has served on a variety of public and nonprofit boards. For her research, Dr. Wolch received an Association of American Geographers Distinguished Scholarship Award, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences Fellowship, and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference and Study Center Fellowship, among other awards for excellence in planning practice.

 2014 Lecture

Dr. Susan Cutter, Distinguished Carolina Professor, University of South Carolina

In Harm's Way -- Natural Hazards: Why More Knowledge Is Not Reducing Losses

December 4, 2014 | 6:00 PM | Room NAS 120 | National Academy of Sciences Building | 2101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC

Powerpoint Presentation
MP3 Recording
Runtime: 1 Hour, 6 minutes, 31 seconds
(Recording begins on slide 6 of the presentation)

2013 Lecture

Dr. Steven L. Stockton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

May 7, 2013 | 6:00 PM | Room 100 | Keck Center | 500 5th St. NW, Washington, DC 20001

Click  here to download MP3 Recording of lecture

2011 Lecture

Dr. Diana Liverman, The University of Arizona

"Geography and Global Environmental Change: Climate Risks and the Challenge of Development" (PDF)

February 10, 2011 | 6:00 PM | Room 100 | Keck Center | 500 5th St. NW, Washington, DC 20001

Download the audio recording of the Lecture (MP3)


2009 Lecture 

Dr. Rita Colwell, University of Maryland
"Climate, Oceans, and Human Health: The Saga of a Cholera-Chaser"

2008 Lecture

Dr. Gerry Galloway, University of Maryland
"Managing American Water Resources: Recognizing the Realities of Geography"

2007 Inaugural Lecture

Dr. Robert Kates, Independent Scholar
"Gilbert F. White, 1911-2006, Great Aspirations: Local Studies, National Comparisons, Global Challenges"