Grady Ballenger Series

Conservation Culture and Sustainability Science:  Studying Problems, People and Place

Dr. Angela Halfacre, Furman University

Sustainability has become the most discussed new social enterprise of the century.  But what does it mean?  How does it differ from environmentalism?  And how should colleges and their students promote it?  Dr. Halfacre  will overview the emerging social movement of sustainability and the new academic field of sustainability science, and will share examples from own career, especially experiences with current and former students and local communities, to illustrate the growing opportunities for research and careers related to the delicate balancing act needed to create a more sustainable future.   She will provide insights from her research in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, where environmental and human activities have been inextricably intertwined.   Halfacre’s use of the term “conservation culture” in this sense carries a subtly different meaning than “environmentalism,” which historically refers to a political and social movement originating in the late 1960s.  A conservation culture is much broader in scope and more deeply textured than an environmental movement. It includes efforts to preserve historical artifacts and land-based livelihoods as well as efforts to protect the natural environment. It encompasses more than just a love of the land; it also represents a living legacy of a place’s cultural heritage.  Understanding a “conservation culture” has insights for sustainability as a social movement as well as sustainability science as an academic field. 

Professor Angela C. Halfacre teaches in the departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Political Science at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She also serves as the director of Furman’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability. Before returning to Furman, her alma mater, in 2008, she spent 10 years at the College of Charleston as a political science professor and director of the graduate program in Environmental Studies. She was selected as the College of Charleston’s 2008 Distinguished Teacher-Scholar. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 1997.    At Furman, she teaches courses in environmental policy, conservation, sustainability, and research methods. Halfacre also coordinates several curricular and co-curricular programs related to sustainability on campus and in the local community. Her research and publications examine public perceptions of sustainability issues, community governance, and environmental decision-making. She has published several peer-reviewed journal articles (including the 2011 SouthEastern Division of the Association of American Geographers’ Best Paper), and has a University of South Carolina Press book in press titled ‘A Delicate Balance’: Constructing a Conservation Culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry (which examines environmental perceptions and associated social movements in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina). Halfacre co-coordinates Furman’s Sustainability Planning Council and chairs The Duke Endowment Task Force on Community and Environmental Sustainability. Halfacre serves on several boards of local and national conservation and community organizations including nonprofit Greenville Forward, City of Greenville Green Ribbon Advisory Council, and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Steering Committee.