Annual Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann lecture to explore light pollution

Light pollution across the world

Sara Pritchard, a leading Science and Technology Studies scholar and professor at Cornell University, will deliver the annual Melville-Nelles-Hoffman Lecture in Environmental History on March 20 at York University’s Keele campus.

Light pollution across the world

Pritchard is the recipient of the National Science Foundation Scholar’s Award in Science, Technology and Society. Her research explores the politics and science of light pollution.

The lecture will begin at 4pm in the Schulich Private Dining Room in the Seymour Schulich Building. This event is free and open to the public, all are welcome to attend.

Sara Pritchard

Pritchard’s lecture will explore the growing concerns of scientists in the early 1970s about light pollution and the astronomical, ecological and human health effects. These kinds of concerns have increased dramatically over the past decade. In her remarks, Pritchard will examine how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) visualize artificial light at night as an emergent environmental problem.

A close reading of several influential images shows how these institutions produce knowledge about light pollution. In particular, this lecture will explore how NASA and NPS’s regimes of (im)perceptibility shape what we know—and do not know—about artificial light at night in distinct ways. At the same time, Pritchard will consider the implications of these knowledge-making and visualization techniques for global social justice in the early 21st century.

The Melville-Nelles-Hoffman Lecture in Environmental History is an annual event that brings leading scholars in the field of environmental history to Toronto to speak about their latest research.

More about Sara Pritchard

Professor Sara Pritchard is a historian of technology and an environmental historian.  Her first book, Confluence: The Nature of Technology and the Remaking of the Rhône (2011), examines the history of the transformation of France’s Rhône River since the Second World War. She shows not only how technological development and environmental management were central to state building and shifting political identities in France, but also how historical actors reworked the boundaries of nature and technology, both materially and discursively.

The book’s introduction outlines a theoretical framework for enviro technical analysis, which scrutinizes the relationship between nature and technology, historically and analytically. Her second book project, From Blue to Black Marble: Knowing Light Pollution in the Anthropocene, explores how different scientific communities have studied artificial light at night and specifically environmental light pollution since the 1970s.

Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as Cornell’s Society for the Humanities and Institute for the Social Sciences.