Recent Town Hall Lectures

The Town Hall Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the City of Bethlehem and Lehigh University, seeks to foster an exchange of knowledge between the university and city residents, touching on matters of current interest and of local, national, and global importance. Presentations have focused on a wide variety of topics, ranging from public history, political science, and current events to urban agriculture and community health and well-being.
February 29, 2016: Environmentalism in Everyday Life: Community Food Movements and Conceptions of Justice (David Schlosberg, Professor of Environmental Politics, University of Sydney and Co-Director, Sydney Environment Institute)
Actors and activists in local food and food justice movements often understand their efforts to redesign food systems as linked to a broad range of justice concerns. A rejuvenated and reengaged community is seen as a crucial to the expression and achievement of a range of justice goals. Food movements understand justice in multiple ways, and see concepts and practices of injustice as interrelated and mutually reinforcing. While their emphases may differ from the race and equity concerns of other environmental justice groups, the breadth of justice concerns in food movements illustrates the reach of the discourse of environmental justice into other areas of environmental politics. Food movements, then, are clearly not only about food, but also about the creation of just communities and food systems.
February 18, 2016: Building a Resilient Community with Green Infrastructure (Dr. Dorothy Reed Professor, Civil Engineering, Washington University)
Our society depends on infrastructure systems to function properly, yet the aging US infrastructure system is falling apart, leading to problems such as power outages, telecommunications disruptions, too much or too little water, and deteriorating roadways and bridges. How do we fix these problems? Rather than spending all of our effort rebuilding so-called gray, mostly concrete, structures, towers and other infrastructure, Dr. Reed proposes that we focus our renewal efforts on green infrastructure systems at the community level. Green infrastructure can be as simple as greenbelts and agricultural lands, or as complex as storm water filtration and power generation. The talk will outline proposals for improving community resilience based upon Dr. Reed’s recent research.
January 28, 2016: "Cutting through Environmental Conflict with Participatory, Proactive Research." (Gwen Ottinger, Department of Politics and Center
for Science and Technology Studies at Drexel University)
Urban neighborhoods frequently find themselves in contention with government agencies and local industry around the social and environmental impacts of energy facilities, transportation infrastructure, and other potentially hazardous land uses. These conflicts are often intractable because the different parties have different ways of assessing impacts, asking different questions at different stages of development. A more forward-looking, collaborative approach to understanding the impacts of urban infrastructure projects could help to cut through these intractable controversies and promote a shared understanding of what kinds of projects are truly beneficial for communities. Gwen Ottinger is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and Center for Science and Technology Studies at Drexel University, where she directs the MS program in Environmental Policy. Her research focuses on how experts and communities misunderstand each other, especially on questions of pollution and environmental health. Ottinger is co-editor of Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement and author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges, which received the 2015 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science.

Past Town Hall Lectures (2010-11)

April 20: "The Egalitarian Promise of Moravian Bethlehem: Some Surprising Truths About the Origins of Our City." (Seth Moglen, Department of English, Lehigh University)
Seth Moglen will explore the unconventional spiritual beliefs and social arrangements that characterized the town of Bethlehem during the 1740s and 1750s. Bethlehem’s Moravian founders created one of the most egalitarian communities in 18th-century North America – but they also feared, and ultimately abandoned, their most impressive social accomplishments. Moglen will argue that we live today in the shadow of this failed egalitarian promise as surely as we live in the shadow of Bethlehem Steel. His Town Hall lecture is derived from a book-in-progress, Bethlehem: American Utopia, American Tragedy, which traces the history of our city from Moravian founding to its post-industrial present.
January 19: "How the Mass Media Keep Us Apart--and Powerless; or, How did we get into this mess?" (Edward P. Morgan, Department of Political Science, Lehigh University)
There is ample evidence that the American political system is both polarized and paralyzed. Our political discourse is full of the rhetoric of attack, blame, and victimhood, while the government seems unable to deal effectively with deepening economic, ecological, and social justice problems. Drawing on the research completed for his newly published book, What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy, Professor Ted Morgan explains how and why we got into this condition and what it might take to revitalize our democracy.
October 20: “Have a Healthier Bethlehem NOW: Community Approaches to Individual Health.” Dr. Judith Lasker (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lehigh University, and Dr. Meagan Grega, M.D., co-founder, Kellyn Foundation)
Dr. Meagan Grega and Professor Judy Lasker will present, "Have a Healthier Bethlehem Now: Community Approaches to Individual Health." The two will discuss the importance of community-level interventions to improve the health of individuals in our region. Dr. Grega will focus on the Kellyn Foundation's efforts to fight obesity through programs to promote better food and eating practices. Dr. Lasker will report on research on the role of social ties and organizations such as Time Banks in improving health.