Science, Technology & Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, February 25, 2019, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S050

"American Geomimesis: The Earth's Past and Engineering Environments"


Daniel Zizzamia, Fellow, Solar Geoengineering Research Program, Harvard University.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


Tito Carvalho


Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate, Pforzheimer Professor of Science & Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

Lunch is provided if you RSVP via our online form by Thursday afternoon, February 21st.


Geomimicry, as it is defined here, is the conscious emulation of Earth’s example, or innovation inspired by geology. It is a strategy for environmental engineering that looks into Earth’s history for examples of desired conditions or geological processes that can be replicated by humans. This involves not only using geohistorical examples to indicate the potential for environmental change, but also the practice of attempting to emulate geological forces. Geomimetic visions have ranged from tree planting on the western plains, the irrigation projects of the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, greening the Sahara Desert, geoengineering, and terraforming Mars. In this talk I explore geomimicry as a sociotechnical imaginary woven throughout plans for macro-scale engineering that have analogous but not equivalent historical contexts. Since plans to mimic geologic processes are likely to increase in the future, it is crucial to consider what historical lessons we can draw from their similarities and differences.


Daniel Zizzamia is a Fellow with Harvard University’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. He is currently writing a book that explores how the material remains of North America’s geologic history affected the nineteenth and early twentieth-century agricultural settlement of the U.S. West. An article drawn from this work, “Restoring the Paleo-West: Fossils, Coal, and Climate in Late Nineteenth-Century America” has recently been published in the journal Environmental History