Dean Smith’s popular ‘last’ lecture featured at brown bag lunch

EAC to host series of lunch viewings in Sever Hall on the impact of human population growth on Earth

The Danforth Campus Energy Awareness Committee (EAC) will host a brown bag lunch viewing and discussion of Dean Richard Smith’s famous “last” lecture, “Population, Politics and the Environment.”

Richard Smith

In the video of his final lecture before taking on his new duties as dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in 2008, Smith, PhD, tells a packed house of undergraduates in his “Introduction to Human Evolution” course what’s in store for humans in the 21st century as human population increases and the Earth’s resources remain finite.

Following the viewing, attendees will have an opportunity for further discussion on topics presented in the lecture.

The lecture viewing and brown bag lunches will be held at noon the last Friday of the month, beginning March 26, in Sever Hall, Room 300. RSVPs are requested at The EAC also will host viewings April 30, May 28, June 25, July 30 and Aug. 27.

In the lecture, Smith, the Ralph E. Morrow Distinguished University Professor, discusses the dramatic growth of human population — approximately 1.5 billion in 1900, approximately 3 billion in 1960 and approximately 6.5 billion today — and its effect on the Earth. Smith is a professor of physical anthropology in Arts & Sciences.

Humans are different than other animals, Smith says, because humans are not restricted by natural limitations — for example, extreme climates, such as desert, and extreme environments, such as swamps. Instead, humans alter habitats to their liking and survive in these habitats at densities much higher than humans found in nature.

This lack of limitation results in significant population growth. To support this growth, humans must extract more resources from the Earth. The result is the environmental challenges humans face today, such as global warming, deforestation and water pollution.

Smith encourages those at universities to take on the environmental challenges that beset the earth, urging the university community to be “the people we’ve been waiting for.”

The WUSTL community also can view Smith’s lecture online on the Arts & Sciences’ Web site at