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Perspectives in Global Development: Fall 2023 Seminar Series


When a community is facing one of our global challenges, perspectives and knowledge from those with experience beyond the locale can of course be beneficial. This can provide scientific expertise that might not be available locally, and also examples of how other communities have dealt with similar challenges.  In the case of climate change, there often is considerable uncertainty as to whether unusual weather patterns and/or extreme events being observed at the local level reflect “normal” variability, or are part of a well-documented climate trend that warrants a change in behavior and/or significant infrastructure investment. That being said, if we learned anything about addressing these challenges in the past 50 years it is that for many reasons what works as a solution in one region, does not guarantee success in another. While this has led to some humility on the part of global challenge “experts” today, gathering local perspectives and expertise is still sometimes approached superficially. In this presentation we will examine several case studies from projects in the US, East Africa, and Asia that illustrate the full suite of benefits that can be gained by more seriously pursuing local knowledge and community engagement. This requires digging deep into a public dialogue that builds trust, respect, and significant new knowledge among all participants. The end result can be a community that is more resilient, unified, and empowered to take on food security and environmental challenges long after the experts have moved on.

About the speaker

Dr. David Wolfe is Emeritus Professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science (Horticulture Section) at Cornell University. His research has focused primarily on soil health and water management, and climate change solutions for managed and natural ecosystems. Soon after joining the Cornell faculty in 1984, his projects expanded beyond a US focus, to also address environmental and food security challenges in East Africa and Asia. In addition to peer-reviewed research publications, Dr. Wolfe has maintained a significant outreach program focused on producing resources for farmers in the US and abroad. Other science communication efforts include news media interviews, writing commentary for the popular press, and an award-winning soil ecology book for general audiences, Tales From the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean Life. Interactions with policy-makers include co-authoring the 2008 and 2014 National Climate Assessments sponsored by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and providing oral and written testimony at state and national government hearings. Teaching contributions have included courses such as “Climate Change and Food Security” and “Cropping Systems Ecology”, and serving on the Curriculum Committee for the Environment & Sustainability major. Dr. Wolfe retired from Cornell in 2021, and currently is Board Chair for the local non-profit Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, and a member of the Tompkins County Environmental Management and Water Resource Councils, and the Town of Lansing Conservation Advisory Council.

Perspectives in Global Development

The Perspectives in Global Development seminars are held Wednesdays from 12:20-1:20 p.m. eastern time during the semester. The series is presented in a hybrid format with some speakers on campus and others appearing via Zoom. All seminars are shown in Emerson Hall 135. Students, faculty and the general public are welcome to attend. The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Global Development, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the School of Integrative Plant Science as part of courses GDEV 4961, AEM 4961, NTRES 4961, GDEV 6960, AEM 6960, and NTRES 6960.


Date & Time

October 25, 2023
12:20 pm - 1:10 pm

Headshot of David Wolfe

More information about this event.

Contact Information

Mariah Doyle-Stephenson, Administrative Assistant, Global Development

  • md2237 [at]



Department of Global Development

Natural Resources and the Environment

School of Integrative Plant Science

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

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