2020 Symposium





We're teaming up with the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communication's climate change reporting project for this conference. See the project below.

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Great Plains Conference: Spring 2021

We have postponed our conference, “Climate Change and Culture in the Great Plains” from April 9-10, 2020, to April 2021. We greatly regret having to make this change. Climate change remains an existential threat to humanity, a threat which we certainly will need to address in future. We hope you that you understand and agree with our decision to postpone.

We will send information as our planning for the 2021 conference develops, and we encourage you to stay connected with the Center for Great Plains Studies via our Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter, or by joining our mailing list (left).

Stay safe, and we hope to see you in person or virtually at the conference next year!


Human activities are increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, producing global climate change. Although questions remain about the speed, complexity, and consequences of climate change, on the main point the science is settled. We know about greenhouse gases, rising average temperatures, increased coastal flooding, retreating glaciers, more frequent severe weather events, and other consequences that will upset and transform daily life. Yet rather than engaging in a productive debate about how to address this issue, our national conversation has devolved into a culture war in which one side denies the very existence of climate change while scientists have well documented this phenomenon.

Agriculture is our region’s largest industry, so we are intimately connected to the land and climate, with both short-term weather patterns and longer-term climate conditions affecting our daily decisions. Farmers and ranchers are, in a sense, first responders to the consequences of climate change already occurring. Indigenous communities, such as those along the Missouri River, are also disproportionately vulnerable to these changes. The Great Plains, long a region of weather extremes, will likely experience massive environmental impacts from future climate change with significant societal implications.

How did climate change become such a divisive issue? How does culture—meaning the beliefs, values, social practices, language, and attitudes by which we organize daily life—affect our understanding of climate change and limit or advance our possibilities for addressing it? Why have some embraced climate change denial and tried to delegitimize climate science? Can literature, art, history, politics, economics, psychology, language, and other social science and humanities disciplines bring to the discussion new and constructive ways of communicating? These questions motivate “Climate Change and Culture in the Great Plains.”

Thirty years ago, in 1990, the Center hosted a conference called “Climate Change on the Great Plains,” which was described as “Looking Back from the Twenty-First Century at Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Plains.” We return to that topic three decades later.

Scientists track climate change, but we all will have to decide what to do about it. How can we focus national and regional attention on the key issues? This conference will examine the connection between climate change and culture through the Center for Great Plains Studies’ unique regional and interdisciplinary lens.

Supported by

The Center for Great Plains Studies, the Cooper Foundation, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Humanities Nebraska, and these University of Nebraska-Lincoln entities: College of Arts & Sciences, Office of the Chancellor, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Faculty Senate Convocations Committee

2020 Symposium sponsors