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UA Lecture Series Returns Downtown

Kicking off on Wednesday, the UA’s Downtown Lecture Series is back for another year — this time, focused on food.

October 13, 2014

Global climate change, agricultural diversity, personal expression, the Roman Empire, diet fads. What do these five topics all have in common?


Beginning on Wednesday night, the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Science’s Downtown Lecture Series—this year, focused on food—will explore these topics and more. The lecture series will be held at the Fox Tucson Theater every Wednesday night for five weeks, and feature talks from UA professors with varied expertise in food issues. 

Lecture topics will range from historical food cultivation practices, to the social implications of cooking and serving meals to our friends and family, to the global stability and impact food has on the planet.

Lydia Breunig, director of community outreach and special projects at the UA, helped organize the speakers for this year’s fall series. “We try really hard to focus on topics that everyone can relate to and relate to on a daily basis,” Breunig said.

Food, she said, is something we think about multiple times a day, making it a good subject for the series.

The series will start with the lecture “Changing Geographies of Food,” presented by Diana Liverman, co-director of the Institute of the Environment and a regents professor in the UA’s School of Geography and Development.

Liverman said her lecture will cover statistics on global hunger, its effects on the internal world food system, and what people can do to affect change.

“Things are better than you think,” Liverman said. “There are some serious risks, but there is something we can do about it.”

Liverman said she will also talk about the impact of greenhouse emissions as a result of food growth and cultivation. Growing crops contributes to one fourth of all greenhouse gas emission, but is necessary in order to produce food for consumption. She will also talk about the impacts climate change will have on foods we enjoy everyday, like coffee, wine, and chocolate.

“[Food] is one of the basic needs of humanity,” Liverman said. “We’re transforming it in a way that affects the future generation, too.”

The SBS College, nicknamed “The People College,” has hosted the downtown lecture series for two years now, starting with a series on happiness last fall. The series strives to bring in a range of topics into the series that relate to everyday people.

“In particular we study people’s connections to each other, to the world around them, and to their past,” said Breunig. “Food is in the intersection of all that. It connects us on a daily basis through meals we share, cup a coffee, or glass of wine with friends. It connects us to our environment, what’s in our water and soil and air, gets put directly into our bodies through food, and it connects us to the past through the cultural practices we utilize to prepare our food, cultivate our food, and serve our food. All of these things say a lot about us and who we are.”

Breunig said what makes the lecture series attractive is the narrative arc of the speakers. One lecture seems to pick up the conversation where the other left off, she said.

The lecture series explores the social elements surround ­food—how we cook it, serve it, and invite others to share it with us. Breunig said this human element of food ties the series together in a unique way also.

Tickets for the lecture series can be picked up the day of the lecture starting at 4 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theater box office. Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Overflow locations will be set up in the TEP Unisource auditorium near the theater, where the lecture will be broadcast live for attendees who can’t be seated inside.

Schedule of lectures:

October 15: Diana Liverman, co-director of the UA’s Institute of the Environment

October 22: Gary Nabhan, research scientist at the UA’s Southwest Center

October 29: Maribel Alvarez, associate professor of Anthropology and Associate Research Social Scientist at the UA’s Southwest Center

November 5: Emma Blake, UA associate professor of Anthropology

November 12: Victoria Maizes, executive director of the UA’s Center for Integrative Medicine


The Maker House and Mercado San Agustin will also be live streaming the series. Mercado San Agustin will host a post-lecture conversation with other local experts after each talk.

Mercado San Agustin schedule: 

October 15: Don Guerra, Barrio Bread

October 22: Vanessa Bechtol, Santa Cruz Heritage

October 29: Barbara Eisworth, Iskashitaa Network

November 5: Roger Pfeuffer, Friends of Tucson Birth Place

November 12: Ryan Clark, president of Slow Food Southern Arizona

For more information, including locations for parking and lecture topics, visit:

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