APSI and the Environment

Since 2012, APSI faculty have focused increasing attention on the disastrous environmental and climate crisis that has engulfed the planet, particularly in Asia. According to the United Nation’s 2022 IPCC report, Asia, with its tropical coastal megacities and vast populations, is highly vulnerable to climate change. The Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau are the source of Asia’s ten largest rivers that sustain over half the world’s population. Mammoth dam building and other diversion projects affect many species and the livelihood of billions of people, often leading to global outmigration. Major climactic events severely disrupt the global supply-chain networks whose production and integration nodes are concentrated in Asia.

APSI and its partner, the Global Asia Initiative (GAI), created this page to highlight our programs on environment and climate change as well as to signal the importance of these topics to us, to the wider Duke community, and to the world.

Woodblock Wave image by Amy (Pixabay)

Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunity

APSI and GAI seek a postdoctoral associate researching environmental and climate studies in Asia from Fall 2023 for one year, renewable for another. Candidates should be researching an aspect of contemporary environmental and/or climate change in East or Southeast Asia. Applications will be entertained from both the social sciences and humanities fields.

The associate will be required to develop and teach one course per year on topics related to the research. The course should cover the region broadly and may be offered at the graduate or undergraduate level depending on departmental needs. The selected candidate will pursue their own research in conjunction with any of the projects in APSI, GAI and the Duke Climate Commitment and will have the opportunity to organize a conference during their tenure.

 Applications should include:

  1. Resume/CV;
  2. Statement of Interest;
  3. Research Proposal;
  4. List of references;
  5. Sample syllabus

Application materials should be submitted via the online portal by March 31, 2023. Questions should be emailed to Alexander Nickley, cc'ing Prasenjit Duara.

Application requirements and submission portal >>

APSI Faculty Working on Environmental Topics


Nicole Barnes

Country Expertise: China
Subject Expertise: Twentieth-century China; history of medicine in China; social history of war; women's and gender histories; the transition from night soil to flush toilets in China and other parts of the world (analysis using sensory, emotional, environmental and agricultural histories)



Prasenjit Duara 

APSI Director
Country Expertise: China
Subject Expertise: Chinese and Asian history; historical sociology; historical philosophy and historiography; nationalism; regionalism and environment


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Jackson Ewing 

Country Expertise: China, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines
Subject Expertise: Energy Transitions, Development and Climate Finance, Environmental Markets, Climate Change Diplomacy, ASEAN



Ralph Litzinger

Country Expertise: China
Subject Expertise: Cultural politics of ethnicity; social and political theory; conservation politics; development and environmentalism


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Margaret McKean (Professor Emerita)

Country Expertise: Japan
Subject Expertise: Political science and environmental policy; institutions, elections, and decision-making; environmental and resource politics

Carlos Rojas

Country Expertise: China
Subject Expertise: Visual culture; gender studies; popular culture; theories of corporeality; diaspora studies


Speakers, events, and conferences related to environmental issues, 2017 – 2023

Rethinking Diplomacy: A Conversation on Climate Diplomacy with Ambassador Robert O. Blake
February 9, 2023 - 12:15 pm to 1:30 pm

Environmental Security: A Crucible for Turning the Tide in the South China Sea
October 7, 2022 - 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm | James Borton (Johns Hopkins University/SAIS Foreign Policy Institute)

After the Flood: Ecologizing Safety in Post-Tsunami Japan
September 19, 2022 - 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm | Andrew Littlejohn (Leiden University)

A Long Environmental History of the Loess Plateau: Conflict, Extraction and Intensification Between Biomes
April 15, 2022 - 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm | Ruth Mostern (Associate Professor, History; Director of the World History Center, University of Pittsburgh)

The Nuclear Ghost: Atomic Livelihood in Fukushima’s Grey Zone
April 7, 2022 - 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm | Ryo Morimoto (Anthropology, Princeton University

Kaifeng: What it Took to Feed, Furnish, and Fortify the World's Largest City, 960-1127
November 17, 2021 - 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm | Dr. Yuan Chen, Postdoctoral Associate, Franklin Humanities Institute & Global Asia Initiative

Critical Issues in US-China Relations: Searching for Common Ground (China Town Hall 2021)
October 19, 2021 - 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | Jackson Ewing (Duke University), Jonathan Gonzalez-Smith (Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy), Joanna Lewis (Georgetown University), Richard P. Suttmeier (University of Oregon)

China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet
October 14, 2021 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm | Yifei Li (Environmental Studies, NYU Shanghai) & Judith Shapiro (School of International Service, American University)

The Great Infrastructure Game: Why Asia, Europe and America are Competing to Build in the Developing World and What It Means for the Global Climate
September 29, 2021 - 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm | Jackson Ewing (Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University)

Climate and History in Monsoon Asia
September 23, 2020 - 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm | Sunil Amrith and Clark L.Alejandrino

APSI Summer 2020 Book Club
June-August, 2020, Book 3: The Man With the Compound Eyes

Water Towns | Environmental Film & Arts Festival (Spring 2020; new submissions forthcoming in 2023)

  • The National Park System China - CONVERSATIONS | April 20. 9:30pm (live in EST at 9:30 am). Talk and Conversation with Professor Binbin Li (Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences of the Environmental Research Center at Duke Kunshan University)
  • Nine short films | April 18, 2021 - 7:00 am to 8:30 am
    • Water Town. Rachel Darius. 2019-2020. China. 17'04
    • Forest. Haoyang Tang (Aaron). 2019. China. 4'02
    • Trapped. Camera trapping, poaching, and biodiversity (10:39" English. 2020)
    • Excuses. Leo Akers, Zach Chan, and Chris Sheerer. 2020. 7'23.
    • Duke Recycles (?). Peyton Cox, Maria Papadopoulos, Julia Sargis, and Ava Weinreb. 2020. 9'23
    • Ocean Pollution. Kim Hernandez, Caroline Petrow-Cohen, Dejanae Davis, and Meera Chakrabarti. 2020. 10'26
    • Do you hear the trees sing? Dongchen Zhu. 2021. China. 2'31
    • Devils in a Matchbox. Ryan Rogers, Jack Patterson, and Connor Medland. 2020. USA. 11'06
    • SAVING SALMA. James Robinson. Indonesia/USA, 2020, 7 min., English.
  • I Will Keep Your Light & Reverie. | Sacbe: The path to good living - April 17, 2021 - 7:00 am to 8:30 am | Chelsea Xinyi Chen in conversation with Kaley Clements & Mauricio Andrada.*
  • Guardians of the Huaie River [淮河护卫队] | Visions of the Lost Sierra | April 15, 2021 - 7:00 am to 8:30 am | Yumin Wang in conversation with Huo Daishan.*

Futuring Salmon: Dreams of Marine Ranching Amidst the Ruins of the Anthropocene
February 4, 2020 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm | Mayumi Fukunaga

Scholars at Duke in DC Ponder Questions of China's Infrastructure Plans
June 19, 2019

The Logic of Sanctuary: Religious Movements in Non-Sovereign Spaces
February 8, 2018 - 5:00 pm to February 9, 2018 - 5:00 pm

Ecological Cosmologies: Epic Stories and Great Work
January 18, 2018 - 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm | Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Yale University; Dan Smyer Yu, Yunnan Minzu University

Scalar Effects: The Management of Water Power in Post-war East Asia
December 4, 2017 - 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm | Dr. Bryan Tilt and Dr. Aaron Moore

Ecological Exceptionalism at the Border: Landscapes of Hope and Impossibility in the Korean Demilitarized Zone
March 23, 2017 - 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm | Eleana Kim (Anthropology, UC Irvine)

The Nuclear Imaginary in Transnational Perspective
February 10, 2017 - 3:00 pm to February 11, 2017 - 1:00 pm | Ryo Morimoto, Prajna Desai, Leonard Rifas, Ryan Holmberg, Matthew Hambro, Jieun Cho

Environmental Humanities for Sustainable Citizenship in Asia
Sunday, January 22, 2017 | Lin Yih-ren