Biodiversity and Food Production:

Feeding a hungry planet at the precipice of a mass extinction event


Prof. Shahid Naeem

Ph.D., Zoology, University of California, Berkley, 1989

Chair of the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology

Director of Science, Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES), Columbia University

In conversation with:

Colleen Becker

PhD GSAS '08

Multi-award winning serial entrepreneur, London UK

The planet is facing its sixth mass extinction, which means nearly half of all species could disappear in the next few decades. A major contributor is Industrial Agriculture responsible for widespread environmental degradation. With a projected global population of 10 billion by 2050, it is urgent for humanity to achieve a more sustainable approach to farming and food systems. Prof. Shahid Naeem, Director of science at the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES) and the author of the compelling treatise Sustainable Food Production, works with others to study the environmental consequences of declining biodiversity. He believes biodiversity loss is the single most significant challenge facing contemporary ecology and the single most pervasive impediment to achieving environmental health and sustainable development.

In conversation with Dr. Colleen Becker, Naeem will provide an overview of the key issues in sustainable food production and the environmental impacts of agriculture. He examines how twentieth-century farming methods are environmentally and socially unsustainable, contributing to global change and perpetuating inequalities. He explains the ecological foundations of farming and food systems, and how knowledge from the natural and social sciences can be used to create sustainable alternatives to the industrial production methods used today.

Time will be allocated for Q&A.

Cosponsored by:
  • MIT Club of Washington DC


Shahid Naeem is the director of science at Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability, and co-leads a consortium that includes the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Wildlife Trust. Acting as the current department chair and professor of ecology in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology (E3B), Naeem was recognized in 2008 as a Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty for his excellence as a teacher-scholar. Naeem’s innovation in ecology research has also earned him recognition outside of academia. The recipient of both the Buell and Mercer awards from the Ecological Society of America, he was honored with an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship in 2001,which promotes leadership, communication, public service and the development of effective, science-based policy in the environmental sciences.

Naeem earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, the University of Copenhagen and the Imperial College of London. He served on the faculties of the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington before joining Columbia University in 2003. Now a member of the recently formed Earth Institute Faculty, his teaching and research will contribute significantly to making biodiversity an important part of the Earth Institute’s overall mission to achieve sustainable development.

Colleen_16.jpgColleen Becker is a London-based, multi-award winning serial entrepreneur, building businesses aligned with sustainable development goals. She holds a PhD in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University, taught in the core curriculum at Columbia, and completed her post-doc at the University of London. Previously, she had worked at the Smithsonian, Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim. As a practicing artist, she's presented text-based and collaborative works of art at venues including the Tate Modern and Somerset House.



September 22, 2021 at 6:30pm - 8pm


Washington, DC
United States

Miyako Yerick


Will you come?