This year, the Penn Café series went virtual.
A very timely Penn Science Café on the ethics of vaccine distribution featured Michael Weisberg, Professor and Chair of Philosophy, posing questions to Kok-Chor Tan, Professor of Philosophy. Tan, who studies global ethics and human rights, discussed issues including vaccine nationalism, with countries like the U.S. and Canada buying vast amounts of the in-demand vaccine. Tan is one of 19 global health experts who proposed a plan for vaccine distribution called the Fair Priority Model. Published in Science, the paper was led by Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and Chair of Medical Ethics and Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine.
In December, the Penn Lightbulb Café brought together Jared Farmer, Professor of History, and Bethany Wiggin, Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, to talk about another major issue of 2020: the environment. In a year that started with the Australian wildfires and went on to witness a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season and fires across California, many people mourned the loss of land to which they felt connected. Farmer and Wiggin, who is also Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, explored the idea of love of place—topophilia—and its relationship to sustainability and conservation. Using his experience growing up in a Mormon community and feeling deeply connected to the land of Utah, Farmer demonstrated that loving land can have dark consequences.