Who We Are

A Brief History of ERG

For thirty years, the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) at the University of California, Berkeley has provided its outstanding graduate students and exceptional faculty the scholarly conditions in which to:

  •  study the environmental sciences,
  • analyze the social causes of our energy and environmental problems,
  • undertake field research in a variety of ecosystems,
  • engage in cross cultural learning, and
  • devise technical and policy alternatives to unsustainable energy and resource use patterns.

The Berkeley Campus offers exceptional opportunities to learn from outstanding scholars in many disciplines. ERG facilitates the placement of specialized knowledge into the larger integrated perspective. Students and faculty incorporating one another’s insights, work on alternative energy technologies, ecological economics, terrestrial ecology, environmental justice, resource conflicts, and society and technology. ERG and the term “activist-scholar” are closely associated: Faculty and students alike are motivated by current and foreseeable problems and are encouraged to take what they learn into the full range of educational, political, and policy processes. In this highly interactive academic environment, feasible paths to social justice, appropriate technologies and ecological integrity begin to emerge.
ERG traces its origins to the Committee on Energy and Resources, which was established in November l972 under the chairmanship of electrical engineering professor C. K. Birdsall as an Advisory Committee to the then Vice-Chancellor Mark N. Christensen. The Committee laid the groundwork for an interdisciplinary program of teaching and research in energy and resources and secured for this purpose the first regular faculty position in Berkeley’s history to reside entirely in an interdisciplinary unit. John P. Holdren (emeritus) was appointed to fill that position, as Assistant Professor in the Energy and Resources Program, in summer l973. The program attained degree-granting status as a Graduate Group in late l974, and admitted its first graduate students in l975. Mark Christensen was appointed to the core faculty in l976, John Harte in l982, Gene I. Rochlin in 1984, Richard Norgaard in l987, Catherine Koshland in l995, Daniel Kammen,1998, Isha Ray, 2001, Alex Farrell in 2003, Ashok Gadgil and Margaret Torn in 2006, and most recently Duncan Callaway in 2009. The affiliated faculty meanwhile has grown from its initial membership of fifteen to more than one hundred and fifty. As of Spring 2010, more than 400 degrees have been awarded. The student population stands at about seventy.