Science for the Greater Good: Saving Italy from Big Oil

Development Research Seminar with Dr Maria D'Orsogna
Burning oil pipes
Dr Maria D'Orsogna
Professor of Mathematics at California State University Profile Dr Maria D'Orgogna
Thursday 16 Sep 2021, 16:15 - 17:30
Spoken Language
International Institute of Social Studies
Ticket information

Please contact Jessica Pernozzoli if you would like to attend this seminar.

Add to calendar
Maria D'Orsogna

Dr Maria D'Orsogna describes her efforts to raise awareness and educate the public about plans to change her home region of Abruzzo in Italy into an oil district.

In 2007, Dr Maria D’Orsogna learned of proposed oil activities in her home region of Abruzzo, Italy. Century-old wineries were to be uprooted to build clusters of oil wells, refineries, and pipelines, turning scenic Abruzzo into an oil district.

Although based in California - 6,000 miles away - Dr D’Orsogna took it upon herself to raise awareness and educate the public at large. She blended her scientific training, her experience as an educator and her desire for social justice into an environmental movement that rapidly spread from Abruzzo to all of Italy.

Over the years, she travelled from town to town, educating citizens about environmental and health effects tied to hydrocarbon extraction, debating Big Oil, exposing political corruption, engaging the Catholic Church, putting pressure on decision makers to act for the common good. While in California she used social networks and blogging to expose the wrongdoings of the oil and gas industry and of politicians, and to coordinate letter writings, keep raising awareness and spur action.

Thanks to public uproar, spearheaded by Maria’s unwavering efforts, Abruzzo banned oil drilling and, for the first time ever, the Italian parliament imposed a no-drill zone of 12 miles encompassing all of Italy’s 5,000-mile coastline.

Overall, she helped stop at least 50 oil leases throughout Italy and the construction of several refining facilities; she also helped save roughly 60,000 square miles of sea from drilling activities, earning the nickname 'Erin Brockovich of Italy'. Maria’s story is a testament of how, by engaging with the community, scientists and educators can truly make a difference.

About Dr D'Orsogna

Dr Maria D’Orsogna received her PhD in Theoretical Physics from UCLA in 2003. She is a professor of Mathematics at California State University, Northridge and holds an adjunct professor position in the Computational Medicine Department in the Medical School at UCLA. Currently she is the Associate Director of the Institute for Pure and Applied Math at UCLA. 

Her scientific interests cover a wide range of topics, primarily within biology and sociology using tools from statistical mechanics, game theory, numerical simulations and stochastic processes.

She has worked on mathematical models of virology, cell biology, neuroendocrine systems, multi-particle swarming, crime hotspot formation, terrorism, sectarian violence, and networks of organized crime. Collaborations with experimental or social scientists usually help inform the proper approaches to be used, to understand dynamics and mechanisms, identify optimal strategies and possibly formulate new and relevant questions


More information

The Development Research seminars present cutting-edge research on development studies by noted scholars from around the world. The Series aims to stimulate critical discussion about contemporary development issues.

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes