CRE Forum Materials

The Forum considers the question, Does (or should?) religiously oriented land conservation and management differ from secular conservation and management? In other words, might, e.g., Christian conservation look different from that practiced by the Nature Conservancy or a land trust? Each Forum session below includes links to a video of the presentation and to a summary of the discussion.

Forum #1: Analyzing Environmental Issues with a Christian Cosmology

This session focused on what a Christian cosmology, or worldview, that includes the environment might look like and how it could affect the way we analyze and approach environmental issues. This video records the presentation of Robin Gottfried, Executive Director of the Center to the first CRE Forum on September 6, 2013. The handout provides an outline of the talk and some bibliographic material. A very stimulating discussion followed.

Forum #2: A Buddhist Perspective on Conservation

This session offered a Buddhist perspective on land conservation and management. Sid Brown, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Sewanee delivered the presentation, which stimulated a lively discussion on the commonalities between the Christian and Buddhist perspectives as well as the common challenges they face.

Forum #3: Reconciling with the Land

If we have abused our land, do we need to ask forgiveness of it? how do we restore our relationship with it? This Forum focused on reconciliation with the land. Sid Brown, Chair of the Religion Department at Sewanee, began with a presentation offering a Buddhist perspective focusing on establishing one’s connection with the land. Then Jerry Cappell, Environmental Coordinator for Province IV of the Episcopal Church, then followed with a presentation via Skype. Unfortunately, the internet connection failed and he was unable to finish that presentation nor participate in the ensuing discussion. However, we had recorded his presentation earlier in case this might happen. So, that presentation is available here.

Forum #4: Healing the Land, A Christian Perspective

From a Christian perspective, how do we approach thinking about healing the land? What might that mean and how might we go about it? In this forumpresentation Bob Hughes, Sewanee Professor of Systematic Theology and the Norma and Olan Mills Professor of Divinity, emeritus, provides his perspective on these questions and on the possibility of designing a rite for healing the land. The discussion revolved around what a liturgy for healing the land might involve and ended with the formation of a group to work on such a liturgy and to select a piece of land with which to work.

Forum #5: Healing the Land, The Case of the Vineyard Fellowship Boise

Tri Robinson, founding pastor of the Vineyard Fellowship in Boise, Idaho, shared a video on the church’s experience in healing their land of the dry cleaning chemicals that contaminated their campus. This led to moving and stimulating discussion of his experience and of his ministry that includes the environment as a key component in his ministry to the poor.

Forum #6: A Christian Native American Perspective

In this presentation Joseph and Laralynn Riverwind from Murphy, NC, share their perspectives on what healing the land involves. They come from Taino, Creek, Cherokee and Celtic heritages and perform Native American/Celtic music as Blessed Blend. Joseph and Laralynn emphasize the importance of being in right relationship with God and healing broken relationships with other people as keys to bringing health to the land. The discussion further pursued these ideas.

Forum #7: Willie Six Creek as a Possible Sewanee Practicum

Alice Courtright, a Sewanee seminarian, reports on what we have learned about the social/environmental issues related to Willie Six Creek on the University campus. CRE is considering using the Creek and its watershed as a lab for learning how one might go about a ministry of land healing, a ministry that includes the land and its people. After Alice’s presentation the groupdiscussion focused the difficult issues relating to how to proceed with a healing liturgy for an area that has experienced a variety of social ills over the last 150 years, ills reflected in the creek environment.

Forum #8: The Healing Service and Plans for Next Year

There was no presentation at this forum. The group discussion centered on debriefing the Willie Six Creek healing service and laying plans for next year.

Forum #9: Values and Novel Ecosystems

Kevin Hiers, Director of Stewardship at the University, discusses in thispresentation how today ecosystems exist along a gradient from almost all natural to totally new, never seen ecosystems. There are almost no ecosystems untouched in some way by human hands. In a world of increasing uncertainty due to changing climates, how do we decide what kind of “nature” we want; i.e., how novel do we want ecosystems to be and why? The wide-rangingdiscussion brought up a number of thought-provoking issues for us to consider in the future as we explore the possible contributions people of faith might offer to conservation thinking.

Forum #10: How Do We Choose?

Andy Thompson, Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Ethics at the School of Theology, offered an insightful take on how we choose the sort of ecosystem, the degree of novelty, that we might want. Because he lost his voice, Robin read his presentation. A thoughtful discussion, which expanded on the themes Andy provided, followed.

Forum #11: Sewanee’s Downtown Plan

During the last Forum we decided to explore the issues we have been discussing through the use of case studies, beginning with the SewaneeVillageActionPlan, the plan for revitalizing Sewanee’s downtown. Robin Gottfried presented the Plan and fielded questions about its content. In the next forum the group will discuss the issues the Plan raises.

Forum #12: Discussion of the Downtown Plan

The discussion ranged broadly from ecological and community concerns to questions of the degree to which Sewanee’s Episcopal ethos has been taken into account in the planning process.

Forum #13: Sewanee’s Urban Watersheds

Martin Knoll, Professor of Geology, provided a look at the water issues in the urban part of Sewanee’s Domain, with a particular emphasis on the problem of storm water runoff. The presentation and discussion blended together so that we videoed the entire session in three parts: Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

Forum #14: Managing Animals and Exotic Invasives on the Domain

In his presentation Sewanee’s Domain Manager, Nate Wilson, discussed how Sewanee approaches the problem of exotic invasive species, and within this context wildlife management, on the Domain. By explaining the values and science underlying Sewanee’s efforts, Nate then placed issues such as controlling the burgeoning deer population in perspective. The changing climate complicates how we manage change in an already dynamic, complex ecosystem. The discussion focused on managing specific species under these circumstances and the need to make the impacts of our resource decisions clear as part of our educational process.

Forum #15: Home as a Metaphor

In his presentation CRE’s Director, Robin Gottfried, proposed the metaphor of “home” as a possible lens through which we might explore how we balance our relationships with individual creatures vs. those of the entire ecosystem when we are making decisions about managing land. His notes are availablenotes. This question is motivated by the problem of the spotted owl being driven out by barred owls, and an attempt to prevent this by shooting barred owls (see conservationmagazine.org/2014/10/killing-for-conservation/). A stimulating discussion followed on the terms “home,” “family,” and their usefulness in helping to guide our decision making.