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Seminary to address local and global environmental issues at campus-wide teach-in

Aug 31, 2007
Members of the faculty, student body, and employees of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary have assembled a lineup of experts to provide a seminary-wide educational event that will address a variety of issues surrounding global environmental change. Under the theme of “Mending the Earth,” the all-day teach-in is designed to generate heightened awareness of ecological destruction due to human choices and consumption and simultaneously inspire the Seminary community to identity specific ways to practice better environmental stewardship—on the campus, in homes, and in the city.

“While every conscientious individual can find relatively painless ways to conserve energy and resist the American culture of overconsumption, much more can happen when we join together as a community: sharing information, learning from the expertise of others, praying together, and joining a common cause as an institution and as an influence on the wider church,” said Old Testament Professor Patricia K. Tull, who is coordinating the event along with her committee.

The teach-in will be held September 5, with two movie screenings kicking off the event the night before. Students have been encouraged to attend as part of Orientation, and work schedules will be altered so that all faculty, employees, and their family members, including children, may participate.

“This kind of learning experience is very significant for the Seminary community,” said Seminary Dean David C. Hester.

“It represents the best of practical theology, giving us a chance to look carefully together at our part in the destruction of God’s creation and to imagine constructive responses that can contribute to healing the world. It is theological education for everyone, and I hope the whole community—students, faculty, administrators, and staff—will participate. It promises to be a great day for LPTS.”

Workshop facilitators will include professors from the University of Louisville and representatives from environmental agencies in Louisville, Southern Indiana, and the State of Kentucky.

Dr. Keith R. Mountain and Dr. Margaret Carreiro, both from the University, will take a scientific approach in their presentations. Mountain, a professor of geography and geosciences, will provide an overview of the physical basis of global environmental change, sharing how scientists measure and evaluate it and project the impact of change on the future of the planet. Carreiro, a biologist, will make the case for addressing ecological sustainability from a city level and provide methods for reducing Louisville’s carbon footprint and preparing for climate change.

Art Williams has been invited to speak at a community luncheon about the problem of human contributions to environmental degradation and climate change on a local level: identifying successful efforts by the City of Louisville; areas of continuing concern; and how members of the Seminary community can participate in overall efforts. Since 1996, Williams has served as the director of Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, which was established in 1945 as the Louisville Smoke Abatement Commission and is currently the only local air pollution control agency in Kentucky.

Other workshop topics will include:

  • Landless People, Environment, and Social Justice with Louisville Seminary Professor Claudio Carvalhaes, who will present the grassroots movement that has changed the lives of 300,000 of Brazil’s poorest individuals;
  • Strip Malls, Main Street, and Corn Stalks: Why We Should Care About Sprawl with Jay Ellis of Jeffersonville Main Street Inc., in Indiana;
  • Teaching Environmental Stewardship to Children, led by Sarah Lynn Cunningham from the Louisville Climate Action Network, who will also lead a class for the campus children on the previous evening;
  • I Went to the Mountains but they Weren’t There: Coal Mining in Kentucky with Fr. John Rausch of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC) in Eastern Kentucky;
  • Climate Change and Our Wacky Food System, with Andrew Kang Bartlett of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Hunger Program, will look at the fragileness of the industrial food production system;
  • Greening Congregations will explore practical steps for greening church buildings, grounds, worship, and programs that can be implemented and will be led by Louisville Seminary student Rebecca Barnes-Davies, former coordinator of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, and Melanie Hardison, Enough for Everyone, Presbyterian Church (USA);
  • Environmental Justice: The Rubbertown Story, led by Eboni Cochran, coordinator of REACT (Rubbertown Emergency Action), who will discuss serious air quality problems caused by toxic industrial emissions in Louisville’s West End that have been linked to high cancer rates among residents of Rubbertown.
  • Rolling towards Spiritually and Ecologically Sustainable Living with Bicycling for Louisville’s Barry Zalph, who will discuss alternatives to Louisville’s car culture that are healthy for the environment, the body, and the soul.

The teach-in will be preceded the evening before by showings of two important movies about the climate crisis for adults, as well as an event called Kids’ Energy Conservation Creations for children. Wednesday’s events will begin and end with community worship, and the campus grounds will host a farmer’s market; outdoor games; green machine, energy bike and other environmental displays; and campus tours highlighting energy conservation at the Seminary.

“My hopes are that we will end the day with a more concrete understanding of what the climate crisis is and how we may address it and a greater yearning to live in harmony with God’s created order and a greater sense of both urgency and hopefulness. I hope that our prayers and our efforts will add Louisville Seminary’s own voice to the growing chorus of Americans calling those who most influence the world’s environmental health to take forward-thinking steps that will contribute toward mending the earth, our shared home,” said Tull.

“As those who have been called to serve as stewards of God’s wonderful creation, we, all of us, in the Seminary community are blessed by this special learning opportunity,” said Seminary President Dean K. Thompson.

To continue the conversation and generate ongoing ideas for sustaining the earth, an online center for Mending the Earth information has been posted at http://mendingtheearth.pbwiki.com.

In the past, Louisville Seminary has held teach-ins to address other global and societal issues. In 2002, classes were suspended in order that students, faculty, and the public could reflect and respond to the Congressional endorsement of a preemptive military strike against Iraq. As a result of the teach-in, called “Clouds of War: Responding to the Tension between the U.S. and Iraq,” members of the Seminary community drafted an official statement, which was adopted by the Seminary Council and titled “The Wages of War.”

“Living Peace in our Culture of Violence,” held in 2004, invited members of the Seminary community to wrestle with questions of violence at home and abroad while devoting attention to the implications of one’s faith in understanding and resisting the violence around them.

Then, in 2006, a teach-in on “Practicing Hospitality” helped the community identify and address institutional needs around anti-racism, diversity, inclusion, and disabilities. That event resulted in, among several achievements, updating the Louisville Seminary’s non-discrimination policy and addressing immediate accessibility needs, particularly in aging campus buildings.

The mission of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is to educate men and women to participate in the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ in the world.

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