This course explores the idea that enduring environmental awareness and a full appreciation of the challenge of sustainability is rooted in extensive first-hand experience of the natural world—wildlife, woods, fields, rivers, estuaries, the night sky and so forth.
This course will expose students to four major writers — Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, and E. O. Wilson — all scientists whose careers are based on field work and all with a love of language and a knowledge of literature and philosophy, who shaped twentieth and twenty first century awareness of the nature of nature and of the relationship of human culture to nature. We will also be reading Bill McKibben’s 1989 The End of Nature which introduced the public to the reality of climate change and the philosophical idea that “we live in a post-natural world,” an era dubbed “the Anthropocene” to mark this reversal between man-made forces and the state of nature.
Christianity & Sustainability
The seminar will explore environmental ethics in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as they relate to Tolkien’s background in early Christian studies and faith, and their background in agrarianism as an alternative to a contemporary Western culture of technocracy and state capitalism and socialism. As part of this examination, contemporary urban agrarianism and appropriate technology and local food movements will be examined in their relation to spirituality and cultural narratives. Other spiritual traditions and their relation to ecology will also be considered, including Judaism and Buddhism, as well as secular environmentalism and also Anabaptist communities (Amish and Mennonite) in central Pennsylvania. Course work will welcome views of those of all faith and no faith, with no previous knowledge required.