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SU religion department marks Earth Day with two public lectures April 22
SU religion department marks Earth Day with two public lectures April 22April 13, 2009Rob Enslinrmenslin@syr.edu
Robert Spiegelman, a renowned sociologist, writer and multimedia artist, will present a lecture at noon titled “The Wild, Wild East: New York’s Drama of Westward Expansion.” Bron Taylor, holder of The Samuel S. Hill Ethics Chair at the University of Florida, will follow at 4 p.m. with “From Earth Day to Earth Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Quest for Sustainability.” Both events are free and open to the public and take place in Room 500 of the Hall of Languages. For more information, call SU’s religion department at 443-3863.
“The college is proud to honor Earth Day with these two guests,” says Gerald Greenberg, associate dean for the humanities and interim religion chair at SU. “Robert Spiegelman uses dramatic images and fresh research to document New York’s rise as the original ‘Wild West.’ Bron Taylor, in turn, combines ethical and religious beliefs and practices to promote sustainability.”
Known for his interest in New York, Iroquois and Irish history, as well as environmental themes, Spiegelman has a flair for storytelling. He serves as president of Real-View Media in New York City and as founder of SullivanClinton.com and Deryveagh.com, multimedia learning centers that promote historical awareness. “Real history, whether painful or inspiring, is irresistible,” he writes on his website. “[My goal] is to acknowledge this enduring hunger for history … by exploring new ways to heighten awareness of the non-stop interplay of the past and present, as it shapes our everyday lives.”
Conscious-raising dominates Spiegelman’s upcoming lecture, which looks at the ways nature and American Indians affected Westward expansion. “We will explore ‘magical crossroads,'” he continues, referring to the myriad of intersections between settler dreams and native life-ways. The former college professor will document Syracuse’s and Buffalo’s emergence from the ashes of attempted Indian removal and controversial land treaties, as well as Manhattan’s rise to prominence via the Erie Canal, an act that sparked religious upheaval across Central New York. “We will end with an appreciation of how-against all odds-indigenous New Yorkers retained a toehold in their deforested ancestral homelands.”
Spiegelman’s visit is made possible by the “Speakers in the Humanities” program, sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities. Since 1983, the program has linked distinguished scholars with diverse audiences throughout the state. More information is available at http://www.nyhumanities.org/speakers/adult_audiences/.
Like Spiegelman, Taylor is interested in interdisciplinarity. As a scholar, he specializes in grassroots environmental movements and organizations, as well as international institutions, with special attention to their moral and religious dimensions. As an academic entrepreneur and program builder, he is equally prolific. Taylor has launched the environmental studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh; the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture (of which he served as its charter president and journal editor); and the world’s first Ph.D. program in religion and nature at the University of Florida. Recently, he joined an international think-tank to explore ways to better promote energy technology.
In “From Earth Day to Earth Religion,” Taylor will provide a global tour of what he calls “dark green religion,” namely beliefs and practices of people who consider the Earth sacred and worthy of reverence. “Such nature-based spirituality has been spreading rapidly and demonstrating increasing international influence, especially since the first Earth Day in 1972,” he writes. “[I will] consider both the perils of such religion, as well as whether it might provide … an affective and ethical basis for new forms of international cooperation and bio-cultural conservation.” The presentation draws on Taylor’s forthcoming book, “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future” (University of California Press, 2009).
More information about SU’s religion department and The College of Arts and Sciences is available at http://thecollege.syr.edu.