2009 Symposium

The 12th Annual Symposium on Environmental Affairs:
Reimagining the Good Life

October 27-29, 2009
Lewis & Clark College

Environmentalism has often focused on the bad things we do: fossil fuel burning, biodiversity loss, pollution—essentially, our whole unsustainable way of living on earth. And indeed our way of life may need to change, as recent crises ranging from climate to credit have suggested. But change is not just about doing less bad: we also need to reconstruct a larger vision of the good life in the midst of these crises to guide our hopes and our hard work. Environmental Affairs Symposium 2009 will recruit religious leaders, political commentators, economists, artists, and others working alongside environmentalists and environmental scholars in reimagining the good life and what it means for the crises we face today (click here for photos of the 2009 symposium and other departmental events).

Lewis & Clark’s Watzek Library will soon feature readings related to our Symposium theme; for now, here are two short sections drawn from ecotopian/dystopian literature as a basis for rethinking the good (and the bad) life:

Panel Discussion: Visions of the Good Life
Tuesday, October 27
3:00-4:30 PM, Stamm Hall

What visions of the good life have guided the American environmental movement and society? Is the green life the good life, or if not, what is missing? The Pacific Northwest is often viewed as an ecological utopia, yet is this vision of the good life a reality here? What should be the role of technology in achieving our vision of the good life? What cultural, psychological, or political forces may support or hinder our attainment of these visions?
Scheduled to Appear:
Amanda Fritz, Commissioner, City of Portland
Hindi Iserhott, Program Coordinator, City Repair
Jim Kopp, Director, Watzek Library, Lewis & Clark College

Panel Discussion: Blending Religious and Economic Insights on the Good Life Tuesday, October 27
5:00-6:30 PM, Stamm Hall

The fields of religion and economics are quite different, but arguably both will play crucial roles in helping people live the good life. And there may be more overlap than one would assume, given the calls of some religious leaders for a just and caring economics, or the realization among some economists that material well-being cannot simply be equated with the good life. Yet rarely do economists and religious leaders engage in dialogue. What common ground is possible in reimagining the good life, given the rather distinct interests of these two fields?
Scheduled to Appear:
Denise Hare, Associate Professor of Economics, Reed College
Kathryn Hickok, Publications Director, Cacade Policy Institute
Paul Metzger, Professor of Christian Theology, Multnomah Biblical Seminary
Marilyn Sewell, Minister Emerita, First Unitarian Church

Keynote AddressBuilding Foundations for the Good Life
Riane Eisler (Co-sponsored by the Chamberlin Series)
Tuesday, October 27
7:00-8:00 PM, Agnes Flanagan Chapel

Drawing from her own life experiences and her multidisciplinary research, Riane Eisler addresses the most critical question of our time: how can we build foundations for the good life? Her latest book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, proposes that the great problems of our time – environmental degradation, poverty, inequality, war, and terrorism – can only be solved if we give real value to the most essential human work: caring for people and for nature. The move into the knowledge/information economy demands fresh thinking that takes us beyond communism, capitalism, and other old isms. We can all play a part in creating a “caring economics,” paving the way for a more just and sustainable prosperity for ourselves, our children, and generations to come. For more information on Ms. Eisler’s work as an author, social scientist, and educator, visit her website.

A selection of readings by Ms. Eisler (downloadable PDFs):

Panel Discussion: Whose Good Life?
Wednesday, October 28
3:00-4:30 PM, Stamm Hall

Not only are there differing visions of the good life, but there are widely differing realities facing people in our world. How can we even talk about the good life given such huge inequities of wealth and well-being? The environmental movement has recently worked to embrace social justice, but it’s been argued that many environmental policies actually oppress those living in poorer countries. So, whose good life are we talking about? Furthermore, can environmentalists really claim to promote or even to understand the good life of non-humans?
Scheduled to Appear:

Riane Eisler, Keynote Speaker (see above for bio)
Jill Fuglister, Co-Director, Coalition for a Liveable Future
Jay Odenbaugh, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Panel Discussion: Beauty and Pleasure in the Good Life

Wednesday, October 28
5:00-6:30 PM, Stamm Hall

As important as material and financial security are to the good life, we all know that aesthetic dimensions are important too, and environmentalists often extol the beauty of nature. Is the good life mostly about doing good, or is it about experiencing beauty and pleasure as well? How can the arts help us reimagine a pleasurable good life? What of the discoveries of science, with their own attendant beauty and pleasure? And what about nature, which for some is a primary source of aesthetic inspiration: is this possible or even desirable for everyone?
Scheduled to Appear:

Katherine Ball, Co-Curator, SEA Change Gallery
George Crandall, Principal, Crandall Arambula
Liz Safran, Associate Professor of Geological Science, Lewis & Clark College

Panel Discussion: Eco-Spirituality, Ethics & the Good Life
Wednesday, October 28
7:30-8:30 PM, Stamm Hall (Co-Sponsored by the Chamberlin Series)

Local clergy and scholars will participate in an engaged discussion of the impact of new eco-spiritual thought in recent years. How might the “good life” emerge from a religious commitment (theistic or otherwise) that cares for creation? Our panel will focus on religious perspectives on the new economics, worship, and the manifestation of a “post affluenza” age.
Scheduled to Appear:
Robert Kugler, Paul S. Wright Professor of Christian Studies, Lewis & Clark College
Sister Patricia Nagel, IHM, Earth Home Ministries
Rabbi Jonathan Seidel, Adjunct Jewish Chaplain, Lewis & Clark College

Workshop: Which Way to the Good Life?
Thursday, October 29
5:00-6:30 PM, Stamm Hall

Our final day of Symposium focuses on applying our discussions, deliberations, and debates from the last two days toward what we can and should do now.  If the foregoing sessions have resulted in ideas toward reimagining the good life, how do we get there? This concluding workshop will feature several panelists from previous sessions, and thoughts toward action will be guided in collaboration with the Coalition for a Livable Future, an umbrella organization representing a diversity of groups working with each other in the Portland metropolitan region.

For more information on the Symposium, please contact the Environmental Studies Program at (503) 768-7719 or envs@lclark.edu.