Posted on November 8, 2013 by Christopher Thrall

Augustana hosted a gathering of people of diverse backgrounds, homelands, experiences, gifts, and stories.

Our Starting Place, Our Resting Place: “Spirit of the Land” hosted at Augustana

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Photo: Ally Saunders

Nature teaches us that diversity is a habitat’s resiliency. So, too, may we apply this natural law to human communities: when individually different and gathered together, the whole is strengthened. As the ecocide of our Earth increases, may we hold close to this Natural Law that proposes community as the answer.

This past weekend, Augustana hosted “Spirit of the Land: Building A Community Land Ethic,” a gathering of people of diverse backgrounds, homelands, experiences, gifts, and stories.

Gathered together around small tables in the chapel, stories were shared: of personal relationships to land, of the human suffering our lands have witnessed, and of the environmental suffering our lands experience. These stories, vulnerably told, led us to compassionate conversation about forgiveness and grace. Throughout the weekend, this contemplative space fostered an understanding of how intimately we are bound to each other and our Earth, and the responsibilities to which our shared identity calls us.

L to R: Brenda Barritt (farmer, food security), Sylvia McAdam (scholar, indigenous leader), Takota Coen (forest gardener & young farmer), Don Ruzicka (organic farmer)

L to R: Brenda Barritt (farmer, food security), Sylvia McAdam (scholar, indigenous leader), Takota Coen (forest gardener & young farmer), Don Ruzicka (organic farmer) Photo: Ally Saunders

Sylvia McAdam, co-founder of Idle No More, shed light on the plights of Indigenous Peoples, challenging the dominant and long-held beliefs of this land known as “Canada.” Despite the suffering of her nation, she called each of us family, and spoke of a kinder future in which we might live together. Wildlife ecologist Lorne Fitch presented Aldo Leopold’s notion that we need to create collectively a land ethic. Then a panel of local voices of Brenda Barritt, Don Ruzicka and Takota Coen joined Sylvia McAdam to speak of the importance and practices of a bold community land ethic.

Every speaker spoke passionately and intimately about the connection they have to their lands– its spirit. Conversations continually began from and returned here in our many round table discussions.

Although no one shared the same story, land united all. And as our closing keynote Chris Turner pointed out, how we connect to the land has a lot to do with how we care for and use urban spaces as well.

The Earth beneath our feet is our starting place – from which we may live each day and from which we must respond to the crises of our Earth today. Just as the hope beneath our feet connects each of us, so too may land be our common language, common work, and common place.

A summary of the conference can be found here.


Posted in Aboriginal Students Office, Augustana Campus, LaB, Sustainability. | Permalink

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