Magnolias Project 2014 — Applications available April 2014
We will accept applications for the May 2014 workshop in April 2014. Watch the campus sustainability and CEES e-communications lists for open application announcements.
Click here to learn more about the 2013 workshop application process.
Syllabi and Statements of Participants
|First Year Seminars|
|Lisa Blee||History||American Environmental Thought||
|Sarah Mason||Math||Counting on Sustainable Energy: Does it Add Up?||
|Stavaroula Glezakos||Philosophy||Metaphysics and Movies||
|Jack Dostal||Physics||Power and the U.S. Electrical Grid||
|Lisa Kiang||Psychology||A Sociocultural Approach to Self & Identity Development||
|T.H.M. Gellar-Goad||Classics||Greek and Roman Comedy||
|Judith Madera||English||Environmental Literature||
|Thomas Frank||History||Studies in Historic Preservation||
|Monique O’Connell||History||Medieval World Civilizations||
|Ron Von Burg||Communications||Humanity and Nature||
|Lucas Johnston||Religion||Environmental Issues||
|Angela King||Chemistry||Organic Chemistry II||
|Steven Folmar||Anthropology||Medical Anthropology||
|Donal Mulcahy||Education||Teaching Elementary Social Studies||
|Robert Whaples||Economics||Natural Resource Economics||
|Jim Norris||Math||Elementary Probability & Statistics||
|Jason Parsley||Math||Calculus II||
|Neal Walls||Divinity||The Ecology of Faith: An Agrarian Tour of the Holy Land||
|Jan Detter||Entrepreneurship||Social Entrepreneurship||
|Eric Stottlemyer||Writing||Environmental Sustainability in an Age of Mass Distraction||
Each cohort of the Magnolias Project has contributed to this list of books that they have found relevant in teaching sustainability-related courses.
Students in my fall 2013 Literature and the Environment seminar (ENG 341G) spent the semester exploring different sites of belonging through world literature. Their course work carried them through critical discussions on the anthropocene, bioregionalism, deep ecology, ecotones and general systems theory. In their final class unit, they targeted their analysis toward key issues of sustainability. Several groups of students got together to reflect on the ways sustainability connected them to different communities of practice. Prominent among such communities was Wake Forest.
In the following essays, students consider the ways environments are composed through participation. They urge other students to be more fully present in the ways they interact with their campus environment, and they propose solutions for more sustainable technological practices. Other essays reflect on the ways Wake Forest has shaped students as engaged individuals; students consider the ways the college’s environs have provided a vital resource for their spirits. Though all these short essays are quite different in their approaches to place values, all share an important central insight: Sustainability is something that needs to be grounded in communities of belonging.
By Dr. Judith Madera, Magnolias Project Participant 2012
If you take a look at your hands, your wrists, or your neck, you will likely see something special, precious even. It is quite dense, glows with an almost aura-like quality, and, as of press time, costs about $1,350 an ounce. The material – gold – is familiar to all of us. Less known, however, is how it gets to us and the role of another unique metal in that process. Liquid Mercury, a toxic substance that has been phased out of equipment and processes in the US over many years, is essential to artisanal gold mining in much of the world.
On October 16th, Luis Fernandez the director of the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project visited Wake Forest for a lecture on the use of mercury in artisanal, or manual gold mining and its impacts on the environment and people of the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Madre de Dios is a region of eastern Peru extending into the Amazon basin and is marked by some of the most intensive artisanal gold mining activity in South America.
The process of gold mining in the Amazon is much as it was a few hundred years ago here in the US. Water cannons are used to wash away the topsoil from small areas of forest, a few hundred feet square. This leads to extensive deforestation; a new study from Greg Asner, also with the Carnegie Institute, determined that over 120,000 acres have been deforested for gold mining in Madre de Dios and small artisanal mines have become the main culprit. After removing the vegetation and topsoil, the pay dirt is then washed through equipment to separate the gold by gravity. The problem with the pay dirt in Peru, and other areas where artisanal gold mining is common, is that the gold is present only in small flakes, not the stereotypical nuggets. So, miners use mercury to bind the small flakes of gold and concentrate them, separating the gold from other sediments. In the end, the mercury is burned off, releasing it into the atmosphere and environment. This mercury finds its way into soil and rivers, where it is slowly accumulated in crops and fish, contaminating some of the only reliable sources of food in the region.
Fernandez’s research focuses on identification of mercury contamination in fish and people in the region and his latest work has produced alarming information: over 60% of fish sold in markets in Puerto Maldonado, the capital of Madre de Dios, are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury and 78% of people in Puerto Maldonado had unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies. Even worse, the most vulnerable population, women of childbearing age, had the highest mercury levels at 3 times the safe amount.
So, with all this bad news we ask ourselves, what can be done? What are the long-term effects on these populations? What are the long-term effects on the environment? Can the contaminated areas be reforested and, if so, how can it be done? Can the demand for gold be reduced so that it is not profitable for these small-scale, mostly illegal operations to persist? The answers to many of these questions are still unknown. There are currently few identified major health effects due to the low but chronic exposure to mercury, but cryptic effects such as decreased intelligence in children are being identified. Methods of removing mercury from the environment on a large scale are in their infancy and the gold mines are small but spread across a vast area, further complicating restoration efforts. What is known, however, is that if consumers demand safely and responsibly mined gold, as has been done with diamonds, or if they simply demand less gold, artisanal gold mining activity and the damage it causes will fade.
Contributed by Max Messinger
As a chemistry major with an environmental studies minor, I enjoy the chances I get to take classes that depart from the sciences. I have developed a great fondness for a course I am currently taking – Religion and Ecology, with Dr. Lucas Johnston. It has made me look beyond my knowledge of the environment, beyond my knowledge of religion, and realize that human history is not necessarily a story of the conflict between religion and nature. Religion and Ecology merges what seem to be two very different bodies of study into one, examining preconceived notions, and taking a deeper look into the impacts of each upon the other.
During the first weeks of class we addressed the intimate dance between the roots of various religions and the environment. The class is mainly discussion-based, and requires students to lead two of the classes in the semester on selected readings. The readings are captivating and diverse, covering topics related to environmental history in Eastern and Western religions, American romanticism, and radical environmentalism. We also read The Story of B by Daniel Quinn and essays from American Indian environmental activist, Winona LaDuke, who spoke on campus this semester. The final project for the course is the presentation of either an annotated bibliography on a topic of choice related to the course, or an engaged project which explores the relationships between religions and their habitats.
This class has given me a chance to discuss the history of how and why religions ranging from Christianity to Hinduism to Radical Environmentalism began, and what kinds of values shape these ways of viewing the world. Religions often define how nature should be viewed and valued, whether it is claiming “dominion” over the land, or connecting with the gods that reside in rivers and mountains. Conversely, there are also cases where habitats shape religious expression.
This class has caused me to examine more closely the culture in which we live, as well as other cultures and habitats around the world. For me, it’s more scientific than an anthropology class, more discussion-based than a religion class, and more historical than an environmental studies class. It links the human species with their habitats, and explores how the values we place on those habitats shape our lives and determine whether we thrive or struggle within them.
Contributed by Claire Nagy-Kato (‘14)
“When you die, God will not ask you how old the earth is. He will ask you ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’”
In celebration of World Food Day, the WFU Divinity School’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative and the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability hosted Richard Cizik for a discussion of what some refer to as creation care, or a scriptural call to care for God’s creation.
Cizik served for ten years as Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, the top staff position in the organization. In a 2008 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” he expressed support for addressing climate change and sparked a national uproar within the evangelical movement. Soon thereafter, he was discharged from his post.
In his work as the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik is now empowered to address the interconnections between food, poverty, and climate change. He references Bob Doppelt’s book, The Power of Sustainable Thinking in saying that we cannot be good stewards of creation without understanding the systems that surround us. Global hunger is not simply a matter of inadequate distribution: floods, draught, poverty, the subjugated roles of women, and regressive global economic and agricultural policies all play a role in the inability of families and communities to access food.
According to Cizik, food and climate have become two of the most important issues to young evangelical voters. He believes that leadership on these issues requires bold action and a commitment to morally just behavior. In the conversion from climate denial to climate action, he witnesses a deny-deliberate-do-defend cycle. He sees more and more faith leaders making the conversion and answering the call to action because it is aligned with their intrinsic biblical values.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
WFU was the host site for the Piedmont Triad Green Roof & Wall Market Development Symposium in mid-September. The conference, which was organized by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities in partnership with the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (CEES), brought experts from around the state and across the country together to display the newest green roof and wall technologies as well as to discuss the benefits of living architecture and how to advance the field.
Learn more about the symposium from the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability website.
Eleven faculty members from across the disciplinary spectrum came together on May 15-16, 2013 for the 2nd annual Magnolias Curriculum Project. This year’s workshop was facilitated by alumni from last year’s inaugural project: Sarah Mason (mathematics) and Luke Johnston (religion).
The aims of the workshop are to build a transdisciplinary community of scholars committed to addressing issues of sustainability and to empower faculty to consider themselves the experts at infusing sustainability into their courses.
Participants in the two-day workshop discussed relevant literature, considered and developed student learning outcomes, and shared resources with their colleagues. The deliverable for each participant is a syllabus into which they have infused sustainability-related outcomes. The course may be one they have been teaching and plan to teach again or a completely new course they are developing. The revised and new syllabi are posted online and serve as examples for future cohorts.
Wake Forest currently offers a minor in environmental studies and plans to launch a new Master’s in sustainability next fall. The result of the annual curriculum workshop is an increased number of courses being offered that support a variety of sustainability-related learning outcomes. This opens up possibilities for students pursuing these tracks of study to access electives that match up with a diverse array of disciplinary and professional interests.
The workshop model also aligns with the teaching and engagement goals of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), as it is designed to cultivate a broad community of scholars addressing sustainability issues. This year’s cohort illustrates the breadth of that community with participant scholars from communication, Divinity, education, entrepreneurship, humanities, math, physics, psychology, and writing.
Closing comments from participants in the 2013 workshop reinforced the value of the collaborative model; when asked what they enjoyed most about the experience they said:
Bringing together folks from different disciplines and allowing the conversation to unfold organically.
Interacting with colleagues and bouncing ideas off each other. The outdoor excursion was great!
The camaraderie of the instructors and participants.
I think it did a good job providing substantive introductions to the constellation of issues that make up sustainability without being overly long or too one-track.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
A few years ago I happened upon an intriguing article written about an indigenous tribe nestled deep in the amazon forest. Some members of this tribe, as far as researchers can gather, have never had any substantial, meaningful contact with the modern world. Observed only from a distance, the Awa know nothing of the cultural and historical events that have shaped our collective understanding of Western reality. For subsistence, they depend on profoundly nuanced relationships to the natural systems that support them, and have amassed an extensive and intimate body of knowledge about flora, fauna, climate, and geology that the Western world has all but lost. The plight of the Awa, who are under constant threat from global agribusinesses, inspire questions about how differently our two cultures engage reality, an interface with the more-than-human world that we commonly, but erroneously, think of as universal. If we could talk to them, would they be able to teach us something profound about our human relationships to the environment? Or would our two realities be so incompatible that any real communication would be impossible? What precisely have we lost—and have long since forgotten about—in our efforts to insulate ourselves from nature? To explore these questions, I designed a writing and critical thinking course that would engage students in a semester-long philosophical inquiry, one that would ask them to methodically examine their lives, their perceptions, and their relationships to the more-than-human world – Thinking Like a Mountain: Environmental Sustainability in an Age of Mass Distraction.
Although generally successful, I realized after a few semesters of teaching the course that something was missing. Something practical. Something concrete. Other than reevaluating their perceptions and their lives, how might students effect change in a world that flirts quite closely with global environmental collapse? On cue, enter Wake Forest University’s Magnolias Curriculum Project. Through this project, and with the help of some very knowledgeable peers (Luke Johnston and Sarah Mason especially), I redesigned the course to incorporate a hands-on approach to local and global sustainability issues. The students in the course maintain their scholarly pursuit of academic writing and environmental philosophy. But now they ground their inquiries by exploring and writing about Wake Forest’s many sustainability initiatives, from the Campus Kitchen and the Campus Garden to the Sustainability Theme House, recycling, LEED certification, and energy conservation. Although I am in the middle of the first semester with this redesigned course, the results are palpable. Wake Forest students strive for a balance between their interior lives and the demands of the material world that surrounds them. As such, the course empowers them to connect their desires for positive, mindful change with realistic, real-world opportunities.
By Dr. Eric Stottlemyer, Magnolias Project Participant 2013
Joel Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer” lived up to every aspect of his reputation in his lecture to the incoming class of 2017, during their fall orientation. The lecture, which was open to all members of the Wake Forest community, was the denouement in the summer academic project on food access and food justice.
Salatin is undoubtedly the most recognizable, and arguably one of the most successful, sustainable farmers in the United States today. His alternative farming practices have drawn him into contentious battles with government regulators and have contributed to his unique views on food justice. He has captured the attention of food activists, environmentalists, libertarians, and government regulators, in equal measure, illustrating why he named his Virginia farm Polyface – the farm of many faces.
“We have become disconnected from our ecological umbilical,” he remarked. Most of us have little idea where our food comes from, how it is grown, and why either of those things matter. We have done our best to insulate ourselves from the consequences of those realities. Our society has divorced itself from food production. Farming is done by people we don’t know and in places we can’t see or smell, and for good reason: industrial food production is an unsightly and hazardous business. We make decisions about how to expend our monthly budgets based on a disconnection from the real cost of food or its importance in our lives. The question of how we can afford a sustainable food system must be turned around to ask how we can afford the system we have now – one that promotes health crises, ecological crises, and ultimately economic crises.
It is this disintegration that has allowed the industrial food system to flourish. With the bluster of a preacher on a pulpit, Salatin exclaimed, “Injustice thrives in secrecy and opaqueness, justice thrives in openness and accountability.” He suggests that transparency and accountability to consumers is the best form of regulation for safety, quality, and price; he proposes that regulation be modified to allow small farms equal market access.
According to Salatin, if we want to change our food system, if we want to see food access in our communities, we must re-integrate our food system. Food production must be localized and consumers must make the sometimes difficult choice to purchase locally and seasonally grown food. He challenged students to imagine the university covered with an edible landscape, to substitute meal-plan reliance with whole foods preparation, and to imagine adjusting the academic calendar to coincide with seasons of peak local food production.
Salatin reiterated again and again that our human cleverness – our desire to outrun nature– is getting us into trouble. He urges us to exercise more humility and less hubris. He suggests that personal responsibility is the starting point for change – that each of us must take up what Dr. Miles Silman, director of the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, described as the “hard and happy labor of change,” during his introduction to the lecture.
As a final take-away, Salatin emphasized the need to start somewhere and not be afraid of failure. He challenged the old saying that anything worth doing is worth doing right by suggesting that, “anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly first!”
By Jamie Sims, Campus Garden Intern
Rolling into the second year of the Triad Interuniversity Planning Project (TIPP) Grant, the project also entered phase two: collect sunlight in a more cost effective way, capture leftover waste heat, and convert the heat into usable energy. The Solar Consortium, a group of experts from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, N.C. A&T State University, and UNC Greensboro, has high expectations, which they are working collaboratively to meet. The overarching goal of the project is to decrease costs and increase efficiency of solar energy. The team foresees potential contributions to increased national security and economic opportunity, in the long term.
Learn more about the exploratory project in an article from the Winston-Salem Journal.
On March 6th, assistant professor of mathematics, Dr. Rob Erhardt, addressed a full room of eager listeners on the topic of global climate disruption. His talk, sponsored by the Math Club and titled Measuring Climate Change, drew a crowd from across campus, including Dr. Erhardt’s fellow Mathematics faculty, students, and staff members from the Office of Sustainability and the Wake Forest Humanities Institute.
Dr. Erhardt hoped to achieve two goals through his talk: “I wanted to show the Math Club students one way they could apply their mathematical education and I wanted to give a general talk about the science of climate change [for other members of the audience].”
The talk began with basic definitions of the words climate and climate change. Dr. Erhardt, a statistician himself, proudly pointed out that the American Meteorological Association defines climate change as “any systematic change in the long term statistics of climate events (such as temperature, pressure, or winds) sustained over several decades or longer.”
After defining terms, Dr. Erhardt laid out the talk’s single equation: a calculation of Earth’s temperature based on the interaction of solar energy received by the Earth, reflectivity (the degree to which Earth reflects solar energy), and emissivity (the degree to which of Earth’s atmosphere allows radiated solar energy to escape into space).
Dr. Erhardt explained that, while solar input remains roughly constant, both the reflectivity of Earth’s surface and the emissivity of Earth’s atmosphere can change. As Dr. Erhardt pointed out, these factors have changed since the mid-20th century, resulting in an overall increase in global surface temperatures. Dr. Erhardt cited the conclusions of the most recent report by the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and attributed most of the increase in global average temperature to human beings, who have increased the atmosphere’s concentration of greenhouse gasses, changing the atmosphere’s emissivity.
Dr. Erhardt went on to discuss how global climate models can predict how much temperatures will rise in the future based on different scenarios. He also reviewed current research trends, which involve creating regional climate models and grappling with the difficulty of “single event attribution,” or attempts to take one particular extreme weather event (like a hurricane) and determine if the changed climate has increased the risk of such an event.
“Climate science can be intimidating. I wanted to present the science in an accessible, friendly way”, says Dr. Erhardt. He explains, “People have a general respect for scientists, but I want them to understand a little bit more about what climate scientists are actually doing, like where they are getting their data and how they are using it.”
On March 27th, Dr. Erhardt will deliver Measuring Climate Change at a brown bag lunch for the Biodiversity and Environmental Science group of the WFU Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.
By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow for the Office of Sustainability