Kennedy Center introduces environmental stewardship lecture series

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Associate professor of comparative arts and letters Chip Oscarson delivers a lecture on Dominion and Global Stewardship in the Anthropocene. (Ryan Turner)

Students have recently expressed interest in the connection between the teachings of the restored gospel and environmental stewardship, according to the College of Humanities associate dean, George Handley. A new lecture series for Winter 2017, sponsored by the Kennedy Center in partnership with the College of Humanities, will explore this concept in depth.

The Environmental Ethics Initiative series is a class students can register for, but all students are welcome to attend the lectures without being part of the class. Guest speakers and humanities professors will address aspects of religious beliefs in the global arena of environmental issues.

Laurel Peacock, a junior studying psychology, is registered for the lecture series this semester.

“We don’t often talk about stewardship in the church. It’s in the scriptures, but we don’t really talk about how we’re actually supposed to take care of the earth or anything,” Peacock said. “I want to learn about it and why it’s important and how it relates to our religion as well as other religions.” 

The series features guest lecturers and professors with real-life experience in fields related to environmental stewardship. The lecturers have varying religious beliefs.

Handley organized this course hoping to provide students with a unique opportunity to study environmental ethics with a religious perspective. He said he created the lecture series in response to increasing student interest and personal research in the field.

“Students are aware there are very serious problems facing us as we move into the future regarding the environment,” Handley said. “Too often the environment is politicized; it is perceived as a partisan issue… and that has done a great deal of harm to our ability to respond to problems.”

Handley has spent the last 15 years researching and writing about this topic. He was also involved in publishing a book in 2016 entitled “Stewardship and Creation: LDS Perspectives on the Environment,” which compiled several essays from a symposium held on BYU campus in 2004.

“My Mormon faith inspires me, and I’m eager to share with others how our teachings can guide us to deal with the problems we are facing today,” Handley said. 

Event coordinator for the Kennedy Center Kelly Blazian said she supports this lecture series and emphasized the Kennedy Center’s goal to sponsor anything with an international flavor that brings the global perspective to what students on campus are already working on.

“We like to use the phrase ‘get out of Provo,’ either physically with a study abroad or intellectually through our lectures,” Blazian said. “We’re happy to support anything like this that our colleagues on campus are working on.”

The lecture series is held every Friday at 3 p.m. in 238 HRCB. All students are welcome to attend.

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