4th Annual Campus Green Initiative Fund Symposium

The Campus Green Initiative Symposium on April 23, 2015 featured keynote speaker Gary Ferguson, an accomplished author and lecturer.  Mr. Ferguson delivered an engaging 45-minute lecture on how to get America back to the heyday of environmental appreciation.  The audience of over 100 was treated to a short history of the American environmental movement, and a call to action to recover the energy and commitment of the past and apply their lessons to today’s important issues.

Gary Ferguson at the 2015 Campus Green Initiative Fund Symposium.
Gary Ferguson at the 2015 Campus Green Initiative Fund Symposium.

Mr. Ferguson began revealing his legacy with the story of  Joe Knowles, a Bostonian dared by a local newspaper to spend two months alone in the Maine wilderness.  This event, while later stained by scandal, demonstrated that Americans have ‘sap in their veins.’  There was an explosion of nature writing and voyages into the wilderness to follow.  The environmental revolution of the 1960’s served to reveal human desires to live within nature and not poison our ‘Spaceship Earth.’  Mr. Ferguson delightfully articulated motivations to promote environmentalism from strictly economic terms to Joseph Campbell‘s vision of ‘humans healing through space.’

The pathway to an environmentally-inspired future lies in our ability to take small steps to create success.  Mr. Ferguson recommends achieving a ‘full ecology’ for all people, with dignity for humans and all species, built at the ‘ground level.’  He called on the audience to ‘be of your own hour’ and live for the protection of the natural world in three ways: 1) Find beauty and let it still you; 2) build community with self and nature; and 3) retain mystery as the source of all science and art.

The keynote address was followed by a one hour question and answer session with Mr. Ferguson and a panel of noted scholars:

Panelists join Mr. Ferguson at the 2015 CGIF Symposium for a question and answer session on environmentalism in the current era.
Panelists join Mr. Ferguson at the 2015 CGIF Symposium for a question and answer session on environmentalism in the current era.

Students were invited to ask questions of the speaker and panelists, including:

  • How can students get involved in protecting the natural world?
    • Find a passion in the outdoors, such as hunting or fishing.  Discover ways to reduce consumption of animal agriculture.  Think globally, act locally.  Imagine if everyone took good care of herself.  Listen to each other.
  • How can a small town ‘Act Locally?’
    • Work with the City Council and the local department of natural resources.  Engage local farmers.  Investigate options and plans, such as what to do with the abandoned Plant Branch coal facility.  Plant more native species and attract local pollinators.  Get local people fired up about clean water and air.
  • What are some tips for making a career out of environmentalism?
    • Learn how to talk with people, and how to relate to them.  Think critically and make good decisions.  Develop your argumentative skills in order to better persuade people.  Pay more attention to how to fix the problems and don’t dwell on what’s not working.  Learn how to force a paradigm switch.
  • How do we get over ‘the hump’ of building a sustainable society?
    • Avoid ‘soul death’ caused by too much ego illusion.  Learn how to be alone and enjoy the experience of failure.  Change starts one person at a time.  Be patient; it’s a never-ending battle.
  • Are Health Sciences related to Sustainability?
    • Yes, certainly.  Grief is related to one’s emotional ground.  There are links between the Earth, Air, Water, and Food to the human body.  Good food is good for the planet.

Published by Doug R. Oetter

Professor of Geography at Georgia College & State University.

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