• Environmental Ethics

More Holden Village Adventures

The days and weeks have been just flying by for our class here at Holden Village! I can’t believe we will be leaving next Wednesday.

This week for class we finished our critical reflection assignment in which we wrote a paper exploring the arguments, assumptions, and implications in Steven Bouma-Prediger’s For the Beauty of the Earth.

We also had group presentations and discussions about five ethical case studies. In order to learn more background information about the cases, we had the option of attending documentary showings outside of class. In all of the presentations we did an interactive activity to demonstrate the different amounts of power and influence that each player had on the situation. We all made creative use of the costume shop and props for this part of the presentations!

The first case presentation involved issues of sustainable development, urban sprawl, consumption and habitat loss. A city councilman in a small town in Iowa has to make an ethical decision about whether to allow a large Wal-Mart supercenter to be built on a parcel of land that includes a floodplain.

We examined issues of habitat fragmentation, land policies, civil disobedience and community activism in the second case. This case involved a group of activists who set up a tree village in a parcel of old growth forest in Washington that was slated to be logged, and whether or not their actions were justified.

In the third case we explored irrigation, water rights, hydroelectricity, technological fixes to environmental problems and saving endangered species. A farmer and his wife must decide whether they support a proposed pipeline to help facilitate salmon migration downstream on the Snake River, and whether they support or oppose the presence of the dams.

The fourth case involved issues of tribal sovereignty, environmental racism, nuclear waste and energy policy. In this scenario, a member of a church advocacy group must decide whether or not to support the plans of a consortium of nuclear power plants to store spent nuclear fuel on the Goshute reservation in Utah until the government builds a permanent storage facility.

Our final case involved questions of genetically modified foods, student activism, world hunger, and agricultural policy, as students in a campus hunger concerns group must decide whether to sign a petition against genetically modified foods or advocate in favor of them.

All of these case studies pushed us to carefully reflect upon many perspectives and possible outcomes present in each exercise, and to try to consider ethical solutions.

Besides all of the documentaries we watched for class, last Monday we had the opportunity to watch a film opposed to fracking called Gasland, and this past Monday we watched the film response in favor of fracking called Fracknation. Next Monday we will have a discussion regarding the opposing sides presented in both films.

Many of my classmates have already done “Garbology,” but I participated for the first time this week. Holden Village is an environmentally conscious place which encourages community members to compost and recycle. Since the Village is situated in such a remote location and can only ship things in and out three days per week, the community also wishes to reduce its waste so that fewer bus and boat trips have to be made to haul garbage. Thus, all members of the community (including J-term students) are asked to do sort through the Village’s trash for one shift per month for “Garbology.”

For “Garbology,” we first sorted cardboard boxes and broke them down into smaller pieces so that they could be compacted in the cardboard crusher and easier to send out on the boat for recycling. Next, we went out to a shed where recyclables are kept until a large enough shipment is ready to be sent out of the Village. There we sorted through trash bags and separated out the recyclables. Different colors of glass containers and various numbers of plastic containers are recycled differently and had to be sorted. We then split into groups, with one group adding kitchen scraps to the compost pile and the other group stuffing fire starters with burnable materials. Even though it sounds gross, I think it was enlightening for us to realize where our waste goes and that we can’t simply throw things “away.” Plus, the “garbologist” made it entertaining!

Another fun part of life at Holden Village is when the bus arrives from the dock at Lucerne with new people, food, the mail and supplies. The Villagers gather on the main street to wave and welcome the bus, and then we all help unload things by forming at “chain” to pass things to one another.

We have had many thought provoking Vespers services this week. On Monday night our professor gave a message including quotations from Martin Luther King Jr. On Tuesdays at breakfast we always have “Pancake Matins” which is a sung morning liturgy. On Wednesday a professor from Augustana College shared personal reflections interwoven with Scripture and other readings. Yesterday at lunch we had a simple meal of potatoes for hunger awareness and prayed for peace in the conflict in Sudan. Tonight we will have prayers around the cross, which is a reflective candle light service with simple singing.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the open house for the Holden public school. There are currently 11 students from elementary to high school, two teachers and one teaching assistant. Many of my classmates and I were very impressed by the awesome topics the students were covering, how school is integrated into Village life, and how the children are very independent learners.

Also last night I attended “Bible and Brew” for the first time, which is a weekly study of the lectionary texts for Sunday. It was fun to visit one of the long term Villagers’ chalets where the study was hosted and hear a variety of takes on the text for this Sunday.

The weather has been fairly clear this week and many people have been taking advantage of the opportunity to be outside! The second and third level loops around the mine tailings piles have been popular trails for people to explore. Also, there is a lovely trail to a waterfall called Ten Mile Falls where several people have been hiking and I made my first trip there on Sunday.

That’s about all for now. Stay tuned for more updates!

The Garbology sorting station
Forming a chain to unload the mail, food, and luggage from a bus arrival
View looking west from one of the popular trails--the Third Level Loop.
The Holden school
Buckskin Peak surrounded by fog