Monthly Archives: August 2013

Lecture on Thoreau

 Keene State College Department of Environmental Studies

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES LECTURE SERIES

Thoreau: Self-Taught Watershed Scientist

Robert Thorson, PhD

Professor of Geology, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

Thursday, September 5, 2013, 4:00-5:00PM—Morrison 110

This talk will preview Dr. Thorson’s new book—Walden’s Shore—which explores Thoreau’s understanding of hard reality, not as metaphor but as physical science. Dr. Thorson will describe Thoreau’s astonishing understanding of New England landscapes, relating specific passages from Thoreau’s writing with the underlying physical science, including hydrology, river geomorphology, bedrock geology, limnology, meteorology, and glaciation. By unifying the physical science with the literature, this talk is founded in Thoreau’s fundamental idea of unification between head and heart.

Dr. Thorson is a professor of Geology at UConn, with appointments in the Geoscience and Honors programs, and is the author of several books. His first book—Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls—is a regional bestseller and Connecticut Book Award winner for nonfiction. His second book on signature landforms—Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America’s Kettle Lakes and Ponds—precipitated keynote speeches to national lake management associations, a freshwater road trip titled “Walden to Wobegon,” and the creation of a website in support of small lake conservation. Dr. Thorson advocates for the preservation of historic landscapes, speaking at venues ranging from small historical societies to the NASA Engineering Colloquium. He is an opinion journalist and has published nearly 500 columns and essays. His newest book is due to be released by Harvard University Press in December 2013, and it can be previewed on their website at http://www.hup.harvard.edu.

For more information contact

Renate Gebauer (rgebauer@keene.edu) or Denise Burchsted (dburchsted@keene.edu)

Welcome

Thinking and Writing is an introduction to college-level reading, thinking, and writing. As a student in this course you can expect to spend a good deal of your semester wrestling with the thoughts and words of others, building your own point of view, and learning to make use of feedback to improve your writing.

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“Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild,” Henry David Thoreau (Pune, India, March 2008)

This Thinking and Writing course is organized around the concept of wildness. The term wildness encompasses most everything in the physical universe—from the teeming microorganisms in our bodies to the unfolding realm of the cosmos. It is the real world, the world to which we belong. The phrase “search for wildness” describes the act of seeking awareness of this world–of seeking an understanding of the expression of the wild in nature and in culture.

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Community space and garden, Brooklyn, New York, summer 2012

The search for wildness takes many forms: it takes shape in individual questions about the meaning and purpose of human life; it gives rise to collective stories, myths, and purpose; it is organized in the cultural activities of natural history, spirituality, science and mathematics; it is pursued through historical and comparative studies of nature and/or culture; and it generates utopian and post-apocalyptic fictions about the ways human technologies are transforming the world.

The poet Gary Snyder defines the search for wildness as a practice: a deliberate sustained and conscious effort to become more aware of yourself and the world. Who am I? What am I doing here? What is going on?

Photo Mark C. Long, near Juneau, Alaska, Summer 2006

Above Juneau, Alaska, summer 2006

From the pursuit of a more “authentic” life by Chris McCandless to scientists building our understanding of the human biome, the search for wildness is the conversation of our time.

Fireweed and glacier melt, near Haines, Alaska, summer 2006, photo Mark C. Long

Fireweed and glacier melt, near Haines, Alaska, summer 2006

I am confident that this course will challenge you in new ways. My work will be supporting you as you meet these challenges. I am looking forward to working with you.