Archive for the ‘Environmental Stewardship’ Category


What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Staying Put

June 17, 2009

I’ve been wanting to re-read Walden, but instead I am reading Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World by Scott Russell Sanders. On the back of the book the category chosen by the publisher is “Nature/Autobiography.” For Sanders, as for Thoreau, these are not two topics but one, the life of the man being inseparable from the life of the natural world.

Sanders writes about his home as if it were Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, yet it happens to be in the city of Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives with his wife and, before they grew up, his daughter and son. Thoreau had actual solitude; Sanders has the solitude of time spent alone outdoors with his thoughts and memories.

A book of collected essays, Staying Put is a meditation on dwelling in a particular place as a way of becoming grounded, finding bedrock. “One’s native ground is the place where, since before you had words for such knowledge, you have known the smells, the seasons, the birds and beasts, the human voices, the houses, the ways of working, the lay of the land, and the quality of light.”

Prose that is poetic, nonfiction that tells a story, a polemic in the form of a paean, and a path to be followed through a spiritual landscape as one would follow a guide on a wilderness trail — Scott Russell Sanders provides a perfect read for whatever quiet moment can be stolen from a restless world.

[Staying Put is included in the Indiana Humanities Council’s Humanities To Go collection, which has multiple copies of over 300 titles available for loan to book groups.]

This entry was posted by: Nancy


Get inspired on Earth Day

April 20, 2009

As we continue to celebrate National Poetry Month with Indiana’s Poet Laureate, Norbert Krapf, take a minute to celebrate another annual April event: Earth Day. What in nature inspires you to write, make music, or reflect? For me, springtime is one of the greatest sources of inspiration–as is traveling to new places.

One of Norbert Krapf’s natural inspirations is below, which was published in Bloodroot: Indiana Poems. If you want to hear more, he’ll be reading fifteen minutes of nature poems on April 25 at the Earth Day Indiana Festival on the  American Legion Mall in downtown Indy around 12:15 p.m.

Can’t get enough of the poet laureate? Read about his trip to Rhode Island for National Poetry Week with a who’s who of poets, here


Sycamore on Main Street                                                     


It stands like a resolute

deserter of its own kind

high above frame houses

halfway up the hill.


Slowly, its brown mottled

bark has flaked away

leaving an ivory shaft

which glints in the sun.


Below the earth’s surface,

its swollen roots crawl

homeward down the hillside,

wriggle beneath pipes

and pavement, plunge

into the depths, and suck

at the waters of the ancient

swamp beneath the park.



Norbert Krapf, Bloodroot: Indiana Poems.

© 2008 Indiana Univ. Press  


Indiana Recycling 19th Anniversary Celebration this Friday

December 2, 2008

This Friday is the first Friday of the month and that means that the Indiana Humanities Council is opening its doors to the public (truth be told, since we work here, we’re kind of open all the time during business hours–but these Open Houses are much more official and traditionally come with cheese and wine…and cookies.)

This Friday we have an extra treat. Not only can you come in and check out our outrageous Georgian Revival digs–a neat treat if you’re into that sort of thing, but this Friday we are celebrating the 19th anniversary of the Indiana Recycling Coalition.

They started their quest for a cleaner, more efficient Indiana way back in 1989 which, if I recollect properly was a the second big wave of environmentalism in this country and about time time politicians first started to really wake up to some real problems. Back then we were mostly concerned with acid rain which was literally washing away national monuments and eating through people’s roofs, holes in the ozone layer, and CFCs in hairspray and nearly everything in the household cleaner aisles.

In the 19 years since, we’ve seen the creation of the multibillion dollar bottled water industry and the mountains of plastic it brings with it, the rise of plastic bags, and perhaps most startling a huge increase personal electronics.

Now 1989 was no slo when it came to boomboxes, walkmans (walkmen?), cooler-sized “portable” TVs, VCRs, and even PCs. But 2008 has so much more and more of it. It’s not just that cellphones exist, but nearly everyone has one. And an iPod…and a digital camera…and a DVD player…and a DVD player in their car…and multiple computers…and an XBox, Playstation and a Wii.

And a home theater system.

And a wifi thermostat. Et. cetera.

Many of these electronics have high metal content that is incredibly destructive to the environment; and, by “environment” I mean “that place where humans live, work, and play.” There is no “environmental” concern that is not also (and perhaps most importantly) a human concern.

So come on out and congratulate the IRC for 19 years of fighting the good fight for you, (probably your parents,) and your kids. And in the meantime head out over to their website to learn more about who they are, what they do, and where they do it. [Celebration details after the fold.]

Hope to see you on Friday.

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Upcoming Green Preservation Programs

August 12, 2008

[via Preservation Nation]

Three upcoming presentations might appeal to historic preservationist with green leanings. One is in Louisiana which may be of interest to some Hoosiers, but I’ll just mention the two in Chicago here (for info on LA just follow the link above.)

CHICAGO – August 12th, 2008

I will be giving the same presentation twice on Tuesday, August 12th: New Directions for the National Trust: Going Green With Historic Preservation . First, I will give this talk at the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Sustainable Architecture Lunchtime Series at 12:15 pm. Then at 5:30 I will be presenting it to the AIA Chicago at 5:30pm, where it is called Are Older Buildings Green? I believe that the AIA Chicago presentation is sold out, but there is a waiting list.


CHICAGO – September 24-26, 2008

NCSHPO (the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers) is presenting a 2 plus day workshop entitled the National Historic Tax Credit Conference at the historic Blackstone Hotel. This conference marks the one time each year that everyone involved in Historic Tax Credits – public agencies, private owners and developers, and nonprofit organizations – assemble to update their knowledge on the rehab tax credits and meet colleagues from around the country. This year special attention will be paid to completing projects using both LEED and the historic tax credit. My colleagues, Patrice Frey and Emily Wadhams and I, will be presenting a session with California SHPO Wayne Donaldson on Thursday afternoon.


Land of the Indians, But Not Indiana

July 22, 2008

I spent almost 4 days last week meandering Montana.

It wasn’t quite 4 days, of course, because you have to fly out for part of one day and fly back for part of another day. From my window seat I looked down as we flew over the Great Plains. When we began to see a sprinkling of snow on the Rockies, I thought about how amazed Lewis and Clark would have been to know that someday people, Americans, would be able to traverse that great distance, of which they made such an adventure, in only a few hours.

I spent an entire day in the company of a people of vision, a people whose elders remember stories handed down in their tribe about Lewis and Clark, about what their world was like then and how it changed when the explorers arrived. The story is told that the chief, seeing the white faces of the men, thought they must be cold and had fur robes spread out for them to sit on.

Our hosts for a day-long tour of the Flathead Reservation were the people of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of western Montana. A group of humanities council program officers from 20 different states, we were there for an annual meeting and a lesson in American values.

As the Salish view it, the land, the language, daily life, and the natural world all form a whole. In the end, the word that describes their philosophy, it seems to me, is “responsibility.” They express the utmost responsibility for thinking about what they have been handed down from the past and what they are passing on to the future, encompassing not one or two generations but many generations in both directions.

Humanities Montana, the state council, has played a role in preserving their story, which was narrated for us by Germaine White and Thompson Smith, a tribal educator and a historian. With their help the CSKT have created a wonderful book about their history and their language.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

Ravalli Hill on the Flathead Reservation, Montana

Ravalli Hill on the Flathead Reservation, Montana


Friday Blincoln Blog

June 27, 2008

My parents divorced when I was 13. Before turning 14 and starting high school, my mom and I moved to her hometown, Evansville, Indiana. My dad was in the Army and so prior to that I was only an occasional Hoosier.

We moved in with my aunt for the summer while mom got her bearings: found a house, a job etc. My aunt encouraged me to spend more time at the house of a friend of hers. They went camping…a lot.

It is no exaggeration to say that I spent the majority of that summer at Lincoln State Park. No joke. We Junior Naturalist Patchwent out there for a weekend, then a week, and then…after that…we came home only two or three times to do laundry and pick up more groceries. I earned my Junior Naturalist and Hoosier Ecologists badges (.pdf) from the Department of Natural Resources and I went to practically every hike, star gazing, flower identifying, or bird watching event that was sponsored by the park rangers.

I walked “the trails that Lincoln walked;” I visited his churchyard; and I saw where some of his family was buried.

And I watched Young Abe Lincoln probably 1,000 times. That part might be exaggeration. In some box somewhere in my house, is a signed play program from every actor and actress that walked in front of the lime lights of the amphitheater that summer. Apparently Young Abe Lincoln disappeared for awhile after they lost their funding but it is expected to resume next year. And thank goodness. I suppose that none of us likes to see the things we enjoyed as children disappear.

Traveling from Evansville to Lincoln City was also the first time I ever rode on a motorcycle. And that’s pretty cool.

All things considered, it was a pretty great summer, a truly unforgettable experience. Some people commune with nature but I spent a summer in the woods communing with our 16th president.

Because I’m a double nerd.


Meandering Indiana – 3

June 5, 2008

Having been south to Perry County and north to Miami County, I feel the next stop on my Indiana tour should be east or west. Let’s go west — to Benton County.

Once in a while, I decide to get off I-65 at Lafayette and take US 41 to Chicago instead. It’s a relief to escape from the pressure of high speeds and semis although I make sure to fill up my gas tank before starting out. Soon I’m in Benton County, which lies along the western edge of the state to the northwest of Lafayette.

The county as a whole has a population density of 21.7 people per square mile (compared with Lake Co. at 990.1 or Marion Co. at 2213.0). In 2006 a total of 2,272 people lived in Fowler, the largest city and county seat. Benton County was in the news last month when it was announced that it will soon be home to the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, one of the world’s largest wind-power facilities with more than 200 wind turbines.

I once visited Fowler as part of a delegation recruited by the Indiana Rural Development Council. We spent a day touring Benton County on a bus to learn what we could about its economic and cultural situation and make suggestions that might lead to improvement. We drove out of Fowler, past a large plant that produced microwave popcorn bags, not popcorn in bags, just the bags. It’s an essential product, one that I use at least once a week but had never thought about before.

Half the adult population of Benton County, we were told, goes to Tippecanoe County to work, primarily at Purdue University. Many of them are farmers, part-time since less than half of today’s farmers work full-time on their farms. Other local residents simply prefer to live in a rural environment and commute to the city.

Their children stay in the county, however, so Benton Central Junior-Senior High School is among the most important institutions in Benton County, along with the three remaining elementary schools. As the school corporation’s website declares: “The heartbeat of Benton County is the school system…”

This entry was posted by: Nancy