On April 9, Ripon College in central Wisconsin played host to the first Facing the Change event in middle America. FTC editor Steven Pavlos Holmes – whose visit to Ripon also included guest appearances in a few environmental studies courses and discussions with faculty, all made possible by funds from the Banville Family Trust – introduced the book and led the discussion after the readings. Local residents Soren Hauge and Kat Griffith read selections from the book: Soren (professor of economics at Ripon and organizer of the event) chose Jamie Sweitzer Brandstader’s “The Innocence of Ice,” whose stories of youthful hockey games brought back memories from Soren’s own childhood; Margarita Engle’s “Search,” which illustrated an issue raised in a class the day before; and Willow Fagan’s thoughtful meditation on struggle and strength, “Beyond Denial.” Kat chose pieces with similar personal resonances, Marybeth Holleman’s “Thin Line Between” and Julie Dunlap’s “Annapolis Bus Ride,” the latter raising issues from Kat’s own experiences as homeschooler and community educator.
In the lively discussion that followed (which was still going strong at the end of the allotted hour and a half), about 25 students, faculty, and local residents shared their own stories, observations, and concerns about climate change, and about the natural world in general – from backyards in Ripon to Alaska, from birds to bears, from the green and growing earth to the frozen and icy parts of the world. Indeed, this audience’s responses brought out the fact that FTC isn’t just a “global warming book,” but a collection of eloquent and evocative nature writing with the power to move people to reflect on their experiences of and fears for the living world as a whole.
Thanks to Soren and Kat, the Banville Family Trust, Ripon College, and everyone who attended for a powerful evening of community and reflection!