'Home Ground' symposium is Feb. 18-20, features topics from biofuels to bells

AMES, Iowa -- The environment and how creative writers approach that issue in their work will be the focus of a free public symposium held at Iowa State University Sunday through Tuesday, Feb. 18-20.

Sponsored by the ISU Creative Writing Program, the third annual Symposium on Wildness will feature a variety of workshops, panel discussions, concerts and readings -- centering around "Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape." The publication is a compilation of original definitions of words that describe landscapes, written by 45 authors -- including ISU Professor of English and Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences Mary Swander.

"We invite everyone to attend this free and dynamic conference -- a blend of creative writing, the arts and environmentalism," said Swander, coordinator of this year's symposium. " The purpose is to bring people from various disciplines at ISU and environmental workers, thinkers, writers, and artists from around the state together to talk about our common interest in and concern for environmental issues."

Bill McKibben, former New Yorker staffer and contributing author to the event's namesake book, will deliver the keynote speech at 8 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the Memorial Union Great Hall. An environmental writer and frequent contributor to several national publications, McKibben will argue against today's "more is better" mentality in his lecture "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future."

Three panel discussions are scheduled, highlighted by "Biorenewables: Helping or Hurting the Environment?" at 9 a.m. Feb. 20 in the Memorial Union Sun Room. Area experts will discuss the environmental impact of the growing biofuels industry.

Another highlight of the symposium is Monday's lecture by James A. Pritchard. "Mountain Home, Prairie Home: Learning New Languages" will be given at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union's Sun Room. An ISU adjunct assistant professor in landscape architecture and natural resource ecology and management, Pritchard left his mountainous home in the western U.S. to come to Iowa. Although he misses the ski slopes, hiking trails and cool pine forest air of his former home, he says he has come to realize that "nature and wildness exist all around" in his new home state. He is the author of several books including "Preserving Yellowstone's Natural Conditions: Science and the Perception of Nature."

Most events will be held in ISU's Memorial Union and include:

Sunday, February 18

  • 7-7:45 p.m., Great Hall, MU -- Performance, Patrick Hazell, piano jazz.
  • 8 p.m., Great Hall, MU -- Keynote address, "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future," Bill McKibben, environmental writer formerly on staff at the New Yorker.

Monday, February 19

  • 9-10:30 a.m., Pioneer Room, MU -- Panel discussion, contributors to the book "Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape," Bill McKibben, environmental writer, Mary Swander, ISU English professor, and co-editor Debra Gwartney, Portland State University.
  • 10:45-11:45 a.m., Pioneer Room, MU -- Lecture, "The Bell Project," Patrick Hazell, musician and ISU alumnus, a project focusing on noise pollution by recording sounds of bells in an urban setting.
  • 1-2:30 p.m., Sun Room, MU -- "Home Ground" readings, creative writing graduate students and "In Print" student literary group.
  • 2:45-4 p.m., Pioneer Room, MU -- Panel discussion, "The Folklore of Home Ground," Michael Whiteford, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean and anthropology professor; James Dow, German professor emeritus; Nikki Bado-Fralick, philosophy and religious studies assistant professor; Zora Zimmerman, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences associate dean.
  • 4-5 p.m., Pioneer Room, MU -- Workshop, "Editing Environmental Writing," Debra Gwartney, co-editor of "Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape."
  • 7:30 p.m., Sun Room, MU -- Slide show, "Scenes from the American Landscape," Loess Hills exhibit.
  • 8 p.m., Sun Room, MU -- Lecture, "Mountain Home, Prairie Home: Learning New Languages," James Pritchard, ISU landscape architecture adjunct assistant professor.
  • 9:30-9:45 p.m., Campanile, Central Campus -- Carillon concert, Patrick Hazell, musician and ISU alumnus.

Tuesday, February 20

  • 9-10:30 p.m., Sun Room, MU -- Panel discussion, "Biorenewables: Helping or Hurting the Environment?" Fred Kirschenmann, ISU religion and philosophy professor and distinguished fellow of the Leopold Center; Neila Seaman, Iowa's Sierra Club, Des Moines; Sipho Ndlela, Mid-State Biodiesel, BECON Center, Nevada; Bruce Babcock, director of ISU Center for Agriculture and Rural Development; Robert C. Brown, director of ISU Office of Biorenewables Programs; Lee Honeycutt, ISU English associate professor.
  • 11-11:45 a.m., Sun Room, MU -- Reading, "The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere," Debra Marquart, ISU English associate professor.
  • 1-3 p.m., Ledges State Park -- Field Experiences, "Exploring Local Wonder: Field Trip to Ledges State Park," with Mark Edwards, Iowa Department of Natural Resources; or "Simple Living Workshop: Or Simple Living is not that Simple!" with Joe Lynch and Lonna Nachtigal, Onion Creek Farm, Ames.

Additional details are available online at http://engl.iastate.edu/programs/creative_writing/events/symposium.

Funding for the Wildness Symposium has been provided by several Iowa State academic units and the Iowa Arts Council.