Spring Creek Project hosts Bedrock lecture series

Spring Creek Project co-founder Kathleen Moore and her family wade in a river in Alaska. The Spring Creek Project emphasizes creating a connection between humans and nature.

Arianna Schmidt, News Contributor

Lectures, project look to create connections between nature, people

In 1987, economist and poet Franz Dolp was inspired by the beauty of the Oregon Coast Range and decided he needed a way to bring more wilderness into his life. Before his death in 2004, he worked with OSU philosophy professor Kathleen Moore to create the Spring Creek Project.

“Franz Dolp was a dear friend and an inspiration,” Moore said via email. “As luck would have it, we met on a sidewalk in front of the library, as we were both leaving a lecture. He shared his dream for a writing retreat at his cabin in the Coast Range. We met after that for coffee and started brainstorming. Both of us understood that this could be the beginning of something much more creative and impactful. Franz cared deeply about poetry, music, clean streams, forested mountainsides, environmental science and the moral obligation to the future of the planet.”

The Spring Creek Project at Oregon State University aims to lessen the strain between nature and the humans who inhabit it, and therefore keep balanced human use of land and the rightful protection of that land.

The project is a convening organization that sponsors writers’ residencies, readings, lectures, conversations and symposia on the critical importance to the health of both humans and nature, said the OSU Liberal Arts website.

The goal is to include many perspectives and disciplines, from creative writing and philosophy, to environmental and social sciences.

Emily Grubby, a graduate student working towards her Masters in Environmental Arts and Humanities, as well as the project intern, said the program seeks to synthesize discourses conceptually, such as art or philosophy, and empirically, like environmental sciences. 

Through the use of writing, art and philosophy, the project reminds people to live more responsibly and joyously within nature, Grubby said. 

Grubby’s intern work includes working closely with the program director and coordinator. She has been especially busy this year coordinating the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, as it aligns with her thesis. Outreach, organizing evidence and arranging events are only the beginning of her duties, but it’s why she’s passionate.

“Spring Creek’s devotion to using what I’ll call “applied creativity” and storytelling and wonder as instruments for shifting that relationship just lights my fire,” Grubby said in an email. “Changing narratives, asking probing questions, and challenging complacency is the most important work, and that’s what we get to do every day at the Spring Creek Project.”

Spring Creek aims to touch on pressing environmental issues without losing sources of wonder, gratitude and beauty.

“The Spring Creek Project is so very important because it legitimizes many different ways of knowing or seeing, because we believe that engaging perspectives from many varied disciplines increases our understanding of the place of humans in nature,” Grubby said via email. “It also creates space for people to think and communicate radically which makes room for truly necessary, revolutionary thought.”

The project aims for people to have 20/20 vision, meaning human exploration of relationship to nature through writing workshops, public programs and outdoor treks, according to Terra Magazine, OSU’s news and research communications website.

Housed in the Department of Philosophy, according to Terra Magazine, the Spring Creek Project lives on. By bringing poets, writers and scientists together, the project allows for exploration of the natural world with like-minded individuals.

Moore and Dolp’s original intention for the project was to nurture creative writing, bringing together environmental science, ethics and the written word. However, Moore said, increasing environmental crises, such as climate change, made them realize their original goal wasn’t enough. 

“We had to move also to protecting it,” Moore said. “So I see the Spring Creek Project now expanding its focus to include nurturing what I call activist writing and radically

imaginative thinking.”

Lectures about the project’s issues are held each Wednesday at noon in Bexell Hall, room 412, Grubby said. Following a 20-minute presentation of the guest speaker, viewers can gather and discuss questions. 

The lectures are all different and everyone is encouraged to participate, Grubby said. 

“For the Bedrock Lectures on Human Rights and Climate Change,” Grubby said via email, “we invited poets, scientists, artists, lawyers and other environmental justice leaders to help us imagine how we can build communities and lives in a world where environmental crises quickly become human rights crises.”

Lectures are also available on the Spring Creek website and on a Youtube channel.

Carly Lettero, the project program manager, has background in environmental ethics, writing and social science research. Lettero said she has worked for environmental non-profits for almost two decades primarily as a community organizer and program developer.

“I am fortunate to work with people I admire in a community I love on projects that I deeply believe in,” Lettero said via email. “I work with our staff, our Senior Fellows, our partners and community members to design programing that helps further Spring Creek’s mission.”

The program plans to further its mission by hosting the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal from May 14-18, Grubby said. Partnering with the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, the program will hold a session on human rights, fracking and climate change. 

The event will take place at the Whiteside Theater at 7 p.m. on May 14 with keynote speaker renowned ecologist and writer Sandra Steingrader, PhD. The event is free, but it’s recommended to reserve tickets on Eventbrite in advance.

“The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a highly-respected, international tribunal that has been hearing cases of human rights injustice since the Vietnam War,” Grubby said in an email. “They have conducted hearings in Bhopal, Chernobyl, and most recently Myanmar. This May they have been asked for the very first time to consider the rights of nature as well as human rights to determine the morality of hydraulic fracturing and subsequent climate change.”

Lettero said the Spring Creek Project holds dozens of events each year. In addition to Steingraber’s upcoming lecture, the project will also be hosting artist and writing residency programs at the Cabin at Shotpouch Creek and the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. 

These are ideal places for environmental writers and thinkers alike to meet their community members and begin networking, Lettero said. 

“A lot of people feel deeply committed to do something about environmental crises,” Lettero said via email, “yet it can be overwhelming to know what has the potential to really make a difference. More than ever, we need creative, imaginative people from many disciplines and ways of knowing to come together to re-imagine how humans can live on Earth without wrecking it. That is what Spring Creek is dedicated to doing.”

Moore said if humans are able to grasp worldly connections intelligently and ethically, then humans will be able to find meaning and a lasting kinship within the natural systems that sustain the world population. 

“What does (Spring Creek Project) mean to me?,” Moore asked via email. “It means everything. Solving the environmental emergencies will require the greatest exercise of the human imagination the world has ever seen. How can we bring together all the things the human mind does so well—imagining, hoping, grieving, questioning, understanding—to find better ways to live on the planet for a very long time? This, it seems to me, is the role of the Spring Creek project.”

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