INSIDE Chico State
0 September 13, 2001
Volume 32 Number 2
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




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Making a World That Works: Environmental scholar Orr suggests we must redesign higher education

President Esteban and Felicia Contreras congratulate Dolly Moore-Solomon.
David Orr, pioneer in environmental literacy

David Orr, pioneer in environmental literacy in higher education, will speak September 14 at 4 pm in Holt 170 as the first Jack Rawlins Environmental Literacy Lecturer. Orr is a professor and chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College in Ohio, and the author of three books, including Earth in Mind (Island, 1994) and the upcoming The Nature of Design (Oxford, 2001).

“Orr is the foremost authority on education about the environment,” says Professor Mark Stemen, coordinator of CSU, Chico’s Environmental Studies Program. Orr’s talk, “Education and the Making of a World That Works,” will focus on redesigning higher education.

In Earth in Mind Orr shows academia no mercy: “Most people believe that education is good, and the more of it one has the better. The truth is … education can simply equip people to be more efficient vandals of the earth. If one listens carefully, it may be possible to hear the Creation groan every year in late May when another batch of smart, degree-holding, but ecologically illiterate, Homo sapiens who are eager to succeed are launched into the biosphere.”

Why does Orr pick on higher education? Because, he writes in an article in the Oberlin newspaper, colleges are sometimes characterized by“complacency, self-congratulation, and busyness.” Orr challenges them to rethink “what institutional success means at a time when the entire human enterprise is in jeopardy.”

Orr spent his boyhood reveling in the natural beauty of the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. From this early connection to nature sprang a fervor to protect the earth. Orr channels his passion and intellect into tangibles. For example, Orr’s ecological design work comes alive in the $7.4 million Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. He spearheaded the effort to design and build the center.

TheNew York Times described it as “the most remarkable” of a new generation of college buildings.

Orr, who holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, has received many prestigious awards for his work in environmental literacy, including a National Conservation Achievement Award by the National Wildlife Federation and a Lyndhurst Prize for his “exceptional talent, character, and moral vision.”

Orr will sign copies of Earth in Mind at a reception Friday, September 14 at 5 pm in Holt 171. He will give an informal talk at the Butte Creek Preserve, Saturday at 10 am.

Jack Rawlins Ecology and Conservation Awards

Professor David Orr’s visit coincides with the announcement of the recent endowment of the Jack Rawlins Ecology and Conservation Awards. Orr’s talk Friday is the inaugural Jack Rawlins Environmental Literacy Lecture.

Along with student scholarships, the Rawlins endowment also supports a new faculty position, professor of environmental literacy, in the department of biological sciences. Professor Roger Lederer, Bidwell Environmental Institute director, will fill the new position.

Orr’s visit to the university will include discussions of the goals and priorities of the professor of environmental literacy. Lederer’s plans include presenting workshops and speakers, working with the Associated Students and outside environmental agencies, and continuing to present outdoor classrooms for the benefit of Chico State students and local K-12 schoolchildren.

Rawlin’s endowment has allowed CSU, Chico to set the wheels in motion for teaching responsible stewardship of our world.

Lisa Kirk

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