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The Center Quarterly
  Spring 2013

working towards realizing the dream of a sustainable and peaceful future through scholarship, education, and action...

Successful Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Weekend!
Haffenreffer Challenge Renewed

From talking dogs to dragonflies waiting for praise, poetic tales and quandaries filled the air and the minds of Sanibel Island. Nearly 400 people attended the Center for Environmental and Sustainability’s Ninth Annual Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Friday, February 8, 2013, to hear the Pulitzer Prize winning poet deliver a reading with commentary.

The event was an artistic success as many people enjoyed Mary Oliver’s words either from the pews in St. Michael and All Angels Church, from the overflown parish hall, or outside. A jumbo screen projected Oliver’s image and helped carry her words through the night beneath the stars. Center director Peter Blaze Corcoran was pleased with the new edition to the event and observed that everyone was focused on the reading, no matter where they were. “It was wonderful to see that poetry lives on Sanibel Island,” he said.

Oliver was invited to speak because her lyrical poetry has inspired a deep appreciation for the wildness and beauty of nature and she shared a variety of poems, some from her recent publication, A Thousand Mornings, and from, Franz Marc’s Horses, which will be forthcoming in 2014.

Islanders, FGCU students, Center supporters, board members and staff all absorbed an array of descriptive personal, universal, inquisitive, and inspiring connections to the natural world through Oliver’s poetry.

“Mary Oliver is an icon. She is resilient and persistent and wonderful with words,” said Host Committee member David Bath. “She sets a tone of peacefulness and awe and wonder, which were fundamental to the whole Rachel Carson effort,” he said. The Center was inspired by Carson’s environmental work and achievements and funding for its effort continue her legacy.

The annual Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture seeks to engage the public in discussions on sustainability, ethics, democracy and literature with literary scholars and other intellectuals from home and abroad.

 The Center was thrilled of the turnout at the Lecture and equally excited at the attendance for the sold-out Ninth Annual Fundraising Celebration on the following evening. Hosts Peter and Mallory Haffenreffer renewed their Haffenreffer Challenge, in which the gracious couple will match up to a total of $12,000 for donations to the Center. Contributions are still being collected and proceeds from the event weekend benefit Center pursuits like publications, scholarships, mini-grants, student assistant salaries, and an annual student dialogue on sustainable food issues. The Celebration was full of food, fun, and fundraising to support the Center’s mission and harpists and a violinist created a lovely scene for people to mingle and share ideas with one another at the Haffenreffer’s beachfront home.

Center Board Co-chairs, Mary Evelyn Tucker and David Orr made brief remarks just after sunset and the Haffenreffer Challenge was announced. Tucker provided the cosmological context for the Center’s work by drawing attention to the larger story of the universe, which is the subject of her 2012 Emmy Award Winning film, Journey of the Universe. Well known as a leading authority on climate change, Orr suggested the question is not “if” but “when” the disastrous effects will be felt and insisted that we all have a moral obligation to be stewards of the planet. His sobering talk stressed the need for action and suggested that it is future generations that will suffer the consequences of our actions now.

At the Fundraising Celebration, poet Alison Hawthorne Deming made an appeal for gifts to be matched through the Haffenrefffer Challenge and concluded with her metaphorical poem, “Mosquitoes.” It spoke of the small sacrifices people make for “selfless service to their future” and aimed to show guests that their contributions help Center members realize their dreams and create a better future for both the local and global community.
First came the scouts who felt our sweat in the air 
and understood our need to make a sacrifice.
We were so large and burdened with all we had carried, 
our blood too rich for our own good. They understood

that we could give what they needed and never miss it. 
Then came the throng encircling our heads like acoustic haloes
droning with the me-me-me of appetite. We understood 
their pleasure to find such hairless beasts so easy to open and drink.
We understood their female ardor to breed and how little 
they had to go on considering the protein required to make
their million-fold eggs. Vibrant, available, and hot, 
we gave our flesh in selfless service to their future.


Many thanks go out to Center supporters, FGCU staff, and volunteers who helped make this another memorable occasion. We look forward to the 2014 Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Weekend, which will mark the Center’s tenth anniversary and the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s passing.

For more information or to make a contribution, please contact Center Director Peter Blaze Corcoran at (239) 590-7166, email or visit the Center at

Earth Charter Mini-Grants Fund Art and Education at Home and Abroad
While some Florida Gulf Coast University Students enjoyed art on campus, others were able to travel to South America and help children create their own through help from the Center. Both projects were funded through Earth Charter Mini-grants, which are supported by funds raised during the Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Weekend.

The Earth Charter is an international framework with guiding principles for pursuing a just, sustainable, and peaceful world. Earth Charter Mini-Grants are awarded each year to projects that advance the Center’s mission through innovative educational research methods, emergent eco-pedagogies, and educational philosophy and practice based on ethics of care and sustainability.

The recent work of artist Cesar Cornejo was partially funded through a mini-grant because the artist’s work focuses intensely on integrating social elements into sculpture and painting as a means of communication. The recent Peruvian-based art exhibit “Puno MoCA” educated people about Puno Peru, an Andean Mountain Village that was described as a forgotten town with basic infrastructure, limited resources, and extreme temperatures that commonly cause malnutrition and poor living conditions for children and their families.

The art project was a worthy recipient of the Earth Charter Mini- Grant because it aimed to revitalize the community, improve living conditions and generate opportunities for financial growth and development in the region through an interactive museum model.

­Another impressive project explored the environment, culture, history, and people of the little-known South American country of Guyana through FGCU’s study abroad program. Following eight weeks of extensive preparation on campus, the two-week study abroad experience began in the capital of Georgetown, moved west through the rainforest and into the savannahs and riverways of Macushi Indian country. 

The highlight of the trip was an extended stay in the village of Yupukari where FGCU students followed a morning program learning the essential life skills of the Macushi people. In the afternoons they offered their own energies teaching arts and crafts classes for the students of the Yupukari Primary School. Their journey included nighttime boat trips to assist local researchers catching giant black caiman to collect valuable biometric data, and a memorable journey in a very small plane to Kaieteur Falls, the longest single-drop waterfall in the world.

When students returned to FGCU, they shared what they learned and experienced in Guyana through a public program for the university and regional community, and through the presentation of research and service projects at the FGCU Research Day in April. The mini-grant helped fund part of the travel and lodging for the trip.

Ten Earth Charter Mini-Grants were awarded in the 2012–2013 school year and more than $14,000 has been awarded to recipients over the past three years. Recent projects have included presentations and curriculum improvements in environmental art, literacy, and education, as well as civil and engineering courses, green chemistry, and green building. Contributions to the Center help further research and educational programs for a variety of mini-grants and other scholarly endeavors both at home and abroad.
FGCU students and Faculty at Kaieteur Falls, Guyana on March 14, 2013. Kaieteur is the longest single-drop waterfall in the world.

An Earth Charter Mini-grant helped FGCU students develop environmental education signage on the nature trails of Happehatchee Nature Center.
SAGE Helps Inaugural Group of Students Realize their Dreams
From alternative dissection programs at FGCU to local native habitat restoration, Student Associates for a Greener Environment has had a successful start in engaging students, staff, and their peers in environmental pursuits. The intention of SAGE is to be a student branch of the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education to nurture their leadership capacity and develop their identities as environmentally conscious individuals. Students who are interested in becoming associates are expected to make a serious commitment to SAGE, the mission of the Center, and to environmental and sustainability education at FGCU at large and seven grants totaling $2,687 were awarded in 2012.

SAGE provides an opportunity for students to work on a project with an Earth Charter purpose and fosters a beneficial mentor-mentee relationship between a professor and student. The experience offers students valuable one-on-one time with mentors, financial support, networking opportunities on campus and within the local community, and allows them to build their resumes. This model has proven successful through the first committed group of SAGE members who have worked within the Center's traditions of collaboration, civil dialogue and intellectual integrity.

Students can be a member of SAGE and start their own project, or even help guide other members with their projects. Contracts are completed between mentors and mentees in order to establish specific roles within the partnership, as well as to outline goals for the project. These could include scholarly work, environmental research, raising awareness of important environmental issues, or a student’s own original idea.

SAGE aims to help students realize goals that they would have otherwise not had the resources or guidance to achieve. “I highly recommend SAGE if anyone wants to take their dreams to the next step and give them life. SAGE is a great launching pad,” said SAGE Mentee and participant Tamara Edwards. Edwards collaborated with fellow SAGE Associate and FGCU Undergraduate Student of the Year, Lindsay Leban, to develop an action plan for revamping and restoring the Fort Myers urban farm Roots Heritage Urban Farm and Food Hub.

The restoration is just one aspect of a broader project that helps students address the issue of food deserts, which are areas that have limited fresh and affordable food, through the development of a map and GIS database of these food deserts and farmer’s markets. The team members, who were mentored by FGCU Associate Professor Dr. Joseph Cudjoe, plan to attend an international scientific conference to present their findings. Additionally, through their participation in the SAGE program, Edwards and Leban were able to network and collaborate with FGCU Assistant Professor Dr. Marguerite Forest, who has extensive experience in GIS mapping from her position with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Of the seven grants awarded, recent projects have been very diverse. “There are some really amazing people doing really amazing things,” said SAGE Program Coordinator and Center Student Assistant Andrew Stansell. Projects have included the development of a junior naturalist program for underprivileged students, the construction of an anaerobic digester on the FGCU campus, reconstruction of a struggling worm castings enterprise at Eden Autism Services, and native plant packages for homeowners.

Contributions to the Center help further unique research and educational programs like SAGE and will continue to facilitate a variety of mini-grants and other scholarly endeavors both at home and abroad. These opportunities would not be available without the dedication and philanthropic support from Center supporters.
Center Senior Scholar Publishes New Book
Ways in which literature can help restore our lost connection to the natural world are revealed in Walking in the Land of Many Gods: Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental Literature (University of Georgia Press, 2013). Author Jim Wohlpart is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies and an English professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. Wohlpart recently introduced his new publication at the Native American Literature Symposium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 23, 2013 to a warm response.
How are we placed on Earth? What is our relationship to the world around us, and how does our
thinking affect the way we relate to the world? “We are entrapped”, says A. James Wohlpart, “by what Martin Heidegger calls ‘enframing,’ a worldview that considers all objects as mere resources for our use.” Walking in the Land of Many Gods envisions a new way of thinking about the world, one grounded in a moral imagination reconnected to Earth.

Insightful readings of three contemporary classics of nature writings are at the heart of Wohlpart's endeavor. Powerful and affecting works like these reveal a pathway to a deeper remembering, one that reconnects us with the primal forces of creation and acknowledges the sacredness of the world.

Wohlpart feels we have forgotten that the world around us is rich and fertile and generative. His exploration of these literary works, based on deep anthropology and Native American philosophy, opens a pathway into a new way of thinking called sacred reason. Founded on interdependence and interrelationship, and on care and compassion, sacred reason reminds us that divinity exists around us at all times. We are invited to walk, once again, in a land filled with many gods.


We welcome you to visit us as:  


Peter Blaze Corcoran, Director
College of Arts & Sciences 
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Boulevard South
Fort Myers, Florida  33965-6565
Telephone: (239) 590-7166
Facsimile: (239) 590-7200

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