Nightfall on the Prairie

Friday, September 6, CERA

Experience the allure and beauty of the prairie when the sun sets. You are invited to join faculty and staff from anthropology, biology, and physics at Grinnell College on Friday, September 6, for a unique program at the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA).

Learn about the habits and sounds of prairie animals (like insects, small mammals, and birds) that are most active at night. See what moths are attracted to a light trap. As darkness falls, gaze up at the night sky. Learn the constellations of late summer, and hear what writers have said about the prairie at night.

The college will provide transportation to CERA or you may drive on your own. A bus will leave from the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center at 7:00 p.m. To reserve a place on the bus, call the Center for Prairie Studies at 269-4384. Bring binoculars if you have them, although some will be available for your use. The bus will return to campus by 10 p.m. If you would rather drive your own car to CERA, take I-80 west from Grinnell to Exit 173. Go north (right) on Hwy. 224 and take the first gravel road (S 12th Ave. E) on right. Follow east for about 1.5 miles.

In case of rainy weather on the evening of September 6, Nightfall on the Prairie will be held on Saturday, September 7. If the weather is questionable, please call 269-4770 between 4:30 and 5:00 Friday evening to find out if the event will be held. Refreshments will be served. The program is sponsored by the Center for Prairie Studies in conjunction with the Biology and Physics Departments.

Campus Sustainability Tours

Landscape Tour
Friday, September 13, 4:15 – 5:30 p.m.

What is Grinnell College doing about sustainability?  The College’s Center for Prairie Studies is partnering with Facilities Management to sponsor a series of guided tours about sustainability on campus.  Two tours led by Chris Bair, the College’s Environmental Coordinator, will take place: an “Greenspace Tour” on September 13 and a “Water Tour” on October 11.  Tours will last about an hour and do not require registration; just show up. We will meet in front of the tennis courts.

The college maintains roughly 100 acres of greenspace.  The management of this greenspace has implications for stormwater, water quality, fuel consumption, wildlife and more.  This tour will visit several different landuses, from lawn, to flower beds, prairie, and athletic fields.  What are the benefits of native plantings and where are they easiest to maintain?  What is the college doing to minimize water consumed for irrigation?  What is happening in front of ecohouse?

Nature Drawing Workshop

Saturday, September 14, CERA
Session I: 9:00 – 12:00 p.m.
Session II: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Artist Tara Shukla will lead two limited enrollment workshops on “A Closer View: Seeing Details of the Prairie Through Drawing” on Saturday, September 14, from 9:00 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Conard Environmental Research Area.  Registration can be for the morning session only or for both morning and afternoon sessions.  To register, contact the Center for Prairie Studies at 269-4384 or grahamj[at]grinnell[dot]edu by September 10th.

Workshop Description: This drawing workshop will focus on observing native prairie plants found at Grinnell College’s Conrad Environmental Research Area.  We will begin indoors at the Environmental Education Center (EEC) with skill building exercises such as contour and gesture drawings. We will look at the work of diverse artists who have drawn and interpreted nature using styles ranging from expressive to botanically accurate.  Elements of drawing such as line, form, value and texture will be covered as students progress from quick studies to more sustained detailed drawings.  Techniques in pencil and charcoal on paper will be taught.   The class will move outside to areas surrounding the EEC as weather permits.  

The Artist: Tara Shukla was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She holds a BFA from Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) and an MFA from Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec.)  After graduating from school she spent a decade painting, exhibiting and teaching art in Canada and the United States. In 1994 she was the recipient of the Brucebo Scholarship, a grant and residency awarded to a promising young Canadian painter in Visby, Sweden.

Her work has been featured in 11 solo exhibitions in Ontario, Quebec and Iowa and in over a dozen group exhibitions in Canada and the United States.  She has taught drawing, painting, graphic design and art appreciation in art schools, museums and colleges.  Her students have ranged from preschoolers to senior citizens.  In 2002 she left the tenure track to focus on raising her two young children and to shift her art practice from painting to drawing; she moved to Grinnell with her husband in 2004.  Her recent drawings have been on display in the Art Project at the University of Iowa Hospitals, The Waldemar A. Schmidt Gallery at Wartburg College and at the Grinnell Community Art Gallery. They are also part of the University of Iowa’s online archive The Daily Palette.

An exhibition of Ms. Shukla's work is on view in the Edith Smith Gallery in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center from August 29 – September 20.

Dr. Wendy Ring

Tuesday, September 17, 6:30 p.m. in ARH 102

From the effect of extreme temperatures and decreased air quality on patients with chronic disease to developmental insults from environmental toxins, climate change is now part of the disease process. As we redefine healthcare to include prevention and community, what can be done to mitigate future health impacts?

Dr. Wendy Ring will address this topic on Tuesday, September 17, at 6:30 p.m. in ARH 102. Dr. Ring is the organizer of Climate 911, a national organization of physicians dedicated to raising the alarm about climate change as a public health emergency and advocating for prompt effective solutions. She and her husband, along with a team of cyclists, are on a pedal powered speaking tour from Washington state to Washington DC.  Dr. Ring says, “The bad news is that we're already seeing new kinds of infections; increased toxins in our air, food, and water; and increased emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths as a result of climate change. The good news is that the same commonsense policies we can put in place to slow global warming will also reduce our national epidemic of chronic diseases. It’s a win-win situation.”

 Dr. Wendy Ring, 56, is a California family physician who founded a mobile clinic in rural northern California to serve uninsured patients and others lacking access to health care.  She was medical director of the clinic until 2011.  She is a long-time member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Dr. Ring’s talk is sponsored by the Environmental Studies Concentration and the Center for Prairie Studies.

Prairie Festival

Saturday, September 21, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m., CERA

Come to the Prairie Festival for the local food and the live music! Stay for the art, a walk in the prairie…and of course to enjoy the sunshine (we hope!)

The 2013 Prairie Festival will be held at Conard Environmental Research Area, located 11 miles from the Grinnell College campus, from 2:00-5:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 21. “Prairie Festival: A Celebration of Art, Music, and the Land” is held in conjunction with Iowa Prairie Heritage Week, an annual celebration declared by the Governor of Iowa. Festival organizers Jon Andelson, director of the Center for Prairie Studies, and Elizabeth Hill, manager of CERA, say that the event is a celebration of renewed connections to our place within the tallgrass prairie region of North America.

“Part of the mission of CERA, the Center for Prairie Studies, and the Prairie Festival is to help people engage with our local landscape,” Andelson said, “so we’re pleased to be offering a variety of ways for people to experience and enjoy the prairie at CERA. Participants can listen to music and prairie readings that resonate with the land, collect seeds of prairie grasses and flowers, create art projects out of prairie plants, and enjoy a variety of locally produced and prepared food.”

The Center for Prairie Studies welcomes three different groups of Iowa musicians, each with its own roots to our prairie home: Red Tale, an award-winning country/traditional ensemble, composed of singers Storm Seymour, (Meskwaki Nation), Stephanie Snow (Ho-Chunk-Lakota), and Ralph Moisa (of Yaqui descent); members of Grinnell College’s Mbira ensemble, led by Professor Tony Perman; and Iowa City-based blues musicians Dave Moore and Dustin Busch.   Short presentations will be made about the importance of Prairie Heritage Week, and there will be a reading of conservationist/botanist Ada Hayden’s 1919 call for prairie conservation.   Art projects for children of all ages will be led by Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery staff.  Attendees will take a guided hike through reconstructed prairie and help harvest prairie grass and wildflower seeds. A wide sampling of finger foods from Dining Services and local restaurants and farms will be offered, and exhibits showcasing prairie management, prescribed fire, and grassland bird eggs will be on display.

The Festival activities will include:

2:00 – 2:40 p.m.              Music by Red Tale, award-winning country/traditional singers from Meskwaki, Ho-Chuck, Lakota, and Yaqui tribes

2:40 – 3:00 p.m.              Center for Prairie Studies Advisory Board: Tribute to our Prairie Heritage Taylor Chicoine reads Ada Hayden’s “Conservation of Prairie”

Prairie Management/Bird Egg/Prescribed Fire Exhibits in the EEC

3:00- 3:30 p.m.               Music by Tony Perman and Grinnell College’s Mbira  Ensemble

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.              Children’s nature-based art projects by Faulconer Gallery staff

Prairie Seed Harvest with CERA manager 

4:15 – 5:00 p.m.              Music by Dave Moore & Dustin Busch

Transportation to CERA will be available in front of the Joe Rosenfield Center on the Grinnell campus at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. The college welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. If accommodations are needed, please call or email Jan Graham at the Center for Prairie Studies at grahamj[at]grinnell[dot]edu or 641-269-4384.


Campus Sustainability Tours

Campus Water Tour
Friday, October 11, 4:15 – 5:30 p.m.

What is Grinnell College doing about sustainability? The College’s Center for Prairie Studies is partnering with Facilities Management to sponsor a series of guided tours about sustainability on campus. This is the second tour led by Chris Bair, the College’s Environmental Coordinator. Tours will last about an hour and do not require registration; just show up. The tour will be from 4:15 - 5:30 p.m. We will meet in the lobby of the Charles Benson Bear '39 Recreation and Athletic Center.

From rain showers to aquifers and toilets to boilers, campus receives and disposes of water in many ways.  This tour will take a quick look into how water travels through campus, what happens to it while it is here and where it ends up. What watershed are we in?  How are we reusing rainwater? Why are there two buttons on top of my toilet?  How can a reverse osmosis machine save water? 

Evening Hike and Bonfire at CERA - Student Environmental Committee

Friday, October 11, 6:15 - 9:30p.m.
Conard Environmental Research Area

The Student Environmental Committee invites students to an evening tour of Conard Environmental Research Area with Manager Elizabeth Hill, followed by apple cider served around a bonfire. Participants will arrive at CERA just before sunset and take a 3.5 mile hike on trails that wind through the oak savanna and tallgrass prairie at Grinnell College's field station. Warm apple cider will be served around a bonfire as Elizabeth describes the history of the field station and volunteer and work opportunities for students at CERA.

Transportation will be provided from the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center at 6:15 p.m. and will return to campus at 9:30 p.m. Please email Elizabeth Hill [hilleliz] to reserve a space on the van. Please wear sturdy walking shoes, long pants, and warm clothes for the hike, and bring a headlamp or flashlight.


Monday, October 14, 7:30 p.m., JRC 101
“Structuring Finance as a Global Commons – The Path to Sustainable Economy”

During the 2013-14 academic year, Grinnell College’s Center for Prairie Studies will be hosting a lecture series explorations of diverse aspects of the Commons.  The Commons comprises all the natural and cultural resources available to members of a community or a society for shared use -- resources on which a community depends for biological or cultural identity or integrity.   

In a small town like Grinnell, the Commons includes our streets, sidewalks, public parks, public schools, public library, and the police and fire departments.  On a larger scale it includes our national parks and forests, the Smithsonian, and the Statue of Liberty.  The commons includes air, rainwater, and the oceans.  Certain forms of knowledge and information, including languages and the internet, are part of the Commons.  In a more abstract sense, all living things can be thought of as a Commons, as could our common identity as human beings.

The Commons has long been a central and essential part of the human story.  However, the “enclosure” of the Commons, or privatization of shared resources, leaves them vulnerable to degradation, deficit, and ruin.   Today, air and water that we all breathe and drink are polluted without penalty.  Plants long used by indigenous people as medicine or food are genetically modified and patented by private corporations.  Most of the ocean’s fisheries have been overharvested for private gain.  Calls to privatize public institutions -- from schools to libraries to state mental health facilities -- are heard frequently. 

 Can privatization of our shared resources produce a healthy and sustainable society?   Or to have such a society do we need to restore, reclaim, and reinvigorate the Commons?  What are our collective responsibilities for stewardship of the Commons?  During the fall semester, three speakers will visit the campus to discuss various aspects of the Commons, and three more are planned for the spring. 

On Monday, October 14, Stuart Valentine, Co-Director of the Sustainable Living Coalition and adjunct faculty in the Sustainable Business Department at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in JRC 101 on “Structuring Finance as a Global Commons – The Path to Sustainable Economy.”  Mr. Valentine has played an active role in the Green Private Placement sector of the Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) industry since 2000. In 2010, he served on the Drafting Committee on Transforming Finance--an initiative to recognize finance as a global commons.  is also the owner of Centerpoint Investment Strategies.


Monday, October 28, JRC 101, 7:30 p.m.
“Water We Doing Watering the Commons?” 

Our second speaker for this series, Jack Paxton, professor emeritus of plant pathology at the University of Illinois, will present, “Water We Doing Watering the Commons?” Dr. Paxton earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of California-Berkeley and a PhD in plant pathology from the University of California at Davis.  While at Illinois he taught plant pathology and agricultural/environmental ethics.  In retirement he divides his time between Urbana and San Diego, California, where he has studied California’s complex water issues for many years.   In his presentation he will focus on water issues in the Midwest.

Join us for discussions of one of the most important civic and public issues facing us today.

Bhutan’s Former Minister of Education to Speak on Gross National Happiness

Thakur Powdyel
Wednesday, October 30, 7:30 p.m., Herrick Chapel

His Excellency Thakur Powdyel, former Minister of Education of Bhutan and the architect of “gross national happiness” as an educational policy, will speak on Wednesday, October 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Herrick Chapel on the topic, “Educating for Sustainable Happiness: Green Schools in Bhutan.”  The public is invited.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy located in Asia between China and India.  In 1972, at the beginning of Bhutan’s push for modernization, the King of Bhutan coined the phrase “gross national happiness” to signal both his dissatisfaction with “gross domestic product” (GDP) as an adequate measure of development and his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values.  

Gross National Happiness, originally proposed casually,  began to be taken seriously in Bhutan.  An instrument was developed to measure it, and various policies were implemented to promote it.  On July 19, 2011, the United Nations approved a Bhutan-sponsored resolution 65/309, titled "Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development."  It stated that 'happiness is a fundamental human goal and universal aspiration; that GDP by its nature does not reflect the goal; that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption impede sustainable development; and that a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance wellbeing and profound happiness."

Minister Powdyel’s visit is being sponsored by several entities at Grinnell College, including the Center for International Studies, Center for Prairie Studies, Department of Education, Environmental Studies concentration, Global Development Studies concentration, the Sustainability Committee, and the Wellness Program.


Orientation to Prescribed Fire

Friday, November 1, 4:15-5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 6, 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Noyce 1021

Are you interested in learning how fire is used to manage prairie, savanna, and woodland habitats at CERA? Would you like to volunteer on our prescribed fire crew?

Join Elizabeth Hill, CERA Manager, for a 1-hour introductory session on the basics of prescribed fire. Learn about how  prescribed burn plans are developed, why prescribed fire is  used as a management tool, and how to effectively use the tools of the trade to control fire on the landscape. This session will cover why, what, when, and how we conduct prescribed burns at CERA, and how you can volunteer to help. Participants are added to an email list for receiving notifications of upcoming burns. Pizza will be served. RSVPs to CERA manager, Elizabeth Hill at 269-4717 or hilleliz[at]grinnell[dot]edu are appreciated but not required. 


Monday, November 18, 7:30 p.m., JRC 101
“Reconsidering the Commons: The Insurgent Power of Digital Knowledge Commons -- and How They are Transforming Academia and Markets.”

David Bollier was founding editor of and from 2004 to 2010 a Fellow of On the Commons.  He has written, co-authored, or co-edited twelve books about the commons, most recently Green Governance:  Ecological Survival, Human Rights and the Commons (2013, Cambridge University Press), co-authored with Professor Burns H. Weston.

A round table discussion with David Bollier, organized by the Grinnell College Library, will be held on Tuesday, November 19 at 10:00 a.m. in Burling lounge.

Join us for discussions of the commons, one of the most important civic and public issues facing us today. All events are open to the public.



Monday, February 10

4:15 p.m., JRC 209
Round table discussion: “What Are Ecosystem Services Worth?”

7:30 p.m., JRC 101
Public Lecture: “The Full-Service Prairie: Managing Commons with the Ecosystem Services Concept”

The Center for Prairie Studies 2013-14 program series, “(Re)Considering the Commons,” continues this semester with a presentation by Dr. Morgan Robertson ’93 on “The Full-Service Prairie: Managing Commons with the Ecosystem Services Concept.”  Dr. Robertson’s talk will take place on February 10 at 7:30 p.m. in JRC 101. 

Morgan Robertson is an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After graduating from Grinnell College in 1993 as the President’s Medalist and with a major in anthropology, he entered the doctoral program in geography at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, where he received his Ph.D. in 2004.  He conducted postdoctoral research at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, developing regulations governing wetland credit markets.  He taught and conducted research at the University of Kentucky from 2007 to 2012.  His research focuses on the interface of science and economics in ecosystem service markets.

Dr. Robertson’s talk will deal with the theme of the potential (but not automatic) commodification and privatization inherent in the notion of ecosystem services.   “In that sense,” Dr. Robertson notes, “it fits very well with the focus on privatization in the ‘tragedy of the commons’ thinking of people like Garrett Hardin, but in other ways it leads in unexpected directions.”  Dr. Robertson’s talk should appeal in particular to those interested in environmental studies, biology, economics, and policy. 

In addition to his public lecture, Dr. Robertson will lead a wide-ranging round-table discussion on the topic of “What Are Ecosystem Services Worth?” on Monday at 4:15 in JRC 209.  Refreshments will be served.  Both events are open to the public.


Monday, February 17, 4:15 p.m., Macy 103

The Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance (GALFA) will hold an information session on Monday, February 17th, at 4:15 in Macy House 103 about its two summer paid positions as GALFA apprentices.  Ten week salaried position (June-July, 2014), orientation and training provided, work with several local producers, maintain the campus garden, become an advocate for local food in the community, and have the opportunity to carry out your own project.  Session conducted by Jordan Scheibel and Jon Andelson (supervisors) and Eliza Honan and Eva Metz (2013 apprentices).

Volunteer Opportunity at CERA
Savanna Restoration and Greenhouse Work Day

Saturday, February 22
9:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA)

Please join us on Saturday, February 22, for a volunteer work day at CERA. We will be working on two projects: savanna restoration mop-up (making piles and salvaging firewood), and transplanting prairie andsavanna seedlings in the greenhouse.

RSVP for transportation to Elizabeth Hill (CERA Manager) at hilleliz[at]grinnell[dot]edu. We'll meet at the Joe Rosenfield Center drop-off area at 9:30 am. Work gloves and light refreshments provided; please bring your own water bottle, wear clothes and boots appropriate for work outside in the snow (unless you’d like to stay in the greenhouse). If you plan to drive out to CERA, please park by the Environmental Education Center and meet us at the Maintenance Shed at 10:00 a.m. 



Silvia Federici, Emerita Professor of Political Philosophy and International Studies, Hofstra University

Tuesday, April 1

7:30 pm, JRC 101

“Reclaiming the Land, Reclaiming our bodies. Women and the Production of Commons”

The Center for Prairie Studies 2013-14 program series, “(Re)Considering the Commons,” continues with a presentation by Dr. Silvia Federici on “Reclaiming the Land, Reclaiming our bodies. Women and the Production of Commons.”  Dr. Federici’s talk will take place on Tuesday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in JRC 101. 

Prof. Federici was born and raised in Italy, then came to the United States in 1967 to study for a PhD in philosophy at the University at Buffalo.  She taught at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria, and was Associate Professor and later Professor of Political Philosophy and International Studies at New College of Hofstra University.  She co-founded the International Feminist Collective as well as the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa (CAFA). In 1995, she co-founded the Radical Philosophy Association (RPA) anti-death penalty project.

In her best known work, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, Prof. Federici challenges Karl Marx's claim that primitive accumulation is a necessary precursor for capitalism, arguing instead that primitive accumulation is a fundamental characteristic of capitalism itself—that capitalism, in order to perpetuate itself, requires a constant infusion of expropriated capital.  Federici connects this expropriation to women's unpaid labour, both connected to reproduction and otherwise, which she frames as a historical precondition to the rise of a capitalist economy.  She outlines the related historical struggle for the commons and communalism.  “Instead of seeing capitalism as a liberatory defeat of feudalism, Federici interprets the ascent of capitalism as a reactionary move to subvert the rising tide of communalism and to retain the basic social contract.”

 In her presentation, Prof. Federici will relate her broad theme, based in part on extensive work in Africa, to developments in this country involving “the price we have paid for the loss of our relation to the land, the land as our extended body, the land as the foundation of our reproduction, and then the struggles that women in particular are making in different parts of the world to reclaim it.”  

PUBLIC LECTURE - Matthew Nonnenmann

Monday, April 14

4:15 p.m., SCI 1021, Roundtable about graduate study and careers in public, occupational, and environmental health

7:30 p.m., ARH 102 Public lecture: “Public Health Implications of Animal Production – Global to Local”

Matt Nonnenmann, received by BS in Biology from St. Ambrose University, Davenport IA and his MS and PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA.  Dr. Nonnenmann has published research characterizing and controlling occupational exposures in agriculture that place workers at risk for chronic illness. Dr. Nonnenmann’s recent work has focused on inhalation exposure assessment techniques for aerosolized respiratory virus among health care providers, and using molecular biology to characterize biological exposures.  Dr. Nonnenmann has research interests also include controlling dust in animal production facilities (e.g., poultry, dairy and swine) and characterizing environmental exposures to farm families and children. Both events are open to the public.

Earth Day is Every Day: Living Sustainably in Place at Grinnell College

April 12-May 3, 2014

Living Sustainably in Place at Grinnell College presents a dynamic series of events developed by a partnership of environmental, food, and social justice groups, centers, and committees that will bring the Grinnell community together to express our commitment to preserving and celebrating our Earth. Events throughout the spring (April 12-May 3) include lectures, an environmental careers workshop, many volunteer opportunities, and an environmental film series.

On Tuesday, April 22, we will celebrate Earth Day with activities, tabling by campus environmental and sustainability groups, a local foods dinner with music, and the culmination of the Center for Prairie Studies’ lecture series(Re)Considering the Commons, as we welcome Rabbi Rob Cabelli, who will deliver his talk: “Privatization of the Ultimate Commons: How Extreme Religious Particularism Threatens the Human Birthrights of Dignity, Spiritual Yearning, and the Quest for Knowledge.”

For more information on events, visit the Center for Prairie Studies events webpage: and Sustainability at Grinnell on Facebook:

Saturday, April 12

Little Bear Creek/Arbor Lake Cleanup
9:00 - 11:00AM, Jaycees Park, 720 Summer St.
1:00 - 4:00 PM, Arbor Lake Shelter, 123 Pearl St.

Monday, April 14

“Public Health Implications of Animal Production: Global to Local”
7:30 PM, ARH 102
Dr. Matt Nonnenman, University of Iowa

Tuesday, April 15

Film Screening: Sisters on the Planet
8:00 PM, Bob’s Undergound Café

Thursday, April 17

Environmental Careers Workshop
7:00 PM —  Smith Lounge

Monday, April 21

“Will China Save the World?”
7:00 PM —  Noyce 2022
Dr. David Campbell, Environmental Studies

Film Screening: King Corn
8:30 PM, Bob’s Underground Café

Tuesday, April 22 - Earth Day Activities

4:15 PM —  JRC 101
Grinnell Sustainability Plan Overview 
Environmental Studies Internships Poster Session
Meet and Join Campus Environmental Groups

6:00 PM —  JRC 101
Free Local Foods Dinner
Free Local Music by the Too Many String Band

7:00 PM — JRC 101, Rabbi Rob Cabelli
“Privatization of the Ultimate Commons”
Final presentation (Re)Considering the Commons series

Thursday, April 24

Greening Grinnell Projects: LED Overhaul
4:15 PM
—  JRC drop-off-zone

Friday, April 25

Greening Grinnell Projects: Arbor Day Tree Planting
4:15 PM —  JRC drop-off-zone

Saturday, April 26

Student Garden Volunteer Day + Real Food Potluck
11:00 AM  — Volunteer at Student Garden
6:00 PM    —  Real Foods Potluck at Student Garden

Tuesday, April 29

Film Screening: Tapped

Thursday, May 1

CERA Wildflower Walk
4:15 PM
— meet at JRC drop-off zone
Conard Environmental Research Area, RSVP to [hilleliz]

Saturday, May 3

Film Screening:  Into the Wild & The Lorax
6:00-10:00 PM at amphitheater

These events are co-sponsored by: The Center for Prairie Studies, Environmental Studies, Sustainability Committee, Facilities Management, Student Environmental Committee, Coalition for Environmental Activists, Real Food Challenge, Iowater, Center for Careers, Life, and Service, CERA, GALFA, GORP, Local Foods Co-op, Campus Environmental Coordinators, Oxfam America.

PUBLIC LECTURE - David Campbell

Monday, April 21, 7:00 p.m., SCI 2022

Will China Save the World?

A week of events surrounding Earth Day, April 22, will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, April 21, with a lecture – “Will China Save the World?” -- by David Campbell, professor of biology and Henry R. Luce Professor of Nations and the Global Environment at Grinnell College.  “China is the poster child for global climate change,” Professor Campbell notes.   “China is home to 20% of the human population.   Among nations, it is the world’s largest contributor of greenhouse-forcing gasses; it can’t feed itself; it has a vast, densely-populated coastline that is subject to catastrophic tropical cyclones; at any particular time, about a third of China’s territory is subject to periodic drought induced by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation; the Himalayan ice pack that irrigates southwestern China is rapidly disappearing, and the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts are expanding from the north.”   

In short, a “greenhouse” world would be profoundly destabilizing to China’s future. However, just as clearly, without China on board there could be no competent global response to climate change.  In his presentation Professor Campbell will address the question, “will this ancient civilization steer us away from impending environmental disaster? The fate of the world depends on the answer.”

Professor Campbell’s presentation and other Earth Week activities are being co-sponsored by a coalition of programs, committees, and groups on campus, including Environmental Studies Concentration,  Student Environmental Committee (SEC), Center for Prairie Studies, Sustainability Committee, Coalition for Environmental Activists, Local Foods Co-op, and many others. 

Professor Campbell’s lecture is in Science 2022.  See the “Every Day = Earth Day” posters or visit the Center for Prairie Studies website for information about times and locations of other planet Earth events and activities during April and May.


Rob Cabelli, Associate Chaplain and Rabbi
Tuesday, April 22, 7:00 p.m., JRC 101

“Privatization of the Ultimate Commons: How Repressive Religious Particularism Threatens the Human Birthrights of Dignity, Spiritual Yearning, and the Quest for Knowledge”

As human beings we share an ontology—a state of being, an epistemology—paths to knowledge of our world, and a spirituality—the variety of modes by which we each connect ourselves to larger and universal purpose.  The source of all this is our common and collective relationship to the unknown, the awe tinged with mystery with which we contemplate our own being and all beings in relationship to the infinite universe.   

The seeming oneness of the universe and the magnitude and mystery of its source and expanse compel us to profound connection with each other, our fellow travelers, while grounding our sense of self and being and anchoring our pursuit of knowledge, beauty and justice.  The quality that we term human dignity is a measure of this birthright, a grace owed to each of us by all others.  In the shadow of the infinite, and in the face of the overwhelming familiarity but yet existential otherness with which we encounter each other, what right does one have to claim superiority over another, to deny any other being dignity or value?  This commonality is foundational to human moral and spiritual purpose and being.  It constitutes a non-material Commons, our essential non-material resource and birthright.  It is the framework through which we validate our sense of being, actualize our individual and collective consciousness, and seek connection to larger purpose and destiny. 

This Commons of conscience and consciousness is a legacy shared by all humans.  Its coherence and integrity directly reflects its universality, its application to all.  To make a claim of special status, knowledge, or relationship to the infinite is tantamount to denying others the authenticity of their existence, to dehumanize them.  To privatize this Commons, to make a claim of exclusivity, priority or privilege, as is done frequently by those of particularistic religious belief, even with the best of intent, is an assault on the Commons, undercutting and endangering the framework for moral purpose and ethical behavior.  Dignity cannot be apportioned or withheld from anyone without compromising the dignity of all.

Rob Cabelli is Associate Chaplain and Rabbi at Grinnell College.  Prior to his current position, Rob was rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Asheville, NC, a position he held for six years after being ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University.  Before entering seminary, Rob was a developmental neuroscientist, studying the development of mammalian visual pathways at the USC School of Medicine, having obtained post-doctoral training at UC Berkeley and Stanford and achieving a doctorate at Stony Brook University in Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry.  Rob’s overarching spiritual interest is in self and other, the collision of encounter, relationship, and consciousness through which the moral being emerges.  His governing philosophy is both/and in place of either/or, the fruitful synergy of complementary dualities and the dialectic that recreates the complexity of the whole.