Cultural/Environmental Expert Returns to Campus for Earth Day Lecture
By Taylor Lunka '15
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, Wash. (March 19, 2015)—Author, professor and cultural geographer Dr. Carolyn Finney is the keynote speaker for the 2015 Earth Day Lecture at Pacific Lutheran University on April 21.
Finney’s lecture, “This Patch of Soil: Race, Nature and Stories of Future Belonging,” is about how the discussion of environmental and racial issues is grounded in the experience of a particular place. Dr. Kevin O’Brien, chair of the Environmental Studies program, says he expects Finney to also talk about how the relationship between race and nature has been defined in the past, and the possibility of “future belonging,” creating communities of a genuine relationship between human communities and between people and the Earth.
“As a black person, I have been living it my entire life,” Finney said. “Even though I’ve been fortunate enough to do work around these issues, I may leave my computer in my office at night, but I can’t take my skin off at night and put it away.”
Finney is a professor in Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the College of Natural Resources at the University of California-Berkeley. Her book, Black Faces, White Spaces, demonstrates how racial privilege and culture have shaped the environmental movement in our society.
After acting for 11 years and backpacking around the world, Finney was motivated by these experiences to go back to school to complete her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. She has appeared on MSNBC and NPR. Along with public speaking, writing and consulting, she serves as Chair of the Relevancy Committee on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board.
This won’t be her first time at PLU talking about these issues: Finney came to campus in September 2014 to give a Fall Conference presentation to university administration, faculty and staff.
“Many of us were very energized and challenged by her message, and we wanted to continue the conversation with her—and, more important, to give students a chance to learn from her as well,” said O’Brien. “She was an easy choice [as PLU’s Earth Day speaker].”
Finney said she looks forward to meeting PLU students during this visit, while continuing to raise these kinds of issues with staff.
“I was so psyched when I was asked to come back,” Finney said. “I am excited that there are people at PLU who feel it’s important that we continue to have these conversations. This speaks volumes about the consciousness at the university and the willingness to move forward and to do it so boldly. It’s a great example to set as an institution anywhere in this country. “
Her lecture is part of PLU’s Spring Spotlight Series, “… and Justice for All?”
Since PLU is in the midst of these important discussions about justice and surrounding topics, O’Brien sees this as the right time for Finney to come back to campus.
“This lecture will be a great way to continue those discussions, energize them with new ideas and challenge our community to do all we can to define and work toward these ideals,” he said.
Finney encourages the PLU community to come to the lecture with one thing—an open mind.
“I want people to come with a flexible mind, including myself,” she said. “[Students and staff should] remain curious and don’t be afraid to take risks and go into those places in our mind that make us uncomfortable.”
She also said we all need to talk about issues surrounding the environment on a more regular basis.
“Every day is Earth Day as far as I’m concerned,” said Finney. “Without it, we are dead. We still have a long way to go as humanity; as a group of people we need to take that aim to call attention to things that we should be paying attention to all along, every day.”
PLU’s Earth Day Lecture is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Anthropology Department, Associated Students of PLU, Biology Department, Center for Community Engagement & Service, Diversity Center, Economics Department, Environmental Studies Program, Global Studies Program, History Department, Philosophy Department, Residence Hall Association, Women’s Center and Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
Earth Day Lecture 2015
What: Dr. Carolyn Finney presents the 2015 Earth Day Lecture, This Patch of Soil: Race, Nature and Stories of Future Belonging.
When: 7:30 p.m. April 21.
Where: Scandinavian Cultural Center, Anderson University Center.
Admission: Free and open to the public.