Environmental Speakers

Westminster College and the Drinko Center for Experiential Learning are pleased to announce the introduction of a Distinguished Speaker Series entitled "Perspectives on the Environment." This speaker series explores the economic, social, religious, political and security aspects of environmental issues.

To acquire knowledge of, and to demonstrate moral and ethical commitments to, the natural world is an integral part of a liberal arts education at Westminster. This speaker series is an important step toward developing an interdisciplinary and cooperative approach to engaging students in becoming knowledgeable and responsible stewards of the natural world and their communities.

For more information, please contact Helen Boylan by phone (724-946-6293) or email.

The Speaker Series is free and open to the public.


Rebecca Burgess

Sustainable Fiber and Natural Plant Dyes
September 20, 2011, 6:00 p.m., Berlin Student Lounge

Rebecca Burgess is an author, educator and textile artist, and an expert in sustainable fiber and natural dye production. Burgess, a fifth-generation resident of the Northern California watershed where her great-grandparents lived, has studied sustainable fiber and natural dye production processes of native communities in Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos, as well as California.

Learning from traditional artisans has inspired the fibershed model, a local and regional resource area for creating natural textiles, dyes, and clothing.  The Fibershed Project is a challenge to live for a year in clothes made from fibers that are solely sourced within a geographical area no more than 150 miles from her home.

She founded Ecologicalarts in 2005, an organization dedicated to creating, reviving, and teaching textile art forms that utilize botanical resources in a manner that promotes the health and regenerative processes of the ecosystem.

Rebecca Burgess

”Utilizing plant-based dyes for textile color is just one part of the multi-system solution we will need to employ to improve the health of the earth’s air, water, and soils. The process of natural dye making is inherently regenerative—the raw materials are grown in gardens, restored lands, and collected from forgotten corners and patches of the landscape.”
—Rebecca Burgess


Scott Russell Sanders

A Conservationist Manifesto
April 7, 2010, 8:00 p.m., Beeghley Auditorium

Sanders’ writing examines the human place in nature, the pursuit of social justice, the relation between culture and geography, and the search for a spiritual path. Among his more than twenty books are novels, collections of stories, and works of personal nonfiction, including Staying Put, Writing from the Center, and Hunting for Hope. His latest books are A Private History of Awe, a coming-of-age memoir, love story, and spiritual testament, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and A Conservationist Manifesto, his vision of a shift from a culture of consumption to a culture of caretaking.

He has received the Lannan Literary Award, the Associated Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction, the Great Lakes Book Award, the Kenyon Review Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, and the Indiana Humanities Award, among other honors, and has received support for his writing from the Lilly Endowment, the Indiana Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature named him the 2009 winner of the Mark Twain Award.

Sanders was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1945. He studied physics and English at Brown University, graduating in 1967. With the aid of a Marshall Scholarship, he pursued graduate work at the Cambridge University, where he completed his Ph.D. in English in 1971. From 1971 until his retirement in 2009, he taught at Indiana University.

Scott Russell Sanders

"Conservation should aim to preseve the integrity and diversity of natural systems, from the local watershed to the biosphere, rather than to freeze any given landscape into some ideal condition.  Nature is never fixed, but in constant flow."
—Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto


Robert Bullard

Race, Place and Environmental Justice

April 2, 2009, 7:00 p.m., Witherspoon Room

Sociologist and author Robert Bullard, is the Ware Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University and is one of the leading experts on environmental justice and race and the environment.

Robert Bullard is the author on fourteen books related to environmental justice. He was named in 2007 by CNN as one of the “People You Should Know” and in 2008 by Newsweek Magazine as one of the Century’s Environmental Leaders.

His books address environmental justice, environmental racism, urban land use, facility permitting, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, suburban sprawl, and smart growth. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality (Westview Press, 2000), is a standard text in the environmental justice field. His most recent books include The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution (Sierra Club Books, 2005), Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice, and Regional Equity (MIT Press, 2007), and Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina: Struggles to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Revitalize New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (Westview Press, 2009).

Robert Bullard

"The environmental justice movement addresses the inequities that result from human settlement, industrial facility siting and development, power imbalances, lack of political enfranchisement, and to redirect resources so that we can create some healthy, liveable and sustainable models."
—Robert Bullard


Sandra Steingraber

Contaminated Without Consent - How Chemical Pollutants In Our Food & Water Violate Human Rights
October 7, 2008, 7:00 p.m., Orr Auditorium

Ecologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, is an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health.

Steingraber's highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. It was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with newly released data from U.S. cancer registries. Her second book, Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood, explores the intimate ecology of motherhood. Both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology, Having Faith reveals the alarming extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each crucial stage of infant development. In the eyes of an ecologist, the mother's body is the first environment for human life. The Library Journal selected Having Faith as a best book of 2001.

She is the author of Post-Diagnosis, a volume of poetry, and co-author of a book on ecology and human rights in Africa, The Spoils of Famine. Steingraber was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year, and later received the Jenifer Altman Foundation's first annual Altman Award for "the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer," and from the American Medical Writers Association, the Will Solimene Award for "excellence in medical communication." The Sierra Club heralded Steingraber as "the new Rachel Carson", and Carson's own alma mater, Chatham College, selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award.

Sandra Steingraber

"Shortly before Faith's first birthday, I pass a jar of my own breast milk around an auditorium filled with somewhat startled United Nations delegates. Some study it closely. Some avert their eyes. Some smile with recognition. Then I begin my talk about the food chain."
—Sandra Steingraber


Janisse Ray

Nature, Community and the Life we Dream
March 6, 2008, 7:00 p.m., Witherspoon Room

Writer, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray is author of three books of literary nonfiction.

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast. Besides being a plea to protect and restore the glorious pine flatwoods of the South, the book looks hard at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion. Thinker Wendell Berry called the book "well done and deeply moving." A New York Times Notable Book, it won a Southeastern Booksellers Award, an American Book Award, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

Ray's essays appear in the anthologies and she has published in such periodicals as Audubon, Gray's Sporting Journal, Hope, Natural History, Oprah Magazine, Orion, Sierra and The Washington Post. She writes poetry and fiction as well as nonfiction, as has been a radio commentator for Vermont and Georgia public radio.

Ray lectures widely on nature, community, organic agriculture, native plants, sustainability and the politics of wholeness. As an organizer and activist, she works to create sustainable communities, local food systems, a stable global climate, intact ecosystems, clean rivers, life-enhancing economies, and participatory democracy.

Janisse Ray

"The worst part of fragmentation is that it leads to isolation. For humans isolation is the place of hopelessness, of depression, of despair. By deduction, then, we know community to be a place of hope, of possibility, of wholeness. Human community, wild community."
—Janisse Ray, Pinhook


Michael Maniates

The Power of Sacrifice in an Ecologically Full World
October 11, 2007, 7:30 p.m., Witherspoon Room

Maniates is professor of political science and environmental science at Allegheny College. He studies and writes about global patterns of consumption, overconsumption, and consumerism; low consumption/high prosperity paths to development; underexplored routes of citizen involvement in contemporary environmental struggles; and joyful learning and teaching in the liberal arts.

He is the coordinator of The Project on Teaching Global Environmental Politics, an electronic network of over 300 scholars, educators, and activists focused on global environmental affairs, and the co-founder and member of the advisory board of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, now celebrating its 20th year of interdisciplinary policy analysis and advocacy.

His best-known publications include "Environmental Studies: The Sky is Not Falling," published in BioScience; "In Search of Consumptive Resistance: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement" in Confronting Consumption (MIT Press 2002), which he also co-edited; and "Of Knowledge and Power" in his edited volume Encountering Global Environmental Politics (Rowman & Littlefield 2003).

Michael Maniates


Christopher Flavin

Breaking America's Oil Addiction
April 19th 2007, 9:30 a.m., Witherspoon Room

Christopher Flavin is President of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based international research organization focused on energy, resource and environmental issues. Worldwatch is recognized around the world for its path-breaking work on the global connections between economic, social, and environmental trends.

Flavin is a leading voice on the potential for new energy technologies and strategies to replace fossil fuels-increasing energy security and avoiding dangerous climate change. He is co-author of three books on energy, including Power Surge: Guide to the Coming Energy Revolution, which anticipated many of the changes now underway in world energy markets. Flavin's two decades of energy research and writing encompasses solar energy, wind power, bio energy, geothermal power, energy efficiency, and hydrogen.

He is a regular co-author of the Institute's annual State of the World report, which has been published in 36 languages. Together with colleagues, he advised the Chinese government on their landmark renewable energy legislation, which came into effect in February 2005. He is active in international policy circles, and has participated in several historic international conferences, including the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the Climate Change Conference in Kyoto Japan in 1997. Flavin is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and serves as a board member of the American Council on Renewable Energy, the Climate Institute, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

Christopher Flavin

“We have entered a period of rapid, non-linear change, not only in our planet's ecosystems, but in the worlds of business and politics as well. The awakening of the United States from years of fitful hibernation is my nomination for the most momentous environmental development of the year.”
—Christopher Flavin, December 27, 2006


William McDonough

Cradle to Cradle:  Design Chemistry
September 14th 2006, 8:00 p.m., Orr Auditorium

William McDonough is a world-renowned architect and designer and winner of three U.S. presidential awards: the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996), the National Design Award (2004); and the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003). Time magazine recognized him as a "Hero for the Planet" in 1999, stating that "his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that-in demonstrable and practical ways-is changing the design of the world."

Mr. McDonough has been a leader in the sustainable development movement since its inception. He designed and built the first solar-heated house in Ireland in 1977 while still a student at Yale University and designed the first "green office" in the U.S. for the Environmental Defense Fund in 1985. Mr. McDonough was commissioned in 1991 by the City of Hannover to write The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability, the official design guidelines for the 2000 World's Fair which the City presented to the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit in Brazil.

Mr. McDonough is the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, Architecture and Community Design, an internationally recognized design firm practicing ecologically, socially, and economically intelligent architecture and planning in the U.S. and abroad. He is also the cofounder and principal, with German chemist Michael Braungart, of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), which employs a comprehensive Cradle to Cradle design protocol to chemical benchmarking, supply-chain integration, energy and materials assessment, clean-production qualification, and sustainability issue management and optimization.

William McDonough

“I believe we can accomplish great and profitable things within a new conceptual framework—one that values our legacy, honors diversity, and feeds ecosystems and societies . . . It is time for designs that are creative, abundant, prosperous, and intelligent from the start.”
—William McDonough