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Lecture to focus on climate change and spiritual force of animals

By Staff | Feb 24, 2016

A lecture that has been held for more than 10 years will return to Sanibel Island this Friday featuring an author who has explored the mystery, wonder and significance of shared experiences with animals.

The 2016 Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture, “Zoologies: Climate Change and the Spiritual Force of Animals,” will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, at Saint Michaels and All Angels Church, 2304 Periwinkle Way. The lecture, which is put on by the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education of Florida Gulf Coast University, is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will be held immediately after the lecture in the church’s Parish Hall.

This year the speaker is Alison Hawthorne Deming, who is a poet, professor, essayist and an advisor of the Center for Environmental & Sustainability Education.

“I have known Peter Blaze Corcoran (director of Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education) for many years through various environmental education circles,” Deming said. “I think we met in Hawaii when we were a part of a big conference. He invited me to be an advisor for the center and I have been happy to do that.”

She said although she has visited Sanibel throughout the years during the center’s annual meetings and fundraisers, this is the first year she will be a presenter for the lecture.

Her career has led to publishing 10 books, which are both poetry and nonfiction.

“I have a very long standing concern with the relationship between people and nature and deeply concerned about climate change,” Deming said. “A lot of my feelings for the natural world has been fed by the fact that we have had so many losses in terms of species and places and smaller cultural groups. So, I have always wanted to make a difference if I possibly could by writing about the things about the natural world, about things I cherish.”

Her lecture will focus on her book, “Zoologies: On Animals and the Human Spirit.” Deming said she will read from her book, as well as talk about the importance of animals to human beings from very early times.

“How our love of animals says some very good things about who we are as creatures and how we might behave in the world, not that we always do,” she said she will focus on during her speech. “Wherever I go I find people that really want to talk about the fate of animals, not just love, but a lot of grief and anger that is happening with distinction. People love to come together to talk about it and share stories about hope and find action to try to do better than what we are doing. Sharing the grief that we feel about the losses is one of the ways we strengthen ourselves to do really what we can to protect more of the planet.”

Deming spent 10 years writing “Zoologies” due to the great deal of research – at the library, online, interviews and in the field – she did to complete the book. One of her experiences in the field led her to Oregon with a scientist who was researching the northern spotted owl, as well as monitoring its nest.

“Experiences like that gives a wonderful firsthand experience of some of the people that are putting great effort into understanding the natural world and how we might protect more of that,” Deming explained.

Protection is one of the reasons she has always been impressed with Sanibel. She said there is a great history of people figuring out a way to have development, while at the same time protecting sea turtles and the native habitat.

“That is possible when people have the will to do it,” Deming said. “It’s a wonderful place to celebrate that.”

The following night, Saturday, Feb. 27, a Sunset Gathering for patrons and the center’s renowned board of advisors, will be held at the Captiva Island Yacht Club. The gathering will include four paintings from Watson MacRae Gallery representing the spiritual force of animals.

Corcoran said the gathering is held to honor the board of advisors, both local and far flung, and their service, as well as honoring the patrons and major givers of the center.

“Mallory and Peter Haffenreffer hosted us for 10 years and this year we will be their host,” he said, to express their gratitude and celebrate the beautiful barrier islands.

The first Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture was held in 2004 to “bring public intellectuals to Southwest Florida to discuss issues, such as sustainability, ethics, democracy and literature.”

Carson, an author known for her book “Silent Spring,” marine biologist and conservationist, spent much of her time drawing attention to the dangers of the use of unregulated pesticides in the mid-20th century.

The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education was founded in 2004 to elevate environmental sustainability. Through contributions, the center is able to provide assistance for the Student Associates for a Greener Environment; mentorship program for undergraduate research; Earth Charter Mini grants; funding program for faculty research and professional development and a new Sustainability-in-Action program for projects in the local community.

For more information about the center, call (239) 590-7166, or visit www.fgcu.edu/cese.