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McGregor MIIND series to look at sustainability issues

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Concerned about global warming? Interested in how the discovery of petroleum led to a drastic increase in population? Care enough about the environment to explore strategies for living sustainably? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then this summer’s MIIND Series might be for you. MIIND, which stands for McGregor Institute for Intellectual Development, is sponsored by Antioch University McGregor.

According to Joe Cronin, Ph.D., chair of liberal arts at McGregor, the goal of the MIIND program is to engage the public with graduate and undergraduate students on a number of issues on a continuing basis. This is the third year of the series. Last year, an offering of eight week-long courses turned out to be too ambitious and had to be canceled due to low enrollment. This year’s format of three courses looks more like the program’s first year.

This year’s program is being billed as the MIIND Dynamic Sustainability Summer Seminars and will consist of three sessions: Natural Systems Under Siege (July 7–10); The Petroleum Age (July 28–31); and Living Sustainably: Strategies of Consumption and Collaboration (Aug. 18–21). All classes will be held at Antioch University McGregor from 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. The fee to audit the courses is $100 each.

Kicking off the series will be an appearance on July 7, at 2:30 p.m., by Michael T. Klare, speaking on “Oil, International Conflict, and Resource Wars.” His book Resource Wars will be discussed, after which, at 4 p.m., the movie Blood and Oil, based on another of his books, will be shown. At 7 p.m., Klare will lecture on his new book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy.

On the macro level, the first course, “Natural Systems Under Siege,” taught by Cronin and University of Dayton philosophy department lecturer Bill Marvin, who also teaches at McGregor, will lead an exploration of nature as a whole and humans’ relationship to it. Working from such concerns as dead zones in the ocean and the disappearance of species, the group will look at the stresses in the natural environment.

In “The Petroleum Age,” one human activity, the extraction of oil and how the increase in population can be attributed to it and related stresses, will be studied. In this class, Cronin will teach with fellow faculty member Saul Greenberg, who has taught “Global Ecology and Public Policy” at McGregor.

“Nearly everything in this room is made of fossil fuel,” Cronin said, looking around his office at the new Antioch McGregor building. “In the 70s we thought oil was unlimited. There was actually a green revolution, where we thought we could feed the world because oil was cheap and abundant. One American consumes 13 times as much raw materials as a Brazilian and 30 times that of a sub-Saharan African. Our consumer culture has become a model of consumption for other countries.”

If some of this sounds familiar to Yellow Springers, it may have to do with the village’s having hosted past Peak Oil conferences. Cronin hopes to be able to bring in Peak Oil’s Megan Quinn and Pat Murphy as guest speakers, he said. As a part of the course, students will be looking at energy alternatives, discussing global warming and geopolitics.

In the final session, “Living Sustainably: Strategies of Consumption and Collaboration,” Cronin and Greenberg will explore personal patterns of consumption and look for ways of living fuller, richer lives with alternatives to consumption. Guest speaker Jonathan Scherch from Antioch Seattle’s department of environment and community will help students design plans for changing things around them, linking the theoretical with activism.

Cronin plans to have the classes break down into small groups, or learning communities, that work together to avoid “passive learning,” Cronin said. Those auditing courses without credit will be part of these groups along with the undergraduates and grad students.

“If we want to get moving, we want to get everyone involved in this,” Cronin said. “It is not enough to do an abstract exercise. The more the learners participate, the more they retain.”

Cronin stresses the student-driven nature of the learning process.

“Adult students have fascinating ideas already,” he said. “It would be senseless to give my ideas of what to do. The groups will actively construct the knowledge that is produced in these classes. This is how the Douglas McGregor model of learning is supposed to be.”

Cronin has an open door policy as far as villagers are concerned, and there is still room for those who would like to audit.

“We would love to see more community members,” he said.

In conjunction with the MIIND series, McGregor has been running an “Eco Film Series” of four movies that started on June 11 and will conclude on Aug. 19.

“This really should be year-round,” Cronin said. To that end, he plans to be back with more films and lectures in March. In October there will be a two-day “Social Action Workshop” led by Claudia Albano, neighborhood resources manager for Oakland, Calif., who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley.

More information is available online at or by calling 769-1818.

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