Students Begin Pre-Conference Outreach with Green Service Projects

Groups of Mercer University students are volunteering with green projects throughout Macon to help residents reduce carbon emissions and build community projects. The efforts are part of the conference “Caring for Creation: A Scientific and Theological Response,” which will examine ethical,  scientific and religious dimensions of climate change.

The first service projects began in September, as students worked with Rebuilding Macon to weatherize the homes of elderly and limited income residents, helping them lower their carbon emissions, and saving them money in the process.

Mercer honors students replace light bulbs in the home of Lois Gunner with more energy efficient compact flourescent bulbs as part of a weatherization project.
Mercer honors students replace light bulbs in the home of Lois Gunner with more energy efficient compact flourescent bulbs as part of a weatherization project.

“You all are heaven-sent,” homeowner Lois Gunner said on a recent afternoon as students from Mercer’s Honors Program worked to make her home more energy efficient. The group insulated her water heater and hot water pipes, added weather stripping to her windows and doors, sprayed insulation in her attic and replaced her light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescents.

“If the greater Macon area and Mercer can produce less carbon dioxide, it will make an impact on the climate change,” said Dr. Tom Glennon, director of the program for leadership and service at Mercer. “We are all in this together. What one person does will affect what others have to put up with in the future.”

Mercer is partnering with the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School to put on the. The conference will include two days of lectures and discussions on Oct. 29 and 30 and will conclude with a green day of service in the Macon community on Saturday, Oct. 31.

In addition to the weatherization project, the Caring for Creation Conference is endeavoring to develop at least two community gardens. Students will be working in Pleasant Hill Community Garden and Beall’s Hill Community Garden at Centenary Methodist Church. 

Two “green wall” projects, located in the College Hill Corridor, and a river clean-up and river bank restoration project on the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail are also in the works. These service projects will take place during October.

The projects further the conference’s goals through service. The conference aims to bridge the current gap between the faith and science communities on issues of climate change. The conference seeks to engage and inspire Mercer students and the Central Georgia community to answer the challenge of caring for God’s creation. The University held its first Caring for Creation conference in February on the Atlanta campus, and Macon faculty and students quickly organized to stage a similar conference in Macon.

“This conference will not only serve as a platform to discuss pertinent issues of global climate change, but it will enable individuals to make tangible differences in their lives and community,” said Kathryn Doornbos, a senior biology major from Brasstown, N.C., and conference organizer. “Our day of service ensures that we will not merely be talking about the problem, but taking steps to solve it. Any university could host philosophical debate about the science and theology of creation care, but only Mercer can take that discussion and find solutions in service.”

The event is part of Mercer’s efforts to help raise local awareness of climate change and creation care, in addition to its efforts to do so through service-learning and applied research. Organizers have developed the conference program to provide students and members of the community with the knowledge and skills needed to face these environmental challenges.

Topics for the event range from climate change to environmental justice and will include an array of speakers, including noted authors Jonathan Merritt and Sharon Astyk. Merritt, a faith and culture writer, will give the opening address on Oct. 29, along with author and ethicist Dr. David Gushee, Mercer’s Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics. The daylong program on Oct. 30 will include more than a dozen break-out sessions with prominent scientists, pastors, farmers, students and professors. In addition to the breakout sessions on Oct. 30, Astyk, a noted writer, teacher and subsistence farmer, will deliver the closing address of the conference.

“An academic institution should showcase the major concerns of the culture and it should promote interdisciplinary discourse,” said Dr. Mary Ann Drake, professor of interdisciplinary studies and co-chair of the conference’s organizing committee. “To ensure our sustainability requires the best and the brightest from our foundational traditions: religion and science. We need not only facts, but ethical codes of behavior to drive us to more reasonable ways of interacting with the greatest gift we have: our creation. This conference fulfills both needs.”

All conference attendees must register online. Registration fee is $35 for the public and includes lunch on Oct. 30. The event is free to students, faculty and staff who register before the conference. Students without a meal plan must pay $10 if they wish to attend the lunch on Oct. 30.

Visit the conference web site for more information or to register, www.mercer.edu/caring.

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