Second annual IGC Civic Forum to focus on 'big normative issues' in society

By Anne Flanagan

Students, faculity and staff will examine the intersection between morality and the environment at the second annual Civic Forum entitled “The Environment, Citizenship, and the Public Good.” The forum, an Institute for Global Citizenship initiative, is scheduled to run through Friday evening.”The goal of the forum is to provide the Macalester community with an annual opportunity to explore the big normative issues related to civic life, leadership and engagement in early 21st century America,” said Andrew Latham, associate dean of the IGC and political science professor.

Donald E. Worster of the University of Kansas was chosen to give the keynote address, “On John Muir’s Trail – Nature and Society in an Age of Liberal Principles.” As part of the forum, students and faculty have been asked to participate in panel discussions and a post-forum conversation.

Worster is a pioneer in the field of environmental history. In addition to Worster, Macalester professors from the Political Science, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy departments will participate.

Four students will also present papers at the panel discussions.

“I was invited by Professor Latham to develop and present a paper,” Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09 said, “and it’s the kind of thing I do anyway.”

The topic was chosen, according to Latham, because “few would dispute that issues related to the environment are crucially important to the future of humanity.”

In spite of the institute’s explicit global focus, the content of the forum focuses on the United States; the keynote address and three of the four student papers center on the situation in this country.

“While the primary focus of the Civic Forum is on the United States, we believe that to the extent possible the particularities of the U.S. case must always be put in global and or comparative perspective,” Latham said.

The conversation preceding the panels featuring local environmental practitioners and will hopefully make the topic more relevant to students, said Karin Trail-Johnson, associate dean of IGC.

“The event aims to bring theory and practice together and provide a venue for more reflection and discussion by students,” she said.

Den Herder-Thomas said he hopes the entire event can encourage students to think personally about their responsibility to the environment. “I hope student get more excited about the engagement of fellow students not just as the things that professionals are interested in.”

Last year the forum was entitled “Mediations on Global Citizenship,” and Latham said they are strongly considering “Religion in the Public Square” as the “big issue” for next year.