October 17, 2018

21st Environmental Affairs Symposium Focuses on Crossing Boundaries

Current discourse is marked with a boundary-oriented mentality, and animosity on both sides prevents meaningful progress. Taking place October 23 through October 24, the 21st Environmental Affairs Symposium hopes to change that narrative. To facilitate this conversation, race relations expert Daryl Davis will speak on his experience engaging with members of the Ku Klux Klan and how he finds common ground with people of all backgrounds and opinions.

by Yancee Gordon BA ’21

The 21st Annual Environmental Affairs Symposium is traversing boundaries—whether they are intellectual, geographical, communicative, or racial. This year’s event, taking place October 23 through October 24, recognizes that boundaries exist among people and explores ways to overcome them. Students will get the opportunity to learn how to collaborate with others who hold differing worldviews on a variety of issues.

“Environment Across Boundaries conveys what is special and significant about how our students at Lewis & Clark College approach environmental issues,” says Professor of Environmental Studies James D. Proctor. “Students cross a wide range of intellectual boundaries as they seek new scholarly concepts and skills; geographic boundaries as they apply these concepts and skills to explore environmental issues around the world; and communication boundaries as they engage with people on all sides of these issues.”

In diverse topics of study though, there is often controversy. This year’s symposium hopes to provide students with tools and resources to engage controversy and to achieve compromise. Sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program, the event takes an interdisciplinary approach to showcase methods of how to reach out and engage with others. To do this, the symposium welcomes keynote speaker Daryl Davis.

As a race relations expert, Daryl Davis encounters controversy on a regular basis, Author, musician, and activist Daryl Davis. Author, musician, and activist Daryl Davis.and his insight will help students navigate future situations that involve diverse worldviews.

A musician, actor, author, and lecturer, Davis is best known for his work engaging with members of the Ku Klux Klan and causing dozens to forgo their hatred in favor of tolerance. He understands the need to bridge the gap between differing groups, and his experience working with opposing parties can provide students with a basis on how to communicate with others in their lives.

As Davis wrote in a 2017 Washington Post column:

I am not so naive as to think everyone will change. There are certainly those who will go to their graves as hateful, violent racists. I never set out certain that I would convert anyone. I just wanted to have a conversation and ask, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” What I’ve learned is that whether or not I’ve changed minds, talking can still relieve tensions. I’ve seen firsthand that when two enemies are talking, they are not fighting. They may be yelling and beating their fists on the table, but at least they are talking. Violence happens only when talking has stopped.

Davis kicks off the symposium with a lecture titled “Klan We Talk? Race, Environment, Engagement, and Empowerment,” followed by a musical performance and an open Q&A session. This lecture is free and open to the public, and begins Tuesday, October 23 at 7 p.m.

See a full schedule of events here.