Sustainable Lawrence offers earth-saving courses

By: Lea Kahn , Staff Writer , Lawrence Ledger As published 02/23/2006

   Sustainable Lawrence, a newly formed nonprofit group dedicated to encouraging an ecologically sustainable lifestyle, is offering six courses aimed at educating residents on the concept of sustainability.
   Sustainability is defined as not using natural resources at a faster rate than those resources can be replaced — but drawing down those resources quickly is what society is doing, said Ralph Copleman, executive director of Sustainable Lawrence.
   The six courses are intended to help Lawrence residents learn more about environmental challenges and the specific steps that any person or family can take to reverse negative ecological trends, making life healthier and more satisfying, Mr. Copleman said.
   There is no charge for the courses, but the books — which are available through Sustainable Lawrence — average about $15 each, he said. A typical study group comprises eight to 12 people. Each course lasts about eight or nine sessions.
   Many Lawrence residents have become aware of the ecological challenges facing the country and the world, he said. Those residents are young and old, rich and poor, he said.
   "We are offering the courses because we have been aware that people are interested in learning how to live more sustainable lives," Mr. Copleman said. The courses were created by the Northwest Earth Institute of Portland, Ore., in the 1990s, he added.
   "With the courses, we can bring (the concept of) sustainability down to the household or neighborhood level," he said. "There are things you can do in your home to cut down on using resources without cutting down on our quality of life. You can live in harmony with nature."
   The courses are: "Voluntary Simplicity," "Exploring Deep Ecology," "Discovering A Sense of Place," "Choices for Sustainable Living," "Globalization and Its Critics," and "The Natural Step Framework for Sustainability."
   "Voluntary Simplicity" explores the personal and environmental benefits of simplicity, Mr. Copleman said. Sessions include lessons on how to live life more fully with less possessions and how to resists materialism in today's culture.
   "Exploring Deep Ecology" describes an approach by which an individual reflects deeply on his or her relationship with the earth, and his or her responsibility for it. Participants discuss how personal values affect the way they view and treat the earth. "Deep Ecology" is a term coined by Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess, Mr. Copleman said.
   "Discovering A Sense of Place" considers the potential benefits of knowing and protecting our place, he said. Until recent times, survival of a human community depended on an understanding of, and respect for, the distinctive geography, climate, plants and animals located in the region.
   "Choices for Sustainable Living" explores the choices that everyone makes that have an impact on the earth. People can choose options that are more sustainable than others. Participants consider steps toward ecologically sustainable lifestyles, communities and organizations, he said.
   "Globalization and Its Critics" discusses the increased movement of goods, services and capital across borders, he said. The course explores how globalization is affected the environment, local economics and social and cultural customs throughout the world.
   "The Natural Step Framework for Sustainability" discusses the concept of sustainability and how to achieve it, which gave rise to the creation of the Sustainable Lawrence initiative.
   For more information on the courses or to start a group study course, contact Sustainable Lawrence at (609) 895-1629 or e-mail Mr. Copleman at

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