By Helena Kilburn
Sewanee’s Earthkeepers group meets twice a month at the Greenhouse to discuss topics concerning the environment and non-affiliated spirituality. This year, at 7 p.m. on alternating Tuesdays, they examine the theme of death and decay. People from differing parts of campus gather in the Greenhouse with snacks and tea to reflect on a topic not usually explored in day-to-day life.
As Gil Horner (C’20) describes it, “Earthkeepers facilitates recognition of our collective humanity, permitting a ‘zooming-out’ from the Sewanee bubble and thus allowing us to think about our Earthly place and function. Through films, readings, and personal experiences—removed from the Earth’s landscape by only the Greenhouse floor—we grapple with ideas about humans and nature; the fruits we then temper our finite actions by. It’s a nice thing!”
Most meetings begin with a visiting speaker who presents readings or speeches on the theme of death and decay. This naturally leads to a discussion of thoughts or questions related to the speaker’s presentation.
Annie Corley (C’20), a regular attendee, remarked, “I really enjoy getting the different perspectives and experiences from the guest speakers because I personally have not had many experiences with death. This is a good way to make me think about deep subject matter, and it is also a really great way to connect with other members of the Sewanee community over an emotional and important topic.”
An overarching question is Why is discussing death important and how will it affect the way that we live? Much of the conversation encompassed death’s effect on humans; however, Earthkeepers also explored ideas of how death and decay connect to the environment. Because of the location of the meetings at the Greenhouse, the eco-friendly theme helps when talking about life and death’s effect on the environment.
“I think that we have to discuss death and be aware of it and be aware that our lives are short and that we have to use the environment in a way that, after we die, others can still get the same value out of the environment,” said Corley.
Human life and death play a powerful role in the health of the natural environment. Earthkeeper conversations encourage one to think about death and decay from a perspective without fear and to consider the legacy every person will leave after they are deceased. They explore the question, What type of personal and environmental legacy are we leaving when we die?
Pull Quote: “Earthkeepers facilitates recognition of our collective humanity, permitting a ‘zooming-out’ from the Sewanee bubble and thus allowing us to think about our Earthly place and function.” Gil Horner