Seminar Twitter list:

Seminar blog links:

RESC 98 18 Christianity and Sustainability

Prof. Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Instructor, Senior Fellow, AdvisorMWF 9 a.m. Coleman 118 and Thurs. 7-8 p.m. Academic West 108

Vaughan Lit 111


Ms. Eve Marie Blasinsky, Graduate Assistant 

Office Hours: By appointment and scheduled tutorials, and usually during the hour after our seminar (MWF 10-11), but please double-check.

In this course we will examine sustainability through the lens of a major world faith that has had particular historical influence on Western culture. In the process, we’ll learn about the symbolic and immaterial side to environmental issues, and how to shape cultural symbols in writing and media to affect environmental debate.

Seminar goals

–Develop definitions of sustainability and nature that include cultural tradition.

–Gain an understanding of the role of cultural tradition in environmental issues, as recalled by the acronym MNEMS (short for mnemonics or remembering): Metaphor Narrative Emotion Memes Story

–See the difference and overlap between “nature” as a cultural system and “environment” as a material system, and understand distinctive historic uses of the terms “creation,” “cosmos,” “earth,” and “world.”

–Learn and practice the relation between rhetoric and physical reality, while developing skills at writing and blogging critically.

Learning Objectives

This course is a first-year Foundation Seminar, which has the following learning outcomes:

  • Students will develop writing, reading, speaking, listening, and information literacy skills necessary for collegiate-level academic work
  • Students will develop capacities for independent academic work and become self-regulated learners.

In addition, this course is designated as the “W1” writing-intensive type, and thus has the following program outcomes:

  • Students will produce effective written communication in terms of expository skills and use of conventions relevant to particular disciplines or genres.
  • Students will practice writing as a process that includes planning, composing, revising, and editing.
  • Students will use writing as an instrument for learning.

Common Hours, Fall Trip, and Symposium

This year’s common theme for the Environmental Residential College is Sustainability: Eco-Mobility and Community Boundaries. We’ll be focusing on this common theme in our weekly common hours (which are part of the course), on our Fall Trip to Pittsburgh Oct. 25-27, and in group video projects for the Residential College Symposium at the end of the semester, which will group students together from all three Environmental College seminars, each working with one of the Senior Fellows.

Writing and media assignments

Writing and media projects for the semester will include:

Initial blog/presentation

Tweets and short blogs on readings

Three short reflections

Group video project (with students from other Environmental College classes)

Late submission may be accepted with a delay of up to 24 hours, at the penalty of 20% (i.e. if you submit a perfect essay, 1 hour late, you will receive 80% for the essay).  Nothing beyond the 24 hour mark will be accepted (zero for that assignment).  n.b.:  Some assignments involving presentations or group work will not have the option of late submission. You will have the option of re-writing the reflections for a higher grade within certain limits.


 Your semester grade will be based in part on the following:

Three reflections, 15 percent each

Initial blog presentation, 5 percent

Reading Tweets and blogs, 10 percent

In-class and common hour participation and attendance: 15 percent

Approximately 25% of your final grade will be based on your group final video project, 15% on your individual contribution to the project, and 10% on the group outcome, which will be determined in part by peer evaluations and evaluations by all three Senior Fellows.

In-class discussion assignments and written and media projects will be graded based on rubrics given to you; please follow them precisely to maximize your grade and pass the assignments.

Final grades are determined on an absolute scale (i.e. you are not competing with your classmates).  Generally, the letter grades are assigned as follows:

A/A-: 90-100 pts,  B+/B/B-: 80-89 pts,  C+/C/C-: 70-79 pts,  D: 60-69 pts,  F: 0-59 pts,

n.b.:  In college, the standards are high.  An “average” work corresponds to C+/B-.

n.b.:  I reserve the right to adjust the letter grade ranges in special circumstances.



I expect each of you to be a mature, responsible, professional student.

I will observe and evaluate your behavior throughout the semester.  Expectations include:

  • Attendance:  showing up to seminar, common hour, and Res College events engaged, prepared, and on time
  • Participation:  being awake, and taking part (speaking, listening, respecting others), avoiding distracting note-passing and whispering, not eating in class—these are all to help us learn and share ideas together in a mindful way.
  • Taking notes actively while reading and in each class, and taking responsibility for discussion, including preparation for discussion assignments and your own initiative
  • Cell phone manners:  sound and vibration off at all times, no texting
  • Communication:  swift notification in case of absences/ emergencies and proper e-mail styles (Dear Prof. Siewers, … Best Regards, John Doe)
  • Observing the Bucknell Honor Code: No plagiarism, which the university takes very seriously as an academic infraction.


Deviations from the rules and policies stated in this syllabus can be accommodated on a case-by-case basis, if deemed appropriate by proper University authorities.  You are responsible for handling these situations and taking proper steps, ahead of time.  For example, if you have medical conditions or personal situations that require accommodation, let the Dean’s Office know.  Similarly, if you have University-sanctioned activities or events, family emergencies, and medical situations, please work with your Dean’s Office (and your Coach or Student Health Services doctor, etc.) to provide me with official notifications.

Late Coupon:        You each have a late assignment submission coupon, available for use to waive the penalties and excuses associated with late submissions of (an) assignment(s).  It is up to you how and when you use the coupon: you may use a full coupon once to extend your assignment due date by 48 hours, or you may use half coupons twice to waive the 20% penalty associated with a less-than-24 hours-late hand-in of an assignment.  You must activate the coupon by acknowledging the use of it (which assignment, half or full coupon) via an email to me.

Required Books

The Lord of the Rings  by J.R.R. Tolkien (Lotr)

Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible by Ellen Davis

Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher

Ents, Elves & Eriador, Dickerson & Evans (D&E)

Green Philosophy  by Roger Scruton (copies will be supplied)

Other Personnel:       Senior Fellows of the Environmental Residential College

  • Prof. Katsuyuki Wakabayashi (
  • Dr. Brandn Green, Environmental Center (

Junior Fellows of the Environmental Residential College

  • Ms. Sarah Denning (
  • Mr. Jared Feindt (

Schedule and Topics

1. What’s in a word? Nature, Creation, Environment

Wed. 8/28 Creation story, Genesis 1-3. Craft Center

Thurs. 8/29 Common Hour: What is Sustainability?

Fri. 8/30 Sermon on the Mount. D&E “Introduction.” MNEMS.

Mon. 9/2 Davis, Chapter 3, “Seeing with God: Israel’s Poem of Creation.”

2. The Shire and Sustainability

Wed. 9/4 LotR: Foreword to the Second Edition, and first half of Prologue, “Concerning Hobbits.” D&E pp. ix-xii.

Thurs. 9/5 Common Hour: Amish, Mennonites, and Sustainability

Fri. 9/6 Second half of Prologue” Sections 2, 3, 4 and “Note on the Shire Records.” Baggins End Domes talk (to be confirmed).

Sat. 9/7 5 p.m. Blog assignment due (400 words)

Mon. 9/9 Blog presentations and definition Tweets, D&E pp. 3-18.

Blog assignment topics: (400 words)

Environmental humanities

Deep ecology and dark ecology

Lynn White and responses

Definitions of sustainability

Ecological fantasy writing and film

Urban agrarianism

Mennonites and Amish and technology

Classical views of Nature 1 (Plato and Stoics)

Classical views of Nature 2 (Aristotle, Lucretius/Epicurean)

3.  Sustainability, Landscape, and Meaning

Wed. 9/11 LotR Book I: Chapters 1-2. Native American speaker (to be confirmed), D&E pp. 23-36.

Thurs 9/12 Common Hour: Video Project Intro and Teams

Fri. 9/13 Chapters 3-4, Davis ix-xiii

Sat. 9/14 10 p.m. Bible and Sustainability reflection due (700 words)

Mon. 9/16 Chapters 5-6, Davis 8-20

Wed. 9/18 Chapters 7-8, D&E pp. 18-23.

Thurs. 9/19 Common Hour: Photo scavenger hunt

Fri. 9/20 Chapters 9-10, David Bentley Hart “Anarcho-Monarchism,”

Mon. 9/23 Chapters 11-12, Davis pp. 21-41

4.  Sustainability and Art

Wed. 9/25 LotR Book II: Chapters 1-2, D&E 95-109

Thurs. 9/26 Common Hour: Film workshop

Fri. 9/27 Chapters 3-4, Schumacher “Technology with a Human Face”

Mon. 9/30 Chapters 5-6, D&E 37-49

Wed. 10/2 Chapters 7-8 D&E 109-117

Thurs. 10/3 Common Hour: Teddy Roosevelt and the environmental imagination

Fri. 10/4 Chapters 9-10, D&E 49-64 (including last full paragraph on 64)

5. Ents, Orcs, Riders, and Palantíri: Community and Sustainability

Sat. 10/5 5 p.m. Aesthetics and sustainability reflection due (700 words)

Mon. 10/7 LotR Book III: Chapters 1-2

Wed. 10/9 Chapters 3-4, Davies 155-163, D&E 119-144

Thurs. 10/10 Environmentalism and pop culture: The Simpsons

Fri. 10/11 Chapters 5-6, Davies 163-178

Mon. 10/14 Fall Break

Wed. 10/16  Chapter 7-8, Schumacher “The Problem of Production”

Thurs. 10/17 Common Hour: Recycling

Fri. 10/18 No Common Hour.

Mon. 10/21 Chapters 9-10, D&E 192-203

Wed. 10/23 Chapter 11, Schumahcer “Buddhist Economics”

6. The Wasteland

Thurs. 10/24 Common Hour: Trip preparation

Fri. 10/25 LotR Book IV: Chapters 1-2  D&E 185-192

Fri. 10/25-Sun. 10/27 Fall Trip.

Mon. 10/28 Chapters 3-4

7. Rangers, Lordship, and Ecology

Wed. 10/30 Chapters 5-6

Thurs. 10/31. No Common Hour.

Fri. 11/1 Chapters 7-8

Mon. 11/4 Chapters 9-10

Tues. 11/5 5 p.m.  Politics and Sustainability reflection due (700 words)

8. War, Peace, and Ecology

Wed. 11/6 LotR Book V: Chapters 1-2

Thurs. 11/7 Common Hour: The JFs present

Fri. 11/8 Chapters. 3-4

Mon. 11/11 Chapters 5-6, Schumacher “Peace and Permanence”

9. Cultural Environmentalism

Wed. 11/13 Chapters 7-8, Scruton 183-192

Thurs. 11/14 Common Hour: The Susquehanna Valley

Fri. 11/15 Chapters 9-10, Scruton 192-208

Mon. 11/18 Film editing workshop

10. Restoration

Wed. 11/20 LotR Book VI: Chapters 1-2, Scruton 212-224

Thurs. 11/21 Common Hour: Video workshop.

Fri.  11/22 Chapters 3-4, Scruton 225-238

Mon. 11/25 Chapters 5-6, Scruton 238-252

11/27-12/1 Thanksgiving Break

Mon. 12/2 Chapter 7-8, D&E 215-233

Wed. 12/4 Chapter 9, Scruton, 253-262

Thurs. 12/5 Common Hour: Video workshop

Fri. 12/6  Scruton 262-291

Sat. 12/7 Residential College Symposium

Mon. 12/9 Finale

One 20th-century view of nature that in its connection with faith may parallel Tolkien’s, by the rhetorician Richard Weaver:

[T]he attitude toward nature…is a matter so basic to one’s outlook or philosophy of life that we often tend to overlook it. Yet if we do overlook it, we find there are many things coming later which we cannot straighten out…. [N]ature [is] something which is given and something which is finally inscrutable. This is equivalent to saying that…it [is] the creation of a Creator. There follows from this attitude an important deduction, which is that man has a duty of veneration toward nature and the natural. Nature is not something to be fought, conquered and changed according to any human whims. To some extent, of course, it has to be used. But what man should seek in regard to nature is not —a complete dominion but a modus vivendi that is, a manner of living together, a coming to terms with something that was here before our time and will be here after it. The important corollary of this doctrine, it seems to me, is that man is not the lord of creation, with an omnipotent will, but a part of creation, with limitations, who ought to observe a decent humility in the face of the inscrutable.

–Richard Weaver









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *