SUNY Cortland series explores impacts of local communities

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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SUNY Cortland will embark on a yearlong discussion about the role that local communities play in the greater society’s achievement of economic health, environmental resilience and overcoming inequalities of all types.

Presented by the Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC), the nine lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions and concerts are themed on “Where Are We?”

Bob Spitzer

Robert Spitzer

The committee’s theme states the idea posed by Wendell Berry: “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are,” according to CICC co-chair Scott Moranda, associate professor of history.The events are free and open to the public.

“We want to engage the campus in a critical discussion of localism and privilege,” Moranda said. “Strong arguments have been made about the value of shopping locally and eating locally grown food, but has the promotion of local economies done enough to engage with problems of poverty and racial inequality? Can the poor afford to be ‘locavores,’ who purchase local products produced in a sustainable manner? Does the idea of the ‘local’ invite everyone into our ‘home’ or wall some of us out?”

Committee members hope the series will encourage service in Cortland and surrounding areas.

“Many of us here at the College are new residents or short-term visitors in Cortland,” he said. “What connects us to this place, and why should we care?”

Robert Spitzer, a SUNY distinguished service professor and chair of the College’s Political Science Department, will launch the event series on Wednesday, Sept. 24, with a proposal to address the unbalanced relationship between gun laws and rights by looking at the local scenario.

“America’s love-hate relationship with guns has been framed in modern times as a zero sum struggle between gun laws and gun rights: that a gain for one side is a loss for the other, and that the two are incompatible,” Spitzer said. “But is that true? My research on the history of gun laws concludes the reverse: that in most of our history, the two went hand in hand.”

His talk, “Did Bob Get His Gun (Permit)? What Local Gun Laws Tell Us About the National Gun Debate,” begins at 4:30 p.m. in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

Spitzer is the author of five books on gun policy, including this year’s Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights (Oxford University Press).

The series continues with a concert by the Cortland Old Timers Band on Thursday, Oct. 1. The music starts at 7 p.m. in Old Main Brown Auditorium.

Local community bands have a long history in the United States and the Cortland Old Timers Band can trace its origins to 1911. This concert, under the direction of conductor Edward O’Rourke, will feature classic and contemporary band music related to the ensemble’s long tradition.

O’Rourke was a music teacher for 41 years and taught in the Syracuse City Schools from 1977 until retirement in 2014. He has performed as clarinetist, saxophonist and conductor for a variety of bands.

Samuel Forcucci, retired band conductor and SUNY Cortland music professor emeritus, will introduce the band.

Martin Ogle

Martin Ogle

Martin Ogle, the chief naturalist for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority from 1985 to 2012, on Thursday, Oct. 8 will share his innovative ideas for thinking of the land as a community of which we are part.

He will explore his research of the Gaia Theory, the scientific view of Earth as a single physiological system. He will focus on the synergy between Gaia Theory and Aldo Leopold’s theory of Land Ethic, and explain how both may be necessary for us to address daily environmental and social challenges.Ogle, who has received the annual award of the Washington Academy of Sciences for outstanding teaching in informal and non-academic settings, will discuss “Land Ethic and Gaia Paradigm; the Co-Evolution of Two Great Ideas” at 4:30 p.m. in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

Ogle has degrees in wildlife biology from Colorado State and Virginia Tech.

A variety of four “common read” texts were selected for departments and programs across the campus to share.

“We encourage faculty and staff to infuse the theme into their courses, either through selections from the common readings or other texts related to the theme,” Moranda said.

The four selections are:

  • Will Allen’s  The Good Food Revolution. After years in professional basketball and as an executive for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Procter & Gamble, the author built the country’s preeminent urban farm — a food and educational center that now produces enough produce and fish year-round to feed thousands. Employing young people from the neighboring housing project and community, Growing Power shows how local food systems can help troubled youths, dismantle racism, create jobs, bring urban and rural communities closer together and improve public health.
  • Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. The author argues that climate change is an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies and rebuild our gutted local economies.
  • Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. These essays by a conservationist and wildlife biologist focus on a small farm Leopold lovingly tended as he sought to restore a damaged natural ecosystem. He imagined a local community that included both humans and the natural world and called for a new “land ethic” that elevated love of place and the rights of the land, animals and plants above what is economically expedient.
  • Gerald Grant, Hope and Despair in the American City. The author compares two cities — his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., and Raleigh, N.C. — in order to examine the consequences of the nation’s ongoing educational inequities. The result is an ambitious portrait of two cities that exemplify our nation’s greatest educational challenges. The book can lend itself to discussions of inequities and school reforms here in central New York.

Future events in the “Where Are We?” series will be announced in the next Bulletin.

By holding an annual series on a different intellectual theme, the committee aims to generate common topics of discussion and to establish traditions of intellectual discourse on campus. The CICC encourages faculty and staff to infuse the theme into their course curricula, engage in classroom discussions and debates around the theme, and propose campus events or speakers on topics connected to the theme.

The series is sponsored by the Campus Artist and Lecture Series, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs’ Office, the President’s Office and the Cortland College Foundation.

For more information, contact Moranda at 607-753-2052.

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