Friday, August 22, 2008
Greetings from a Wisconsinite!
My name is Chris Olson and I am the new volunteer from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps at Earth Ministry. I come to you from the little town of Cumberland in northwestern Wisconsin. I recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied rural sociology and environmental studies.
"Rural sociology?" you say, "What the devil is that?" Well, rural sociology examines rural people and the numerous issues facing rural (or relatively urbanized) populations. These issues include urban sprawl and loss of farmland, changes in rural populations over time, poverty in the rural setting, the evolution of agriculture and agricultural technologies, organic farming in rural and urban environments, sustainability issues, and natural resource consumption and conservation to name a few. It took me almost two years to I settle on rural sociology as a major but it was an experience during the second semester of my freshman year that pointed me on a path that would help me discover my passion for the environment and how people interact with the world around them.
During the spring of 2005 I took a class titled Environmental Studies:The Social Perspective taught by Jack Kloppenburg, who would later become my rural soc. adviser and good friend. One of the projects for the class was to spend a morning working on a nearby CSA farm. Waking up one cool, spring morning I gathered with a small group of other students to carpool across town. As I arrived at the CSA and stepped out of the car, I soaked in the view of the rolling fields stretching out before me. Over the next few hours I took comfort as the morning sun slowly warmed my back as I crouched to plant potatoes, felt the dark soil give way as I learned how to use a push plow, and listened to the stories of those working in the field next to me. I was connected to the earth and the people around me in ways I had never been before. This experience stirred something deep inside me and over the next year I struggled to understand its significance. Knowing how my food was grown, where it came from, and who was affected by it became very important issues to me as I thought about the implications of our global and local food systems. I finally realized that I was being called to work for social and environmental justice and through the rural sociology major I could study issues that would empower me to do that.
I'm excited to spend a year as an LVC volunteer where I will focus on living out the ideas of social justice, intentional community, and simple living. I'm also very excited to join the Earth Ministry team where I will learn to empower others working to integrate the tenets of sustainability and creation care into their congregations and faith communities. I look forward to a year of challenge and growth as well as one of fun and celebration.