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09-15-2014

Clarkson University's Vitek to Speak at Perennial Agriculture Festival in Kansas

Clarkson University Professor of Philosophy Bill Vitek, chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, will be a featured speaker at the Land Institute’s annual Prairie Festival in Salina, Kan., at the end of September.

Bill Vitek,Dubbed an “intellectual hootenanny,” the Prairie Festival is a three-day gathering of scientists, farmers, activists, scholars, and a public interested in alternative food systems. It features the latest work of Land Institute scientists in their efforts to perennialize the major grain crops, invited speakers, as well as local food and music, including products made with the Land Institute’s own Kernza, the world’s first perennial grain developed by plant breeders for human consumption.

This year’s Prairie Festival theme centers on the potential of the major religious and philosophical traditions to facilitate a global shift in ecological thinking.

Vitek will deliver the Strachan Donnelley Memorial Lecture on Conservation and Restoration. Titled “The Perennial Imagination,” Vitek’s presentation links the roles of farmers and philosophers in effecting large scale social transformations in history, and focuses on the work of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, whose “philosophy of organism” offers a powerful analog to the current ecological restoration and conservation efforts in forestry and agriculture now underway worldwide.

Vitek concludes that the time is ripe for firming up a “coordinating philosophy,” as Whitehead called it. “Every complex culture has a coordinating philosophy, whether its members see it or not," says Vitek. "One example is monotheism. Another is global capitalism. Without such a deep address, changing light bulbs or laws and policies will have limited effects. Until we get a coordinating philosophy that undergirds our emerging ecospheric worldview, we’re not going to get much progress. And we now have the philosophical and ecological horsepower to do just that. Perennial food and philosophy go together, if we’re talking about transformation.”

Vitek has collaborated with the Land Institute for two decades. He and Wes Jackson, founder and president of the Land Institute, have previously published two books together and they are at work on a third. It will outline an ecologically-based classroom curriculum to accompany the hands-on work of perennial agriculture.

Read more about the Land Institute at http://www.landinstitute.org/about-us .

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/wvitek.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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