PAWLET - The Pawlett Historical Society will be hosting "The Idea of Vermont," a presentation by Green Mountain College professor Laird Christensen, on Thursday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m., at the Pawlet Public Library.

Christensen will explore Vermont's evolution, shaped both by the idea of Vermont and the inhabitants of the state. According to Christensen there is something special about the land between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River, and about its communities. Furthermore, Christensen says that today Vermont is commonly understood to be the rustic land of dairy farms and ski resorts, simultaneously a place of cutting-edge progressive politics and the most rural state in the nation.

This current idea of Vermont, however, is only the latest in a long succession of identities.

Through the presentation, attendees will get a history lesson that will allow them to better understand the "idea of Vermont" and how it has continued to change, and how it is, according to Christensen, ". . .struggling to redefine itself despite the stubborn influence of the past." Christensen's presentation will also look at how such mainstays as the ski industry and maple sugaring appear to be at risk due to climate change and how the idea of Vermont will change by the end of the century.

Christensen is Professor of English Literature and Environmental Studies, and Director of the Master of Science in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Green Mountain College.


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Born and raised in western Oregon, Christensen is a writer, teacher and activist focusing on the search for balance between the human and the wild. He teaches courses in English Literature and Environmental Studies at GMC, and was recently appointed Director of the new graduate program in Resilient and Sustainable Communities. His poems and essays have appeared in a variety of books and journals, including Northwest Review, Wild Earth, Northern Woodlands, and Studies in American Indian Literature. His books include "Teaching about Place: Learning from the Land" and "Teaching North American Environmental Literature."

In 1999 the University of Oregon awarded Christensen a Ph.D. for his dissertation, "Spirit Astir in the World: Sacred Poetry in the Age of Ecology." He served as the founding director of Green Mountain College's Master of Science in Environmental Studies, and his teaching interests include American literature, creative writing, bioregionalism, and natural history writing.

While he continues to write about environmental issues in his native Northwest, Christensen is increasingly focused on Vermont, exploring how one comes to feel at home in a place through exercises in environmental perception and learning the local natural history.