Interfaith group to bring environmental speaker

Anna Lang

Larry Rasmussen, professor emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in New York, will be speaking at NMU on Monday, March 10. His presentation will start at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Brule Room of the University Center.


The event is sponsored by the Earthkeepers, an interfaith group sponsored by the EPA that extends across the Upper Peninsula and part of Wisconsin that also has a student organization at NMU. It is also sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Philosophy and the Lutheran Campus Ministry.

Rasmussen is a Lutheran pastor who has taught at Wesley Theological Seminary and St. Olaf. He has also served as the ethicist for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“He’s a very published author; he’s world renown as an ethicist and environmentalist,” said post-baccalaureate accounting major Tom Merkel, who is a student Earthkeeper.

In “A Planet in Crisis: Religion, Ethics, and the Environment,” Rasmussen will discuss environmentalism and faith-based ethics.

“[It’s about] how he thinks people of faith should see this as an important issue and the science behind it,” said Merkel.

There is no cost to attend the presentation and people of all faiths or no faith are encouraged to come listen.

“I think [people] should come no matter what their interest is in the environmental movement because even if there’s little interest or if they think they’re going to disagree with it, it will at least get a discussion going, get people talking,” said Merkel.

According to sophomore media production major Paul Flaminio, an intern for Earthkeepers, Rasmussen was chosen to speak because his beliefs are very similar to the goals of the Earthkeepers.

“It’s not going to be a denominational approach,” Flaminio said. “Earthkeepers as an organization is a multi-faith initiative, so I think there’s going to be something in this presentation that anyone can take out of it, either from a spiritual perspective or an environmental perspective or just from the perspective of the philosophy that he talks about.”

The goals of the Earthkeepers are to deepen the connection between the religious communities and environmental movements, as well as build 30 interfaith, community gardens across the U.P. Seven of those gardens have been completed.

The Earthkeepers also complete audits for churches.

“They’re to help a parish save money and become more environmentally friendly,” said Merkel.

Ten faith traditions are represented in the Earthkeepers: Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalism, Quaker, Judaism, United Methodist and Episcopal.

For more information about Earthkeepers, email Pastor Jon Magnuson at [email protected]

“One thing with Earthkeepers that we try to do is be a positive in the environmental movement. A lot of other environment groups are very negative, it seems,” said Merkel. “‘You have to do this; you have to stop doing that or do all this. We’re doomed. It’s going down hill. We’re trying to look at it from a positive perspective.”