We’re introducing you to the creative, intelligent and environmentally savvy scholars leading us on our adventures (register for one here). Our scholars will help infuse the humanities into each excursion by facilitating interesting conversations that connect environmental literature, nature and the past, present and future of Hoosier stewardship. Be sure to check the blog throughout the summer to “meet the minds!”
Krista Bailey, Director, IU South Bend Center for a Sustainable Future and Sustainability Studies faculty member
What excursions will you lead?
What drew you to Next Indiana Campfires? How does it connect to your professional or personal interests?
I love the Hoosier landscape in all its diversity and love exploring new and well known trails and blueways. The best way to experience them is sharing them with friends and family. When I heard that Next Indiana Campfires was looking for someone to lead hikes and share Hoosier literature, I quickly applied and am thrilled to be a guide for other Hoosiers into our natural areas and creative minds.
My academic career began in literature but shifted to biology, so this opportunity fits my background extremely well. Currently, I teach about sustainability, which provides me with the opportunity to connect to students and the community using science, art, economics, and social justice. A longstanding love of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry has provided me with inspiration and reflection. I often return to favorite Hoosier authors such as Scott Russell Sanders to connect me to the sacred in my self and my place on the planet.
What author, book, essay or poem first awakened an interest in environmental writing? Tell us a little about when you read it and how it impacted you.
The Little House of the Prairie series had to have been the first books I read that awakened my interest in the environment and culture and how closely they are related. She wrote about the human-nature connection, and described how she lived a life intimately connected to the seasons and the provisions of the wild while also relying on and enjoying the cultural amenities that came and went. I think I was struck by the big and little moments she described interacting with fish in a stream, or grasses on the prairie, or snow (lots of snow!). I read and re-read the whole series as a second grader and would have discussions about the books with a friend’s mom. Even better than reading them myself was reading them to my second grade daughter and seeing her delight in them as well.
Where’s your favorite place to spend time outdoors in Indiana? Have you discovered a hidden gem that more Hoosiers should know about?
I have many favorite places to spend time outdoors in Indiana: “The Potholes” outside of Lafayette, Fort Ouiatenon, and Prophet’s Rock were favorites in high school; the T.C Steele area in Brown County and McCormicks Creek State Park are college day favs; Turkey Run State Park is a long standing adventure zone; , and New Harmony, Indiana offers a fascinating connection space between an early peaceful Hoosier culture and nature. Today, a favorite spot close to home is the St. Joseph River, either on shore or in my kayak, and I love biking out to St. Patrick’s County Park (and crossing the line into Michigan’s Madeline Bertrand park) and out to Potato Creek State Park to try and spot the eagles. What drew me back to northern Indiana were two key natural features: Lake Michigan and Boot Lake Nature Preserve in Elkhart County. I helped with the restoration of Boot Lake, and know the trails intimately. The wetland, woodland, and prairie features are lovely and unique, and draw a wide array of birds and other wildlife. It is a place that always bring me peace when I stroll the easy paths. I grew up spending summers on Lake Michigan, so the dunes and the unique ecosystems found along the shore are a favorite place for me to be. Waves, wind, grasses, trees, flowers…I got married just off the beach and consider the lake an intimate friend. I will not divulge my favorite beach spots, because I like them best when there are only a couple of people on them – me and whoever I am with that day!
What’s the focus of your scholarly research / creative practice? How does it relate to nature and the environment?
My research has been focused on sustainable urban food systems, but has recently expanded to look at how people learn about and begin practicing healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits. What reaches who and how do they decide to act? More often than not, doing something healthy is doing something sustainable (think riding a bike vs driving). Why people choose to ride a bike may be because of their interest in living sustainable, or living in a healthy manner, or something else. If a holistic approach can be made to encourage healthy and sustainable behaviors, what would that look like? I am very interested in the social and intellectual factors that prompt sustainable change. If leading a Next Indiana Campfires can create a positive, long-lasting impression on participants so that they will be drawn back to that spot, support the protection of that area, be inspired by the literature, and have a complete hands-on seeing, smelling, feeling, and intellectually and physically challenging experience, then I will have done my job.
Is there an environmental humanities topic or text that you love teaching? What is it, and why do you love using it in the classroom?
I love teaching from The Death of Nature by Carolyn Merchant because it provides a unique perspective on how we act and interact with nature and grounds it in history and culture. I have yet to have a student disagree with this book – most are blown away by it.
Okay, just for fun! What’s on the top of your book pile these days?
I am currently reading outside of my Hoosier comfort zone. I have been reading Julia Whitty’s The Fragile Edge. It is filled with stories of scuba diving in the South Pacific and focuses on the environmental and social implications of how we act towards and impact our oceans and thus our planet.
Next Indiana Campfires is a unique way to connect nature, literature and Indiana’s Bicentennial. The program is supported by the Efroymson Family Fund, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires. Indiana Humanities is supported in part by Lilly Endowment Inc. and the National Endowment of the Humanities.
This post is part of the weekly blog series devoted to the initiative. Check back every Tuesday to learn more about Indiana’s great environmental literature, find out interesting facts about Hoosier stewardship, get all the latest program details and more.