WACO, Texas (Sept. 16, 2019) – A year in the making, the Armstrong Browning Library is set to host an environmentally conscious, multi-site conference Sept. 18-21. This conference, “Ecology and Religion in 19th Century Studies,” will digitally connect audiences at events occurring in four different locations, all in separate time zones.
In addition to Baylor University, the other participating institutions in the conference include University of Washington in Seattle, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Lancaster University in Lancaster, England. Contributors from these locations will reach over 200 registered audience members, who will also have the chance to partake in digital Q&A sessions.
“[The conference] focuses on the nineteenth century, when the environmental problems we face today were being set in motion,” Dr. Joshua King, associate professor of English and Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies, said. “It shows how many people related—and struggled to relate—their faith to care for the earth.”
Contributors to the conference include poets, novelists, religious leaders and activists who will make the case that religious practice and theological conviction has nourished and shaped the emergence of modern environmental justice movements, King said.
The structure of the conference is just as important as the message its subject [NB: Not a complete sentence]. Organizers took into account the negative environmental impacts that result from air travel—about 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents for 375 participants in an international conference. Knowing this, they prohibited air travel and restricted in-person communication to limited ground travel with digital linking activities between the four universities.
This planned event has been in the works for two years, and comes on the heels of the university’s pioneering digital conference, “Rhyme and Reform,” which occurred last fall. This conference digitally connected Baylor and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, while also making events available to the world through the web.
King, who was also a lead organizer for “Rhyme and Reform,” said the execution of this conference helped the organizers for “Ecology and Religion in 19th Century Studies” be prepared for the many obstacles and opportunities that come with linking four universities in four time zones. While “Rhyme and Reform” drew in hundreds of viewers from around the world, King said the organizers realized more could be done to incorporate the benefits offered by traditional conferencing, such as face-to-face interaction and connection to shared places.
To achieve these benefits, Armstrong Browning Library will have an exhibition supplemented with a concert conducted by Carlos Colón, assistant director of Worship and Chapel at Baylor and resident scholar in Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religions, on Friday, Sept. 20. The concert is titled “Pulses of the Universe” after an early poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It will feature original pieces that celebrate the earth in dialogue with ancient hymns, Victorian poetry and Waco’s own Cameron Park. Local attendees will have the opportunity to tour Waco sights and dine at Urban REAP and the World Hunger Farm.
To register or learn more about the conference, visit https://sites.baylor.edu/ecologyreligion/.