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John Farnsworth, Lecturer in Environmental Writing and Literature

Monday, Jun. 1, 2009

John Farnsworth, Lecturer in Environmental Writing and Literature, has been an key figure in integrating sustainability across the curriculum at SCU. Thanks to his work, more and more sustainability-related classes are offered each year. 

Farnsworth began teaching sustainability in his English classes by teaching Thoreau's Walden. He meets the typical learning outcomes of English, such as rhetoric and composition, while incorporating the environmental and social critiques presented by Thoreau, such as a return to nature and simplicity.

In 2006, Farnsworth and two colleagues attended a conference on Sustainability hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). As a direct result of that conference, Farnsworth and colleagues developed the Penstemon Project.

The Penstemon Project, which gets its name from a California wildflower, aims to plant the seeds of sustainability across the curriculum. Faculty are recruited from different disciplines and are asked to integrate sustainability into class content. In this way, students who wouldn't normally encounter sustainability in their disciplines' courses (think business, math, or religious studies, for example) can learning about sustainability.

Farnsworth is the Faculty Director of the CyPhi RLC (its motto "Arts & Sustainability"). He developed the Sustainability Living Undergraduate Research Project (SLURP), giving students opportunities to investigate sustainable living as applicable to life at SCU. After the first year of SLURP, one group's projects led to Facilities purchasing SmartStrip power strips to conserve electricity in Lucas Hall offices.

During SLURP's second year, Farnsworth really got involved in students' research.  His apartment on the 11th floor of Swig is equipped with a dual-plumbed toilet flushed with sink water collected from the drain, and a worm bin to compost food scraps. On the weekends, Farnsworth and his wife Carol leave the apartment and retreat to their 47 foot sailboat. There, Farnsworth enjoys the beautiful vistas of the San Francisco Bay as he works on his book Writing Baja, an examination of environmental perceptions of the Baja, California Sur Peninsula throughout the early 20th century. For Farnsworth, this weekly retreat to his boat is similar to the "simplicity" mentioned in Thoreau's Walden.

By Richard Jaramillo, '11, Sustainability Intern

Tags: Curriculum, Profiles, Residence Life



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