The theme of this year’s conference is the “Working Wild,” a consideration of what wildness means in urban, private and common settings. The conference aims to explore the intersection of wilderness, working landscapes and environmental-justice perspectives, on self-willed lands, self-willed species and self-willed communities in the headwaters region.
Snyder, 84, is a legend of the environmental – and several other – movements. He first won acclaim as a Beat-generation poet, sharing his work with Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac and more in 1955 at the famous Six Gallery readings in San Francisco. He also studied Eastern languages and culture, and eventually, religion. He lived abroad for more than a decade, returning to the United States in 1970, where he published a collection of poems, Turtle Island, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He taught creative writing for the University of California at Davis from 1986 until his retirement in 2002. Many credit Snyder for inspiring back-to-the-land and self-sufficiency efforts in the 1960s and ’70s.
“This is our 25th year, and we wanted to go big,” explains Dr. John Hausdoerffer, director of the Headwaters Conference and Western’s Master of Environmental Management program, as well as professor of Environment & Sustainability and Philosophy. “We’re considering some big questions. And to kick it all off, we have one of the greatest voices of the environmental movement.”
He notes this year’s conference also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wilderness Act. “But instead of focusing on that number, we are looking forward to a future of wildness.”
Hausdoerffer also emphasizes that the popular conference is not about water, per se. It is, he says, about high-altitude communities at the headwaters of some of America’s greatest rivers – such as the Platte, the Colorado, the Animas, the Rio Grande and more – coming together to consider their common issues.
“We have more in common with each other – whether in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona or Wyoming – than we do with Denver, where many decisions affecting us are made,” he says.
Hausdoerffer emphasizes that all in the Gunnison Valley and similar communities will be particularly welcomed at the conference. The schedule kicks off with Snyder’s presentation at 7pm Friday, Sept. 19, in Taylor Hall's second-floor Auditorium. Saturday’s schedule in the the University Ballroom of Western’s University Center includes three panel discussions addressing the “Private Wild,” the “Urban Wild” and the “Common Wild.” The late morning and afternoon will include provided sack-lunch tours of Working Wild areas of the Gunnison Valley, where the aspens should be showing off their fall colors.
Click here to register and to view the fee schedule, which varies, with discounts for students and teachers, and higher charges for those wishing to attend the conference for college credit.
“This year’s conference focuses on the wildness that surrounds and mixes with our headwaters communities,” Hausdoerffer says, “both as it exists today, and how we might maintain and preserve it for the future.”
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