Masters Projects

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    Neighbors Growing Together: Building Community Through Neighborhood-Supported Gardening
    (2003) Pillar, Sharon
    In the summer of 2002, letters were given to 169 households in a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood inviting them to participate in a gardening project named “Neighbors Growing Together” (NGT). The goal of the program was to create a community atmosphere centered on producing food in an environmentally responsible manner. This suburban neighborhood’s poor design is not contusive to pedestrian movement that typically forces interaction among residents of a place; rather it is designed for the automobile and actually inhibits neighbor interaction. The goal of this project was to create a vehicle for neighbors to interact and then to connect that interaction to the land where they live. Eight residents agreed to participate, although one neighbor dropped out before gardening started because she thought she was going to move. Each gardener agreed to grow one or two vegetables and then share the harvest with the other participants during a weekly gathering. In addition, each gardener also agreed to grow produce without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides. Of the seven gardeners, four had established gardens and three had to create new garden plots. Some of the vegetables (tomatoes, Swiss chard, green peppers, banana peppers, and lettuce) yielded large amounts while others (radishes, green beans, zucchini, onions, peas, yellow squash) did not fare as well. The participants all said that they joined the program in order to meet people, and they enjoyed this part of the program. They also joined hoping to get fresh produce and some had hoped that they would learn more about gardening. Many gardeners felt that gardening was peaceful and got them outdoors where they could observe the natural world by listening to sounds, watching the changes in the garden, or enjoying the wonder of outside in some way or another. Although the intent of the design of the program was to be loosely organized so as the group could define the parameters, most participants desired more structure in the program. Many also indicated a desire to have started earlier in the year. A couple of the gardeners mentioned that meeting weekly was too frequent due to their schedules, but for others this was not a problem. One person was disappointed that at the end of the summer not as many people consistently showed up to share the harvest. Overall, participants felt the NGT concept was a good method of meeting other neighbors, and most expressed that they would have enjoyed if more neighbors would have participated.
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    Global Agribusiness Versus Sustainable Agriculture and Local Food Systems
    (2005) Pieper, Virginia
    Humans have evolved from being mobile hunters and gatherers to stable agricultural societies that further evolved into urban societies distanced from the production of its food supply. Our food system has changed as societies have formed bureaucracies in the social and political organization of communities. The Green Revolution with its myths has played a vital role in building global agribusiness that 1s our current food system. Transnational/multinational corporations are gaining control of markets through horizontal and vertical integration. Horizontal integration such as company mergers 1s consolidating food processing and retailing sectors. These same companies are now venturing into, and controlling a higher percentage of, worldwide food production, an example of vertical integration. This vertical integration is shifting control of food production out of the hands of small family farmers into the hands of multinational corporations, thus increasing reliance on imports and biotechnology in global markets. These multifaceted, rapidly changing aspects of our current industrial agriculture are briefly discussed in order to frame the alternate model, sustainable agriculture that is embedded in an agrarian mindset. Sustainable agriculture has been called the “Quiet Revolution” and identifies three principles to be practiced in agriculture. The three principles balance methods that are ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible. Nature is used without harm, and farmers gain improved self-reliance, a key feature of sustainable agriculture. We begin to “reculturize” agriculture when we reclaim and foster an agrarian mindset. The first step 1s changing how we think about food. When we know why we are persuaded to eat the way we do, we as eaters or consumers regain control over how we eat. We do have options for improving our food system. These options will, in turn, shift control of our food back to consumers and will reestablish human relationships between consumers and farmers.
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    A Year of the Green Picnic
    (2010) Paweski, Susan
    My proposal for the final project for the Earth Literacy Master's degree is to organize and facilitate a neighborhood event, a “Green Picnic,” for August 21, 2010. The rationale for the neighborhood celebration is twofold: 1. Residents of Troy and Albany Streets in Chicago will be invited so that neighbors have the opportunity to meet each other. 2. The theme of the event is sustainability awareness in our homes and in the neighborhood. The Green Picnic will offer an opportunity for the neighbors to meet one another socially just steps from their homes. The picnic will take place in Ronan Park adjacent to Troy and Albany streets. The residents of these two blocks will be invited to bring their picnic baskets and join in on games, participate in a guided tour of the Nature Trail and visit the booths of local businesses and environmental support agencies from the city. The work for the event took almost a year in planning.
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    Photographs of the Past and Present To Preserve the Future
    (2008) Pruitt, Robin Lynn Buchholz
    My project goal was to create a visual interpretation of harmful and unjust systems as well as comparative positive moral and ethical practices. The photo impressions will be captioned for the reader and will relate to the connected writings. My objectives are as follows: First, and foremost, I would like to encourage action toward the promotion of change. I have come to realize through this course of study that people do not start out with “blinders on”. They are acquired. We are all born curious. If we are allowed to have hands on experiences and are not hampered along the course, we give way to creativity. Many adults forget what it was like to be young and they therefore become old before their time. Those who look straight ahead never see anything except for where they are and a dim glimpse of the future will soon become a pile of dust. Although they may have monetary gain, they will have accomplished nothing of true and lasting value. Those who hold onto “the vision” or in my case, “regain the vision” they once had for the world, are open or have been reborn to new ideas and possibilities. We will become part of the cure, living on forever through others whose lives we have touched by being a catalyst for change. Second, I want to show some of the social and cultural connections related to the pros and cons. For instance, many are against the killing of any living thing. My family considers hunting as part of our American heritage. Therefore, responsible, hunting techniques are a large part of my makeup and the value system that has been instilled in me. Farm families have other value systems ingrained in them, as do those from other areas such as an inner city. We are different because of nurture, but are the same as a part of mankind. Third, I want the reader to gain a full understanding of the part greed and power plays in all areas of abuse of the earth and her people. In my years investigating elder abuse, I saw very few cases that did not concern money in some way, shape, or form. People were willfully deprived of everyday needs and medicines so their funds could be used for personal gain by the abuser. Money is definitely at the root of much of the evil and injustice placed on our earth today. Unfortunately, this seems also to be historically true. Our challenge is to somehow relieve future generations from being caught up in the same trap.
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    A Religion as Old as the Universe
    (2006) Proctor, Laurie
    This collection of essays is an expansion of a paper I presented in October, 2004 to a group of Unitarian Universalist ministers. That paper, “Learning from the Cosmos: Thoughts on Religion, Science, and Evolutionary Spirituality,” was, in turn, part of an on-going effort to clarify my thinking about the intersection of science and religion through the work of cultural historian Thomas Berry and psychiatrist Murray Bowen. Both these men are systems thinkers: Berry in terms of the Universe and Bowen in terms of human emotional functioning. Significantly, both place human beings in the larger web of natural systems that have evolved here on Earth.