For young adults who want to explore the connections between faith, environmentalism and community, the Eco-Stewards Program offers a chance to spend the summer doing just that.
A joint program of the Presbyterian Camp and Conference Association and Presbyterians for Earth Care, Eco-Stewards trains young adults (ages 20-30) in eco-stewardship skills and then sends them out to optional internships with churches or camps.
This year’s weeklong training event will be June 2-9 in southeastern Montana. Participants will camp on a farm on the Crow Reservation and will “delve into the complex environmental issues surrounding land use, poverty, agriculture, and sustainability in a cross-cultural context,” according to the program’s website.
The program will especially focus on sustainability and reconciliation through agriculture, health and green building. Participants will paddle on the Bighorn River and hike in the Sand Rocks and hear from local experts and tribal leaders, according to the website.
That kind of regional focus is a key point for the Eco-Stewards program, which changes location every year. Last year’s program was held in the mountains of West Virginia, and participants learned about coal and land use. But they also learned about the interaction between environmentalism, faith and communities’ connection to place, said one past participant.
“Taking care of the earth is really about building community,” said Bolton Kirchner, an environmental studies major at Millsaps College who completed the program and a subsequent internship last year. “It truly was the people that made the experience for me.”
In his internship, Kirchner served as a liaison between local families and church work teams who came to the area to do home repairs. He learned about the generations-old bond many West Virginians feel to the land and observed some of the sustainable homemaking techniques — like canning and clotheslines — that deepened that connection.
Although he had thought about the connection between faith and caring for the earth before the Eco-Stewards program, Kirchner said those ideas were strengthened and fleshed out more during that experience.
“It was a very broad opportunity for learning and experience,” Kirchner said, adding that he would encourage any young adult with even a passing interest in environmental issues to apply to the program.
To learn more about or apply for the 2011 program, visit the Eco-Stewards website.