Laird Christensen | Prescott College

Laird Christensen

Ph.D.
Academic Statement

Drawing on a diverse range of training and experience, both academic and hands-on, Laird Christensen brings an applied bioregional perspective to his role as Director of the graduate program in Resilient and Sustainable Communities at Prescott College. Prior to coming to Prescott, Laird developed a similar MS program at Green Mountain College in 2015, and also served as the founding director of GMC's Environmental Studies graduate program. In both capacities, Laird worked with other faculty to build programs that provide students with unprecedented interdisciplinary breadth while also taking advantage of the online format to encourage students to develop knowledge about their own bioregions and specific interests. 

Laird has spent thirty years involved in community organizing and activism, with a special interest in how communities build on the potential of the bioregions in which they are situated. Born and raised in western Oregon, he has always been drawn to places that reveal the character of local ecology; this has led him down a path from grading timber to working as a ranger, from direct action in defense of forests to trail-building and learning natural history with schoolchildren. Having spent much of his life traveling and exploring the many ways that cities and towns reflect (or attempt to ignore) the ecological possibilities of their landscapes, Laird's primary research interest has become how industrial and post-industrial human communities might evolve in ways that once again fit the ecological characteristics of their local landscapes.

In addition to earning graduate degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Oregon, Laird has sought out other ways to learn about sustainable, place-based living. He spent eight years living in intentional communities (La Casa Grande Colectiva, Beaver Brook Cooperative, and Du-Ma), where he gained experience in group facilitation and consensus decision-making, and learned first-hand about the difficulties and rewards of living in a way that attempts to put ideals into action. These lessons have been useful in his subsequent work building coalitions, leading workshops in consensus-building, and serving on the boards of various non-profit organizations. He has also found ways to build communities through storytelling and music, writing songs tied to local landscapes and contributing vocals and mandolin to bands such as Northern Homespun, Fiddle Witch, and Spruce Knob Uprising.

Laird has been writing about the relationships between people and the places they live throughout his career, publishing his work in various anthologies and magazines such as The Utne ReaderNorthern WoodlandsWild Earth,The Northwest Review, and Whole Terrain. He has also edited two collections of essays: Teaching about Place: Learning from the Land (University of Nevada Press, 2008) and Teaching North American Environmental Literature (Modern Language Association, 2008). Along the way, he served as Writer in Residence at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades, part of an environmental reflection project that invites writers and artists to contribute to record that will trace the evolution of observations and attitudes over a 200-year period.

After teaching for nearly twenty years at Green Mountain College, he had recently settled with his family on a piney ridge south of Prescott, where he is excited to learn about how these mountains express themselves with his son, Addison.

Education

Ph.D. English Literature, University of Oregon, August 1999  Concentration: Literature and Environment. Dissertation: “Spirit Astir in the World: Sacred Poetry in the Age of Ecology.” 

M.A. English Literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 1993

B.A. English Literature, Keene State College, summa cum laude, May 1991 

Publications

Books

Teaching North American Environmental Literature. Edited with Mark Long and Fred Waage. New York: Modern Language Association, 2008.

Teaching about Place: Learning from the Land. Edited with Hal Crimmel. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008.

Recovering Pine River. Written and edited with the Watershed Writing Collective. Alma, MI: WTW Publications, 2000.

Book Chapters

“The Other Side of the Clear-Cut.” Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest. Ed. Nathaniel Brodie, Charles Goodrich, and Frederick J. Swanson. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016: 137-48.

“Teaching Bioregional Perception —at a Distance.” The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place. Ed. Tom Lynch, Cheryll Glotfelty, and Karla Armbruster. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012: 377-90.

“Approaches to Teaching Environmental Literature.” Teaching North American Environmental Literature. Ed. Laird Christensen, Mark Long, and Fred Waage. New York: Modern Language Association, 2008: 149-61.

“Calamity Brook to Ground Zero.” Teaching about Place: Learning from the Land Ed. Hal Crimmel and Laird Christensen. University of Nevada Press, 2008: 3-19. “Introduction.” Written with Hal Crimmel. Teaching about Place: Learning from the Land. Ed. Hal Crimmel and Laird Christensen. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008: ix-xvii.

“Writing Home: Teaching Ecological Literacy through Creative Writing.” Pedagogy Papers 2006. Austin, TX: Associated Writing Programs, 2006.

“Northwest Passages.” Holding Common Ground: The Individual and Public Lands in the American West. Ed. Paul Lindholdt and Derrick Knowles. Cheney, WA: Eastern Washington University Press, 2005: 23-27.

“Writing the Watershed.” Teaching in the Field: Working with Students in the Outdoor Classroom. Ed. Hal Crimmel. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2003: 124-36.

“The Pragmatic Mysticism of Mary Oliver.” Ecopoetry: A Critical Introduction. Ed. J. Scott Bryson. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2002: 135-52.

 

Articles

“Letter to America.” Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments (February 2017): http://www.terrain.org/2017/guest-editorial/letter-to-america-christensen/

“Notes from the Great Transition.” Edge Effects (February 2016): http://edgeeffects.net/ great-transition/

“A Place in Mind.” Northern Woodlands (Winter 2013): 80.

“A Tree Falls in the Forest.” Whole Terrain: Reflective Environmental Practice 12 (October 2012): 16-20.

“Writing Home in a Global Age.” World Literature Today 82:4 (July–August, 2008): 16-20.

“A Hudson River Immersion.” Written with Jon Jensen. Whole Terrain 13 (2004/2005): 14-20.

“The Guerrilla Gatherers.” The Utne Reader (May/June 2004): 18-19.

“The Voice of Experience: An Interview with John Elder.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 10.1 (Winter 2003): 195-213.

“The Give and Take of Wildcrafting.” Whole Terrain 11 (2002/2003): 4-7.

“Spirit Astir in the World: Wendell Berry’s Sacramental Poetry.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 52.2 (Winter 2000): 163-81.

“Not Exactly Like Heaven: Theological Imperialism in The Surrounded.” SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures 11.1 (Spring 1999): 2-16.

The ASLE Collection of Syllabi in Literature and Environment. Edited with Peter Blakemore. <http://www.asle.umn.edu/pubs/collect/collect.html> 1998.

“Not Exactly Like Heaven: Spiritual and Ecological Imperialism in The Surrounded.” Northwest Review, 40th Anniversary Issue 35.3 (Fall 1997): 57-66. “Becoming Home.” The Ecotone: The Journal of Environmental Studies 1:1 (Winter 1997): 4-15.

Reviews

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. Ed. Chad Wriglesworth. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 22.1 (Winter 2015): 182-83.

Bringing the Biosphere Home: Learning to Perceive Global Environmental Change, by Mitchell Thomashow. Wild Earth 13.4 (Winter 2003-2004): 73-74.

Greening the Lyre: Environmental Poetics and Ethics, by David W. Gilcrest. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 10.1 (Winter 2003): 273-74.

Reading Under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Ecocriticism, edited by John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 9.1 (Winter 2002): 251-52.

Salmon Without Rivers: A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis, by Jim Lichatowich. Wild Earth 11.2 (Summer 2001): 68-70.

Messages from Frank’s Landing: A Story of Salmon, Treaties, and the Indian Way, by Charles Wilkinson. Wild Earth 11.2 (Summer 2001): 68-70.

Sustainable Poetry, by Leonard Scigaj. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 7.2 (Summer 2000): 278-80. In Gravity National Park, by C.L. Rawlins. Western American Literature 34.2 (Summer 1999): 264-65.

This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment, edited by Roger Gottlieb. ISLE: Inter- disciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 4.3 (Summer 1998): 138-40.

Poetry

“Siuslaw: An Oregon Solstice.” Wild Earth 14:3/4 (Fall/Winter 2004-2005).

“Ablution.” Wild Earth 13:2/3 (Summer/Fall 2003).

“Sleeping on a Poem by Pinsky.” Traum 1.1 (Spring 2000).

“In His Image.” Traum 1.1 (Spring 2000).

“Delivering Amanda’s Poem to the Lost Coast Madrones. Traum 1.1 (Spring 2000).

“An Oregon Valentine.” Traum 1.1 (Spring 2000).

“Sunshine Canyon.” TAPJoE 13 (1999).

“Ten Thousand Things.” Reprinted in Talking Leaves 9.2 (Summer/Fall 1999).

“Native Grace.” Ecotone: The Journal of Environmental Studies 2.1 (Fall 1998).

“Picking Trash, Roadside.” Wild Earth 7.4 (Winter 1998).

“Song for Winter Solstice.” Earth First! 18.2 (January 1998).

“Deer Creek Warm Springs: Autumn Equinox.” Reprinted in Wild Earth 7.3 (Fall 1997).

“Mayday.” Potato Eyes 14 (Winter/Spring 1997).

“Du-Má: In the Garden.” Creation Spirituality 13.1 (Spring 1997).

“Ten Thousand Things.” Eugene Weekly 16.12 (March 1997).

“Leaving Illinois.” Ecotone: The Journal of Environmental Studies 1.1 (Winter 1997).

“Deer Creek Warm Springs: Autumn Equinox.” The Trumpeter 13.4 (Fall 1996).

“Siuslaw: Winter Solstice.” The Trumpeter 13.4 (Fall 1996).

“Leopold on the City’s Edge.” An Ignorant Eye 11.1 (Spring 1993).

“Plainsongs.” An Ignorant Eye 10.1 (Winter 1991).

“Next of Kin.” Aurora 9.1 (Spring 1990).

“In Season.” Aurora 9.1 (Spring 1990).

“The Fourth.” Northwest 43.7 (March 1984).

“January, I-91.” The Orphic Lute 7.2 (Spring 1983).

“Bonsecours Fall.” The American Poetry Anthology. Santa Cruz, CA: APA, 1982.

Presentations

INVITED LECTURES AND WORKSHOPS

“Placemaking.” Environmental Literature Institute, June 2018, Phillips Exeter Academy, NH.

“Stories from the Great Transition: The Role of the Arts in the Time of Climate Change.” Boston Athenaeum, February 15, 2017, Boston, MA.

“The Idea of Vermont.” Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning, March 2015, Manchester, VT.

“Voices from Vermont.” Great Adventures in Reading Lecture Series. Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning, October 2011, Rutland, VT.

“Place-Based Pedagogy.” The Eighth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2009, University of Victoria, British Columbia.

“Writing the Environment.” Fourteenth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology. October 2006, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME.

“Working Landscapes: A Workshop on Professionalization for Graduate Students.” The Sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2005, University of Oregon.

“Imagining Community.” Annual Student Leadership Banquet, April 2002, Keene State College, Keene, NH.

CONFERENCE PAPERS AND ROUNDTABLES

Panels Chaired and Organized

“Where We Are Who We are: Creative Nonfiction.” The Eleventh Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2015, University of Idaho.

“Conservation and its Opponents in 20th Century American Western Nature Writing.” The Tenth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, May 2013, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

“Facing the Forest: Readings of Creative Nonfiction.” The Eighth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2009, University of Victoria, British Columbia.

“Developing a Bioregional Approach to Distance Education.” Fourteenth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology. October 2006, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME.

“Teaching North American Environmental Literature: A Roundtable Discussion.” The Sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2005, University of Oregon.

“The Pacific Northwest.” The Sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2005, University of Oregon.

“Pulp Fictions: Narratives and Poetry.” The Sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2005, University of Oregon.

“Reading and Writing the Northern Forest.” ASLE Symposium on Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest, June 2004, Crawford Notch, NH.

“Bioregionalism in the Classroom.” The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2003, Boston University. “

Teaching Environmental Literatures.” Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, April 2002, Toronto, ON.

“Greening the Humanities, on Paper and in Practice.” Taking Nature Seriously: Citizens, Scientists, and Environment, February 2001, University of Oregon.

“Toward an Ecological Poetics.” The Third Biennial Conference of the Association for Studies of Literature and Environment, June 1999, Western Michigan University.

“The Lay of the Land: Landscape and Literature in America.” Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 1998, Coeur d’Alene, ID.

Conference Presentations

“The Other Side of the Clear-Cut.” The 50th Annual Conference of the Western Literature Association 14-17 October 2015, Reno, NV.

“Reading Lily Pond.” The Eleventh Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2015, University of Idaho.

“Wendell Berry’s Poetry: A Fifty-Year Retrospective.” The Tenth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, May 2013, University of Kansas.

“Dead Ends, Backroads, and Roundabouts: The Joy of Getting Lost Along the Way.” Tenth Annual Horace Greeley Writers’ Symposium, October 2012, East Poultney, VT.

“Where Are We Now? Ecocriticism and Narrative Scholarship.” 126th MLA Annual Convention, January 2011, Los Angeles, CA.

“The Other Side of the Clearcut: A Report from the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest.” The Eighth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2009, University of Victoria, British Columbia.

“Teaching Environmental Studies at a Distance: A Bioregional Approach.” The Seventh Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2007, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC.

“Developing a Bioregional Approach to Distance Education.” Fourteenth International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology. October 2006, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME.

“All in the Details: Setting and Characterization.” Fourth Annual Horace Greeley Writers Symposium, October 2006, East Poultney, VT.

“Writing Home: Teaching Ecological Literacy through Creative Writing.” Annual Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, March 2006, Austin, TX. 

“Pulp Fiction: The Timber Industry in Contemporary American Fiction.” The Sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2005, University of Oregon.

“Truth or Dare: The Role of Facts in Creative Nonfiction.” Third Annual Horace Greeley Writers Symposium, October 2005, East Poultney, VT.

“The Space Between the Words: Lessons from Ecology for Creative Writers.” Second Annual Horace Greeley Writers Symposium, October 2004, West Haven, VT.

“Writing Natural History in the Classroom.” Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest: ASLE Symposium on Northern Forest Studies, June 2004, Crawford Notch, NH.

“A Hudson River Immersion: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Ecological Literacy.” Fourteenth North American Interdisciplinary Conference on Environment and Community, February 2004, Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, NY.

“Teaching in the Field: Working with Students in the Outdoor Classroom.” The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2003, Boston University.

“Northwest Passages.” The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2003, Boston University.

“Teaching Environmental Literacy through Interdisciplinary Block Courses.” New England Environmental Education Alliance Conference, October 2002, Moultonboro, NH.

“Writing from the Edges: The Hudson River Block Course.” Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, April 2002, Toronto, ON.

“A Language that Heals: Linda Hogan’s Dwellings.” The Fourth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2001, Northern Arizona University.

“Reading the Pacific Northwest.” Roundtable on Regions, Regionalism, and Cultural Environments. The Fourth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 2001, Northern Arizona University.

“The Death of the Reader: Ecological Thanatopsis in American Poetry.” American Literature Association Conference, May 2001, Cambridge, MA.

“Reading and Writing the Bioregion.” Taking Nature Seriously: Citizens, Scientists, and Environment, February 2001, University of Oregon.

“Writing the Watershed: A Collaborative Approach.” Modern Language Association Convention, December 2000, Washington, D.C.

“Teaching Bioregional Biographies.” Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, April 2000, Buffalo, NY.

“Trends in Teaching Environmental Writing: From Overview to Application.” Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference, November 1999, Portland State University.

"Enacting a Poetics of Presence.” Second International Conference of Art Nature Culture, July 1999, University of Washington.

“Where We Becomes Singular: Ecological Interdependence in the Poetry of Mary Oliver.” North American Interdisciplinary Conference on Environment and Community, February 1999, Weber State University, Ogden, UT.

“Poetry, Ecology, and the New American Animism.” Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 1998, Coeur d’Alene, ID.

“The Clearcut Aesthetics of Robert Michael Pyle’s Wintergreen.” Western Literature Association Conference, October 1998, Banff, AB.

“Song of My Selves: Whitman’s Romantic, Postmodern, and Ecological Frames of Identity.” North American Interdisciplinary Conference on Environment and Community, February 1998, University of Nevada, Reno.

“Not Exactly Like Heaven: Spiritual and Ecological Imperialism in D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded.” Conference on Native American Literature, May 1997, University of Oregon.

“What I Know of Spirit is Astir in the World: Wendell Berry’s Biblical Panentheism.” Conference On Christianity and Literature, May 1997, Seattle University.

“Distinguishing Wholeness: Speaking I-It in an I-Thou World.” Oregon’s Eighth Annual Conference on Composition and Rhetoric, May 1997, Eastern Oregon University.

“Only Through the Dark Woods: Thoreau, Wilderness, and the American Pastoral. The Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 1996, Central Oregon State College.

“Becoming Place: Toward an Ecological Narrative Structure.” The First Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 1995, Colorado State University.

“Advocacy and Politics in Literature and Environment.” The First Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, June 1995, Colorado State University.

“To Walk Again with Eden’s Angels: Ecological Values in the Poetry of Nancy Newhall, Wendell Berry, and Gary Snyder.” The University and the Planet Earth Symposium, April 1993, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

 

Awards, Grants, & Honors

Writer in Residence, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, 2008

Exemplary Teacher Award, Green Mountain College, 2005

Outstanding Instructor of Composition, University of Oregon, 1998-99

Named to “The List of Teachers Ranked Excellent by their Students” each semester at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1991-93

 

Coverage in News & Media

 "Consumer Culture and Resilient and Sustainable Communities, with Laird Christensen." A Sustainable Mind Podcast.

 

"Stories from the Great Transition: How the Arts Prepare Us for Life in the Age of Climate Change." Boston Athenaeum.

 

"The Idea of Vermont." Green Mountain Academy of Lifelong Learning.

 

"World Literature Today: Literature Goes Green." New Pages

 

"Resilient," by Rising Appalachia. Performed with students at final Commencement of Green Mountain College, May 19, 2019.