Chautauqua on Climate Change set for July 14

By Thomas K. Wolber - For The Gazette

On Saturday, July 14, individual activists, grassroots groups, and interested community members within the Olentangy River and Scioto River watersheds (Franklin, Delaware, Morrow and Union counties) will gather at Stratford Ecological Center at 3083 Liberty Road, Delaware, for a day of reflection and renewal, communion and celebration. The focus of the local Chautauqua will be on facilitating positive strategies and concrete steps to address the problem of climate change, which is a clear and present danger in the world. The need to act is urgent. The summit is built on a workshop that took place on Jan. 20 when a hundred local and regional leaders shared their stories and ideas and explored means and ways to nurture change. Environmentalist David Orr from Oberlin College was the keynote speaker at that winter conference.

The July 14 Chautauqua on Climate Change will have working groups that will explore solutions for creating adaptive and climate-resilient communities for all (3 to 5:30 p.m.). It is hoped that several actionable items will come out of the discussions. Topics may include models of sustainability, alternative energies, climate-friendly economies, cities of the future, healthy food choices, health & wellness initiatives, waste-management practices, creating green spaces, fostering communities, as well as nature exploration and ecological literacy.

After a potluck dinner (5:30 to 6 p.m.), the entertainment part begins (6 to 8:30 p.m.). Several artists, poets, musicians, dancers, and drummers will celebrate nature and the earth through their art. Among them are Dionne Custer (poet, musician and arts educator), Jeff Gundy (poet, singer and song-writer), Baba Jubal Harris (African drummer and drum-maker), Marlene Robbins (dancer and dance teacher) and Juan Armando Rojas (poet, teacher and scholar). Hannah Stephenson (poet and editor) will serve as host. Jenny Morgan (composer of “You Can’t Drink Money”) will be a featured guest that night. Another special addition to the evening will be OSU artist, filmmaker, and writer Michael Mercil, whose highly praised installation project, “Virtual Pasture,” brought images of Stratford sheep to the Wexner Center in Columbus. He will show a new work that raises the question of what art has to do with addressing the environmental needs of our times. Finally, farmscaper and director of Stratford, Jeff Dickinson, a multi-talented improvisational keyboardist and vocalist in his own right, will lead the musicians and dancers in a rousing jam session to bring the celebration to a close.

The Stratford Chautauqua on Climate Change is a family-friendly, multicultural outdoors event situated in the midst of a working farm with lots of animals. Please dress appropriately for the weather. The festival is free and open to the public, but donations are accepted. Attendees are welcome to attend any or all of the workshops or gigs. For more information on Stratford, visit

President Theodore Roosevelt once said that Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America.” During his presidency (1901-09), nearly 12,000 communities hosted their own Chautauqua events. Some of them were huge and popular, attracting thousands of people, and lasted for days. It is not easy to describe the original Chautauquas.

According to Wikipedia’s dry definition, Chautauqua was “an adult education movement in the United States,” but that does not capture its entire spirit. For a day, a weekend, or for several days people would assemble for lectures and workshops, for worship and theatrical plays, for food and entertainment. Making money was never the primary objective. Instead, the focus was on the transmission of culture and the bridging of ideas across polarized lines. Chautauquas were also venues where it did not matter of you were rich or poor. The whole community came together, motivated by the same purpose – to learn and be inspired, to socialize and be entertained. Chautauquas were a grassroots representation of the enlightened principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. The Chautauqua spirit is the spirit that built democratic America. It is good to see the tradition return to Delaware where it will hopefully become an annual event.

By Thomas K. Wolber

For The Gazette

Thomas K. Wolber, Ph.D., teaches foreign languages and literatures at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Thomas K. Wolber, Ph.D., teaches foreign languages and literatures at Ohio Wesleyan University.