The Daily Gamecock

French mixes religion, environment

Professor talks eastern belief, sustainability

Hal French, distinguished professor emeritus of religious studies at USC, brought the message of "Green Spirituality" to a circle of students and nonstudents alike Wednesday night at the West (Green) Quad Learning Center.

While "green" and "spiritual" may not be terms commonly paired in the same sentence, French led a discussion on how, at a spiritual level, members of the world community can work toward improving the environment.

The talk touched on various aspects of spirituality, such as the Hindu practice of "ahimsa," or nonviolence; the concept of enlightenment and the practice of Zen; and the goals of environmental programs such as the Sierra Club.

French, the former chairman of USC's religious studies department, has authored several books, including his latest, "Zen and the Art of Anything."

When asked how he sees spirituality coming into play with the modern-day environmental problems, he said he hopes people choose to leave the world a better place than they inherited.

"We hopefully are creating a world where our sensitivity enhances life conditions for generations yet to come," French said.

Elaine Cooper, a Columbia resident and an active member of the Sierra Club, said she was drawn to the event because she's hoping to expand the message of the Sierra Club to different areas that "aren't normally associated with the environmental world, including spirituality."

Cooper believes the organization is making more inroads within the Columbia community.

USC's sustainability organization, Sustainable Carolina, is another group that has made significant progress in environmental practices with both the community and its individuals.

David Whiteman, a political science professor and the faculty principal of West Quad, explained how Sustainable Carolina has several different project teams, one called "Greening the Mind," that sponsored Wednesday's event.

Whiteman also mentioned the campus community garden, which will open Friday. Students will be able to rent plots of land for a semester, which they can be in charge of managing.