Sustainability & the Arts: One Earth Film Festival Runs March 2-11 throughout Chicagoland

The Festival is showing environmental-focused films throughout the Chicago region through mid-March. Entry is free, with a $7 suggested donation.

Check out the full film schedule here:


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Chicago’s True Nature: Black History Month Event at RU on Tues 2/27

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
4pm –6pm

Roosevelt University
Sullivan Room
Auditorium Building 2nd Floor (AUD 232)
430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Please register at:

You’re Invited to a Celebration of Black History Month!

The Chicago area is known as a crossroads of diverse cultural groups and ideas. Less commonly known, is the biological diversity of our region. Varied ecosystems are home to native plant and animal species thriving within the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

With nearly 70,000 sprawling acres of wild and wonderful wilderness, the Forest Preserves is a regional asset which improves our quality of life, but not everyone is aware of or has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that come from spending time outside. The Forest Preserves and its partners recognize the challenge of ensuring that everyone has access to nature and are working to better engage communities of color and grow public stewardship of nature.

Please join us to hear about both the historical and contemporary connections between environmentalism and the African American experience and how we can work together to protect nature and ensure that it is welcoming and accessible to all.

A panel discussion will follow thought-provoking presentations by Brian McCammack, professor at Lake Forest College and author of the new book Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago, Veronica Kyle, Chicago Outreach Director with Faith in Place, and Arnold Randall, General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Kimberly N. Ruffin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English at Roosevelt University, will act as moderator.

Light refreshments will be served. Hardback copies of Professor McCammack’s book Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago will be available for sale for $40 each (cash or check).

The event is free but space is limited, and registration is required. For directions and transportation information please visit

This event is co-sponsored by Roosevelt University and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Speaker Bios and Abstracts:

Veronica Kyle directs all of Faith in Place’s Chicago outreach programs, with a particular passion for those related to Sustainable Food and Land Use. She is responsible for the creation of the Migration & Me Program which came about as the result of the realized concern that there were not enough people of color, mainly brown and black people, who were visibly engaged in available extracurricular outdoor activities, stewardship, and Earth care.

Brian McCammack is the author of Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago (Harvard University Press, 2017) and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Lake Forest College, where he teaches courses on environmental history and politics. Landscapes of Hope recently won the 2018 George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in environmental history from the American Society for Environmental History. In Landscapes of Hope, he examines the deep connections to nature that black Chicagoans forged in the first half of the twentieth century. The Forest Preserves of Cook County were particularly notable in this regard because African Americans not only sought out leisure there despite racial segregation and intimidation, but the labor of young black men in the Civilian Conservation Corps also helped improve and even build areas like the Skokie Lagoons.

Arnold Randall is the General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Forest Preserves of Cook County, established over a century ago, is one of the oldest and largest urban conservation districts in the United States, managing nearly 70,000 acres of diverse habitat across Cook County and offering recreation and education programs for audiences of all ages and from all walks of life. But preserving nature today in the nation’s second largest county comes with its own particular challenges – a lack of funding, climate change, and an urban population often out of touch with nature. The Forest Preserves is actively working with partners to provide a variety of programs that link diverse and urban populations with nature, including a Conservation Corps job training program and robust camping program at five new campgrounds.

Kim Ruffin is an Associate Professor of English at Roosevelt University, author of Black on Earth: African-American Ecoliterary Traditions (U. of Georgia Press, 2010), and nature-loving Certified Forest Therapy Guide.


Posted in Biodiversity, Chicago, Education, Events, Faculty, Humanities, Land use, Roosevelt, Social justice, Sustainability, Urban nature, Wildlife | Comments Off on Chicago’s True Nature: Black History Month Event at RU on Tues 2/27

“Cultivating the Wild” Essay Reprinted in The Leopold Outlook

Warm tidings on a cold December morning: “Cultivating the Wild on Chicago’s South Side,” an essay I co-wrote about Eden Place Nature Center with Michael Howard for the book Wildness: Relations of People and Place (U. Chicago P., 2017), has been reprinted in the Fall 2017 issue of The Leopold Outlook magazine.

Photo: Gavin Van Horn

Check out the magazine’s back issues here and learn more about the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s work. And many thanks to my co-author Michael Howard as well as the co-editors of Wildness, Gavin Van Horn and John Hausdoerffer, for encouraging us to take on this project.

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Chicago Agreement on Climate & Community: Local Voices

A week before the Chicago Climate Community Forum was held on 3 Dec 2017 at the Field Museum, I was fortunate to participate in the filming of the newly released Chicago Agreement on Climate & Community, which debuted at the forum attended by over 2,000 people last Sunday. Here’s the video, which brings to life the text of the Agreement.

The Agreement is a living document which you can read, provide feedback on, and sign (if you so wish) yourself and/or on behalf of an organization. Please share this video and links with people you know as we build a movement to mitigate climate change here throughout the Chicago region.

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Chicago Community Climate Forum: Sunday 12/3 at the Field Museum

pdf version

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Oxfam Hunger Banquet Today @RooseveltU 1pm

I’m honored to deliver a guest faculty lecture at this event today at Roosevelt University. Please come and engage in a meaningful conversation about how food insecurity is prevalent and relates to our community while you learn more about issues of hunger, sustainability and how you can help. Please register for the event here.

Sponsored by the Black Student Union and the RU Counseling Center, the Oxfam Hunger Banquet provides a chance for us to address the severity of food insecurity and starvation as it relates to our community, and will assist in fostering a community of care that will allow us to join in the fight against inequality, injustice, and oppression. Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty.

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Register Now for Spring/Summer 2018 Classes @RooseveltU

Here’s a cheerful autumnal thought: advising and registration are now ongoing (since Nov 2nd) for the Spring & Summer 2018 semesters here at @RooseveltU. The Sustainability Studies program is offering a wide range of courses and we’re planning two exciting semesters of learning, research, and campus outreach projects!

Undergraduate students: please look over the Spring 2018 schedule using this coursefinder, check your remaining course requirements, and email or call your assigned academic advisor with your planned schedule and any questions you have about your upcoming classes. Your advisor will help you craft your schedule and provide you with an RU Access registration code so you can register.

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Spring 2018:

ACP 110 Primary Texts (MW 11am-12:15pm, Bryson)*
SUST 210 Sustainable Future (TTh 11am-12:15pm, Pickren)
SUST 220 Water (12-week online, 1/29-4/27, Jones)
SUST 230 Food (W 6-8:30pm, Gerberich)
SUST 240 Waste (8-week online, 3/12-5/14, Gerberich)§
SUST/ACP 250 The Sustainable University (M 2-4:30pm, Bryson)◊
SUST 310 Energy & Climate Change (T 2-4:30pm, Pickren)
SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, & Planning (12-week online, 1/29-4/27, Pickren)
SUST 330 Biodiversity (8-week online, 1/16-3/9, Hoffman)§
SUST 340 Policy, Law, & Ethics (Th 2-4:30pm, Hoffman)
SUST 395 Sustainability Studies Internship (by arrangement)

* First Year Seminars are open to new full-time undergrads with 12 or fewer hours in transfer credit.
§ These 8-week accelerated online courses are open to all students and synced with the Flex-Track adult degree calendar. They may be taken back-to-back.
◊ Students may register for either ACP 250 (Grounds for Change credit) or SUST 250 (Sustainability Studies credit).

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Summer 2018:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (8-week online, 5/29-7/25, Pickren)
SUST 360 Writing Urban Nature (1-week intensive, 5/21-25, Bryson)
SUST 390 Special Topics: Rooftop Garden (on-campus + online, 5/29-7/25, Gerberich)

November is a super busy time of the academic year, but be sure to make a little time to get in touch with your advisor to sign up for the classes you need! My advisees should be sure to check this Advising Resources page here on my faculty website.

Before you email me:

  • Check your remaining course requirements for your designated major, minor, etc. in Degree Works (or, if you started prior to Fall 2015, on your signed curriculum checksheet).
  • Review the online course schedule for class availability and draft a schedule that will work for you.
  • Make sure you don’t have any holds on your registration by checking RU Access.
  • Check your RU student email for important announcements from me or the university.

Include in your email:

  • Your name, student ID, declared major, and phone number
  • The classes you wish to take in the upcoming semester, including dept, course number, and title
  • Any questions or concerns you have
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Wasted Water and Environmental Injustice in Chicago

This fall semester, students in my SUST 220 Water class have been studying our American obsession with bottled water, which comes at the expense of (among other things) proper investment in and maintenance of public drinking water infrastructure. While taxpayer-funded repairs to underground water infrastructure are expensive and politically unpopular, the bottled water industry continues to thrive and grow: the International Bottled Water Association reported industry wholesale revenues of more than $14.2 billion in 2015 alone.

The Chicago Region is blessed with one of the best drinking water sources in the world: Lake Michigan, which supplies water to 163 Chicago-area communities.

Water intake crib off Chicago’s shoreline (photo: A. Perez, Chgo Tribune)

But as this important investigative report published online in the Chicago Tribune reveals, billions of gallons of treated drinking water are wasted each year, while communities pay millions of $ for water that never reaches their taps. Meanwhile, wide disparities in drinking water rates, combined with differential amounts of waste via leaks, disproportionately saddle poor and minority communities with extra costs they cannot afford.

Thus does neglected urban infrastructure meet environmental injustice in 21st century America, here along the southern rim of Lake Michigan.


Patrick M. O’Connell, Cecilia Reyes, Ted Gregory and Angela Caputo. (25 Oct 2017). Billions Lost, Millions Wasted: Why Chicago-area Residents Pay Millions for Water that Never Reachers Their Taps. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from

——. (25 Oct 2017). Same Lake, Unequal Rates: Why Our Water Rates Are Surging — and Why Black and Poor Suburbs Pay More. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from


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Major Madness: Student Event @RooseveltU on Thursday, Oct. 19th, 1-3pm

I’ll be attending this upcoming “Major Madness” event (share the pdf of the above poster) as an ACP 101 first year seminar faculty member and as department chair of sociology and sustainability studies. All students are welcome (and my 101 students are required) to attend this event and learn about our various undergrad majors here at Roosevelt. Free food? That’s a nice bonus!


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Scenes from the Rooftop on RU’s Service Day 2017

This past Thursday, September 14th, folks from all corners of the university headed up to the 5th floor Rooftop Garden at RU’s Wabash Building in Chicago to get some fresh air, pull weeds, enrich the planting beds, harvest herbs, and sow winter rye and butterfly weed for the coming cold season. We also enjoyed some fine views of the downtown Chicago skyline, a definite benefit of working at altitude in what one volunteer called “Roosevelt’s very own Secret Garden.”

As part of Service Day, which concluded the 2nd annual American Dream Reconsidered Conference, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators all pitched in on this effort — plus we were graced with a visit from President Ali, who took great delight in sowing the first seeds of our winter rye crop.

RU President Ali with SUST alum Diana Ramirez (BA ’17), sowing winter rye seeds in the WB Rooftop Garden at Service Day 2017

Special thanks to the 4 teams of volunteers who worked throughout the day; to RU Dining Services, which donated snacks for the volunteers (muffins flavored with chives from the garden and salad greens likewise harvested from these plots); and SUST alumni Diana Ramirez and Moses Viveros (both BA ’17), who worked this summer as Rooftop Gardeners here at the Chicago Campus, and who organized/led this volunteer effort. Thank you all!

Below are image versions of the two-page informational handout (see this pdf) on the importance of sustainability at Roosevelt Moses created and which we distributed on Service Day. Please share widely!

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