Mar 15, 2023
In this episode of Inner Nature, David James Duncan talks with Fred Bahnson. Both David and Fred developed and deepened their own contemplative practices among the peaks of mountains and on the banks of western rivers, which in turn led them to lives of activism and advocacy. During this conversation, they invite us to consider many questions: Where do we find hope? And why is it necessary for sustaining a life of environmental activism? How can contemplative practices like purposeful silence and careful attention serve us? And what is the cultural and spiritual role of storytelling? They braid their own thoughts and writing with the words of other writers and spiritual leaders including William Stafford, Barry Lopez, and Saint Isaac of Syria. They discuss how committing to inner work can not only sustain the individual activist but can also help cultivate the kinds of caring and graceful communities that are needed to champion real and meaningful environmental change.
David James Duncan is the author of the classic novels The River Why and The Brothers K, the story collection River Teeth, the nonfiction collection and National Book Award finalist My Story as Told by Water, the best-selling collection of “churchless sermons" God Laughs & Plays, and the upcoming novel writer William deBuys calls “one of the greatest imaginative achievements I’ve encountered in a lifetime of reading," Sun House. David’s work has won three Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards, two Pushcart Prizes, a Lannan Fellowship, the Western States Book Award, and inclusion in Best American Sports Writing, Best American Catholic Writing, two volumes of Best American Essays, and five volumes of Best American Spiritual Writing.
Fred Bahnson is an award-winning author, journalist, and essayist, telling stories at the intersection of ecological restoration, spirituality, and culture. He is the author of the book Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, Orion, Notre Dame Magazine, Emergence, The Sun, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing. He is also a documentary film writer and producer. He collaboratively wrote and produced Horizons, a documentary about climate change seen through the eyes of writer Barry Lopez. Alongside his career as a writer, Fred founded and directed two environmental nonprofits. Now, as Storytelling Lead at Earthshot Labs, Fred is part of a cross-disciplinary team of scientists, technologists, and carbon finance experts aligned on a common mission: to leverage voluntary carbon markets in order to support large-scale reforestation projects around the world.
Further reading and points of reflection:
* Check out Fred’s piece that he mentions in the episode, The Ecology of Prayer.
This podcast series is produced by the Spring Creek Project and Contemplative Studies Initiative at Oregon State University. Sign up for the Spring Creek newsletter and the Contemplative Studies newsletter to receive updates about new podcast episodes and other programming.