These are my current lecture topics.
• Water, water everywhere?
No, not really. Communities around the globe are experiencing fresh water shortages as climate change crashes into population growth. Retreating glaciers, falling water tables, shrinking lakes and dwindling rivers are affecting agriculture, industry and the most basic need: safe drinking water.
• The consequences of belief: drugs and sex and rock and roll
In an examination of ways in which what we choose to believe plays out in our lives, I consider the consciousness of whales, elephants, chimpanzees and the animals on our plates; our forebears’ ingestion of ground-up Egyptian mummies; our modern uncomfortable dance with drugs; and our cultural dependence on liquid fuels from Nantucket whaling to the BP death gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
• Swallowing Whales: What Jonah can teach us about belief
How do we choose what to believe? Some people believe Jonah spent three days inside a whale, others would insist that’s impossible. On another front, some regard whales as conscious, intelligent co-equal earthlings, while to others they are sushi. Should they fuel our economy or fuel our imagination? An exploration of belief and diet, the nature of consciousness, how we choose what to believe and the difference between fish and cetaceans. Not necessarily in that order.
• The social consequences of cheap energy
Inexpensive oil has permitted a modern diaspora that has spread families across the world. Free to go where we pleased, able to return home as often as we felt called, we shifted from a culture centered on hometowns and familial ties to a society in which career and opportunity were the watchwords. Daycare replaced grandparenting, retirement communities and nursing homes replaced multigenerational familial care, automobile commuting enabled sprawl, and easy international travel leveraged disease vectors. I discuss the societal ramifications in a world where global warming requires a reduction in energy use and the combination of ratcheting population and diminishing oil supplies imposes per capita reduction.
• Woo-Woo versus the Bunny Hug: Will we be saved by faith or works?
Many New Age religious beliefs assume that something can be created from nothing, that creation is limitless, whereas environmentalism works from an assumption that the biomass of earth is fixed by solar income and that an increase in one form of life is offset by a decrease in another. In other words, the contest between woo-woos and bunny-huggers boils down to a debate about whether life is a zero-sum game.
• Onward Christian Soldiers: Billy Graham’s advocacy for war
Billy Graham has advocated war with every president since Truman. He expressed a belief that the American military would be the instrument for spreading Christianity around the globe. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is heavily invested in arms manufacturing and oil and Graham has advocated for arms sales, conducted foreign reporting for the CIA and various administrations and urged President Richard Nixon to commit genocide in Vietnam. Not the story you may have read in the popular press, but thoroughly documented with five years of investigative reporting.
• Unintentional courage: How I shot the sheriff (and nettled God’s deputies)
I was elected to the Asheville City Council despite opposition from self-styled Christian activists who took exception to my “post-theist” religious beliefs and my political biography of evangelist Billy Graham. However, when election finance reports were filed it was revealed that the smear campaign was financed by gambling interests and allies of a crooked sheriff now doing time in a federal penitentiary. That sheriff’s downfall and conviction came about in large part due to my investigative reporting for Asheville’s weekly paper. As a Councilman and reporter I discuss ways in which simply being true to one’s beliefs can appear to be courageous, and the way failure to live up to our best instincts might make us complicit in the bad acts of others.