Interview Project:

Dr. Kenneth Petersen

Dr. Kenneth Petersen was alarmed when he found out that an ice rink was being proposed for building in the woods near Lissner Hall. He along with many of the other faculty members in the biology and environmental science departments had heard nothing of this before, though by the time they found out the ice rink already sounded more like a plan or proposal than something in the idea stage.

“A lot of Bethel’s campus is left natural, and that’s one of the things I love about it. It’s a pretty large campus, and there are plenty of spaces that aren’t natural. If they’re going to put in an ice rink, carve up a parking lot or other unnatural place,” Petersen said.

Petersen has been teaching at Bethel University for 12 years, and is now the head of the environmental science program. His research areas include birds and habitat fragmentation, and by teaching at Bethel, he combines his love for these things with his love of Christ and environmental stewardship. It’s no surprise that the ice rink plan is not very popular with Dr. Petersen, along with a few of the other things Bethel has done (or not done) over the years.

A couple of years ago, some students designed a proposal for Bethel to put in a wind turbine or solar panels as alternative energy sources. Though the plan may have been rough, according to Petersen there was good research done by the students, and the turbine and panels could have been really good options for Bethel. However, Dr. Petersen reports that in his opinion the proposal didn’t get a truly serious reading. Thus, Bethel missed an opportunity to be more energy efficient.

Another possibility for Bethel is to get energy from a community solar garden. These work on the principle that a private entity owns land and establishes solar panels that when used have the ability to power even up to a couple hundred homes. If Bethel were to invest in buying a share of one of these, it would help to fill some of the campus’s vast energy needs. However, Bethel has not taken any action towards this according to Petersen.

“The best thing that Bethel and the students here can do is to be stewards of the environment in our daily lives, which means monitoring how much we use energy, drive cars, use water, eat, and so on,” Petersen said. Though Bethel missed opportunities on solar gardens and wind turbines, there are many things that Bethel does well.

Petersen reports that Bethel does a wonderful job of recycling and helping the students to recycle as well with their specially-shaped recycling bins. Newer developments like Brushaber Commons have sustainability features, such as recycled carpets and other materials used in the making.

Lighting on campus has also evolved; there are many rooms with sensors that can turn off unneeded lights and many of the light fixtures are more efficient, saving energy.

And, Petersen added, Bethel also takes pride in educating the future of environmentalists by offering two different degrees in the field of environmental science.

Based on Bethel’s covenant, is the school following the path of environmental stewardship?

“God is the creator, sustainer, and owner of everything; the Earth is the Lord’s, and scripture makes it clear that he enlists humans to care for his creation,” Petersen said.

Petersen is adamant that In Genesis, God gave humans stewardship of the Earth. This was before environmental problems arose. Therefore, the mission He gave Christians to take care of the Earth is not conditional on the appearance of problems; God intended that stewardship was part of the job from the beginning, and He holds Christians accountable.

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