LAWRENCE — A collaborative series at the University of Kansas that centers misinformation, disinformation and the wellness of democracy resumes in fall 2023 with a program about the Ogallala Aquifer, the center of substantial research and public debate because of its increasingly limited supplies and the reliance upon the aquifer for much of western Kansas’ agricultural success.
A webinar at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28 titled “Wellness in our Democracy — Ogallala Aquifer: Seeing the Full Picture” will feature award-winning author and anthropologist Lucas Bessire and Kansas Reflector reporter Allison Kite.
In his book “Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains,” Bessire confronts this issue with a compassionate lens that seeks to reveal a more complex understanding of the situation – one that relates some of the many different experiences surrounding decisions to irrigate and thus, continue to draw upon the aquifer, interwoven with the realities of diminishing water and climate change.
Kite has written about the complexities of environmental regulation in Kansas, which is deeply divided across political lines around many of these challenges. She has also illuminated the effects of irrigation on not only the Ogallala’s water levels, but also the habitats downstream, including the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
The conversation, including short presentations by Bessire and Kite, will offer access to a richer understanding to this complicated Kansas issue.
“Through these events, we want to move beyond a false dichotomy of fact-versus-fiction and toward a deeper understanding of the pressures to act in accord with specific worldviews – even when those things seem to be at odds with what is best for individuals or society,” said Emily Ryan, director of The Commons. “Further, we hope to bring into question the ways in which propaganda plays a role in these behaviors.”
In an effort to couple this work of community understanding and healing with this year’s KU Common Book, “Parable of the Sower,” by Octavia E. Butler, each event will feature short readings of relevant passages, as well as breathwork led by Reggie Hubbard, founder and chief serving officer of Active Peace Yoga.
In its first year, the Wellness in our Democracy series examined the roots of misinformation and disinformation campaigns in the United States, many of which author and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois sought to delegitimize in the early 1900s. It also explored the extension of the misinformation campaigns’ legacy into areas such as race, climate and gender identity as well as the role of local journalism in helping to prevent misinformation. The Wellness in our Democracy series is led by Najarian Peters, associate professor of law and faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School; Patricia Weems Gaston, Lacy C. Haynes Professor of Journalism; and Ryan. Events in this series are supported and presented by The Commons, the School of Law, the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.
Events will run 75 minutes each, with time dedicated to intentional breathwork. To attend, register at https://bit.ly/WellnessinOurDemocracy.