By Elizabeth Fulcher – Horizon News & Feature Editor and Kendra Burkey – Horizon Advisor
Let’s be honest. The typical Hesston College student might not think about the water they’re using. We share a bathroom within mods, we share the water fountains placed around campus, and we can refill our drinks as many times as we please at dinner. We don’t have to pay a water bill, so why worry about it? After reading “Blue Revolution,” one might think differently.
That mindset, that water is plentiful, is exactly the problem, according to Cynthia Barnett, the author of the Hesston College community read, “Blue Revolution.”
“Americans see water as abundant and cheap; we turn on the faucet and out it gushes, for less than a penny a gallon,” the back cover reads. “We use more water than any other country in the world, rarely considering the consequences for our rivers, aquifers, and other freshwaters.”
That’s the message all freshmen are getting this fall as they dive into the community read and start writing their water-themed research papers this week.
Every year, students in First Year Seminar are assigned a book to read, and are to then conduct a research paper related to its themes. This year, the book is “Blue Revolution.”
In it, Barnett discusses the American water crisis, viewing it from the perspective of business, technology, sustainability and policy, to name a few themes. The book pairs reporting (Barnett is a journalist) with advocacy: In the end, what Barnett is asking is for Americans to develop a water ethic.
Previous FYE community reads followed a protagonist on a journey, but this year, the book is set up in a series of essays. Brent Yoder, vice president of academics, led the committee who selected the book.
But here’s the thing. It’s not an easy read. And for some freshmen, it’s a lot to swallow.
“It’s not a book you would just want to sit and continue. It’s more informational than narrative,” Yoder said.
Avery Barnes, a freshman, agrees.
“I thought the book was informational,” Barnes said. “But, as far as interest level wise, it was terrible.”
But Yoder gets that. He knew that this book would be a challenge.
“Even if it wasn’t the most enjoyable book students have read, hopefully they’re still learning things and that they have taken ideas that they will remember,” he said.
And with Hesston partnering with the Hesston Public Library, there’s plenty to take in. Last year, the library received a grant to bring a Smithsonian exhibit called “Water Ways” to the community. After looking over dozens of books, the FYE committee decided to choose a related community read: “Blue Revolution.” Hesston College forums, movie screenings at the Hesston Public Library and a culminating “letter to the editor” assignment require all levels of engagement from students.
“One of the things we try to do with our FYE common read is choose a book that will inspire people to take action,” Yoder said. “It’s not just education, but leads to a motivation to make a difference.”