View Past Speakers and Topics

May 12, 2019
Behind the Curtain: The Community Cost of Incarceration
Karen Reece, PhD, Vice President, Research & Education at the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development

We spend over a BILLION dollars per year in Wisconsin on corrections. Do you know what your tax dollars are paying for? The prison population in Wisconsin is on the rise again and the state is deciding whether to build new prisons or send people out of state to private institutions to serve their time. While it’s been relatively easy to increase our spending on corrections, it’s not as easy to learn about where that money is going. In this session, you will learn about the difference between jails and prisons, sentencing and available programming, as well as the impact of these things on individuals, families, communities, and our society as a whole.

Karen Reece is the Vice President of Research and Education, at Nehemiah Community Development Corporation. Dr. Reece is involved in strategic planning and manages a continuous/dynamic evaluation program to ensure forward progress and quality control. She runs an annual public education workshop series on the criminal justice system highlighting racial disparities and delivers training upon request for churches, businesses, and other community organizations. Dr. Reece develops curriculum for and co-instructs “Intersection of Health Care and Incarceration”, a course offered at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. She puts to good use the analytical skills developed in a previous career in product development in biotech. Her wide range of interests, skills, and activities span science, arts (from cello to Hip-Hop!) and community building organizations.

View Presentation:  2019.05.11_Bethel_Incarceration-KReece2


February 10, 2019
MGE Energy 2030: Working for Sustainability​
Leah Samson, MGE Residential Services Manager​

MGE is an investor-owned, regulated utility which provides electricity to all of Madison and surrounding suburbs, and gas service to a wider area. It is our energy lifeline, providing us very reliable power and warmth. It now has added the objective of fulfilling our local responsibility to fight climate change. MGE is shouldering this job through its Energy 2030 framework which is aligned to meet the goals of the U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization.

The headline goal is to generate 30% of its power from renewable sources by 2030, most of which will be from new construction. Already, MGE has invested $100 million in the 66 megawatt (MW) Saratoga wind farm in Iowa, and will create 100 MW more in two solar installations in Wisconsin. MGE is also committed to facilitating a 40% reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions of its customers by 2030 and 80% by 2050. To make this happen, MGE is encouraging energy conservation and supporting the sustainability plans of Madison and Dane County. It also expects to remain a strong business from economic growth and new energy demands from electric cars and buses.

Leah Samson, MGE Residential Services Manager, is an energy geek at MGE with a passion for sustainability and energy efficiency. In her current position at MGE she educates and engages customers about their energy use. She attended UW-Madison and has a degree in mechanical engineering. Previously she owned a sustainability consulting firm where she provided green building consulting and sustainability planning for clients.


January 13, 2019
Madison Lakes: Challenges Facing These Local and Regional Treasures
Steve Carpenter, UW Madison Emeritus Professor of Limnology and Environmental Science 

Professor Carpenter describes himself as a free-range scientist who studies whole ecosystems. The Yahara River flowage that includes the Madison Lakes has been a primary interest of his for many years. He and others recently completed a project called Yahara 2070. It is an exploration of potential futures for water, ecosystems, and people in Wisconsin’s Yahara Watershed. The researchers analyzed large amounts of information to better understand the long-term impacts on our lakes of social and environmental change. He will engage us in a crucial conversation about the alternative futures for this key resource. This will help us understand how our personal actions and group decisions will determine whether the future conditions will be improving, stable, or degrading.

Professor Carpenter is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of awards for excellence including the Stockholm Water Prize for global contributions to water science. Mark your calendar for January 13 and plan to bring a friend!


November 18, 2018
Meeting Madison’s Sustainability Goal  

Jeanne Hoffman, Sustainability Manager, City of Madison

Jeanne notes that national efforts to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gases are stagnating. However, the City of Madison has joined with 84 other American cities to take up the task by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by joining the Ready for 100%— a campaign to set a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy. Jeanne Hoffman staffs the Madison Sustainability Committee to make that happen by systematically reviewing city operations to determine the most cost effective measures available. Already, the city has taken a major step to offset its electric power purchases from the grid by investing $1.4 million in a new solar farm.

The City of Madison not only focuses on making City facilities and operations more energy efficient, the City is also working with the community, other government groups and business leaders to increase sustainability in natural systems, climate and energy, transportation, culture and art, education, and a whole host of areas that obviously go well beyond what the city has direct control over. The City has incorporated renewable energy into the City’s zoning code.


October 7, 2018
Cars, Trucks and the Environment

Todd Fansler retired as Director of the Propulsion Systems Research Lab at General Motors R&D Center. He is now an Honorary Fellow at UW’s Engine Research Center

When will electric cars push the century-old internal-combustion engine into the junkyard of history? Does “zero-emission” = “non-polluting”? How badly do car and truck emissions affect the environment, anyway? Or is that all just a Chinese hoax? Join an auto-industry “lifer” to learn more about this pervasive technology that affects us all. Expect a few surprises!


April 21/22, 2018
Earth Day Stewardship

John Kutzbach, Professor Emeritus, UW Center for Climatic Research, Nelson Institute
Sermon at all services

Caring for Creation (C4C) will be organizing an Earth Stewardship Sunday here at Bethel on April 22. April 22 is Earth Day nationwide and around the world.

The theme of the sermon on this Sunday will be Earth Stewardship. UW Professor Emeritus John Kutzbach, a member of the C4C Committee here at Bethel, will preach at all services on April 21 and 22. He will emphasize the Earth and Nature, as one of the Four Harmonies highlighted in the Bethel Bible Series and at Bethel Horizons: Harmony with God, Self, Others and Nature. The importance and the blessings of the Natural World are a central theme of the Genesis narrative, and this importance is echoed in the Psalms and in the warnings of Prophets when we fall short in our caring for God’s creation.

C4C is completing three years of bringing a series of outstanding speakers to Bethel to discuss various topics of C4C including clean water, clean air, renewable energy, livable cities, sustainable agriculture, future directions in agriculture, global health, the dangers of climate change, and much more.

In Nov 2017 we started our third year of offerings with UW Professor Emeritus Cal DeWitt preaching on God’s gifts of creation and our stewardship responsibilities. The sermon on this Earth Day Sunday will reinforce those themes.

John Kutzbach is a member of the National Academy of Science, and is known nationally and internationally for his research on climate and climate change, including the importance of climate as part of the natural environment. Kutzbach will lead a post-sermon discussion at 10:15am.


March 4, 2018
Climate Change Impacts on Global Health

Jonathan Patz, Director UW Global Health Institute

Dr. Jonathan Patz will continue Caring for Creation’s (C4C) exploration of climate change in a March 4 presentation on “Impacts on Global Health” at 10:15am in Borgwardt Hall. The global climate crisis poses large risks to public health through many exposure pathways, from heat waves and air pollution, to malnutrition, infectious diseases and social dislocation. Yet, climate change mitigation policies could potentially have enormous public health benefits. In short, climate change presents large human health risks, while climate change actions, offer health benefits – possibly the greatest health opportunities in more than a century.

Dr. Patz is Professor and Chair in Health & the Environment at UW-Madison, where he also directs the Global Health Institute. His pioneering work on the connections between health and the global environment have made him a recognized international authority in that field. His considerable accomplishments include serving as a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – co-recipient with Al Gore of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.  For an overview of global health impacts of climate change, see Dr. Patz’s Nov 2017 TEDx talk.


February 18, 2018
Climate Change Impacts on Madison and Wisconsin

Bob Lindmeier, Chief meteorologist at WKOW, ELCA Synod Speaker
Caring for Creation (C4C) is starting out the new year with an informative presentation by Bob Lindmeier. Bob has presented the weather at WKOW-TV for the past 37 years and belongs to the ELCA South-Central Synod of Wisconsin’s Care for God’s Creation team. In his many years as an atmospheric scientist Bob has closely followed the issue of climate change. He will talk about

  • The focus and actions of the Synod’s Care for God’s Creation team
  • How humans are causing climate change
  • Many impacts of climate change, especially on a local level.
  • The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community.
  • What you can do to be part of the solution.
  • The need to put a price on carbon.

Bob Lindmeier, is a member of the American Meteorological Society and has the AMS Television Seal of Approval. Bob is a member of the synod’s speaker’s bureau. He is also a member of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, which advocates for a Carbon Fee and Dividend climate solution.


November 18/19, 2017 – 9th Major Sunday
Entrusted: All is God’s

Cal DeWitt, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Sciences
Sermon at all services


May 7, 2017
Challenges of Feeding the World in 2050

Molly Jahn, Prof., UW College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Dep’t. of Genetics

The world’s interconnected global markets, burgeoning appetites and an increasingly variable climate have already started to levy a heavy burden on our food systems that deliver safe, nutritious, and accessible food. The present famines in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen serve as tragic reminders that our stunningly successful focus on increasing agricultural yields in the 20th century is not all that’s required for food security and stable global food systems. Dr. Jahn will discuss current perspectives on our global and local food systems and describe strategies being pursued around the world to steer our future toward healthier and more secure outcomes for all.

Molly Jahn is a professor in the Department of Agronomy, the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, and the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she also served as dean of the College


April 30, 2017
(Re)Creating Our Resilient Regional Food System – Healing the Rural/Urban Divide

Michelle Miller, Associate Director of Programs, UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

Before refrigerated trucks, the federal highway system and irrigation projects, most of a city’s food came from the region surrounding it. No more. Today, much of our fresh fruit and vegetables are grown on large farms with poor labor conditions, and travel from distant coastal states and Mexico. As this national food supply chain grew, regional food networks withered. We are exploring ways to renew our regional food system so that it can undergird the national system and make it more resilient. These approaches hold promise for supporting entrepreneurial businesses and reconnecting cities with their rural regions.

Michelle Miller is at the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the sustainable agriculture research center. A Wisconsin native, she is an economic anthropologist engaged in participatory research with farmers and others who create our food system. Her current projects focus on labor and land tenure, agriculture of the middle and regional food economies, food freight logistics, resiliency and climate change.


April 2, 2017
Healthy Food, Healthy Land, and Supply Chain Sustainability

Bill Berry, Writer, Editor: Conservation, Agriculture and Rural Issues

Government programs seek to encourage sustainable environmental practices on America’s farms and ranches. The marketplace, however, may provide more opportunities to accomplish these same goals. Consumers drive the decisions of major corporations, and many consumers are asking for healthy food grown in a sustainable manner.  This has led corporations like General Mills and Coca Cola to adopt sustainability platforms and develop products and production procedures that appeal to people who are concerned about how their food is grown. We will explore this growing trend and what it means across the supply chain.

Bill Berry has spent most of his life communicating about conservation of natural resources, at daily newspapers in Wisconsin and with conservation groups at the state and national level. He writes a regular column for The Capital Times of Madison. He lives in Stevens Point.


March 12
Expanding Local Food Access to Consumers, Schools & Businesses

Helen Sarakinos, Executive Director of the REAP Food Group

Join us for this important talk in this year’s Caring for Creation series on “Farming, Food, and Responsible Fruitfulness”. Plan to bring a friend!

Helen is a seasoned advocate and organizer for issues that impact our community’s kids, citizens, food, and water. In her presentation at Bethel, she will talk about the work of REAP Food Group, which has become a leader in the local food movement and now connects farmers & producers, restaurants, healthcare institutions, schools & students, consumers, and the community-at-large to support Southern Wisconsin’s local food system.

REAP’s current programs include Farm to School, Buy Fresh Buy Local Southern Wisconsin, which connects local farms and producers to institutional purchasers, and the Southern Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas, a guide for consumers to local food. REAP approaches food system change at every level in order to increase the access to local food while building a food chain that is environmentally and economically sustainable.


February 12
Safeguarding Wisconsin’s Waters: Quality, Supply and Healthy Ecosystems

Jane Elder, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters

Join us for this important talk in this year’s Caring for Creation series on “Farming, Food, and Responsible Fruitfulness”. Plan to bring a friend!

Jane Elder will talk about challenges related to safeguarding Wisconsin’s waters. She will look at water supply, water quality, and aquatic habitat. Her talk will be based on the Academy’s recently published Shifting Currents report, which includes an overview of gains and setbacks in Wisconsin water policy and practice over the last 15 years. This report also highlights emerging concerns, examines the context for decision-making around water management and protection, and explores root causes that influence water conditions and policy in Wisconsin.


January 15, 2017
Second Harvest

Dan Stein, CEO/President, Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin

Food banks assist hunger relief agencies by focusing on finding large sources of food, storing it and redistributing it. This allows relief agencies such as food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens to focus on what they do best, directly serving those in need. Studies show that as much as 40% of all food produced in this country is wasted. Food banks help reduce that wastage. Today, in addition to feeding more than 100,000 people in Southern Wisconsin, Second Harvest has begun forming collaborative partnerships with the medical community in addressing potentially significant physical and emotional health problems caused by food insecurity and preventing them when possible.

Dan Stein is President and CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and a member of Bethel.


November 13, 2016
The Intersection of Energy and Food Production

Gary Radloff, Director of Midwest Energy Policy Analysis, UW Wisconsin Energy Institute

Biofuels fuel produced from plants have strengthened our energy security. Biofuels provide about five percent of our transportation fuel and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. But corn ethanol production now takes 40% of the crop, which has increased world grain prices. Alternative biofuels from wood and grass and biogas from animal waste have a foothold in Wisconsin and might become much bigger with the aid of research and leadership from UW and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

Gary Radloff is the Director of Midwest Energy Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin Energy institute.


October 16, 2016
Food, Land, & Water: Can Wisconsin Find its Way?

Jim Matson, Chief Counsel, Retired, Wisconsin Dep’t. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Our food system is under stress, and so are the natural resources that sustain it. Where do we go from here? In the first lecture/discussion of this year’s series, “Farming, Food, and Responsible Fruitfulness,” Jim Matson will discuss trends in food consumption and waste; the economics of food production; the conflicting needs between food production, energy and development; and the need for clean and abundant water. God’s creation is both diverse and vulnerable and needs our stewardship. Jim will have time to answer your questions after the lecture and we invite you to continue the discussion at the Core Group meeting, October 19, Wednesday, 6:30pm at Bethel. Find the whole schedule of the series in the September 21 Bethelite and below.

Jim Matson was a driving force in the two-year statewide project to evaluate the most responsible paths to a sustainable future for Wisconsin’s critical natural resources. In his 36-year career at the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, 28 years as chief legal counsel, Jim developed regulatory policy for food, environment, disease control and consumer protection, including the Working Lands Initiative.


Ecological Boundaries: from Wisconsin to the World
John Kutzbach, UW Center for Climatic Research, Nelson Institute 

The ecology, environment and climate of our state, our country and the world are changing rapidly. The vital reserves of land, life, food, water, air and ocean are threatened. We know why these events are happening because earth science provides accurate scenarios of the past, present and future. We know that things will get much worse if we do nothing. We know how to tackle the problem. But will we?

John Kutzbach is professor emeritus of climate and the environment, University of Wisconsin, still engaged in climate research, and a member of Bethel. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


Get on Board the Solar Train
Michael Vickerman, Program and Policy Director RENEW Wisconsin

Michael Vickerman, Program and Policy Director of RENEW Wisconsin, advances the interests of renewable energy producers and purchasers in legislative and regulatory proceedings, as well as public forums. Under his direction, RENEW formulated and mobilized political support for major pro-renewable policies, including a statewide 10% renewable requirement by 2015. Solar power industry provides a cost-effective source of electricity for business and institutional customers and employs more than 200,000 people nationally.


Pedestrians, Bikes & Cities
David Cieslewicz, Wisconsin Bicycle Federation, Mayor of Madison 2003-2011

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.


Caring for Creation: Earth-Wise
Cal DeWitt, UW Institute for Environmental Studies
To watch the video of this presentation click here.


Future of the Yahara Watershed and Madison Lakes
Jennifer Seifert and Eric Booth, Water Sustainability and Climate Project, UW-Madison

The Madison area is changing fast. The decisions we make today that impact our land and water will also impact the well-being of future generations. How can we ensure we are making good choices? A UW-Madison research team has developed scenarios, or plausible stories about the future, depicting ways the region could change by 2070. These scenarios help us understand potential impacts on land and water and facilitate discussions about a desirable future. Visit


Madison in Motion
David Trowbridge, Transportation Policy & Planning Manager, City of Madison, Planning Division

David Trowbridge will talk about “Creating a Livable City for the Next Generation: The role of Transportation in the Madison Urban Area.”

Whereas the previous talk in the Caring for Creation series examined potential human impacts on land and water in the Madison area, this presentation will focus on challenges and solutions for our city environment where most of us spend much of our time.

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