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Up For Discussion: the Future of Decorah

When Dec 05, 2011
from 07:00 PM to 08:30 PM
Where Decorah Public Library
Contact Name
Contact Phone 563-382-3717
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The Pepperfield Project’s “Up for Discussion, the Future of Decorah” concludes December 5 with a discussion led by Gary Holthaus from 7-8:30 p.m. at Decorah Public Library. Holthaus was a “humanist in residence” in Decorah during February and March of this year. “Gary has written a ‘Report to Decorah,’ which is a discussion of sustainability with comments from many Decorah residents that he spoke with during his time here,” according to Kristin Torresdal, Administrative Coordinator at the Library.


There is a link to Holthaus’ “Report to Decorah” on Decorah Public Library’s website ( and on the website of the project’s sponsor, The Pepperfield Project (  The report is available at the Decorah Public Library, Luther College Library, Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center, and at other public places in the community. Photocopies and CDs are available. 


David Cavagnaro, Executive Director of the Pepperfield Project said, “The purpose of our project was to continue and extend the conversation about sustainability that was begun in Decorah by the City and The Sustainable Decorah Initiative.” One result of that effort was the “Sustainable Decorah Strategic Plan,” which was adopted by the City in October 2010.  


While he was in town Holthaus met with many organizations and interviewed over seventy people about their experience of life in Decorah. “One thing that interested me,” Holthaus said, “was the view local folks have of the future of Decorah. There are so many forces at work around the globe that will have a direct impact on local communities. Things are bound to change, and some of the impacts of those changes are already in view.” Holthaus said that he was especially interested in what Decorahns were doing or going to do to mitigate the negative outcomes of the end of cheap oil, the loss of potable water, and the severe storms and drought that seem to be increasing everywhere.


“Decorah has more resources for preparing itself for change and adapting to new circumstances than many communities,” according to Holthaus. “Decorah has not only been thinking about these issues, but addresses them in the strategic plan. This town also has a head start on the healthy forces that make for community.” Holthaus noted that “On the social front there are many individuals and businesses that really care about this place, and are working hard to ensure its future. There is a high degree of compassion in such activities as the Food Pantry and the Free Clinic, and without compassion you can’t have much sense of community.” Holthaus also cited the work being done on the environmental front with alternative energy and the drive to promote local food. “Anything that makes Decorah a bit more self-reliant will help Decorah deal with our rapidly changing economic and environmental circumstances,” he said. “The arts and humanities are strong here too, not only through Luther College, but in such non-profits as ArtHaus and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah Public Library and other organizations.”


“We are pleased to host this event,” Library Director Lorraine Borowski said.  “Gary has been studying these issues of community and sustainability for many years, and his report features comments from many of our own citizens as well as other experts in the field.”


Read the “Report to Decorahns” online, or pick up a CD or a hard copy at one of the many locations around town. Then join your fellow citizens to discuss the Report. “Not everyone will agree with everything in the report,” says Cavagnaro, “but you will find much to think about.  Bring your comments and questions to the Library on December 5. We’ll have a lively discussion.”


For more information call Kristin Torresdal at Decorah Public Library at 563-382-3717, or David Cavagnaro at the Pepperfield Project at 563-382-8833.