Graduate student film explores pleasures and perils of "living by fire"

October 14, 2011

"There are things designed in this place that we are made to pleasure in and one of 'em is fire," says Ernest Bingham, owner of Madison-based Fireplace Folks.

But along with the pleasure and warmth, a wood fire can also bring risks like reduced air quality. According to Lisa MacKinnon, Dane County Clean Air Coalition coordinator, Dane County air has a particularly high level of fine particle pollution. Part of the blame lies with fireplaces.

This is where Bingham comes in: The wood stoves sold in his store are some of the most efficient models in the country.

Bingham's story, along with that of a young couple using one of his low-emission stoves, is told in a short film produced by Alexandra Rudnick and Nathan Jandle, students in the Nelson Institute Culture, History and Environment (CHE) graduate certificate program.

Their film, Living By Fire, was created for the spring 2011 CHE Methods Seminar. Students in the seminar were tasked with working in pairs to develop a digital story related to landscapes of health and illness in Wisconsin. The goal of the films, which we will continue to post over the next several weeks, is to encourage viewers to consider our relationships to places, wildlife and plants in new ways through the lens of health and illness.

The digital stories are part of a larger Landscapes of Health collection on the CHE website - an eclectic set of reflections from participants in the CHE 2011 place-based workshop and a study guide of readings on history, health, place and the environment.


The CHE graduate certificate program explores environmental and cultural change across the full sweep of human history, from diverse perspectives in the humanities and sciences.

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