Dr. Chris Haskett on Life, Death, and Composting


By ADAM FALLUJI – STAFF WRITER

Centre professors have amassed years of insight and experience that they readily offer to those who seek them out. This makes getting to know your professors not only advantageous, but an essential component of what the Centre experience truly has to offer.

To this end I decided to talk to Assistant Professor of Religion Dr. Christian Haskett to see if I could shed some light on his interests outside of the classroom.

Dr. Haskett invited me over to his house to hold our interview. I had been to his house once before for his first-ever Burrito Night, a relaxing evening for all students to enjoy creating and consuming burritos at home with him and his family.

Dr. Haskett told me that he maintains two hobbies above all—fishing and composting.

While out in his backyard, Dr. Haskett showed me the corner section where his compost pile was maintained.

“I get palettes and make them into square boxes with zip ties or a mesh thing. I never like to spend too much money on this. [I spend] 25 dollars per-year at the most. I’m kind of a cheapskate,” Dr. Haskett said. “You can use all manners of things that come out of your kitchen for the compost because it all rots.”

Despite it not being his particular area of study, Dr. Haskett was knowledgeable of the process

“In Buddhism we talk a lot about impermanence—death, birth, rebirth and so on. And so what I like about compost is it’s naturally occurring. You don’t have to make it happen and it’s pretty remarkable that if you get the mix right, being the right balance of carbon and nitrogen, it heats up and it’ll actually get up to 160 degrees. [It becomes] hot-enough that you’ll have little pockets of methane in there that will explode and so you get these little burned bits in there,” Dr. Haskett said. “So you mix all that together and depending on how actively it’s managed it’ll eventually turn into dirt somewhere between two weeks and six months later.”

Once I had a greater appreciation for the process behind the practice, I began to ponder what about composting drew Dr. Haskett’s interest.

By using ordinary items from his trash can (above), Dr. Haskett (top) has been able to easily create a backyard hobby, a compost pile.

By using ordinary items from his trash can (above), Dr. Haskett (top) has been able to easily create a backyard hobby, a compost pile.

“I have a dark side. Death and destruction and mayhem have a certain appeal to me and compost is all about stuff dying and breaking down. And out of that comes something that’s, I guess, fertilizer,” Dr. Haskett said. “I never stick around long-enough to find that out. But that’s what they tell me they do with it. So I think it works for that.“

Dr. Haskett has a personal connection with the process, epecially since the hobby was always a part of his dream of eventually settling down in a town like Danville.

“I think somewhere in the murky depths of history,” Dr. Haskett said, “I had this notion that I would probably end up teaching [in] someplace like

[Danville] and we would have a little more land and we would farm and raise our own crops.”

Dr. Haskett also combines this outdoor hobby with his life as a professor.

“We’ve had a Halloween party here over the past two years and so we get about 45 pumpkins. We have students come over and carve them up and then dump the remains in the compost,” Dr. Haskett said. “But nobody ever gets all the seeds out. So we have at least two or three pumpkins to grow.”

Especially due to our society’s push toward becoming a friend to the environment and paying attention to our carbon footprint, Dr. Haskett points out that his hobby fits right into this pattern of going green.

“We have recycling programs and we have attention given to resource usage. [Composting is] an amazingly easy thing to do,” Dr. Haskett said.

Apart from sharing his house with students, Dr. Haskett likewise shares insight that he has drawn from his experience with composting to anyone

and everyone. When thinking about his backyard hobby, a deeper meaning comes to the surface that relates to his lectures at Centre.

“In a very small way it reconnects me to the processes of growth and production and reproduction,” Dr. Haskett said. “It’s a different kind of natural connection. Not the kind involving puppies, but rather the really dead, stinky, rotting stuff. That’s chipper, isn’t it?”


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