Student Documentary Explores Faith and the EnvironmentIn To Walk Alongside, senior Alex Theship-Rosales uses spirituality as a vehicle to encourage environmental responsibility.
Posted on March 5th, 2019 by

Senior environmental studies major Alex Theship-Rosales.

When Alex Theship-Rosales was a child, there were two things that he couldn’t get enough of: being outside and going to his church youth group. Along the way, the senior environmental studies major at Gustavus Adolphus College has discovered a new way to combine the two—he recently completed the production of a documentary, To Walk Alongside, that focuses on environmental spirituality. The film will be screened on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Wallenberg Auditorium.

Theship-Rosales’s inspiration for making this film came when he took the course Religion and Ecology, taught by now-retired Gustavus professor Dr. Deborah Goodwin. This interdisciplinary course in the environmental studies program highlights the inherent relationship between spirituality and the environment to emphasize mankind’s role in nature.

Theship-Rosales (fifth from left) was named Homecoming Royalty this fall.

“It was so inspiring to me that I decided to make my whole trajectory in college about religion and ecology,” said Theship-Rosales.

With a newly discovered passion, the Chanhassen, Minn. native packed his bags and jetted off to New Zealand for the spring semester of his junior year. The opportunity to study away through the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) allowed Theship-Rosales to study environmental policy and Maori culture outside a traditional classroom setting.

After an internship with Zealandia Ecosanctuary in New Zealand, Theship-Rosales began working on the environmental spirituality documentary.

“It’s said that New Zealand is not a small island, but a big village,” Theship-Rosales explained, a saying that was reinforced when he began to interview community members with different worldviews through his professor’s connections. He had the opportunity to speak with the former Bishop of Wellington, a New Zealand parliament professional, and representatives of the Maori people.

More connections started popping up back in Minnesota once he interviewed the organizer for environmental justice at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Theship-Rosales’s goal was to capture many different perspectives speaking to the same values.

After 13 months of planning, filming, and editing, Theship-Rosales completed his finished product with a little help from his adviser, professor David Tobaru Obermiller of the history department, and professor Priscilla Briggs in art and art history.

“The only way this project could exist is through my Gustavus liberal arts education—taking these two things, spirituality and the environment, that don’t often go together and seeing just how much they are intertwined,” Theship-Rosales explained.

To Walk Alongside challenges its viewers to think about their own connection to and impact on the earth in light of climate change. “Having a spiritual awareness of the earth is crucial because subsequent from that is a desire to make the earth heal,” said Theship-Rosales. He emphasizes that regardless of a person’s religious affiliation, we are all tied to the earth because we are part of nature.

“To destroy the earth is to discredit what has been made by the Divine,” said Theship-Rosales.

A free public screening of To Walk Alongside will take place on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Wallenberg Auditorium of the Nobel Hall of Science.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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