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Lisa Marie's blog

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Re-framing a Justice for Right Relationships

      At our first 360 meeting in Camden, the 360 participants and CFET members had an interesting conversation on Eco-Literacy and Environmental & Social Justice. During this discussion, Michael from CFET made a comment that has remained with me through the course of this semester. He mentioned that he did not like the term “justice” as an organizing idea as it implies that there is always an impartial arbiter determining what is “right”. As someone who has felt involved and active in the pursuit of social justice, I had not previously thought there might be something problematic about this concept. Over the course of the semester, in and out of the 360, I have begun to question and challenge the idea of justice. What is justice? Who determines what is “just” and “right”? Must justice be achieved at the expense of something else? Does social justice perpetuate and reproduce existing social inequalities and hierarchies? What about ecological justice? Is there a way for eco-justice and social justice to co-exist or is there tension between them? Is justice inherently human centric? Is there a way to expand this concept to the wider natural world? To assist me in exploring these questions, I will draw on John Humbach’s essay “Towards a Natural Justice of Right Relationships”, J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals, and Teju Cole’s “The White Savior Industrial Complex”. 

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The Sustainability Lab: Developing Middle School Students' Ecological Literacy through an Exploration of Green Schools


Three years ago, my younger sister Julie began her middle school at REALMS (Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning), a charter school in our hometown Bend, Oregon. The school’s purpose is to

 “foster scholarship, strengthen community, and inspire stewardship through active learning by actively challenging our students to investigate, understand, and become stewards of the human and natural world around us. To do so, we pursue experiences both inside and outside the classroom that help our students develop a core set of academic skills and learning habits; that encourage them to explore and identify their values; and that foster the inspiration that comes through service to others and adventure” (REALMS 1).

During the sixth grade, my sister and her classmates spent a significant amount of time in and out of the classroom exploring sustainable systems and structures in Portland, Oregon. The students learned about sustainable architecture in class for a couple of months leading up to a field trip which offered Julie and her classmates the opportunity to tour sustainable schools and other facilities throughout Portland. Following their trip, the sixth grade students presented their observations to their fellow students, teachers, and families. I had the privilege of attending this culminating presentation a couple of years ago, and was struck by how much the students learned on their trip and the autonomy they had in creating and carrying out the presentation.

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Home and Exile in the Hungry Tide

So far, I have really enjoyed reading the Hungry Tide and I keep thinking about how the novel ties back to our overarching English/360 conversation of home and exile. The themes of home, belonging, and exile come up quite frequently in the text--Piya, who's heritage and physichal appearance make her look like an insider still feels somewhat siloed from the Indian culture and way of life, and seemingly feels more at home when searching for the rare species of dolphin. Kanai, who is more of an insider than Piya, also plays the role of an outsider as he reads and learns more about Kusum's story. Another way in which home comes up in the text is when Piya recalls the memory of how attached her father was to a towel that had become an old, tattered piece of fabric. "In general, the least sentimental of men [... the cloth] was almost like a piece of his body, like his hair or nail clippings; his luck was woven into it" (73). These themes of home/belonging/exile in the text raise the questions: can one feel like and be an insider and outsider in a space that is supposed to be his or her home? Is it possible for an object to represent home? Can such an object (natural or unnatural) feel like it is a part of us? 

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An Ordinary, Beautiful Life

Here is the NPR story that I mentioned on Friday:

It's a pretty short podcast, but a really nice story, so you should listen to it if you have the chance!

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Fusing Nature and Culture

It was interesting to read "Teaching Urban Ecology", a text that explicitly talked about how "nature" and "culture" are so siloed from one another in the classrom and how Di Chiro used intersectionality in teaching Ecology in her classroom. Di Chiro raised many interesting questions in her class, one of them I was especially struck by: "How are environmental scholars and community activists re-thinking and re-connecting the ideas of ecology and social justice with the commitment to creating sustainable communities?" She then encouraged her students to explore this question more deeply by participating in action research which provided them with very interesing and enlightening insight. I think the original question she posed is so central to this course as well as being a question that should be explored in more classrooms across the country. All too often, students learn about "nature" and "culture" not only as separate, isolated concepts, but also without this intersectionality layer to explain how different people experience culture and the earth differently. How might this question be explored in a middle or high school classroom? How can educators and schools integrate the ideas of "nature" and "culture"? How can social justice and environmental jusice and activism be better linked in the classroom/school setting?

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When is the student ready?

            In Ruth Ozeki’s Eco-novel All Over Creation, education, learning, or in other words, “consciousness-raising”, occur in different ways for several characters as the story unfolds. Frank Perdue, a janitor from the Midwest inadvertently gets involved with a radical environmental activist group, the Seeds of Resistance, and spends much of this time feeling skeptical about their work; feeling that people were not “ready to have their consciousness raised quite yet” (86). This statement begs the question: what does it take for people’s “consciousness to be raised”? Who is ready and how do they become ready? How much latitude in conversation and dialogue can there be for the maximum amount of learning to take place?  Can there be productive dialogue between two people who hold different perspectives or who are not ready to have their consciousness raised? In order to answer these questions, I will look at how learning takes place in All Over Creation—specifically for Frank and the individuals who the Seeds of Resistance reaches out too, and will conclude by bringing in The Lives of Animals and Radical Presence, other texts that touch on these questions.

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Rethinking Environmental Education

The Ecoliterate readings for this week were incredibly interesting and enlightening, especially when thinking in terms of outdoor spaces are used in this 360 and how they may be used in other schools. Learning about the Gwich'in people and their evolving role and way of life that is at odds with oil drilling practices in Alaska was so fascinating. James's statement was especially striking: "to protect the earth is our way of life. It makes us who we are." The authors then posed the questions: How might you integrate some of these attitudes and behaviors into your own life? How can you nurture them into your own students? We then read about the experiences of students in New Orleans who came together to rethink the schools and to provide recommendations for improving schools. While there was no outdoor classroom space persay, when the oil spill occurred, the students did gain greater awareness of the interconnectedness of oil production and use and reliance, as well as how it affected them. One final part of the reading I enjoyed was the Professor who dealt with water conflicts. "What is useful? What can we apply to the conflict-resolution world? What can we learn from mystical experiene that we can bring into a room of angry people?"

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"What I would have said:" Making Post-structuralism & Deep Ecology more Porous

When reading "The Land and Language of Desire" and thinking of how it would be possible to "collapse the distinction between nature and textuality", I kept reflecting back to my Eco-Artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and the ways in which he weaved language into his art, bringing together two very different disciplines into one object. The art and literature were seamlessly weaved together in such a way it was hard to find any distinction between art/landscape and the language and poetry he used in his work. I also thought about John Dixon Hunt's quote about Finlay's work, specifically that "the ideal gardner is the poet". How can we see post-structuralism and nature/the land as more porous to one another? As Campbell states " what makes one of us care about textuality, where another cares about the land?" (134). Both studies and writing about land and language have inherent value, but should there always be a distinction between them? When should we make them porous to one another? When should they be made to be separate units of study? And who should decide?

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Changing Approaches to Ecological Education

Unfortuanately, I was unable to physically be in my classes yesterday, but I found the Judson reading to be very englightening and interesting. I was especially drawn to the way she found imaginative education and ecological education to be somewhat in tension, and felt like in some ways the reading raised more questions than answers for me. Judson asks: Is it possible for students to develop ecological understanding when the teachers may lack this ecological understanding? And I wonder: Is there a standardized type of curriculum that allows teachers with or without the ecological understanding to develop their students' understanding?   How can we balance imaginative education and ecological education in fostering students' emotional connection to nature? These are all difficult questions to address given budget constraints, teaching preparation programs, and other logistics, and are even more difficult in some cases, where the outdoors are not an accessible place to create a "classroom." To end on a lighter and more postive note, though, I think Judson expressed the importance of conveying the interdependency between humans and the environment in schools. It won't be easy, but I do think this can be done in a variety of settings, and teachers can foster their students' emotional and personal connection to nature.

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Wandering around Wissahickon

I have to admit, I was feeling a bit down on Friday--you could say I'm not the biggest fan of rain so I was a grumpy about hiking in the weather we were experiencing and feeling tired from a long, grueling week. But once we started walking around together, I immediately felt like a load had been lifted and I could truly feel a sense of peace. I left behind the stressful week I had just had and listened to the rain falling, friendly conversations among my classmates, and took in the fresh, lush smell of the trees and creek. Spending time in Wissahickon, as my "ditch" for the day was exactly what I needed to feel refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to embrace and take on the rest of the semester. 

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