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Notes Towards Day 6

Notes towards Day 6 of Food for Thought

I. Coursekeeping
papers for Emily, Sara
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reading for Tuesday next selection in packet:
article from 9/07 New York Times Magazine about how weknow what makes us healthy
series of letters in response (looking @ what makes a conversation productive)
shorter 4/08 NYTimes article asking what wellness, how to achieve it
all this: new 3-week-section-long
PART II of course on "selecting our data"
(=doing science)
talk more re: papers in a bit; first....

II. Read postings re: changing human nature

Do you think there is such a thing as "human nature"?
Being so "nurtured," how would we know????

Leigh: to me Revkin's question is almost too late because I think humans as a whole have moved past that question a long time ago. It isn't about changing human nature anymore, it is about changing human choice. It is our choice what to do with our lives now, it isn't set in stone for us what is in our destiny or our "nature."

Anna: I see human nature as a concept used by cultures, often to block progress of consciousness (it's human nature to make war!) and to explain animalistic/unconscious behavior....One could say that human nature is an oxymoron, since we are so removed from nature....Human nature is a cop-out.

Aybala: who gets to decide what human nature is or what to change?

Isa: how is human nature formed? By our cultures....I think its wrong to assume human brain does not change. Its just another learning/adjusting process.

Paul: As for "human nature"...there is not one...."I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am" ...and also change things around me as well. Yes, we all start with certain understandings, preferences, biases...including perhaps a wish for something stable and certain on which we can build our lives. But we are also story tellers...and that gives us the capacity to conceive what has not yet been and, potentially, to bring it into existence."

Maria Scott-Wittenborn re:
Cognitive Science, Human Nature and the Problem of Normativity

First conversation in the series on "Choices and Constraints":
Mark Lord on The Play of Choice
we might tell ourselves another story than this one about valuing our freedom and being in control of the choices we make. This could be a story about "choicelessness," about those moments when things fall into place without our seeming to select them, when "the path just seems to unfurl before us"...

Mark attempts to make the act of choosing playful and fun for his audiences, structuring situations in which there is "no cost for selecting one option over another."

second question: what would need to happen, for you to feel that you
could/should/must intervene to change others' perspectives?

III. Brainstorming/reporting in: tomorrow's papers
general pattern from this week:
melodrama of finding out the truth! behind! yr. family meal
(didn't trust it...overwritten; focused on self-revelation)

what's the larger point? why should we care that your milk
doesn't come from where you thought....?
also be careful re: documentation: don't slander yr. local markets w/out evidence!

read two examples:
Malli's (tongue-in-cheek?) guilt-inducing, Courtney's (straight-on) guilt-refusing--

talk some more about different ways of constructing an argument?
doing research? presenting it, convincing those who might disagree?
tonality? how imagine your audience/their position?

Peter's add'l suggestion, taking off from the goal stated at the top of the sustainability page ->
"Bryn Mawr College Dining Services is committed to providing the most environmentally friendly dining program possible and one that supports the BMC Community." Investigate how a current offering
reflects that goal. Are there hidden costs to reaching it?

go 'round and talk about what you're going to do/
give each other a hand up....

III. Today's NYTimes articles:
environmental cost of shipping groceries around the world
--and the problem of too much info/education!

A. environmental costs
expect food we crave with no concession to season, georaphy
practicality of increasingly efficient global transport networks
cost: pollution
fuel for international freight not taxed-->time to pay environmental costs!
food that travels may have environmental advantage over local products:
reduced time, labor costs, valuable jobs
but emissions in packaging & refrigeration
"merely responding to consumer appetites: job is not consumer choice editing"
"labeling food miles is merely protectionism"
unfortunately educated consumers to expect cheap food

B. the problem w/ education, aka "green noise"

information overload and conflicting advice: static
green backlash, green fatigue, need to simplify/cheat sheet
unsubstantiated claims of eco-pitchmen
psychological barriers to taking action:
not motivated by more facts; reinforced helplessness
select depth of info desired: prioritize environmental concerns;
bundle 'em, show connections
teach patience: century-long process; fear of burnout

we want simple answers, but are being educated into their absence--
and the means to move forward??

IV. Education and Choice
In his 1942 essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus argued that
"There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.
Deciding whether or not life is worth living....All other questions follow from that."

I remembered this passage when I first learned, this week, of the death of David Wallace...
and again more forcefully when Mark Lord forwarded me Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College
commencement address
, which says, in part, that

the really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a place like this is...about the choice of what to think about....learning how to think really means...being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed....This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education...You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't....The alternative is unconsciousness.