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EcoLit ESem

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Anne Dalke's picture


Welcome to the on-line conversation for Ecological Imaginings, an Emily Balch Seminar offered in Fall 2012 @ Bryn Mawr College, in which we are re-thinking the evolving nature of representation, with a focus on language as a link between natural and cultural ecosystems.

This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations.  Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.

Anne Dalke's picture

Attending to being outside--and inside: what difference does it make?

...and how are you dealing w/ the difference? What are the "rules of engagement" for our meetings in these alternative spaces? Please post a comment on the day when you selected our site, describing both what you noticed and how you coped w/ the distractions of being outside (or not)... Do you have any ideas about how to incorporate them into our curriculum?

Sarah Cunningham's picture

Bolivia passes law recognizing Mother Nature's rights!

I saw this on Facebook and thought y'all would be interested. Can't figure out how to share the link (except on Fb) but here's the text:

alexb2016's picture

Gender Economics: Approaches to Measuring Women’s Unpaid Labor through Opportunity Cost (Alexandra Beda)

            Economics is a patriarchal social science. It aspires to dominate society by imputing value on goods that it finds important or relevant, and therefore manipulates perceptions of social value, and controls social welfare. Because of this, there is an abrasive intersection arising between economics, ecology, and ecofeminism. Marilyn Waring, author of Counting for Nothing, believes that there is a need for value to be imputed on unpaid women’s labor, but believes a fiscal approach would be inefficient and “totally dysfunctional”. The core of her argument is that economics has been designed to economically repress women, and that excluding women’s unpaid domestic labor from calculating national income is harmful in addressing the progress of our economy. Because the patriarchal nature of economics does not allow for a true imputation of value on opportunity cost women’s domestic labor, it cannot be considered a true measure of national income, and if remained unaddressed, will be detrimental to modern day society.

Anne Dalke's picture

How an East Coast geological feature drove the course of the Civil War.

This put me in mind of what Prof. Crawford told us about the
effect of the fault line on the building of cities:

Sarah Cunningham's picture

Watch this!

alexb2016's picture

History and the Architecture of the Soul: Why the Echoes of Our Past Do Not Define Us

            “I cannot think of a more authentic form of representation of [something] than its beginnings”. I’m surprised at how abrasive I find my own words, barely written more than a couple months ago at the beginning of my first semester at Bryn Mawr. My old window of perspective, which I now find rather limiting, has expanded to allow me much more room to see the different nuances in my environment, and has therefore helped me reorient myself as a part of it. I used to be enamored with the past, convinced that it could foreground significantly more about an individual or place than the present could. However, after reading works such as Terry Tempest Williams’, An Unspoken Hunger, and J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals, I’ve learned that while our history is a necessary reminder of how everything is connected, it sets a very narrow frame for the present. The past does not, and should not, define who we are. While our history is, in a sense, the foundation to the “architecture of the soul”, it does not determine the development of values that we acquire from life experiences.

alexb2016's picture

Reflections and Ruminating

                I don’t belong here; that was my first thought during our first discussion of Ecological Imaginings. Adopting certain superiority over our ecological curriculum, I found myself to be above our dialogue about our emotions and reactions to nature, and the ecological systems around us. I believed that there was far more knowledge to gain from a class about poverty and culture (Poverty, Affluence, and Culture was my top choice while choosing a writing seminar over the summer) than I would ever glean from a class about how plants feel. However, I was eventually seduced by the engaging authors and ideas from the texts we read throughout the course, and by the end of the semester, was pleasantly surprised by the realization of how much I actually absorbed from the class. At the end of the semester I realized that what I had been learning about ecological relationships was a multipurpose mask; yes, the course molded me into a more informed member of our ecosystem as a whole—but it also tricked me into becoming a stronger writer in the process.

Sarah Cunningham's picture

Life of Pi: see it if you can!

I do recommend the movie (and the book) Life of Pi. Survival/vegetarianism/cannibalism/predator/prey/human animal relations, plus literary devices, allegory, levels of reality, what is real/true-- scary moments but great fun. I went with my niece and nephew (both in their 20s) and thought of all you eco-imaginers...

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

Self Evaluation

I started at a pretty bad place. I did not even realize how little time I spend with nature and think ecologically until I attended Ecological Imaginings course. In choosing an on campus site, I was the only person in class to adopt an indoor site and intended to observe nature from afar through the window, which I later learned in Terry Tempest Williams book, is an unnatural thing to do. Since I had little memory of nature and was not used to ecological thinking, I even compared the natural scenery of the night sky with the scenes from man-made films. Worse still, as an international student whose first language is not English, I was overwhelmed by the readings and had a difficult time fully expressing myself in my essays. On top of these, I was also dealing with culture differences (that my essay is always not explicit enough), my procrastination and my homesickness.

I could talk little about the first few readings, not because I did not read them carefully because they are talking about those new ideas that were higher than my normal thinking horizon, for example Bohm confused me by comparing the usual method writing with quantum, because I think writing and physics are incomparable at that time. I could only turn in a somewhat beginning of a paper for my first paper, simply because I did not have the confidence to write a paper at that time. Nor have I been used to setting time to sitting alone on  grass thinking how dependable human are of plants and other ideas or refelctions.

wanhong's picture

Sky Burial--Back to nature

I had a very happy time preparing the Teach-in with Barbara and Shengjia. I borrowed some book from Swat library so that we could find some good supporting materials about the Sky Burial Process. I focused on the cultural background of Sky Burial and found that Sky Burial, for Tibetan people, was not only a way for "gainning better rebirth", but also an important ceremony for worship nature.

I was impressed by the wisdom and reasoning behind Sky Burial. People made a non-profit "fair trade" with natural world to well balance their survival and belief, and I think their effort, however controversial in legal perspective, should really be appreciated and respected.

Also, I learnt many things from my Teach-in partners, Barbara and Shengjia. Barbara was really good at showing and describing the Sky Burial process, and Shengjia perfectly joinned parts of components together--from sites on school to "journey to Tibet".

I think Teach-in is a very good activity at the end of semester. Because of the Teach-in, I had the chance to work with my friend and provide my classmates more information on an interesting topic related with what we have learnt this semester.

Elizabeth's picture

The Ecology of College

This semester is about to end, but I’ve really loved taking my classes. It is still hard to believe that I’m in college, not to mention the fact that I have just finished a college semester. Ecological Imaginings has certainly gotten me up to speed on ecology, and importantly, the ecology of college. While not everything in the class has dramatically changed my life, my perceptions of college and of ecology have changed, and I have been pleasantly surprised by a lot of the course material.

            The two units of the class that have really changed my outlook are the ecofeminism and the ecocritique units. Both of them have made me a lot more critical of how I view the environment and how I think about how humans interact with the environment and what we could be doing better. The ecofeminism unit has also been making me think even more about how women are treated in our society, and the connections between women and the environment, especially the similarities between how women and the environment are treated. In between all of our very clearly environmentally-related work, I really enjoyed reading Fun Home, and because it wasn’t like anything else that we read in class, the discoveries I made about it and how ecological the book is impacted me even more.

Elizabeth's picture

Pictures of the Napkin Notes

Hello, everyone! I posted my thoughts on my portion of a teach-in here: /exchange/song-ourselves but comments don't have a picture uploading option, and I was having some troubles "copying" my photos. Thus, here they are now!

CMJ's picture

Claire Johnson (or, how I learned to stop worrying about my writing and think ecologically)

Apparently my papers have not been quite up to par. This has been holding me back. However, even now when the course is through, I still do not know what is wrong with them as a whole. Are they uninteresting? Poorly written? These answers do not satisfy. My online posts on the other hand feel lively, free, and each sentence has special importance—none of them are space fillers, none of them are trying to meet a quota. I don’t need three pages to say something interesting, I require a few sentences.

            So then the problem is…what? Why do all my papers suck? I’ve been told that they are messy, which is fair enough; I write my papers how I think. But they are not poorly written aside from being loosely constructed. I do have a particular way of writing, and this has been successful in the past, so what can really be so different now? This has been exceedingly frustrating. I have learned to cope by excessive thinking and ruminating on the development of my ideas in my head. If this course were solely about learning to think ecologically and holistically, I’d say I’ve aced it. Just these pesky papers holding me back…

Barbara's picture

Don't overestimate the amount of food you need, guests!

I am very very upset after two lunch shifts at Wyndham this week...Not just that I have to work in the middle of the day during final week, but to see how much food are wasted in only two hours. Now I totally understand the green project a couple of weeks ago that demonstrated how much food we just throw away on a daily basis. When I have meals at dining halls, I also have this habit to take whatever looks attractive and may or may not finish it at all. Sometimes, I have to waste food because the food doesn't taste what I have imagined. But seriously, people are taking too much some time...And it is hard to see that only looking at your own plate. But the kitchen is clearing the plates like crazy and nearly 20% of them are full when people are done with the meal (roughly estimated by me, could be very misleading but indeed there are lots of such cases). We will be having meals at the dining halls for most of the time at Bryn Mawr, maybe take some time to note how much you exactly need for each meal? Also in response to the budget cut these days...Everyone should experience working at a dining hall some time... Really, this is the most direct way to see how much we waste EVERY MEAL! (May be a suggestion for the field work for the course.)

Hannah's picture

Hannah's Self-Evaluation

1. During the semester, I was a present part of the class discussions. Some days I talked more than others, but I always contributed to the large discussions we had as a class and the smaller group discussions as well. I gave my opinion and interpretations about the texts we read and also tried to give thoughtful responses to the comments of other students who were part of the discussion.

I also gave my thoughts to my partners during the discussions of our essays each week. Every time except for once I was able to read their papers before class so I could give advice about their writing or just tell them what I got out of their essays (if I wasn’t sure what advice to give). These one on one discussions about my writing and my partners writing during class were very helpful and reading their papers helped me be able to read my own papers better. I found that I am now more able to step back from my writing and analyze it from a more distant perspective.


mtran's picture

Children and nature

Sarah Cunningham's picture

The Brain-Gut-Heart Connection

As I return to school as a McBride Scholar, forty-plus years after breaking off my last bout of formal education, my learning goals and tasks are bound to be somewhat different from those of my freshman classmates. Part of my job in our Ecological Imaginings ESEM was to begin to discover a new identity, in this odd situation where my age is more than three times that of others in the class; and to figure out how to position myself in relation to (1) my own past and future, (2) the expectations of my teacher and of the college, and (3) my peers in the class, so similar to and so different from my own selves of long ago, and of now. I have found this rather a complicated dynamic, to put it mildly.

ZoeHlmn's picture

Our Personal Journey: A Self Evaluation

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

Dr. Seuss

I want to say my adventure in Ecological Imaginings was like a journey. Each time I sent in a paper I learned something new, although in some papers I still made the same mistakes over and over. While I am a little disheartened that my Esem is coming to a close, the trials and errors in my writing also reflect the trials and errors that were happening in my life. In high school all I was writing was formal paper after formal paper, I felt like I was never able to take a risk for fear of a bad grade. In the beginning it was difficult deciding how exactly I was supposed to write. I was given the freedom to experiment that is something I had not normally been able to do. I think this is what set the bar for my writing this year early on. I tried not to have the same structured five-paragraph essay each time, which is what I had done repetitively in high school.

CMJ's picture

Eco Walk: a Rap

Eco Walk (parody of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop ft Ryan Lewis)
By Zoe Holman and Claire Johnson with special thanks to Roux

We’re gonna grab some leaves
Throw them up in the a-air
I-I-I’m searching looking for a meaning
We are eco walkers

Sarah Cunningham's picture

Just being! just saying....

My last site-sit post of the semester...

Brain very busy with multiple thought trains. A dark, drizzly December afternoon. 

And when the brain-thoughts get a bit quieter, I melt into the haze, silvery-gray, ripples, drizzles, damp, subdued, non-verbal, non-analytical. Just being. Not figuring out what to say about it. observing. ducks swimming this way, each with v-shaped wake in the still water, then swimming back the other way. not seeming to have a particular purpose. 

There were seagulls today, which I haven't seen at the pond for quite a while. The Canada geese were all up eating on the grass towards the middle of campus.

The other title I thought of for this post: from Shakespeare: 

...or in the heart or in the head?

(tell me, where is fancy bred? Is this Shakespeare?)

Feeling like I think with my whole body, not just with my brain. I like to think with my whole body, not just my brain. Do I sound insane?

(Yes, Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice.)

These are ecological questions...

Then, the seagulls started a bit of screeching-- not too loud-- and one of them flew up and circled, full circle, around above the pond. I got into watching the wingbeats. A drummer I know once told me he always studies birds' wingbeats, as a lesson in grace and in rhythm. The other seagulls flew up too, and watching the rhythm of all those wingbeats at once made me feel quite stoned: another way of entering an altered state, a natural high!

Just being.