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Notes Towards Day 18 (Thurs, Nov. 8) : Feminist Ecology and Economics

Anne Dalke's picture

weather prediction:
41 degrees, 15 mph wind, 50% chance of rain
Cahier is situating us ... where?
next site
to be selected by Rochelle

I. coursekeeping
* paper due Friday @ 5
; mail to me and a new writing partner (stand up, pick  her out, and let me know who's w/ whom!)
* by Sunday @ 5, continue posting your descriptions of your on-campus site--and maybe think about what gender/race/class/economics might have to do w/ your site (how "natural," how constructed is it? what's involved in maintaining it?)
* for class on Tuesday, read the Introduction, Chapter 4
and Conclusion of Carolyn Merchant's 2005 book, Deep Ecology
Merchant is an American ecofeminist philopher and (as you will see!) historian of science;
she is a professor @ the University of California, Berkeley,
in the Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy and Management

do the same thing for her text that you did for Waring's, today:
come w/ a statement of what you think is important or problematic about this text:
what seem to you to be its central claims? read/listen to extract her main ideas;
then: what questions do you have for the author? (come w/ 1 or 2 or those also)
finally: think also about how what she says connects w/ what else we have read

invitation to the Environmental Mixer: Tues, 11/13, 4:30-6 in the Campus Center!

also! two opportunities next Wed, November 14, 1:10-2:30, starting @ English House w/ English 313;
or 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.,
starting at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery @ HC:  Blind Field Shuttle, a non-visual walking tour led by Mellon Tri-College Artist-in-residence Carmen Papalia. Space for this immersive, experiential art event will be limited to thirty participants. Let me know if you want to join the first group; if you want to join the second, reserve a spot by emailing

Participants are asked to wear comfortable walking shoes and not to bring bags or any other items they would need to carry. The walking tour will be followed by a Q & A with the artist.

Papalia is here as a guest artist, part of the current exhibit @ the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery @ Haverford: What Can a (Disabled) Body Do?  (which features the work of 9 contemporary artists, and will be running through Dec 16). Papalia, who is visually impaired, leads a non-visual walking tour where participants tour urban and rural spaces on foot. Forming a line behind Papalia, participants grab the right shoulder of the person in front of them and shut their eyes for the duration of the walk. Papalia then serves as a tour guide – passing useful information to the person behind him, who then passes it to the person behind him/her and so forth. The trip culminates in a group discussion about the experience. As a result of visual deprivation, participants are made more aware of alternative sensory perceptions such as smell, sound, and touch – so as to consider how non-visual input may serve as a productive means of experiencing place.

II. from our conversation on Serendip last night...
NOT so wildly successful this time round: several were late;
still nothing from Zoe, Susan,alex, Cahier, mbackus…)

Rochelle: Last Thursday we discussed hurricane Sandy [and] the human tendency … to rebuild in the path of destruction…this…relates to one point that Jamaica Kincaid made in her article “Alien Soil”…[that] English people have a tendency to “obsessively order and shape their landscape”. …essentially what the residence of New York and New Jersey are doing now as they attempt to rebuild their cities….We are not paying attention to the way the Earth is shaped and to the way it moves, and living accordingly. Instead we are attempting to shape it to our liking…

CMJ: I think you are right--that we are altering our environments in such a way that is destructive. But...we are taught to focus on ourselves and on our own success, not the world around us....I think what we are lacking is deep altruism. This is something we are not taught, but need to be....Perhaps an effective exercise in conditioning one's altruism habits in  the classroom setting would be to assign a paper to each student, but ...grades were randomly selected from the body of papers and given back as a final putting effort and smarts into something you created, you are lifting the success of the whole...[or] average all the grades from all papers and assign everybody the average number. Food for thought.

SarahC: The assigned readings by native American writers…are the ones that excite me the most….this is not just about our relationship with land, but about our relationship with each other….our own way of life will have to be shattered...

Hannah: I like the analogy of beginning to clean a horribly infected wound….we have to change the way we think and act and this may be confusing and uncomfortable for a while, but eventually lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Shengjia: Like English people, Chinese landowners also like to pay Chinese gardeners to “torture” the plants….they bend the branches of trees into very “unnatural” shapes…a more obsessive way to “order and shape their landscape”. And like Jamaica Kincaid stated in “Alien Soil”, the people who do all the hard work in Chinese gardens were the poor….The leisure of enjoying a beautiful scenary is only for those with a full stomach.

Barbara: not a lot of people really enjoy their commitment from which they make a living….We cannot appreciate the professional engagement mostly because of the repetiveness or the intensity instead of the task itself….Try stepping back.

SaraL: "Due to possibility of strong winds, Central Park will be closed from noon Wednesday, November 7 until noon Thursday, November 8"…now I realize that parks are just businesses, part of enterprises….there is nothing natural about them - they are just as artifical and out-of-place as the concrete and steel that make up the cities.

mtran: there is actually a difference between a big, busy and bustling city with a park in its heart and one without. They work well a a green space for fresh air, despite being artificial.

Barbara: Oh please do not be too skeptical about our efforts to make up some nature that we have destroyed... The existence of Central Park Conservancy proves that parks are lame imitation nature because real nature is sustainable by itself.

further conversation along these lines....?

III. for today, I asked you to bring back Winona LaDuke, whose traditional
ecological knowledge has some kinship to the radical economics of Marilyn Waring...

count off by 5's, to get into groups of 3, to tell one another what
Waring's main ideas are: 1) what central ideas did you read/listen to?
2) what questions do you have for her?
3) what you think is important or problematic about her work?
4) how does her argument connect w/ what else we have read (esp. Winona LaDuke)?

IV. return to the large group for some framing:
* what is ecology? (our current understanding/working definition)
* what is economics? (who is/has studied this?)
* what is the conventional relation between them?
* what is a more "radical" understanding, from their shared root,
"Oikos"/home/household (ology =study of; nomics= management of)
* what does Waring see as the necessary relation?
* as an environmentalist, what does she see as the problems w/ current "accounting" practices?
* what do women, and women's work (in her view, and ours) have to do both economics and ecology?

V. how does all this intersect w/ what Winona LaDuke does, drawing on the reciprocal relationships and responsibilities of trad'l ecological knowledge to advocate for a "Seventh Generation Amendment": "the right of citizens to use renewable resources shall not impair their availability for future generations....")

VI. Listening Notes from Who's Counting?

"uni-dimensional economical fabrication cannot contain our lives"

my legitimacy from having "a place to stand"
recording the time-use of women (vs. men) reveals the
magnitude of the invisibility of women's work
subsistence production is, macroeconomically, of little or no importance

the United Nations Systems of National Accounts = rules of economic measurement are highly selective,
and serve as [an inadequate] basis of many important decisions about whose needs will be met
they attend only to those activities which have a cash-generating capacity
(i.e. what passes through the market system);
the only value recognized is money, regardless of how it is made
there is no value to peace, preservation of natural resources for future generations,
unpaid work, including reproducing human life, or feeding and nurturing one's own families

this system cannot respond to values it refuses to recognize
it leaves out the work of 1/2 the population of the planet,
and of the planet itself; it is encouraging environmental disaster
this economic system can eventually kill us all
the 5 members of the Security Council are the 5 primary arms exporters
killing people (or preparing to kill them) is very important in the economic system
to ensure a market, it is in the interest of the leading arms
exporters to be sure that there is always a war going on
these deaths are not registered as a deficit in the system

traditional practices make perfect sense; why change them? why behave any other way?
manufacture of fluorocarbons (which are so destructive) count as growth in the international economic system
"there's never any debit side, in terms of this kind of development"
(scarring of the landscape, ruin of the habitat, etc.)
you can't put a value on the purity of water
economics is a tool/justification of those who want to exploit
as a so-called science, it doesn't allow for the introduction of values
that don't find their way into an economic formula
economics' jargon dismisses value-laden language
the value of this mountain reveals the absolute hollowness of the economic forms we have to work with
need for time-use measurements, to show where the needs are
once we recognize that the emperor has no clothes,
our strategies can be broad and wide as our imaginations can make them--
and we should have a lot of fun along the way

Epilogue: "they look nice among the goats"
"(music to close): Ain't Life Sweet"--"take your money, keep it; don't tell me who to become;
take your age-old wisdom w/ you, degrees and all that education won't help me…in the country…."

VII. Reading Notes from Counting for Nothing

Steinem's Preface
on the practical pleasure of finding a secure and happy economist!
institutionalized invisibilities of women's work and lack of value imputed to environment
need to make reproduction visible

Introduction: illusion that everything can be reduced to a price
initial idea: empower ecosystem by giving it a monetary value-->
disable system by taking economics on @ its own game
pretense of scientific prediction, control, and objective, reproducible experiments
mistaken belief that maximizing individual self interest results in optimal allocation of resources
much non-market economic activity absent from the models

but what is the "cost" of visibility in patently pathological value system?
do we want all life commodified in economic model?
(if all production were included, unemployment would be impossible by definition!)
no demarcation in subsistence household between production inside or outside consumption
alternative to the GDP/GNP (Gross Domestic Product/Gross National Product):
Human Development Index (based on life expectancy, literacy, etc.)
a key missing indicator in the GDP and GNP is time use
which is employed in Nova Scotia's Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI):
these distinguish activities that produce an actual decline in well-being

conventional labour market surveys are too narrowly conceived, with a loss of texture and specificity
each country needs to draw up a comprehensive balance sheet of natural resources
International Society for Ecological Economics is interested in integrating the
management of nature's household (ecology) with human kinds' household (economics)
they see the framework of national income accounting as mechanistic, atomistic, lacking
representation of materials, energy sources, physical structure, time-dependent processes
lunatic proposal to market pollution as "carbon trading"
(sell your surplus capacity to a heavy polluter!)
constant commodification legitimizes theft on a global scale
asking wrong questions: should ask what economy is for,
how much is enough, what provides joy, happiness, peace, satisfaction?

proposed triangulation of methodologies:
1) assemble physical environmental characteristics,
give visibility to intergenerational consequence of externalities,
and do not impute monetary valuations for anything
2) describe time-use data
3) assemble GNP/GDP statistic but recognize costs, depreciation, deterioration, depletion

Chapter 11: If Counting was the Limit of Intelligence
Stage One: Imputing a Value for Women's Work
reconceptualize household as a productive, not consuming unit
conservative reform = form of co-option
all forms of value reflected in economic activity of men in marketplace
global ecosystem still exploited, w/ throughput viewed as flow from infinite source to infinite sink;
environment is not a free good, need to distinguish between renewable and nonrenewable resources
need to expose values, divide income/expenditure into
"creative" and "destructive" production, consumption, services

Stage Two: Economic Welfare
Measure of Economic Welfare subtracted items not contributing to economic welfare,
added those that do (but are not counted);
include environment, distinguishing what can be recycled
from that which is permanently degraded by use (change in quality of the resource)

Stage Three: Coming Full Circle
pressing non-economic values into framework of economic calculus
is based on absurb premise that everything has a price--
but values are always those of a participant observer

Epilogue: Call to Action
what we can do is only limited by our imagination:
proclaim visibility, worth of women, and of water/world