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Towards Day 17 (Tues, Nov. 3): Environmental Activism

Anne Dalke's picture

Beatrice setting the scene: Pem East Common Room
Caitlin on for Thursday

I. coursekeeping/announcements
* LGBTQIA+ month events
(pass around flyer):
I'm speaking on Wed, 11/11 on Mental Health,
and Tues, 11/17 on Gender and Science;
those of you working on gender for your 6-weeks'
project will want to attend Emmett Binkowski's research presentation
on the "History of Gender Identity and Expression @ BMC," Tues, 11/10;
Aayzah esp. check out the panel on "gender and sexuality in South Asia" on Wed, 11/18.

* check in on these research projects:
how did last week go/do you have plans for this week?
update from archivist, Evan McGonigal for
Akane & Amaka, Aayzah, Caitlin and Alison
Jody's added notes from talking w/ Evan to your postings:
generally, Evan is excited about the kinds of questions you're asking!
found your projects well thought out and articulated – And/but
it’s complicated:  much of the relevant material is not really available,
or would require meticulous archival research (and then still might not be available).  
Challenge is focus on social identity – not a well-documented aspect of student experience at BMC. 
Best way is student publications, if they address the issue.  College doesn’t put race in student records. 
You could  do a small amount of archival work, then supplement with contemporary material. 
Do have scrap book projects on Greenfield site: not as much text,
could browse and use pics to tell some stories…?
If you want to pursue archives, note open hours and make appointments for first visit
indicating what you’re interested in; if want to come back, may be able to do this on your own schedule.
Questions about this? [to discuss individually in conferences...]

* Turning now to your current web events:
I've responded to all your drafts on-line;
most were appropriately exploratory, questioning...
and now you will pare down and focus, develop
a claim and back it up w/ a close textual reading;
post your revision by this Friday @ 5--questions?

* for Thursday's discussion
we'll turn to a new text,
Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Kolbert is a science reporter who was last year's Emily Balch speaker:
she explained that she had "zero background" in science;
her first semester @ Yale, she took a physics course w/ no preparation,
was traumatized, and never took another…
she got into science through reporting, with
eminent scientists explaining the basic science to her,
speaking to the urgency they feel about imminent extinction
Kolbert said that the "privilege of being a reporter" is
"to lead w/ what you don’t know," that the "fun thing of being
a reporter" is getting to go interesting places and ask questions,
"never having to pretend you are knowledgeable"
she also explained how difficult it was to write about extinction,
since "the subject isn’t there"; her whole book is
"an extended effort to deal w/ something that is not there"
Read the Prologue and three Chapters: # 1, 5 & 13;
count off into 3's, divide up to be especially prepared
to talk about one chapter

II. Last Thursday, we looked (and enacted!)
@ literary/filmic techniques, as a way
of highlighting the environmental dimensions of Ozeki's novel.
Today, we look @ its representation of activism--
and we thought either (or both) Teju Cole (who wrote
on The White-Savior Industrial Complex), and/or
the collection of authors who wrote Take Back the Economy:
An Ethical Guide to Transforming our Communities

might help us with this inquiry. What would Cole
and/or Cameron, Healy, and Gibson-Graham
say about the activists in Ozeki's novel?
Are they following-or-violating their parameters
for ethical action in the world?

To kick off this discussion we're going to use a barometer
[anyone done this before? explain?]
locating your body, yea/nay/inbetween, in response to a statement.
Get up and stand in a line...

Starting with Frank's letter to his baby daughter, pp. 416-7:
"it's a class war, Tibet, and we're fighting for the planet...
Daddy's going to save the world."
Do you agree or disagree that he is going to do this...?

Teju Cole:
"this is not about justice; it is about having a big emotional experience"

Take Back the Market:
"Taking back markets means ...honor[ing]
the survival needs of those we share the planet with."

Think about a time when you

1) changed your mind/"had" your mind changed
2) took action--what motivated/prompted you?

Teju Cole writes

that the banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality
this is not about justice; it is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege
"I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to
leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn't have a point."
cumulative effect of policed language/enforced civility:
speaking plainly is seen as unduly provocative.
Nicholas Kristof's "good heart does not always allow him to think constellationally.
He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated "disasters"...
he sees no need to reason out the need for the need."
more to doing good work than "making a difference": do no harm/consult w/ those being helped
Cole resists "the song of Africa as backdrop for white fantasies,"
acknowledging the genuine hurt of the continent,
naming its problems as both intricate and intensely local,
he insists that American "help" begins with some humility,
& respect for the agency of people in their own lives.
If Americans want to care about Africa, they
should evaluate American foreign policy,
before they impose themselves on Africa itself:
"American interests" have a bearing on our notions of our right to "help"
begin our activism with the money-driven villainy @ the heart of American foreign policy.
If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.

The authors of Take Back the Market argue that
when we acquire what we need from distant others via the market,
the nature of our encounters is masked; as long as the price
commands our attention, it's easy to discount these concerns.
Taking back markets means promoting economic
encounters that help us survive well together,
so that we honor the survival needs of those we share the planet with.
The market supply chain provides anonymity;
a community economy is a space of decision making in which
we negotiate our interdependence with other humans, other species,
and our environment. These negotiations are never finalized.
Markets can be a space of care as well as of consumption,
less a space of enchantment and unbridled pleasure,
more a space of learning and collective responsibility.
cf. transactions that are reciprocal and those that are gift based
gifts "invade our privacy and demolish our carefully constructed autonomy"
all gifts carry some expectation of a return, build societal relationships
Convenience is a form of "selective seeing" whereby we choose
to overlook the cost of our transactions to others;
can also come at a cost to our own well-being.
In a community economy we think about satisfying not just our own needs
but also the needs of the people and environments that are providing for us,
and we look to the variety of economic encounters
that can help us and others to survive well together.
Are there other ways I can share or reciprocate?
Cf. Andrew H. Wallis, "Toward a Global Eco-Consciousness in Ruth Ozeki's
My Year of Meats." Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment
20,4 (Autumn 2013). 837-854: postcolonialists tend to focus on hybridity displacement,
cosmopolitanism, and uncovering history, while eco/environmental critics foreground
purity, place, nationalism, and transcending human history/time.

the environmental movement [language of conservation and sustainability]
has some of its roots firmly planted in the logic of natural and cultural domination‚
the "deep ecology" movement has been at times woefully oblivious to human suffering.

Nature and environmental writing is justifiably replete with the "poignancy of the local‚"
paeans to a river, a mountain range, or a small town, or writing that attacks...
the de-naturing and abstraction of a place and space. Such approaches can seem
insufficient in an ecologically, economically, and culturally interconnected world.
present circumstances seem to be calling for [larger] narratives, are seen by some
as a lynchpin of the ecocritical enterprise‚ challenging assumptions about border and scale.

examining the local-global dialectic requires a framework for understanding space not merely as a physical/material object
and set of relations, but as a heuristic concept that shapes and is shaped by an imagination informed by geography, cartography,
financial networks, shipping lands, free-trade zones, and dumping grounds.

Ozeki's plurivocal, palimpsestual logic of engagement
uses the cosmopolitan and the vagabond‚

to tie the regional to the global while providing
a critique bound up within class implications

the tension between displacement and an ethics of place needs to be situated in terms of
cosmopolitanism and bioregionalism‚ recast as "placeness" within a global consciousness