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Environmental Activism: Notes Towards Day 19 (Tues. Nov. 8)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

* All meet in Anne's classroom

* for Thurs, read
the first 52 pp. of Naomi Oreskes and
Erik Conway's The Collapse of Civilization: A View from the Future.

* By 5 p.m. Wed:
ninth short posting on your i
nitial reactions to Oreskes and Conway's sci-fi tale.

* on Fri, tenth 3-pp. web-event

* also, looking ahead to spring semester:
our new pair of courses on "Unsettling Literacy"
Writing 190 (flyers to distribute)

II. working together on 6-week projects
make a plan for what needs to be done/
make schedule for this week about how to do it
large group discussion about concerns/challenges/excitements

III. splitting off into sections
Last Thursday, we looked (and enacted!)
@ literary/filmic techniques, as a way of
highlighting the environmental dimensions of Ozeki's novel
(great fun!--and illuminating re: our focus on the personal/
avoidance of the environmental).
Today, we look @ the novel's representation of activism--
either (or both) Teju Cole (who wrote on The White-Savior
Industrial Complex),
and/or the  authors of Take Back the Economy
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?

Additional possible topics:
economics [and its presumptions of scarcity?]-->
p. 172: Adjunct teachers are the professorial equivalent of the migrant Mexican farm laborers
hired during harvest. If you can score a good contract at the same farm every year, where the farmer
pays on time and doesn't cheat or abuse you, then it's in your best interest to show up consistently
from year to year....The nontenured faculty form a downtrodden, transient underclass,
inferior in everyway to the landed professorial gentry.
p. 221: "but most farmers settled. Guys around here operate on pretty tight margins. Can't afford to go up
against a corporation...and they're not worth suing, not for damages anyway--they're so far in debt a
court case would bankrupt them. The idea is to slap 'em back down but keep 'em in business. It's just maintenance."
p. 270: The fact was, some things had to die so that others could live, and the idea was to try to
maximize your chances of staying on the living side for as long as you could.
p. 327: "Love is not free, Elliot. It costs. And you're just a fucking stingy bastard who's too cheap to pay."

Education [and its presumptions of capaciousness/possibility?]--> 
(function of Frankie's "cluelessness"--> capacity for learning/"saving the world"?!)
Relation/negotation between the two?
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