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Towards Day 16 (Th, 10/30): Environmental Activism

adixon's picture

all meet in Taylor E

I. combined sections
Katrina Obieta: Re-Humanities

next week we'll shift our inquiry, about the relation between
identity and the environment, from Idaho to Bryn Mawr.

By 5 p.m. Mon, 11/3:  in preparation for your ninth short posting: read 2 short pieces -- Morris Woods: Living History and
Bryn Mawr College Tree Tour--
which foreground the botanical dimensions of this campus environment. Next, take 1/2 an hour
to sit or walk on campus, "reading the environment‚" in which you find yourself, by foregrounding the botanical. Then post a
paragraph (don't make this a webby post) giving a sense-based description of your experience. Feel free to include any questions
you have about the site.

In class on Tuesday, we will have a visitor: Maria Luisa Crawford will lead
us on a campus-wide exploration of the geological structures that undergird
our study here. Dr. Crawford grew up in Guatemala, got her B.A. @ BMC in 1960,
and (after getting her Ph.D. @ Berkeley) returned as a professor of geology in 1965;
she and her husband both taught in the geology dept here for the next 40 years,
and retired from the faculty in 2006. She now leads lots of alumnae tours to exotic sites
around the world, turning people onto geology. She was a MacArthur Fellow, 1993-98.

You have very little reading in preparation for her visit: 3 poems (so read them carefully!).
Two, Meta/phor and Sentiment Core, were written by a BMC geology major: Andrea Friedman;
a third one, Wissahickon Shist, was written (and in this version, read aloud...)
by Karl Kirchwey, who just retired last yearas the director of Creative Writing here;
we've also included a short review of the poem, which reflects on the difficulty of
representing the natural world in language...

Because there is so little reading this week, you might want to start reading ahead for next week;
here's your text! (Preface, Chs 1& 13 for Tuesday, each of you select another chapter to share for Thursday?)

II. split into sections
Jody to discuss paper-writing stuff
Hadiyyah: where is Anne's class going/staying?

On Tuesday, we looked @ literary/filmic techniques, as a way
of highlighting the environmental dimensions of the novel.
Today, we look @ its representation of activism--
and we thought Teju Cole might help us with this.
What would he say about the activists here?
Are they following-or-violating his advice?

Start 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."

Teju Cole writes, in his essay on "the White-Savior Industrial Complex,"
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.
Jason Russell is "tonally similar" to Nicholas Kristof:
"HIs 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 writes from "multiple positions": as an African, American, novelist, story-writer,
resisting 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?
American "help" begins with some humility...
respect for the agency of people in their own lives.
If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they
should consider evaluating 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.
Think about a time when you

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

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 ‚Äúdeep ecology‚Äù movement has been at times woefully oblivious to human suffering‚

Nature and environmental writing is justifiably replete with ‚Ķthe ‚Äúpoignancy 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 narratives
and 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 the
class implications of a cosmopolitan‚ intellectual ‚elite‚

he tension between displacement and an ethics of place needs to be situated in terms of
cosmopolitanism and bioregionalism”…recast “placeness” within a global consciousness