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Towards Day 19 (T, 11/11): Considering Extinction

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

* Nayanthi selected the Sunken Garden (behind Wyndham)
as our meeting site; Rina is on for Thursday

* reminder to Selena and Nayanthi about conferences re-scheduled for this afternoon

* you each have two more chapters in Kolbert's book to read for Thursday,
(when Jody and Anne will be in Puerto Rico!); class will meet, as usual, in our two sections,
and each group will present to everyone else the material they have read:
Anne's section:
Chs 2 & 3: Allie & Sydney
Chs 4 & 6: Rose, Selena and Marjorie
Chs. 7 & 8: Weilla & Hadiyyah
Chs. 9& 10: Rina, Emily & Grace
Chs. 11 & 12: Virushi and Nayanthi

* in preparation for this, by tomorrow evening,
post a summary of your two chapters on line--
both giving a precis of the material covered, AND your reflections
on how it expands, challenges, complexifies what you (thought you) knew...
you can do this individually, or as a group
(if you do a group posting, be sure to name all the contributors...)
this is your posting for this week--

* and a warm-up for paper #10, due Friday (more in a bit...)

* notes re late papers—
Anne needs to hear from you if it’s not coming in Friday by 5,
AND to hear your new deadline ( 4 on time, 4 w/ notes,  4 just sent it when it suited…not okay!)

II. some leftovers from last week
did you figure our what rocks are your dorms made of?
Denbigh, Pembroke, Rhoads, Radnor—all Wissahickon Schist
Merion--Baltimore Gneiss
Brecon--concrete, w/ some inset pieces of Baltimore Gneiss

Weecha’s feedback to our feedback
(on why she spent so much time on Mill Creek development—
clearest example of how “everything depends on the geology”): "Maybe I might have made it
clearer that the Mill Creek development was much of the cause of this area of suburbia to get established.  
And I could have discussed what influence the location of the train tracks which also was a major cause."

I also put up a link to a talk about the racial history of the college: Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr

II. reactions to Elizabeth Kolbert's talk? (and the desserts?)

III.  for today,
we asked you to read the Prologue,
and three chapters (1, 5, 13) of The Sixth Extinction
count to 3, to get into 3 groups of 4 each,
to write up a 1-paragraph summary of one each of these;
each group should have a scribe who will post these tonight
(preparation for doing this again tomorrow night...)

IV. return to large group: read/report out on your  summaries
to discuss: how Kolbert's work expands/challenges/complexifies our focus so far...

V. this a warm-up for the first draft of another two-week paper, #10, due this Friday:
Use the work we have done all week (summarizing Kolbert’s key ideas) as a jumping off point
both for describing what she is saying, and for reflecting on its implications. Please flag the
ways in which these reflections connect with, interact with and/or challenge other material
we’ve read this semester. In doing so, you will be gathering material you’ll be using to
develop the thesis that you’ll articulate next week.

Anne's notes from Kolbert's conversation with Dan Torday:
Elizabeth Kolbert’s talk(11/10/14)
Dan’s intro:

journalist, science writer, intrepid reporter
one could easily lose track of the disciplines she mastered to write this book
“what matters is how people change the world”
Elizabeth’s talk:
how I came to write this bookà
article in National Geographic Kids: “frog hotel” was inspiration
backstory: very interested in amphibian crisis
difficult to write about extinction: the subject isn’t there
“the golden toad”à
whole book an extended effort to deal w/ something that is not there
true of all writing: has some problem @ its center--
and how you approach that turns out to be the work
not just to be gotten over: that is the center of writing
Elizabeth reads a passage/Dan asks a question
Chapter 2, p. 32à “Dan: thank you; nicely read”
his esem selected this: reportage, talking to scientists;
amazing history of science; and the personal--
plus the evolutionary history…
how to begin unpacking a history of this size?
the beginning is important: the lede in journalism determines all
this wasn’t a history of science, so Ch. 1 became Ch. 2
complexities about the history of life
didn’t follow a neat chronological order
zero background in science; first semester @ Yale
took a physics course w/ no preparation, was traumatized,
and never took another…
got into science through reporting
(eminent scientists explained basic science to me….)
speaks to urgency they feel re: getting out this message--
were very generous w/ their time…
privilege of being a reporter: to lead w/ what you don’t know
hesitancy to admit what we don’t know: a lot of mistakes get made that way
fun thing of being a reporter (as print journalism collapses—another depressing story): get to go interesting places and ask questions,
never having to pretend you are knowledgeable…
Ch. 5, pp. 94-95: “for human imagining...Dob’s Linn…
journalists are magpies: we draw from all around
husband as first reader—“does it read? Do you keep reading?”
loving language
harder to write without the “I”—an impersonal perspective
hard to get an immediacy unless material is dramatic
want the facts to speak for themselves, but sometimes I appear…
Dan: talk about how cool and amazing your life is!
got to go to a lot of great places to write this book…
on the coral reef, p.  (“modeled on Hall-Spencer’s work…”)
tick of nature writingà the list
question my colleagues wanted answered: how to spend time w/ this material and not get depressed?
irony is an over-used word
going to amazing places, seeing what was left—but still extraordinary/spectacular to me…
what is extinct is you don’t see; what you see are the marvels that still do--
one of the themes of the book: not depressing being out there: remarkable world
challenge of making the world you see available to your readers
Prologue, pp. 1-2:
big language of science…and the storytelling mode
it was never noticed: this is a homage to Rachel Carson, “beginnings are apt to be shadowy,”
from The Sea Around Us (re: origins of the oceans);
w/ tone borrowed from Silent Spring’s opening “Fable for our Time”
hard time to begin the book, and read about how everyone else did it…
shift in tone will keep you awake…
* are you familiar with the “voluntary human extinction movement”?
humans have done enough destruction, so it’s
in the planet’s best interest for us not to reproduce
very, very legitimate idea, but I have 3 children/don’t adhere to that
* wherefrom the article about humans and Neanderthals interbreeding?
classic journalist tool: googled scientist who wrote this paperà
illegimate son of a Nobel prize winner
challenge: each discipline had its own language
environmental books usually end w/ “this is how we are going to turn this around”—
but I knew it wasn’t possible to reverse all I’d described; I left it in a very ambiguous place/
not sure what the message should be…wanted to leave readers w/ lots of space to decide how they feel
can’t retain the drama of fiction: a problem that plagues non-fiction
how to travel and be married w/ kids? “marry very carefully”--
husband is home teaching, brought up our kids, primary parent
don’t subscribe to a balance: everyone has their own set of circumstances
no perfect solution; if someone says there is—what are they taking?
how justify using fossil fuel to travel-and-study climate change
difficult to be a journalist and not travel; and difficult to travel w/ CO2
wrote a book on climate change, and traveled a lot:
same basic dilemma: is this worth it?
trivial? I tried not to make any wasted trips…
we could go on and on…is it worth it?
anything I’d say is self-justifying…
what makes humans distinctive? Our ability to transmit knowledge over time and distance…
passing on knowledge…innovativeness a radical change from other creatures—
what makes us so dangerous: ability to change world faster than evolution can adapt…