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Towards Day 23 (T, 11/27): "Recovering Ecological Intelligence"

Anne Dalke's picture

Sydney selects location for Anne's section (and will
Virushi will select next Tuesday's class site

I. coursekeeping

and/but/then: you will have two heavy readings for the week after:
for Tuesday: LeGuin's short story, "Vaster Than Empires..."
(you may find it slow going @ the beginning, but it will speak to many of our key ideas so far);
ditto an essay, for Thursday, by an eminent social scientist, Bruno Latour, "Agency @ the Time of the Anthropocene"

Here's the the current schedule:

Week C

Week A
Week B 
                                      Week C

Tuesday, Dec. 2
                                                   Tuesday, Dec. 16
10:15 Rina 
10:45 Marjorie 
Wednesday, Dec. 3Wednesday, Dec. 10                   Wednesday, Dec. 17
9:15 Rose 
9:45 Weilla9:45 Emily
10:15 Grace10:15 Sydney
10:45 Virushi10:45 Allie
Thursday,Dec. 4Thursday, Dec. 11                      Thursday, Dec. 18
10:15 Selena 
10:45 Nayanthi10:45 Hadiyyah

Everybody in Week B is staying put. Everybody in Week A has the option of staying put,
selecting an empty time on Week B, or another time the week after classes end. The
final conference is the "final conversation": I expect you to prepare for it by looking
over your semester's work, selecting a paper you will revise (and having an explanation
for why), and being ready to review w/ me what's happened over the past 14 weeks.
So: Rina, Marjorie, Rose, Weilla, Grace, Virushi, Selena, Nayanthi--circle the time you have,
or cross yourself out and put yourself in another time during one of the following weeks.

II. for today we asked you to read Bowers' article on "recovering ecological intelligence."
and one other short selection (about the microbiome, or porous bodies) exemplifying this activity;
then to post on what you'd like us to talk about...lots of interesting reflections!

have you noticed what aquato has been doing w/
the first draft of papers? brainstormin' and rough ideas

want to ask each of you now to take a similar
"meta-position" in relation to our upcoming conversation:
we're going to have an open discussion,
starting where you want to start,
going where you want to go,
and/but also doing something "meta" along the way-->
track the conversation in some way: draw it, map it, figure it somehow.
I'd like to collect these @ the end (or photograph them,
if you want to keep the paper copies!) as examples of
"what a--or this?--conversation "looks like"

this may help toward re-designing those webby posts....
we're going to think about whether there's any way to
map between your models and our tech ones....

Your postings:
… it does seem that "higher thinking" excludes ecological intelligence…However, it seemed odd that he would condemn the use of cell phones… "everything is part of a larger system of information exchanges”…I was confused…why he kept calling certain intelligences myth….simply fabricated…not… truly objective?
sydney: Westernized thinking often separates us from recognizing that everything is interconnected….humans function because of the presence of microorganisms that live within us….I do have some confusions…about….progressive/liberal ideologies hindering ecological thinking…. not sure what he was getting it in terms of politics
weilla: "taken for granted" makes me think of Paulo…also Kolbert…why we are still harming ourselves…?
Winterprincess: ‘The Wired Atlas of the Human Ecosystem’…would not leave any empty space…clouds…like ghosts…deformed by natural forces?...Bower I do not always follow…is he suggesting progressive/liberal ideologies that hinder ecological thinking…?
changing9: I learned a great deal about the functions of microorganisms in the human body…and from Bowers's article about a deeper understanding of the histories and etymologies of words… Bowers' article did render me confused…a bit extremist…?
gmchung: who would be put up to the task of rewriting the language to be more environmentally aware…to change the academic curriculum of schools?
wwu2: "people can not rely upon the same mindset that created the problem to fix it” …but if language is not a neutral and effective way to communicate, what should people choose to use instead?
rokoyo: Bowers' uses the term "linguistic colonization"...a really interesting phrase that I don't really understand..I'm also not quite sure...about "cultural commons". I'd also like to talk about her critisizm of technology...I did like that she challenges the idea of our steadfast support in capitalism.
humanoids have taken to thinking too highly of ourselves...[and need to] realize the effects their actions have...but to what extent is that feasible? stop ourselves from contaminating or damaging other species?...What actions are not damaging ? I also was struck by the mention of indigenous people...of how much better the native way of life worked...when advancing...has only spread destruction.
smartinez: words are metaphors that carry valuable meaning...adopting new ones along the way. In a similar way the human body...adopts new microbes which fhift...capabilities....yet the idea of how traditional our thinking can be makes me question if there is something in the way of comparing these two subjects that restricts us from seeing something more? Is the idea of this network connecting too vague or too broad?...can words be criminalized like...germs entering the body? At what point is a word a bad word?
Anne's Reading Notes
Bowers, Steps to the Recovery of Ecological Intelligence:
challenge to industrial/individualistic/consumer-oriented culture:
recognize linguistic colinization of present by past, and
introduce education reforms to foster ecological intelligence
by re-thinking 3 areas:
* transition from autonomous individual to ecological intelligence
* understand how langauge carries forward past misconceptions, values
* revitalize cultural commons
1) fostering eco-intelligence: recover "oikos"/household/
ecology/moral reciprocity of interdependent systems/interacting patterns
(cf. western philosophy representing rational, abstract, decontextualizing thining as higher):
no isolated evetns, facts, actions; everything part of larger system of information exchanges
print marginalizes importance of context!
2) language thinks us as we think within possibilites made available by language:
we have a tradition of thinking of other partiicaptns as self-contained;
but even words are not autonomous entities: they are metaphors that carry forth
earlier meanings/analogs; have a history, are part of complex linguistic ecology
need to escape from linguistic colonization of present by the past
(ex: "conservative"--with problematic interpretations of what should be preserved!)
3) revitalizing local cultural commons:
"community" too limited to convey complexity of dependent ecologies;
"cultural commons" includes all that's shared, including traditions of exploitation, prejudice;
need to become aware of forms of knowledge that take account of local limits and possibilities
NOT "individual self-direction," independence," "ongoing questioning and revising" (?!)
metaphors of progress lead to consumer-dependence, see traditions as obstacles to progress
words like "progress, individualism, freedom, emancipation" were not aware of ecological limits;
need to revise our vocabulary in ways that are culturally, ecologically informed,
strengthen traditions of community mutual support, nurture viability of natural systems

two webpages about the human microbiome:
microbial communities which inhabit major mucosal surfaces of the human body,
including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and urogenital tract;
the idea that friendly microscopic "bugs are us" plays against the traditional sense of self--
mind-centered, egotistical, and laden with notions of personal identity, separation
and integrity (spiritual and physical).

Levi R. Bryant’s blog posting about Stacy Alaimo’s writing about "Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality"
breaks down the whole notion that there is any separation between us and our world
(or, in the language that we have been using, that we can ever be exiled--or @ home!).

They say the human is inseparable from “the environment,”
that there is no “over here” that’s isolated from over there:
all bodies are porous….permeable…more like sponges than marbles…
Even marbles are a sort of sponge…even atoms are mostly composed
of void or space…All entities are characterized by a porosity
that allows the outer world to flow through them…"
cities constitute the countryside (flows of energy, water, information)….
We are constituted by the world around us…“the environment is a world of fleshy beings”--
“with their own needs, claims…unpredictable and unwanted actions”:
“the ecological pertains to the most intimate recesses of my sponge-like being”:
Big Mac = cow flatulence/rising greenhouse gases/clearing of rain forests, shipping, preparation, waste…

There is lots of other thinking, in other disciplines, along this line:
Daniel Palmer, "On the Organism-Environment Distinction in Psychology,”
Behavior and Philosophy
32, 2 (2004): 317-347:

* "the organism and the environment interpenetrate one another
through and through. The distinction between them…
is only a matter of practical convenience."
* "transactional" (rather than "interactional," which assumes separation),
* environment re-described as "medium" (rather than "surround"),
* "skin" as permeable membrane/constructed/unstable boundary.
* "Life is an island here and now in a dying world...
We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water.
We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves."
* "the universe is in process, and objects may be considered only as
more or less  persistent regions in an onslaught of spatio-temporal change..."

Religious thinkers like Alan Watts,
The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are:

Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action,
living inside and bounded by the physical body — a center which “confronts” an “external”
world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange.
Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man
(and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.
As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature,
a unique action of the total universe
. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who
know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin....

The antidote lies in recognizing not merely that we belong to and with the rest of universe, but that there is no “rest” in the first place
we are the universe ....Our whole knowledge of the world is, in one sense, self-knowledge. For knowing is a translation of
external events into bodily processes, and especially into states of the nervous system and the brain: we know the world in terms
of the body, and in accordance with its structure....

Today, scientists are more and more aware that what things are, and what they are doing, depends on where and when they are doing it.
If, then, the definition of a thing or event must include definition of its environment, we realize that any given thing goes with a
given environment so intimately and inseparably that it is more difficult to draw a clear boundary between the thing and its surroundings
....the only real “I” is the whole endless process.....

individual people, nations, animals, insects, and plants do not exist in or by themselves....what we call “things”
are no more than glimpses of a unified process
....A...cogent example of existence as relationship is the production of a rainbow....
Diaphanous as it may be...

The universe implies the organism, and each single organism implies the universe....all happenings are mutually interdependent
in a way that seems unbelievably harmonious. Every this goes with every that. Without others there is no self, and without
somewhere else there is no here, so that — in this sense — self is other and here is there....the world outside your skin
is just as much you as the world inside: they move together inseparably….