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Living for Future Generations?: Towards Day 23 (Tues, 4/14/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

As the rain abates, Maddie is situating us in the classroom

* I've read/viewed/listened to all your web events,
and you'll find my comments on-line (great to have
all the collaboration--much less work for me!).
Some of you wanted to share these in class; we'll do this
via a "villanelle" Nkechi is composing of our collective work...

* moving on!
will select our location for Thursday,
when we'll continue the discussion we're about to start
of Terry Tempest Williams' Unspoken Hunger....
bring with you not only her text, but a page of your site sits
in either paper or electronic form (if electronic, open it before you come...)
how to make this--tags/site sits/your user name; i.e.

Liz's report on the last session of our "roaming classroom"
that the Merion Common Room was both comfortable and engaging.
I agree: a very engaged--if confusing--discussion about eco-feminism:
tried to set it up as a conversation between Winona LaDuke's "seventh generation amendment"--
"the right of citizens to use renewable resources shall not impair their availability for future generations...."
and Rachel Carsen's "spinster ecology," which queers the shape of this transmission,
is more open to unanticipated effects. But (as reported in Joni's post after),
we got caught up in vegan feminism, and the gender of cows, and (most significantly),
the insultingly linear narrative of ever-widening circles of inclusion,
offensive both because of its center/starting point (experience of white men),
and the too-belated appearance of women of color. I learned a lot from this discussion, and

left class thinking that eco-feminism is no longer the useful framing I used to think it was:

that  the concept of "Mother Earth," or of women as closer to the earth,
or as the caretakers of the earth, is essentializing of female identity,
and that--although gender is certainly a primary way to frame marginality/oppression/degradation--
and has served as my own way into social justice work for decades--
and it does offer a parallel way to think about the degradation/neglect of earth systems--
it's not the only or even most important way in, and is also very problematic (in the ways we said).

Obviously, if the concept of eco-feminism engages-or-enrages you, you should go on working with/on it...
you will have a final web-event due for me after classes end, and it could focus on this topic;
but I think I'm going to background it in the remainder of our discussions...

II. What I do want to foreground for a few moments is the work of Winona LaDuke,
which we didn't "do justice" to (interesting concept!). I want to start today's discussion
by returning to her text/honoring her ideas. She denounces as unsustainable the
American practices of conquest, frontier, movement,
the "predator worldview" which is causing so much extinction,
and she offers as an alternative the indigenous practices of
cyclical thinking, reciprocal relations and reciprocal responsibilities.

LaDuke describes the continuous inhabitation of place, which enables you to know it;
she argues for the need to maintain a balanced relation
between humans and the ecosystem we inhabit.
The land doesn't belong to us, she says; "we belong to the land," and
so must pay careful attention to its "carrying capacity,"
basing our decisions on "consensual understanding" and "collective process."
"The highest law is natural law" means mostly that we need to pay attention to limits,
to limit ourselves to what we need, to limit our greed.
Also to note her claim that, along the way, we "recover the language":
"timber resources" are actually forests with trees,
"an agricultural product" is really  corn--
to say otherwise is to make the animate inanimate.

How might this work not just in our language--
I think we got the language thing!--but in our lives?
Count off/break into  four groups of three.
What would it mean replace the concept of private property,
with a belief in common property--shared not just with everyone
else now on the planet, but with the seventh generation from now?
If you were to adopt LaDuke's sustainable practices,
and live your life for future generations--
what are three changes you could make right now,
to move in that direction? What are three changes that
the Bi-Co could make?

Report back...

III. For today, I asked you to read An Unspoken Hunger,
and to post your initial responses to Williams' essays.
Maddie was interested in oyster restoration in Pelham Bay,
Amala in Williams' Uncle Alan, who felt conflicting emotions at the same time,
Tosin in the "natural" give-and-take between Coyote and Georgia O'Keefe.
Marian objected strongly to the safari with which the book opened,
but was also drawn to the same chapters as Amala and Tosin, about Uncle Alan and Coyote.
Caleb didn't speak of coyote, but did compare Williams' themes to MFK Fisher's use of the "wolf"
to figure human appetite, desire, despair--"a cry to live a wild life,
filled with feeling and open to risk." So I'm going to start us out with
those emotions: appetite, desire, despair, or what the title calls "unspoken hunger."

Let's read aloud, collectively, from the title essay, p. 79 --
what is the unspoken hunger Williams is talking about?
why/how is it deflected?

* "Winter Solstice," pp. 61-65 (also read this aloud):
D.H. Lawrence writes, "In every living thing there is a desire for love, for the relationship of unison with the rest of things." I think cautious I have become with love. It is a vulnerable enterprise to feel deeply....If I choose not to become heart cannot be broken because I never risked giving it away. But what kind of impoverishment is this to withhold emotion, to restrain our passionate nature in the face of a generous life...? A mind...who reins in the heart...can only expect more isolation and greater ecological disease. Our lack of intimacy with each other is in direct proportion to our lack of intimacy with the land....Audre Lorde tells us, "We have been raised to fear...our deepest cravings"....Wildlands' and wildlives' oppression lies in our desire to control and our desire to control has robbed us of feeling (pp. 63-5).

Write for 5 minutes: where in your own writing (or thinking, or reading) this semester have you expressed a desire for love, a search for intimacy with others, and/or the world? (Or avoided doing so....?) How do you understand the relationship among these cravings? (And your decision to represent them....or not?)

Read these passages aloud.....?

IV. From The Politics of Place, an interview with Terry Tempest Williams
conducted by Scott London (on the Insight & Outlook radio show):
"We're animals. I think we forget that. I think there is an ancient archetypal memory that still exists within us. If we deny that, what is the cost?  So I do think it's what binds us as human beings. I wonder, what is it to be human? Especially now that we're so urban. How do we remember our connection with place? What is the umbilical cord that roots us to that primal, instinctive, erotic place?

...I worry that we are a people in a process of great transition and we are forgetting what we are connected to. We are losing our frame of reference. Pelicans pass by and we hardly know who they are, we don't know their stories. Again, at what price? I think it's leading us to a place of inconsolable loneliness. It's what I mean by 'an unspoken hunger.' It's a hunger than cannot be quelled by material things. It's a hunger that cannot be quelled by constant denial. I think that the only thing that can bring us into a place of fullness is being out in the land with other.

Then we remember where the source of our power lies."

"Water Songs," pp. 39-48:
"The idea of finding anything natural in the built environment...seemed unnatural" (p. 41).
"Our wetlands are becoming urban wastelands" (p. 43).
"Lee Milner's...stalwartness...offers wetlands their only hope...she was showing us the implacable focus of those who dwell here. This is our first clue to residency" (p. 44).
"I kept thinking about Lee, who responds to Pelham Bay Park as a lover, who rejects this open space as a wicked edge for undesirables, a dumping ground for toxins or occasional bodies. Pelham Bay is her home...a sanctuary she holds inside her unguarded heart...the water songs of the red-winged blackbirds...keep her attentive in a city that has little memory of wildness" (48).