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"The most inclusive form": Towards Day 22 (Thurs, 4/9/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

On this cold, drizzly day, Liz is situating us in Merion Common Room
--oldest residence on campus, built in 1885, the year the college opened,
like Taylor, out of Baltimore Gneiss, quarried just north of here; other old
buildings are made of Wissahickon Schist, which we also walk on;
both were named by Florence Bascomb (one of the first female geology Ph.D's
in the U.S, who created BMC's geology program, and named both these rocks
in negotiation w/ her profs @ JHopkins); Karl Kirchwey, who ran our Creative
Writing program, also wrote a poem of that title, which begins,
"What did you think the color of learning was,
if not mica and hornblende flashing in a long-settled gray?"
and ends, "the walls rise up around you with their faint glitter..."
both are metamorphic, but gneiss has "more things in it" than schist does--
quartz and feldspar (=decomposed mica); notice it as you leave--it's metaphoric!

will select our location for next Tuesday;
reminder that this is involves spending some time with the weather report,
having a back-up plan if the weather doesn’t cooperate, and
giving explicit directions so that Caleb and Ariel can find us…

next week
we’ll read all of Terry Tempest Williams' collected essays,
An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. The whole book is 160 pp;
try to read it all for Tuesday; we'll start with the title essay on p. 79.
Williams is a Mormon who grew up in Salt Lake City.
Like many Utahns, Williams' family was exposed to radiation,
as the result of atomic testing at the Nevada Test Site outside Las Vegas, 1951-62;
she believes that is why 9 members of her family have had mastectomies,
and 7 (including her grandmother, mother and brother) have died of cancer.
She writes about the intersections of wilderness preservation and women's health
(in bringing together health of world and people, resembles Eli Clare...);
has degrees in English, biology and environmental education.

By midnight on Monday, post a response to your reading to TTWilliams...
I've given up on the experiment of not asking you to post on the readings;
it didn't increase the response rate @ all!
Over the weekend I'll also expect an update on your site sit-- while there,
don't miss Rosa's amazing rendition of her site in "multilayered perception."

Joni's reflections on our class beyond the woods/near the graveyard--loud, interactive, itchy!

still working
her notion of "appropriation" (from L. "proprius," own/private/individual/self;
etymological source of "property"), in relationship to more "ecological," less "bounded"
terms like "porosity" ("full of pores, minute interstices through which water, air, etc., may pass")
if we are "porous," what is "properly" self? what counts as "property"?

"appropriation" is used differently in law, art and (most relevant to Joni's query) culture:
"cultural appropriation" is read by anthropologists as a colonialist practice--
i.e, a member of the dominant culture takes something from a minority culture,
uses outside of it original cultural context, and so
distorts, exoticizes, desecrates its original meanings
[cf. Backtalk: Exposures, Erasures, and Elisions of the Bryn Mawr College African Art Collection --
set up to challenge the ways in which African art has been exhibited and categorized, but
with deep tensions between the aspirations of backtalk and those of the sacred....]

also reflecting on my role in the "fishbowl"--wanting to direct the discussion!
one ex, re: the first query--Marian on Carson's queerness, not just "fun to identify":
750 "teasing" letters between Carson and Friedman were
published by Friedman's granddaughter in 1995;
also entirely erased from Silent Spring is the story of her breast cancer;
the text is missing all personal testimony, all evidence of "identity"--
what Celeste called her generalizing...

direct your attention to a 2012 article by Sarah Ensor, published in American Literature:
"Spinster Ecology: Rachel Carson, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Nonreproductive Futurity."
Ensor asks, "What does it mean to develop a queer ecocriticism?"
How might we envision a mode of environmental futurity separated from the
imperative of biological reproduction, or outside the scale provided by
"future generations?"

The significance of the spinster [in Ensor's analysis] is not merely biographical or characterological.
It has a stylistic, structural and political quality: its doesn't mean saving the planet for her own children,
but rather engaging in a more impersonal mode of stewardship, standing in a "slanted" relationship
to a place and time that "the spinster" will tend but will not—and cannot—directly pass on; it
queers the very shape of transmission. The spinster aunt is far less invested in replication and repetition,
far more open to unanticipated effects.

Ensor's argument is that all futures in fact already work that way, are forms of
variation, of nonlinearity, of illegibility that constitute the futures in which we already dwell,
in the "shadow of sterility” that hangs over fields sprayed with pesticides.

Rosa posted that it would be "nice if we delved into texts more,
used more quotes and talked more about writing styles." Let's do it!

[From Ensor:]
In the chapter titled “The Human Price,” Carson writes a description of risk that is also an eloquent account of ecology itself:

We know that even single exposures to these chemicals, if the amount is large enough, can precipitate acute poisoning. But this is not the major problem….We must be more concerned with the delayed effects of absorbing small amounts of the pesticides that invisibly contaminate our world.

Responsible public health officials have pointed out that the biological effects of chemicals are cumulative over long periods of time, and that the hazard to the individual may depend on the sum of the exposures received throughout his lifetime. For these reasons the danger is easily ignored. . . .

For each of us, as for the robin in Michigan or the salmon in the Miramichi, this is a problem of ecology, of interrelationships, of interdependence. We poison the caddis flies in a stream and the salmon runs dwindle and die. We poison the gnats in a lake and the poison travels from link to link of the food chain and soon the birds of the lake margins become its victims. We spray our elms and the following springs are silent of robin song, not because we sprayed  the robins directly but because the poison traveled, step by step, through the now familiar elm leaf-earthworm-robin cycle. These are matters of record, observable, part of the visible world around us. They reflect the web of life—or death—that scientists know as ecology.

But there is also an ecology of the world within our bodies. In this unseen world minute causes produce mighty effects; the effect, moreover, is often seemingly unrelated to the cause, appearing in a part of the body remote from the area where the original injury was sustained. . . . When one is concerned with the mysterious and wonderful functioning of the human body, cause and effect are seldom simple and easily demonstrated relationships. They may be widely separated both in space and time.

Carson’s paragraphs here become insistently intransitive; the grammar of her sentences, in other words, performs the point that “the following springs are silent of robin song, not because we sprayed the robins directly, but because the poison traveled.” Although far-flung and seemingly inexplicable environmental changes, for Carson, connect back to the initial act of pesticide spraying, the intertwined and  polyvalent patterns of ecology are more a matter of process and persistence than of direct causal links, or of a linear progression (either grammatical or biological) from subject to verb to object. As a result, ecology is made manifest in these paragraphs by the sheer preponderance of intransitive verbs: is, are, be; have pointed; are; may depend; is; dwindle; become; are; are; traveled; are, was, is, is, is, are; be.

And where is the future here, amid these verbs that persist and insist, without reaching an object or an end? It comes in the “following springs.” It is “soon.” It appears in “delayed effects.” It arrives, tellingly, “throughout a lifetime.” Cause and effect, relatedly, “may be widely separated both in space and time.” The future may not only be distant from here temporally; it may also be quite a hike away—and not found down the path on which we originally set out. The present is the future of any number of pasts—some near, some far; some recent, some long gone. Indeed, Carson suggests, we are already in the future….

II. How to get from here to Winona LaDuke's "Seventh Generation Amendment"?
Through eco-feminism...
On large sheets of paper write
"When I think of feminism, I think of...."
"When I think of environmentalism, I think of...."
"When I think of ecofeminism, the overlap between
'feminism' and 'environmentalism' looks like..."

(Marian, Nkechi?)
w/ the move from ecolinguistics to ecofeminism,
we are moving back into the realm of environmental justice,
to a form of ecocriticism that is focused on social institutions

mini-lecture from critical feminist studies on
concentric circles of ever-evolving feminism:
men ) women ) black women) global women) all species-->

In the FOURTH Edition of Rosemary Tong's classic
“Feminist Thought: 
A MORE Comprehensive Introduction”
Introduction: "The Diversity of Feminist Thinking," is
followed by seven chapters, each with critiques of what has gone before:
Liberal (equality of opportunity)
Radical (critique of patriarchal presumptions)
Marxist and Socialist (critique of economic structures)
Psychoanalytic & Care-Focused (focus on internal barriers)
Existentialist & Postmodern (critique of binary categories)
Women of Color (critique of all of the above)
Ecofeminism (critique of speciesism)--ends with this conclusion:
"I used to think that Marxist/Socialist feminism was the most inclusive form…
but didn’t notice that it glossed over heterosexism, racism, ableism and specieism…
now I regard ... vegetarian ecofeminism as the most inclusive form,
embracing all of nature
, including nonhuman beings…

Less convinced that it works as a final step in environmental courses,
because it may return us to essentialist notions of identity-based activism...
but let's see...

IV. I asked you to read 4  essays from The Winona LaDuke Reader
which sound very different keynotes than the Ensor's essay on "spinster ecology":
cyclical, reciprocal, collective, continuous inhabitation of generations...
with an emphasis on let's read this closely also...
p. 176: "natural law is the highest law"
p. 179: "It's important to recover the language."

Through Rosa's lens? "I am frustrated with this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness
in our classroom. Instead of seeing the idea of exploring our interconnections and
multi-faceted beings as opportunities, people seem to see it as a perpetuating cycle of destruction."

Reading Notes:
Trad'l Eco Knowledge and Env'l Futures
2 tenets essential to traditional ecological knowledge:
cyclical thinking and reciprocal relations/responsibilities
"take only what you need and leave the rest"
implicit: continuous inhabitation of place, and the need
to maintain a balanced relation between humans and ecosystem
"development" must be decentralized, self-reliant and
closely based on carrying capacity of ecosystem
trad'l management based on consensual understanding and collective process
holocaust of America: intentional/unintentional genocide-->colonialism
forced underdeveloment of sustainable indigenous economic systems
["usufruct rights" ="use of the fruits"/rights of enjoyment w/out ownership]
subsistence lifestyles invisible to economic analysis
conflict between paradigms of industrial and indigenous thinking:
development practices a war on subsistence

Who Owns America?
we belong to the land, in a collective relationship--
different from European concept of land ownership
land tenure pattern originated with church, handmaiden to colonialism
aboriginal title not on same par as legal private property
who has the right to name? (Christian process offensive:
aggrandize those who committed crimes against humanity)
direct relation between development of US and underdevelopment of Native America
most Presidents, Vice Presidents were land speculators, in the arena of the thief
"corporate welfare": support for exploitation
intergenerational dysfunctional relationship won't go away
compensation as payment: title 'cleared' by reparations in the court of the thief,
w/ thieves setting the price they will pay for what they stole
issues of justice and survival

Honor the Earth
Ojibwe is a language of verbs, for people of action
our people almost entirely disappeared in the Holocaust of America
core of belief: that we have choices/responsibility...and face consequences
cf. trading pollution credits, radiation standards, risk assessment
w/ the highest law: natural law
known via intergenerational residency and spiritual knowledge
cf. this cyclical approach w/ the linear world view/waste production
of technological advancement and economic growth
cf. also belief that most things are animate, have standing and spirit
forest w/ trees vs. "timber resources";
beneficial use of water vs. allocation of water rights;
corn vs. "agricultural products"--moved from animate to inanimate;
important to recover the language
last teaching: reciprocity
cf. unsustainable American practices of conquest, frontier, movement,
all causing extinction: the predator worldview

Seventh Generation Amendment
American public policy reflects short-term interests,
pilfering that which is collectively ours
all of us carrying a "body burden of dioxin,"
which bioaccumulates up the food chain
environmental laws are outstripped by poisons
need a seventh generation amendment, distinguishing
between (and defending both) private and common property
consider the impact of current decisions on the seventh generation from now:
"the right of citizens to use renewable resources shall
not impair their availability for future generations...."


Possible statements?
We should live our lives for future generations.