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"Porous bodies in a porous world": Towards Day 21 (Tues, 4/7/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

Joni is situating us inside, on this rainy day....

I. processing
Caleb, Marian
re: last week’s classes?
Marian suggested we might have stopped and listened to the wind,
rather than competing with/trying to outshout it; and asked whether
physical discomfort and an exploring ladybug distracted from or contributed to learning…

all re: Eli’s visit?
Joni’s posting, just after, re: appropriation-->
"i want to connect my black queer women to disability politics.
this is ecological, right? everything is connected. but how can we work
to connect without erasing, to relate without assuming and appropriating
the politics of another identity...."?
cf. Gary Snyder using Native American culture,
our drawing on disability to describe our own "restoration"?

continuing to experiment with your site sits--
site by adjectives
words I thought of on the rugby pitch while watching Wednesday practice
Abby: (film and audio of) a conversation
spring as a time of restoration
preview of art made @ her site
rebirth (walking with her boyfriend)
standing in the inbetween
solitary trees
leaf symphony

reporting on the web eventing?
(to share later...but: talk about the process now?)
Maddie [made herself uncomfortable] "Coloring Outside the Lines"
Amala, "Writing through Photographs"
Abby, Caleb, Marian [collaborated on] "Wild Theater"
Ariel and Rose, "Dance"
Teresa, drawing of a "Democratic Classroom"
Liz, translated her own prose and poetry through 8 other languages, back to English

II. Coursekeeping

we are now entering the fourth and final section of the course--
"Locating Agency: Acting on Our Desires":
or, given the sort of identity work, and linguistic work, we've done so far-->
what can you do? what activism is available to you?
(these questions arose @ the end of Thursday's class:
Marian asked what difference the words we use really make;
Caleb also talked about his impatience with academic work,
and asked about its relation to action...)
we'll be addressing these questions, in part,
by reading/talking about the work of activists...

for Thursday--when Liz will select our site--
please read 
(one 5-pp and three 10-pp. long)
essays from The Winona LaDuke Reader
Have you heard of her...? like Paula Gunn Allen, of mixed descent--
her mother a Jew of European descent, her father an Ojibwe who
enrolled her in the tribe @ an early age; she identifies as Ojibwe,
is an environmentalist, economist, and writer, who
works generally on sustainable development,
more particularly on tribal land claims and preservation;
she was the vice president nominee of the Green Party,
on a ticket headed by Ralph Nader.

III. For today, I asked you to read the first two chapters of Rachel Carsen's
once/still ground-breaking book, Silent Spring: "A Fable" and "The Obligation to Endure,"
along with a review of her recent biography, and some photomeditations on porosity...

Let's start with the latter:

reactions...? genre....? effect...?

"We are surrounded by microbes, composed of microbes and terrified of them.
We live in a porous world in porous bodies. The possibility of being breached,
infected and losing body integrity is always present....This installation asks viewers
to aesthetically explore their own reactions and prejudices with regard to living in a world
that is shared with microbes....the images aim to challenge viewers’ perceptions about
their bodies as a site that has become trespassed, tainted, and contaminated by a
popular culture that escalates social anxiety and terror of microbes
by artificially creating a sense of bioparanoia."

Cf. this "artificial paranoia" with Carsen's "fable," her
"science-and-technology-related anxiety," her "artful" linking
of "radioactive fallout with the indiscriminate use of pesticides."

I asked you to write out a statement--on a piece of paper
you can give to me-- a question for Carsen (or your classmates),
a challenge, a puzzle, a query, which we'll use to organize our discussion.
Pass those to me now...

IV. Organize into a fishbowl: three in the center...

V. (If time: on large sheets of paper-->
"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..."
Anne’s reading notes
reviewer of Carson's biography:
"among the gloomiest books ever written," w/ a "depressingly timeless" message, by a "biophiliac" and "superstar of narrative nonfiction," who "artfully linked radioactive fallout with the indiscriminate use of pesticides" and whose book transformed the gentle movement of "conservation" into the "bitter idea known as environmentalism" (which pits nature and science against government and industry)-->I'm wondering if it struck us this way?

recent re-edition w/ introduction by Al Gore, calls it humbling for an elected official; compares the reaction to the this to that which Darwin provoked w/ Origin of the Species, and compares its influence on the environmental movement to that of Uncle Tom's Cabin on abolition

how to teach env’l studies w/out leading to despair?
what sustainable practice, for concerns that are so pressing?
short term--> long term thinking…

notes from Joni Seager’s Plenary @ FAHE, June 2012
“Rachel is Still Right…50 yrs later”
bio: 1907-1964, died of breast cancer
Chatham College/Johns Hopkins/Woods Hole
taught @ UMaryland; bulk of career @ Fish & Wildlife Services
(Bureau of Fisheries), 1936-1952—>
then left because writing brought financial security,
but network there was important;
outsider in many ways--woman writing-science--
yet insider re: F&WServices
Under the Sea Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1950),
The Edge of the Sea (1955)
Silent Spring: serialized in New Yorker June 16, 23, 30, 1962
never married; romantic (?) relationship w/ Dorothy Freeman
(“spinsterhood” made an issue later)
Silent Spring among the best known unknown works:
iconic status but unread
what it did: drew from her science background
to synthesize vast amounts of science data;
no original data, but translated for the public

apocalyptic title: dystopic opening chapter w/out birds
main thrust to raise alarm about indiscriminate use of pesticides
contentious: not anti-pesticide, but only anti-indiscriminate use
credited/blamed for Nixon’s banning DDT a decade later),
catalyzed modern environmental movement
tried to position herself a-politically
not esp. radical, but just-beneath-the-surface trenchant social analysis
before her, very little ‘social structure’ analysis in environmental domain:
prior wilderness appreciation movements (Muir, etc.) or
“conservation” (for human use—
Teddy Roosevelt preserve animals to kill them)
nuclear programs promoted more critical inquiry, but otherwise
not much focus on humans as agents of environmental destruction
Silent Spring
changed the terms of discussion in 3 domains
1) agency of humans: consequences of structures of control
2) role of military/militarism in development of pesticides
3) misogyny in response

challenges to
pesticide industry (w/out naming names)
unsustainable American agrarian structures
collective consciousness & ethics
anticipated today’s critical debates about power and ecology
(agrobusiness/secretive industries/big money/
'ends justify means’ ecological approach)
paved the way for Merchant and McPhee on control of nature,
for Lappe on food business and food maldistribution,
for ecosystem analysis, for env’l ethics
called into question the paradigm of scientific ‘progress’ of post-WW2 use--
not just challenging pesticide, and her critics knew it

from Silent Spring:
“who would want to live in a world that is just not quite fatal?
and yet pressed on us…those who exercise ruthless power…
we are fed little tranquilizing pills of half-truths
truths are hidden from us intentionally…
also hidden by specialized division of knowledge
insecticides presented as “homey” and “cheerful”
government regulatory agencies understaffed…
systems of ‘tolerance’ setting flawed and unsound

cf. EPA website on pesticides—
system she decried is the same system in place today
“A system of deliberately poisoning our food and then policing the results”
-- reminiscent of Louis Carroll

naïve/core idea: an optimist,
believing that ethical behavior would follow knowledge;
"future generations unlikely to condone…”
we must take the “other road”…natural controls to pests

single greatest problem: hubris of controlling nature
“as man proceeds towards his announced goal of
the conquest of nature”…”the habit of killing”
“who has made the decision that sets in motion these chains of poisonings”
(decision of authoritarian entrusted w/ power…
in a moment of [our] inattention)
“control of nature”: a phrase conceived in arrogance
and born of the Stone Age

military origins of pesticide development: as matter of historical record
among the first to raise critique of militarized
responsibility for environmental destruction
German weapons program (nerve agents)
Rocky Flats
Importance of DDT in WW2 Pacific
transitioned quickly to civilian uses: first synthetic pesticide
taken firmly to task by her critics

military ethos of pesticide use remains strong (Vietnam, Iraq syndromes….)
embedded in pesticide use are manly, vanquishing names such as
ambush/ammo/arsenal/avenge/barrage/barricade/bravo/volley warrior
military effect on the environment in the Middle East
bigger picture of militarism and environment:
military single-largest environmental agent—global wilding/wars
ordinary business toxic materials
skew of priorities/protection racket
National Security trope closed circle: keeps out queries
images of military-caused environmental devastation
globally, every weapons production/storage site
is also an environmental disaster site

forging the template for response
response to Silent Spring modeled subsequent industry attacks:
question the author’s credentials/find dissident scientists/sow seeds of doubt/
distort what author says /launch media campaign/launch think-tank/
enlist sympathetic political leaders

Threat because her challenge was carefully crafted,
well-documented--and by a woman
misogyny first/last resort for undermining women in environmental area
called amateur/scientific journalist/unpatriotic/communist
“We can live w/out birds and animals, but we cannot live w/out business"
additional charges: spinster/hysterical/emotional-laden

hid her breast cancer (to deflect attacks that she had a
personal, vested interest in attacking pesticides as carcinogenic)
spinsterness also a mark of dubiousness

template for attacks on women who challenge science
RNC 2012: “war on women is as fictitious as a war on caterpillars”
efforts to control women’s reproduction/silencing of women legislators
attacks on Carson revived today: “Rachel is Wrong” website,
blaming her for millions of malaria deaths

great accomplishments and disappointments of her work:
we have not become “the future generation unlikely to condone…
the lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world
that supports all life”

Cape Code tunnel = another planet to retreat to?

Her enduring challenge:
“I think we are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before,
to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves”
(1963 CBS “Reports”)

why we still have this problem
meatless Monday regimes (w/ hysterical reactions) @ various schools
env’l concern seen as feminine, “anxious”—treated as soft/not serious issue
on teaching @ MIT/belly of the beast
Carson a model for how to tell an inconvenient truth
she knew they were going to take her down…
passion w/out disabling fury—writing/re-writing that prose
we live in a different culture--
which causes problems in our ability to change the world
according to most polls, the majority of Ams believe that
climate change is real/should be addressed;
yet most oppose intrusive gov’t regulation:
how to approach these enormous inconsistencies?
what discourse recognizes living in the world?
challenge to us in our bubbles: how to bridge the divide?
what might change your mind?
Canadian phrase to describe gap between French and Anglican:
“the two solitudes”
need to bring complicated scientific analysis to popular domain

effective teaching technique used by field biologist:
monitor 3 yards of grass: come to know it/write down what’s going on…
you will see much more than the grass…
look @ all that’s going on…dynamic!
small experimental station can be powerful approach…