"God holds the only patent! He is the Engineer Supreme! And He has given up His seeds into the public domain!...Our seeds contain our beliefs. That's why we urge you to continue to save them and propagate them and pass them on to others to do the same, in accordance with God's plan. In this way we chose to praise our Lord and to fulfill His design - of which mankind is just one small part." (Ozeki 302)
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Our class has sort of latched on to this idea of ‘porosity’. It’s become a catchphrase, an exclamation, and a stand-in for many other words on when talking about complex and/or connected things. So I’m calling us out. We’re using porosity in the same way that we’ve resisted using words like ‘nature’ and ‘environment’, in the same way that it is problematic to use words like ‘gentrification’ and ‘radical’ (and still I and many others continue to use them, perhaps out of comfort and habit, perhaps for lack of a better word). The idea of porosity has brought us a long way, given us new and interesting ways to look at common concepts, AND/BUT there might be areas where it’s holding us back from defining what we really mean. I’m still not sure I completely know what the word means. It could be that I’m the only one, but I don’t think so.
Is that a necessary dichotomy? Reading Steve Chase's Changing the Nature of Environmental Studies made me think a lot about my relationship with and confusion around social change and activism. I have this constant fight within myself about whether I'm being too radical or not radical enough - and then I worry that I'm being too wishy-washy, not fully committing to working with one faction or another and therefore feeling totally useless. I read Steve Chase's account of the Environmental Justice Workgroup's successful "collaborative and educational approach" to their fight to raise awareness and discourse about environmental justice at their school, and I experienced conflicting responses. On one hand, I was impressed and felt regretful that I haven't done more work like that at Bryn Mawr. And then immediately after that, I'm like, "no, my work isn't about helping a bunch of privileged white people see the truth about racism and oppression! I wanna smash the patriarchy! I want to destroy capitalism! I'm radical!" I don't deny that the change that Chase and his group accomplished was important and helpful, it just doesn't feel as necessary or exciting to me. And it's not just because of the hippie anarchist that lives in me and craves adrenalyn rush-style direct action and in-your-face lockdown blockades. I approach this from a "rational", academic standpoint as well.
"Are we really still in Pennsylvania?" I kept asking. "This place has been here for the past four years?" I found it hard to believe. Wissahickon holds the kind of beauty that in my mind is reserved for mountains of Colorado or West Virginia. Or, at the very least, rural-rural PA. But not Philly. Not Germantown. Not 20 minutes away from the place I've been living for the past four years of my life. For me, Bryn Mawr has never been a place to be connected to nature, to escape from the developed world. I suppose I've tried a couple times - sitting quietly at the labyrinth and lookin at the sunset, pretending the grass around me wasn't perfectly groomed and ignoring Rhoads and the vast athetic fields stretched out before me. The back porch of Batten offers a beautiful view into the woods, but just beyond that is a big road and it's hard to block out the noises of cars zooming past. The stars are somewhat visible at night, but not to a large degree, what with all the light pollution from the city and suburbs. I've resigned myself to a life without much connection to nature whenever I'm at school.
I used to think a lot about how I would adapt certain books for the screen, so thinking about how I would make a movie based on All Over Creation by Ozeki is pretty fun. I'm pretty sure Yumi would narrate the movie, mostly for herself and her story but sometimes telling the perspectives of others when they needed introduction. I feel strongly that most of the words she narrates should be direct quotes from the text. Similarly, it would be really important to me that certain conversations be entirely preserved, like Geeks descriptions of GMO's to Frankie.
Obviously, since the book is so long, quite a few things would have to be shortened and/or taken out, and the idea of that sounds stressful. Yumi's past could be shown much more quickly and succinctly, and much of the Seed's time in San Fransisco would probably have to be cut. The part I see most clearly is the image of farms in Idaho, of the irrigation birds and the vast, expansive fields. Of country roads and dingy farm houses. I would be excited to represent a (probably romanticized) vision of rural Idaho. I think this could be a really great movie, the type of movie that people really like nowadays.
Somebody came up and said, "You talk about your home as if it were part of your own body." And they were right, this landscape is a living, breathing part of me. I consider it something to protect, like I would my own body. That's an idea that's been passed down from generation to generation. - Judy Bonds (found here)
Much of our ecology and ‘Ecoliteracy’ 360 began with conversations and questions about home, community, and belonging, and that makes sense, doesn’t it? I certainly thought so, until I came across Timothy Morton and his Ecological Thought, at which point I didn’t know what to think; his argument simultaneously illuminated complexities and made them more confusing. Morton argues that "Fixation on place impedes a truly ecological view" (Morton 26), a claim that I find problematic based on personal experience people I know. Morton says that in order to improve the various crises faced by our world and the human species, it is necessary for us humans to stop thinking of ourselves as apart from Nature-with-a-capital-N. What we need, he says, is ‘the ecological thought’, which he defines in many ways: "a virus that infects all other areas of thinking…It has to do with love, loss, despair…compassion…depression and psychosis…capitalism and what might exist after capitalism…race, class, and gender…society…coexistence.” (Morton 2) He goes on to even broader and more abstract descriptions of the ecological thought:
I absolutely LOVED the time we spent with the fifth graders on Friday. It was so refreshing to be around young people, and at the same time it felt very productive, like we were doing good work together, creating ties between two very different groups of people. Though they were sort of supposed to be "teaching" us the planting process, the kids I was working with hadn't really remembered the steps, and since I have experience with planting seeds (and also since I was the adult figure and so gravitated to the leadership position naturally due to ageism), I ended up teaching them and it felt like a prelude to the lesson later in the afternoon. It was really interesting to reflect on the fact that, had I not learned the small details of gardening from my mother - poke a tiny hole with your finger, cover gently with a small amount of dirt and don't press down or pack it in) - I would not have felt nearly as confident in the instructions I gave.
I felt far less confident, however, when we got to the math lesson, despite our extensive preparation. There was really no way I could have prepared for four students at completely different levels of understanding, interest, and attention spans, for the chaos of managing all those at once and remaining calm and coherent, for students who don't just grasp what you're trying to explain after a short amount of explanation.
adults really get in the way: an analysis of education via unsupervised adventure (in The Phantom Tollbooth)
He noticed somehow that the sky was a lovely shade of blue and that one cloud had the shape of a sailing ship. The tips of the trees held pale, young buds and the leaves were a rich deep green. Outside the window, there was so much to see, and hear, and touch -- walks to take, hills to climb, caterpillars to watch as they strolled through the garden. There were voices to hear and conversations to listen to in wonder, the special smell of each day...His thoughts darted eagerly about as everything looked new -- and worth trying. (Juster 255-256)
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a classic piece of children’s literature, published in 1961. A timeless and revered tale, it is not only enjoyable and educational, it also advocates the importance of appreciating and being aware of the world - the environment - around you. For this reason, and because of its educational nature and narrative, it is a fantastic environmental education tool for young people. Gauged at around a 5th-6th grade reading level (by Scholastic, etc) and recommended for ages 8-12, this chapter book is full of challenging words and word play that must elude most children who read it (many of the expressions went right over my head when I read it in 4th or 5th grade), making it equally enjoyable for adults.
My favorite part of the Shonibare exibit was the piece Scramble for Africa, the one with the big wooden table with men seated all around it. I felt so strongly the emotions felt by all the headless men in the room, the desparation of delegates from different European countries (and America). I could almost empathize with their feelings of need for control of the colonies of Africa. I was reminded of how I felt as a child, dividing up toys between me and my friend, and so strongly wanting my fair share, wanting justice. Except of course that in this situation, justice is impossible, and this debate which feels so real to those men, and to viewers of the piece, fails to make real the millions of people it concerns. So many lives swung in the balance of this argument, and yet those men in power felt none of them, only their own needs. It would be easy to call them greedy, to call all powerful white men greedy, and perhaps many are. But Shonibare's piece gave an interesting perspective, one that in my anger over privilege and oppression it is easy for me to overlook. This doesn't mean that these men (and the countries/societies they represent) can be forgiven for claiming control of lands and people that they had absolutely no right to, but it is helpful for me in thinking about motivations behind oppression.
As much as I loved bell hooks' way of thinking about home and culture of belonging, it was somewhat comforting to see that people like Morton do not necessarily agree with that view of home/place - and it was also very confusing. For while I haven't experienced a culture of belonging first-hand, I want to believe such a thing is possible, and attainable for me. And at the same time, I am conscious of the very legitimate points made by Martin and Mohanty, who (from what I could gather from their complex language and sentence structures) argue that any community of sameness and comfort inherently shuts out others and makes oppression possible. Which sucks (to put it more bluntly). I can only assume that more oppression (akin to the Ku Klux Klan) is the last thing bell hooks would want, so how can I reconcile both of these ideas? And how does Morton's fit in, his criticism of "fixation on a place"? Maybe all that matters (to me) is how each of these arguments fits into my own understanding of home, place, and community as these things relate to environmentalism/social justice. For example, a community that is actively working to fight oppression might, on the way, exclude some voices, but if they are working hard to be anti-opressive (which, honestly many enviro-justice communities aren't, or think they are but get criticized for not doing enough) and simultaneously trying to end oppression of certain groups of people and/or the environment, maybe that's ok.
This is really cool and it reminded me of Ava's art in it's impermanence and its connection to natural mediums/forms.