Anne's Reading Notes
Anne’s Reading Notes for Re-creating Our World: Vision, Voice, Value, Spring 2014
on-line materials the 360 planning group discussed in August 2013:
Adamson, Joni, Mei Mei Evans, and Rachel Stein. The Environmental Justice Reader: Politics, Poetics, and Pedagogy. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2002.
Introduction: environmental justice initiatives specifically attempt to redress the disproportionate incidence of environmental contamination in communities of the poor and/or communities of color...and to afford equal access to natural resources that sustain life and culture....illuminated hte crucial intersections between ecological an dsocial justice concerns (4).
Environmental justice movements call attention to the ways disparate distribution of wealth and power often leads to correlative social upheaval and the unequal distribution of enviornmental degradation and/or toxicity (5).
an expansion of the canon of environmental literature by focusing upon texts that incorporate racial, ethnic, class, and sexual differnces, and that emphasize intersections between social oppressions and envirionmental issues (9).
* Reed, T.V.,"Toward an Environmental Justice Ecocriticism":
the field of ecocriticsm..has not often dealt seriously with questions of race and class....
June Jordan, "Poem About my Rghts":
I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thining about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence;
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
* Sze, Julie, "From Environmental Justice Literature to the Literature of Environmental Justice":
Environmental justice is...a cultural movement interested in issues of ideology and representation....challenges the mainstream definition of environment and nature based on a wilderness/preservationist frame by foregrounding race and labor in its definition of what constitutes "'nature" (163).
Karen Tei Yamshita's novel Tropic of Orange...highlights the global geography of neoliberlism in the built and natural environment, including that of human labor (164).
Environmental justice defines the environment as a site where people live, work, and play...rejects hte mainstream representation of the enviornment--as green empty space--as ahistorical, classist and antiurban (165).
The setting of Tropic of Orange is the ultimate anti-"nature" locale--the streets and highways of Los Angeles..this novel traces the geography of...free trade...organized around international movement of goods and peoples...race and class conflict at thecneter....a city of domination and unequal power relations (167).
the "right" to the free movement of goods...is accompanied by the restricted movement of people, and xenophobia....The era of free trade has thrown traditional notions of place haywire (169).
The destabilization of what is real in the text is an escape of...a realist and singular interpretation of time, events, and peoples...the rejection of strict realism and temporality....The distinction beween the real or the metaphoric is negligible for Yamashita, who suggests that this boundary between real and unreal is somewhat arbitrary and limiting in its worldview (170).
This jumping between time periods enables the reader to understand the contemporary politics around free trade and globalzation in an ideological and historical context. The relationship of contemporary corporate domination cannot be seaprated from historical colonialism (171).
by rejecting a linear narrative of "development," El Gran Mojado shows what links the "archaic" and the "modern": the processes of commodification of land, labor, and life (172).
Yamashita paints a picture of life as a series of patterns and connections, of layers and linkages, connecting the weather with race: "Life is the prehistoric grid of plant and fauna and human beavior....the historic grid of land usage and property, the great overlays of transport...a thousand natural and man-made divisions, variations both dynamic and stagnant, patterns and connections by every conceivable defintion from the distribution of wealth to race,f rom patterns of climate to the curious blueprint of the skies"....
Yamashita is arguing against the idea that the expansion of corporate capitalism enables human freedom...the hyper-commodification of natural resources, land, and labor leads to chaos and destruction (174).
* Evans, Mei Mei, "Nature" and Environmental Justice:
a distinction between...nature--the entire realm of the actual living world--and Western cultural conceptions of (a mostly nonhuman) Nature...'nature' when referring to the great amorphous mass of otherness that encloaks the planet, and...'nature' when referring specifically to the sysem or model of nature which arose in the West several centuries ago (182).
When it is said that women are "by nature" maternal, that people of color are "naturally" more in tune with nature, or that it is "unnatural" for people of the same gneder to be sexually attracted to one another, what role is being assigned to nature? What is the work of culture, of human-constructed relations, that nature is being asked to perform in these equations? ....Evelyn White interrogates and complicates this conflation in her essay "Black Women and the Wilderness" (184).
Eddy Harris...as a black man seeking to enact a culturally sanctioned rite-of-passage for men in nature...encounters the same kinds of obstacles....[In] Mississipi Solo--A River Quest..."Jim" finally achieves narrative voice (187).
Complicating the ideas of nature-as-proving ground for U.S. American masculinity [is] William Haywood Henderson's 1993 novel Native ... founded on the premise that gay men in rural Wynoming risk both social ostracism and violence to their persons (189).
the hegemonic conept of Nature [is] a masculinist social constrction...racist and heterosexist as well....U.S. Nature is assumed to be a location removed from culture, a space that is open to alll, but one has only to look at what happens to those who are nto male, not white, and/or not straight when they attempt a transformative experience in nature to see what they risk....ask ourselves who gets to go there (191).
* Stein, Rachel, “Gender and Environmental Justice in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms and Barbara Neely’s Blanche Cleans Up (pp. 194-212).
Giovanna Di Chiro, “Sustaining the ‘Urban Forest’ and Creating Landscapes of Hope: An Interview with Cinder Hypki and Bryant ‘Spoon’ Smith (pp. 284-307):
What counts as “green”? Where is the “environment” located, and what does it contain? What are we trying to “sustain,” and for whom?
there can't be any broader structural change unless you have individual people who are able to have oportunites for..."self-development"...unless individals are self-confident enogh, unless they are literate in many different ways, uhless they have their basic needs met....I don't think we can transform broad political systems until we know we can transform a lttle bit of our own neighborhod....
* Chase, Steve, "Changing the Nature of Environmental Studies: Teaching Environmental Justice to 'Mainstream' Students." 350-367:
"we have focused on the symptoms, not the causes of biotic impoverishment. The former have to do with the vital signs of the planet. The latter have to do with the distribution of wealth, land ownership, greed, the organization of power, and the conduct of public business." (David Orr)
the professor suggested that the environmental movement is best understood as a continuing argument between...the romantic wilderness preservationism championed by Muir and...the pragmatic, professional approach to natural resource management supported by Pinchot.....I mentioned Mothers of East Los Angeles, a grassroots Chicana group that had successfuly blocked the construction of a giant incinerator project in their already polluted neighborhood....the professor said, "That's not an environmental group"....he dismissed the legitimacy of the enviormental justice movement...environmental problems were all too often discussed as if the human community were uniform...without differences in power or access to material influence (351-2).
seven key educational principles:
Principle 1: Start from Reality--all learning must be based on the needs, interests, experiences, and problems of the participants.
Principle 2: Activity--learning must be active
principle 3: Horizontal communication--dialogue, mutual respect
principle 4: Developing the ability to be critical
Principle 5: Promoting the development and expression of feelings
Principel 6: Promoting participation
Principle 7: Integration (of head, body and heart)
Alaimo, Stacy. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Indiana University Press, 2010.
“feminist theory’s most revolutionary concept—the concept of gender, as distinct from biological sex—is predicated upon a sharp opposition between nature and culture…theories of social construction…are haunted by the pernicious notions of nature that propel them…the repository of essentialism and stasis…associated with corporeality, mindlessness, and passivity….rather than bracketing the biological body…insist upon the need to understand it as ‘changing and changeable, as transformable’…the notion of biology as destiny…depends on a...peculiar notion of biology that can certainly be displaced” (5)…by attending to precise materialization…the material turn in feminist theory…takes matter seriously (6)
* Elizabeth Grosz’s Volatile Bodies a founding corporeal feminist text; ”we need to understand the body…as a series of open-ended systems, functioning within other huge systems it cannot control through which it can access and acquire its abilities and capacities” (The Nick of Time) (10); “an ecology that values…the future…would be very close to the (non)moral ontology of Darwinism, which mourns no particular extinction and which waits, with surprise, to see what takes the place of the extinct” (Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power); cf. this disengaged philosophical platform w/ ethical, political commitments of environmental justice: trans-corporeality insists that the human is always the very stuff of the material world (11)
* Harold Fromm, “The Environment is Us:” the “environment…runs right through us in endless waves, and if we were to watch ourselves via some ideal microscopic time-lapse video, we would see water, air, food, microbes, toxins entering our bodies as we shed, excrete, and exhale our processed materials back out”…the environment “looks more and more to be the very substance of human existence in the world”;
Edward Casey: “my body and natural things are…continuous with each other…The fibers of culture and nature compose one continuous fabric” (11)
* Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, “Disability Studies reminds us that all bodies are shaped by their environments from the moment of conception. We transform constantly in response to our surroundings and register history on our bodies. The changes that occur when body encounters world are what we call disability” (12)
* Nancy Tuana, “Vicous Porosity: Witnessing Hurricane Katrina”: “no sharp ontological divide between the natural and social factors, but a complex interaction of phenomena”—and accountability: emphasis on mediating membranes (biological, social, political) as model for understanding material interactions/transcorporality (14-15).
* Ursula Heise: “what is crucial for ecological awareness and environmental ethics is arguably not so much a sense of place as a sense of planet—a sense of how political, economic, technological, social, cultural, and ecological networks shape daily routines”; advocates “eco-cosmopolitanism,” “an attempt to envision individuals and groups as par of planetary ‘imagined communities’ of both human and nonhuman kinds”; ostensible anthropocentric center extended throughout global networks (15-16).
not just that everything is interconnected but that humans are the very stuff of the material, emergent world….self-knowledge…extends into the constitution of our coextensive environments…toxic bodies (20)
* Karen Barad: things (“relata”) do not precede their intra-actions, but emerge through them (21)
* Steingraber on the “precautionary principle”: practical, commonsensical procedural map…dramatizes…how our scientific understanding of unpredictable material agencies will never be sufficient to protect us (21-22)
chapters on working-class bodies and the environment (Meridel LeSueur and Muriel Rukeyser); on the science of environmental justice (Ana Castillo, Simon Ortiz, Percival Everett’s novel Watershed); on a new genre of autobiography, “material memoirs” of Audre Lorde, Candida Lawrence, Zillah Eisenstein, Susanne Antonnetta, Sandra Steingraber—re: sense of selfhood profoundly transformed by recognition of interrelation w/ vast, unmappable, not understandable biological, economic, industrial systems, “counter-memory” mixing objective sci-knowledge w/ subjective autobio rumination; self-knowledge demands scientific understanding of vast, coextensive materiality(23-24); on multiple chemical sensitivity, or environmental illness-> body as scientific instrument: what happens if I go there, breathe this, touch that?--> uncontrollable, unpredictable interactions; on science fiction that denies human separation from materiality: Greg Bear’s Darwin series: inhabition (what is supposed to be outside is in)
Alaimo, Stacy. Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space.
Cornell University Press, 2000.
impermeable formulation of woman as nature, w/ “natural” inferior role
@ heart of misogynist ideologies—a construct of culture (per Ortner)
purging feminism of essentialism has meant flight from nature,
in rigid opposition to culture, and marginalization of ecofeminism
potential to challenge constitution of both woman and nature,
refuse Cartesian modesl for situated theorizing, grounded immersion
* Diana Fuss: current impasse in feminism predicated on difficulty
of theorizing the social in relation to the natural
nature acts in ways that jostle its discursive construction: an actor
* Val Plumwood: reconceive ourselves as more animal, embodied, ‘natural,’
and nature as more mindlike
I. Feminist Landscapes: Indians and Colonial space,
Sarah Orne Jewett and Mary Wilkins,
Mary Austin and Progressive Women Conservationists
II. Nature as Political Space: Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth--
nature as exteriority, space for other cultural possibilities
reproduction as nat’l disaster (& abortion as “unnatural”)
III. Feminism, Postmodernism, Environmentalism
postmodern natures in contemporary feminist fiction
cyborgs, whale tails and domestication of environmentalism
Alaimo, Stacy and Susan Hekman, Eds. Material Feminisms. Indiana University Press, 2008.
* Karen Barad has argued that we must “construct a ballast” against the tendency in feminism to define theory as unconstrained play…and grapple w/ materiality (6).
central topic of agency (7)
* Catriona Sandilands, The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy (radical project making space for nature in politics, as enigmatic, active Other, conversations in which nonhuman nature can participate)
* Susan Hekman on replacing language as constituting reality to disclosing it: retain material world w/ social ontology of the subject (identity both material and social)
* Elizabeth Wilson on the talking cure as organic, microbiological (mind=matter)
Allison, Rachel Hope. I Am Not A Plastic Bag: A Story of the Pacific Garbage Island. Author, 2009. (graphic story re: sense of loneliness and danger, as trash becomes something new in remote part of the world…)
Baumgarten, Lothar. “The Origin of the Night: Amazon Cosmos (1973-1977).
Beck, Ulrich."The Cosmopolitan Manifesto." The New Statesman. March 20, 1998.
a basis for a world citizenship places globality @ the heart of political imagination, action and organization
Brin, David. Earth. 1990.
Huge sci-fi novel set in 2038: an artificially created black hole has been lost in the Earth's interior;
large cast of characters; attempts to recover it before it destroys the planet.....
Brunner, John. Stand on Zanzibar. 1968; rpt. Cambridge, MA: Robert Bentley, 1979.
"A point of view can be a dangerous luxury....He is setting up a mosaic configuration or galaxy for insight...."
Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower. New York: Warner Books, 1993.
"A sower went out to sow his seed...
We are Earthseed/The life that perceives itself/Changing."
Callenbach, Ernest. Ecotopia. 1975; rpt. Berkeley: Heyday, 2004.
ECO- from the Greek oikos (household or home)
-TOPIA from the Greek topos (place)
In nature, no organic substance is synthesized unless there is provision for its degradation; recycling is enforced. Barry Commoner.
People seem to be very loose and playful with each other, as if they had endless time on their hands to explore whatever possibilities might come up….there’s an awful lot of strong emotion, willfully expressed! (10).
We…must acknowledge all costs. Otherwise we could not hope to achieve the stable-state life systems which are our fundamental ecological and political goal (18).
…what matters most is the aspiration to live in balance with nature, “walk lightly on the land,” treat the earth as mother. No surprise that to such a morality most industrial processes, work schedules, and products are suspect! Who would use an earth-mover on his own mother? (29)
Ecotopians…have a secure sense of themselves as animals….they lie about utterly relaxed….almost like a bunch of cats. They….just seem to enjoy their bodies tremendously….I find myself envying them this comfortableness in their biological beings (30).
“Our system meanders on its peaceful way…like a meadow in the sun. There’s a lot of change going on….But the meadow sustains itself on a steady-state basis--unless men come along and mess it up (31).
“…we try to arrange it so we are not lonely very often. That keeps us from making a lot of emotional mistakes. We don’t think commitment is something you go off and do by yourselves...It has to have a structure, social surroundings you can rely on Human beings…need lots of contact” (32).
What was at stake…was nothing less than the revision of the Protestant work ethic…the profoundest implications of the decreased work week were philosophical and ecological: mankind…was not meant for production….humans were meant to take their modest place in a seamless, stable-state web of living organisms, disturbing that web as little as possible….The deadly novelty…was..that economic disaster was not identical with survival disaster for persons….a catastropic decline in the GNP (which was…largely composed of wasteful activity anyway) might prove politically useful. (43-44).
Cage, John. "Overpopulation and Art." Composed in America. Ed. Marjorie Perloff and Charles Junkerman. The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
abOut 1948 or 50 the number of people
all at oncE
equaled the numbeR who had ever lived at any time all added together
the Present as far as numbers
became equal to the Past
we are now in the fUture.....
are iN the minority
they are outnumbereD by us who're living
whAt does this do to
way of communicaTing....
are not Various
of noUrishing food
the deLivery of it to
Or just desired
the providiNg of shelter
wherever it is neeDed
these pRoblems in common
we can solve Them all best
of the diVision
into 153 seParate powers
the planet has becOme
a single Person....
Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Prologue: In Medias Res:
"The Imam and the Indian," an autobiographical tale by Amitav Ghosh, is a parable for many problems I grapple with in this book. It tells of the encounter between an ethnographic fieldworker and some disconcerting inhabitants of an Egyptian village.
"When I first came to that quiet corner of the Nile Delta I had expected to find on that most ancient and most settled of soils a settled and restful people. I couldn't have been more wrong. The men of the village had all the busy restlessness of airline passengers ina transit lounge. Many of them had worked and traveled in the shiekdoms of the Persian Gulf, others had been in Libya and Jordan and Syria, some had been to the Yemen as soldiers, others to Saudi Arabia as pilgrims, a few had visited Europe: some of them had passprots so thick they opened out like ink-blackened concertinas....
And none of this was new: their grandparents and ancestors and relatives had travelled and migrated too, in much the same way as mine had, in the Indian subcontinent--because of wars, or for money and jobs, or perhaps simply because they got tired of living always in one place....The waderlust of its founders had been ploughed into the soil of the village: itseemed to me sometimes that every man in it was a traveler...."
Everyone's on the move and has been for centuries; dwelling-in-travel.
Routes begins with this assumption of movement....The general topic...is a view of humn location as constituted by displacement as much as by stasis....[In] many common assumptions about culture...authentic social existence is...centered in circumscribed places....Dwelling was understood to be the local ground of collective life, travel a supplemt; roots always precede routes. But...practices of displacement might emerge as constitutive of cultural meanings....Intercultural connection...has long been the norm....dwelling demands explication. Why, with what degrees of freedom, so people stay home?
Cronin, William. “A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative." The Journal of American History (March 1992). 1347-1376:
...interested me in particular because of something that emerged when david, jody and i spoke this week: she described wanting to help her students to see complexification, while he is interested in teaching acts of simplification. cronin describes stories as acts of simplification--these are, inherently, acts of valuing (the other keyword david's supplied to this conversation)--which we cannot but engage in, and cannot but beware of (=aware of alternative stories, alternative values). cronin says, in part (she said, simplifying!):
"causal sequences--stories…order and simplify…events to give them new meanings….narrative is the chief literary form that tries to find meaning in an overwhelmingly crowded and disordered chronological reality. When we choose a plot to order our environmental histories, we give them a unity that neither nature nor the past possesses so clearly. In so doing, we move well beyond nature into the intensely human realm of value.
By writing stories about environmental change, we divide the causal relationships of an ecosystem with a rhetorical razor that defines included and excluded, relevant and irrelevant, empowered and disempowered. In the act of separating story from non-story, we wield the most powerful yet dangerous tool of the narrative form….the very authority with which narrative presents its vision of reality is achieved by obscuring large portions of that reality. Narrative succeeds to the extent that it hides the discontinuities, ellipses, and contradictory experiences that would undermine the intended meaning of its story. Whatever its overt purpose, it cannot avoid a covert exercise of power: it inevitably sanctions some voices while silencing others…. narrative poses particularly difficult problems for environmental historians, for whom the boundary between the artificial and the natural is the very thing we most wish to study….
our historical narratives, even those about the nonhuman world, remain focused on a human struggle over values. It is because we care about the consequences of actions that narratives-unlike most natural processes-have beginnings, middles, and ends….To try to escape the value judgments that accompany storytelling is to miss the point of history itself, for the stories we tell, like the questions we ask, are all finally about value. So it is with questions that I will end:
What do people care most about in the world they inhabit?
How do they use and assign meaning to that world?
How does the earth respond to their actions and desires?
What sort of communities do people, plants, and animals create together?
How do people struggle with each other for control of the earth, its creatures, and its meanings?
And on the grandest scale: what is the mutual fate of humanity and the earth?
Good questions all, and starting points for many a story ...."
Cronin’s essay was also of particular interest to me because of the way it rubs up against a text I often use for teaching, Paula Gunn Allen’s "Three Approaches to Interpreting a Keres Indian Tale," which argues (conversely) that “traditional peoples perceive their world in a unified-field fashion that is far from the single-focus perception that generally characterizes Western masculinist monotheistic modes of perception.” Allen highlights a
• tribal habit of mind toward equilibrium of all factors
• even distribution of value among all elements in a field
• no single element foregrounded...no heroes, no villains
• no chorus, no "setting"...no minor characters...
• foreground slips along from one focal point to another until all the pertinent elements in the ritual conversation have had their say...
• focus of the action shifts...there is no "point of view"....
Discussing “perceptual modes...more resemblant of open-field perception than of foreground-background perceptions,” Allen argues that they are exemplified in "women's traditional occupations...more often circular than linear, more synchronistic than chronological, and more dependent upon harmonious relationships of all elements within a field of perception...The patchwork quilt is the best material example...of the plot and process of a traditional tribal narrative...."
Davis, Mike.Chapter 17: "Dead Cities: A Natural History." Dead Cities and Other Tales (New York: New Press, 2002).
From sometime in the nineteenth century, the larger share of energy under the control of the human race has been devoted to the construction and maintenance of its urban habitats. Agriculture…is now secondary to the immense, literally “geological” drama of urbanization….there have always been compelling reasons to worry about the “sustainability” of big cities. The ability of a city’s physical structure or organize and encode a stable social order depends on its capacity to master and manipulate nature. But…nature is constantly straining against its chains: probing for weak points, cracks, faults, even a speck of rust….natural energies are capable of opening breaches that quickly unravel the cultural order. Cities, accordingly, cannot afford to let flora or fauna, wind or water, run wild. Environmental control demands continuous investment and systematic maintenance….
fundamental interfaces with nature…are usually in disequilibrium. Environmental crisis is synonymous with expanding metropolitan scale…..Increasingly infrastructural complexity…simply multiplies the critical nodes where catastrophic systems failure is possible…..The traditional natural condition of urbanization—the domination of a single large riverine watershed—has been transformed by the megalopolis into environmental imperialism of subcontinental scope….The most urgent need…is for large-scale conceptual templates for understanding the city-nature dialectic…..What is “underlying” urban nature without human control? Would the city be gradually (or catastrophically) reclaimed by its “original” ecology….? “Dead cities”… might tell us much about the dynamics of urban nature….The strategic bombing of Europe and Japan during the Second World War, for example, inadvertently created numerous experimental stations for observing urban nature set free….War…was the catalyst for the rapid expansion of previously rare alien species…resulting in the creation of a new urban flora….the foundation for “ruderal ecology”: the scientific study of urban margins and abandoned land. Likewise, the destruction of US central city neighborhoods in the 1970s…produced eerily similar ruins….time-lapse studies…are a unique archive for understanding dereliction as landscape process….population ecology and mathematical epidemiology…[are] a rich model of interdisciplinary urban science, and a warning about how little we still understand about the nonlinear dimensions of urban ecology.
Devi, Mahasweta. Imaginary Maps. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. New York: Routledge, 1995.
"For all the indigeous peoples of the world."
The Author in Conversation:
History and fact first.
The tribal population of India is about one-sixth of the total population fo the country...India belonged to these tribals long before the incursions of the Aryan-speaking peoples. The Ramayana...seems to contian evidence of how they were oppressed, evicted from their homeland, and then forced to occupy the lower reaches of the mainstream culture. Bits of their old culture can still be glimpsed....
The modern tribal does not know the word "orphan," because it is their communal obligation to bring up a child....They had no sense of property. There was communal land holding because...they...believed that land and forest and river belong to everyone....
So "Pterodactyl" wants to show what has been done to the entire tribal world of India....it was like a continent. We did not try to know it....what potential has survived in them through all these centuries....In their blood there is so much patience, it is like nature. Patience of the hills, of the rivers, the tribal contains everything....
The pterodactyl is prehistoric. Modern man...does not know anything about it. There is no point of communication with the pterodactyl. The pterodactyl cannot say what message it has brought....
Our double task is to resist "development" acively and to learn to love.
when we engage profoundly with one person, the responses come from both sides: this is responsibility and accountability. We also know that in such engagements we want to reveal and reveal, conceal nothing. Yet on both sides there is always a sense that something has not got across....In this sense the effort of "ethical singularity" may be called a "secret encoutner"....this encounter can only happen when the respondents inhabit something like normality....This is why ethics is the experience of the impossible...For a collective struggle supplemented by the impossiblity of full ethical engagement...in this..sense of the impossiblity of "love" in the one-on-one way for each human being--the future is always around the corner....
When the subaltern "speaks"...and gets into the structure of responsible (responding and being responded to ) resistance, he or she is or is on the way to becoming an organic intellectual....
"Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha," pp. 95-196:
What does it want to tell? We are extinct by the inevitable natural geological evolution. You too are endangered. You too will become extinct....The collective being of the ancient nations is crushed. Like nature, like the sustaining earth....Have you come up from the past to warn us...it is a crime to take away the forest and make the forest-dwelling peoples naked and endangered?....It wants to say something, to give some news, Puran does not understand. No point of communication. Nothing can be said or written (57-158).
"If read carefully," Mahasweta says in conversation, "'Pterodactyl' will communicate the agony of the tribals...."[Mahasweta] leaves too much unsaid. Not everyone can understand her point of view"....the colloquial language takes away the project of an intellectual....What Mahasweta asks for is [attention, concentration] on our part, of the First Nation....an attentive reading of her texts permits us to imagine an...undivided world....such a permission can be earned only by way of attention to the specificity of these writings....I have...attempted to open...remote and secrete encouters with singular figures; to bear witnes to the specificity....
the stories in this volume are not only linked by the common thread of profound ecological loss, the loss of the forest as foundation of life, but also of the complicity...of the power lines of local developers with the forces of global capital....
large-scale mind change is hardly every possible on grounds of reason alone....What we are dreaming of here is...how to construct a sense of sacred Nature which can help mobilize a general ecological mind-set beyond the reasonable and self-interested grounds of long-term global survival.
The pterodactyl is not only the ungraspable other but also the ghost of the ancestors that haunts our present and our future. We must learn "love" (a simple name for ethical responsibility-in-singualrity), as Puran does in "Pterodactyl," in view of the impossibility of communication...
the inter-nationality of ecologiical justice...cannot be reached by invoking any of the so-called 'great" religions of the world, because the history of their "greatness" is too deeply imbricated in the narrative of the ebb-and-fow of power....we must learn to learn from the original practical ecological philosophers of the world, through the slow, attentive, mind-changing (on both sides), ethical singularity that deserves the name of "ove"...this relationship, a witnessing love and a supplementing collective struggle, is the relationship between..."literary" writing and...."activism"....One filling the other's gap....
Inside the frame is a story of funeral rites....For the modern tribal Indian the pterodactyl is the soul of the ancestors....This burial...situated in a community of longing....Puran...steps away from the narrative of this tale, but into action within the post-colonila new nation. "A truck comes by. Puran raises his hand, steps up."
Dixon, Terrell F, Ed. City Wilds: Essays and Stories about Urban Nature. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2002.
Introduction: Gary Snyder observes that "wildness" is not limited to the 2 percent of U.S .territory that has been set aside as formal wilderness areas. "Shifting scales," he argues, "it is everywhere....deer mice on the back porch, deer bounding across the freeway, pigeons in the park, spiders in the corners...."
urban nature has figured most often as an...oxymoron...discussions about urban nature have most often had a narrow focus on human health....We continue to act as if...urban ills can be seen as existing apart from our disregard of urban nature (xi).
the dominant tradition in American nature writing...inherited a distatste fo thte city from European romanticism....attempts to improve our cities...do not..counter the traditional belief that real nature stops at the city limits sign....Urban land has monetary value...the pressure to commodiy and develop any "empty," i.e., natural, space also grows (xii).
With more than 80 percent of Americans now living in cities, it has become increasingly clear that any viable future environmentalism will need to be fostered within urban areas....our cities are place-based....the varied locals...not only shape them differently but also provide different kinds of weather, flora, and fauna (xiii).
urban nature is more broadly accessible than rural nature and wilderness areas...and often exists on a much smaller scale....urban nature writing also seems to generate humor and comic awareness more frequently than its wilderness coutnerparts....there is also often less focus on the new and more focus on...repeated acquaintance and familiarity....The emphasis is less on self-reliance...there is instead often an awareness of mutuality and interdependence. Solitude is also a less common feature....urban nature...connects to a sense of community such a working with neighbors in a community garden (xiv).
* Cisneros, Sandra, “The Monkey Garden,” The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage, 1989. pp.94-98 (rpted pp. 164-167).
the garden began to take over itself...Things had a way of disappearing in the garden
….we went there. far away from where our mothers could find us....
We liked to think the garden could hide things for a thousand years....
I wanted to be dead, to turn into the rain, my eyes melt into the ground like two black snails.
The garden that had been such a good place to play didn’t seem mine either.
* Deming, Alison Hawthorne, "Claiming the Yard":
A yard, anywhere, is an expression of one's relationship with nature, a curious border zone between the wild and the domestic in which we invite nature to come close, but not too close. Nature does not belong in he house. We buy chemical products to keep our space clear of fungi, molds, bacilli, mites, and fleas. Plants can come inside, if they are content to live in pots. We seal basement windows and crawl spaces....And, when a crusty cockroach or lacy newt crawls out of the drain into our kitchen sink, we are shocked at its lack of respect of the border we've drawn. The shaping and ordering of the yard is a warning to nature: here dwells human will (p. 246).
I'm among the first to claim our species would be better off if we had a closer relationship with nature--one of understanding rather than exploitation. But...there are limits to the claim. We may need to be close to the sustaining power of the land...But we need also to distance ourselves from nature--from the random forces that would wreck our health and homes; from the microbial upstarts that would colonize our blood; and from certain tendencies of mind, which are only natural, such as the lust for killing....Indeed it seems that the three things most troubling to us--violence, sex, and death--all speak of our (248)
struggle with our animal nature. Our relationship with nature, both inside our bodies and outside in our yards, is as complicated as our intimate tangles with one another. I guess that's why we like to tame nature by thinking of it as something out there that we can vist on the weekend to improve our frame of mind.
Time to cut back the overgrowth again, to stake my claim for order and beauty against the chaos of nature's profusion. While I'm out there whacking and hoeing, puling up and pruning, cutting down one plant so another will thrive, I'll remember how good that work feels. I get a little crazy when my hands are out of dirt for too long, like my house cats, who climb the windows and walls if I don't let them out to do some killing (249).
* Pyle, Robert Michael, "The Extinction of Experience":
Protection almost always focuses on rarity as the criterion for attention...[but] local extinctions matter....the loss of neighborhood species endangers our experience of nature....one of the greatest causes of the ecological crisis is the state of personal alienation from nature in which many people live (261).
When streams are rescued from the storm drains, they are said (delightfully) to be "daylighted" (263).
But nature reserves and formal greenways...invite a measured, restricted kind of contact....There need to be places that are not kid-proofed, where children can do damage....we all need spots near home where we can wander off...where no interpretive signs intrude....For these purposes, nothing serves better than the hand-me-down habitats that lie somewhere between formal protection and development. Throwaway landscapes...the "unofficial countryside"...those ignominious, degraded, forgotten places that we have discarded, which serve nonetheless as habitats for a broad array of adaptable plants and animals...the secondhand lands....Organisms inhabiting such Cinderella sites are surprisingly varied, interesting, and numerous. They are the survivors, the colonizers, the generalists--the so-called weedy species...What, to a curious kid, is less vacant than a vacant lot? Less wasted than waste ground? (264).
If the penalty of an ecological education is to live in a world of wounds, as Also Leopold said, then green spaces like these are the bandages and the balm. And if the penalty of ecological ignorance is still more wounds, then the unschooled need them even more (267).
* Wicinas, David, "The Dark Constable":
I have always loved a natural disaser...the world spins on, unhindered by human delusions (274).
In olden days the owl was sometimes dubbed "the constable from the dark land" because...it called for souls (275).
...when it comes to Nature, I don't set hte agenda...The Earth has just told me, "I am not your therapist."
Natue isn't here t help us or to hinder us. Natue just is.
Thinking Nature can heal me probably shows as much folly on my part as the structural engineer who proclaims a building to be "earthquake safe"....ultimately we are merely tenants on this planet...Nature is not here to serve us. The system spins along with a momentum far beyond human...consciousness (276).
* Dick, Leslie, "Nature Near":
The Strathmore apartments of Richard Neutra were very beautiful....But the desert dweller had been in her bathroom, it was in her house....(278, 285).
Neutra believed in undoing the architectural dichotomy between inside and outside. He thought the home and the garden should interpenetrate, he thought nature should be near, nature should enter the domestic space.
Nature entered with a vengeance, rupturing the surface of her body, learing a gaping wound, an opening to the outside. The damage ot her body was catastrophic....She understood the dark logic of Los Angeles architecture, its misleading, deceptive promise of sunshine and health. Earthquakes and the desert: Natura's houses are flexible, they give when there's a quake....She understood Los Angeles: under the surface it was malevolent desert and terrifying earthquakes, it was lethal. She understood it in a way she wouldn't have without the gift of the Neutra house, the dark secret of the brown recluse (286).
Eggener, Keith. Cemeteries. Reviewed in Our First Public Parks: The Forgotten History of Cemeteries The Atlantic (March 16, 2011).
Gelobter, Michael, et.al. The Soul of Environmentalism: Rediscovering Transformational Politics in the 21st Century (n.d.):
argues that civil Rights and environmentalism share a common lineage and (could share) a common orientation:
"Writ large, the soul of environmentalism shares with the Civil Rights Movement and many others one central characteristic: empathy. Empathy is what makes us reach out when we see a wounded bird. It is what calls to us when a child suffers from poverty or asthma. It is how we know our children will miss the snow when the latitudes of climate change have passed us by.
Empathy is also the central component of every point in the short list of big solutions. It is a central component in moving our country away from destructive individualism and toward a regenerative idea of community. It is a big part of what
winning means to progressives.
Finally, political empathy is an action, not an emotion. It is expressed in building coalitions....It means seeking and speaking the truth, not denying one’s troubled ancestry. Empathy is about whom you spend your days talking and walking with. It is how, in Martin Luther King’s words, we reach the Mountaintop."
Glotfelty, Cheryll and Harold Fromm, Eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1996.
* Campbell, SueEllen. "The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet."124-136.
...the most comprehensive and most important shared premise of post-structuralist and ecological theory. Both criticize the traditional sense of a separate, independent, authoritative center of value or meaning; both substitute the idea of networks.
One often-cited source for this idea is the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Suassure, who argued that meaning in language is created by relationship (by similarity, continguity, difference, and so on), rather than by a direct connection between a word and what it means. Theory takes this argument and broadens it to apply to all kinds of structures and meanngs....the concept of intertexuality also depends on the sense of networks....no text contains all of its own meaning.
With the questioning of stable centers in physics, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and literary criticism, not surprisingly, we also find theory re-examining the idea of the human being as a coherent and self-contained self....Here Frued is important...and Marx...and the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan....
In ecology, the replacement of centers with networks is closely connected with...the complicity of the human observer...As Arne Naess says, "Organisms are knots in the biospherical net or field of intrinsic relations"....
Perhaps the most important idea that follows from this premise is that human beings are no longer the center of value or meaning...."From the biosphere's perspective, the whole point of Homo sapiens is their armpits, aswarm with 24.1 billion bacteria"...
...ecology insist that we pay attention not to the way things have meaning for us, but to the way the rest of the world--the nonhuman part--exists apart from us and our languages. It's central to this insistence that we remember..."that the world is much greater and older than normal human perception of it....that the human is a participant as well as a perceiver in the ancient continuum of bears and forests." The systems of meaning that matter are ecosystems....
theory is right...that what we are depends on all kinds of influences outside ourselves, that we are part of vast networks, texts written by larger and stronger forces. But surely one of the most important of these forces is the rest of the natural world....
According to theory...we begin to experience ourselves as separate...from our mothers' bodies..at the moment we enter into the network of language....At the core of our sense of self, then, is our feeling of loss.and the desire for unity that is born of loss....Ecologists also see an experience of lost unity and a desire to regain it as central to our human nature. They are more likely, though, to see it as coming from our separation from the natural world....Desire, for ecology, goes beyond the human.
....theory helps me to step back from myself, to think about desire...But it is in nature writing--perhaps almost as much as in the wilderness itself--that I learn to recognize the shape and force of my own desire to be at home on the earth.
* Slovic, Scott. "Nature Writing and Environmental Psychology: The Interiority of Outdoor Experience." 351-370.
"'...to write about nature is to write about how the mind sees nature, and sometimes about how the mind sees itself'....[nature writers] are students of the human mind, literary psychologists. And their chief preoccupation...is with the psychological phenomenon of 'awareness'....By confronting 'face to face' the separate realm of nature, by becoming aware of its 'otherness,' the writer implicitly becomes more deeply aware of his or her own dimensions and limitations of form and understanding, and processes of grappling with the unknown....The facile sense of harmony, even identity, with one's csurroundings....would fail to produce self-awarenss of any depth of vividness. It is only by testing the boundaries of self against an outside medium....that many nature writers manage ro realize who they are and what's what in the world....Geoffrey Hartman [says]..."'The elemnet of obscurity, related to nature's self-concealment, is necessary to the soul's cpacity for growth, for it vexes the latter toward self-dependence'....the very mysteriousness of nature contributes to the independence and ,presumably, the self-awareness of the observer....One of the major issues of [Thoreau's Journal]...is whether there is...a 'correspondence' between the inner self and the outer world, between the mind and nature....Although we may generally feel certainty when we perceive external reality, we are actually making...'best guesses'.....[some nature writers] tend to place special emphasis on the startling, sometimes ever desperate, unpredictability of the natural world.....'If we are to devise an enlightened plan for human activity...we need a more particularized understanding of the land itself....The goal of the writer...is to nourish the reader's awareness of the world'....awareness is a condition which helps us to act responsibly and respectfully....elevation of consciousness may lead to wholesome political change...but literature is also concerned...with interior landscapes, with the mind itself."
Gowdy, Barbara. The White Bone. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1998.
narrated from the perspective of elephants (who are very human, in naming one another, etc.)
"The Links may well be infinite" (visionary sees he can't see them all...)
Guha, Ramchandra. Environmentalism: A Global History. New York: Longman, 2000.
"...in India I had imagined environmentalism to be principally a question of social justice, of allowing the poor to have as much claim on the fruits of nature as the powerful. But ...the United States...shifted attention away from humans towards the rights of plants, animals and wild habitats" (x).
"Back-to-the-land, scientific conservation and the wilderness idea constitute three generic modes of envionmentalism" (6).
"....industrialization as the generator of environmentalism" (7).
"Deep Ecologists'...critics accuse it of misanthropy and of a peculiar blindness of its own, which ignores environmental degradaiton outside the wild and the human suffering that is its consequence. Deep Ecologists are charged...for ignoring the problems of social inequality....The critics of Deep Ecology draw attention to...the environmental justice movement. Where the nerve-centers of Deep Ecology are in the wild, environmental justice is firmly rooted in human habitations" (87).
Guha, Ramachandra. “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique." Environmental Ethics 11 (1989): 71-83.
Handke, Peter. The Weight of the World. Trans. Ralph Manheim (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979, 1984):
Nature in the city: at least it doesn't luxuriate (Austria: luxuriant nature); here the main nature (and nature enough) is the sky (202).
Haupt, Lyana Lynn. Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
Crows and Kairos:
We all experience such times--don't we?--when our guarded separateness breaks down....my ongoing education in the close-to-home wild....such work does not have to be dour...or accomplihsed only out of morla imperative...or fear....Our actions can rise instead from a sense of rootedness, connectedness, creativity, and delight. But how are we to attain such intimacy, living at a remove from "nature," as most of us do...?...pay loving attention to the places we live, to understand their intricate net of connecitons with the wider earth....wilderness experiences are both restorative and essential....But...it is in our everyday lives...that we eat, consume energy, run the faucet, compost, flush, learn and live. It is here, in our lives, that we must come to know our essential connection to the wilder earth, because it is here, in the activity of our daily lives that we most surely affect this earth....no matter where we dwell, or how, our lives are implicted in, and informed by, all of wilder life.....The spread of human-made habitations...has pressed humans an dcrows into unprecedented nearness.....The conspicuous presence of a native wild animal...can lend a great deal to our biological education.....Crows are wild beings in our midst, evn as they point to the wildness that we cannot see and have lost....
1) Getting Up: A Reluctant Crow Watcher
there is no place...that humans have left untouched; and there is no place that the wild does not, in some samll way, proclaim itself....We are, at all times, both at once.
2) Preparing: A Crash Course for the Urban Naturalist
I want to cocreate and inhabit a nation of watchers, of naturalists-in-progress...all sharing in the effort of watching, knowing, understanding, protecting, and living well alongside the wild life with whom we share...our earth.
3) Reading: Crow Stories and Animal Alphabets
4) Walking: The Wildness of Home
if we want to know the earth....walking is a necessary practice.
5) Dwelling: How We Nest
6) Helping: An Uncertain Grace
7) Seeing: The Monk, the Professor, and the Sense of Wonder
8) Coexisting: Finding our Place in the Zoopolis
9) Dying: Crows of Death and Life
10) Flying: Wings, Reality, Hope
Herman, David, James Phelan, Peter Rabinowitz , Brian Richardson and Robyn Warhol.
Narrative Theory: Core Concepts and Critical Debates. Ohio State University, 2012.
Preface re: four distinct theoretical perspectives:
rhetorical, feminist, mind-oriented, and antimimetic
(calling for an “unnatural” narratology!)
the rhetorical approach is profoundly pragmatic;
it sees narrative as a multilevel, purposive communication;
the feminist approach challenges the formalist one; it is intersectional, sees texts as linked to the material circumstances w/in which they are produced/received, is explicitly political in its focus on difference
exploring the nexus of narrative and mind means focusing on narrative world-making as the root function of storytelling
antimimetic, unnatural and postmodern narrative theory turns away from the realistic tradition of reproducing the conditions of lived experience, to texts that play with, exaggerate, or parody those conventions, problematize the ontological status of the narrative, flaunt its artificiality
Hoff, Derek. The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policy Making in U.S. History (2012).
Hogan, Linda. Power. New York: Norton, 1998.
I wonder why it is the animals and birds show us an mercy at all, why I have ever felt safe from them. I wonder, too, why they stay near or help us….the animals used to help the humans…they would teach them the plants that were healing, sing songs for them to learn….would show the people the way to renew the broken world (28-29).
I hear only the roaring voice of the storm. All nature is against us. It falls down on us. It throws itself at us. And I say, “God!” calling out to what has never heard me before, because through the dark air of this storm, [the ancient tree] Methuselah falls and I hear nothing but only see that what has lasted this long is being taken down now as if it were nothing, as if it had never been anything that counted. This tree planted by the Spanish, conceived on another continent….And then, after what seems like days, after the muddy, racing water, after the roaring voice of the storm has spoken, passed judgment, it turns and runs away, the wind lets up and the ground breathes a sigh of relief that the storm is ending….(37-38).
I feel watched. By nature, I think now. It’s what I felt watching me, all along. It knows us. It watches us. The animals have eyes that see us. The birds, the trees, everything knows what we do (59).
One moment I think she is a stranger…I don’t know her anymore. She is a stranger to her own self, too….Then we are again in the thick trees, in deep, ragged cover, fireflies clustered in the brush and the blackness. Their lights are beautiful and summoning, calling us forward into near silence, into what looks like a starred universe in movement that is not orderly (61).
What once seemed solid looks like nothing more than broken toothpicks. Human creations don’t hold a candle to wind. That’s how I now something is greater than human will. …I feel better seeing how small we are. I makes me think that all our crimes against the world will be undone in just one rage of wind or flood (99-100).
it seemed the world was turned over…the world does things on its own. It kills them…Every last thing. It creates destruction so that it can go on….the very earth had slipped on its side (126).
Their lives are too narrow and brief for her…She has rarely been in the bleached and tamed confines of their world…. I think of everything I have learned so far in my life. I’ve learned time, history, division and subtraction, sentences and documents that were lies. That I have learned the wrong things settles down beside me and I want to weep. I think of the direction of the past. The records and histories that dwell in roads made of fossils. The past is distinct here. It has left traces everywhere. It’s beneath us, a shadow, and its direction leads down…with the unwatched beginnings of life. What do these people call life and what can I tell them…that in the swamps that surround them, their houses, their children, an older world exists…? (130-131).
…one day Ama said to me, “See this earth here, this ground here? See those flat yellow rocks? Those are teeth of a larger thing. We live in the mouth of something,” she said, “I don’t know what it is. All I know is we’re small as weevils” (135-136).
Story, I think. It’s all any of them want, the court, my friends, as if there’s a part in it they need or have to have (147).
Back in the days of the first people, the beginning of the wind was the first breathing of one of the turbulent Gods, they say. This God’s name was Oni….Oni, first and foremost, is the word for wind and air. It is a power every bit as strong as gravity as strong as a sun you can’t look at but know is there. It tells a story. Through air, words and voices are carried. Usually, it is invisible. Only today I can see it. It is moving shadows. Its hands are laid down on every living thing….In the presence of air, every living thing is moved…it is everywhere at once…It is a breathing, ceaseless God, a power known and watched over….it passes through us, breathed and spoken and immortal. It is what brings us to life…Because of this, there is no such thing as emptiness in our world, only the fullness of the unseen. It is the sea of creation we live inside (178).
…the laws of nature were in place from the beginning of earth, before the first breathing and stirring of people….There were certain powers, customs, and ways that humans were meant to live by. There was an order…a mystery of how every single thing worked together with the rest, merged and fitted like it was all one great body….Rules obeyed even by stars and sun….our every act, word, and thought is of great significance in the round shape of this world and there are consequences for each….we do not have the right to live in any way we desire; our ways was made for us out of clay (183).
Ama…believes….that animals are the pathway between humans and gods. They are one step closer to the true than we are. She says skin was never a boundary to be kept or held to; there are no limits between one thing and another, one time and another. The old stories live in the present….For Ama the other world is visible. It lives beside us in trees and stones…time is not a straight line (188-189).
it must be hard for [Mama] to bear, that I am becoming so fully another person, that my skin, made of her skin, is a boundary that closes her out and now she wants in (211).
All along I’ve lived in their world with order and cleanliness and the many other instruments of despair…And now I want no share in it. I have just been born (212).
Ama calls it time sickness, a disease of this time and world. Everyone missing life in their hurrying. But maybe the world exists in layers and all time is here at once (215).
It is true that I’m an unknown. Like in algebra, I am the x to be determined in the formula, and I…wish…that I’d only imagined all of the things that have happened…lives lived to the precise line of what a person is supposed to do (216-217).
…this earth, the swamp, it’s the same thing as grace, full of …intelligent souls….I am stronger in nature. There is something alive here and generous….A presence, peaceful and strong. Naked and revealing….I’ve lived a narrow life so far, I’ve lived by fear and the loss of what was beautiful and strong. But at the end of the road is a different story (231).
hooks, bell. Belonging: A Culture of Place. New York: Routledge, 2008:
my daughter Marian recommended this to me, and I think it will be perfect for this course...
much here resonates for me, growing up in the South....
Kentucky hills...represent the place of promise and possiblity and the location of all my terrors (6).
in the Kentucky hills...the demarcations of race, class, and gender did not matter. What mattered was the line separating country and city--nature mattered....Folks living in the Kentucy hills prized independence and self-reliance above all traits...my early sense of identity was sharped by the anarchic life of the hills....Nature was the place where one could escape the world of man made constructions of race and identity (7).
...all of nature could be life giving but it could also threaten and take life, hence the need for respect for the power of one's natural habitat (46).
The Kentucky hills...were a location of possibility. Folk who lived there could make their own rules. In that space apart, laws could be broken and boundaries could be transgressed....When I returned to Kentucky...my six siblings...expressed fear about living in the hills, fear of the poor white folks who live nearby (55).
In my child mind rural life was synonymous with belonging in nature, freedom, adventure, safety; city life was about containment, restricted movement, an overdevleoped dangerous landscape. The fearlessness and awe I expererienced as child belonging in nature imbued me with a power and confidence I soon lost in the city where I felt invisible, powerless, and lost (63).
Wendell Berry defines..."an ecological intelligence: a sense of the impossibility of acting or living alone...this rests in turn upon a sense of the order upon which any life depends and of the proprieties of place within that order" (65).
Theorizing diverse journeying is crucial to our understanding of any politics of location (100).
Humankind, no matter how powerful, cannot take away the rights of the earth. Ultimately, nature rules. That is the great democratic gift earth offers us...No race, no class, no gender, nothing can keep any of us from dying into that death where we are made one. To tend the earth is always then to tend our destiny, our freedom and our hope (117).
love guides you to stand for justice (188).
My Daddy Jerry, my paternal grandfather, as he plowed with his mule would say: "you see that sun--the white man can't make it rise--no man can make it rise--man ain't everything." Daddy Jerry knew that there were limits to white power and to human power (195).
Significantly, it cannot be stated enough, that the sense of oneness with nature which offered a transcendental sense of life wherein humans were simply small part of the hoistic picture helped agrarian black folk put notions of race and racial superiority in perspective...black folks did not think that whitness was all powerful (207).
Films like Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust and John Sayles' American Beach call attention to black engagement with land, with environmental concerns, with the global issue of sustainability (213).
When life inside...was painful, unbearable, there was always the outside (215).
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937; rpt. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1978.
The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light....They sat in compnay with the others...their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God...the wind and water had given life to lots of things that folks think of as dead and given death to so much that had been living things (236).
Jen, Gish, Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self.
I just finished combing this for insights I might apply to another new course I’m designing on “play in the city,” and also found a few ideas there which I think we might work with on our evolving Eco-Literacy project. They are about translation, not (as we have been talking) using art to translate between scientists and social activists, but about the possibility of translation between and betwixt different sorts of art, arising from different cultural contexts. Reading Jen’s essays, I found myself wondering how much of Ava’s work has been influenced by Eastern conventions (you gesture toward that in your artist’s statement—and of course I know about the Seeds of Memory Sculpture Garden you did in Japan…)
Anyway, here’s some of what Jen says, which I thought might be of use to us. Reporting on a study that, give a figure in a context, Asians tend to focus on the context, and westerners, on the figure, Jen says
“most Easterners…register the figure. However, they tend to see it holistically, as if the figure and context form a unit from which the figure is inextricable. Westerners, in contrast, tend to isolate the figure, perceiving it as wholly independent of, and eminently divorceable from, its surroundings—a difference that seems to me to inform our respective views of justice and responsibility” (71).
[this reminds me of a quip Paul Grobstein used to make, about biologists’ conventional distinction between the “organism” and “its environment”—it’s not so obvious, he used to say, which is which; all dimensions in this “reaction-system” are so porous and interderminate/unpredictable that it’s often hard to say what’s internal, what external…]
Jen illustrates this difference by looking @ an 11-century masterpiece, Fan Kuan’s Travelers Among Mountains and Streams, often called the Mona Lisa of Chinese art: “the tiny traveler is…unperturbed and, we may gather from the mules, well supplied for a long journey….He appears perfectly content to be a minute, interdependent bit of a magnificent whole” (87-89).
Quite strikingly, Jen also quotes the philosopher Galen Strawson’s claim that “the business of living well, for many, is a completely non-Narrative project” (157). This seems VERY DEEP to me, and I’d like to mull over it more in reference to our ecological project. It reminds me, first, of a poem Jeff once wrote for me, in which he contrasted a tree’s sense of the relative unimportance “of daily things” with my preference for “good stories/with strong narratives.” Is the very drive to narrate—to construct stories with strong conclusions—anti-ecological/a detriment to environmental activism? Might we find-and-create ecological representations that aren’t so, well, teleological?
Relatedly, buried in a footnote, Jen offers a description of the “fundamental attribution error…a measureable tendency to ascribe more credit to an individual for a given outcome, and less to situational factors, than is objectively appropriate” (168). This, too, seems related to the issues of responsibility with which we are wrestling here…
Kaza, Stephanie, Ed. Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume. Boston: Shambhala: 2005.
Paul Hawken, Foreward: until recently, most cultures and religions honored frugality and cautioned against excess. No longer….underlying [Western consumer society] is the highly developed consumption-based “science” called economics. It could even be called a science of voraciousness because at its roots is the belief that in order for nations to prosper, our desires must expand without limit…
In the Buddhist canon, there are six mind-states or realms, one of which is called the hungry ghost…a maundering wraith unable to satisfy its insatiable desires….a useful metaphor reminding us of the compulsive shopper…the speculator…
A Buddhist perspective on consumption offers understanding of oneself…in the awareness of self arises compassion for others, especially those who are weighted down so heavily by material desire….Allieviating people’s sense of isolation and fear can do more than any recycling program….we can reduce our and others’ desires by being generous and kind. It is hard to be grasping when we are reaching out….We can honor resources by caring for everything that has already been made. We can begin to examine mindfully and patiently, our every act and object, one by one, in order to understand how our lives affect others. We can use consumption...as a means to know who and where we are. We can create lovely practices that remind us of the fragility of this earth and the joy of being able to reside here.
All wars are wars of consumption, and every war starts with self….
the 1997 film Affluenza…
a course called “Unlearning Consumerism.” Each week the students undertook a lab exercise to evaluate some aspect of their consumption habits. One of our first exercises was “the property list.” The students had to make a list of all of their belongings…. The group also took up analyses of energy use, transportation habits, and food consumed. Students assessed their diets…in estimated energy expense to the planet. To break the grip of everyday consumption, I assigned a three-day technology fast. The students had to give up the Internet, the car, the television, or another technology of their choice and then evaluate the impact it carried in their lives…
the market…tends to erode personal responsibility for other people…My own concern is that consumer identity is crowding out or displacing ecological identity…..the most intractable aspects of consumerism will be dislodged only through creating better infrastructures for well-being….
Buddhist initiatives in this conversation have been modest…
Philosopher David Loy has addressed poverty, greed, and the driving psychology “lack” as it plays out in consumerism….From a Buddhist perspective, what we perceive as the individual self is actually a fleeting aggregation of form and energy…a serious delusion…
Another useful Buddhist perspective—the law of interdependence…shifts emphasis…to…relationships….this relational understanding can support ethical restraint and fruitful inquiry….
Many have criticized Buddhist for being weak on structural analysis of social systems…and on activist strategies for social change. Buddhism does not carry the great charge for social justice…that the Abrahamic traditions hold.
Getting Hooked: Desire and Attachment
Practicing with Desire: Using Buddhist Tools
Buddhist Ethics of Consumption
Kaza, Stephanie and Kenneth Draft, Eds. Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism. Boston: Shambhala, 2000.
in the Lotus Sutra, the Dharma—the true nature of reality…—is compared to a beneficent rain that nourishes all beings
liberation from suffering is achieved through awareness
Teaching from Buddhist Traditions
Contemporary Interpretations of the Teachings
Buddhism in the World
Environmental Activism as Buddhist Practice
Home Practice, Wild Practice
Challenges in Buddhist Thought and Action
from E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered--“Buddhist Economics”: the goal of economic life should be “Right Livelihood.” The economy must be designed to provide all members of society with a sufficiency of material well-being though livelihoods that are inherently satisfying, that do not harm others materially or spiritually, that involve the individual in service to his community and that therefor contribute to the purification of character that is the goal of Buddhist life…to the extent that they conflict with Right Livelihood, efficiency, rationality, and al the other materialist values of economic man…must be resolutely rejected.
Kerridge, Richard and Neil Sammells, Eds. Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature. London: Zed Books, 1998.
Introduction: The environmental crisis is elusive....Much of it is solidly quantified....Environmental questions are large-scale and long-term....Environmentalism seems to be about contemplating the vast and infinite....Environmental issues take on the role of a 'repressed', which is frequently pushed out of sight and which always returns. Deferment alternates with occasional rushes of panic. Slavoj Zizeck...gives a pschoanalytical account of our difficulty in placing these issues...."the crisis is radical not only because of its effective danger...What is at stake is our most unquestionable presuppostions,...our everyday understanding of 'nature' as a regular, rhythmic process....Hence our...disavowal..."I'm not really prepared to integrate it into my symbolic universe....."
two other common responses. One is obsessional...the committed activist, incessantly driven by the senses of crisis...
The third reaction...is to interpret...ecological disaster...[as] a punishment for human transgression; the necessary consequence of going too far....
Zizak: "the only proper attitude is that which fully assumes..the irreducible gap separating the real from its modes of symbolizaion"...By 'the real',Zizek means that which defies, and is not contained by, representation...that which disrupts representation...the radioactive particles released byt he Chernobyl explosion...symbolize the whole ecological crisis....
The real, material ecological crisis...is also a crisis of representation. The inability of political cultures to address environmentalism is in part a failure of narrative....Writing the Environment...sets out to examine this diversity...to explore the pleausres of a cultural environmentalism which not only encompasses restrictions and limits, but also desire, sensation, release....
The challenge environmentalism poses to literature is this: show how it feels, here and now. Dramatize the occurrence of large events in individual lives. Make contact bwteen the public and the personal....
Green politics cannot easily be, like feminism, a politics of personal liberation and empowerment. Often it seems to be the reverse: a politics insisting on restrain and self-denial, the curbing of consumption and pleasure....
"the 'green tradition ...ambiguous ...environmentalism has had fascist and colonialist forms, as well as radical and humanitarian....But most urgenty...the claim of contemporary environmentalism is that the present crisis is different, unprecedented....the contemporary movement...expresses a new perception of the relationship between human practices and the material world.
An ecological perspective strives to see how all things are interdependent, even those apparently most separate. Nothing may be discarded or buried without consequences....local ecosystems...all are subject to the global ecosystem, a totality which excludes nothign and can be rid of nothing. This makes environmentalism a vital testing-ground for relations between post-colonial pluralism and new 'globalization'. In some of its versions, environmentlaism is undoubtedly in conflict with postmodernism's hostility to grand narratives and insistence on pluralism, irony and the autonomy of small narratives....
a British perspective has to accomodate...the identificaiton of rural life with feudalist traditions and hierarchies, in opposition to urban capitalism and its forms of social mobility....
I. Ecocritical Theory
* Campbell, SueEllen, "Magpie" (pp. 13-26):
magpies...make their living as generalists.They forage, hunt and gather; they are opportunists and scavengers....Magpies, I think, make good role-models for critics, teachers and students in the ways they embody the advantages of being inquisitive, of foraging, of building something new out of apparently unrelated scraps. They may make particularly good models for ecological writers and critics. Seeking to inhabit similarly marginal spaces between human and wild, in our explorations of new critical territory we too might well thrive on an eclectic and improvisatory appetite. Magpies, we might say, ask lot of questions....In my classes, we keep our questions focused ont he material we've all read. Alone, I forage much further....I try to keep my peripheral vision sharp, since it's usually the glint of what I'm not looking for that raises the best questions, and I guard my status as amateur and sampler....
[cf. Tim Burke's site, "Easily Distracted": http://weblogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/ !... ask students to select a model of themselves as eco-critics,
and put it up on Serendip as their avatar...by semester's end, they can add to/vary it, by also selecting a banner to "represent" their portfolio = accumulated habits of mind]
* Head, Dominic, "The (Im)possibility of Ecocriticism" (pp. 27-39):
the rejection of metanarrative and grand theory in postmodernist expression is accompanied by a more egalitarian combination of discourses, a mode of expression which creates the possiblity of grass-roots micropolitics in which previously marginalized voices can be heard.....prescriptions for the best action, from an ecological perspective, are necessarily provisional, continually refashioned...The Green movement in general is predicated on a typically postmodernist deprivileging of the human subject.
The first...of Buell's checklist of the ingredients of 'an environmentally oriented work'...is that 'the nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framng device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history.' One can think of very few novels in which this principle is sustained throughout....it is hard to conceive of the novel as a genre reinventing itself in this way.
* Murphy, Patrick D. "Anotherness and inhabitation in recent multicultural American literature" (pp. 40-52):
The concept of the...Absolute 'Other', founded upon notions of permanent incompleteness and prematurity, communicative incomensurability and binary constructs is...largely an illusion And its continued acceptance is a dangerous reification that protects much of the Western dominant hierarchical power relations that its use has been designed to dismantle. Ecology and ecocriticism indicate that it is time to move towards a relational model of 'anotherness' and the conceptualization of difference in terms of 'I' and 'another', 'one' and 'another', and 'I-as-another'....What we find repeatedly is the construct of alientated Other being used to repress or supress the relationship, the anotehrness, between groups in order to objectify an didstance one group...from another in the service of some form of domination.
Bakhtin claims that 'an indifferent or hostile reaction is always a reaction that impoverishes and decomposes its object; it seeks to pass over the object in all its manifoldness, to ignore or to overcome it'....In opposition to...Freudian psychoanalysis...Bakhtin presents dialogical conceptions of the self, the psyche and the 'content of consciousness'....the recognition of the individual as a social/self construct developing within given social, economic, political, historical and environmental parameters of space and time, who does not create his or her own 'self' ex nihilo....I participate in the formation of my self and others through...multiple subject positions...."outside society...there is no such thing as a human being"...."our humanity is...'in' our world dialogue"...in order to be fully human, we need to have a healthy geopsyche..."There is an interaction between the people's inner and outer realities that comes into play as we live in a place for an extended time. Our physical make-up and the nature of our psyche are formed in direct ways by the distinct climate, soil, geography, and living things of a place"....
A dialogical orientation...would require a rethinking of the concepts of 'other' and 'otherness'. If the possibility of the condition of 'anotherness', being another for others, is recognized, then the ecological processes of interanimation...develop[ing]...through mutually influencing each other day to day--can be emphasized....Inhabitation...might...be emphasized over travelling through....Anotherness...would..provide the basis for thorough critique of the mystique of the non-participant observer.....My main concern is to argue...for the utility [of 'anotherness'] in facilitating the generation of a different paradigm for conceptualizing environmental writing that focuses on relational inhabitation as a fundamental world-view by which to analyze the efficacy of literary works....the notion of anotherness, with its attendant emphasis on relational difference, provides a significant mechanism for rendering ecocriticsm a much more multicultural enterprise.....anotherness is a position of recognition and responsibility....
Most contemporary nature writing can easily be identified as depending on the myth of an original union with nature. The production and consumption of writing about nature, in fact, depends on this very thing: nostalgia for a better-than-present world, a looking backward to a place and time not spoiled or polluted or industrialized. Most American nature writing serves to strengthen boundaries between nature and culture, the self and the non-self....In addition, most American nature writing simply is not self-conscious of body politics....I argue that Mar Oliver, Joy Harjo and Lucille Cliton can be read as cyborg writers...a mode of resistance...on the basis of seizing the tools...that marked them as other"....nature becomes itself clearly marked as non-innocent, as politically and historically determined, as a contested idea.
*Bate, Jonathan. "Poetry and Biodiversity" (pp. 53-70):
dwelling is the term [Heidegger] used in his later philosophy for that authentic form of Being which he set agianst...the false ontologies of Cartesian dualism and subjective idealism. We achieve Being not when we represent the world, not in Vorstellung, but when we stand in a site, open to its Being, when we are thrown or called; the site is then gathered into a whole for which we take on an insistent care (Besorgung): "Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build...." For Heidegger poetry is the original admission of dwelling because it is a presencing not a representation, a form of being not of mapping....
Home and dwelling matter to humans because we also know homelessness and alienation. Other species dwell perpetually, are always at home in their ecosystem, their territory; those which migrate do not, as far as we are aware, have any consciousness of estrangement from their other home.....
There is no such thing as property in nature. A species inhabits its ecosystem, it does not possess it. Dwelling is not owning....a landed interest is not natural: ecosystems thrive on competition, but they do not have interests....Rousseau...was nearer the truth on this matter, with his argument in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality that the innovation of property marked the exact moment at which humankind ceased to live according to the economy of nature....biodiversity is the principle according to which nature is ordered...There is no place in this vision for the nation-state....the literary tradition in our language needs to be opened up to regional diversity....
there is a case for viewing [Les Murray] as the major ecological poet currently writing in the English language....Murray hears the undersound of ecosystems....These are lines which wonderfully combine biological accuracy with a joyfulness that glories in all creation. Mosquito and human share the same dance....the major statement of his recent work, Presence: Translations from the Natural World (1992), is a series of dreamings of a huge diversity of living things....
* Legler, Gretchen. "Body politics in American nature writing. 'Who may contest for what the body of nature wil be?'" (pp. 71-87):
In her cyborg myth, Haraway writes: "The certainty of what counts as nature--a source of insight and a promise of innocence--is undermined, probably fatally." This, she argues, and I agree, is a good thing....if we are to make any progress in understanding 'nature itself' in any other context besides the nostalgic and the romantic, those two nearly useless positions which serve largely to freeze aesthetic and intellectual progress, then we must...instead entertain the idea that nature itself is not only the whole playing field of history and politics, but a player itself....
II. Ecocritical History (the Jeremaid, Crabbe's disorderly nature, Wilde's nature, W.H. Hudson's feathered women)
*Brain, Tracy. "'Or shalI bring you the sound of poison?': Silent Spring and Sylvia Plath (pp. 146-164):
Plath's environmentalist poems see the fragility of the boundaries of the self....the infilttration of bodies by foreign substances...the uncontainability of dangerous substances...poisons are invasive and dangerous...none the less..isolation is impossible and pernicious....the self cannot be held separate from the world. Plath depicts an ecosystem....the body is entered by different substances. No place is inviolate....Nothing is outside...One must accoutn for all waste...Nothing ca be repressed or left behind for long.
III. Contemporary Writing
* Garrard, Greg, "Heidegger, Heaney and the problem of dwelling" (pp. 167-181):
Ecocriticism will not flourish unless it adopts a critical stance....'nature', for analytical purposes, must be regarded as a construct that is under interrogation. I am deeply suspicious of the reterritorizing impulse in the ecological movement, of the dream of dwelling, and I think of the price it may exact, the people it may exclude.
* Kerridge, Richard, "Small rooms and the ecosystem: environmentalism and DeLillo's White Noise" (pp. 182-195):
DeLillo uses the environmental crisis to interrogate postmodernism, but does not offer the reader any route out of postmodernist self-consciousness and irony....White Noise positions its reader outside all the available narratives which could process environmetnal disaster and stabilize it, leaving...a condition of passive waiting. This novel dramatizes...the impasse between environmental consciousness and the inability of a culture to change.
* Killingsworth, M. Jimmie and Jacqueline S. Palmer, 'Ecopolitics and the literature of the borderlands: the frontiers of environmental justice in Latina and Native American Writing" (pp. 196-207): on Anzaldua, Castillo, Silko, calling to heal the earth and its brown bodies
* Lesnik-Oberstein, Karin, "Children's literature and the environment" (pp. 208-217): concepts of both the child and nature, as 18th c inventions (interdependent in Rousseau's Emile) are camoflaged in children's lit about environmental redemption
* Armbruster, Karla. "Creating the world we must save: the paradox of television nature documentaries" (pp. 218-):
potential problems of advocacy, of the privileged, "speaking for" those who cannot speak for themselves, objectifying and constructing nature:
camera insists on perspective and narrow field; documentary feeds our desire for speed, conflict, drama; distills "someone else's waiting"; specialize in misinformation; selection and editing substittue "a simulacrum of a real environmental experience" for physical embeddedness in nat'l environment; lack of understanding of systems and policies that destroy them; focus on the exotic, the past, and what we can learn/enjoy; focus on our exile from self-contained, self-regulating system; conflicting w/ anthropomorphism; constructed view presented as naturalized; basic contradiction: nature staged as it really is...emphasizing the constructedness of the documentaries would encourage us to see ourselves as participants in this world
Kingsolver, Barbara. Prodigal Summer.
Lappé, Frances Moore. EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, To Create the World We Want. New York: Nation, 2011.
Our Challenge--Developing an EcoMind
the emotional power of our own ideas to trap us or free us...
At their core is the premise of lack, the notion that there just isn't enough--of anything...modern economics...defines itself as the science of allocating scarce goods...even more debilitating ...is a parallel assumption: There isn't enough goodness either....So the worldview we absorb every day is driven by a fear of being without....separateness, scarcity, and stasis. That's our world...
I explore seven widely held environmental ideas...I challenge their limiting premises...and I offer a reframing....even the most commonsense ideas acan be dangerous--if they...evoke fear and despair. Or ignite guilt....
Fortunately, there is another way of seeing now opening to us...through the lens of ecology....an evolving and relational world....everything....co-created moment to moment in relation to all else...not only do we exist in a habitat, we are a habitat. In our mouths alone live more than seven hundred species of bacteria...."most of the cells in our body are not human but bacterial." With an eco-mind, we move from "fixing something" outside ourselves to re-aligning our relationships within our ecological home....A moment of dissonance can be...a liberating whack.
An Invitation--Thinking Like an Ecosystem
Now we are realizing that ecology is not merely a particular field of science; it is a new way of understanding life that frees us from...assumptions of separateness and scarcity...Since ecology is all about interconnection and unending change, creating patterns of causation that shape every organism and phenomenon, "thinking like an ecosystem" for me means living in the perpetual "why"....if we want life to thrive, we keep foremost the question, What conditions enhance life?...the wide and fluid dispersion of power, transparency, and an assumption of mutual accountability--are at least a good part of the answer....Every act has multiple effects....Thinking like an ecosystem shifts our vision from assuming "trade-offs" to searching for synergies....Thinking like an ecosystem means seeing everything in context....a single change can create endless ripples...For the eco-mind, the one thing that should never surprise is surprise....it is not possible to know what's possible.
....from thought traps to thought leaps....
Laqueur, Thomas. Spaces of the Dead. Ideas from the National Humanities Center. 8, 2 (2001): 3-16.
LeGuin, Ursula. The Lathe of Heaven. Cambridge, MA: Robert Bentley. 1982.
on "effective dreaming"
..."a great, showy, s"To ask the countries of the South to 'cap' their emissions of CFCs and CO2 is to deny to much of humanitiy the hope of ever possessing well-recognized artefacts of comfort and well-being such as automobiles and refirgerators. In this respect the California housewife and Mexican peasant certainly do not share a common past or present--on what terms can they then come to share a common future? Only in a world where their voices carry equal weight, where there is put in place a genuinely participatory democracy at the global level" (143).hoddy shaft of concrete and glass compting with vegetable obstinacy for light and air with the jungle of similar buildings all around it" (26).
"But in going under a river, something is involved which is, the central meaning of the word, perverse. There are roads in the mind and outside it the mere elaborateness of which shows plainly that, to have got into this, a wrong turning must have been taken way back" (36).
"The Willamette was a useful element of hte environment, like a very large, docile draft animal harnessed with straps, chains, shafts, saddles, bits, girths, hobbles" (36).
"He mulled over this a while. He slogged around it, tried to lift it, found it very bulky" (38-9).
"'Now perhaps an excessive dream of overpopulation--overcrowding--reflects not an outward reality, but an inward state of mind....Maybe you're afraid of...being close to people, of being touched . So you've found a kind of excuse for keeping reality at a distance" (58).
"...always coming up against the resistance that seemed to him sometimes to be the overliteralness of primary-process thinking, and sometimes to be a positive balkiness in Orr's mind" (59).
"he had been there...had known the world was being remade, and had forgotten it" (63).
"His head was too full, holding the two sets of memories, two full systems of information: one of the real (no longer) world...and one of the real (now) world" (64)."
"Right here, but out of communication. Theat's what strikes humans as uncanny about sleep. Its utter privacy. The sleeper turns his back on everyone. "The mystery of the individual is strongest in sleep"'" (66).
"'Did you ever happen to think...that...there might be other people who dream the way I do? That reality's being changed out from under us, replaced, renewed, all the time--only we don't know it?'" (70).
"They had been married seven months. They said nothing of any importance. They washed up the dishes and went to bed. In bed, they made love. Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new” (158).
Lorde, Audre, “Outside.” American Poetry Review 6, 1 (January/February 1977).
In the center of a harsh and spectrumed city
all things natural are strange.
I grew up in a genuine confusion
between grass and weeds and flowers
and what coloured meant....
McGraw, Seamus. The End of Country. Random House, 2011 (journalist’s account of his mother and neighbors selling gas rights in the Endless Mountains of Pa)
Meloy, Ellen. The Anthropology of Turquoise. New York: Vintage, 2003.
Meloy, Ellen. Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild. New York: Vintage, 2006.
[Meloy seeks to mirror the strangeness of the world and of the mind. The very randomness and uncertainty are the point.....Wilderness embodies and welcomes chaos, the chaos that gives rise to imagination and spirit. In the wild, Meloy feels at home in the wildness of her mind.]
Prologue: last day w/ the desert bighorns--"quiet the mind and act like a rock....I then became the first rock in history to be overcome with feeling, a serene aching aimed at nothing in particular...."
The Blue Door Band: "Human beings have left themselves few places and scant ways to witness other species in their own world, an estrangement that leaves us hungry and lonely....
"I matched my seasonal geography to theirs....I gave the sheep full, held-breath attention....preternaturally attentive...and shamelessly anthropomorphic...Being with these wild animals was like a prayer...I was willing to wait in stillness, to count on nature's rhythms to calm my messy ones....the continent's native fauna on their unstoppable trajectory from bounty to scarcity and even demise....place-faithful to a fault....they were vulnerable to catatrophe...."
The Last Undevoured Riches: "What I fear is acute perception and sensory passion gone bland...the moon cheese, the inevitability of my own biodegradability. The rescue line comes from intimate witness to...the pure facts of the non-human lives that are still possible....The human spirit...yearns for glimpses into the "interiority" of a being that is different, not us, something not quite comprehensible...
The end of the wild world...has arrived....it is the reduction of diverse nature into a simplified biota that is entirely managed and dependent. It is a loss of autonomous beings, the self-willed fauna...that shaped human minds capable of identity with all existence. Sometimes I picture this moment in history...as a gate that we have been closing for some time....The spellbound threshold...is very nearly pulled shut....Soon we shall walk away entirely, place-blind and terribly lonely....
I set the shreds of my imagination to go the distance....Humans are creatures in search of exultation. We crave...the occasions when jolts from the universe fly open. This jolt... is a longing so overwhelming, it can put deep cracks in your heart.
Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought (Harvard, 2010):
The ecological thought is the thinking of interconnectedness….it’s also a thinking that is ecological (7)….it involves becoming open, radically open—open forever, without the possibility of closing again (8).
Each entity in the mesh looks strange. Nothing exists all by itself, and so nothing is fully “itself”…other beings…are…intrinsically strange. Getting to know them makes them stranger….The ecological thought… is a radical openness to everything. The ecological thought is therefore full of shadows and twilights (15).
The ecological thought is intrinsically dark, mysterious, and open, like an empty city square at dusk, a half-open door, or an unresolved chord (16).
A more honest ecological art would linger in the shadowy world of irony and difference. With dark ecology, we can explore all kinds of art forms as ecological…irony insists that there are other points of view (17).
It’ s the “West” that fixates on place, thinking that there’s this thing called “place” that is solid and real and independent and that has been progressively undermined by modernity, capitalism, technology, you name it. Fixation on place impedes a truly ecological view (26).
In the West, we think of ecology as earthbound….we want ecology to be about location, location, location. In particular, location must be local: it must feel like home; we must recognize it and think it in terms of the here and now, not the there and then (27).
We should be careful about ideas of meagerness and poverty. Environmentalism commonly finds them quite attractive. There is a “less is more” argument that ecological social policy is always about limits….Beyond the disturbing racism of the “population debates,” what bothers me is that the language of limits edits questions of pleasure and enjoyment out of the ecological picture….the language of curbs turns ecology into personal and interpersonal puritanism…the ecological thought…must explore and expand upon existing pleasures. If interconnectedness implies radical intimacy with other beings, then we had better start thinking about pleasure as a coordinate of the ecological thought (37-38).
Perhaps the ecological thought is picaresque—wandering from place to place, open to random encounters (48).
Cities and forests are like dreams because they are autonomous: they have their own laws, their own movement. Strange strangers inhabit them (52-53).
I develop the concept of the strange stranger from Derrida’s arrivant, the ultimate arrival to whom one must extend ultimate hospitality Jacques Derrida, “Hostipitality,” in Acts of Religion, 356-420 (p. 140, n. 39).
The strange stranger is not just the “other”—the “self’ is this other (87).
One task of the ecological thought is to figure out how to love the inhuman…the radically strange, dangerous, even “evil.” For the inhuman is the strangely strange core of the human (92).
The ecological thought realizes that all beings are interconnected. This is the mesh. The ecological thought realizes that the boundaries between, and the identities of, beings are affected by this interconnection. This is the strange stranger. The ecological thought finds itself next to other beings…. They are strange, all the way down. The more intimately we know them, the stranger they become. The ecological though is intimacy with the strangeness of the stranger (94).
Virginia Woolf’s narratives are ecological because, unlike Joyce and Lawrence, who also developed “stream of consciousness” techniques, Wool lets consciousnesses slide into each other: this includes nonhuman as well as human consciousnesses. Consider the extraordinary passage in Mrs. Dalloway where two old women watch a skywriting plane:
There’s a fine young feller aboard of it, Mrs. Dempster wagers, and away and away it went, fast and fading, away and away the aeroplane shot; soaring over Greenwich and all the masts; over the little island of grey churches, St. Paul’s and the rest till, on either side of London, fields spread out and dark brown woods where adventurous thrushes hopping boldly, glancing quickly, snatched the snail and tapped him on a stone, once, twice, thrice.
Woolf’s control (or, better, careful lack of control) of indirect speech lets us flow in and out of characters’ heads—one of which is surely the thrush. In a single sentence, we go up and away, then out to “either side” of the city (which side?), then, incredibly, into the intense attention of the thrush tapping the shell…In the middle of another novel, To the Lighthouse, Woolf places a chapter called “Times Passes,” which describes the subtle physical shifts and play of light and darkness in and around a house deserted by the novel’s characters. The environment as such comes to the forefront…this description…undermine[s} the idea that the house is a neutral stage set on which the characters act. The existentially vivid presence of the house, its meaningless material inertia, emerges.
Environmental art must deeply explore materiality. There are poems that, like music, experiment with tones and timbres—the very matter and energy out of which sound is made (107).
Free jazz is about adaptation, since one instrument depends completely on another, and all instruments depend on the “environment” of “un-intention” around them. This music listens to itself, following the brilliant theory of musical evolution, apocryphally attributed to Miles Davis: “sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself” (109).
Blade Runner is classic noir detective fiction, in which the detective…finds out he is implicated in the crime. Noir is the mode of dark ecology: in it, we discover that the detective’s personhood ironically contaminates the scene….Ecological awareness follows a similar path. Our ideas about having an objective point of view are part of the problem, as are ideological beliefs in immersion in a lifeworld (111).
What makes humans human is … a relationship that can never be fulfilled….”If only you could see what I have seen…with your eyes” (112).
It’s highly likely that alien life exists…and thinking about it is a significant aspect of thinking interconnection. As Levinas said, “the idea that I am sought out in the intersidereal spaces is not science fiction, but expresses my passivity as a self” (113).
Humanists should create Web sites listing experimens they want done. My top suggestion would be exploring the question “Is consciousness intentional?” Negative results would provide a pretty good reason not to hurt life forms….Humanists forging ahead with the ecological thought should step up and suggest experiments, based on their varied, complex, radical, and interestingly divergent ideas. And scientists should at least take a look. Here are some this book has proposed:
1. Can animals enjoy art?
2. Can animals self-reflect? Can humans self-reflect? Is self-reflection important regarding suffering?
3. What is awareness? Is it a “higher” (less frequent) or “lower” (more frequent) cognitive capacity?
4. Did Neanderthals have imagination? Do we? Does it matter?
5. Does AI suffer? Can bacteria suffer? What are the “lower” limits for suffering?
6. Is consciousness intentional?
7. Are thinking and perceiving discrete? (114)
Cognitive science claims that cognition is about the mind’s interaction with its world. Cognizing is fundamentally environmental. You wouldn’t need to do it if you weren’t in an environment. (This is almost tautological: you wouldn’t exist at all if you didn’t have an environment.) (115).
Connectivism maintains that mental phenomena arise from interconnected processing systems…there is no mind as such, because mind always emerges from interacting networks, at least one of which must be a system for processing inputs such as sensations and perceptions …the ecological thought must hesitate here. What is a person?…Buddhism has shown that consciousness doesn’t depend upon an integrated, solid , “truly existing” self (116).
…whether persons really are solid, single, lasting, and independent beings…has huge implications for ethics and politics. We need reasons for acting that aren’t bound up with self-interest…We need something like a “no-self” description of states of mind—“anger has arisen here” says enough of what is meaningful about “I am angry,” without fixing emotions in the amber of identity…..We could argue that altruism, not selfishness, is hardwired into reality, since we are made of others; we’ve literally got them under our skin (119).
the ecological thought is about considering others, in their interests, in how we should act toward them, and in their very being. [Derek Parfit’s extraordinarily prescient book Reasons and Persons] helps us to transcend the “tragedy of the commons” view by allowing us to see how self-interest is at best indirectly self-defeating (123).
…the fact of consciousness…forever puts me in a paradoxical relationship with other beings—there is always going to be an ironic gap between strange strangers….I can be ecological without losing my sense of irony…it’s the way coexistence feels….Irony—economically expressed in the bumper sticker “You don’t have to believe everything you think”—is perhaps the beginning of ecological democracy (124-125).
Ecological collectivity decisively can’t be rooted in “place”; as Levinas asserts, quoting Pascal, “my place in the sun” marks the beginning of all usurpation. “Place” contains to much “at-homeness,” too much finality, for the ecological thought. Localism, nationalism, and immersion in the ideological bath of the lifeworld, won’t cut it anymore…We need collectivity, not community….it must be a collectivity of weakness, vulnerability, and incompletion (127).
Ecological collectivities must make space for introversion and reflection, including meditative practices. Ecological collectivities must be open, not closed totalities….the problem with science isn’t the ideas it develops but the attitudes it sustains…ecological society must work directly on attitudes…on reflection…meditation…exposing our conceptual fixations and exploring the openeness of the mesh. Politics might begin to include (difficult word!) spirituality, in the sense of a radical questioning and opening: “Losing oneself in things, losing oneself to the point of not being able to conceive of anything but things” (127).
The Earth is not an experiment. We can’t just sit back and relax and let evolution do its thing…deep ecology, which sees humans a viral blip in the big Gaian pictures, is nothing other than laissez-faire capitalism in a neofascist ideological form (128).
Nelson, Richard. Heart and Blood: Living with Deer In America (Vintage, 1998).
Chapter 5. The Backyard Wilderness:
“In my opinion they are rats with antlers, roaches with split hooves, denizens of the dark primeval suburbs. Deer intensely suggest New Jersey” (John McPhee).
Chapter 9. The Hidden Harvest
“Deer are the same as any pest. They’re not beneficial as far as I can see; they just come and eat your crops. In fact, deer are like the human species: we’ll keep breeding until we ruin the planet, and deer are going to do the same thing” (Kim Foster, California Organic Farmer)
Whenever any of us sit down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack, it’s likely that deer were killed to protect some of the food we eat and the beverages we drink. This is true for everyone; city dwellers and suburbanites; men, women and children; omnivores and vegetarians; hunters, nonhunters, and antihunters. Wherever we live and whatever we do, as long as it includes subsisting on groceries from our continent’s farmlands, writer Wendell Berry reminds us that “eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth” And, we might remember, a food economy that also depends on hunting.
Deer are not merely part of the scenery, not just works of natural artistry carrying on lives remote and disconnected from our own. We are bound together with deer in an intricate biological relationship centered around cultivated crops. As a consequence, everyone in modern North America who lives each day on agricultural foods belongs to an ecological network that necessarily involves deer hunting.”
Nussbaum, Martha. Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (Cambridge: Belknap, 2006)
Locke/contractarian theories re: free, equal& independent men (who are rational) leaves 3 problems unsolved:
*impairment & disability
*nationality (inequity between rich & poor nations)
Cf. capabilities approach:
(Amartya Sen on cf. measures of quality of life)
core human entitlements--life, health, bodily integrity, emotions, affiliation, play, control over env'l, etc.--to be implemented by all govt's as bare minimum for human dignity
basic structural difference--contract doctrines are procedural (fair, impartial),
while capabilities approach starts from the outcome-- what is necessary
3 unsolved problems all involve great asymmetries of
power, capacity & moral rationality
capabilities approach begins w/ Aristotelian awe in all complex natural organisms: seek characteristic flourishing of each--what is important for its good?
this approach does not start w/ equality or reciprocity;
begins instead w/ a search for social good;
care is fund'l; rejects trad'l distinction between public/private (includes family as part of social structure); takes basic principle of each person as end; questions contractarian idea of mutual advantage as the purpose of social cooperation
overlapping political consensus relies not on ideal of equal cross-species dignity, but on looser idea that all creatures are entitled to adequate opportunities for a flourishing life
big advantage of social contract tradition: does not require extensive benevolence
capabilities approach demands sustaining very great sympathy and benevolence--
hopelessly realistic? Or just needing cultivation/education, a la Rousseau?
(there’s a real problem generated here, inherent in beginning w/ inequality…
but empathy is such a troublesome emotion; there's so much projection, patronage....)
Ozeki, Ruth. Interview with an Independent Writer, by Catherine Meeks, ASLE News Editor:
Literature, the writing of it and the reading of it, seems to me to be about inquiry. Agenda-driven fiction is antithetical to inquiry. Agenda-driven fiction has its mind already made up. My concern for the environment is part of who I am, and since I write about what I care about, naturally my environmental concerns find their way into my fiction. Writing is how I think, how I interrogate the world, and the novel is my medium for my interrogation. It's a thought experiment, which I initiate and then send out into the world as an invitation for readers to join....So it comes down to intent and chronology....I usually start with a question, something I'm curious about, or something that worries or frightens me....Where--and how--can I begin to think about these issues? I'm not starting with a conclusion and trying to prove it or "teach" it by means of the novel. The novel is not a vector for an agenda. Rather, the novel is a means of exploring a question, and to the best of my ability, I approach it with an open mind. This is really important, because...fiction readers are very sensitive to didacticism and pedagogy. Nobody likes to be manipulated or told what to believe. Nobody likes to be tricked into caring for characters only to realize that the characters are sneaky little vectors for an author's opinions. The novel is not, and should not be, a Trojan horse. However, having said all this, I know, too, that my mind is not free of bias. I have tons of opinions. I'm terribly concerned about the environment and I think everyone ought to be, too. We ought to be terrified!...I have a lot of remorse about the myriad ways that I am contributing to the problem. All my novels, to some extent, have been written from remorse. Remorse is a powerful impetus for writing. The good news, from a writerly perspective, is that I'll never run out of things to feel remorseful about. The bad news, from a timebeing-on-earth's perspective, is that I am not willing or able to eradicate all the many causes of my environmental remorse....Nothing exists independently of anything else. Novels, stories, are always about relationship, so they are a beautiful way to investigate and to talk about this quality of interbeing, the way we inter-are.
Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel. Viking, 2013.
Ozeki, Ruth. All Over Creation. Picador, 2003.
Patchett, Ann. Sense of Wonder
Poulsen, Melissa. Hybrid Veggies and Mixed Kids: Ecocriticism and Race in Ruth Ozeki’s Pastoral Heartlands. Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies 2 (2011) 22-29:
twenty-first century, literary and environmental studies must recognize and engage with the interdependence of spaces traditionally opposed: the natural and the human built, the country and the city, exurbia and the urban….more complex imagining of the environment….Written with and against the pastoral tradition, Ozeki’s novels merge country and city…use modified food to interrupt the possibility of a dichotomous country and city…. And attends to the deep-seated connections between the language of race and the language of biology… through the lens of …toxic discourse…Ozeki questions the silences in the pastoral imagery…
As Lawrence Buell points out…”what we loosely call ‘nature’ has often long since become ‘organic machine’” as the “physical environment is being increasingly refashioned by capital, technology, and geopolitics.” Such blending of nature and technology is key to the counterpastoral developed in All Over Creation…. heartland farm life is a complicated capitalist engagement…. the toxic reality of their seeming pastoral spaces are revealed…
All Over Creation highlights the presences of racial others and simultaneously exposes how they are written out of the pastoral…. the pastoral as an idyllic space only for those of a certain color…. the most radical and largely unfamiliar move of the text is its unification of toxic discourse and racialization through the question of bioethics, and an entanglement of plant genetic modification and human multiracial identity…. The parallel between biodiversity and cultural diversity emerges in arguments laid out through the Fuller’s seed company.… Momoko’s seeds…embody the migrations and drifts of people in the United States; her “heroic efforts to preserve the rich diversity” of plants is paralleled to the preservation of the cultural diversity brought through migration. Such dedication to diversity stands in contrast to the farmer of the pastoral heartland, the “large-scale potato farmer, a monoculturalist” made “nervous [by] all that diversity”…. Lloyd attempts to interrupt the imagined pastoral heartland through a questioning of the plant and racial nativism it projects…
Through the sexualized, fertile imagery of crossbred human-plants All Over Creation tracks the lives of multiracial characters and interracial relationships while developing a bioethical argument against genetically modified organisms…. An uncomfortable moral ambiguity begins to emerge as the imagery of plants and humans, and cultural and bio-diversity, merge….genetically-modified potatoes might be read as a form of hybridity….Momoko’s garden requires careful fertilization…to preserve the integrity of the various endangered plants….to preserve the diversity, Momoko has to avoid further diversity…. the uneasy ambiguity Ozeki produces through the simple but insistent equation of mixed race and hybrid plants serves as a reminder of the potential of such slippages…. setting her interracial families in the United States’ Midwest, she pushes readers towards new ways of conceptualizing the crucial but often disconnected meanings of emplacement….
Powers, Richard. Gain. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998.
She vows a consumer boycott, a full spring cleaning. But the house is full of them. It's as if the floor she walks on suddenly liquefies into a sheet of termites. They paper her cabinets. They perch on her microwave, camp out on her stove, hang from her shower head. Clare hiding under the sink, swarming her medicine chest, lining the shelves in the basement, parked out in the garage, piled up in the shed.
Her vow is hopeless. To many to purge them all. Every hour of her life depends on more corporations than she can count. And any spray she might use to bomb the busgs would have to be Clare's, too.
Who told them to make all these things? But she knows the anwer to that one. They've counted every receipt, more carefully than she ever has. And wasn't she born wanting what they were born wanting to give her? Every thought, every pleasure, freed up by these little simplicities, the most obvious of them already worlds beyond her competence.
The newspapers, Don, the lawyers: everybody outraged at the offense. As if cancer just blew in through the window. Well, if it did, it was an inside job. Some accomplice, opening the latch for it. She cannot sue the company for raiding her house. She brought them in, by choice, toted them in a shopping bag. And she'd do it all over again, given the choice. Would have to (304).
Price, Jennifer. Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America. New York: Basic Books, 1999.
Introduction: "What does nature mean to me?"...my deep uneasiness with entrenched American definitions of nature....Because I defined the Nature I loved as Out There, I saw everything built in the cities...as Nature destroyed....Instead, I...reenvision the spaces we inhabit as places where people must use nature....I have tried to see modern American life as something we literally create...from the nonhuman natural world....Americans' most everyday encounters with the natural world take place through mass-produced culture....many Americans have used a vision of Nature as a not-modern Place Apart powerfully to ...evade the defining hallmarks, troubles and confusions of modern American life....to ignore our ravenous uses of natural resources....hungry in equal measure for Nature as Meaning and nature as resources....we define Nature as a Place Apart but also so obviously and rabidly consume....
1) Missed Connections: The Passenger Pigeon Extinction
Our connections to nature are highly mediated. To recognize one's own involvement in resource-intensive markets, and to make nature meaningful in ways that tell us about these connections, can be difficult....this...is the moral of the pigeon's story: the specific, modern constellation of intensive overuses of nature, urban long-distance connections and strangely unmoored meanings..what really happened was "progress": the transition to a more urban, long-distance, economically expanding high-technology world....shooting the wild pigeons by the millions for profit...also..the removal of the pigeon feet from the pigeon pie. After that happens, how do we know what kind of pie it is?
2) When Women were Women, Men were Men, and Birds were Hats
centering the problem on women and women's sphere...exempted the harvest, manufacture and marketing stages from the heart of the discussion, and from the collective diagram of their connections to the wilder realms of nature...consigned the looming thread of modern consumerism to the sidelines...it left the fast-expanding markets, and people's enjoyment of them, conveniently on the edge of the picture....it set a twentieth-century precedent by which wealthier Americans made nature meanignful and valuable, yet failed to grapple with the vast economic networks by which we transform nature into everyday life....baby boomers...have inherited the modern, convenient failure to make nature meaningful in ways that tell us about nature, and about our own econmic connections to it...
3) A Brief Natural History of the Plastic Pink Flamingo
boundaries...are under intense negotiation. All except one...between Nature and Artifice....the pink flamingo...marks the ur-boundary....brandished as a statement of anti-Nature. At the core of eahc of these flamingos lies the compelling, modern definition of nature as anti-Artifice, not-human, and countermodern....Long-distance economic networks make it easy to lose track of nature--but Nature as a Place Apart actively erases our connections...a definition of nature that sidesteps our complicity in the aggressive and unsustainable uses of natural resources....The symbol of Artifice is actually nature incarnate....."every garden tempts us to live within the illusion...that it is something natural, not the creation of artifice"
4) Looking for Nature at the Mall: A Field Guide to the Nature Company
Nature is available for purchase above all as what is Real: what is enduring, nonreplicated, non-mss culture, Authentic, non-Artificial and absolute....The Nature Company has both catered and served as monumnet to the no-Artifice definition of Nature as a key to the identity of my generation and class....The Nature Company has ot sold nature....It has sold meanings....the most powerful and overarching has always been that Nature...is unchanging....But at a nature store, the disconnections and constructedness of Nature...all threaten to surface....The Nature Company has positioned hte store as a site for better consumerism....Every "nature-oriented" product...has literally been manufactured from nature.....We've used Nature to circumvent our own complicity in the serious modern problems we critique...the ur-ironies....The Nature Company constittues a store-size contradiciton between how we want to connect ot nature and how we actualy do...."Wow" betrays a certain confusion of intention. It suggests a murkiness of desires. What do I really want?...I want to connect to wild nature, and to understand it, and to not destroy it. I want to counter...my own complicity in economic excesses, in social inequities and in ecological devastations. Yet how much?
5) Roadrunners Can't Read: The Greening of Television in the 1990s
TV allows us to enjoy the real and the unreal at the same time...in this nebulous terrain...most of the dangers and pleasures of a TV eco-trip ultimately lie....Nature is less a set of ecological facts than a mythic narrative power tool...meticulously constructed....[Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, ads, nature shows....] Nature is not a separate place....shouldn't we ask our meanings to help us identify rather than avoid a reckoning of all these connections among people and nature? The real cahlegne is to tell the difference between TV Nature, as an absolute ur-Reality at the edge of modern life, and real nature, as something we can use and change, in all its forms in the late-twentieth century.....Get real.
Reed, Sarah. "The Publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb by the Sierra Club, 1968:
Wilderness-Thinking, Neo-Malthusianism, and Anti-Humanism"
* the 1960s owed its environmentalist boom to “unprecedented affluence” and awareness of environmental hazards ....
Post-war prosperity induced a public clamor for a higher quality of life, for scenic resources, and for clean air and clean water.
* the post-war env'l movement has also been interpreted as having its roots less in consumerism
(in a demand for more and better), than in fears about a diminished quality of life
* in that context, Sarah focuses on the collision of the romantic, spiritual wilderness ethos of the Sierra Club w/ the
pragmatic alarmism of Ehrlich's work. They had differing end goals--preservationists were preoccupied with protecting pristine nature, while Ehrlich focused on famine, war, and the extinction of mankind. But Sarah's argument is that there were overlaps:
* Traditional wilderness thinking offered no coherent antidote to man’s ungrateful, harmfulness behavior. Neo-Malthusian provided a straightforward prescription for a problem that wilderness thinkers had long since identified—the destructiveness of individual human beings. Neo-Malthusianism and the Sierra Club reinforced in one another this troubling nonchalance toward human lives...a powerful partnership of two environmental traditions that together created a unique—and often noxious—environmental rhetoric....this antipathy toward humanity still governs the priorities of “mainstream” environmental movement.......a distinct blend of alarmism and romanticism...an antihumanist understanding of humans as universally destructive...
* As William Cronon explains, “if we set too high a stock on wilderness, too many other corners of the earth become less than natural and too many other people become less than human, thereby giving us permission not to care much about their suffering or their fate.” [THIS SEEMS A KEY CLAIM TO ME.]
* Cronon understood that the general indictment against humanity leaves us with a slew of problems. If we see humans as a cancer, then we need not trouble ourselves about the loss of human life around the planet. Environmentalists don’t
need to take a stance against the genocide in Darfur, the war in Iraq, the devastation of poor communities’ New Orleans, because these belongs to the realm of social/political, and not “environmental” activism.
* Cronon felt most critical of the radical environmental wing, which emerged in the 1980s and early 90s. In 1987, the Utne Reader printed an article with the headline “Is AIDS Good for the Earth?” Some “radical environmentalists” had said yes: that reducing populations in a “natural” way through mass starvation and epidemics would bring the earth closer to its proper equilibrium. The organization Earth First! had suggested in its journal that “AIDs is the earth’s own response to pollution and overpopulation.”
* In the late 1970s and 80s, the environmental justice (EJ) movement responded to this gap by providing “a home for activists who weren’t comfortable separating their concern over the state of the planet fr om their concerns about social justice.”
* EJ’s influence is becoming especially important as fears about global warming increasingly subsume today’s wider movement. One of the oddities of climate change is its disproportionate impacts on poor communities who have contributed the least to the problem but have the least capacity to adapt to rising sea levels, extreme weather, changing rain patterns, and other consequences. Like other environmental problems, climate will not impact all of the
species in an equal, universal manner, but will reflect and exacerbate historical, economic, and environmental inequalities worldwide.
Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping. New York: Bantam, 1980.
leaves began to gather in the corners....every time a door was opened anywhere in the house there was a sound from all the corners of lifting and alighting....Thus finely did our house become attuned to the orchard and to the particularities of weather...Thus did [Sylvie] begin by littles and perhaps unawares to ready it for wasps and bats and barn swallows. Sylvia talked a great deal about houskeeping....Sylvie believed in stern solvents, and most of all in air. It was for the sake of air that she opened doors and windows, though it was probably through forgetfulness that she left them open (84-85).
…need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it?...to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries (152).
Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin, 2012.
[a conversation between Natalie Blake, who made it out of the projects, and her old friend Nathan Bogle, who didn't...]
You never were on Hampstead Health. When we were kids. You never came up here.
Why would I come up here?
I don't know, because it's free, because it's beautiful. Trees, fresh air, ponds, grass.
Weren't my scene.
What do you mean it wasn't your scene? it's everybody's scene! It's nature!
Calm down. Pull your knickers up (380).
Solnit, Rebecca. Diary [about the Google Bus in San Francisco...]. London Review of Books 35, 3 (February 7, 2013): 34-35.
Strawson, Galen. "Against Narrativity." Ratio (new series) 17 (December 4, 2004): 428-452.
I love Strawson's attention to variations in "time-style" (he develops a contrast between self-experience that is "diachronic"and that is "episodic"), and his claim that narrativity "risks a strange commodification of life and time." I haven't spun out all the implications yet, but I think that this querying of a focus on/belief in a self that exists over a long stretch of time is one way of thinking ecologically. And I want to work some more w/ forms of "ecological expression" that are non-narrative.
Wallace, Molly. Discomfort Food: Analogy, Biotechnology, and Risk in Ruth Ozeki's All Over Creation. Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory 67, 4 (Winter 2011):155-181:
All Over Creation falls into a genre…Lawrence Buell has called “toxic discourse”…(Shelley, Hawthorne, Rachel Carson, Terry Tempest Williams) that counter prevailing “expert” knowledge by asserting the dangers of… risks…. “a discourse of allegation rather than of proof ” that often employs a kind of “moral melodrama”…. “toxic discourse” is a rhetorical term for …“staging,” the mediating role that cultural production has in making risks “real”…. Ulrich Beck offers the staging of risk as a way to bring “complicating factors,” like “different forms of non-knowing, contradictions among different experts and disciplines, ultimately the impossibility of making the unforeseeable foreseeable,” to bear on…world risk society…. Ozeki’s imagined activists, the scruffy anarchist “Seeds of Resistance,” carry out a variety of theatrical protests…. Including a “morality play” that feels suspiciously metafictional….
the doctrine of substantial equivalence is quite explicitly built on the practice of analogy: “For foods and food components from organisms developed by the application of modern biotechnology, the most practical approach to the determination is to consider whether they are substantially equivalent to analogous food product(s)”…the move The move from simile—a GM food is like a non-GM food—to synecdoche… analogy is “a method of reasoning from the known to the unknown”…but it builds in a nagging discomfort…. “for traditional rhetoricians, an analogy is not an identity; it is a figure which marks both the likeness and the difference in our application of words from case to case. The gaps, the discontinuities, and the differences are as important as the likenesses”… “Substantial equivalence is a pseudo-scientific concept because it is a commercial and political judgement masquerading as if it were scientific”….
in exposing and undoing substantial equivalence in Ozeki’s novel, the activists stage a mode of interpretation that can be applied to the novel more generally, as different characters attempt to represent potential non-equivalencies rendered invisible by expert logic…. All Over Creation highlights the dangers of ignoring the “gaps, discontinuities, and differences” in any analogical approach to GM foods…. Although it is not always clear which positions are merely represented and which—if any—are actually endorsed….
in staging an awkward political coalition of anarchist activists and a Christian farmer, she suggests resonances between secular and religious versions….Haraway illustrates the potential for analogical sliding from human to nonhuman, racial purity to plant purity…she finds, in the objections to the “mixing” of plant genes, “the unintended tones of fear of the alien and suspicion of the mixed…akin to the doctrines of white racial hegemony” in the U.S., discursive “cross-pollinations” that complicate an anti-GMO stance by calling its own “purity” into question….a covert preoccupation with human “purity” is in tension with what is otherwise a fairly straightforward embrace of multiculturalism and diversity….
offer an extrinsic economic critique in place of an intrinsic moral one…”The primary issue…is not that humans are changing nature but that nature is ceasing to be common, that it is becoming private property and exclusively controlled by its new owners….[but in India, farmers have “embraced the agrarian anarcho-capitalism of stealth seeds”…. “illegal-immigrant seeds”…are enacting border-crossing “anarcho-capitalism” against the xenophobia of national regulation]….narrative of GMOs can be told in quite diverse registers which swerve toward analogies with otherwise disparate human concerns—from miscegenation to immigration to abortion….
the problem in risk society is that neither science nor religion seems able to “guarantee” “security”…. What is missing both in theological intrinsic and in economic extrinsic arguments is the incalculable, the risk that is reducible neither to conservative analogy nor to property rights...those “gaps, discontinuities, and differences” inherent in analogy that mark the “unknown” that the “known” is marshalled to domesticate….a more ambivalent critique comes from a character who grapples directly with the risk/benefit analysis of marketability and toxicity, the conventional potato grower, Will….who provides an analysis of the calculable and incalculable risks…his fear is motivated by the lack of calculation that suggests the potential for unintended and often unacknowledged risks….
novel turns to “Enlightened Compassion”—as corporate spin, not genuine humanitarianism--But Ozeki does not leave us in the comfortable position of being able to identify an authorial mouthpiece. Staging the staging of GMO risk, she at once offers a representation of uncertainty and elicits a feeling of uncertainty, leaving her readers as uncomfortable as her characters are in the liminal spaces of non-knowledge….Ozeki’s use of a roving point of view makes the novel “rhizomatic”…her “rhizomatic potato stories” offer a medium appropriate to the novel’s message: “not to assert a single, true meaning but to represent a struggle over the many meanings for GMOs”…. risk society is characterized by a “division of expertise”…. Whether Ozeki’s novel goes far enough in imagining alternatives to the present biotech-industrial-agricultural complex, in staging questions for her readers, Ozeki invites us to participate in the production of knowledge surrounding GM foods, a “responsibility” she ascribes to novelists and readers alike: “to question what is happening in this world, fashioned and controlled as it is by experts”…. moralizing and totalizing “answers” are stopgaps for an absence of knowledge….advocating a version of the precautionary principle…“uncertainty made conscious”…. discussing linkages, diversifying contacts, problematizing values…
White, Laura. “Novel Vision: Seeing the Sunderbans through Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 20.3 (Summer 2013): 513-513.
“Part of the idea…was to shine light on this area that is little known within India….even within Bengal, the Sunderbans is really a kind of area of darkness…”
Ghosh proposes that alternative practices facilitated by extended immersion in the place could enable viewers to see the Sunderbans…novels can help to achieve this necessary transformation of vision.
a concern with ways of knowing permeates The Hungry Tide…interrogating the intersections between local and global knowledges…a concept of epistemic disobedience…practices that challenge the “detached and neutral point of observation”…the epistemic zero point, the position from which the knowing subject maps the world while erasing his own specific, embodied location….disrupting the illusion of neutral, universal knowledge….
the islands are a focus for Ghosh’s environmental activism…opposed the Sahara India Parivar’s proposal to develop a luxury resort on the islands…In “A Crocodile in the Swamplands,” Ghosh attacks the Sahara Group’s use of the narrative of empty lands…the inhabitants of the islands are…figured as a threat to the environment….the exclusivist approach to conservation: it assumes the existence of populations that are too poor, and too disempowered to adequately articulate their own interests”
the repletion of this narrative of empty lands operates to silence local knowledge and history…..thousands of human inhabitants were evicted and killed in 1979, because the government refused to let refugees settle on land that was designated as reserved for forests and tigers….
decisions about land use must confront ways that race, gender, class, and caste hierarchies have affected access to the land and shaped understandings of the nonhuman world….
in the essay “Wild Fictions”….he argues that fiction is the necessary first step that enables responsible decisions….”if nature is to be re-imagined in such a way as to restore the human presence with it…as partner…then this too must first be told as a story”….new imaginings of nature must be “as varied as the natural world itself”…fiction is the only “canvas broad enough to address this relationship in all its dimensions”….
IN “The March of the Novel Through History,” Ghosh argues that the importance of setting is a distinguishing feature….”Even to perceive one’s immediate environment, one must somehow distance oneself from it;…..to locate oneself in prose, one must begin with an act of dislocation…. The novel encourages a type of distance overseeing, a posture characteristic of impersonal observers rather than local inhabitants….calling attention to the geo-historical and embodies position of the observer that zero point epistemology erases, Ghosh engages in...epistemic disobedience…disrupting the illusion that the novel transparently represents a disinterested picture of the world…
…use of English…his Western education and part-time residence in the USA…afford Ghosh a view of India from both inside and outside…uses his position between cultures to circulate a multifaceted picture of the Sunderbans to middle-class Indian and global English speaking readers…
the opening scenes of The Hungry Tide…signal the ways that Ghosh’s novel will provide a response to and revision of the colonial voyage novel and zero-point epistemology….Ghosh’s novel begins with the juxtaposition between a map of the Sunderbans and a scene of travelers orientating themselves to the area. The map provides a precise, visual representation of the Sunderbands, but it also represents the type of distinct overseeing that Ghosh distinguishes from a lived sense of place. The map arrests time, providing a static representation…a contrast with the opening narration that accentuates movement…in a transitional space, a crowded train platform….Kanai reads a written text while riding on a train…his deceased uncle Nirmal’s…narration disrupts the linear movement of the train by imposing the time of myth….simultaneously, he offers numerical measurements …..
An instrumentalist understanding of the land causes outsiders to view it in terms of fixed, economically valuable assets….In contrast, the label bestowed by the inhabitant conveys a different understanding…their name focuses on...the shifting interaction of the tides….With this complex introduction…Nirmal accumulates various ways of knowing the land: through metaphoric visualization of the divine, through numeric calculation, and through the meaning of names—also distinguishing between reading a map, hearing a story, and seeing it first-hand…the multiplicity of time frames and perspectives in these opening scenes also introduces Ghosh’s formal innovation, his challenge to linear ordering, and his counter-strategy of rhythmic movement that reflects the watery geography of the Sunderbans….
Ghosh’s descriptions of the landscape do evoke a palimpsest…mangroves reshape the land as they “silt over the past”…Images of a layered past recur through the novel….Ghosh critiques the primacy of the visual and offers the tide as an alternative that reflects auditory and kinetic experiences….vision fails to orient inhabitants…the tides create shifts in position and perception…..the landscape confounds the ability of the human eye to oversee and compose order…preventing the single point perspective that is necessary for linear mapping….nonhuman nature reminds humans of their limits…”wasn’t it better in a way, more honest, that they could not speak?...speech was only a bag of tricks that fooled you into believing that you could see through the eyes of another being” (132).
use a geological map to show children the history of India dating to 140 million years ago…”They would see how their subcontinent had moved…how its weight forced the rise of the Himalayas”…he hears crabs gnawing away at the foundation of the retaining wall…sound provides evidence of a continuing process of change that is too subtle to be registered by the eye….rhythm…a repetitive element that doesn’t ‘forward’ anything…give readers an opportunity to take up a new kind of residence in time”….sections divided into “Ebb” and Flood”....chapters alternate between times and places…form shifts between third-person narration, first-person journal entries, translations of Indian legends and European poetry….such paratactical sequences make the reader an active participant…releasing the past from the dialectical and linear relationship to which it is constrained by historical narrative”…
the novel arrived in India as a European import…privileged a ‘rational outlook on life,’ and required a ‘commitment to naturalism and realism’…Ghosh’s rhythmic organization must be considered in this context as continuing negotiations between the novel form’s colonial heritage and the alternate ways of knowing that emerge from specific embodied and geohistorical locations….
Piya relates to the rivers in ways that conform to scientific stereotypes of visual overseeing….Fokir’s knowledge of the river is…intricately tied to his body…,Fokier’s embodied knowledge of the river becomes a map on a GPS monitor, literally transforming his vision…into scientific ‘data’….
Critics have found fault with this ending…”an optimistic tribute to idealism” or to the novels’ failure to satisfactorily resolve the complicated tiger question by diverting attention to dolphins….the closing scene of the novel could be reconsidered as a starting point….rhythmic patterning challenges readers to resist the urge for closure….
Yamashita, Karen Tei. Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1990.
...he had also been lost in the city for another two days, taking buses and subways twisting around what seemed to him a dense concrete jungle, no different from the living jungle he had left behind, where the sun barely filters through a tight network of skyscrapers trapping a thick layer of carbon monoxide, electric and telephone wires grasping tenaciously at everything (82).
On the distant horizon, you can see the crumbling remains of once modern high-rises and office buildings, everything covered in rust and mold, twisted and poisonous lianas winding over sinking balconies, trees arching through windows, a cloud of perpetual rain and mist and evasive color hovering over everything. The old forest has returned once again, secreting its digestive juices, slowly breaking everything into edible absorbent components, pursuing the lost perfection of an organism in whih digestion and excretion were once one and the same. But it will never be the same again (212).
Yamashita, Karen Tei. Tropic of Orange. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1997.
Rafaela Cortes spetn the morning barefoot, sweeping both dead and living things...to the door and off the side of the veranda and into the dark green undergrowth (3).
The freeway was a great root system, an organic living entitty. It was nothing more than a great writhing concrete dinosaur and nothing less than the greatest orchestra on Earth (37).
Manzanar imagined himself a kind of recycler...like the other homeless in the city...a recylcer of the last rung. The homeless were the insects and scavengers of society, feeding on leftovers, living in residue, colleting refuse...who would use the residue of sounds in the city if Manzanar did not? (56).
There are maps and there are maps and there are maps....they began within the very geology of the land, the artesian rivers running beneath the surface, connected and divergent, shifting and swelling. There was the complex and normally silent web of faults--cracking like mud flats baking under a desert sun, like the crevices in aging hands and faces. Yet, below the surface, there was the man-made gird of civil utilities....on the surface...ordinary persons never bother to notice...the prehistoic grid of plant and fauna and human behavior, nor the historic grid of land usage and property...the great overlays of transport....patterns and connections by every conceivable definition ...spreading visible and audible layers (56-57).
. ...the net was a big borderless soup and I was cooking (246).
I no longer looked for a resolution to the loose threads hanging off my shorelines….I now knew they were simply the warp and woof of a fraying net of conspiracies in an expanding universe where the holes only seemed to get larger and larger....The picture got larger and larger. I could follow a story or I could abandon it, but I could not stop (248-249).
"The Big Sleep. There's a chauffeur who dies, see....Who killed him? Script continuity, see. Nobody knows....Raymond Chandler..doesn't know either...it's like that. Just cuz you get to the end doesn't mean you know what happened" (252).