Sunday, April 22, 2007

So This is Earth Day...

Apologies to John Lennon for the title.

I figure since it's Earth Day, someone should post something here to mark the occasion. That's not my being snotty, either. But what can academically minded people say about such a strange holiday?

I'll say two things, if only briefly, of which only the second is academically minded.

One, Cassie and I decided to spend the day not using our cars and expending as little energy at home as possible. To be honest, though, it wasn't that hard. It was easy to leave the TV off--if all you have is CBS, all you had today is motocross, golf, and a Dean Cain made-for-TV movie. No losses at all there. We cooked a quick dinner and spent most of the day walking and futzing about the library. We are both mid-papers so the computers were our big conceit, but even then I turned off the monitor every time I left the room. I suppose in retrospect, though, I should have better power settings to manage that kind of thing.

But because it was so easy I felt at least a little guilty. To fix that I waited for Cassie at the library after I had finished sitting under one of the beautiful trees blooming a bright purple on campus near Meredith Hall (thanks for the pic, Carbon Copy). I read Mary Oliver's "The Honey Tree" with bees zipping around above me in the buds and Annie Dillard's "Living Like Weasels" trying to remember if I have ever seen a weasel in-person. It was a nice day and I still got lots of writing done later on. Maybe it's the change in the weather, but it made me feel optimistic. About what, though, I can't say.

Two, I was thinking today about holidays. How Valentine's and Mother's Day are supposed to be the product of greeting card companies. From that I puzzled that Earth Day has to be a political holiday (holiday?). No big break-through there, to be sure. However, I get the feeling that lately, because of the furor over the ill-effects of global warming has a lot to do with refugees, and MBQ telling us about how the CIA says the next World War (god forbid) will be fought over water, I was reminded somewhat tangentially of how little I knew about environmental justice as a field. So I went back to the big article that was my introduction, Dorceta Taylor's "American Environmentalism: The Role of Race, Class, and Gender, 1820-1995." It's a great article (and a huge piece of forest if you print it, I might add) and I wish I could post a copy here. (Sigh. Intellectual property laws.) However, I did dig up her CV from her space at the University of Michigan. It includes a great "Selected Publications" list highlighting her work on environmental justice. Hopefully you all can find copies through your own libraries. So much to read, so little time.

So I sound like an ivory tower Garrison Keillor today. What of it?

Happy Earth Day. Go change out a light bulb.


MBQ said...

Ironically, I read Oliver's "The Honey Tree" and Dillard's "Living Like Weasels" the other day. Weird. It's like we have the same book or something.

My first reaction to Dillard was that I couldn't picture a weasel in my head. I had the general shape but I couldn't get the particulars to focus and yet if you had asked me prior to this if I knew what a weasel was I would have answered confidently that I did.

I like how Dillard retains her humanity in the piece, and how even when she covets the weasel's life she always uses it to comment/critique/recontextualize humanity.

I dislike her concept of "yielding," however. The idea that the weasel lives "in necessity ... yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of a single necessity" and that yielding thusly is the weasel living "as he's meant to" doesn't work for me. She wants to "learn something of mindlessness" from the weasel, "something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive.

She argues living "by choice" is a bad thing, but living by necessity robs humanity of a large portion of free will, which seems to me to be as vital a part of humanity as anything in the greater animal kingdom.

It's a small, intriguing essay that I greatly like so I don't want to make too much out of it, but I like living by choice, even if that often leads to bad decisions.

carbon said...

two things from someone not academically-minded.

1) How could you pass up a Dean Cain made-for-TV movie? Didn't you know he played Superman/Clark Kent on Lois and Clark? Plus, he's totally hott!

2) It's such a myth that greeting card companies created Valentine's Day. Mother's Day maybe, but not Valentine's Day, which dates back to Chaucer. This is a myth I will dispel in my all too academic (but unwritten) thesis on valentines and greeting card companies.

I wish I had read outside. I really should try that sometime. Also, you're welcome about the picture. Any time.

trout said...

speaking of killing a forest by printing off articles, larry buell gave us what must have been a 300-page coursepack printed one-sided. a bit ironic, i thought...