Sunday, July 21, 2013

The latest from a very busy environmentalist professor and mother

Just so no one gets worried about me as I've been a bit silent, lately, all is well.

It's been a busy, busy year.

Here's what I did since last Fall.  As an act of cracking eggs to enlighten the young, in addition to teaching my normal load of two courses a semester, plus directing dissertations (my PhD student Ula Klein just graduated and I'm so proud of her and her work), and writing articles for magazines, and Directing the Environmental Humanities major in our Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program, and becoming Interim Director of the entire Stony Brook University Sustainabilities Program (are you tired yet?  I am!), and trying to complete my environmental memoir, I taught two freshman seminars on Environmental Film. Oh, don't forget (I almost did),  I taught TWO summer classes on environmental literature and film-- graduate and undergraduate.  I'm sure I've forgotten something.

Why, pray tell, would I be so crazy as to add two courses on top of the other two and on top of everything else in the spring semester (or the summer courses!)?  It's my calling to wake students and others up.  That's why. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

The Freshman seminars meet seven times.  So I showed six environmental films and we talked about the environmental issues related to these films...  Here's what the students viewed: Earth 2100 (climate change), Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (made for PBS), Gasland 1 (2 wasn't out yet), Into Eternity (nuclear waste), Food Inc, and No Impact Man (along with the video short- The Story of Stuff). So, we covered: climate change; nuclear power, weapons and waste; toxics, chemicals and cancer; fracking; food and agricultural rights; garbage, waste and consumption.  The last--No Impact Man! was the lightest fare and left the kids with suggestions of things they can do, as well as a bit of humor and hope.

I think I made an impact with these two seminars... as the kids run off to their various majors, they said they plan to bring environmental awareness into these different fields, from Business, to Chemistry, to Engineering. Very cool.

My other courses were awesome.  In my Feminist Literature and Culture class we rocked to Eve Ensler's One Billion Rising on February 14th, V-Day.  Two of my students are dancers (thank you Jul Carmela and Melanie Magdit); they learned the choreography from the One Billion Rising site and taught my class of almost 60. We played the live stream and danced with the world--simultaneously.  Very powerful.  We also watched Nick Kristof's Half the Sky, read Ensler's Vagina Monologues and The Good Body, The Color Purple (and a bunch of Walker's work--essays and poems-- on eco-womanist themes--women and the environment), Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Into the Forest (by Jean Hegland).  So, we covered contemporary body issues, women writers/writing and feminism, colonialism, race, ecofeminism, and so much more.  Loved that class.  On the last day, one of my students, a single empowered very young mom,  brought in her little girl, and another student brought her beautiful hairy dog, Foosa. Students did creative research presentations on feminist topics most meaningful to them.  Some memorable ones: a book by my single mom student to her daughter about being an empowered teen mom, a presentation on women in comic books throughout history, and a presentation on women (and power) in Star Trek. Another mind blowing presentation was on a google chat where the question "what do you think of feminism?" was posed.  oh my, in the world outside the bubble of my classroom, it seems many folks have no idea what feminism is and anonymous chatters seem to hate women!  The mysoginist language used was pretty shocking....

My other class:  Eco Media (yes, I teach a class on environmental media-love it!).  In this class, my students created an amazing amazing live blog, and they wrote sharp critiques of all of our readings and film viewings -- on current environmental events in the media.  We were visited by a live New York Journalist--Karl Grossman, we attended a brilliant symposium on the future of Nuclear Power post Fukushima, hosted by Helen Caldicott, in the NYC.  Many of us took buses at 5 am on a freezing winter day to Washington, DC, where we attended the biggest Climate Change rally ever-- headed up by Bill McKibben and Sierra Club.  One group of my students made an amazing film about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the Great South Bay.  We all participated in Stony Brook University's Earthstock (Earth Day Celebration), presenting research projects on toxics and cosmetics, fracking, GMOs and pesticides and food, and Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change.  Many folks at Earthstock were stunned, mesmerized, and impressed by what my students had to say and offer!

Oh and here are some other things I organized for the Eco Media class and the Freshman Seminars: two public showings of Dear Governor Cuomo, with the filmmaker, Jon Bowermaster, speaking!  What a great guy and what a rocking, rousing and inspiring film. One showing was in Huntington, NY, at the Cinema Arts Centre, and the other was at our Stony Brook Campus.

I also organized a showing of Chasing Ice at Cinema Arts--and we invited Professor Malcolm Bowman, an oceanographer to speak...

Gosh, there's so much more.... summer classes and attending The Clearwater Revival Festival with my students and working in the Green Cities Tent, again!  Hands-on environmental learning from the experts at its best.  Thank you Ryan Palmer, Manna Jo Greene, Karla Raimundi, and Linda Richards, for pulling this astounding learning experience together for my students, once again.  Unforgettable.

Last but not least, I just came back from Omega Institute, where I gave a lecture on the Power of Environmental Literature.  That was a lot of fun to put together.  I spoke about the profound influence of literary words on environmental activism.  Skip Backus and Laura Weiland created an amazing six-week program there on Sustainability (one of my students attended) and I was delighted to jump in and speak with this very engaged group and others for the evening.

Now, more to do, more to do... and back to revisions of my book.... soon to come to a store near you!

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