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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

When I started Harvard College, we were still fighting the Cold War.  It was the fall of 1989, right before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  I remember walking through my dorm that November: a friend had his door open and was telling everyone who passed the latest about the crowds spilling through the Berlin checkpoints.

Most of that autumn is a blur.  I vaguely remember doing homework in a random, slightly manic way.  I wrote papers.  I asked questions in class.  I faked being a college student until I could figure it out.  My course selection was equally jumbled.  I took 18th century French literature, modern political theory, and economics—I was trying to cover as many disciplines in as few classes as I could.

To fulfill a requirement, I also took a geology class called “Changing Surfaces of the Earth,” nicknamed “Rocks for Jocks” because it was supposedly so easy.  At the time, the nickname was accurate—the class was a fairly painless walk through plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, rivers, oceans, and sediment.  I actually liked studying how grains of sand moved over the sea floor, a process with the lyrical name of saltation.  Every time I’m in a plane watching the way the rivers below meander and twist in their channels, I think of that class. (more…)

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Yesterday, I read Bill McKibben’s stark new piece on climate change in Rolling Stone.  I’m still reeling from it, still feeling the urgency of his terrifying and uncompromising message.  I’ll have more to say about it–including the way I think I’ll use the piece in my course, the (to me) startling reaction to it in comments, and a thoughtful piece in the New York Times that helps explain why such a simple message is so hard for people both to hear and to act on.

Meanwhile, as apocalyptic visions of the year 2030 whirl through my head, my mother and I have decided to fly to Kansas City in a couple of weeks to see my grandmother, who is 94.  I haven’t seen her in several years, so the trip is very important to me–but I was still cringing about pouring God-knows-how-much more carbon into the atmosphere when I’m really pushing myself and others to make changes in behavior. (more…)

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I’m finally making my way through some texts I’m hoping to either assign for my fall course on Environmental Advocacy or ones I hope will help me coherently lead class discussions.

I’m considering as a text for the class Bill McKibben’s anthology American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau.  The book has a ton of advantages: two full sets of gorgeous color plates, excerpts from writings by over a hundred authors, a comprehensive chronology–it’s basically every single thing you could want in an environmental anthology.  Its major drawback is the drawback of most anthologies–because it tries to be comprehensive, many of the readings are too short from my point of view.  Obviously, I can pick and choose and assign the best of what’s here, but in my experience, it’s a lot more work for me to go hunt down the texts, make my own selections, format those, and somehow distribute them to students.  Oh well–that’s my job.  Meanwhile, I’m really enjoying dipping into the anthology and discovering new authors and new ideas. (more…)

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