Environmental Thinking

Professor Margret Grebowicz

Monday and Thursday, 19:00—20:30

The news announce constantly that we are living on a dying planet. For many people, this overwhelms not just our ability to “do something” about it, but even our ability to think it. Sometimes, the disaster seems too immense, too intertwined with every aspect of life for a mere individual to grasp. Other times, we are told that every one of our actions, no matter how small, makes a difference. Neither position helps people understand the present or imagine the future.

This course introduces multiple critical paradigms for thinking about the environment and our modes of relating to it. Rather than trying to describe the environmental crisis, as if the problem were singular, this illustrates how different environmental problems engender different cognitive and imaginative frameworks. The goal of the course is not to arrive at a comprehensive, total understanding of environment, but instead to explore the dynamics among these competing frameworks. Should we strive to reconcile the tensions between them? Can their differences be productive for thought, action, or both?

Some important details:

Please come on time. Please have some sort of writing apparatus with you, either a notebook and pen, or an electronic device.

Please raise your hands before speaking during our discussions. I will be trying to learn your first names, so thanks for your patience with that and please help me out when I mispronounce things.

Much of what I will talk about is in the US context, because that is at the heart of my research. I will need your help navigating this. There will be lots of things I don’t know about international and certainly Russian environmentalism. The open course format is especially good for addressing this challenge, because it will allow me to learn from you also. Please feel free to add your knowledge where appropriate, and help me to create a class that’s dynamic, but not chaotic. We are lucky this quarter: the only goal of this class is greater understanding, which includes greater mutual understanding.

Email address: margret.grebowicz@goucher.edu

Office hours TBA

The Plan

  • 09.03 Introductions and beginning thinking What is the Anthropocene? Who are “we”?

  • 09.06 Fantasies of Nature

    the national park idea, nationalism, recreation, photography, freedom, solitude, escape, beauty

  • 09.10 Grizzly Man screening (dir. Werner Herzog, 2005)

  • 09.13 Thinking with Grizzly Man

    Are humans animals? Are animals persons? What is wilderness and who/what belongs there?

  • 09.17 Nature, gender, and sexuality introducing ecofeminism and queer ecology

  • 09.20 Whales and other aliens

    animal intelligence, language, communication, charisma

  • 09.24 Noise and other waste

    ocean pollution, ambient waste, noise, media, social media and environmentalism

  • 09.27 Thinking about climate change

    climate change as a challenge to thinking and imagination, temporal scale and time-lapse photography, dark ecology

  • 10.01 Disability, disease, and ecological loss

    Environmentalism meets wellness culture, crip critique, what is a “natural” disaster?

  • 10.04 Environmental justice

    The movement’s history, its advantages and limitations, for what phenomena is it useful?

  • 10.08 Indigenous People’s Day (US)

    Thinking with mountains: colonialism and mountaineering, recreation in late capitalism, optimized bodies and affect extraction

  • 10.11 Guest speaker

    Dr. Juliette Colinas, specialist in environmental sociology and economics, on place, attachment, and social capital

  • 10.15 Concluding discussion: pessimism, optimism, and action