Archive for February, 2011

Racing to the metropolis

Cars shrieking to a halt. Reflections of green light glaring from oil-polluted neon puddles. Nobodies pushing their way along narrow sidewalks and between weaving bicycles. Cotton balls black with city grime. Cash soft as skin from passing through countless avaricious hands. Clumps of people laughing, smoking or joking – segregated in park corners. Nerves tying knots in deep shoulder tissue. You enjoy restless city life? Maybe the rush and excitement of taxis humming, the arts at your very fingertips, coffee shops open all night under glittering awnings, music wafting out of cracked windows three stories above you, people pushing with excitement to their next destination. You see an animated city of opportunity, entertainment, and progress? 

You, the reader, will most likely react to this romantic view of city versus rural life based on your upbringing, financial position or your personal interests. But for this short introduction to my independent study blog, let us put this aside and consider the impacts of globalization and of urbanization briefly.

Urbanization has provided humanity with unprecedented economic growth and technological innovation. It has also served as a learning center, a space for vibrant cultural exchange. A select few have the luxury to choose city life for the arts, night-life, higher education, research, well-paid jobs, and quick transactions. Most have been driven to the city for employment.

Urban Population Growth (Data provided by the United Nations http://esa.un.org/unup/index.asp?panel=1

  World Developed Less Developed Least Developed
1950 29% 52.5% 18% 7.3%
2000 46.6% 73.1% 40% 24.8%
2050 69.6% 86% 67% 55.5%

(Urbanization is on the rise. Without drastic local organizational or government intervention, many people, especially poor populations, will be forced to leave cities and find other employment or will be at the mercy of the consequences of past consumer-driven actions).

Unfortunately, for many, urbanization has not been a choice. In the developing world, many have and continue to seek city-life to escape from extreme poverty and isolation. In the developed world, and increasingly in the developing world today, populations urbanized as the social value of farming depreciated, agriculture was mechanized requiring less labor or demanding illegal labor, and individuals increasingly sought to move away from environmental vulnerability. For this reason, the industrialization of food systems has largely been considered a prerequisite as well as a product of development and progress. People move to cities to liberate themselves from land labor and simultaneously cities need industrialized agriculture to produce surpluses to support densely populated cities. However, as capitalism drives countries to specialize, to lengthen production chains distancing producers from consumers, to compete, to measure success with monetary profit only, to mass-produce, many jobs are dehumanized. While cities have benefited a few, many have not been so lucky.

In cities, the income gap widens between rich and poor, food desserts appear, pollution is concentration, living quarters are cramped, and crime often goes up. Urbanization is considered by many to be the answer to a sustainable future- decreasing the footprint of individuals by sharing services such as transportation and housing. While a handful of small cities have become relatively sustainable (Portland, Oregon for example), mega-cities around the world are draining the underlying aquifer and depleting resources due to a contagious consumer-driven culture.  The following is a chart published by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

(UNEP: http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/energy-efficiency-generally-improves-with-economic-growth-but-greenhouse-gases-increase-too)

Cities are isolated from their surrounding environment; if it does not fall from the sky, environmental changes are only experienced through increased prices of oranges for example. However, as resources become scarcer and pollution is increasingly concentrated (affecting underprivileged and poor populations most), life within the confines of the city will be forced to change. Cities will need to decrease in size and focus on community resiliency.

The free-flow of ideas, cultural exchange, and technological innovation will need to continue despite imminent environmental catastrophes. The transportation of people and goods however, will probably be forced to decrease. Government subsidies will no longer cover the cost of energy and food production and transportation as resources become scarce and prices rise. Consequently, locally-produced renewable energy and subsistence farming will become more important if not vital. This may seem like a step backwards or seen as a constricting measure because development has often been defined as an “emancipation” from the “land” and from the “home”. However, community development (either in a larger city or as part of a movement to re-localize), if married with modern technologies and connected to the international web of information, is likely to provide a greater sense of belonging, self-fulfillment, as well as allow for experiential education. City life breeds individualism and demands a constant vigilant and selfish race to the top. This has resulted in a culture of innovation. I believe that this same culture has the capacity and ability to bounce back and realize that with community support, development, and sustainability, everything is possible.

Deane, Phyllis. The First Industrial Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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Connectedness: the consequences of a mind/body dualism

As humans, we consider ourselves unique because we have both bodies and minds; minds capable of introspection, self-consciousness, and an ability to orient ourselves towards the future. René Descartes, a philosopher in the 17th century, described a mind/body dualism that, while refuted by many philosophers after him, is a notion that remains with us today. Somehow, whether through philosophy, science, or education, we have come to value the mind over the body; this has been to the detriment of everyone and everything. By valuing the power of the intellect over the power of the body, humans find a way to believe they are unsusceptible to actions that harm the earth.

First, a few ways in which we cherish the mind, and crucify the body:

Asceticism- the practice of mortifying the flesh and denying ourselves bodily pleasures is considered to be a way of purifying the mind.

“Mind over Matter”- A phrase often said to me by my father, whose meaning I never examined until now. We can use our minds to ignore and disregard the affections of      our bodies.

Knowing how to read and write is more important than knowing how to garden. It is ESSENTIAL to be literate in words and thoughts, and merely a bonus to know how to grow your own food. Being able to create and share ideas is more valuable that being able to create and share vegetables (despite the fact that we will in fact die   without food–but to have your soul live eternally will make up for the death of your body).

That which is infinite is inherently better than that which is finite. Our minds, ideas, intellect and soul are eternal. An idea can live forever, but an individual person will eventually die. Somehow, we view physical mortality as a weakness, to be succumbed by the eternal nature of the soul.

In the preface to Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, Wendell Berry illustrates one of the ways the destruction of rural communities and lands is justified “…money and technology will fill the gaps, the government will fill the gaps, science will soon free us from our regrettable dependence on the soil” (Berry, 6). Our regrettable dependence on the soil; this is where humans have made a grave mistake–believing that we can intellectualize and innovate ourselves out of dependence on the soil. There does remain hope because the earth is not yet completely destroyed. But we must look to nature, to the earth as our guide and teacher. We must discontinue believing that our status as “intelligent” humans somehow makes us invulnerable to the destruction of body and substance. Berry says, “The news of rural decline and devastation has been accompanied, to be sure, by a chorus of professional, institutional, and governmental optimists, who continue to insist that all is well, that we are making things worse only as a way of making them better” (Berry, 5). We are “fracking” now to help save us later when other resources run out. But we are destroying places and systems that can’t be fixed later.

There is no substitute for food.

There is no substitute for soil.

There is no substitute or replacement for this planet.

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2/21/11

Ecofeminism Deep Dialogues Monday February 21st
East Asian Reading Room, Waider-Spahr Library @ Dickinson College, 5:00pm-6:30pm
Conversation Topic: Please make comments and posts on the Blog ( http://blogs.dickinson.edu/ecofeminism/ ) with any articles/topics you’d like to bring to the discussion! For those unfamiliar with the blog, check it out, write some stuff (if you want to become an author, just shoot me an email), and make suggestions even if you’re a newcomer to the group.
Suggestions for future topics: Continuing the discussion of “What makes a healthy Ecofeminist community?”

Community Building/Consensus
Meditation and Mindfulness Exercises
Ownership vs. Stewardship
Culture of Silence- How do we break the silence?
Who is bringing food: Doni and Rebecca
Please make suggestions of other places to meet if you have any! We will discuss what we think is a good permanent meeting place next week.


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The Miracle is to Walk on Earth

The goal of my independent study is to explore the many ways in which our bodies are connected to the earth and how the earth is itself a body. I hope to move away from understanding our bodies as individual entities existing in the world or living on the earth; viewing instead our bodies as earth. When we fail to see ourselves as a part of a larger system, whether that be our local community, our bioregion or the earth as a whole, destructive practices are re-enforced. When the soil is infertile, our bodies are infertile; when we pollute the air, we pollute our lungs; if we are thoughtless about where our food comes from and how it is provided to us, we are thoughtless about our bodies. In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh points out one of the true miracles of life:

“The real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize.”

http://popartmachine.com/blog/figures-in-landscape-art-walking-away-painting.html

This is my hope: to be aware of this miracle in each moment of each day. We* are one with the earth and with each other; our bodies are a part of the earth as a body. Everything is connected; no individual body or act can be separated from the whole. If we frack the earth, we frack our food, our bodies, our minds. If we torture living creatures, we torture the earth, our bodies and our minds. In a culture of rape, we rape the earth, we rape bodies and minds. When we abuse our resources, we abuse the entirety of the earth, not just one region. We also abuse our minds and our bodies. When we poison one water source, we poison them all, we poison the earth our minds and our bodies. I say this in repetition because this connectedness is something we should all take the time to meditate on.

*”we” in this context refers to the entirety of the human population.

” It is not just our own lives that are recognized as precious,

but the lives of every other person, every other person, every other being,

every other reality. We can no longer be deluded by the notion

that the destruction of other’s lives is necessary for our own survival” (Hanh 51).

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Getting to the Root of the Problem

Last semester in the Ecofeminism course, I noticed how our class of women became a community throughout the semester through the information we learned and shared together.  Each of us contributed a different piece of background knowledge and experience to the larger ecofeminism picture that we put together as we learned about various global issues. Community development and maintenance is a major ecofeminist concern, as community building not only strengthens individuals but also strengthens regions and creates new routes of information sharing. I used this as the premise for my Independent Study this semester; how information and experience sharing (such as what our class engaged in) builds ecofeminist communities. I will also be examining how a specific medium like community gardening and herbal medicine can be used to establish communities and what role this information sharing will play in a community.

Source: http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/phrase/585/herbs.html

Herbal gardening and medicines are also an ecofeminist topic because herbal remedies are an approach to medicine that works from the soil up and with a person’s bodily system to remedy an ailment. This is opposed to most contemporary medicines, which simply cure ailments that may just be a small part of the larger problem. An ecofeminist approach to issues (including medicine) instead seeks to evaluate the whole system that causes a problem and potentially restructure it to permanently remedy the problem, rather than trying to solve a problem in segments. Herbal medicine seeks to evaluate the system in which a health problem is occurring and strengthen the whole system; for example strengthening the respiratory system as a whole to treat asthma instead of only treating asthma symptoms. Growing your own herbal medicine within a community also encourages a connection to the land and soil, as ecofeminism also advocates. By growing the food you consume and medicine you use, you gain an understanding of the process in which those plants become a part of your body, thus connecting your body closer to the soil on which you live.

Source: http://www.roomu.net/exterior/planning-herb-garden-culinary-herbs-medicinal-herbs-and-herbs.html

Throughout the semester, I hope to rethink how I and members of my community consider medicine by building a community around alternative herbal medicine. By doing this, I hope to gain a better understanding of my body as a system and how it fits into and works with the environment around me and how elements of the environment (such as medicinal plants) operate within my bodily system.

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What Makes a Healthy Ecofeminist Community?

Transparency

Trust—> breeds transparency

Stewardship

Respect

Is privacy a right?

How do we move from a community of ownership to a community of stewardship?

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2/14/11

Monday February 14th

East Asian Reading Room, Waider-Spahr Library @ Dickinson College, 5:00pm-6:30pm
Conversation Topic: Marcellus Shale, Energy Development, and Alternative Economics
Continuing our conversation from last week on the impact of marcellus shale in regards to both environmental impact and gender implications.
Who is bringing food: Claire Tighe
New blog updates!  See the “Deep Dialogues” category on the right for a listing of each week’s discussion, notes, observations, and more.
Looking forward to building on the energy from last week!

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What’s On the Agenda?

Please post other topics or questions you would like to discuss!

Sexualities

Food Democracy

Applied Ecofeminism

Spirituality

Alternative Community Models

Capitalism

Water

Earth Ethics

Notes from our First Dialogue

TO BE A LEARNING CREATURE!

(consent, agreement, consensus)

  • Canning
  • Meditation
  • Diversity:

o   Generating diversity in our attendees

o   Developing ecofeminism as a relevant antiracist practice

  • Ecofeminism and food democracy

o   Food security

o   Food access and urban food deserts

  • Bringing it local
  • Sexualities and the gender spectrum

o   Biology and destiny

  • How is this applied?

o   In developing communities

  • How can we share this with people effectively?
  • Spirituality, Judeo-Christian values, and spiritual ecofeminist connections
  • Any connections with women and art:  ladies & bodies!
  • Alternative community models
  • Crucial turning points in ecofem
  • CONSUMERISM—CAPITALISM KILLS

BELLS!  DIRT!  TALKING!

Reading The Edible Woman?

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Marcellus Shale

Marcellus Shale Videos:

“Gasland” -a film by Josh Fox

“Haynesville: A Nation’s Hunt For An Energy Future”

“Split Estate: What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You”

RESOURCES:

Northern Plains Resource Council

Women’s Voices for the Earth

TEDX: The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Sandra Steingraber : Fracking Our Food

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2/7/11

Didn’t make it to the first Deep Dialogues last Monday?  No worries!  Join us this week or any week.

Monday February 7th
Landis House @ Dickinson College, 5:00pm-6:30pm
Conversation Topic: Women/Bodies and Environment/Society at the nexus of consumerism.
How are our lives dictated by the ‘laws’ of consumption, capitalism, and objectification of both bodies and natural objects, and how can we deconstruct this basis to form our own radical ways of valuing self and the purpose of life?
Who is bringing food: Katelyn Repash (repashk@dickisnon.edu) / Amy Woolf (woolfa@dickinson.edu)
There was a motion to include a great diversity of voices in the group.  Reach out to friends, colleagues, and contacts who can help make our discussions as rich in experience and voice as they are in passion and interest.
Also, several interested ecofeminists have expressed the desire to have younger (much younger!  as in a few months old or a few years!) voices join the discussion, so that parents can attend.  I would love to make our group open to this.  One possibility is for us to share responsibility for entertaining, including, and looking after younger participants, taking turns while the rest of the group joins in.  If you are interested or willing to help out with including children in our group, send me back a quick reply so I can gauge our group’s capacity and willingness to do so.
Thanks to everyone who signed up to bring food!  Yum!  Please plan to bring snacks for about 15 people.  I will post the list and weeks on the blog.

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