Environmental Ethics & Activism

Thinking this morning about my impending Environmental Ethics course this Fall.

Last time I taught it, the theme was native wisdom. This time it’s activism.

Indefatibable octogenerian ant biologist E.O. Wilson recently asked the youngsters at Grist why they weren’t taking it to the streets on behalf of the planet. “Why aren’t you young people out protesting the mess that’s being made of the planet?” Well, some of them are. But that’s my question too. It’s really past time to shake things up again, to awaken ourselves and too many of our peers from their dogmatic consumerist slumbers.

What ever happened to the passionate spirit of the first Earth Day back in 1970? I remember how excited our miniskirted Middle School social studies teacher, Ms. Can’tRecallHerName, was about it. She tried to inspire us to save the world from the polluters and Oncelers.

It’d be easy to think she failed, with (for instance) Mr. CorporationsArePeopleToo running more-or-less credibly for the top spot this year. But look who’s teaching a course in environmental activism in 2012. I really ought to remember her name, but I know she’d be more gratified that I registered her message.

So, can enough of us get that inspired feeling back, and that sense of righteous mission on behalf of our fragile planet, to make a difference? Do we really need to? What does the environment have to do with broader issues of social justice, the 99% Movement, and the upcoming election season? Is it too late to dream of building a sustainable ecology? Is there anything wrong with eco-utopian dreams? Just some of the questions we’ll take up in Environmental Ethics & Activism (EEA).

Our main texts: Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest, James Speth’s Bridge at the Edge of the World, Bill McKibben’s Global Warming Reader, Van Jones’s Rebuild the Dream, Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia.


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