Saturday, January 19, 2008

this morning i went to a meeting for ans environmental initiative called "greening duluth", duluth is the street i live on. they have some really neat ideas like starting an organic farmers market in this empty parking lot in the summers and green roofing, etc.

In the meeting the organizer put up three words on the chalkboard- sustainability, greening, and community. and we, as a group, free associated whatever things popped into our heads. (ie longevity, inclusiveness, organic, greenroofs, composting...). we also brainstormed ideas of programs, opportunities for collaboration and events.
later in the evening i was reflecting on it with my roommate who is an ecologist. she quite frustrated in by the meeting. especially at the fact that the group was largely made up of artist-types whose ideas about dealing with romantic issues came off as romantic and idealistic. many of the ideas for projects and events that will be under the wing of the "greening duluth" org focus on aesthetic/beautification and creative expression, rather than hard scientific data supporting the efficacy of their methods and approaches.

it got me thinking about how there seems to be a divide between scientists and activists. i felt myself caught between my roommate's (scientific) point of view and that of artist/activists. (my position seems, most appropriately, to mirror the in-between that anthropology navigates between the arts/humanities and the physical sciences.) i can see the validity of both camps. we need science to better understand the environmental problems that we have created and science certainly can off some technologies and solutions to change systems of production, energy, waste management, ect. at the same time, artists/dreamers/activists are important for raising consciousness, understanding what the environment means in our daily lives, looking for solutions from the bottom up, building community. somehow i wish this divide could be bridged. ecologist roommate won't be going back to GD meetings, which is a shame. they need her perspective, and although i know it would be frustrating for her, i think it wouldn't hurt for her to give theirs a chance.

there is so many more questions that are raised by this little post- so much more deconstructing that needs to be done!
like what is the term "environment" anyways? is it synonymous with nature? and where to humans fit in in relation to nature? are we part of it or distinct from it? is it in our "nature" to be "green" or are humans innately destructive to our environments? are the little things we do daily (like recycling) thinking we are being environmental really just trivial when it comes to the big picture (say in relation to the energy we collectively use in order to heat our houses to not freeze living in northern canada, to to fly half way across the world on business of vacation)? the 10ish people who attended the meeting were entirely white and middle class- can projects like greening duluth be inclusive to and integrate perpectives of a variety cultural and socio-economic groups, or are they inherently western-centric and middle class?

any musings to share?

1 comment:

MAWG said...

Great post - great questions...

If we're going to get serious about changing the way we interact with the environment, we need people from all walks of life getting involved. Scientists and activists are a good start, but how about churches, politicians and the business community too?

Yes - push your friend to be involved, but don't stop there. I'm encouraged when I see signs that global warming is getting attention in trade press - like this article in a food newsletter:

So much more to respond to, but not enough time in a post. Maybe over tea sometime soon.