What is the role of simplicity—and in particular, simple language—in contemporary environmentalism? What should it be? Given the staggering complexity of problems brought on by the Anthropocene, can we afford to think, speak, or act “simply”? As academics, what line should we walk between strategically simplifying our positions on environmental issues (be those positions scientific, imaginative, historical, or otherwise) and attending adequately to the layers of nuance and detail that must support them?
In this podcast, I sit down with four members of the CHE community at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to talk about their perspectives on the question of simplicity: Geography Ph.D. candidate Andy Davey, English Ph.D. candidate Sarah Dimick, Professor Lynn Keller of the English Department, and Professor Cathy Middlecamp of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
Listen to the discussion by clicking the play button below:
Nathan Jandl serves as visual editor for Edge Effects and is a Ph.D. candidate in the English department, where he is writing a dissertation on the social roots of environmental attachment in 20th-century American literature and art. He also writes narrative nonfiction and takes photographs, both of which can be accessed via his website. Website. Contact.
Andy Davey is a PhD student in the Geography department at UW-Madison. He is currently studying how and why different models of environmental ethics and education, such as Catholic stewardship, evangelical creation care, and secular environmentalism, developed at American liberal arts colleges during the 20th century. He is also working with community groups in the city of Madison to help facilitate place-based storytelling about food, gardening, and racial justice. Contact.
Sarah Dimick is a doctoral student in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interests span contemporary American and global literature, concentrating on environmental writing of the 20th and 21st centuries. Her research explores representations of climate change and the Anthropocene. Contact.
Lynn Keller is the Martha Meier Renk Bascom Professor of Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches in the English Department and CHE. Her most recent book is Thinking Poetry: Readings in Contemporary Women’s Exploratory Poetics (2010). She co-edits the Contemporary North American Poetry Series from the University of Iowa Press and is writing a book on 21st-century North American experimental ecopoetics. Contact.
Cathy Middlecamp is a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. She holds a joint appointment in the Integrated Liberal Studies Program and is an affiliate of the Chemistry Department. Recently, she was appointed as the Education Fellow with the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability. Her scholarship lies at the intersection of science, people, and the planet. She joins with others who promote teaching and learning chemistry to the benefit of Earth and its people. Contact.