Edgy Stuff: January 2015 Recommendations
The Edge Effects editorial board brings you a handful of recommendations based on the most interesting stuff that’s come across our desks, screens, and speakers over the last month (or so). From books and articles, to podcasts, music, and film, we’ll keep you on the edge.
This month, we welcome a new editor to the Edge Effects team. Eric Nost is a Ph.D. student in geography at UW-Madison studying the tools and technologies that conservationists and decision-makers use to do coastal wetland restoration. And be sure to check out his blog, A True Point of Beginning.
Mohammed Rafi Arefin
The Environmental Justice Atlas is an interactive web map that catalogues ongoing environmental justice issues across the world. The sheer amount of mapped conflicts is impressive, but what stands out about this tool is the extensive filter and search functionality. Struggles, which are already color coded by toxin or resource, can be parsed at a large level by country, commodity, or company. Once at this level, there are over 50 more filters ranging from mobilizing forms to outcomes. As a preliminary research tool, a teaching aid, or an activist resource, the Environmental Justice Atlas should be of interest to those concerned with environmental justice struggles and innovative ways to make these struggles visible.
I’ve been absorbed in Christopher Wells’s Car Country: An Environmental History. Wells makes a compelling case for the ways cars are “woven into the basic fabric of the landscape,” where “Americans drive because in most places the built environment all but requires them to do so.”1 A master at revealing the complex variables that brought the car landscape into being, Wells helps readers think both historically and geographically. Car Country isn’t just great reading, it’s also a powerful teaching tool for explaining just how we’ve become so dependent on cars, and why imagining alternatives has become so difficult.
With the new teaching semester in full swing and place-based curriculum guru Michael Goodwin on his way to Madison for the 8th Annual CHE Graduate Symposium, I’m thinking a great deal about my priorities as an instructor. Here is one tool I’ve used to aid in that reflection on pedagogy: the online “Leaders of Learning” course offered free of charge via the EdX collaborative and Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Richard Elmore. Though I’m only working through the class in fits and starts, its core questions remain sustaining food for thought: What are your implicit beliefs about how students learn? How can you make more explicit—and thus a more operational—those theories of learning?
I’m on a poetry kick, and this month I’ve been exploring an anthology called Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille Dungy. It has been immensely enjoyable to experience the range and depth of environmentally-attuned writing in this collection. My favorite discovery so far is Tim Seibles, whose three poems in the volume demonstrate his ambidextrous ability and unflinching power to move. In this excerpt from “Fearless,” Seibles neatly swerves between ecological and cultural messages as he animates the persistence of weeds:
Is it possible to be so glad?
The shoots rising in spite of every plot
against them. Every chemical stupidity,
every burned field, every better
home & garden finally overrun
by the green will, the green greenness
of green things growing greener.
The mad Earth publishing
Her many million murmuring
In December 2014, Munich’s Deutsches Museum saw the opening of the first major exhibition in the world devoted to the Anthropocene. The Rachel Carson Center for Society and Environment (a crucial partner in the project) created a “digital companion” for the exhibition that’s well worth perusing. Essays on everything from urbanization and mobility to food and evolution accompany an interview with Paul Crutzen (who helped coin the term “Anthropocene”) as well as a look at major milestones in the “age of humans.”
How do we make amends with nature? This month I’ve followed the final chapter in the court case surrounding 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The judge is deciding how much BP has to pay, and I can’t help but think of Radiolab’s recent episode, “Worth” (also embedded, below). The final segment pointedly asks how we could ever price the life-sustaining work nature does for us. Undoubtedly, when ecosystems are not priced, we may deem them worthless. And yet, as the story on the US’s compensation of civilian drone strike victims proposes, can any payment really settle the score? “Worth” helps us engage with the legal and scientific complexities of justice within capitalist society. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Christopher W. Wells, Car Country: An Environmental History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012), xxx-xxxi ↩