It’s interesting that although liberals are the ones who most like to talk about protecting the environment, conservatives are the ones most likely to do yard work. “There is a conflict between the politics of freedom and environmental activism,” Jana Maria Giles said at the Modern Language Association (MLA) meeting in Austin, Texas last week.
Giles, who teaches at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, made clear which side of the divide she is on. Last year, she wrote an article entitled “Dog-paddling Against the Tide: Integrating Ecocriticism into a New Graduate English Course in a Southern Public Regional University.”
“This paper recounts the experience of teaching an English MA graduate course in environmental humanities for the first time at a public regional university in northeastern Louisiana,” she wrote. “The region is one of the poorest in the United States, there is little environmental activism in the local community, and the students had little formal education in environmental issues or in literary theory in general prior to the course.”
“At the same time, Louisiana is experiencing severe coastal erosion which constitutes a national disaster. Texts used for the course included The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (2011), by Timothy Clark; British Romantic poetry; Walden (1854) by Henry David Thoreau; The Monkey-Wrench Gang (1975) by Edward Abbey; Ceremony (1977) by Leslie Marmon Silko; Disgrace (2000) by J.M. Coetzee; The Hungry Tide (2006) by Amitav Ghosh; and Bayou Farewell (2004) by Mike Tidwell.”
“While the students appreciated the literary texts and theory, their response to the possibility of activism regarding our current environmental crises was muted and pessimistic. However, after the completion of the course, several students went on to implement change both locally and internationally, or reported that their attitude towards nature had been substantially modified.”
I wonder if this environmentally conscious scholar and her charges would be willing to help me mow the lawn, pull weeds, plant trees, mulch….