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“Environmental Justice, Literature, and Service Learning: Putting Theory into Practice” Presentation for the biannual conference of the Association for.

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Presentation on theme: "“Environmental Justice, Literature, and Service Learning: Putting Theory into Practice” Presentation for the biannual conference of the Association for."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Environmental Justice, Literature, and Service Learning: Putting Theory into Practice” Presentation for the biannual conference of the Association for Literature and Environment (ASLE) June 12-16, 2007 Wofford College, South Carolina Dr. Greta Gaard, Dept. of English, UW-River Falls

2 Environmental justice movement responds to environmental racism, classism, sexism, anti-naturism/speciesism (anti-toxics)* Radioactive waste on Native lands Landfills and hazardous wastes in African American and Latino communities Banned pesticides exported to Third World Toxic labor conditions for farmworkers, maquila workers, sweatshop workers Akwesasne Mother’s Milk Project connects indigenous women, water, whales *1991: expanded to include public health, worker safety, land use, transportation, housing resource allocation, community empowerment

3 Why teach EJ lit? Personal/Political/Literary Motivations Feminist framework for viewing environmental justice –Val Plumwood (1993), Feminism and the Mastery of Nature –“master model” & self/other Expanding students’ conceptual frameworks, making connections btw. social and environmental justice Literature illuminates life, offers intellectual and emotional connection to real issues

4 Outcomes: EJ, Literature, & Research “Studying politics alone would not have given me any sort of connection to important issues. The politics get really boring and it would be easy to tune out and just do what I needed to do to get through the class. The literature gave me people to connect and identify with. It made it easy to see how these characters that I cared about were being affected. After reading the literature, we did research to see how the things presented in the novels really play out in the real world. To find out that these things are actually going on and affecting real people is very powerful.” -Katie Austin, Spring 2007

5 EJ Literature & Service Learning: course contexts at UWRF “literature” = fiction, poetry, nonfiction essays, speeches, websites, social action writing “ethical citizenship” & UWRF’s General Education criteria –Identify individual and collective responsibilities to the social & natural environment of community, nation, world –Focus on the process of decision- making regarding values & ethics in personal, professional, & civic life

6 SOTL Research Questions: EJ and Service Learning What could students learn by triangulating EJ lit, research, & their own service learning experiences? Is service learning an integral component for teaching EJ literature?

7 ENG 228 Course Groundwork Literary texts – diverse and international “literature” of many genres, reflective of the movement Learning Community – discussion, reflection, goal-setting and assessment –3 reflective papers on course themes –Civic engagement or Service learning –Portfolio of coursework, introduced by self-reflective and self-evaluative letter Researching real world correlations for the literature Service learning – practicing ethical citizenship

8 EJ Literature Themes I.Ecology & Identity: Where We Live, Who We Are II.What we Eat III.Where we Work IV.Social Power, Ecological Power -> civic engagement V.Economy, Ecology, & Globalization VI.For a Future to be Possible

9 The Literature I.Ecology & Identity : Readings from Langston Hughes, Margo Tamez, Gary Snyder, Gloria Andaldúa, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva, Alice Walker, Sandra Steingraber II.Food: Ruth Ozeki. My Year of Meats. III.Work: Ana Castillo. So Far From God. IV.Power: Water (Hogan, Solar Storms), Nuclear (Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge), Oil (Marnie Mueller, Green Fires). V.Globalization: Karen Yamashita, Tropic of Orange. VI.EJ Future: Deming & Savoy, eds. The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World.

10 Videos as Narrative Literature I.“Rachel Carson” II.“Diet for a New America” III.“Zoned for Slavery” IV.“Power,” “Good Nukes,” “Oil on Ice” V.“Black Gold”

11 EJ Lit & Service Learning: Phase One Group projects linked to the topic of power (water, nuclear, oil) Service learning as engaged citizenship can include –Internet research & engagement w/EJ organization, online activism, research or letter-writing; –Collaborative role-play exploring ethical perspectives & strategies for resolving conflicts in a situation related to your topic, performed on or off campus; –Service learning of at least 10 hours.

12 Outcomes Group 1: Water Educational Campaign –Creating a PowerPoint illustrating Hydroelectric power generation, impact, alternatives –Presenting PPT and information on campus Flyers promoting the event November 2, 2006 – 6:00 p.m. (18 people) –Posting the event Facebook My Space

13 Group 2: Nuclear PPT on Nuclear Power –from Los Alamos & NV Test Site to Yucca Mountain, Chernobyl, & Prairie Island Strategies of Civic Engagement –Flyers from ppt. –Facebook group –Chalking –Letters to Xcel Energy

14 Group 3: Oil PPT on Oil in the Amazon (Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina) & Texaco –Chevron-Texaco.ppt Role-play performance on tensions between oil executives, gov’t. officials, SA citizens, & indigenous; coalitions w/int’l. activists as strategic solution

15 Student Reflective Essays “Through this class I have held an on- campus presentation, emailed environmental justice groups, signed petitions on the internet, and been made aware of several environmental justice issues. …I plan on sharing what I’ve learned with everybody who ever brings up EJ issues, talks about the big name corporations I’ve learned about, or asks what’s going on in the world concerning indigenous people. I’m glad I got the chance to get up and do something and that I was challenged to do more than just read what’s going on in the world.”

16 Student Reflective Essays (pt. 2) “I do think the activism was a bit much, I don’t think you can really demand someone be an activist, but you can ask to carry on the issues, spread the knowledge to the ignorant, and make an attempt to make your life better and the world’s life better likewise. To demand someone be an activist is sort of hypocritical, since an activist is someone who is opposing the demands of an oppressor of sorts… It’s like someone making it a law to think for yourself, and vehemently enforcing it.”

17 Phase One Evaluation What succeeded? –Civic engagement via physical, face-to-face, and virtual spaces –One group of students did connect with off-campus activists; others wrote letters to toxic corporations –Gen. Ed. Goal #1 for ethical citizenship: “Identify individual and collective responsibilities to the social & natural environment of community, nation, world” –“identify factors of social & natural environment that influence ethical decision- making” What fell short? –Students physically remained on campus –Civic engagement misperceived as taking a specific viewpoint –Gen. Ed. Goal #2: “Focus on the process of decision- making regarding values & ethics in personal, professional, & civic life” –“evaluate ethical conflict and ways to address it to serve the world”

18 EJ Lit & Service Learning, Phase Two: Service Learning in the Community Service learning guidelines (handout) Service learning assessment paper –Service learning activity log (time, hours, tasks, reflections), & documents created –Assessment paper (750-1000 words) Service learning placements & opportunities (handout & in syllabus) Service learning presentations in class

19 Service learning guidelines What is service learning? –Meets community needs, fosters civic responsibility, & enhances the academic curriculum –Combines advocacy & activism with classroom learning –Promotes application of abstract concepts to actual situations How do you choose a service learning placement? –What EJ issues are you interested in? –What do you want to know after completing this experience? –What skills can you offer? Develop? How does service learning work? –Read – Do – Reflect -- Write

20 Placements & Opportunities Individuals, Groups Al Gore’s Global Warming Slide Show Habitat for Humanity Kinnikinick Land Trust YMCA Teen Center United Way Food Drops Community Food Pantry restocking Soup Kitchen Animal Shelter Trout Unlimited Rush River Clean-Up Day UWRF Volunteer Day Center for Hmong Arts & Talent Mpls. Food Pantry for HIV+ & families

21 Home for Life Animal Shelter

22 Kinnikinnick Senior Center

23 Service Learning Outcomes: food & hunger “Going into the church, I had my preconceived notions of what ‘type’ of people would be there to eat. …every vision was gone. There were people and families of all walks of life, waiting to eat. …helping serve the meals has made me see that hunger doesn’t affect just one ‘type’ of person.” –Heather Hanson

24 Outcomes: United Way Food Drop “As I was working, I found the first principle of EJ reverberating in my mind: [it] ‘affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity, and interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.’ …Through hands-on experience, it became evident that ecological unity and interdependence of species is vital in order to secure the right to be free from ecological destruction.” – Emily Syring


26 Outcomes: soup kitchen “Upon first hearing about this event, I was under the impression that we would be feeding people who were in great need of the food. Once the event began, though, I discovered this was not the case. Families, lonely senior citizens, girl scouts, and volunteers all enjoyed the feast. …After I left, I had no uplifting feelings about what I had just partaken in as I did not think it made any difference whatsoever.” »Amy Anderson, Spring 2007

27 Outcomes: Rush River Cleanup “The area we were in is pretty far out into the country, so there wasn’t as much trash as I expected. Sarah had explained that the main thing to look for was scrap metal, and there was a list of certain things to avoid, due to meth-lab dumpings. …If I had been in charge, I would have targeted a more urban, polluted river that really needed the group effort to clean up. I would have organized more of a massive effort and networked with other organizations. …The part I did’t agree with was the distance we all had to drive to clean up a miniscule amount of trash in a river that’s use is limited to the people who fish it. It almost seems like the river is privatized in that way.” –Krystal Hoppe, Spring 2007

28 The Rush River & Trout Unlimited

29 Rush River Cleanup

30 Outcomes: facing the opposition “One particular business owner didn’t deem the brochures [announcing the new Free Health Clinic for underinsured people] appropriate for his clientele. …I was mad when I left that building. ‘Why wouldn’t you want to help those who need it?’” –Lacey Felmlee

31 Phase Two Evaluation What succeeded? Getting students off-campus with specific placements = Civic engagement via physical spaces Individuals and groups Deeper insight into EJ issues, applications of the readings (Re) new interest in civic engagement What fell short? Delayed placements Gen. Ed. Goal #2: “evaluate ethical conflict & ways to address it to serve the world” Gen. Ed. Goal 1, “identify responsibilities” & “identify factors that influence ethical decision-making” Increased self-awareness through service learning

32 “Evaluate Ethical Conflict & Evaluate Ways to Address It” Street rallies & protests Road blocks & blockades Coalition- building Using the media Boycotts Using public space (internet, flyers, posters, chalk, performance) Letter writing Addressing schools and churches Running for public office Instituting or adapting human rights proclamations Writing / passing EJ legislation

33 Student Responses to Service Learning Experiences “Evaluate ethical conflict”: Students saw environmental justice problems as a result of cultural, governmental, and economic forces combined -> little interest in “stakeholder” approach to resolving conflict. In SW rural WI, activism is more single- issue than EJ activism. Nature is defined as wild, rural, or non- urban. Most activism is issue-oriented rather than systems-oriented. Students were very attached to immediate results, “feel-good” experiences.

34 Reflections & Future Directions Guidelines for service learning & specific placements Individual or group, self- selected Spaces of civic engagement, virtual and physical Reporting findings to the General Education Cmte.

35 Future Directions: Solutions! “While I explored the current problems and my theories as to why they are occurring, I rarely addressed how to fix these problems or how these problems could create even greater conflicts in the future. If I were to rewrite my papers, I would focus more on proposing solutions to the problems I addressed and I would discuss possible outcomes if changes do not occur.” –Emily Syring, Spring 2007

36 Resources Institute for Service Learning at UW- Milwaukee Campus Compact “Big Dummy’s Guide to Service Learning” dummy.html dummy.html Rutgers Citizenship and Service Education program National Service-Learning Clearinghouse(NSLC) http://www.ser index.htmlhttp://www.ser index.html Service-Learning Advocacy Action Brief http://www.service-

37 Events leading to the environmental justice movement 1982 – Warren County, NC - predominantly black and poor residents oppose a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) disposal landfill in their community. 1987 – Toxic Wastes and Race, a study commissioned by the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice –Correlating waste facility sites and demographics, the study found race was the most powerful variable predicting location. –Other variables were poverty, land values, –and home ownership. 1991 – First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit – 4 days in Washington D.C.

38 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit Broadened the EJ movement beyond the anti-toxics focus to include –Public health –Worker safety –Land use –Transportation –Housing –Resource allocation –Community empowerment Built a multi-racial grassroots movement around environmental & economic justice Created a 17-point “Principles of Environmental Justice”

39 17 Principles of Environmental Justice 1. affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction. 2. demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias. 3. mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things. 4. calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food. 5. affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples. 6. demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.

40 17 Principles (cont’d) 7. demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making 8. affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment, without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards. 9. protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care. 10. considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide. 11. must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.

41 17 Principles (cont’d) 12. affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and providing fair access for all to the full range of resources. 13. calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color. 14. opposes the destructive operations of multi- national corporations. 15. opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms. 16. calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives. 17. requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth's resources and to produce as little waste as possible.

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