I'm going to leave this program as a semi-hippie. I'm surrounded by vegans and vegetarians and and rock climbers and activists and it's great. For Week 2, we focused on urban conservation and environmental justice. We were in the classroom for some of the time - doing readings, discussions, and making presentations. We were able to spend more time outside of the classroom - on campus and in other areas of Seattle. The trips included natural reserves, governmental and non-governmental environmental agencies, and the Longhouse for the Duwamish tribe. We ended the week with a debate about whether race, class or gender was the primary driver for environmental injustice.

I liked that this week got us outside so much while we were still in Seattle. It got me to appreciate one of the main readings for this week The Trouble with Wilderness or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature by William Cronon. He talked about how the definition of "wilderness" has changed and showed that most Americans tend to think that nature is where humans are not. He ended by saying we should appreciate nature in our backyards because a tree in a garden is just as valuable as a tree in a forest. He says, "Our challenge is to stop thinking of such things according to a set of bipolar moral scales in which the human and the nonhuman, the unnatural and the natural, the fallen and the unfallen, serve as our conceptual map for understanding and valuing the world" (Cronon, 19).

I think that quote is a good way to view intersectionality. I mentioned that it was one of the new concepts I heard last week. My basic definition is that when you consider a person, you have to consider all aspects of a person. This was reinforced with our debates at the end of the week. Each side was arguing for one of the three but we realized that you can't just focus on one option. Race, class, gender and more are factors that come into play with environmental justice issues. I admit that I'm not well versed on these issues. This week showed me that I need to put more work into learning about these things going on in our world.

I'll talk a bit about the field trips to the organizations. It was helpful to actually meet people who are doing work in environmental justice. I liked the idea of ECOSS - a smaller-scale NGO. They put an emphasis on working with people and keeping their projects local. I liked seeing the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency - a governmental organization - because we went from an office where people wore sandals and sneakers to one where they wore heels and ties. Both were doing work with the environment and trying to improve people's lives. They just worked on different scales.

The final thing I'll touch on is our visit to the Duwamish River. We looked at a documentary on the history of the Duwamish in Seattle and about the injustices and problems they've faced with the government. They're still considered unrecognized. This was also compounded with the pollution in the Duwamish River (it was declared a SuperFund site) that they're working to change. As heavy as a lot of their story was, it was nice to know that they are seeing improvements in the river. Visiting them made me think more about my own history and my heritage. I don't remember much of Jamaican's history and I don't know even less about the Caribbean. I also don't know much about my own family's roots - what with colonization and slavery to confuse things even more. I want to devote time and effort to learning about these things.

Week Two Summary:

Location Seattle

Prairie lands run by the Center for Natural Lands Management//Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (we split in two so I only went to the prairie)
Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS)
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
Duwamish Longhouse & Duwamish River

The result of a controlled burn on the prairie 

UW Climate Action Plan Walking Tour
Role-playing game
Tumblr posts - sustainability on campus, comparing California with the Global South
Silent time by the Duwamish River
Our web of why we think conservation matters
Environmental Justice Debate

Our "web" of why we care about conservation
i) If an ecosystem needs human intervention to survive, how much effort should we put into maintaining it? What does this say about our ideas of nature and wilderness?
ii) Does nature include people?
iii) How do ideas of "wilderness" and the "natural world" differ in different areas and cultures? (I have thoughts about how my view of the environment differs from my friends from the States but that's a later post.)

That's it for now. Week 3 is almost over so I should get to work on that post soon. Writing it sooner rather than later should be better. This post took a lot more effort than I envisioned it would. I also recognized that I wrote that list but didn't talk about all of them. If you leave a comment about anything you'd like to know more about, I'll be happy to reply. I'll also be happy to reply if you just want to say Hello.

The song is "Strong Will Continue" by Damian Marley and Nas.

Thanks for reading,

William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995, 69-90 


Keep them coming but keep them clean!

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