11. Introducing “Eco” to the Homies: A Liberal Professor’s Activist Approach
Mark Spitzer [+]
University of Central Arkansas
As planetary temperatures and sea levels rise, I reflect on why teaching environmental subject matter is so urgent these days. Following that, I review the syllabus, which lists work by Bill McKibbin, Al Gore, Charles Bukowski, Robert Hass, Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, Edward Abbey, Antler, Galway Kinnell, Frank Stanford, Dave Foreman, and the documentaries The 11th Hour, Gasland, and parts 1 and 2 of Cadillac Desert. The idea of “environmental writing” is contrasted to the pastoral tradition of “nature writing,” and then I dissect the Greek and Lower Latin forms of the word “eco” (home) along with the tradition of eco-writing, which goes back to The Gilgamesh Epic. Henry David Thoreau’s vision of the division between “Wildness” and “civilization” is considered, and so are the frightening facts of climate change, increasingly destructive weather patterns, overpopulation, food shortages, fossil-fuel dependency, voluntary “self-regulation,” mass extinction, nuclear proliferation, the Whole Fracking Enchilada! A real cheery, positive piece to drive home the message that if we don’t have an environment, we ain’t got squat.