(toward frontiers yet
“We think the grant will enable us
to lead the way in advancing a
timely new curriculum model that
directly and broadly engages
students in pressing environmental
issues.” W.S. Pfeiffer
“There is a great potential to transform
our thinking in a way that embraces sustain
ability so that when we say ‘sustainability
problem solving,’ we’re really teaching
what that means in a real, hands on way…
Environ mental literacy is so much more than
just the physical properties of the issue.”
Full Cost Accounting:
aiming to form a
standing of not only the
ecological, but also the
political, social, and
cultural impacts of
To examine particular environmental concerns from
the perspectives of various disciplines on both a regional
and global level. Professors from departments as diverse
as science, philosophy , economics, mathematics and
writing will collaborate and “team teach” courses
In other words: we’re going to
put IT in PLAY.
IT: all of the above. How else come to some new terms,
ways of knowing, transformations of the thinking that got
us where we are in the more or less the first place?
Who here has a comprehensive understanding of not only
the ecological but also the political, social, and cultural
impact of environmental issues? Raise your hand.
Who here wants this understanding and wonders what it
would take to gain it, make it, find it? Raise your hand.
How do we come to understand what-it-is-we-don’t-under-
stand-&-perplexes-us without sustaining the very habits
of thinking that have perpetuated the very sustain ability
concerns we mean to address--and be bringing the students
into it, too, “toward frontiers yet unknown,” as Dean Jensen
characterized it in our alma mater: us, stalwart pioneers.
Is it possible to wonder about the cerebral/affective environment
inside of which transformation of thinking might occur?
What kind of environment generates consideration of
The Environment and out Environ-mentality?
Can an environmentality think of itself
thinking of itself thinking?
What kind of context for collegial inquiry on both sides
of the desk, what kind of collective frame-of- minding,
attitude and outlook creates space for play, for brain-
storming—what used to be called “blue sky” back in the
late 60's, or call it stochastic process: accessing “noise”
for “news” (so to speak), inviting “chaos,” recognizing
“random” as resource for the kind of creative inter-play
that goes beyond traditions and disciplines (cross-
disciplinary or not: still disciplinary uber alles)
as opposed to non-disciplinary ways of
thinking and knowing.
Seek an environment that encourages failure, advises Keith Sawyer
in his book on Collaborative Genius. Realize that undue emphasis
on CLARITY can be self-defeating shutting down the play of mind
it takes to generate new ideas, new insights.
Counter-intuitive, this advice.
Antithetical, diametrically if
not diabolically opposed to
our normal worship of success,
replicability & the franchise-
mentality it takes to sustain a
grant: the get-R-done practical
need to fix it: fix it good.
Disciplinary AND Inter-Disciplinary:
we get people who can talk physics,
people who talk can chemistry, people
who can talk biology, sociology, literature,
psychology, philosophy, religion: all in the
same room, say, disciplined, territorial in
the best sense, chauvinist, sure—of course:
homeland security conscious, naturally:
essentially conservative, even consumer
driven and institutional if not industrial;
and isn't it fair to assume that the
environmental pickle we claim to be in
right now is the product of this collective
disciplinary minding—as opposed to the
possibility of non-disciplinary new ways
and “transformations” that our concern
with sustainability might demand? I’m
How do the disciplines prepare any one
to talk across the disciplinary environment
about environmental concerns? When any
one of us...or collectively we start wondering
about the over all context (environment)
inside which we do our work, then we are
thinking in a different frame-work & may
demand a higher and larger enviornmental
framework—from the PhDisciplines of physics
or chemistry, biology or literature or philosophy
or house keeping concerns with schedules and
equipment, smoking and sexual harassment and
dogs on campus.
Other wise it's LIKE Epiminides: making
truth-sayers out of the Cretans.
Liberal Conversation doesn’t have the designation
We are members of sub-ordinate communities we
call disciplinary & we live in hallways, offices: practicing
disciplines like tribalists with their children. BOO: first
to scare and then to initiate into the mysteries of the sects.
(Doubtless you can improve my terms, but try to
sustain their spirit.)
Our association is a Community of communities:
a meta-community. It would take a meta-conversation
about the ways-we-converse that would set us up for
addressing the global and regional total understanding
package we aim to engage our students in, with, pre-
positioned ourselves to talk about how we talk about
Toward a comprehensive understanding…
Can you imagine spending a summer working-out—
or better: eternally on Golden Pond, our virtual e-
commons accessible 24/7/365 — not on content but
on how to frame the problem itself, trying to see what it
takes to talk and think about a comprehensive understanding
of not only the ecological, but also the political, social, and
cultural impacts of environmental issues together: what's
involved in making some Sense of Our Own (local food),
What does it take to talk about the ways-we-talk
(our disciplinary habits: ways of knowingy) about any
content, recognizing that HOW we talk about “these things,”
thinking about how we might be thinking about “these things”
is primordial: prior to the “orders” we weave & call
We might could back off a bit from the comprehensive
understanding kinds of talk.
I used to argue with David Balzer, our resident
fundamentalist Christian —the four years he was here
(one of our Sullivan recipients). We liked it, called it edifying
if not educational.. I said, “David, I bet you 5 dollars if you
and I sat down for an hour or maybe more and sustained
some decent argument, I could convince you that Evolution
ways-of-talking and Creationist-ways-of-talking, could just
Get Along, damnit.”
He said, “Sam, you and I would have to spend time
talking about how we're going to be
talking about this before
we go about talking
We never did either:
talk about IT or talk about
how we’re going to go about talking about IT.
It would have been awesome.
(my ongoing faculty "lecture,"
presumptuous, yes--for give me;
always for the sake of ongoing
argument, or what’s a college for?
The train's leaving the station,
as President Orr insisted: get
on board for crying out loud.
But nature's redundant too, & so:
always another one coming down
the track with room for plenty