So, today, one of my students grumbled and said, "I thought I was signing up for a literature and film class, but there's so much activism." I said, "Well, what are you going to do? I didn't plan it this way. There's a revolution going on this semester. Everyone we're reading is on the streets marching. Are we going to sit in here and talk about their work, or get out there and join them?"
What was our reading and viewing list? Starhawk, Bill McKibben, Terry Tempest Williams, Sandra Steingraber, Gasland, On the Beach, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry (and lots more).... I mean.... we had to go to Occupy and the Fracking and Tar Sands rallies and DC and NYC. Most of my students were so fired up. They went to Trenton on their own, and to the Tar Sands protest outside the white house on their own, and to the anti-nuke rallies on their own.
Another student--this was the real kicker, countered, "oh no, the activism has been great. I am a Republican. This course woke me up and I can't go back to sleep. This is about saving the earth. Environmentalism has nothing to do with political parties! My husband doesn't recognize me anymore. The people I talk to don't get it right away, but then they do once I explain it to them..." She's a volunteer fire woman who has been out there stomping against Fracking to the fire departments in Long Island. When her fire chief said she couldn't talk about Fracking because it's "too political," she told him, "That's bull. When you guys talk Republican politics, that's not 'politics'?--but something environmental is too 'political'? No way!" Today, the fire was in her eyes....
Maybe she's the next Erin Brockavitch. I would not be surprised!
Days like these, I know I've found my calling. I'm in love.
So, whoever said reading books or watching films has to be passive? Many of the these writers and filmmakers I teach make you want to jump up and move the world. Josh Fox, for example, has a way of making his viewers into activists. I remember listening to him speak at a conference with a lot of flowery environmentalists who were waxing poetic about saving the earth, and he just said, "I think we need activism." McKibben has jumped off his own page. So have writers like Noami Klein, Noami Woolf, Sandra Steingraber, and others. Reading Starhawk makes me cry. These days her words in Fifth Sacred Thing are so deeply prescient. May we come to build a village such as she envisions... Occupy has that loving utopian spirit.
All I want to do is march, write, teach. (oops, and be a mom, too)