Recently I went to a local university’s “teach-in” on Global Warming. It was an attempt (at least rhetorically) to revive (or appropriate) the revolutionary atmosphere of the late 1960’s and early ‘70s when authority was being challenged on the War and the Environment as seems to be picking up again today. Sit-ins were making it hard to get to class for students and teachers alike. At-the-ready National Guardsmen were making it hard on students trying to make it hard on students trying to get to class. Cities were on fire. Well, there were no clouds of rebellion smoke here in San Anto, but I couldn’t help but be impressed with the sized of the group.
They had shown up, whatever else they had going on at this small liberal arts school. The state rep’s pitch felt too polished and overly soothing, but I was quietly proud of the student who got up to announce her recycling drive, pleased to hear about the school’s commitment to quantify it’s greenhouse gas emissions, and (you know me) always glad to see a face from GEAA, even if it was teaching outside of its element.
We moved to the catered, white-tableclothed buffet to engage more intimately, we were told. Is this where the “teach-in” would commence? One on my left said hubba-hubba. One on my right said hubba-hubba. And I said as much, if student engagement was a reliable interpreter. Then it was silent.
My one challenge to those gathered was to read Wes Jackson’s book “Becoming Native to the Place.” (I’ve only read two chapters myself, though those few digested words have contributed to more conversations than I can count.) I urged them to find out, as at least temporary San Antonians, where their water comes from. How their food reaches them. What is the nature of this fractured ecological zone? What species are struggling? Who is filling in the lost niches?
I’m personally convinced that the Master Naturalist trainings radiating from Alamo City across the country are the perfect way to start this process.
I went back to Jackson’s book the next day and read the following:
To a large extent, this book is a challenge to the universities to stop and think what they are doing with the young men and women they are supposed to be preparing for the future. The universities now only offer one serious major: upward mobility. Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, to dig in. There is no such thing as a “homecoming” major. But what if the universities were to ask seriously what it would mean to have as our national goal becoming native to this place, this continent?
I only wish I had it on hand then to read aloud.
What time is the energy revolution? What good will it do? Where does it lead? And what happens without it? These questions can only be answered by minds trained to think critically and engage aggressively. Without a single raised hand or (better yet) boisterous challenge to the presenters, I left a little worried about the years ahead.
The urgency of the Focus the Nation mobilizing group that helped launch these actions across the country was lost here in San Antonio. It all left my mind a little foggy and I had trouble finding my combustible Kia to carbon-trade my way back to work.
Where were the Green Shirts lined up to challenge my own complacency and double-standards with frothy rhetoric and accusing fingers? Where is the heat?