June 10, 2009
Source: Piedmont 2008

Krupa, Christopher

Project Summary

This is a reconstruction of a course I taught in the Fall of 2007, by the same name. My goal was to integrate ecological concerns into a course on comparative apocalypticism and to think about the ways that “sustainability” functions as a sort of counter-point to the eco-apocalypse. One challenge was to help student understand sustainability discourses and practices within the rhetorical conventions of millennial thought and, at the same time, invite them to inhabit those conventions in ways that might provoke more environmentally conscious ways of living among them. I did this by leading them through some of the radical literary forms of naturalism that developed in the late 18th century in response to then-emergent changes in industrial production, imperialism, and philosophies of progress, all of which resonate with similar global tendencies today. I also designed a narrated field trip or field tour through Atlanta neighborhoods that I‟m hoping will bring home to them the human ecology of non-sustainable urban development. The trip is intended as a complement to our reading of the more prophetic sciences of global warming and the like, linking the human and environmental impacts of consumption, profit, and expansion into one tangible mise-en-scene. In the previous units of this course, students will have read narratives from people suffering through certain Ends that have been interpreted as apocalyptic moments—the words of those supposedly “left behind” by fertility adjustments, AIDS, deindustrialization, and so on. In this unit they are asked to produce their own narratives of the present, as ethnographic subjects living through the struggle between eco-devastation and sustainable futures. We will share these with the class on our final day as a way of figuring out some concrete strategies for making sustainable living into anti-apocalyptic practice. I think there are probably sharper writings on urban decay/ urban renewal etc. that I could use to flesh out this experience a little. Also, because one of the themes running through this course is temporal consciousness, I became fascinated with the different ways that nature‟s own time and rhythms have been seized upon by strands of critical environmentalism for different purposes. To some, there seems to be a possible balancing of human time with that of the Earth (if only we would pay attention) while to others, apocalyptic critique is located in showing that the planet can and will endure even if humans don‟t—where sustainability-as-future is really about a human future since the Earth has ways of taking care of itself. Poaching slightly from our shared list of environmental artists, this unit foregrounds the practice of ecological attentiveness as a way of rethinking both the anthropological necessity and non-anthropo-centric mandate of struggles for sustainability.

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