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Students, faculty, and staff should start here! Whether you want to plan a one-time event on campus or reserve a space for a quarter, start with the Rentals & Events form. Once you have submitted the form, you’ll be contacted to confirm details about your event or space needs. Questions? Contact Rentals & Events.
College Passenger Van
A van is available for College sanctioned events. Only faculty and staff with proper driver’s license are permitted to drive the vehicle. Passenger use only, not cargo transportation. no food, drinks, or gum please.
Contact Mike Fair to reserve.
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Interview with Dr. Kim Landsbergen
I’m Kim Landsbergen. I am an associate professor of Biology and Environmental Science. I joined the faculty at Antioch in fall of 2014.
I am an army kid. My folks are from Tennessee and Florida. And I spent my formative years growing up and moving around all over the place. So the whole idea of Co-Op and relocation and making-do and putting your feet down is very familiar to me. And I went to high school and college in Tennessee. So Tennessee is where I claim my home. And that’s where my roots are. I spent a lot of time there. That’s what feels like home to me.
This past term, I ended up teaching four classes, which is double the normal load. I normally teach Ecology, ENVS205. Ecology. That’s a core course, I believe, for all biology students. That’s very equivalent to what an intro ecology course would be at other institutions, sort of like Biology 101. There are some fundamental concepts that everyone who’s taken ecology should know. Like how evolution influences ecological processes and how species interact with their environment, why do we find them, where we find them, and how do species interact with one another.
I teach that every winter and I taught a new course this term, a 400 level course, that is a new course officially on the books called Global Climate Change. And I find that, if you talk to any of my students, I talk about climate change in every single class I teach.
I’ve been a faculty member and instructor for different institutions for about 20 years now. So, that’s been a really key part of my doctoral research, as well as my postdoc research and my pedagogy is to get people to think about large scale processes and climate change. That’s a big deal. I finally got a 400 level class on the books. Next term, I teach botany and I teach botany every spring and that really coincides beautifully with the end of the dreary, Ohio winter. And I tend to get a lot of students that have all kinds of interests, that would like to learn more about field botany, identifying plants and just earning credit for being outside and taking photos of blooming things and learning about plants. So that’s, I would say, probably one of my more popular classes.
I’m also launching another new course called Advanced Topics in Ecology. These two new courses that I’ve added are 400 level. I just recently put together a table of all of the courses that I teach and thematically how they progress as well as thematically what they are offering. So some of them are at the Organismal Biology level. Botany is an Organismal Biology course. I will be putting another course on the books for this fall. And I taught it as a special topic before but it was so popular I’m going to add it to the regular roster. And it’s called The Structure and Function of Trees. So it’s an Organismal Biology course that focuses on trees. That will be a fall course every other year.
Anyway, I teach courses in general that are related to Organismal Biology, Environmental Science and Ecology. I am the only Environmental Science appointed faculty here. We’re kind of like Noah’s ark that way currently. I am the environmental scientist here. And I have my doctoral degree in Forest Ecosystem Analysis. So I’m very interested in thinking about systems, like how the behavior of individuals integrates into something larger. And I’m also very interested in how humans impact ecological systems.
That’s kind of a mouthful about all the stuff that I do that I’m excited about. I would say one of the projects that I’ve launched at Antioch that I’ve been most proud of, is working with Hannah Montgomery collating all of our environmental information and submitting that to the AASHE Stars reporting system. So as I was mentioning earlier, Antioch is one of those places that has so many moving parts. It can be very difficult for people to see the concentrated bigger picture of things. Because there’s a lot of stuff going on. If you have someone say like, oh, I’m working on you know, liberation psychology, then you might have somebody else say, well, I did a class in that or I’m doing that or that’s part of my Co-Op, but there’s never a moment that pulls things together. I’ve been on the sustainability committee and right now we’re, with the strategic planning, we are, just to change topics a little bit, we are working with the strategic plan. With the departure of Glen Helen from the college we need to really take a bigger picture and think about what we want sustainability to look like writ large on the campus.
Prior to COVID I was very active in helping provide leadership to our sustainability committee, which is kind of fallow right now. And part of that reason is because of COVID. So it was very much a thing where we were getting onto campus and our composting program has been reduced during COVID for health reasons.
Now our campus is getting back to normal. How do we really think about sustainability as a major Campus Initiative? And how is that leadership going to shake out and what are the things that we’re going to commit to organizationally, and commit to financially? I think that the answer to those questions are going to come out when we do our college level strategic plan. I’ve been waiting for that to come together and I’m sure I’ll be active. I will continue to be active in sustainability as we go forward.
Another thing to point out is that every student, at any arc, has to have a sustainability tagged course before they graduate. Just like our students have to have a class in Critical Race and Ethnicity studies. Students also have to have a course in Gender and Sexuality Studies. And they also have to have a course in Sustainability. Those three themes are tagged in various courses throughout our curriculum. The last time I checked, every single course I teach has an “S” tag to it. That’s such a fundamental commitment to who I am and my practice as I would say scientist slash activist. I feel that most of us who are at Antioch, either as students or alumni or staff or faculty, were drawn to this place because we want to see change in the world. We want to be part of that. And I feel like my special sauce is the science part. You can be a passionate environmentalist, but not necessarily understand the dynamics of the science very well. I feel like that’s something that I’m very interested in helping students understand. There are multiple different pathways to be effective as an advocate, I would say, underline the word advocate. And that can be within the system, without the system, ignoring the system, that living your own sustainable life, there’s lots of different ways that people can engage with that.
As a 400 level course, this course is really focused on helping students understand the science. So it may be a bit surprising, but 11 weeks… you know, it’s literally a global theme. Infinite numbers of dissertations have been written about it. Even if the whole point was getting students to read peer reviewed papers, and I would say that’s a big underline, so most of us get our information from the web, we get our information from news or TikTok or whatever. But in the sciences, we have to go to peer reviewed literature to really read and understand what’s going on. And I would say probably two thirds of the class we focused on large, physical systems. So, for example, things like atmospheric circulation, ocean circulation changing, physical oceanography, how the pH of the ocean is changing with increasing carbon dioxide. Many of these things are the physical drivers that then push all of the biology, all the human systems, all our ecological systems in particular ways. We really spent a lot of time reading and discussing the literature and some of these larger more complex ideas that I don’t think our students have encountered in our curriculum at all. We don’t have a faculty member who teaches physics. We don’t have a person who’s teaching differential equations. We don’t have someone who’s teaching thermodynamics. That’s a whole body of science that our students are not getting at Antioch, and we should.
Prior to COVID, we had a faculty line that had been approved for someone to hire someone who was teaching both physics and advanced math. And I hope that in the near future, we’ll be able to resume that hire because it’s a really critical and important body of knowledge.
Anyway, about the student reaction: I think a lot of it was like, wow, this is stuff I didn’t know. I think a bigger understanding was realizing that systems have important feedback loops, and also the systems are nonlinear. So it can take a lot of time to tip something. But once it’s at that tipping vertex, it doesn’t take very much to really shove it over the cliff. So the way that systems interact, I think, was really an important part of our conversation. Another thing that I think the students were interested in, that I kept emphasizing, is that in many cases, much of the sciences are very young as we think of science. It is probably less than 50 years old, because we haven’t had things like satellites and very large arrays and monitoring networks that allow us and the computational power to pull it all together. Why would a forest geek like me find all of this critically important to know? I think that right now we’re at war, in a cold war, that’s heated up, but at its core, is the fossil fuel industry. Over the last 250 years, our human activity as it relates to development has done nothing but take fossil fuels that were buried in the earth and liquidated that carbon and put it back in the atmosphere. I think having a strong understanding of how that carbonization of our atmosphere is pushing many of our physical and biological systems. That’s a core understanding that I think is critical to come from that class. In the fall, I’ll be teaching ecosystem ecology. So obviously, global climate change is thinking about these big huge systems and how things, human systems like our availability of water, our ability to grow food, how our agricultural systems are going to change, how forest communities are going to be changing in terms of species composition, that’s the big, big scale stuff that we think about in that class. Ecosystem Ecology is a class that’s really asking questions about how ecosystems work. And the full title of that course is Ecosystem Ecology with Forest Lab. So we’ll have a weekly lab in the Glen and really focus on terrestrial ecosystems mainly.
I think Deep Ecology is probably the closest. And, for me, I don’t know if I can think of a label for it. But I would say that, as human beings, we often put ourselves at the core of everything. Right? A liberal arts education is mostly thinking about humanity. It’s thinking about history. It’s thinking about our own creative aspects, whether it’s creative writing, or art. Or we’re thinking about the social sciences like society and psychology and all of it is humans, humans, humans, humans, really. And my own personal philosophy is that I don’t think humans are all that. My understanding of Deep Ecology is very much the idea that there’s this larger system that our own hubris has put ourselves at the Ptolemaic center, and that’s really not where we are. And I think that that perspective is what causes a lot of our problems.
The world is complicated, and we have to solve multiple problems simultaneously. We don’t have time to do that. So there’s a lot of intersectionality in the difficulties that we have. So I would just say yes to both of them. I don’t think you can ignore either of them. But to say which is first I think is kind of a waste of time. Maybe that’s pretty heretical. I don’t know. But I think it’s great that there are people who spend their time thinking about Humanity with the big capital “H”.
The week that Russia invaded Ukraine was literally, I think they invaded on a Sunday, I believe is when that happened. On the following Monday, there is the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And it literally got about five seconds of airplay. And then it’s all been about Ukraine. But the Secretary General of the UN has stopped using diplomatic language. He’s just basically saying we are killing ourselves. He’s gone straight to it. And this report is really a monumental shift. It’s just basically saying, without a doubt, climate change is here. And without a doubt, we are already suffering in a massive way and there’s a big emphasis on environmental justice. So obviously, you can’t solve one without the other. But the reality is, this tragedy that’s happening in our face, 24/7, the horrible things that are happening in Western Europe, the day that that happened, I actually put my curriculum on the shelf and then spent the day in my classes talking to my students about how important this event is.The pandemic happened, and then this major, major political shift in Western Europe, as we are struggling to think about what climate change means for us. We’ve got to really talk about all of this. And I think that the generation of college students that we have now is very tired of living in “one of the most important moments of our time”. But it’s happening, and so I would just encourage the readers of this newsletter to realize that this new IPCC report is out. And it was meant to be a big, big splash, but obviously, no one’s heard about it or paid attention to it. And today’s news is that in order to pull the teeth out of Putin’s regime, the plan is for the United States to sell liquefied natural natural gas to Western Europe. But that’s fracking. Where do we get that from? We get it from fracking. So the fossil fuel interests in the United States are now all about that we are the patriotic solution to beating Putin. So within one month, it’s become a non issue. Climate change has become a non issue. And it’s very hard. I think President Biden has multiple, flaming rocks that he’s got at the same time that none of us have… we’re experiencing a new landscape together. And it’s very, very, I guess, the ecosystem aspects, the climate change aspects, those are very easy to lose sight of when you’re thinking about, as a human being, you’re thinking about your own world, your own resources, or your own loved one. But it’s the foundation that controls all of us ultimately, so…
I told my students that I felt like it was sort of like those old Japanese monster movies where Mothra and Godzilla are fighting but they’re all dinosaurs. Right? So I feel like Russia is desperately threatened by a decarbonized world. Even prior to the initiation of any violence. They are deeply financially threatened to the core by a decarbonized world. And if we don’t look at this opportunity to see how critical it is for our future that we have to make those steps towards renewables…what other wake-up calls do you need? But, all that being said, in my intro to environmental science class, we do talk about the renewable resources that we have on our campus, by the way. North Hall is a flagship building in terms of having its own solar array. It’s a LEED “Gold Building”. And it has a geothermal field that provides heating and cooling energy there. And then we also have our own geothermal field which is providing heating and cooling to the Wellness Center, ASB, and I think The Foundry Theater, the physical plant and the greenhouse. So our greenhouse is heated through geothermal, which is pretty awesome. We have a lot of renewable resources on our campus. That really large solar array is on our property, but we actually don’t physically own it. I believe SolarCity is the company that physically owns it, and they own the green properties of that energy. But we benefit financially and we’re also housing those facilities so we’re showing our community how much we think that matters. I think that we have lots of alumni who are working in some aspect of the environmental field. So I try to spend time connecting students to Co-Ops or connecting students in terms of mentorship. And I think we have a very strong environmental science legacy and currently a strong program. I have some names of students – people who have graduated since reopening, who are working in fields like urban forestry. One is a fire science technician. Another one as a field hydrologist in Dayton. I have another student who will be entering their doctoral program in ecology at Notre Dame. Another student who is finishing her master’s degree in Detroit. So we have a lot of students who are really successfully pursuing some professional field beyond Antioch in that way. It’s something really good.
The last thing I want to talk about, I really want to bring up, is the Antioch tree team project.
There’s a couple of things I want to do. I’d like to get a web page. I would like to have a lab web page that talks about the work that I do with my students because mentoring student research is a huge part of what I do. I mentioned I’m teaching four classes. Ecology, Global Climate Change, but I’m also teaching the Junior Science Seminar. And then I’m also offering a Cap450, which is kind of like an independent study, but it’s for any student earning a bachelor of science. They basically have to spend two quarters working on their senior project. I am supervising three, in fact, four seniors right now who are taking Cap450 with me, and working on their senior project. So doing independent studies, helping students get access to research, helping them apply for jobs, helping them apply for grants, is something I really take seriously and I think it’s paying off for the students who are putting that work in as part of their curriculum.
The segue with the Antioch Tree Team is that I’ve been working over the last couple of years to see our campus recognized as an official Tree Campus by the Arbor Day Foundation. That involves having a Tree Committee and involves having a Tree Care Plan for the campus. The Antioch Tree Team is a group and a research effort that I’ve been doing with students since the fall of 2018. And we have measured, identified, censused, and mapped about three quarters of the trees on campus. And we will continue to do that. I’ve had three students do senior projects as part of that. And one of them is now working as an urban forester for Florida Power Light. That’s Stephanie Harmon. She graduated in 2019. There’s a lot of interest in thinking about urban forests. And I think tying all that together: climate change, human wellbeing, ecology, design. Urban forestry is at the intersection of all of that, and also environmental justice because a lot of it takes money to maintain an Urban Canopy. And a lot of areas that are financially disadvantaged, don’t have a lot of trees, which means they’re hotter, which means they’re more vulnerable to the mega heat events in the future. It’s very much a project that’s tied together. And we always celebrate Earth Week and Earth Month. So that’s got a lot going on. We’re going to be doing multiple things. Our entire Community Day, which is going to be the second Tuesday of the quarter, is going to be entirely focused on Earth Week and lots of fun stuff. We’re going to do more tree planting and just general planting. We’ll be screening some films. There’s going to be some fun stuff happening on campus. This year has sort of been an academic year of really kind of getting back on campus, getting your feet back on the ground, having Jane and our new VPs, which has been fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about these changes. And I think next year is going to be even better. I have a lot of confidence in the institution. I think that it feels like things are lining up and coming together in a way that I haven’t seen since I started working here. I’m very encouraged!
As the holidays approach and the Fall term comes to a close Mike Fair, Maintenance Manager at Antioch College, springs into action with campus repairs and upgrade projects. The first order of business is a project that revolves around campus safety, specifically, lighting. The project is funded by an anonymous donor and aims to improve outdoor lighting campus wide.
This first step was to remove foliage from around light sources. Mike and Zavinie Brooks, Maintenance Technician at Antioch, hauled away twelve truckloads of vines, branches, and other debris. After that, participants in the Volunteer Work Project widened the margin alongside the walkway that goes from Weston Hall to the Arts and Science Building. Originally, the walkway had only four feet on either side but the margin was increased to eight feet.
A major part of this project is to replace the light sources in all 37 of the light poles scattered across campus. Mike has been braving the cold this week along with electricians Cassidy and Paul from Regulated Watts, a local Greene County company, to upgrade the lights from metal halide bulbs to LEDs. Mike has gone through the light poles and organized them into groups based on their location and proximity to the various buildings. The poles have been fully tested, documented, and labeled.
Originally, the bulbs housed in the poles were a 175 watt metal halide type bulb. They are expensive to replace ($100 each) and run off a ballast system which is not energy efficient. The old bulbs also take ten minutes to fully power up. Once on, they emit a faint, sickly-green light.
The new bulbs will be LEDs. The LEDs use less than half the amount of energy as the metal halide bulbs. When they are turned on, they reach full power immediately and emit a bright, white light.
Additionally, the lamp posts are bolted down to a concrete base but on six of the poles the mounts are cracked. A local aluminum welder will be coming out this week to fix the cracked mounts.
Currently, seventeen of the thirty-seven lamp poles have been upgraded to LEDs. The majority of the project is projected to be completed before the year is through. However, due to winter weather, the finishing touches might have to wait until the spring.
Another part of the lighting upgrade project is swapping out the lights on building exteriors. Mike and his team have put LED wall packs in place of the dim, metal halide blubs in several places. They have made the parking lot behind Olive Kettering Library much brighter. And they have also brightened up the area around the Physical Plant where car break-ins have been reported repeatedly.
Already, several staff and students have commented to Mike on how much brighter the campus is. This project originally came out of a community meeting where students expressed their concern that the campus was too dark and therefore unsafe. So the fact that things are progressing quickly is excellent news. We would like to extend a warm ‘Thank You’ to Mike Fair and his crew, as well as to the donor who made this project possible.
Stay tuned for more info on campus upgrades coming soon!
Interview by Matt Walker ’04.
Natalie Suzelis is an Assistant Professor of Literature at Antioch College. She holds a Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University, where she was a Schaffer and A. W. Mellon fellow. Her research synthesizes environmental and economic history with cultural theory in order to construct a cultural studies account of capitalist transition in early modern literature. She is interested in the intersection of capitalist development with environmental and ecological change, and with formations of race, class, and gender across social landscapes from the early modern period to the present. In addition to her research and teaching in medieval and early modern literature, she researches and teaches on subjects in gender and feminist studies, commercial popular culture, subculture, queer theory, media studies, utopian fiction, and climate change in the Anthropocene. She is a contributing editor of Uneven Earth and her research has been published in Mediations, Shakespeare Studies, Uneven Earth, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1800, and Law, Culture, and Humanities.
Matt Walker (MW): “Thank you for doing this interview, congratulations on joining the faculty here!”
Natalie Suzelis (NS): “It’s my pleasure, and thank you!”
MW: “What are your impressions of Antioch and why did you choose to accept the position here?”
NS: “I had a lot of expectations for Antioch given what I had researched about the school and its history. I knew that it was a school driven by social justice values as well as environmental justice. I first noticed, for example, the Coretta Scott King Center and the Antioch farm. I also noticed that the research and teaching interests of the faculty aligned with those two core values pretty well. I saw courses in Environmental Science, Sustainability, Environmental Justice, Dialogue Across Difference, etc. I haven’t really run into anyone yet who *doesn’t* seem to be driven by those values. I also expected the students to be driven by a certain kind of progressive value system, or even radical value system in both social justice and environmental sustainability, and I’ve also found that to be the case. So my impressions are that the things that initially brought me here are still alive and kicking.”
MW: “What have you learned from students and faculty?”
NS: “The thing that I’ve learned is that Community Governance is something that everybody here seems to be very familiar with, and I’ve learned this the most from students at the ComCil meetings. As I’ve watched students interact with each other, I’ve noticed a real sense of responsibility for the college. And it’s kind of a stunning process to see just how invested students are in creating and maintaining an atmosphere on their own. At the last Council meeting, for example, I was taking in the voting procedures and observed students being completely comfortable and at ease with all of the different processes, knowing exactly where to intervene when they wanted to have their voices heard. It seems like it becomes an almost intuitive thing after you’re here for just a short time. That’s something that I found in political organizations, but I never saw it so active on a college campus before, and I think it’s amazing.”
MW: “Do you have any political affiliations?”
NS: “Oh, yes, I’m a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). But I guess just more broadly, I’ve been interested in and involved in more local political groups and organizations fighting for different reforms on a city policy level with lots of coalitions of different groups.
MW: “In Pittsburgh?”
NS: “Yeah, so in Pittsburgh for example, I was part of the Pittsburgh Coalition of the International Women’s Strike. That was a coalition between DSA members, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and members of the International Socialist Organization, which is not really active anymore but, at the time, they were. I’m most affiliated with DSA but I would say, in terms of active politics, I prefer to work across organizations and organizational boundaries.”
MW: “Do you have any impressions you’d like to share about DSA: what it’s like, where it’s going?”
NS: “I didn’t notice any DSA members here in Yellow Springs so I guess one thing that I’m noticing is that it seems to have more support in bigger cities. I’ve met some members here of Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). DSA has experienced a lot of growing pains over the past couple of years. And I think it still has a lot to figure out. But it does seem to be an interesting driving political force, particularly among millennials.”
MW: “Do you think you might start a (DSA) chapter out here?”
NS: “I think I’d rather listen to students and what they’re interested in. Meeting students who are already part of PSL, students who are interested in taking down the flag and doing different political actions… I think it would be cool to be involved to the extent that whatever direction students wanted to take political activism or organization. I would just like to help facilitate that.”
MW: “That’s awesome. So the flag gets taken down, no flag, or which flag?
NS: “You’re asking me?”
MW: “Yeah. If the flag comes down, which I think is a great idea… this is kind of a silly question but what flag would go up, or no flag?”
NS: “It seems the students wrote on the base of the flagpole that they would like to see something like Black Lives Matter, Pride flag, some combination of all the things that students can be proud of, or organizations or activism they’ve been involved in. I think it’s a great idea to put a couple of different flags or different signifiers at the intersection of those different political stances. So, once again, I think the students have a good idea of what they might want.”
MW: I really appreciate how supportive you are of the students. Maybe a new flag could be created collaboratively or something? Next question: what are your impressions of Yellow Springs or anything that you’re enjoying about that village?”
NS: “Yeah, just as one of the first things I noticed when stepping foot on the campus was that the college seems to be driven by community, I’ve really seen to be reflected in the town. I recently went to a little neighborhood party just down the street and I didn’t know anybody there except for my neighbor. But pretty much everyone in close proximity with me introduced themselves asked me where I was coming from, and it was just very warm and friendly and generally that’s my impression of Yellow Springs.”
MW: “Are you registered to vote out here? Are you involved in this whole levy situation?”
NS: “I am not registered here yet. I just got my new driver’s license and I checked the box to re-register here. So I think I’m waiting for something to come in the mail.”
MW: “What are some of your teaching interests?”
NS: “My teaching interests are pretty broad because I like to be guided by students. I love teaching plays, poetry, prose, novels… There’s not really a genre of literature, or a time period really, that I feel bound by. My research interests were more focused on early modernity, Shakespeare, drama, poetry, and prose. But my teaching has always been much broader in terms of texts and different forms of media, and I like to incorporate lots of contemporary literature and philosophy. I’ve always found that being adaptive to what students are interested in has sort of forced me to learn as much as I can as a teacher. That’s just generally the attitude that I take to pedagogy. So I hope my teaching interests become even more broad as I meet more students. That’s just kind of how I’ve always operated.”
MW: “Cool. Thank you. What about your service interests?”
NS: “On campus here at Antioch, I have become involved in ComCil, College Council, and I’m also participating on the search committee for the Social Science Psychology professor. I’ve been trying to get pretty involved in the inner workings of the college. When I was at a previous institution, I also did a lot of colloquia and public-facing panels and lectures. I really love inviting speakers and organizing events and I’m excited to do things like that in the future. I hope to work with Michael Casselli on a Herndon speaker and/or performance series for the winter quarter.”
MW: “Any themes emerging with that potential Casselli collaboration?”
NS: “Yeah, we talked a little bit about it. I think one of the things we’re throwing around was about abolition futurism. Thinking about how to envision a world without so many of these systemic harms that we’re often talking about on campus; being able to think about eradicating or abolishing those systems behind everything from the prison industrial complex, to the environmental harms that we’re seeing inflicted daily. So providing new frames for how you might think differently and creatively in imagining alternative futures, and having different speakers, artists, performers, or literary figures who can help us do that. But I’d like to get some student feedback and see who students are interested in or what sub-themes might align with this general topic. But that’s basically the first brainstorming session we had.”
MW: “Cool, that’s exciting. What about research topics – what are your research interests?”
NS: “Recently I’ve been reading a lot about different climate policy agendas. I’m writing a book review right now with a colleague for a book called A People’s Green New Deal which is really about critiquing most of the green New Deal proposals that have been put forth. A lot of the proposals are based on this idea of pragmatism in an effort to reach the widest audience possible. So this book I’m reading is arguing that so many of those pragmatic stances are not only are they inadequate in actually addressing climate change, they’re not really winning either. And since we’re already in a political situation where we have to push really hard just to get basic reforms, we might as well push to demand what we really want. And what we think people deserve. I’ve been thinking about different agendas and policies for how to restructure the global energy system and how that needs to be fundamentally transformed in a very radical way if we’re actually going to meet the crisis where we need to. Those research interests are very near and dear to me, and not necessarily as close to my dissertation research as they are to my teaching. But I’ve met a lot of amazing colleagues who’ve really sparked that collaborative sort of research interest in me.”
MW: “I’m wondering if you think there are any policy proposals out there that might be more effective than the Green New Deal?”
NS: “Yes – I’ve been thinking about this because I was talking to Professor Mittias about maybe teaching an environmental ethics course at some point. And I was thinking about how that could be structured around the Cochabamba agreement which was a climate accord that was reached, I think, in 2010, I might have to look that up. But I think, basically, it was a document, it’s only about 10 pages I think, but it’s about the rights of human and non-human creatures on the planet to access life-sustaining things like water and food, while also protecting and nurturing the environment to be reciprocal in that relationship. I’d vote for that kind of agreement.”
MW: “Right on! That makes me think of this dichotomy between Deep Ecology and Social Ecology. My understanding of Deep Ecology is that we have to heal our relationship with the earth first. Before we can solve social problems, we must solve the problem of our relationship with the environment. Whereas, what I understand from Social Ecology, is that we have to solve our human-to-human problems before we can even address the greater ecological problems. I know it’s a bit of a false dichotomy but I’m wondering if you can speak on that a bit please?”
NS: “Yeah, I mean I think they’re fundamentally connected. So if the greatest enemy to the environment is the fossil fuel industry, the global energy system as it currently operates, then that’s both. It’s an issue of Social Ecology and Deep Ecology because we can point to all the social and political factors that have made it the primary enemy of both people and the environment. Here are human actors who are harming the human and nonhuman world ecologically, but also socially, economically, and politically. You also can’t really solve any deep ecological problems without using social tools and social forces to build power to change the political structure. The ecological problem is a social one and vice versa. And I think that’s actually the only way we can approach the social and political issues because they’re so long-standing and go back so far into centuries of human-nonhuman relations.”
“I just taught this essay from Kyle Whyte, for example, about Indigenous justice and climate justice, which shows a longer history of environmental degradation as the history of settler colonialism. So that’s a place where I would see Deep Ecology meeting Social Ecology: because the history of settler-colonialism is a history of ecological violence. And it’s a social-political but also an ecological problem. It’s also a cultural problem in that it relates to the ways in which people have conceptualized their relationship with the environment for hundreds of years from a culture of settlerism. You’d be addressing both issues at once if you followed this idea of climate justice and the kind of social resilience that Kyle Whyte is talking about. Which is also, for Whyte, an ecological resilience.”
MW: “All of this leads me to the topic and questions of: Are we natural? Are we a part of Nature or separate from it? Is what’s happening with us natural? What is natural in terms of climate change, etc?”
NS: “Well, the lines are so blurred to me. I do think it is a false dichotomy because nature is very social. Animals are very social with each other and plants grow together and interact socially. Even in the most pristine, untouched view of the natural world, if that even really exists anymore… it’s a false dichotomy because we’re constantly interacting with the nonhuman world and the human world while the nonhuman world is also interacting socially with itself.”
“This is where I think the literary perspective can be helpful. The stories that we tell about the environment, and the stories we sometimes tell ourselves about pristine and untouched natural worlds, I think that those stories have their own purpose and can sometimes be nefarious in creating dichotomies. But other stories that you can tell about our social environments, built environments, and natural environments can actually bridge gaps between them. And I would be more on the side of the latter. Stories can help us conceptualize how we can establish more mutual and reciprocal relationships between human beings and non-human beings.”
MW: “Regarding the future, the Anthropocene, Capitalism, the internet – what’s going to happen?”
NS: “I don’t want to be a climate-doomer but I do think it’s stunning that we have come so far in the acceleration of our timeline without mass movement and action stopping things from continuing in such a dark direction. But I hope, I think and I hope, that it’s becoming more clear that there are human actors who have an extreme amount of economic and political power who are doing the most damage. It’s traceable. And there’s been a lot of work done to obscure the actual power relations in terms of who’s making the decisions that do the most harm, who’s sort of at the top of these chains or hierarchies that do the most damage to the environment. I hope that it’s becoming clear to people. I think it’s probably more clear to the kind of students on campus here. It also seems like the most recent generation has dealt with a lot of pretty obvious information about climate change and a lot of climate disasters that are pretty hard to ignore. I think it’s tragic and a bit disheartening that we’ve managed to come this far without a giant push in the other direction. But I’m still so hopeful that that can happen. And I think that new ideas are being circulated about just how international and global an issue this is… so we have to act and think with global solidarity. And my hope is that this younger generation thinks that and feels that we’re all in this together on one planet, even though there are definite actors and enemies of the people and the environment. I’m hoping that we’re moving in the direction where people feel more international planetary global solidarity against those actors.”
MW: “I’m curious to hear you speak about if there is a more nuanced view towards humans and our detrimental effects on nature; something beyond Thomas Robert Malthus?”
NS: “There are two kinds of approaches you can take, even on the left. It isn’t just a right-wing reactionary thing that we need fewer humans on the planet, which would help us combat climate change. There’s this reactionary tendency to blame all human beings and say we need less of them as opposed to examining the power structure. There are even tendencies that are more austere in the way that we think of the quality of life for people. And I think that that’s a political stance. That’s a decision that’s could play out in really harmful ways. If you don’t try to think about fighting for quality of life and abundance that people deserve equally, in an evenly distributed way, which is possible if we’re not living under these capitalistic elements of exploitation of human beings and the planet, that’s an entirely different stance. People like Bill Gates and these rich, capitalist, very harmful actors act as if we can come up with the solutions that will be imposed from above, from the top of the economic and political hierarchy, that will decide who gets to live, how many people, and how. That’s the most harmful direction we could probably go in because people with power are going to act in their class interest. I don’t want to live in that world and I think that’s a real danger in climate discourse.”
MW: “Bringing the conversation back towards literature and storytelling – what are some of the possible stories we can tell in regards to climate change and the fall of capitalism that don’t rely on the ‘crisis spurs the change’ idea?”
NS: “The power and meaning behind storytelling is that you can imagine possible futures and action points that might help you get there. I think there might be an expectation that capitalism itself – because it’s so unsustainable, exploitative, and harmful – might end on its own end because it will continue until it destroys everything unless it sort of crumbles from within. I think there are expectations that maybe the global market system itself is so up and down and volatile that maybe it might just crumble. So I guess the story that I would try to create and get behind is us being able to scale back this really harmful system and dismantle it in the interest of the people it’s been exploiting the most. But to do so effectively, we would also have to focus on rebuilding the alternative. Disaster Capitalism is pretty resilient; I’d like to think that it might fall or crumble on its own, but that’s somewhat unlikely. Against the idea of waiting for a Deus Ex Maxina, something I think people do well here at Antioch is try to envision new and different community structures, social organizations, and different kinds of stories about themselves and their relationships to other people. And also imagine different, possible futures. I think that’s probably the best way, the best place to put our energies is trying to build those alternative structures and futures.”
MW: “What about non-state actors? The government, the state, always seems to corrupt even the best ideas. So it seems like that’s something that you’re speaking to with community-oriented solutions?”
NS: “Yeah, I’m thinking about David Graeber right now who passed away not so long ago, and is probably most famous for the “We are the 99%” phrase from Occupy. Before he passed away he was writing this alternative story about human history and social organization called The Dawn of Everything, and it gets at the fact that we tell all these stories about, like, hunter-gatherer societies and primitive societies and different sorts of social, cultural organizations and how that all just funneled into this linear timeline of progress until we get to the modern state and capitalism. This book is against that story and attempts to show how there are so many examples of really complex social organizations throughout human history that look more like a decentralized, municipal, or localized kind of structure. So, yeah, I think the power of being able to point to different ways that humans have been organized against these more dominant models like that can help us see all of the possibilities and different ways that we can relate to each other, different ways we can build lots of alternative kinds of communities that are accountable to one another and more reciprocal, mutual, etc. And I think that it’s something that human beings are actually pretty good at doing when given the space to do so.”
MW: “You’ve mentioned different views of time. I’m curious to hear you talk about how a different view of time would look and how that would influence us? Also, I’m curious about your work, your dissertation studying the past and what from the part of history that you’ve dealt with informs our present moment? Is there anything to learn from those feudal Shakespearian histories that you’ve really dug deeply into? I’d love to hear you talk about either of those things: the time model or the history reflection.”
NS: “Probably the most dominant one is in the early modern period, where my research is set. I think that kind of nomenclature – “early modern” is interesting. It invokes the idea that there was a break with pre-modern times and this is where modernity started. And so, in terms of temporality and storytelling, I think that there’s been a dominant narrative in Western culture that the birth of capitalism and the birth of modernity is this linear timeline of progress that begins there. And what I appreciate about a lot of early modern literature is that goes against the grain and tells stories about time that think through temporality in different ways. It’s not just a march of progress moving forward. I think that narrative has been pretty harmful. Especially in terms of colonialism and imperialism bringing so-called civilizing ideas of progress to the rest of the world and acting like they originated in Europe. I think that’s very harmful. There’s a lot of really great authors, philosophers, scholars – like Leslie Marmon Silko, Kyle Whyte, Maria Lugones, Nick Estes, etc., who think about time in a much different way. Going back to the early modern period allows you to see how that myth and those narratives were constructed in the first place. I think it allows you to be pretty critical of them and watch as they just explode in Western literature. It also allows you to be able to trace it in a very critical way that helps you see that there are other ways of thinking about progress.”
MW: “That’s super thought-provoking. Thank you. Okay, two more questions. Is that ok? We’ve got to touch on Walter Benjamin. What do we need to know?”
NS: “Haha. Well I wrote my dissertation on Shakespeare and the stories he tells in his plays about the transition from feudalism to capitalism because I was inspired by Benjamin’s dissertation, which traced that through German baroque drama. So the concept of Trauerspiel, which comes from these tragic plays, is also a concept of history against dominant forms of temporality. Benjamin is really important to me as a literary person but also as a philosopher. The reason why he’s important in thinking about history and temporality and politics, leftism, revolution, etc. is that he has a really, really compelling view of time that goes against this whole ‘history is progress’ narrative” in, for example, “Theses on the Philosophy of History.”
MW: “Excellent! Thank you. I’m also curious what your writing process is like?”
NS: “It’s funny that you asked me this because I keep getting back these brainstorming templates that I gave my students which are both structured and free-form. They’re an attempt to ask structured questions but also to be open about how wacky the writing process can be. So the short and honest answer is that my writing process can be pretty messy because I try to be creative and allow room for flow. If you get into something and you’re inspired, you don’t want to stop because things are just coming to you… Since that doesn’t happen as often as anyone would like I often try to be structured as well. So these templates have basic things like the ‘why does this matter’, probing questions about the stakes and kind of intro conclusion sections, and then kind of filling in different examples and important quotes in an outline form. Like lots of people, if I’m inspired, I can just sit down and write, but I think we all need quite a bit of help in the structuring of the brainstorming process. So, I use a lot of outlines and different kinds of templates to organize my thoughts.”
MW: “Thank you for answering that. Any other thoughts? Anything else you want to add?”
NS: “I’m just really happy to be here. I’ve been learning a lot from the students every single day. It’s made me think about all the ways that I’m trying to grow and expand all of those teaching and research interests and it’s felt like a very inspiring place to do that.”
After graduating with a self-designed major in Bachelor of Science: Ecology and the Human Environment with Spanish Language focus and earning magna cum laude, Richard Hauck ’17 has been accepted into two master’s programs at Arizona State University.
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