I was reminded this week of the wonderful work of Anthony McCann, an ethnomusicologist, among other hats, who now describes himself as primarily a “social ecologist.” I’ve been enjoying Anthony’s generous research on music and copyright/enclosure for a while now, but I was motivated to see what he’s been up to lately after reading his incisive, thoughtful letter to the SEM list regarding our upcoming meeting in Honolulu. Here’s the crux:
Air travel is said by many to be the fastest growing contributor to climate change. Is anyone bothered by the increasing number of interdisciplinary, disciplinary, and subdisciplinary conferences that academics are invited to go to or even expected to go to (for research and professional profiles and networking)? Is anyone keeping track of the burgeoning conference industry? Is anyone concerned at the effect that all those thousands of ‘academically necessary’ flights are having on the carbon footprint of academic practice? Are there other ways we can begin to reconfigure our academic practices to reduce the environmental impact of our scholarly communication and networking? Are there ways in which our conferences might increasingly involve video link-ups or DVD paper presentations? Are there other ways to imagine what we are doing as a discipline as far as interrelationship and communication are concerned? For example, if we didn’t yet have conferences, and we still had this level of environmental urgency, how might we imagine the possibilities of scholarly interaction, while still maintaining an emphasis on the importance of face-to-face interactions? More local activities? Can the board of SEM invite SEM members to consider making at least making an environmental commitment such as that offered by http://www.flightpledge.org.uk/ in their silver pledge programme?
The project that caught my eye at Anthony’s site most strikingly is what he calls “crafting gentleness” –
An important principle of the work on this site is that there is nothing more personal, political, or relevant than attending to the character of our own attitude. Also, that there is no attitude more personal, political, or relevant than an attitude of gentleness. An attitude of gentleness can allow us to live the possibilities of hope as a realistic engagement with the here and now of our relationships and circumstances.
which reminds me of what I imagine to be Thoreau’s distinctively compelling sense of composure, his bearing, esp e.g. as recently invoked by billmon — not to mention his sense of the value of the news. (But then, as Ralph Waldo says, “refuse the good models,” which I myself can rarely manage to do.)
Speaking of which (the news, that is), the crafting gentleness project is associated with a group blog, too, which is where I found an apropos reflection by a contributor named Shelley. Her ideas about creativity and the perpetuation of reality resonate quite strongly, I think, with the whole Sylvestergate shebang that’s been lighting up the boards here at w&w. Shelley writes:
From what I have learned about creativity…what we see and notice and believe as “out there” is what we continue to perpetuate within ourselves. Yes the mass mind has created the stuff of front pages but do we not perpetuate this reality inside ourselves by continually feeding ourselves the same mass thought and emotional climate? How do we be the change we want to see? We rarely watch tv or read the papers in my household. Whenever my daughter comes home from watching the news at her dads or her grandmas she feels like the world is an ugly place. If this becomes an established belief how can she create anything new from that?
Now, obviously the whole reception/reproduction circuit is a complex one and people make their own meanings of what they see and hear from their own complexly situated subject positions (and that need not imply stability), but I feel there’s some truth in Shelley’s statement all the same.
… but while we’re talking about the news and taking it easy …
The Youth Dem Freaking Perreo-Stylee from Sea to Grinding Sea
… but not like they’re doin it in Lima! *yet*