“Knowing that nothing need be done, is where we begin to move from”

-Gary Snyder, “Four Changes,” Turtle Island (1974)

This upper-level humanities course at Keene State College focuses on environmental writing in the United States from the 1960s to the present. The course is organized around a sequence of distinctive and engaging books that feature environmental thinking in North America, as well as the development of environmental writing in relation to the social movement of environmentalism.

Complicated questions—at the center of the social movement (and discourse) we have come to call environmentalism—have motivated a range of writers whose cultural work begins with the paradox that the scientific, industrial and technological advances of the modern world have led to an inexorable ecological catastrophe of massive proportions. How do we understand the social needs and demands of an economy, the natural constraints of ecology and the political imperatives of democracy? How do we think about the environment in historical, political, historical, sociological, economic, technological, and moral terms? And how do we reconcile the democratic freedoms at home with the imperialism abroad that feeds the greed for resources to feed our insatiable consumer economy?

Near Ajanta, Maharashstra, India

As the semester unfolds, students study the interrelations of natural and social-cultural systems, as well as the ways in which human agency can both degrade and sustain the environment; examine national and international issues through artistic, philosophical, cultural, scientific, technological, economic, social and political perspectives; and demonstrate an ability and willingness to approach a particular idea, problem, task or goal from multiple perspectives.

Writing in an Endangered World is designed to further learning outcomes in Environmental Studies (critical thinking and problem solving skills, communication skills, skills associated with moral and character development, an understanding of the ethical implications of environmental issues) as well as in English and other humanities disciplines (understanding historical and contemporary American cultures, responding resourcefully to texts, and integrating forms of scholarship from more than one discipline in writing).

New Yorker Magazine, June 1962
Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring-1,” The New Yorker Magazine, June 1962

This course blog features the thinking and writing by students in the class through syndication. Track the unfolding of the course by looking at the “Recent Posts” in the right column of this blog. Click on other pages in the header to read the writing project statements and other materials in the course.

The list of links offers students and visitors to this site a range of digital resources: environmental writing, governmental organizations, environmental nonprofits, and groups focused on advocacy.

literature and environmentalism at keene state college

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