Before I take off for Eagleridge Bluffs tomorrow with my tent in tow, I want to answer publicly an email I received rebuking me for criticizing Terry Glavan's reading from his new book last week. Ordinarily when I attend a university sponsored reading or lecture I don't agree with, I do what most people do, discuss it briefly with friends and then simply let it pass. After all,universities have their own reason for being. However, I think this attitude has been a big mistake. Why? First, because so many readings and lectures are held in university environs it gives the speakers an aura of authority that is not necessarily always warranted. And I want to use Mr. Glavan's reading to illustrate what I think has been happening to the environmental movement.
The environmental movement used to be a people's movement. But it's potentially mighty back has been bowed to the breaking point. And one way this has been done has been through intellectual apologists for the status quo. And in my opinion, from writers like Mr. Galvan, who while using provocative language (the sub title of his book "Is this the Sixth Greatest Extinction?) that would portend his total sympathy for the earth being trashed by corporate values, nevertheless ever so subtly supports the status quo.
Right off the bat, before there was even any discussion entered into during the evening, Mr. Galvan stated that he didn't want to hear anything about Gaia mentioned. So here this esteemed writer and professour, blatantly advising that he does not consider the concept of Gaia, this most ancient of concepts, this concept particularly relevant to many women, is off bounds for any following discussion about the possible extinction of the natural world as we have known it. Which is what we have come to hear him talk about. Okay, then what do we have to consider?
Mainly, Mr. Galvan seems to want to consider that people who are known or who consider themselves environmentalists are terribly wrong by definition because this very categorizing sets up a division between people and other people and people and nature. As everybody has to live in our environment everybody is of necessity an environmentalism, in my own thinking, but those of us who engage in defense of the environment by physical action other than letter writing, is, in Mr. Glavan's mind in a separate category that of being, goddess help us... ENVIRONMENTALISTS! And therefore automatically put in a separate category by Mr. Glavan that is divisive and bad for the environment. I note that Mr. Glavan calls him a conservationist. There's obviously a huge difference in his mind.
This is, in my opinion, convoluted thinking. And it makes the situation hopeless as people can't really do anything then but write letters. And while one of my critics said that he heard Mr. Glavan state the was indeed in favor of peaceful civil disobedience,and even went further, I didn't hear that, and while my eye sight may be fading with age my hearing is acute. Mr. Glavan's entire thrust of presentation was that while the earth may very well be dying we did not need a social revolution that peaceful civil disobedience might imply. And when a woman spoke up and said many more letters were need Mr. Galvan praised her warmly and suggested that yes, even in the face of massive ecological disaster, more letters are truly the way to go. So everybody could go home, comforted, knowing that all they had to do was to write one more letter.
This kind of thinking has seeped insidiously into the thinking of what used to be a people's movement. The environmental movement has now been at least partially co-opted by the universities. When a people's movement dies it goes to the universities and becomes a subject one can get a degree in, like Women's Studies. And sometimes, even in it's final resting place in the universities, it can make side forays into popular spiritual retreats, not so much as a subject of study, but one of contemplation. Let's not let our movement become a subject of university study or the subject of one more contemplative retreat. Let's live our movement!
I don't despise Mr. Galvan personally. I don't even know him. But I do know the subtle status quo apologist line he was expressing that evening and I reject it. Soundly. So let's march on to Engleridge Bluffs.