An ecological educator answers questions
What environmental organization are you affiliated with?
Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.
What does it do?
AEI offers higher education that fosters ecological awareness and personal and societal transformation through immersion in a variety of environments and cultures, critical reflection, and experiential learning communities. As learners, we awaken to a deeper sense of participation within the web of life and engage in lifelong ecological and social justice and responsible global citizenship. Undergraduate and graduate students travel in different regions of the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, on specially outfitted buses. We also offer a distance learning program for teachers that has two field components.
What’s your job title?
What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis?
I collaborate with faculty and administration to develop the paths and possibilities that allow our programs to create the conditions for transformative learning — specifically to foster an ecological worldview. This means lots of meetings, talking on the phone, and emailing. I also provide supervision and professional development for faculty and sometimes teach.
How many emails are currently in your inbox?
With whom do you interact regularly as part of your job?
We recently merged with Lesley University and my daily interactions involve faculty, program staff, marketing and admissions folks. I am collaborating with Lesley University faculty in different programs that have courses relating to ecology to coordinate our efforts and raise awareness in the Lesley community about environmental issues. I also work with other universities and colleges.
Who’s the biggest pain in the ass you have to deal with?
Myself and the worldview I was born into.
Who’s nicer than you would expect?
The community of beings that surrounds (and sometimes lives in) my little house in the woods. Considering my clumsy attempts to inter-be, as Thich Nhat Hahn would say, they are remarkably forgiving.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Glen Ridge, N.J., and grew up in a suburb close to Hartford, Conn. I have spent the last 30 years in the Gulf of Maine bioregion and now live in a white pine forest on sand and gravel deposited during the last ice age.
What do you consider your environmental coming-of-age moment?
Reading Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. This book provided the ecological context for my feminism, my educational philosophy (Freire, Giroux, Dewey), and shaped my search for community. Connecting my own experience as a woman with what is happening to the world around me brought a new authenticity to my activism.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
When a student’s despair and disempowerment led her to consume more rather than less.
What’s on your desk right now?
I have three desks — I work at home, in Belfast, Maine, and in Cambridge, Mass. In Cambridge, the little Buddha sitting on a small toilet full of angel cards is surrounded by untidy heaps of paper.
What environmental offense has pissed you off the most?
Last night my adult son let the water run while he was brushing his teeth! AAARRRGGGHHH!
Who is your environmental hero?
Hank Colletto, faculty for Audubon Expedition Institute. Hank’s home is as big as my bathroom, his magnificent organic vegetable garden feeds body and spirit, and he kisses the chickens. I am blessed to share land with him — he walks the talk.
Who is your No. 1 environmental villain?
George W. Bush — his leadership is one of the culminating events of the scientific, industrial worldview.
What’s your environmental vice?
Transportation. I fly to our programs and to conferences. I commute from Maine to Boston.
How do you get around?
Plane, automobile, commuter train, feet.
What are you reading these days?
True Partnership by Carl Zaiss. Shared Leadership: Reframing the Hows and Whys of Leadership by Pearce and Conger.
What’s your favorite meal?
Summer corn slathered with butter, salt, and pepper with a side of peas from our garden. Topped off with John’s pistachio ice cream!
Are you a news junkie? Where do you get your news?
From the ravens, the pines, and the chickadees. Derrick Jensen’s A Language Older Than Words reminded me to listen to the voices speaking all around me.
When I must know what the industrial-commercial order is up to, I listen to NPR. When I can find it, I listen to “Democracy Now.”
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
What’s your favorite ecosystem?
Where my heart is nourished. Right now that is Ravenwood, my home — four habitats that include a white pine forest, a brook with varied wetlands, otters, deer, beaver, muskrat, turkeys, ravens, hawks, fishers, ermine, snowshoe hares … birch, beech, oak, spruce, fir … mice, voles, shrews … people.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
The YIIMBY Project — Yes! It’s in my backyard! My household has a no away policy. If it comes here, it stays here. This practice has a remarkable effect on consumption.
When was the last time you wore tie-dye? How about fleece?
I’m wearing fleece as I answer these questions! While I am a former fan of black lights, tie-dye never made it into my fashion repertoire.
Do you compost?
Essential to the YIIMBY project. Have a humanure project going as well.
Which presidential candidate are you backing in 2004?
Dennis Kucinich, although I would vote for almost anyone to defeat GWB.
Would you label yourself an environmentalist?
No. I would label myself an ecological citizen, an ecological educator, and a practitioner of transformative learning and change. From my perspective, an environmentalist does not necessarily embrace a deep ecological perspective or challenge the assumptions underlying the current paradigm.
What’s one thing the environmental movement is doing badly?
I can’t imagine passing judgement on the entire environmental movement. Since education is critical to creating change, I wish more people involved in this effort would educate themselves about multiple intelligences, emotional intelligence, brain-based learning, and challenge themselves to do the personal growth work necessary to function successfully in the emerging ecozoic era (Thomas Berry).
What’s one issue about which you disagree with other environmentalists?
Some environmentalists believe it is up to the human species to manage the current crisis. I believe Gaia has successfully managed her own health and well-being over the eons and will continue to do so — that it is not a matter of planetary survival. If we are to survive as a species, it is important that we do more than think in terms of systems — we will need to experience our inter-being with the world and feel deeply the connection between ecological integrity and environmental justice.
What could the environmental movement be doing better or differently to attract new people?
Set personal and organizational goals that when met will demonstrate through action the concepts and principles we espouse. Walk the talk!
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
Cat Stevens! Now, Eva Cassidy.
What’s your favorite TV show?
I don’t watch TV. I love movies — Antonia’s Line and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off come to mind.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Join the YIIMBY Project.