Career spotlight: an interview with Phil Brick.What work do you do?
I am professor of politics and codirector of environmental studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington Walla Walla is both the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, and the county's largest city. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 29,686GR6. . I am also the founder and director of an environmental-studies field program, Whitman College Semester in the West, a three-month field tour focusing on the political, ecological, and human dimensions of environmental issues in the American West.
What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis?
I teach environmental politics. For me, this has meant introducing students to the depth and complexity of environmental problems. Environmental problems don't have solutions per se. They do, however, continually require us to reevaluate how we live our lives, and how we act in concert with others to define and achieve common objectives.
Many people seem to think that the academy is not the place where environmental education--conceived as activism--should take place. Nonsense. If you believe this, your understanding of education is pathetically narrow. Education is not about indoctrination in·doc·tri·nate
tr.v. in·doc·tri·nat·ed, in·doc·tri·nat·ing, in·doc·tri·nates
1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.
2. or simply imparting information. It is instead about critical thinking and opening the mind to new possibilities. Education should be a form of activism: good teachers, by definition, inspire their students to reimagine their lives and to act on these images.
What path led you to your current position?
I have been lucky--I recognized early that my calling was in education, and this has dovetailed quite nicely with my other passion: the outdoors. I did a bunch of guiding for an outfit called California Adventures while in graduate school, and after I got my current job at Whitman, I really missed the opportunity to share outdoor experiences with others. So I started taking students on field trips to take a firsthand look at environmental issues in our region. Eventually, this led me to create Semester in the West, which brings my intellectual interests together with my passion for the outdoors.
What happens in Semester in the West?
Students get the chance to live and study outside for three full months. Our travel route covers every western state, and we meet with a wide variety of activists and individuals who are working on natural-resource issues. I try to get students to meet people they probably disagree with Verb 1. disagree with - not be very easily digestible; "Spicy food disagrees with some people"
hurt - give trouble or pain to; "This exercise will hurt your back" , and to meet people whose commitment to the environment might surprise them. We also spend much of our time in intensive courses in writing and ecology.
How do you allow your students to encounter multiple sides of these issues while not having them (or you) quickly vilify and shoot down the non-environmentalist views?
Quite frankly, this hasn't really been a problem. If we are not open-minded, there is little point in having conversations with others. We should not be afraid to ask each other difficult questions. No matter what the circumstances, I insist that our conversations be conducted in a spirit of genuine curiosity and respect.
How do you talk about human living environments and their interaction with the "wilderness" in your semester?
A major focus of Semester in the West is to acquaint students with people who work with nature every day. Most of our students come from urban backgrounds, so I think it is important to learn from farmers, foresters, Native Americans, and others who have a wealth of experience living and working in place. After these encounters, I hope students come to see nature differently. Nature isn't just something that is pristine and "out there," (wilderness). Rather, we can better conceptualize con·cep·tu·al·ize
v. con·cep·tu·al·ized, con·cep·tu·al·iz·ing, con·cep·tu·al·iz·es
To form a concept or concepts of, and especially to interpret in a conceptual way: nature on a wider continuum of landscapes that are inhabited, uninhabited, and perhaps, reinhabited in Gary Snyder's sense of the word. I encourage you to check out a new book by Dan Dagget, Gardeners of Eden: Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature.
Semester in the West requires a lot of travel and your website says this is accomplished in Chevy Suburban SUVs, which are highly inefficient gas-guzzlers. How do you and your students address this issue?
When planning the program, I thought about this quite a bit. I ended up choosing the Suburbans because they offer the best combination of safety, efficiency (calculated in terms of mpg/person with eight passengers), and flexibility. As to the issue of gas consumption, we discuss the following question: On Earth Day 1970, the focus of environmental rhetoric and concern was on production--the pollution and destruction of our common environment by industrial producers. After Earth Day 1990, the focus of much environmental rhetoric (and self-flagellation in the movement) has shifted to consumption. Why?
Do you recruit students for Semester in the West who are environmentally inept, to educate them, or do you travel with students who are planning to have careers involving the environment? What is your main goal for these students (e.g., to recycle more, to become one with nature, or to gain more respect for the earth)?
Some of the students on Semester in the West will go on to environmental careers. Others, I hope, will be different kinds of environmental citizens as a result of participating in the program. My environmental pedagogy is a bit postmodern: I want students to literally disassemble dis·as·sem·ble
v. dis·as·sem·bled, dis·as·sem·bling, dis·as·sem·bles
To take apart: disassemble a toaster.
1. key assumptions they have about the environment and how one can think and act on behalf of it. Then it is time to pick up the pieces. What gets picked up, and what remains on the ground, is up to each student. Some students leave the program with new ideas "New Ideas" is the debut single by Scottish New Wave/Indie Rock act The Dykeenies. It was first released as a Double A-side with "Will It Happen Tonight?" on July 17, 2006. The band also recorded a video for the track. and new commitments. Others don't move far beyond their original ideas. In both cases, I think, we have more reflective environmental citizens.
What environmental offense has infuriated in·fu·ri·ate
tr.v. in·fu·ri·at·ed, in·fu·ri·at·ing, in·fu·ri·ates
To make furious; enrage.
Furious. you the most?
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
Last fall our Semester in the West group spent two wonderful weeks with Western writer Ellen Meloy Ellen Meloy (December 111946 – November 4, 2004) was an American writer.
She was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for The Anthropology of Turquoise Meditations on Landscape, Art & Spirit . The focus of our work was to develop what Ellen called a "deep map of place," incorporating that map into our thinking, writing, and ourselves. Just as we were finishing our time with her, Ellen died suddenly. It was like a punch in the gut, and it hit our group hard.
What's been the best?
The day the first Semester in the West group hit the road in August 2002.
Who is your environmental hero?
Every year I take my students to visit Bob Jackson
Robert 'Bob' Jackson and Leo Leo, in astronomy
Leo [Lat.,=the lion], northern constellation lying S of Ursa Major and on the ecliptic (apparent path of the sun through the heavens) between Cancer and Virgo; it is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Goebel. They are tree farmers in Wallowa County, Ore. It's one thing to talk about sustainability and the importance of a land ethic. These guys walk the talk.
Who is your environmental nightmare?
Hard-core property-rights advocates.
What's your environmental vice?
I ride a BMW BMW
in full Bayerische Motoren Werke AG
German automaker. Founded as an aircraft engine manufacturer in 1916, the company assumed the name Bayerische Motoren Werke and became known for its high-speed motorcycles in the 1920s. motorcycle. Ever since I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I have wanted one. It gets better mileage than any eco-groovy Prius, and it is a helluva hell·uv·a
Used as an intensive: He's a helluva great guy.
[Alteration of hell of a.] lot more fun. But you wouldn't believe the ugly looks I get from my enviro friends. Motorcycles, apparently, violate the very essence of ecological identities.
How exactly does a motorcycle "violate the very essence of ecological identifies"?
Most of this can probably be traced to a dislike for motorcycle culture in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , which is all about machismo machismo
Exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences. In machismo there is supreme valuation of characteristics culturally associated with the masculine and a denigration of , noise, power, and speed. And with Harley riders, you can add a hyper-marketed mix of nostalgia and nationalism.
It's not like this everywhere. In Asia, everyone gets to ride on the scooter in one way or another: grandmothers, kids, dogs, chickens, you name it. They've got the right idea. Ride on!
What are you reading these days?
Doug Peacock, Walking It Off: A Veteran's Chronicle of War and Wilderness. Meet the real George Washington Hayduke. He's much more interesting than his caricature in The Monkey Wrench Gang. Also, I've just picked up Ellen Meloy's final book, Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild.
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
John Prine John Prine (born October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois) is an American country/folk singer-songwriter who has achieved widespread critical (and some commercial) success since the early 1970s.
Prine is the son of William Prine and Verna Hamm. , then and now. If you hate George Bush as much as I do, check out JP's latest release, Fair and Square, especially track five, "Some Humans Ain't Human."
What do you think needs to be done to make environmental protection nonpartisan, so we don't lose ground every time a Democrat loses an election?
For big-picture thinking, the Apollo Alliance The Apollo Alliance is a project organized by the Institute for America's Future and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy. Its goals include establishing energy independence for the United States of America, as well as developing cleaner and more efficient energy alternatives. is an example of how environmental issues might be restructured to encompass new constituencies and to redirect the focus of public and private investment. Closer to home, I think collaborative restoration projects are great opportunities to build trust and to build new political coalitions. Such projects (streams, grasslands, forests) help put the environmental community on more favorable strategic ground: instead of being the ones always trying to stop something bad from happening, we can participate, often with traditional adversaries, in making something good happen on the ground.
What's one thing the environmental movement is doing particularly well?
See also Omnipresence.
their signs seen as “verses of the wayside throughout America.” [Am. Commerce and Folklore: Misc. . There is a lot of nonsense talk these days about the death of environmentalism environmentalism, movement to protect the quality and continuity of life through conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and control of land use. . Every day, I work with students and people throughout the West whose lives are inspired and animated by environmental ideas. Environmentalists invest a lot of anxiety in what I call a "ledger" approach to environmental politics. Wins are only temporary, but losses are permanent. What we miss in all this are the more subtle ways that environmental ideas are changing lives, knowledge, industrial practices, institutions, and ultimately, landscapes.
What's one thing the environmental movement is doing badly?
The environmental community has been slow to adapt to the fact that the "political ecosystem" in this country is much more conservative than it was in the 1970s. The environment should not be a partisan issue, but we have let it become so.
Why are environmental groups silent on the issues of overpopulation overpopulation
Situation in which the number of individuals of a given species exceeds the number that its environment can sustain. Possible consequences are environmental deterioration, impaired quality of life, and a population crash (sudden reduction in numbers caused by and consumption?
I don't think the environmental community has been silent on issues of consumption. In fact, we have been obsessed ob·sess
v. ob·sessed, ob·sess·ing, ob·sess·es
To preoccupy the mind of excessively.
v.intr. with such issues. From sustainable building and architecture to the slow-food movement, you will find green activists chipping away at the big machine.
If you could have every reader of this interview do one thing, what would it be?
Find something to do outside that helps you live fully in the moment. You can find it while surfing a wave in a kayak, perfectly still for a split second while 10,000 cubic feet per second A cubic foot per second (also cfs, cusec and ft³/s) is an Imperial unit / U.S. customary unit volumetric flow rate, which is equivalent to a volume of 1 cubic foot flowing every second. of river roars past. Or it might be that moment of flight between telemark Telemark (tĕ`ləmärk), county (1995 pop. 163,143), 5,915 sq mi (15,320 sq km), SE Norway, bordering on the Skagerrak in the east. Skien (the capital), Porsgrunn, Kragerø, and Notodden are the chief towns. turns on a steep and deep powder day Powder Day or Day of the Powder, (Spanish: Dia de los Polvos) is celebrated in the southern Spanish village of Tolox on Shrove Tuesday, the final day of the annual Tolox carnival. This local tradition involves the throwing of talcum powder at one another. . Or the perfect rhythm and hum of crank and wheels on a long-distance bicycle ride. It's a big, beautiful world out there, so why are you staring at your computer?
Reprinted by permission from Grist Magazine Grist (originally Grist Magazine; also referred to as Grist.org) is an award-winning non-profit online magazine that publishes environmental news and views with a fresh twist - informing, inspiring, and linking the next generation of green activists. (www.grist.org). For more environmental news and humor, sign up for Grist's free e-mail See Internet e-mail service. service,