Environmental Field Trip

Environmental Field Trip
Take a Look at Your World, at Our Shared World*  
Your assignment is to take a “field trip”: a nature walk, a tour around your neighborhood, a bicycle ride, a trip to the city, or any kind of journey by any mode of transportation, that gets you out into your environment. Observe your surroundings, make of note things, situations, people’s behavior from the new lens the course has given you to see things from the perspective of environmental ethics. There are any number of ways of approaching this assignment. You might have a particular place in mind that is environmentally sensitive or that has been designated as a susceptible to environmental pollution. You might want to visit the local dump, a recycling center, or wastewater treatment plant. You could take a trip to the beach, to a waterway or river area, take a walk on a wilderness trail, or drive out to the desert areas where people recreate on weekends and vacations to see if these areas are being abused or suffer from littering and pollution. You could visit the zoo or animal park, or even go to a farm or food-processing plant. 
*Important Note: This report will also be used as part of your assignment in Discussion Board 4: Please upload your paper to “Field Trip Reports: Peer Exchange” in doc sharing [top frame tool menu] as well as submitting it to the dropbox [see link below] for this assignment for instructor review and grading. Each student in the class will select another student’s Field Trip Report to use as a basis for analysis of different political approaches to ecology and environmental issues. See DB 4 for more details.

The idea is to apply what you have been learning in the course to what is really going on in the world-your lifeworld, as the phenomenologists call it. This everyday world is our true environs, or surrounding world. In some sense, this assignment is an attempt to return to the place where, in a certain sense, you already are–as part of the world, as part of nature–you are really investigating a larger part of your own self-identity. Observe carefully what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Use what you have learned in the course to reflect on what you observe and experience, and try to take things in from the perspective of an environmental ethic, as you consider the various concepts introduced in the course of nature, of the land, of our world as an ecologically interdependent system.

The slide show, Environmental Field Trip Reports, features some excerpts from previous field trip reports. Please take a few minutes to see what others have done in response to this assignment. Please note that the assignment is to WRITE A REPORT, not do a PowerPoint slide show. The slide show that serves as an example here was made just for the purposes of sharing what other people have done on their field trips. 

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For an excellent example of this kind of this kind of thinking and writing, read Karen Warren’s Rock-Climbing Narrative, from her article, “The Power and the Promise of Ecofeminism.” Note the shift in her perspective and in her understanding of her experience of the natural world. Without labeling it as such, Warren has accomplished this shift in perspective and new kind of awareness by adopting the “phenomenological attitude” discussed by the ecophenomenologist philosophers we study in Unit 3.

Write a report that details your experience, and try to be as specific as possible. What were you expecting to encounter? What, exactly, did you observe? How did you decide where to go or what to look for? Did anything you studied cause you to see things differently than you have in the past? Did you make any critical discoveries or notice anything interesting or surprising (or shocking!) about the environment or area you visited? Assess anything you may find in terms of environmental and ecological sustainability issues and, if possible, come up with a recommendation for a possible solution or way to improve the situation, should you find a problem or environmentally sensitive situation. If you find no problems, perhaps you have not traveled far enough; or, perhaps you live in an area that is well attuned to environmental conservation issues and engages in sustainability practices. If that is the case, explain what is being done right.

The report may be anywhere from 1000-1500 words (3 -5 typewritten pages), but the word count here is flexible in either direction. It is more important for you to think deeply and reflect on the ideas, arguments, and critiques you have been reading than to just try to fill up the pages with empty speculation. The material on ecophenomenology, covered in Unit 3, should be particularly helpful in coming up with an inspired or critically astute approach to this assignment: try adopting the “phenomenological attitude”: Husserl’s “phenomenological reduction” as you take a fresh look at your environment. See if you can “bracket out” your habitual thought patterns and preconceived ideas about what you are seeing and experiencing–try looking at the world with the “fresh” eyes of the phenomenologist. 

Please include images, maps, charts, diagrams, or even links to video clips in your report; you may find it useful to bring along a digital camera to document your trip, and if you have your images in electronic form, you should be able to share them with the class. The inclusion of such “extras” will count for 5% of your score on this report. This is not a research paper, so there is no requirement for citing outside sources; however, you may find it helpful to do so in completing the report and making your recommendations. You may treat this as a piece of creative nonfiction, an entry in an “environmental-awareness journal,” a journalistic article or blog post, or even the form of a letter: creativity and expressive sensitivity are encouraged! If you do cite sources, you may use MLA, APA, or any clearly comprehensive documentation style. The purpose of this assignment is to get you engaged beyond the purely academic realm to explore environmental issues that are actually part of your daily life.

*I emailed teacher to provide me easier instructions as far as what I need done and this is what she emailed me: This is not a research assignment…it is what I like to call an “experiential report”; taking a cue from the ecophenomenologists, I ask you to go out into your “lifeworld” (the world you perceive, that affects you, that is your home, your place to explore, your source of life in many ways…and so on) and try to experience it in a new way (if possible); a new way that is promoted by what you have been reading, learning, discussing, and thinking about in the course so far. The articles for Unit 3 are especially useful here (even though they may seem a little difficult to get into at first reading). Please review the PPT slide show along with the reading; it goes some distance in helping to unravel some of the philosophical jargon that these authors sometimes fall into.

So, take a “field trip”: this could be as simple as a walk through your own neighborhood, but now you are not moving through it with your ordinary intention (visiting a neighbor, getting a breath of fresh air, picking up some bread and milk at the corner market, etc.); you are now moving through this familiar territory with your perceptual mechanisms bracketing out your ordinary conceptual framework, seeing the world anew, with senses fresh and alert, as if it were a strange and new world. What do you see now that was always there but never caught your attention? What do you notice? What should you be noticing, according to the thinkers and philosophers we’ve been studying?

Maybe you want to do something more dramatic, such as taking a nature hike, visiting a local or even more distant park or publicly controlled natural reserve, or maybe you want to see what’s going on at your local recycling center, city dump, or wastewater plant. The possibilities are wide open. Just go, look, listen, smell, feel, think. Then report. I would also recommend taking a camera and a notebook. This is about what you experience, not about what others have to say.


 *You can use information from the other assignments that you’ve helped me with in the past two weeks, if you wish.

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