ENVIRONMENTAL ARTS AND HUMANITIES

REGIONAL GRADUATE CONFERENCE 2021

Oregon State University 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

ZOOM CONFERENCE

Morning Zoom: [link available on conference date]

Lunchtime keynote (12pm):

Afternoon Zoom: [link available on conference date]

Contact: jacob.hamblin@oregonstate.edu

FEATURING

Lunchtime (12pm) keynote speaker:

Michelle Nijhuis

“‘What We Have Ignored Is What Citizens Can Do’: Elinor Ostrom and the Power of Possibility”

Nijhuis is an environmental journalist and author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

Partners

OSU Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative

Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word

OSU Center for the Humanities

OSU College of Liberal Arts

Organized by Jacob Darwin Hamblin

Director, Environmental Arts and Humanities

Oregon State University

Contact: jacob.hamblin@oregonstate.edu

Schedule

Introduction and Welcome (845am): Jacob Hamblin

Session 1 (9am-1020am)

Mericos Hector Rhodes (Oregon State University), “Governing by Nature: Central Control of Farm and Food Genetics”

Sasha White (University of Oregon), “FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE”

Sho McClarence (University of Denver), TBD

Lance Burch (Oregon State University), “Just Beneath the Surface: Marine Science, the Military, and Protected Areas in the Postwar Pacific”

1020am-1030: BREAK

Session 2 (1030am-1150am)

Collin Heatley (University of Oregon), “The Barred Owl and the Legacy of the Spotted Owl Conflict”

Anthony Vitale (Oregon State University), “Splitting Advocates Like Atoms: a Schism among the Hanford Downwinders”

Celia Oney (Oregon State University), “Oregon’s Anti-Nuclear Movement and the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant”

Miriam Lipton (Oregon State University), “Penicillin’s Promise: Antibiotic Resistance and its Denial in the 1950s and 1960s”

12pm-1pm: keynote presentation by Michelle Nijhuis, environmental journalist and author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

“‘What We Have Ignored Is What Citizens Can Do’: Elinor Ostrom and the Power of Possibility”

Session 3 (1pm-2pm)

Megan Hayes (University of Oregon), “Acidifying Oceanic Feeling”

Samantha Carruthers-Knight (Pacific Northwest College of Art), “Stories in Stone: Rediscovering Physical Earth through Observation, Inquiry, and Storytelling”

Shane Scopatz (Oregon State University), “Stepping into Strikes”

2pm-210pm: BREAK

Session 4 (210pm-250pm)

Holly Moulton (University of Oregon), “Futuremaking in a Disaster Zone: Gender, Indigeneity, and Climate Adaptation in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca”

Jessica Al-faqih, “The Ideology behind the Green Veil: Environmental Rhetoric in Advertising 

 

Titles and Abstracts (alphabetical by presenter)

Jessica Al-faqih, “The Ideology behind the Green Veil: Environmental Rhetoric in Advertising 

When advertisers use the environment as a backdrop to influence consumer behavior they perpetuate and reproduce the same discourses they claim to be dismantling: pushing consumers toward unrestrained instrumentalism rather than conservationism. Most criticism related to environmental advertising has addressed consumer attitudes toward environmental issues and corporate responsibility. However, this criticism has largely ignored advertising’s role in shaping mass environmental ideology toward greater resource consumption. This presentation addresses greenwashing’s role in promoting unrestrained instrumentalism by occluding the true ecological consequences of consumerism and consumption. This framing affects consumers’ relationship to the climate crisis in fundamental ways; it masks corporate and consumer culpability, reproduces environmentally destructive behavior, and blocks consumers from being able to make environmentally conscious decisions by reframing the definition of environmental action towards unrestrained instrumentalism.

Lance Burch (Oregon State University), “Just Beneath the Surface: Marine Science, the Military, and Protected Areas in the Postwar Pacific”

Nearly half of all marine waters claimed by the United States surround its remote Pacific island territories. Over half of these waters are bounded by some form of marine protected area, a percentage roughly five times higher than any other region of the country. Though they have been ecologically celebrated, many of these protected areas were created as a continuation or response to United States military activities. In the Northern Mariana Islands, protected areas were founded at former oceanographic stations where fallout from atomic weapons tests was measured. At Guam, studies of environmental contamination from military installations led to the establishment of several federally managed no-take reserves, directly adjacent to where the Air Force and Navy had dumped and left toxic waste for decades. This project investigates the deep connections between place-based conservation and United States imperial interest in the Pacific. I explore how the roots of the implementation of marine protected areas here can be traced to United States efforts to study, occupy, and manage its recently acquired island territories in the decades after the Second World War.

Samantha Carruthers-Knight (Pacific Northwest College of Art), “Stories in Stone: Rediscovering Physical Earth through Observation, Inquiry, and Storytelling”

Geology is everywhere around us. From the ground under our feet to the products we use every day, Earth matter permeates our lives. But most people rarely think about or notice, much less consider themselves to have a relationship with, the ‘stuff’ of Earth, or Physical Earth. The need to address this disconnect is ever more urgent as we move forward into the Anthropocene age. My work examines geologic ontologies through a design lens, considering the barriers that prevent most people from having relationships with Physical Earth. Through a human centered participatory design process, I explore bridge objects and shared group experiences that create a more nuanced and interconnected sense of geological understanding.

Stories in Stones focuses on unknowing as an avenue to closer attention to and observation of Physical Earth. In engaging with the Rock Love kit, participants make their own observations and cultivate their ‘geology glasses’ by exploring rocks, minerals and materials that are rock-like but not rock. Rocks encode their own narratives in their materiality and appearance, and they also serve as projected vessels for human stories. By sharing these ‘rock stories,’ both real and hypothetical, Rock Love participants deepen their relationships with rocks and with one another.

Humans are now collectively acting on the scale of a geologic force, and we as individuals have a responsibility to guide the moral compass of that force. By developing individual relationships with Physical Earth using the tools and methods generated as part of my thesis work, we may begin to collectively create a new human-geologic paradigm: one in which humans can continue to thrive for generations to come.

Megan Hayes (University of Oregon), “Acidifying Oceanic Feeling”

Today there is more carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere than at any time in the past 15 million years. Thanks to the oceans acting as a planetary carbon sponge, their surface waters continue to absorb almost 30 percent of this fossil fuel CO2, equating to about 1 million tons per hour. As a consequence, the average pH of these surface waters has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 since the beginning of the industrial era—a 25 percent increase in acidity over the past two centuries—for which a similar rate of acidification has not occurred in the last 55 million years. The form in which this chemical transition of ocean acidification unfolds can be thought in terms of what Elizabeth Povinelli names the “quasi-event;” a slow, seeping state change occurring below technologically unmediated human modes of perception. Never directly rupturing the present, ocean acidification manifests instead as a corrosive low hum of strain, warping the conditions of existence for bodies immersed. The corrosive strain is apprehended, though, by way of sensorial attunement, bodily dissolution, and multi-species relation within a shifting oceanic milieu. Attentive to the biogeochemical realities of marine entanglement, acidification is a mode of oceanic feeling adequate to the conditions of our finite planet.

Collin Heatley (University of Oregon), “The Barred Owl and the Legacy of the Spotted Owl Conflict”

Over the course of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Northern Spotted Owl became the face of one of the largest public land debates and natural resource conflicts in United States history.  Environmental advocacy groups in the 1980s and early 1990s charged that the Pacific Northwest’s old-growth forests – the preferred habitat of the Spotted Owl – were facing obliteration at the hands of the region’s timber industry. The conflict was ostensibly resolved by the enactment of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994, which dramatically reduced logging in old-growth forests, thus ensuring protection of the Spotted Owl. At present, however, another species of owl – the Barred Owl – is displacing the Spotted Owl at alarming rates and the latter is currently facing extinction. This project examines the emergence of the Barred Owl as a threat to the Spotted Owl in the 1980s and 1990s within the context of the environmental politics of the era and traces the history of its proliferation in subsequent decades. Particularly, this project investigates the relationship between the cultural constructions of nature embedded in the era’s environmental politics and the political response to the Barred Owl threat.

Miriam Lipton (Oregon State University), “Penicillin’s Promise: Antibiotic Resistance and its Denial in the 1950s and 1960s”

Before the widespread adoption of penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic, in the 1940s, physicians had few options to treat bacterial infections. What would have previously meant a near-certain death sentence for some patients was then an easy and complete cure with penicillin. But almost as soon as antibiotics were discovered, signs of resistance began to emerge. Scientists, such as Selman Waksman, a future Nobel Laureate for his discovery of streptomycin, an antibiotic against tuberculosis, recognized as early as 1945 that bacteria were resistant to penicillin. By the 1960s, resistance to antibiotics was a known problem. And yet, even though resistance appeared almost as soon as antibiotics were used in the 1940s, the concept of resistance did not gain international acceptance until the 1960s. Key questions, then, are, what was the nature of the scientific discourse in those interim years, and how did scientists respond to the growing body of evidence pointing to resistance? This paper demonstrates that from the onset of widespread antibiotic use in the late 1940s to the declaration of resistance as a public health crisis in the 1960s, researchers downplayed the problem of resistance because they were persuaded by the allure of penicillin’s promise and its perceived ability to overcome all bacterial infections.

Sho McClarence (University of Denver), TBD

Holly Moulton (University of Oregon), “Futuremaking in a Disaster Zone: Gender, Indigeneity, and Climate Adaptation in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca”

Women in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca, the most glaciated tropical mountain range on Earth, are surrounded by disappearing ice. By 2100, de-glaciation of all but the highest peaks in the area is expected, and disaster maps show dramatic red flood zones and seasonal water scarcity. Despite these apocalyptic narratives, many women in the region are successfully caring for and maintaining their communities and familial networks. More specifically, women that I have interviewed defy the category of ‘triply vulnerable highland villagers,’ those who are poor, indigenous, and female (IUCN, 2009). They are instead increasing their community and household security by building and managing tourist hostels, transplanting montane crops to urban gardens, and having children later in life. This preliminary study explores indigenous women’s narratives of resilience and environmental change adaptation in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca, a climate change ‘hotspot’. I do this by using ethnographic methods— including collaborative ethnography and participant observation, both in-person and remotely— to explore how women think about home, environment, and resilience, and how these linkages are being shaped by climate change. Additionally, I use content and discourse analysis to compare women’s everyday climate change adaptation practices with government and NGO-initiated adaptation plans. I argue that a more robust understanding of women’s social networks, everyday lives, and desires—what I call processes of futuremaking—provide critical insights for developing more just adaptation plans.

Celia Oney (Oregon State University), “Ending an Era? Oregon’s Anti-Nuclear Movement and the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant”

This paper explores the controversy surrounding the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant near Portland, Oregon. Anti-nuclear activists saw the plant as both a specific threat to the local environment and a symbol of the greater, global threat of nuclear technology. Between the mid-1970s and the early 1990s, environmentalists proposed numerous ballot measures aimed at limiting nuclear energy in Oregon. The arguments for these ballot measures included local economic and environmental concerns, as well as the national issue of dealing with spent nuclear fuel. When the Trojan plant eventually closed down, activists celebrated the closure, but they remained troubled by the spent fuel that remained on site in long-term storage. Anti-nuclear activists in Oregon focused their efforts on the Trojan plant as the most immediate threat to their communities, but their statements and actions also reflected an awareness of national and global issues with nuclear technology.

Mericos Hector Rhodes (Oregon State University), “Governing by Nature: Central Control of Farm and Food Genetics”

In the USA, the vast majority of commodity crops come from genetically-engineered seeds, the intellectual property of which is owned by private corporations. The same goes for emerging food-like products, such as those of Impossible Foods, which owns the patents for the “bleeding molecule” technology that simulates the experience of eating meat. My thesis will analyze these phenomena as powerful “technologies of government” that aid an assemblage of power structures (including states, corporations, and NGOs) in quantifying, measuring, and controlling food production and consumption on an ever-growing scale. The thesis will work within the discourse of “governmentality studies” established by Michel Foucault and elaborated by other researchers such as James C. Scott, and will examine whether these centrally-controlled food systems risk disaster for ecological, agricultural, and human health. 

Shane Scopatz (Oregon State University), “Stepping into Strikes”

Stepping into Strikes is a presentation to add more context and detail to Shane Scopatz’s master’s thesis project, a film titled Steps and Strikes. The film is a choreographed essay layering contemporary dance with natural and industrial imagery on a foundation of personal narrative. The piece dives deep into the transformation of Shane’s thinking around environmentalism and articulates an argument for coalition-building between the labor and environmental movements. The presentation will review this argument embedded in the film. It will also discuss the argument embodied by the film— the importance of environmental art to speculatively imagine socio-ecologically just futures. You can view Steps and Strikes here.

Anthony Vitale (Oregon State University), “Splitting Advocates Like Atoms: a Schism among the Hanford Downwinders”

Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s a variety of radioactive materials were released from the Hanford Plutonium Facility in southeastern Washington exposing thousands of people living in the surrounding area. For the most part this was kept secret from the public as an issue of National Security. In the 1980s previously classified documents began to become available and were picked up by news agencies and activist groups. Soon many people who had suffered from ailments ranging from various cancers to reproductive issues, often both associated with the thyroid, began to recognize that their proximity to the plant was likely to blame for their suffering. One of the longest legal battles for compensation and recognition that has ever occurred in the state of Washington followed. The plaintiffs, now largely identifying as Downwinders, sought reparations from the government contractors that had managed Hanford. A retired nuclear physicist from Portland State University, name Rudi Nussbaum, advocated for government-sponsored health centers and long-term care for the Downwinders. At a time when state-sponsored health studies were relying on computer models to estimate potential exposure rates, he and his colleagues developed a very different kind of study – one that began with the Downwinders and their shared experiences. Yet as the efforts of Nussbaum and many others were bringing people together, clever legal action would begin to draw them apart once more. In the end a split developed between those determined to hold out against what they considered a buyout, and those who believed that accepting some government aid would begin a new relationship between Downwinders and the government.

Sasha White (University of Oregon), “FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE”

FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE is an art-centered project that explores the slippages between art, ecology and medicine within the context of Oregon’s fire-prone landscapes. In these landscapes, many plants that thrive with the recurring disturbance of fire can be used for the injuries and illnesses acquired in proximity to fire. The plants’ medicinal properties, useful to humans, have emerged out of the long-term, multispecies dynamics that include fire. FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE considers a broad implication of “fire-prone,” beyond spectacular devastation, as a relationship with embodiment and with flammability that encompasses (more or less willingly) whole ecosystems and whole ways of being/becoming. The Kit builds from the intimate connections between land and health emphasized within vernacular medical systems, as well as from the historical interchangeability of aesthetic and medicinal substances. It comprises a set of Object Medicines, which engage plants and earths of Oregon’s fire-prone landscapes as colors, medicines and participants, and a set of interweaving poems and protocols, which serve as Instruction Manual. While a standard first-aid kit implies the repair of a discrete, autonomous body, and the possibility of entering a landscape intact and exiting untouched, this project centers the sympoietic processes of tending and harvesting, ingesting and propagating, relinquishing and renewing. In both the Manual and the Medicines, Tall Oregon Grape, Balsam Root, Blue Elder, Ceanothus, Clay, and other denizens of the fire-prone landscape converse with the global materialities that have, directly and indirectly, altered these landscapes: alcohol and glass, beeswax and aluminum, cotton and wool and silk. Embracing fire as medicine, medicine as aesthetic substance, and aesthetic substance as ecological process, FIRST-AID KIT FOR THE FIRE-PRONE asks what it means to heal through and with others, and how these fire-prone, multispecies materialities might differently inflect the contemporary discourse of environmental crisis and emergency.

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