Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In the lecture hall

Killam lecture

I went to a lecture Tuesday night on "ecological democracy," given by Randolph Hester from UC Berkley. Much of what he said really struck a chord with me, largely because, like Hester, I am drawn to the idea that individually and as a society, we need to realize that we can hold seemingly conflicting ideas in a creative tension that brings more good to more people (and environments). The concept of "ecological democracy," then, is about finding a middle ground between ecological interests and social justice interests. Contrary to what Hester calls "virtual capital," ecological democracy is place-specific, focusing on grass-roots sources of power (even peaceful civil disobedience) with local solutions. Any planning decision, any design work, is inherently a political act.

Hester talked about a concept that was necessary in order to develop an appropriate plan and design for a community, called "sacredness," or "sacred structures." In a town or community, these are the places that act as centers of community meaning and activity. It is important that designers and planners identify and respect (read: don't fiddle with) these places. I often think of this concept as shared memory. "This is where we go for pancakes." "This is where our town started." "This is how we know we are from here and not there." "This is where the town ends." I like this kind of thinking. I study this sort of thinking, and write about it, too.

I love lectures. Of course, lectures are great chances to learn and expand horizons, to spend time with potentially like-minded people, to look at attractive folk in the audience. But I think I could sacrifice my comfort (thought I would probably just sit on my coat) to attend a lecture in a hall like this:

lecture hall

The lecture hall in the administration building at Acadia University in Wolfville. Doesn't it just ooze "hallowed halls of learning" and Anne of the Island to you???? Can't you picture Anne convocating here, Royal Gardner's violets shunned on the table back at Patty's Place, and Gilbert's lilies-of-the-valley in her hands instead?

Yes, this is one of my weaknesses. Around this time of year, when every snow is followed by a blustery night of rain and sleet, when my mind is preoccupied with temperance campaigns or Ataturk or road construction, it invariably also turns to L.M. Montgomery novels as well - The Blue Castle or Emily Climbs or Anne of Windy Poplars. I can't even look at a birch tree without thinking of the (spoiler!) house fire in Mistress Pat! I swear, though, it's the time of year. LMM, get out of my head!. I need that brain for thesis writing. Come back in June and we'll read some poetry together.

No comments: