I’m taking a break from the conference to come to my room, enjoy some peace and quiet, and reflect on the sessions so far. My panel members and I (who will present tomorrow) find ourselves wishing for something a little different. I am not as engaged in this conference as I would like to be. I know exactly why: many papers are theoretical, with very little storytelling and even less emotion.
Feelings—the bugaboo of the Western academy, the thing that must be purged from information in order for it to become “knowledge.” So strong has been the taboo in Western philosophy and science against expressing feelings, especially feelings for the earth, that people of great heart—as I know many of these presenters are—now have little language with which to communicate their depth of passion for the earth and the crisis that we are now experiencing. One presenter even said this explicitly: “Where is the compelling language,” she asked, “that will move people to action?” It wasn’t, she implied, to be found in that room.
Tomorrow my panel members and I will tell stories. Our session will be (I expect) very different from ones I’ve attended so far.
I did enjoy parts of the keynote yesterday by Bron Taylor, the president and founder of the society hosting this conference. Bron said, among other things, that veneration of nature “is growing so rapidly that we may be seeing the start of a global civic earth religion.”
In the meantime, I’m enjoying downtown Amsterdam, changeable weather and all. First it rains, then it shines, then it does both at the same time. I caved and bought an umbrella this morning, but only after getting soaked. Of course it was mostly sunny after that.
Here are a few of my favorite scenes so far, uncropped and untouched (for lack of time). First, a scene from a canal near the museums:
A tiny street one block up from that canal, where I ate a Thai lunch:
Finally, a small courtyard at the university just outside the meeting rooms. How lovely, after wandering a gritty, noisy city for a couple of days—and then sitting indoors in classrooms—to lounge on a bench and gaze at roses and trees!
Update at midnight: At dinner tonight our panel members gathered to do last-minute planning for our session tomorrow. We compared this conference with the previous one, in Morelia, Mexico. Why did some of us feel more engaged at the previous one? Linda Hogan made an astute comment: The topics of the conferences are different. This one’s theme is “Progress,” which gets everyone thinking in linear patterns. The previous one was “Re-enchantment of the World,” which opened up more possibilities for talking about connecting with nature. All I know is I’ve never before this week seen so many speakers present four-quadrant theoretical typologies. I suppose such typologies are useful, but they’re not my method of choice for increasing our connection with the rest of nature. . . .