In the Classroom
The most essential offering of Mobilizing the Green Imagination is its resolute optimism: what reviewer Aidan Davison calls it “incandescent hopefulness”. I find that today’s students are better informed than ever about the environmental crisis but also more hopeless than ever about it. The most basic message of Mobilizing, by contrast, is that there are ways of responding to the crisis that are not just desperate half-measures and self-mortifications, but “elegant and audacious alternatives that are not even on our maps” -- yet. There is abundant hope!
The book’s next most important message for students is that they themselves can work out still better alternatives. This book is not fundamentally a book of blueprints, or fixed and final plans, for what we must do to meet the crisis. It makes specific proposals, yes, but it does not insist that they are the answers. Rather, they open up the imaginative space for further and better possibilities in turn. The title is exact: the fundamental aim is to mobilize all of our imaginations. The book immediately invites imaginative practice -- an energetic, empowering, and once again profoundly hopeful classroom.
Mobilizing the Green Imagination is a synthetic and wide-ranging work as well, and as such it offers what I hope might be a revitalizing model of multidisciplinary thinking. Environmental Studies can sometimes seem a polyglot field, composed of many constituent fields that do not always fit into an integrated whole. Mobilizing aims to make something more synergistic of it: drawing together a wide range of fields ranging from agro-ecology to eco-theology, architecture to climate science, environmental history and animal ethics to astrobiology, and, in an overarching way, systems thinking and environmental philosophy. They actually can fit together into a single visionary project. Environmental Studies really is a discipline in its own right.
Finally, Mobilizing the Green Imagination invokes some other essential and skills. Critical thinking, for one. By challenging students to rethink nearly everything, Mobilizing provokes them also to ask how things got to be the way they are and how necessary or inevitable they really are. The book also draws upon and exemplifies Einstein’s much-quoted but still difficult dictum that “the hallmark of a real problem is that it cannot be solved within the same framework that generated it.” Critical thinking must be complemented by creativity and off-scale thinking. This book is a provocation and a classroom occasion for both.