J500 Media and the Environment

Reflections on a Smokestack: Musings on Life in J500 by vincemeserko
April 29, 2008, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , , ,

I was originally going to call my final post “The Death of J500 and the Rise of Burnt Orange” or something like that. I was going to perform an autopsy on the class, declare myself the leader of a new “orange movement,” unfurl a new banner with the official symbol for the movement (an eagle which would symbolize freedom) and then I’d tell you all to shop at the Big K. Instead I went with the “confessional memoir” title … so I’ll go ahead and confess. I very nearly dropped this class before it ever started. I remember sitting at home in early January and scrolling through the 347 page syllabus and thinking “hmm … perhaps I should end my collegiate career taking “introduction to dinosaurs” or “history of the Samurai” instead. I’m very very glad I hung in there. This class has been unlike anything else I’ve taken at KU. I think I’ve written that line in every “course reflection” paper I’ve ever had to do (“introduction to finite mathematics really changed my life!”) and I’m pretty sure I never actually meant it. This class had no textbooks, no formal lectures, no Powerpoint. We didn’t even use paper. We sat around a table and discussed, listened, analyzed, criticized, interrogated capitalism and learned about the intricacies of sex toys. We were lead by an instructor who didn’t claim to have all the answers and acknowledged early on that there was no truth. What the hell is this? Communism?

It was actually quite refreshing. I learn a lot better this way – when everything is up for grabs, and everything said or written is a little bit wrong in some way. That’s quite an intellectual challenge, but it was a lot more fun. As the course progressed, I found my own interests overlapping with topics from class in unexpected ways. The class blog was a great venue to illuminate those realizations. As someone who is neither outgoing nor very skilled at conversation, the blog gave me a chance to go bananas and rub shoulders with people I admire.

While Adam Werbach is an easy target for criticism, he absolutely has the right idea about how we can move forward. Environmentalism is dead – bury it with all the other -isms I say. There is no such thing as “environmental” things, only “human being” things. That’s probably the most important thing I’ll take away from this class.

Thanks to everyone. I had a great time! (begins openly weeping on keyboard).

I’ll leave you with a full YouTube version of MOFRO’s “Lochloosa” that was used in my project 2 assignment. Seems like a fitting way to close. Go see them when they come to Kansas City in July.

-Vince Meserko


4 Comments so far
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Vince, I am glad you didn’t drop the class either and dove into the social experiment that was J500 with tenacity and creativity.

Sometimes what’s hard and confusing ends up being really good and sweet (yes Mofro is my soundtrack and Lochloosa sounds like Wakarusa).

I hope this class raised more questions and leaves you a little more lucid and a little more confused. If you are able to embrace the contradictions, you will build more bridges than you can imagine.


Comment by j500

I agree. I learned more here and was more challenged than most any class I’ve ever enrolled in. I’m not sure what that says about my 14 years of education at the University of Kansas, or about my suspect memories of classes past. Mostly, it means this made an impression. I, too, wondered the first week or so what the heck I was doing in this class, one not in my degree program, one far removed from my day-to-day life. And now it’s become my day to day life. You look at everything differently.
-Jen Humphrey

Comment by jenh

Simran, I remember on the first day of class saying something to the effect of “I am taking this class to find the truth on this whole climate change thing.” I remember your reply was “I think you’ll find there isn’t really any truth.” In truth, nothing could be truer (puns very intended). I remember last semester during my CReSIS campaign having fierce internal struggles with myself, usually as I was trying to fall asleep, about how to proceed with the project. One by one my assumptions were not holding up to close scrutiny. Same thing for this class. I think embracing the contradictions is essential. If you don’t, you usually end up dismissing things arbitrarily.

Also, a quick story. During winter break my ultra-conservative uncle stayed at our house. He’s a great guy. I like him very much. We spent 3-4 days engaged in political banter (actually mostly him talking and me listetning). We watched a lot of Fox News while he lectured on about Mike Huckabee’s genius and how much he hated Dennis Kucinich. He has approximately 27 college degrees so I didn’t really think I was in a position to question him. He would destroy me. Plus I’m not very confrontational. One night we were flipping through the channels in between “O’Reilly Factor” segments and came to Oprah, and someone named Simran Sethi was the guest. It took me about 12 seconds to realize “that’s my teacher!” Then we watched the segment, and he was still saying he thought environmentalists were crazy, and then he kept asking me “So, is this lady crazy?” and I kept saying “I don’t really know her, but I don’t think so.” Then my mom, like any good mom, decided it was the perfect opportunity to embarass her son and have my uncle sit quietly and watch the limited edition CReSIS DVD (with bonus footage) … in its entirety. Much to my astonishment my uncle had no answers other than to say “hey, that was pretty good.” I think he even clapped.

Then about a day later he was claiming global climate change was a hoax again; that it was a liberal conspiracy, and that it was part of a natural cycle of the earth. He claimed to have specific knowledge of this. Perhaps, documents.
But hey, for that little bit of time, we had him! This class has been about finding those moments. Finding connections that work, and getting people to question themselves.

I’ll be seeing my uncle again in 3 weeks, and I’ll be sure to tell him “That lady we saw on Oprah? She’s actually not that crazy.”


Comment by vincemeserko

I am thrilled your mom pulled out the CReSIS DVD. You, Sarah, and that entire Campaigns class should be very proud. You did great work. So great, you inspired your uncle! As I recall, you did that with creativity and inspiration – not graphs of ice sheet melt. Keep working on him.
As for my craziness, well, I try to keep it in check on national TV. But the truth is I am stark, raving mad for social change.

Comment by j500

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