Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time

Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time

Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time

Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time

Synopsis

In response to the growing scale and complexity of environmental threats, this volume collects articles, essays, personal narratives, and poems by more than forty authors in conversation about "thinking continental"--connecting local and personal landscapes to universal systems and processes--to articulate the concept of a global or planetary citizenship.

Reckoning with the larger matrix of biome, region, continent, hemisphere, ocean, and planet has become necessary as environmental challenges require the insights not only of scientists but also of poets, humanists, and social scientists. Thinking Continental braids together abstract approaches with strands of more-personal narrative and poetry, showing how our imaginations can encompass the planetary while also being true to our own concrete life experiences in the here and now.

Excerpt

In his book Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World (1994) Scott Russell Sanders argues passionately that people should find a congenial place to live and then root themselves deeply into it, resisting the blandishments and professional allure of constant mobility. He argues that such an approach is best for both human communities and the natural world. Wendell Berry has made a similar proposition for decades throughout his vast corpus of volumes. While many readers have been inspired by such arguments, and certainly there is much to recommend them, the perspective offered by Sanders and Berry has also been criticized. Their “staying put” ethos, the argument goes, is a potentially provincial and narrow privileging of local knowledge and identity over the more global, cosmopolitan, or planetary perspectives that represent the world we really live in and the scale of the environmental threats we really face. the “staying put” arguments are sometimes portrayed, whether fairly or not, as a kind of nostalgic retreat from the complexities of an increasingly globalized planet.

This dichotomy is well represented by the title of Ursula Heise’s book Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: the Environmental Imagination of the Global (2008). Heise decries the essentialism that often limits discussions of place and argues that “remaining in one place for many decades, taking care of a house or farm, intimately knowing the local environment, cultivating local relationships, being as selfsufficient as possible, resisting new technologies that do not improve human life spiritually as well as materially are options no longer available to many.U+201 landscapes across the planet, she argues, creating “nonplaces,” “geographies . . .

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