Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Research Paper

Choose a specific ethical problem that involves a global or international issue. We’ve been discussing problems that involve colonialism, the expansion of capitalist markets, water and resource rights, pollution, and the waging of war.

Some Student ideas:
China v Tibet
U.S. Mexican Border
Illegal Immigration to the U.S.
Israeli - Palestinian conflict
Water rights issues between Ethiopia and Eritrea
Crisis in Kyrgyzstan
Iranian Censorship: War journalists

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Continuing the Water Unit with a Chicago River Canoe Trip

 IGSS students collected water sample from the Skokie Lagoons on Thursday this week.  On Friday, we continued water testing down the Chicago River, a trip beginning just south of Belmont, about 2900 North Oakley all the way into the Chinatown near Canal & Cermak.

We brought the boats up at Lawrence's Fisheries, 2120 S Canal St Chicago.  Had some fried fish chips for lunch and some awesome carrot cake for dessert.

Using only a cell phone camera I was able to take a few shots of our adventure.   Luckily, guide Ryan was in the boat with me so I didn't have to worry about steering.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicago River Trip

Readings for the Friday trip:

Encyclopedia of Chicago article on the history of the Chicago River

Friends of the Chicago River, advocacy page

These articles will prepare you for our speakers from Friends of the Chicago River.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Time Line of Kurtz' trip in Heart of Darkness

Narrator Marlow is telling this story in retrospect:

p. 20 Marlow leaves from Brussels on a French steamer for Africa (carrying soldiers & tax collectors)
Europe is bringing Africa and money people
p. 23  30 days after leaving Belgium approaches mouth of the African river
p. 26  Company Station-- stays there 10 days
finds 3 people:  p. 29 accountant;
simile for accountant: "like a miracle of fastidiousness"  "Looks like a hairdresser's dummy" (mannequin) - nothing inside of him
p. 30 Marlow respects accountant who has pressed clothes; he kept up appearances - he blushed when asked how he kept his linen clean; (indicates he has a sex slave to do it)
p. 32  begins 200 mile trek inland to "Central Station"
p. 33  traveling with lackeys carrying packs
p. 35 arrives at Central Station; meets the manager ( will be there approx. 3 months)
has a genius for uneasiness; smile undercuts everything he says; healthy - no external checks; there is nothing inside of him
p. 45  also meets the brick maker who does not have supplies to make them -paper mache mephistophles -- nothing inside him  (hollow man)

Let's assume that Conrad could have written this clearly if he wanted to.  His style is chaotic to reflect the chaos wreaked on the African by Western Imperialism. He's descending into dark areas. Feeling that he will not be able to escape.  He is losing familiarity; sense of time; sense of normalcy. It's also a psychological journal into Marlow's own heart of darkness. Conrad is manipulating time because his characters are experiencing darker elements.

(p. 28) Grove of Death: 
(p. 31) First mention of Kurtz (means 'short' in German) -  1st class agent; described to Marlow at a remarkable person who's in charge of the trading post in the interior.  

(p. 34) Man wreaked in a hammock - doesn't value life at all - kill someone for me.
Steamer ruined while trying to get to Kurtz at the Inner Station. He finds that his steamship has been sunk and spends several months waiting for parts to repair it. The more he hears about Kurtz who he imagines to be amazing.  The trip becomes about Kurtz. Marlow's job is to transport ivory.  Trading ivory is not illegal at this time. 

Discussion: Does Marlow prefer the light of Western Civilization or the Darkness of Africa?
[no easy answers]
Is he comforted by Africans?Does he hate the 'savages'?
White people are being really dark; black people are the innocent ones?
Conrad refers to the landscape as "hellish"; godforsaken wilderness. On the other hand, civilization described as a tomb.(p. 13 likens civilization to whitened sepulche)

p. 19   Marlow is cynical about being an 'emissary of light' because goal is to completely exploit African resources; exploitation of others is not pretty.  It's the idea only that redeems us---saving the savages?

Modern Day: U.S. eased non-military trade embargo with North Korea and is starting to sell Coca-Cola.
Capitalism going to countries as soon as possible.  Is this a redeeming idea? Is this going to benefit Korea?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Introducing Heart of Darkness

We are starting to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, first published in 1902. The story reflects the physical and psychological shock Conrad himself experienced in 1890, when he worked briefly in the Belgian Congo. The narrator, Marlow, describes a journey he took on an African river. Assigned by an ivory company to take command of a cargo boat stranded in the interior, Marlow makes his way through the treacherous forest, witnessing the brutalization of the natives by white traders and hearing tantalizing stories of a Mr. Kurtz, the company's most successful representative. He reaches Kurtz's compound in a remote outpost only to see a row of human heads mounted on poles. In this alien context, unbound by the strictures of his own culture, Kurtz has exchanged his soul for a bloody sovereignty, but a mortal illness is bringing his reign of terror to a close. As Marlow transports him downriver, Kurtz delivers an arrogant and empty explanation of his deeds as a visionary quest. To the narrator Kurtz's dying words, "The horror! The horror!" represent despair at the encounter with human depravity--the heart of darkness.

What are the terrible things we do to each other?
Freud's Theory of Instincts:  Freud says that we all have these impulses inside of us, but we don't do them because we repress them. Are there instances you can recall where you had a dark, depraved thought but stopped yourself from acting upon it?

Reading selection from Phil Caputo's A Rumor of War. This selection speaks to the Mai Lai massacre, a U.S. atrocity during the Vietnam War revealing Lt. Calley who "plunged all the way down, discovering in the bottommost depths a capity for malice they probably never suspected was there".

In Conrad's novel, Kurtz succumbs to anger, destruction, and hatred while gaining power in the process. Some people are capable of anything.  All people can succumb to disturbing behaviors.

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe famously criticized Heart of Darkness in his 1975 lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", saying the novella de-humanized Africans, denied them language and culture and reduced them to a metaphorical extension of the dark and dangerous jungle into which the Europeans venture. Listen to a recent NPR interview with Chinua Achebe on All Things Considered.

A lively debate:  is this a racist book?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

5 Ways to Go Green for Earth Day with Social Media

April 22nd’s 40th annual celebration of Earth Day. Coinciding with Earth Day, both environmental non-profits and green corporate social responsibility programs are ramping up efforts to promote environmental action.
Read about  five of the many tools and initiatives for environmental action taking place on the social web over the next several weeks.

I especially like Underwriter Laboratories  “Save Your Water” consumption calculator with metrics based on the U.S. EPA’s daily household water consumption statistics.

Monday, April 5, 2010

IGSSersession Starts Tomorrow

Very exciting sessions to be presented this week by IGSS students.  Students enrolled for next school year have the option of attending these classes. Three exciting days of learning about:
  • wilderness survival
  • nutrition
  • fashion
  • acrylics
  • Karate
  • Spin classes
  • quidditch
  • USA
  • adbusters
  • fencing
  • African food

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Flowchart on drinkable water in the world

From the Tree Hugger blog:
2.5 gallons: The sustainable amount of water per person much of the world is allocated per day.
80-100 gallons: The amount of water per day used by the average American citizen
$11.3 billion: The amount of money required to provide basic levels of service for drinking and waste water in Africa and Asia.
88 percent: Number of deaths from diarrhea are caused from unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation; this translates to more than 1.5 million of the 1.9 million children under five who perish from diarrhea each year. This amounts to 18% of all under-five deaths and means that more than 4,000 children are dying every day as a result of diarrhoeal diseases.
$35 billion: The amount of money spent on bottled water in the most developed countries in the world.
2.7 tons: The amount of plastic used to bottle water. 86% become garbage or litter.

New Trier Organic Garden