The Most Confusing Class at Stanford

Having trouble figuring out which courses to take this quarter? Well, there’s this student-initiated course on “the Color of Ecoliteracy” (reading Italian literature?). Oh, and Marvin Gaye is on the poster (at least it’s not this class–Gaye’s father shot and killed him). I get that he had the song “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” but, what is the connection here? One song? Don’t get me wrong, I love Marvin Gaye (though I prefer Al Green–he’s just smoother), but when I think of Marvin Gaye, the environment doesn’t exactly come to mind. This comes to mind, this comes to mind, as do this and this, but not the environment. Also, what on earth (pun intended) does race have to do with any of this?

Let’s see if the course description helps:

As Stanford students, we’re bombarded with buzzwords like “green,” “sustainability,” and “environmental justice,” and it’s easy to take these concepts for granted. Ecoliteracy is the necessary foundation for positive interaction with the earth and its resources. In order to support and respect the environment, young people need to see the value of sustaining their surroundings, and be empowered to foster a relationship between themselves and the natural world. In certain areas, there is a disconnect between ideas of “environment” and “neighborhood” and the scarcity of environmental education and experiences widens the climate gap and achievement gap, especially between privileged groups and low-income communities of color.

This course will explore the so-called “third wave” of environmentalism, that engages the intersectionality of race, class, and other identity politics in our conceptions of the natural world. We will examine how to raise a generation of environmental stewards and assess the barriers to ecoliteracy, including prohibitive cost, lack of outdoor education, organizational mistrust, and the overall “whitewashing” of the green movement. What is the role of the university and academia in effective public service with environmental movements? How can we bring race and class back into the discourse of sustainability?

So, um, there you have it. I’d say it’s worth attending on the off chance that this class features Marvin Gaye reading Umberto Eco’s writings from beyond the grave, which would be awesome.

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