From January 12 to July 31, 2016, follow Untaking Space – the US Project on a 10 000 km journey by bike along a green line among the American « ecotopias ». From Miami to Seattle, I will cross 12 US states to discover, as a traveler-philosopher, those nuggets of green innovations: the ecotopias. A philosophy professor, I am convinced that environmental issues are paramount; through meetings and discussions with ecotopians, I will create an educational project with French pupils from different backgrounds and levels, from 4th graders to 12th graders, in order to raise awareness on the urgency of climate change, and the power and responsibility that we, as individuals, have to transform this major challenge of our time. Untaking space is a representation of this purpose, and literally implies to ‘let space be’. It is a new approach to relating with our environment – to be on the road and allow the scenery and environment to show themselves, to tell a story, to open up in a way that is not something that I, as person, would simply grab or own… Let’s go!
DRAWING A GREEN LINE OVER THE US ECOTOPIAS
Albeit often unknown and despite the fact that the USA are one of the largest polluters of the planet, an ancient, dynamic and innovative ecological tradition thrives in the US. I wanted to discover, understand and face those extremes, and learn about the source of environmental creativity. In my project, I started drawing a green line connecting 30 ecotopias: 30 innovative enterprises structured around a major environmental concern. This green line is the materialization of a common aspiration: that of a new relationship with nature which would invent an alternative to the current intellectual, technical, economic, social and political models. This green line is for me the opening of a new hope; the power of imagination over domination, destruction, and fear. A green line – and doubly so: green as the color of hope, green as the color of ecology.
A FEW MILESTONES
→ Miami, Florida, the Everglades National Park. Upon arrival, I will dive straight into the deep end and try to understand how this institution communicates with and educates its visitors on the subject of climate change;
→ New Orleans, Louisiana, Nola Green Roots: I will discover how urban community gardens have recreated the connection to the land and social bonds on the ruins of Hurricane Katrina;
→ Denton, Texas, University of North Texas: my aim is to with Pr J. Baird Callicott, the philosopher who has turned this university into the leader in environmental ethics;
→ Taos, New Mexico, Earthships : I will discover these eco-habitats made with fully sustainable, organic material;
→ Los Angeles, California, LA Eco-Village: I look forward to meeting with the pioneers of urban eco-villages!
→ Mount Vernon, Washington, Walker Creek Community: a community that has now reached the venerable age of 41 years olg! What is the secret of such longevity?
4 GOALS – 1 EDUCATIONAL PROJECT
The ambition of this philosophical journey and pedagogical project is to raise awareness around specific ecological alternatives. Four objectives will be targeted:
- Mobilizing citizens: creating awareness on the urgency to think and implement eco-friendly lifestyles;
- A documentary approach in order to relay positive actions and witness the wealth of American ecotopias;
- A philosophical reflection, questioning the different representations of nature and their ethical consequences;
- An educational project: the above 3 pillars will help structure dialogue with students before and during the trip. The French classes that take part in the adventure – CM1 / Grade 4 (Montbonnot), Seconde / Grade 10 (Cluses) and Terminale / Grade 12 (Chambery) – will build on the findings of the journey to reflect on environmental issues and gain ecological awareness. They will in turn be able to relay this to other students via different means: blog writing, exhibitions, newspaper articles, participation in philosophical meetings on Global Warming.
A PARTICIPATIVE FUNDING
This philosophical journey is largely self-funded. However, to carry out the educational part of the project, I sought assistance through a crowdfunding campaign on KissKissBankBank. The funds contributed to the purchase of multimedia equipment necessary for content production and the creation of a website to allow communication with students. As the initial collection target was reached quickly the KissKissbankers will also enable us to host an exhibition of student work and achievements from the trip! In September 2016, I will organize a traveling exhibition in various schools in the Alps region where I live (Savoie Mont Blanc, Isere) which will be in turn bequeathed to the different classes involved in the project.
KissKissbankers, thanks to your participation and support, you made this project possible in all its dimensions: adventure, research, citizen engagement and education. To all of you, THANK YOU!