Friday, June 08, 2012

James should pass the Woodie Guthrie Award on to Joe

First, congratulations to James Annan for accepting the Woodie for services to Earth Science Blogging, and best wishes to John Nielsen-Gammon who passed it on, but somehow, Eli thinks that folks are becoming a bit unclear on the concept.  You get a hint of that from the sign on Woodie Guthrie's guitar.  Guthrie was, in the current parlance, a premature anti-fascist.

Guthrie was an Okie, chased out of OK by the dust bowl, who wandered out to CA and then all around the US.  His environmentalism was love of the land and concern for his fellows.  He didn't think much of the idea that corporations could own the Earth.  The verse you never hear from This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land is

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
The sign was painted, it said 'private property';
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
and through all of his work, there is the theme of shared responsibility for the environment and all people.  Neither was very fashionable at the time.  Guthrie was a very dangerous man for those who desecrate the Earth for power and profit.  Pete Seeger talks about the disneyization of Guthrie in an interview which touches on many relevant themes

Guthrie wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Bound for Glory, the subject of a study by Matthew Sutton, while a graduate student at William and Mary.  The abstract of a presentation by Sutton summarizes what the Woodie should be about,
Guthrie's semi-fictional 1943 autobiography Bound for Glory has long been examined as a protest work, a vivid chronicle of the Dust Bowl, and a proto-Beat travelogue. What has been overlooked up until now is its power and relevance as an ecocritical text. What Bound for Glory advocates, ultimately, is neither Romantic pastoralism nor a green Utopia, but rather a reciprocal sustainability between working people and the land.

To illustrate the stark dialectic between sustainability and rapaciousness, citizen and subject, Guthrie employs the trope of the Ghost Town. Using his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma as a synecdoche for the nation, Guthrie lambasts the civic irresponsibility of oil companies, who pollute the environment with their hit-or-miss wildcat drilling, deplete the region of its natural resources, and leave despair and economic disaster in their wake. As the book's protagonist "Woody" wanders a seemingly endless highway of lifeless Ghost Towns abandoned by oil speculators, Guthrie shows us fear in a townful of dust.

When his journeys take him West out of oil country into California, Guthrie discovers a similar system of exploitation toward migrant fruit pickers. Guthrie, whose guitar was emblazoned with the legend "This Machine Kills Fascists," draws clear parallels between the European fascist and the American corporation that strips the most vulnerable laborers of their identity and rights. As migrant workers are herded into makeshift camps amid squalid conditions, they are systematically robbed of the three necessities William Morris outlines in his 1884 essay "Art and Socialism": honorable and fitting work, decency of surroundings, and leisure. With little recourse but to sacrifice their health and overtax their land for a substandard wage, the migrant-citizens in Bound for Glory still cling to hopes of recovery, tied not simply to wealth and land ownership, but responsibility and land stewardship.

Depicting the Depression era as a crossroads, with the nation's ideals tested by hard times, Guthrie appropriates the rhapsodic cadences of Whitman and Steinbeck to express optimism and dignity in story and song. Neither the Ghost Town nor the migrant camp defines America so long as Guthrie and his chorus of characters commit themselves to working the land judiciously and productively. Bound for Glory deserves reconsideration and a fresh reading as we reach another crossroads, as issues such as environmental protection, immigration/migration, and the rebuilding of New Orleans demand that we find common ground at a place where citizenship and stewardship meet.
 Woodie Guthrie was a fighter, a clear thinking fighter, but a fighter none the less.  He used words to move mountains and he was always pushing past respectability.  He didn't care much for that.

Eli nominates Joe Romm for the next pass on (Eli is not very optimistic about his suggestion being followed).

If you want to learn more about Woodie Guthrie, take a look at the Official Woodie Guthrie Website, and finally a concert for the new winner


dhogaza said...

Ah, yes, Woody's ode to the destruction of the mainstream chinook and the eventual livelihood of a very large number of fishermen and cannery workers downstream from Bonneville. The workingman riots against the building of the dam don't seem to get much notice in the song.

Of course, opposition led to the inclusion of fish ladders at Bonneville and Woody and others can be forgiven their inability to grasp how fragile the salmon runs (already depleted by overfishing) were to the mortality of salmon at each of the first 10 dams on the river, culminating in about 1/2 of the Columbia chinook's spawning habitat being cut off by Grand Coulee ...

Viscount Mockton of Birching said...

Puzzling choice but then it's a jury of one. Some pleasingly forthright old-fashioned iconoclasm to be found at Annan's site but in terms of general utility it seems there are better choices. How about Science of Doom, for instance?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mockton

Steve got it some time ago:


willard said...

Considering the argument, Eli might be forgetting about some Rabett.

Some might be tempted to say that Eli's choice has been caused by a blogspot.

Anti-facism makes me think of The Climate Scum.

I would tell James to consider Ron Broberg's site, or perhaps the Azimuth project, but I'd have to find back my OpenId login details.

Viscount Mockton of Birching said...

Steve got it some time ago...

House of Mockton: Proudly oblivious!

crf said...

I remember reading this post at the time (before he added the "update"). Dyson may have some loopy ideas about climate, but Romm doesn't just focus on these, and goes on to lambaste or diminish what else Dyson worked on. When Romm first wrote the post, I don't think he had a real clue about anything that Dyson had worked on: nothing about him except his probably wrong-headed amuture musings on climate.

There is far too little nuance with Romm. He posts without thinking first sometimes.

EliRabett said...

It's pretty hard to have any physics and not know about Dyson's contributions to QED. OTOH, Romm may have been reacting to Dyson's role with the Jasons, something he may have been aware of from his DOE days.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

I think Joe is kind of a one-trick pony. He doesn't know what to do with a denialist that doesn't fit his narrative.

In so doing, he utterly misses the cautionary tale Dyson provides--that one can be really, really smart and completely, utterly wrong.

Dyson is ultimately a technological utopian. He sees a brilliant future for humans. He's so convinced of this that he thinks any counter indication is a distraction, and so dismisses it with the simplest argument he can muster based on limited understanding having not researched the subject. And he is convinced that even if he is wrong, we'll come up with a technological fix (carbon-gobbling trees, anyonw) for the problem.

Dyson is a living, breathing warning sign for scientists (especially physicists) who want to pontificate outside their expertise. Joe utterly misses this.

Joe Romm said...

As someone with a physics undergraduate and graduate degree from M.I.T. I certainly know what Dyson did a long, long, long time ago. How precisely does that qualify him to make up crap on climate science now? I have also read every single one of his books -- including the pro-Star Wars nonsense ( which I didn't even bother writing about in that post).

Since project Orion, it's been clear that Dyson's expertise does not extend beyond theoretical physics. On several practical matters where he has publicly stated an extensive position he was somewhere between dubious and nonsensical.

The whole point of that post is that expertise in one area means nothing whatsoever in another area.

What's amusing is that folks have an issue with my explaining why Dyson doesn't know what he's talking about on climate science in a post read by maybe 20,000 people, but seem totally cool with Dyson trashing Hansen ( the guy who has been right about climate for 30 years) in a publication read by 1 million people.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Joe, Maybe if you were a bit less shrill and a bit more nuanced, you might be read by more than 20000 people.

Dyson is an interesting case--one which if illuminated properly might provide some insight into the general problem of emeritus physicists. Maybe there's a cure. As a physicist close to emeritus status, I'd certainly want to know.

Aaron said...

Joe Romm also supported technology transfer for the clean-up of the Hanford Nuclear Site (USDOE-RL)on the banks of the Columbia. As a result, the Columbia is less polluted river today.