Ecoliteracy Braiding

Natalie, Mack, and I all tied our poems into Robin Wall Kimmerer’s idea that, in regards to ecoliteracy, “a certain amount of tension is needed” and that “you have to pull a bit”. All three works are mirroring Wall Kimmerer’s idea that ecoliteracy is often about striking a nerve and causing a stir. Natalie describes “one that disrupts only for benefit”. This idea of being disruptful as a part of ecoliteracy compliments my poem and the concept of “challenging the challengers and providing tension where it’s needed.” Instead of using an abstraction to imply tension, Mack creates tension by confronting the University’s mission statement and calling them out on their environmental hypocrisy – he literally tells them they are “failing demonstrably”.

Natalie also mirrored Wall Kimmerer’s concept of reciprocity that I described as “pay[ing] back your eco-debts”  and “giving when you receive, of restoring balance” when she says “it is time we start giving back”. In contrast to my poem, Natalie takes this one step further by challenging the idea that it is right for us to take anything else from the earth when she states that we must “ask[ ] for nothing in return”. This implication that we have taken enough really resonated with me and gave me pause as I had not considered that we have lost our right to ask for anything else. This is a very powerful concept and if I could rewrite my poem, I’d likely alter my idea of reciprocity slightly. Instead of just implying reciprocity, Mack describes how he is putting reciprocity in action by “knocking on doors.” He is literally giving of himself for the earth and knowing his poem is based on true events puts that much more significance behind it.  

I was very moved by Natalie’s love letter. The underlying theme of her work was similar to mine in that they both incite feelings of loveliness and hope. Mack’s poem moved me as well but in a different way. Where Natalie’s letter left me feeling wistful, Mack’s poem left me with feelings of frustration but also inspiration. He challenges the reader to take action and to listen to how we can do better by the earth. You can hear the conviction in his voice when he asks “When will you listen? Maybe if I shout?” When I spoke earlier of tension, Mack’s entire poem provides tension. David Orr states “Capitalism has failed because it destroys morality”. Natalie and Mack align with this thinking by clearly pointing out the problems people have created for the earth. Mack says “we’ve polluted the water, land, and air; plastic coats the shore” and Natalie talks about “the synthetics, the man-made.” True change has to happen at the policy level, and even higher at the ideological level, in order for people to become truly ecoliterate. Mack aligns with Orr’s theory about capitalism when he stresses the importance of society realizing the impact their current values have and that “until the policies change, values rewritten, minds rearrange[ ]” meaningful change will not occur. I approached ecoliteracy from a different perspective and focused on the positive aspects of it. By taking this approach, my poem does not inspire change the way that Natalie and Mack’s works do. Instead, I lean into Wall Kimmerer’s methods of using poetic imagery to encourage appreciation for the environment. While this isn’t necessarily wrong, it may not stir the same emotions that may inspire the reader to explore and expand on their own ecoliteracy. Mack’s poem uses this idea of change but in a more concrete way as he describes the specific action he is taking to elicit change in others. By literally “walk[ing] these steps, a dozen floors” he is demonstrating exactly how others can increase their ecoliteracy.


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