Garbage, Oil and Other Dirty Stuff

 

 

IISP 10100-01

 Garbage, Oil, and other dirty stuff:: Environment, Commodities, and Film in the Americas

MW 2pm in Park 221

Michael Smith mismith@ithaca.edu & Jonathan Ablard jablard@ithaca.edu

Course Description

“Garbage, Oil, and other dirty stuff: Environment, Commodities, and Film in the Americas” explores the myriad intersections between a host of commodities, the environment, and film. What happens to nature when it gets transformed into a commodity? What happens to people when nature gets bought and sold, consumed and dumped? How do the stories of these processes get told through film?

Course Goals

Develop an understanding of the relationship between commodities, environment, and human well-being

Consider the deep conflicts and contradictions of commodity production: filthy, dirty and dangerous labor to produce products that allow, or are associated with, comfort, luxury, and convenience; the curious pairing of capital-intensive enterprises with systems of labor and land-appropriation that rely upon coercion;

Explore the connections, common experiences that cut across national boundaries, languages, and cultures of Las Americas.

Understand the possibilities and limitations of film as a medium to explore the above mentioned topics.

 Assignments and Grading

This is a S/D/F course. To receive a final grade of “S” you must complete the final project and have no more than 2 absences from the class.

Class Participation (50%): Come to class prepared to discuss the day’s readings and to talk about films.

Final Journal Assignment. (50% of grade)

 Students will write personal reflections on each reading, film, and class meeting. Your final project will be this journal and a 3 page personal reflection essay. In the essay, you should discuss what you felt that you learned in the class. How did the class change your understanding of the material and social world of environment and commodities? What patterns or themes did you discover about the different commodities? In your opinion, which films were most effective in conveying the themes of the course? Explain. Your essay must refer to at least 8 readings and films from class.

Due Date: The journal and the personal reflection essay are due at 5pm on May 11th. They should be delivered to the office of Jonathan Ablard at Muller 403.

Honor Pledge: At the bottom of the last page of the essay please write out: “I have neither given nor received assistance during the course of this assignment” and sign below.

  

Class Policies

Academic Honesty

“Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the mission of the College. Unless it is otherwise stipulated, students may submit for evaluation only that work that is their own and that is submitted originally for a specific course. According to traditions of higher education, forms of conduct that will be considered evidence of academic misconduct include but are not limited to the following: conversations between students during an examination; reviewing, without authorization, material during an examination (e.g., personal notes, another student's exam); unauthorized collaboration; submission of a paper also submitted for credit in another course; reference to written material related to the course brought into an examination room during a closed-book, written examination; and submission without proper acknowledgment of work that is based partially or entirely on the ideas or writings of others. Only when a faculty member gives prior approval for such actions can they be acceptable.”

-Article 7.1.4. Ithaca College Policy Manual

Students found to be in violation of this policy will be expelled from the class, will receive a failing grade and will have their name reported to the appropriate college authorities.

Class Policies

Students are expected to come to class well-prepared to discuss the readings. I welcome questions about the readings and do not expect students to always understand everything that they have read. Consistent failure to come to class prepared, however, will lead to a reduction in your final grade. Students who consistently come to class late will be asked to explain their chronic tardiness to the entire class. Disruptive behavior, be it use of cell phones, loud eating, passing notes, falling asleep, leaving the classroom and returning, etc. will result in a public discussion of these behaviors, as well as other sanctions. 

In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case-by-case basis. Students must register with Student Disability Services and provide appropriate documentation to Ithaca College before any academic adjustment will be provided.

Attendance Policy

Excused absences include medical and family emergencies, religious holidays, and IC sanctioned activities. You may not have more than two unexcused absences.Whenever possible, please give me advanced warning that you will be absent.   Although getting notes from a classmate is fine, you should not count on getting a full report of discussions, observation of films, etc. 

 

DID I MISS ANYTHING?
                                            Question frequently asked by
                                                           students after missing a class 

Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours 

                Everything. I gave an exam worth
                40 percent of the grade for this term
                and assigned some reading due today
                on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
                worth 50 per cent 

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose 

                Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
                a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
                or other heavenly being appeared
                and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
                to attain divine wisdom in this life and
                the hereafter
                This is the last time the class will meet
                before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
                on earth 

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur? 

                Everything. Contained in this classroom
                is a microcosm of human experience
                assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
                This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
                gathered 

but it was one place 

And you weren't here 

Poem written by Tom Wayman, a Canadian poet, and published in:
Wayman, T. (1993). Did I miss anything? Selected poems 1973-1993. Vancouver, BC: Harbour
Publishing.

 

 

Class schedule—Provisional

 

Part I: BURNING CARBON

Week One

March 23   Introduction to the course—Charcoal People (Brazil)

Week Two

March 28 Oil

            Reading: “Pursuit of Power: A Short History of Oil” (PDF emailed)

            Film: Bajos Suelos Ricos

March 30 Oil

            Reading: “The New Amazon”

Recommended Films and Readings on Oil:  Behind the Sun, There Will Be Blood,    Michael Yeomans, Oil: A Concise Guide to the Most Important Product on Earth (New Press) and Sonia Shah, Crude: The Story of Oil

Week Three

April 4 Coal

            Reading: “Moving Mountains”

April 6      Coal in Colombia

            Reading: “Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal”

            Film: “Cost of Power”

 

Recommended Films and Readings on Coal: Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History (Penguin), Aviva Chomsky, “Mining the Connections: Where Does Your Coal Come From?” in Linked Labor Histories,

   Harlan County, USA, Black Diamonds, and Burning the Future 

 

Week Four: FLEFF (in addition to the two scheduled films for the class, please attend THREE additional films. We will distribute a list of class-relevant films.

April 11           Attend a relevant FLEFF Film on Monday

            FLEFF Schedule

 

April 13           “Deep Down” in Williams 221 @ 4-5:15pm

 

Week Five

 

April 18 Garbage        

Reading: Matthew Power, “The Magic Mountain: Trickle-down economics in a Philippine garbage dump,” Harper’s Magazine (December 2006)

April 20 Garbage

            Film: “Cartoneros”

 "One Man's Trash" and "City of Waste"

Recommended but not required: Selection from Gorostiza, “The Garbage Dump” and In Cairo Slum, the Poor Spark Environmental Change

April 22·         Class will meet at 7pm

Evening Screening of “Wasteland” at 7pm in Williams 221

 

Recommended Films and Readings on Garbage: Elizabeth Royte, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, Strasser, Susan. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash. New York: Owl Books; 2000, Professor Sarah Hill, and A Natural History of Garbage

 

Week Six

 

April 25 Garbage

            Film: Garbage Dreams

April 27  Garbage: WATCH these four films BEFORE coming to class

            Films: Story of Stuff ,The Story of Electronics   

Week Seven

 

May 2 Water

Reading: “Leasing the Rain”

          May 4 Water

              Film: Story of Bottled Water            Recommended Films and Readings on Water: “Flow,” “Blue Gold,” “Chinatown, ” "Even the Rain."

 

 

DUE DATE FOR FINAL REFLECTION ESSAY AND JOURNAL: MAY 11th at 5pm

 

We dropped Human Organs, but if you are interested,

Human Organs

             Reading:         “Dispelling the Myths: The Truth about Organ Trafficking”

            Film: Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

            Recommended Films and Readings on Organ Trafficking: “Central Station,” and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “Parts Unknown: Undercover ethnography of the organ-trafficking underworld,”   Ethnogra

IISP 10100-01

 Garbage, Oil, and other dirty stuff:: Environment, Commodities, and Film in the Americas

MW 2pm in Park 221

Michael Smith mismith@ithaca.edu & Jonathan Ablard jablard@ithaca.edu

Course Description

“Garbage, Oil, and other dirty stuff: Environment, Commodities, and Film in the Americas” explores the myriad intersections between a host of commodities, the environment, and film. What happens to nature when it gets transformed into a commodity? What happens to people when nature gets bought and sold, consumed and dumped? How do the stories of these processes get told through film?

Course Goals

Develop an understanding of the relationship between commodities, environment, and human well-being

Consider the deep conflicts and contradictions of commodity production: filthy, dirty and dangerous labor to produce products that allow, or are associated with, comfort, luxury, and convenience; the curious pairing of capital-intensive enterprises with systems of labor and land-appropriation that rely upon coercion;

Explore the connections, common experiences that cut across national boundaries, languages, and cultures of Las Americas.

Understand the possibilities and limitations of film as a medium to explore the above mentioned topics.

 Assignments and Grading

This is a S/D/F course. To receive a final grade of “S” you must complete the final project and have no more than 2 absences from the class.

Class Participation (50%): Come to class prepared to discuss the day’s readings and to talk about films.

Final Journal & Personal Reflection Essay (50%): Students will write personal reflections on each reading, film, and class meeting. Your final project will be this journal and a 3 page personal reflection essay. In that essay, you should discuss what you felt that you learned in the class. Did the class make you look at the material and social world of environment and commodities differently? If so, how? If not, why? You must include concrete examples from at least 8 different course readings and films.

 

Class Policies

Academic Honesty

“Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the mission of the College. Unless it is otherwise stipulated, students may submit for evaluation only that work that is their own and that is submitted originally for a specific course. According to traditions of higher education, forms of conduct that will be considered evidence of academic misconduct include but are not limited to the following: conversations between students during an examination; reviewing, without authorization, material during an examination (e.g., personal notes, another student's exam); unauthorized collaboration; submission of a paper also submitted for credit in another course; reference to written material related to the course brought into an examination room during a closed-book, written examination; and submission without proper acknowledgment of work that is based partially or entirely on the ideas or writings of others. Only when a faculty member gives prior approval for such actions can they be acceptable.”

-Article 7.1.4. Ithaca College Policy Manual

Students found to be in violation of this policy will be expelled from the class, will receive a failing grade and will have their name reported to the appropriate college authorities.

Class Policies

Students are expected to come to class well-prepared to discuss the readings. I welcome questions about the readings and do not expect students to always understand everything that they have read. Consistent failure to come to class prepared, however, will lead to a reduction in your final grade. Students who consistently come to class late will be asked to explain their chronic tardiness to the entire class. Disruptive behavior, be it use of cell phones, loud eating, passing notes, falling asleep, leaving the classroom and returning, etc. will result in a public discussion of these behaviors, as well as other sanctions. 

In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case-by-case basis. Students must register with Student Disability Services and provide appropriate documentation to Ithaca College before any academic adjustment will be provided.

Attendance Policy

Excused absences include medical and family emergencies, religious holidays, and IC sanctioned activities. You may not have more than two unexcused absences.Whenever possible, please give me advanced warning that you will be absent.   Although getting notes from a classmate is fine, you should not count on getting a full report of discussions, observation of films, etc. 

 

DID I MISS ANYTHING?
                                            Question frequently asked by
                                                           students after missing a class 

Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours 

                Everything. I gave an exam worth
                40 percent of the grade for this term
                and assigned some reading due today
                on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
                worth 50 per cent 

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose 

                Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
                a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
                or other heavenly being appeared
                and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
                to attain divine wisdom in this life and
                the hereafter
                This is the last time the class will meet
                before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
                on earth 

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur? 

                Everything. Contained in this classroom
                is a microcosm of human experience
                assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
                This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
                gathered 

but it was one place 

And you weren't here 

Poem written by Tom Wayman, a Canadian poet, and published in:
Wayman, T. (1993). Did I miss anything? Selected poems 1973-1993. Vancouver, BC: Harbour
Publishing.

 

 

Class schedule—Provisional

 

Part I: BURNING CARBON

Week One

March 23   Introduction to the course—Charcoal People (Brazil)

Week Two

March 28 Oil

            Reading: “Pursuit of Power: A Short History of Oil” (PDF emailed)

            Film: Bajos Suelos Ricos

March 30 Oil

            Reading: “The New Amazon”

Recommended Films and Readings on Oil:  Behind the Sun, There Will Be Blood,    Michael Yeomans, Oil: A Concise Guide to the Most Important Product on Earth (New Press) and Sonia Shah, Crude: The Story of Oil

Week Three

April 4 Coal

            Reading: “Moving Mountains”

April 6      Coal in Colombia

            Reading: “Appalachia and Colombia: The People Behind the Coal”

            Film: “Cost of Power”

 

Recommended Films and Readings on Coal: Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History (Penguin), Aviva Chomsky, “Mining the Connections: Where Does Your Coal Come From?” in Linked Labor Histories,

   Harlan County, USA, Black Diamonds, and Burning the Future 

 

Week Four: FLEFF (in addition to the two scheduled films for the class, please attend THREE additional films. We will distribute a list of class-relevant films.

April 11           Attend a relevant FLEFF Film on Monday

            FLEFF Schedule

 

April 13           “Deep Down” in Williams 221 @ 4-5:15pm

 

Week Five

 

April 18 Garbage        

Reading: Matthew Power, “The Magic Mountain: Trickle-down economics in a Philippine garbage dump,” Harper’s Magazine (December 2006)

April 20 Garbage

            Film: “Cartoneros”

Reading: Selection from Gorostiza, “The Garbage Dump” and In Cairo Slum, the Poor Spark Environmental Change

·         Evening Screening of “Wasteland” at 7pm in Williams 221

 

Recommended Films and Readings on Garbage: Elizabeth Royte, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, Strasser, Susan. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash. New York: Owl Books; 2000, Professor Sarah Hill, and A Natural History of Garbage

 

Week Six

 

April 25 Garbage

            Film: Garbage Dreams

April 27  Garbage (PLEASE WATCH the FOLLOWING VIDEOS ON-LINE BEFORE CLASS)

            Film: Story of Stuff & The Story of Electronics  & New York City Dumping Wharf (1903) & Sorting Refuse at Incinerating Plant, New York City 1903

Week Seven

 

May 2 Water

Reading: “Leasing the Rain”

            May 4 Water

           Film: Story of Bottled Water            

Recommended Films and Readings on Water: “Flow,” “Blue Gold,” “Chinatown.” 

 

 

DUE DATE FOR FINAL REFLECTION ESSAY AND JOURNAL: MAY 11th at 5pm

 

We dropped Human Organs, but if you are interested,

Human Organs

             Reading:         “Dispelling the Myths: The Truth about Organ Trafficking”

            Film: Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

            Recommended Films and Readings on Organ Trafficking: “Central Station,” and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “Parts Unknown: Undercover ethnography of the organ-trafficking underworld,”   Ethnography 5:1 (2004): 29-73

 

 

phy 5:1 (2004): 29-73

 

 

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