Thursday, September 13, 2012

"My Summer Vacation": One Professor's Work

Recently I spoke with Dr. Wendy Lynne Lee, professor of Philosophy, about the application of her academic discipline to the contemporary world. The very day she wrote the following piece, she was interviewed by Alex Chadwick of the series Burn, for National Public Radio. Lynn Johnson, photographer for National Geographic, made Dr. Lee one of the subjects of her piece documenting the women of the anti-fracking movement in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio. Her work in this area has also received positive critical attention in a variety of online and print media. --JSB

Philosophy is no mere profession, but a way of life committed not only to discovering the truth but to acting on it for the sake of the public good. Such, at least, is the upshot of Karl Marx' famous remark that the point of philosophy is not merely to understand the world but to change it. I have sought for all of my now 20 years at Bloomsburg to practice that commitment--often failing, but always with renewed vigor when conditions called for it. 

No conditions have called more loudly to me to muster both my philosophical resolve and a bit of courage than my involvement over this past year with the anti-fracking movement in Pennsylvania. One of my areas is environmental philosophy; another is bioethics. But neither of these was necessary for galvanizing my resolve to become involved in the resistance to what can be clearly shown on the evidence to be a serious danger to health, environmental integrity, and community sustainability than slickwater hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. All that was required was being a moral person--and one fortunate enough to be in an economic position to DO something. My hero--like that of virtually all philosophers who endeavor to act as public intellectuals--is Socrates, who gave up comfort and ultimately life to pursue the true, the good, and the beautiful. For him, there was no artificial distinction to be drawn between his "professional" life and his life, between "theory" and "action." So too it has always been for me. Note--I am not comparing myself to this master--far from it. But I can aspire to his example, and I think that his example is precisely what a university ought to encourage in its faculty.

All the while I have been engaged in research for my new book (Lexington/Rowman and Littlefield), "The Rhetoric of the Apocalypse"--a critique of both the far Left and the far Right with respect to environmental ideology, I have also been writing a series on the processes, dangers, infrastructure, politics, corporate influences, and implications of fracking, compressor stations, water withdrawals, water impoundments, transmission lines, and export depots for a small but growing PASSHE Institution zine (Kutztown, editor Kevin Mahoney) called Raging Chicken Press

So, I am tempted to say something cheesy, like "This is what I did on my summer vacation." But, in fact, this is what my life both in and out of the university has always looked like. This summer, it just got more media attention. I believe that these are the sorts of things academics ought to be pursuing consistent with their disciplines. And I think that this is precisely what the university ought to encourage and support in any of us.

--Wendy Lynne Lee

1 comment:

  1. A few helpful links: