Your assignment is to take a field trip a nature walk a

Environmental Field Trip

Your assignment is to take a "field trip": a nature walk, a tour around your neighborhood, a bicycle ride, a trip to the city, or any kind of journey by any mode of transportation, that gets you out into your environment. Observe your surroundings, make of note things, situations, people's behavior from the new lens the course has given you to see things from the perspective of environmental ethics. There are any number of ways of approaching this assignment. You might have a particular place in mind that is environmentally sensitive or that has been designated as a susceptible to environmental pollution. You might want to visit the local dump, a recycling center, or wastewater treatment plant. You could take a trip to the beach, to a waterway or river area, take a walk on a wilderness trail, or drive out to the desert areas where people recreate on weekends and vacations to see if these areas are being abused or suffer from littering and pollution. You could visit the zoo or animal park, or even go to a farm or food-processing plant.

The idea is to apply what you have been learning in the course to what is really going on in the world-your lifeworld, as the phenomenologists call it. This everyday world is our true environs, or surrounding world. In some sense, this assignment is an attempt to return to the place where, in a certain sense, you already are--as part of the world, as part of nature--you are really investigating a larger part of your own self-identity. Observe carefully what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Use what you have learned in the course to reflect on what you observe and experience, and try to take things in from the perspective of an environmental ethic, as you consider the various concepts introduced in the course of nature, of the land, of our world as an ecologically interdependent system.

For an excellent example of this kind of this kind of thinking and writing, read Karen Warren's Rock-Climbing Narrative, from her article, "The Power and the Promise of Ecofeminism." Note the shift in her perspective and in her understanding of her experience of the natural world. Without labeling it as such, Warren has accomplished this shift in perspective and new kind of awareness by adopting the "phenomenological attitude" discussed by the ecophenomenologist philosophers we study in Unit 3.

Write a report that details your experience, and try to be as specific as possible. What were you expecting to encounter? What, exactly, did you observe? How did you decide where to go or what to look for? Did anything you studied cause you to see things differently than you have in the past? Did you make any critical discoveries or notice anything interesting or surprising (or shocking!) about the environment or area you visited? Assess anything you may find in terms of environmental and ecological sustainability issues and, if possible, come up with a recommendation for a possible solution or way to improve the situation, should you find a problem or environmentally sensitive situation. If you find no problems, perhaps you have not traveled far enough; or, perhaps you live in an area that is well attuned to environmental conservation issues and engages in sustainability practices. If that is the case, explain what is being done right.


The report may be anywhere from 1000-1500 words (3 -5 typewritten pages), but the word count here is flexible in either direction. It is more important for you to think deeply and reflect on the ideas, arguments, and critiques you have been reading than to just try to fill up the pages with empty speculation. The material on ecophenomenology, covered in Unit 3, should be particularly helpful in coming up with an inspired or critically astute approach to this assignment: try adopting the "phenomenological attitude": Husserl's "phenomenological reduction" as you take a fresh look at your environment. See if you can "bracket out" your habitual thought patterns and preconceived ideas about what you are seeing and experiencing--try looking at the world with the "fresh" eyes of the phenomenologist.

Please include images, maps, charts, diagrams, or even links to video clips in your report; you may find it useful to bring along a digital camera to document your trip, and if you have your images in electronic form, you should be able to share them with the class. The inclusion of such "extras" will count for 5% of your score on this report. This is not a research paper, so there is no requirement for citing outside sources; however, you may find it helpful to do so in completing the report and making your recommendations. You may treat this as a piece of creative nonfiction, an entry in an "environmental-awareness journal," a journalistic article or blog post, or even the form of a letter: creativity and expressive sensitivity are encouraged! If you do cite sources, you may use MLA, APA, or any clearly comprehensive documentation style. The purpose of this assignment is to get you engaged beyond the purely academic realm to explore environmental issues that are actually part of your daily life.

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