Humboldt State University Environmental Studies Newsletter Spring 2021

Page 12


ENST 195: Emotions in the Anthropocene A Conversation with Dr. Laura Johnson, Professor of the New ENST Core Course

What drew you to teaching this course? I find that the classes I teach are the ones I wish I’d found much sooner than I did, and this class is no exception. In college I studied Journalism, which taught me an important skill, but after graduation I found myself sitting with some glaring holes, particularly as I became more interested in travel and culture while also growing increasingly concerned about the social and environmental issues I saw all around me but failed to grasp in a deep way. Without an intersectional framework to understand the shared roots of the many seemingly fragmented issues swirling around me, I grew increasingly overwhelmed and confused, feeling called to work toward change but not really knowing what that meant. I went back to graduate school to fill those holes, and there I found Geography and Environmental Studies, which provided me with the framework I’d been looking

Photo Courtesy: Laura Johnson for. It was like a breath of fresh air, and I found my people and my place. But yet as I delved deeper and deeper into the socio-ecological crises we face, I found myself experiencing heavy emotions that I didn’t really know what to do with. I was heartbroken, angry, resentful, anxious, sometimes holierthan-thou, you name it I felt it. I remember experiencing a near-panic attack at a crowded commercial movie theater one night…once I walked into a Wal-Mart and fell to my knees in despair. And what I was experiencing, without anyone helping me to name or process it, was ecological grief. I finished my

master’s and went on to a PhD, and the weight of the topics I was studying, class after class, research project after research project, grew heavier and heavier. I recall sharing in a Gender and Environment course I was taking that I found myself growing so angry with the world around me, and my professor congratulated and encouraged me, explaining that I ‘should be angry.’ And that’s true, in a sense, but unprocessed anger can lead to rage, guilt to paralysis or apathy, grief to a stuck place of despair. Yet when you understand what you’re experiencing, when you have tools and practices and language to process these emotions and to express them in beneficial ways to others, when you find ways to connect with community, you find that they actually present a pathway to openheartedness, to full vitality, to resilience and the ability to make meaningful change. And that’s what I hope to offer folks in this class. I had to piece all of this together myself, and it took


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.