iWitness February 2010: Place, Power and Participation

Publication Date: 
February 21, 2010
The Woolman iWitness
News and Inspiration from Woolman
February 2010
Featured Video from the Woolman YouTube Channel

Woolman Semester students play dirty with consumer culture. Calling themselves the C.I.A. (Consumer Impact Awareness), they jump into a dumpster to see what was wasted, climb a mountain of trash at the Tiajuana dump, and invade a Big Box store dressed as shopping zombies!
Save the Dates
  • Global Issues Presentations: May 19
  • Documentary Screening: May 21
  • Sustainability Tour: May 24
  • Baccalaureate: May 28
  • Graduation: May 29
On the Coast
Students spent their first week of the semester on the coast at Jughandle Ecological Staircase. They did service work, learned about the unique area, hiked, and met pelicans.
















Global Couch Potatoes
by BJ Miller, student
"My collage shows the victims of spectatoritis watching television while behind them people are suffering, homes and cities are reduced to crumbled ruins, and families are fleeing to new lands. The spectators have no idea that all this is going on because they only want to see what's in front of them, projected for their viewing pleasure."
Place, Power, and Participation
The spring semester has just begun, and already so much has happened. Students spent their first week hiking, doing service, and learning about coastal ecology at Jughandle Ecological Staircase. Then classes started: Global Issues began by looking at citizenship and participation, Peace Studies examined structures of power, and Environmental Science studied the meaning of "place." This issue presents a sampling of students engagement with these concepts and experiences.
Combating Spectatoritis
by Ruby Brinkerhoff, Fall '09
In the midst of our conveniences, entertainments, television shows, and movies, we may catch ourselves becoming less and less active. It may become clear, after hours spent as a couch potato watching soap operas and reality TV, that life has become one big sideline bench. No longer are we the actors in our lives, we have become a mere member of the audience, a spectator.
I think the most important way we can battle the effects of spectatoritis is by stepping out of our comfort zones. It seems that the disease really takes hold when it becomes a constant, ritualistic practice that we root ourselves in. Sometimes we do not have the courage to step up to the plate. It should be a goal to rise above our comfort levels and try to become more in tune with the world around us. Surpassing your comfort levels and testing the waters around you are the best ways to remove yourself from patterns and a spectator lifestyle. Then it is up to the individual to fill life with interesting and engaging things. Life should be fun and exciting, and not viewed from the bench!
The Power of Place
by Rachel Bond, Student
When we say we are aware of our surroundings, why is it only in the context of others? After all, it is our surroundings, doesn't that give us some rights to it? I've started to realize a strange occurrence in my life: a craving, almost an addiction to the natural world. When I was little, there was no line separating the outside from the indoors. I would wear hiking boots in my living room and run bearfoot through forests. The world was my home and I felt at peace.
But as life goes on this wondrous philosophy fades. Weeks become months and you find yourself driving on sunny days and focusing on the smell of your shampoo instead of the company that made it. Some people never leave this cycle: morning showers, school inside, warm heater at home. Why change? But I have begun to see my shattered peace and discomfort in plastic walls.
That's why I came here to the Woolman Semester. I came back to a place that resembles my roots, my home. I'll try again to intertwine the lines that so thickly state our abilities and society as I had once done as a child. This is not an easy task, the ways of the city world are so taunting, so logical... And then it happens, this dazzling phenomenon of utmost importance: as if under all the materials, comfort and temporary happiness of our destruction, there is still that bare human craving for nature, for life. It's a hope for us in a way I never thought would come. This is what I would like to share through my work and my life: the cutting of all strings dividing this world from any other, making it just one... the only world where anyone, anywhere can have peace.
The Power to Make Change
by Maria Mercurio, Student
In our society, there are some people who are considered to hold the most power. Politicians and corporations greatly affect the way our society is run. But these are not the only people who have the ability to affect change. When one tries to say that those with money and education are the only ones who have major power in society, many counterexamples quickly come to mind. Some of the strongest activists have come from "unpromising" backgrounds. The truth is, anyone who has a belief in which they are passionate and a strong voice has the power to effect change.
End of an Era (anyone got a van?)
by Angelina Conti, Teacher
The close of 2009 brought a sad and unexpected departure from the Woolman community: our trusty Peace Van had been on the Mexico trip no less than a dozen times and was perhaps one of the most memorable components of Woolman Semester field trips and intensives. Inherited from the John Woolman school, the Peace Van sported flags of the world painted by students, turned heads from Oakland to Agua Prieta, held just the right amount of people for a service trip, and demanded that you close its door with a precise combination of oomph and finesse.
As our student and intern programs grow and we continue to develop the trip and intensive component of the Semester, we miss the Peace Van. So we turn to you, our close circle of Woolman alums, family, and supporters, with the hopes that somewhere out there, perhaps in your garage, there is a seven or eight passenger minivan that can find a new home with us. The Peace Van gave us many steady and exciting years of service, and we hope to keep adventuring in that same spirit for years to come. To do that, we need your support.
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530.273.3183

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