I have just returned to Ottawa from Madison, Wisconsin by way of Toronto, Buffalo , Chicago and Milwaukee to present another version of my research on hope and faith in environmentalism at the first meeting of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) as well as to a group of keeners at the Madison Baha’i Centre. The title of the conference was something like “Bonsai Trees: How to Grow Them in Your Hand” (see thier image above) or “Environment: The Interdisciplinary Challenge” – I can’t remember.
The whole thing was really the result of one of the most reckless sequences of events in my short life to date. When I received the invitation to present my paper back in June or July I could scarcely remember the late night paper-submitting session that must have occurred months earlier. Did I do that? Is that my name? Is that my paper?
More recklessness ensued when I went on to book myself about four days rent on various Amtrak trains. One highlight of that experience was the following telephone exchange with an Amtrak booking agent:
Me: “So what does that come out to?”
Agent: “About nine hours and forty-five minutes, Sir.”
Me: “Wow… Buffalo and Chicago look so much closer on the map!”
Agent: “Yep… maps’ll do that… Sir.”
And do that they did – oh, how they did that. Something about this thing people are calling scale.
Some other highlights of the experience include:
- Literally running from the L train station to the Baha’i House of Worship outside Chicago out of excitement to see it again after more than ten years.
- Grabbing my first ever hard copy of the legendary satirical newspaper, the Onion.
Realizing that my host in Madison is none other than the son and brother of my hosts in Bangalore way back in 2007.
- Getting to the conference to discuss strategies to influence the public to adopt more environmentally sustainable behavior while munching on the provided individually wrapped bags of chips, granola bars, yogurts, cream cheeses spread on bagels over disposable plates and sipping on tiny boxes of soy milk.
- Witnessing several develop major academic crushes as they meet in person with others doing research into the same obscure fields and questions.
- Listening to a Plymouth State University prof describe a recent citizen-science research initiative while the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” thumps outside from a university event.
- The organizer’s fanatical dedication to interdisciplinarity placed me in session with two profs presenting their research on hurricane Katrina. Putting me, the last presenter, in the position of trying tieing my presentation on the environmental movement on with something I know nothing about.
- Looking forward to my seven hour stopover in Buffalo because at least it was four hours less than the first one.
To read a very brief summarry of an earlier version of the same presentation, check out this entry from the International Environment Forum 2009 conference blog. Serious readers are welcome to contact me to have the latest version e-mailed to them.