My friend Bernie Zaleha shared this recent Daily Show clip with me on race and the environment in Turkey Creek, Mississippi. Bernie is a fellow grad student here at UCSC, a former defense lawyer for Earth First!, and a former member of the national board of directors of the Sierra Club. You can see some of his work here and here. I love getting his insider’s take on how the big national environmental groups work, the pro’s and con’s of democratically run organizations like the Sierra Club, and insight into the history of radical environmentalism.
Bernie and I disagree on the Daily Show clip. He sees it as an offensive attack on environmentalism in general, and in particular those doing the important and difficult work of protecting animals and their habitat. I see it as a hilarious depiction of how wrong things can go between mainstream environmentalists and communities of color.
Either way, the clip would make a great discussion piece in class (see here for other ideas on how to teach environmental justice themes). I would use it after an introduction to ‘framing’ in social movements and the media, or in contrast to this clip (also courtesy of Bernie) that depicts the same community from a different vantage point. Here are a few potential discussion questions:
- How does Wyatt Cenac frame the problems in Turkey Creek? How does he frame the Audubon Society?
- How do the residents feel about the Audubon Society’s involvement in their town? Do they all feel the same way?
- Can you think of any other examples of tensions between people of color and the environment?
- Can you think of any examples of times when people of color and environmental groups have worked together on common goals?
- What is the value of a people-centered approach to the environment? What is the value of a nature-centered approach to the environment? How can the two approaches be linked?
ps. The “Bird Like Me” section of the clip is a reference to this book from the 1960’s.