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85 Chapter 4 RETURNING ORANGE WATERS TO BLUE Creating a Culture of Civic Engagement through Learning Experiences Louise Chawla and Robert E. Hughes This chapter presents the concepts of history in person, ecological identity, and social environmental identity as a framework for understanding civic ecology practices. These concepts help us investigate the following questions: How do people’s lives reflect the history of their place? What significant life experiences contribute to people’s development of personal bonds with their locality and the motivation to protect it or restore it when it has been degraded? What experiences lead people to join with others in action for the environment, and once engaged, how does a person’s identity as someone who actively cares for the environment deepen over time? And finally, how can collective action influence widening circles of social consciousness and even redirect history? We explore these questions through the story of the Eastern Pennsylvania CoalitionforAbandonedMineReclamation (EPCAMR)anditsfoundingexecutivedirector Robert Hughes. Robert’s life illustrates significant experiences that contribute to an individual sense of ecological and social environmental identity,while EPCAMR as an organization creates opportunities for many others to have similar formative experiences. Through the collective efforts of its participants, EPCAMR increases public awareness of local history while steering current history in new directions. Central to EPCAMR’s mission is gathering and disseminating information about abandoned mine land reclamation and opportunities for watershed restoration . Its staff, interns, and volunteers assess water quality, monitor the flow of discharges from abandoned mines, share reclamation technologies with other watershedcoalitions,andcreatethree-dimensionalmodelsof undergroundmining 86 CULTURE BUILDING to guide the reclamation, planning, and development decisions of local municipalities , industry, and community groups. EPCAMR also scans, digitizes, and georeferences mine maps and makes them publicly available through the Pennsylvania Mine Map Atlas and other databases. The organization works at multiple levels simultaneously, sharing information with congressmen, state legislators, local government officials, civic leaders, members of the coal and cogeneration industries, local residents, educators, and students from elementary through graduate school. But EPCAMR does more than share its technical expertise. It cultivates a culture of civic engagement around reclamation and abandoned mine drainage remediation by bringing people in coalfield communities together and igniting a “constructive hope” that, by working collectively, they can restore the region’s social, economic, and environmental health. Constructive hope is different from unrealistic optimism.It involves gathering information to understand a problem, believing that one’s personal actions can make a difference, and trusting that people in responsible positions are also working on solutions (Ojala 2012). EPCAMR’s origin and practices illustrate a large body of research about how people learn to understand and care for the environment and work effectively with others to address environmental problems. On the level of the individual, the study of significant life experiences has explored life events that motivate environmental awareness, concern, and action. Examining the backgrounds of diverse groups of people, it shows that experiences similar to those that propelled Robert to help establish EPCAMR characterize other people who show committed care for the natural world (Chawla and Derr 2012). These formative experiences help us trace how both an ecological identity and social environmental identity develop, as people form emotional bonds of connection with local places and learn how to play an active role in working for their protection and restoration (Thomashow 1995; Clayton 2003; Kempton and Holland 2003;Williams and Chawla 2016).Not least, the lives of Robert and others involved with EPCAMR illustrate the concept of history in person—that people’s lives reflect the history of the places they are born into, but people are not entirely captured by this fate. People retain the possibility of recasting their inherited history and changing conditions through creative action (Holland and Lave 2001). We begin by sharing Robert’s story and then interpret it through the framework of these constructs. Learning the Land and Its People: Robert’s Story Robert was born in Wilkes-Barre, a city along the Susquehanna River in the Wyoming Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania. For the Lenni-Lenape, Mahican , Nanticoke, and Shawnee tribes of the region, it was a land of fertile soils, CHAPTER 4 87 clear-flowing creeks and streams, abundant fish, and thick forests of oak, pine, and laurel (Chapman 1830). Conditions began to change after European settlers moved into the valley in 1762 and discovered “hard coal,” or anthracite. It is estimated that sixteen billion tons of coal lay under an area of almost seven hundred square miles—the richest...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781501714993
Related ISBN
9781501714979
MARC Record
OCLC
1013988671
Pages
276
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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