A weekend at Prairie Festival

I spent the weekend in Salina, Kansas, of all places.

I spent the weekend in Salina, Kansas, of all places.

My friend Robert Jensen very gently persuaded me to attend, and I am very glad he did. In addition to some great talks by profs David Montgomery and Brian Donahue about forests and the happy chance to see Robert Jensen, Naomi Klein, and Avi Lewis after some time, I got to connect with scientists like Stan Cox and, of course, Wes Jackson, at the Land Institute, where all the action happened. When I was a kid and thought about wanting to be a scientist, I imagined doing what these folks are doing. Now I am hoping to get a chance to contribute to their scientific project.

The political project is indispensable too, in my opinion – no surprise there. I’ve been thinking a lot about ecology and politics, and hopefully those thoughts will be reflected here and elsewhere before too long.

I also realized I haven’t “written up” my summer teaching in Bukavu in the DRC, and I shouldn’t let too long pass before I do that. Next week I’m going to Haiti, and I don’t know whether I will blog from there or not. It’d be good to, I think.

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To shorten the plane rides I read a couple of murder mysteries – “The Water Rat of Wanchai” by Ian Hamilton and “The Cut” by George Pelecanos. I got the first because it’s set in Toronto and the second because Pelecanos was a writer for The Wire. Both heroes are involved in trying to recover money from people who don’t want to give it up. Hamilton’s Ava Lee runs in a super-rich world, and even his Toronto is not my Toronto (lots of shopping in Yorkville, cabs instead of TTC, first-class air travel, etc.) The martial art she does seems like Wing Chun, and I wasn’t crazy about the fight sequences – it seems like she is just faster than her enemies (as well as richer and having more resources). Pelecanos’s hero, Spero Lucas, is an Iraq war veteran and wrestling champion who also has little to fear physically from anybody, including corrupt police and gangsters, not least because he has his network of ex-Marines to call on. Both books give you a flavour for the society we’re in today, and they have value for that. Their heroes are attractive, but I don’t really admire either one, as I often do in a Sherlock Holmes mystery, or even one of Lindsay Davies’s Didius Falco series. I’d still like to write a mystery that’s fun to read but that also is true to the political side of life.

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.