An interview with CSULB professor, Dr. George Hart, on enabling activism in everyone.

By Morgan Barragan

If environmental issues affect us all, wouldn’t a wise solution be to include everyone in environmental activism?

Dr. George Hart, a Professor of English at California State University, Long Beach, teaches the importance of fortifying our relationship to the environment as well as identifying our place in the ecosystem at large. Dr. Hart’s teachings reach beyond his students through his books on ecocritical writers (authors that write through the lens of environmental concern).

“Everything has a place. Everything has a role,” reflects Dr. Hart.

I originally reached out to Dr. Hart to interview him on his most recent publication, Finding the Weight of Things: Larry Eigner’s Ecrippoetics. I was fascinated by Dr. Hart’s focus on Larry Eigner, an American ecopoet living with Cerebral Palsy, as a model for our own ability to make a positive environmental change.

Dr. Hart told me the inspirational story of a man using only his thumb and index finger (as this was the mere movement his disability allowed) to bring awareness and positive change to a global issue.

Larry Eigner jumped at the chance to read science magazines, news articles, and environmental literature to bolster his ecological knowledge. Existing evidence and incoming current events piqued Eigner’s fascination with climate change and inspired his poetry. His poetry has made intimidating climate issues transform into more palatable human issues.

Eigner’s story is one of hope. There is hope in everyone’s ability – no matter what that ability may be – to make change. If you have the ability to show up to beach clean ups, great! If you can read a book centered on the environment, awesome! If you can take a trip to your local park and birdwatch, amazing! Your actions – no matter the size – matter. Your actions make a difference.

As Dr. Hart explains, “We each have our niche, we can make a collective effort.”

For Dr. Hart, making change means teaching literature to a diverse group of students and studying ecocritical authors. He says, “Literature, creative writing, imaginative writing has a huge role in helping us deal with the issues that are coming towards us – especially when it comes to climate change and mass extinction … We need to have really strong imaginations to deal with these issues.”

He establishes, “The science is there to help us figure out what to do. The engineering is there to help us do it and get it done. But, the ideas and imaginations come from literary people and artists and creative people and activists.”

We must remember that we as individuals each play a vital role in the global ecosystem. We don’t need to be experts on environmental issues to have an impact; we need to do what we can.

Everyone belongs in the fight for our planet. Everyone has their strengths. Everyone has their interests. Play into your strengths, interests, and imaginations! If Eigner can do it, so can you!

In the spirit of Surfrider’s mission to save the ocean, Dr. Hart provided an ocean poem by Larry Eigner. See below the poem and the printed copy that hangs on his wall in his home.

   the music,   the rooms

silence silence silence silence sound

on the walls

the beach raveling

times advance

or back up

around earth

electric poles

the sun a reflected color

tropic

how distance is to some birds

in the wind

fishing

pinpoint

the circling air

food

the power

with desperate ease

food for me hits the water

without break, the cries

the meaning of change

information shifted, player piano

on the screen,   the swimming moon

enters eclipse

out the window, and other station

none of us is watching

the cabinet

directed

instrument forgotten

the clock shakes out

head bent from the wing

in a live broadcast

a case for various things

dry grassy fields

the blank sky

wampum gulls broke shells

such eyes

a malnutrition

Kenya

straightens hair it turns blond

scurvy is wiped out

the dogs come, the group

the street comes

the North Sea

studio on a ship

pivot   spun

dark life

leaving the island

the dim expanding miles

on bikes

rises

the mist like a magnet

nest in fisherman’s pocket

a steady white light

they might drive headlong into

blows   lost bearings

the wash

“ … distant thunder … Nearer and nearer came the strange commingling sound

of sleigh bells, mixed with the rumbling of an approaching storm … I gazed

in wonder and astonishment … They passed like a cloud through the branches

of the high trees, through the underbrush and over the ground … They flut-

tered all about me; gently I caught two in my hands and carefully concealed

them under my blanket.

I now began to realize they were mating … ”

— Chief Pokagan, describing an onset of the now extinct passenger, in Michigan, May 1850