Gender, Peak Oil and Culture - Part 2

Part two of three-part series. Part One Here

Published: 07-Jun-2006

The multi-cultural Hawaiian Islands provide a context for doing Peak Oil work that differs markedly from that of the continental United States. Hawai’i is where East and West meet. The bloodlines of its population are numerous, with more Asian ancestry than all the others cultures combined. In recent years Native Hawaiians have been challenging their colonial legacy with greater vigor. Each country, continent or island, region, city, town, or rural area provides a unique local cultural context for dealing with energy descent, a global reality that must ultimately be deal with locally.

Women in Hawai’i tend to be strong, inspired by Pele, the volcano goddess. The Puerto Rican/Cuban sociologist Prof. Noelie Rodrqiuez teaches at the Hawai’i Community College. Last semester Rodriquez team taught a large "Community Development" class where she used the new film "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," described in Part One of this article.

Rodriquez reports teaching about "the individualism and isolation that make people vulnerable to the corporate/government media that sells fear, militarism and consumerism." She contends that "the antidote to this is grassroots community development. The human struggle is actually about creating meaning and connection to one another. We could do with much less stuff if we belonged to more egalitarian communities that provide affection as well as basic material needs. There would be greater peace and happiness. It's all about creating real community." The genuine solutions to the consequences of oil descent will not be based on fear, Rodriquez contends, but upon the building and strengthening of caring communities.

One of my primary teachers here has been the Native Hawaiian Prof. Manu Aluli Meyer. She brings an indigenous perspective to her work and observes, "Indigeneity and activism is the same word. Native Hawaiians are pushing all boundaries in every sector because we are the guardians of land and sea. It is our blood source. Now, the question is not whether to participate in these issues, we are doing what we can...the question is how to be creatively effective as we enter a new era of ignorance and fear. Mau kealoha no Hawaii. Love, always, for Hawaii."

Prof. Aluli Meyer authored the book "Ho’oulu: Our Time of Becoming— Hawaiian Epistemology and Early Writings." It is about Hawaiian ways of knowing, which are water- and island-based, differing significantly from those of the dominant culture. She has another book scheduled for next year, to be published by Koa Books. Most of Dr. Meyer’s teaching is from the oral tradition.

Both Rodriquez and Meyer embody what women of color have to add to any issue, including Peak Oil. They both tend to speak in stories, rather than in more linear ways, and to evoke shared stories. They teach from a community-building model, rather than an hierarchical classroom teacher-student model. Instead of being top down, they are circular.

To educate and activate people about energy descent, such approaches have merit. They differ from the more conventional expert with status speaking to people assumed to have less knowledge. Rodriquez and Meyer go far beyond merely providing information. They offer learning environments that are charged with feelings and connection and seek to evoke wisdom from participants. In their teaching and community work both employ indigenous and female forms of teaching and organizing that are nurturing, inclusive, and interactive.

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