AUTHOR JANISSE RAY LECTURES AT MIDDLE GEORGIA COLLEGE
(Cochran, GA) – Author Janisse Ray recently lectured about sustainable living to Middle Georgia College students, faculty, and community members. The event was sponsored by MGC’s Learning Communities as part of their Examined Life series.
Ray said that in order to lead an ethical life, it must be examined. “It requires reading and an open mind,” she said. “We especially need to examine our relationship to land, nature, and wildlife.”
Ray said that we all hold six false beliefs: we have unlimited resources, the right to use those resources, our existence is purely pleasure, now is more important than later, technology will save us, and it is okay to accept convenience and ease. Ray used the destruction of the longleaf pine as an example. In 1995, there were 93 million longleaf pines; now, 99% of them are gone. “It borders on immorality,” said Ray. “We are cutting the South to death.”
The destruction of our land is mirrored in society, said Ray. “We become more marginalized and isolated; not knowing our neighbors and arguments at family reunions. This fragmentation leads to annihilation.”
For college students, the most important question is ‘how are we going to live sustainable lives,’ said Ray. “What does it mean to be given this life? That is the question of your lives.”
The root cause of environmental destruction is our economic system, industrial capitalism, said Ray. “The motto of the economy is more, more, more,” said Ray. “The Earth can’t support this.”
We are in the middle of an economic system failure as evidenced by the recession and the housing crisis, said Ray. “Our system is failing because it requires more of itself to solve its own problems.”
There are several solutions, said Ray. “We can come up with a new system, such as sustainability. We could also imbue ethics in our current economy because corporations should not be ruling our country.”
The most direct solution to the current economy is to remove yourself from the global system into the local one, said Ray. “Learn how to do things yourself,” she said. “Cook, farm, play music, and spend locally.”
“Janisse Ray is one of the kindest and most generous people I've ever met,” said Lorraine Dubuisson, an assistant professor of learning support/English at MGC. “She gave me goose bumps once or twice during her talk. I think her message of sustainability and preservation and the need for a radical overhaul of the way we live our lives is extremely important and powerful.”
Although he didn’t agree with Ray on all her points, MGC student Jesus Melchor thought she made a good suggestion about eating locally. “I've seen a documentary called ‘Food Inc.’ basically showing where our meat comes from and it’s very disgusting,” he said. “So I see why she encourages us to eat organic or homegrown food but nowadays it’s very hard to live the way she does but we could all try.”
Ray is the author of three works of nonliterary fiction, including Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, about growing up on a junkyard in Baxley, Ga. amidst the threatened longleaf pine forests of the Southeast. The book explores themes of family and environmental conservation. Ray, an organizer and environmental activist, is also on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program, as well as a founding board member of Altamaha Riverkeeper.