A Final Portfolio Reflection on Different Works

Prior to attending and participating in the class College Writing Il, I was never exposed to the sphere of environmentalism or how literature could provide insight into the experiences of others in the efforts to raise advocacy for environmental justice. Now, I see the environment in a different world paradigm. Although we humans all have selfish tendencies and desires, I am no longer preoccupied with my own aspirations but with critically analyzing the actions and deeds of others in regards to the environment. Using powerful and emotional compositions from strong writers such as “Eating Dirt” by Brian Doyle and “The Powwow at the End of the World” by Sherman Alexie, I was introduced to how writing could be impactful on a larger scale. These readings and in class discussions inspired me to think of society in retrospect as a whole and how the smallest activity like pollution or littering can influence a wider range of an audience.

Environmental justice has become a more important concern of mine and learning to read written works in an evaluative and expository manner has trained me to engage and educate others about the dangers and dark side of taking the benefits and opportunities the Earth provides for granted. One particular writing that truly touched and affected my worldview was “Water Is Life: A Poem for the Standing Rock” by Demian DineYazhi. In a raw and emotional account of the struggles a young gay native American male fighting against assimilation faces, issues involving his racial identity but his sexuality as well are brought up. Dine Yazhi allows the reader to understand through his perspective how the inequalities the Sioux tribe have faced in the fight for rights at the Standing Rock reservation is much more than just a fight for water but a fight for the understanding of more complex issues within the indigenous community. The most profound part of Dine Yazhi’s writing is when he speaks of a rare encounter with other indigenous people in his area: “I take this as an affirmation. Water is medicine, a continual ceremony, it brings people together. Colonizers can’t seem to grasp this reality. Indigenous resistance isn’t protest or disruption or civil unrest, indigenous resistance is ceremony.” The pure passion that pours out of his writing strikes a heavy note and initiates a development of interest in the issue of the Dakota Pipeline and the effects it’s had on the people of Standing Rock. Connecting this animosity to racial outsiders, Demian Dine Yazhi brings up how sexual orientation in the intersection with gentrification has created an additional divide in his interaction with society. Recalling how someone on Facebook complained about the amount of heterosexuals who were taking over a “fallacious queer utopian destination”, Dine Yazhi provides a powerful insight with a simple idea – “Do you remember when Rooster Rock was a gay beach? I chimed in [with] “Remember when Rooster Rock was Indigenous Land?”.

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The writer’s ability to introduce a new topic and foster an immediate connection to the information being provided is one of the reasons the function of literature has become fundamental in connecting experiences of others to real life complications. This particular literary work destroyed the prior perception I had that all meaningful writing had to be eloquent and formal. Filled with curse and slang words, filled with anger and attack, filled with pain and savageness, “Water Is Life: A Poem for the Standing Rock” is a perfect example of the true function literature can provide in understanding how the environment is threatened and how the idea of environmental justice is a way to think about environmental issues. Before understanding this singular written work and delving into the issues discussed in other assigned readings, I honestly never had a genuine deeply rooted concern with environmental problems. Casual debates and intrigue were as invested as I could become but as I look back on my personal experiences, the best memories I’ve had revolve around nature. Whether it was making mud pies and grass salads with my siblings, going to the Great Swamps of New Jersey with my father, or getting lost in the beautiful and majestic cherry blossoms filled forests – nature has shaped me into who I am today. Without these childhood impressions, would I be the same person I am today? Would I find my way to becoming involved with environmental activism and advocacy for equal rights of all those inhabiting the environment?

The desire to know how my socio and political views would have been like surrounding environmentalism and literature only became more compelling to know as the weeks passed and new readings were assigned. Most of my curiosity was settled after reading “The End of the World in Slow Motion” by Ann Pancake. In a 26 page short story, Pancake slowly unravels a shocking and tragic illustration of the Buffalo Creek Flood using emotional plot lines and character development. Interestingly, Pancakes writing style and development of story reminded me of the child-like nostalgia I had growing up. Almost naive to the heavy implications around me like global warming and polar ice caps melting at an increasingly alarming rate, I was simply enjoying life without a care in the world. Pancakes main character, Bucky, had this exact frame of mind until tragedy struck and spun his world upside down with death and pain. In this short excerpt, you can see how Bucky is completely unaware of the severity of his surroundings – “Bucky draws closer to the pallet, not because he’s curious about what’s under it, but because the channel he’s following, his path, goes that way. Then it occurs to Bucky it’s a kid’s doll there, and then he doesn’t consider it again. He’s just watching where to step. And now he’s right up on the pallet. And Bucky sees the woman’s rings on the doll’s hand.”

Overall, these readings – of Pancake, Dine Yazhi, and the other talented authors – provided engaging material to become further involved with the experiences of others and applying it in relation to environmental justice. Being a part of a class that has been so supportive and passionate about these issues has been a truly amazing opportunity and experience. Never before have I been surrounded by people with a true love for environmental issues and the lessons I take from the course itself will provide many more beautiful experiences to come. I’ve come from being slightly involved with educating myself on environmental issues by news outlets like Television and online sources to now actively looking for ways to becoming involved with environmental activism. Connecting what I thought was an extremely static concept like literature, which turned out to be the complete opposite and actually a fluid and malleable art, to real life serious issues that are affecting how ecosystems on Earth function, l’ve drastically changed how I view the environment and it’s importance in our lives. This experience has also changed how I view writing as a form of expression. There are so many different and varied ways to present a feeling and claim. No longer do I associate old Shakespearean English and long boring texts with the term “literature”, now I think of Dine Yazhi, Pancake, and other authors who brought life, pain, and love into their writings and inspired me to become a better more well-rounded writer.


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A Final Portfolio Reflection on Different Works. (2023, May 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/a-final-portfolio-reflection-on-different-works/