Local Knowledge  Last Essay Options                             Due Tuesday, November 30th.    

5-pages, double-spaced, typed, pages numbered.

Choose one of the following framing questions, or develop your own question/approach, based on either An Air That Kills,  Prime Time Activism or Citizen Muckraking.


(1)  What is the essential public health challenge that is facing the people of Libby? Using An Air That Kills as your guide, develop an analysis that portrays the industrial, labor, environmental, political and cultural conditions for the diseases that have emerged there. What has been learned about work/environment/health and who are the players that have been central to the discovery of the problem? Put another way, drawing upon the text and our discussions, what are – in your judgement – the essential lessons for understanding environment, health and community?


(2)  Building out from the approach in Question (1) , develop your own case study or community profile of Libby Montana. You’ll need to draw on the book as your central document and augment this with our viewing/discussion of the film “Libby, Montana.” Then, broaden and enrich your thinking about Libby and the profile that you’ll develop by doing some modest internet visits to… official sites of Libby (City, Chamber of Commerce, EPA) and materials/reviews re: the film. (All of these and more are easily accessible with a mere googling of Libby, Montana. Of particular interest is the Mayor’s address to the graduating class of Libby HS, June 2003, main page of the city’s site… www.libbymontana.com.). Of course you’ll want to provide a profile of the environmental health predicament that Libby has been dealing with and identify the knowledge base that Libby residents have created (or didn’t create) as they try to find some resolution. And you’ll need to put Libby’s struggles in the context of systems of authority (public and private) that shape their environmental health story. But also, work to offer your reader a sense of whether and how the community is struggling to sustain hope and determination. How is Libby sustaining itself as a  community amidst all of the challenges they face?


(3)  Explore and convey the potential lessons of Libby through a “dialogue of texts.” Using either Pedagogy of the Oppressed or Prime Time Activism or Citizen Muckraking  (or some mix of the three), critically examine and re-frame the story of Libby in view of how people create (or can potentially create) knowledge, reflection and action together, as portrayed by these different frameworks and texts. One book focuses more on knowledge/education, one on media/message/communication, another on information and right-to-know. Using one or more of these texts, think about the struggles of Libby, what people have tried to do, what has worked, what the impacts of citizen efforts are, what has been missing (in your estimation) and what the community needs now. Putting this in a more personal framework, if you were part of a neighborly network in the region that was trying to support the people of Libby, what ideas or resources might you offer?


(4)  Libby, Montana. Institute, W VA (in the film “Chemical Valley”). Lake Charles, LA (in the film “Blue Vinyl”). Olympia, Centralia, Shelton, Tacoma…. and others. We’ve started an exporation of communities, each of them distinctive in certain ways, all of them potentially connected by virtue of shared conditions or determination to build alliances community-to-community. Develop your own draft primer on “community stories and what they teach us.” You might focus on environmental health challenges or you might explore these struggles for what they convey about some general themes… citizen relating to authority systems,  levels of governance (local and beyond), connections/tensions between lay knowledge and expertise, how private troubles (ex,. sickness) become public issues, the politics of technology (from large scale industrial site to citizen bucket brigades) and community life. 

            Here’s a good time to start your guidebook.





Week 9, Nov 30-Dec 3


We’ll postpone our reading of Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World until winter quarter. Instead during week 9, we will do some basic wrap-up (for now) on environmental, health and community and then focus most of our work on shaping analyses/documentation on Olympia sites. We want to be applying Citizen Muckraking and Prime Time Activism to develop frameworks for the Olympia  projects.  This way the video/audio work will be grounded in a foundation that begins to address broad issues of the local knowledge base, citizen access to information, the role of the media and how local stories get told. Much of Week 9 will be dedicated to building these site stories which will be presented in Week 10.