Stress and Resilience ~ People and Places

Helena Meyer-Knapp (email)
Tel. 867 6549
(meyerknh [at] evergreen edu) 
 Karen Hogan (email)
Tel. 867 5078
(hogank [at] evergreen edu)
C-1105 Seminar II Wednesdays 6 pm - 9:50 pm Saturdays 9 am - 5 pm 30 Sept, 14 & 28 Oct, 11 Nov, 2 Dec








29 November - Notice regarding class and the weather: At this point it looks as if the weather conditions won't be as bad as expected. We will have an abbreviated class, from 6 to 8 pm. Helena will deliver a lecture that will be recorded digitally and posted to moodle for those unable to come to class.

You can check the forecasts for different times of day for Seattle and for Olympia. It looks like only light snow is expected for later this evening. However, we encourage you to be safe! Check travel advisories and road conditions - if it looks unsafe from where you live, stay home. And remember that conditions may change between 6 and 10 pm, so consider what the conditions will be for you to return.

We will use analytical models from physiology, ecology, and social science to study how society and "the environment" respond under stress. Some stress is an everyday occurrence, while other stresses are a response to “man-made” or to “natural” disasters. We are equally interested the every day and the disastrous, the natural and the man-made.

The program will begin with a two-day field trip to the Mt. St Helens area, a place that gives us a chance to study nature’s responses to both everyday and traumatic circumstances. While we expect the whole weekend will be an enjoyable one for us as people, we will also use the time for reflective work on our personal “adaptability” to sleeping in strange places, cooking/eating, and traveling with unfamiliar people etc.

In this rather intense first week, you will also get a sense of the research this program requires. We will suggest a few intriguing questions — and you can add more — that underlie stress responses and resilience (see the special Handout on Research).

We will follow up our field-based exploration of adaptability in people and plants by reading about stress physiology in animals (including humans) in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Next we’ll read Southwood’s The Story of Life to look at the evolutionary responses to environmental conditions and to catastrophic change. By then we’ll have encountered several of the key research areas — Schools, Hood Canal and Katrina — and if any of those is your area, you will have begun your research. Thus, we will have developed a conceptual basis for understanding adaptive physiology and behaviors, disturbance patterns in nature and social reactions in crisis.

Mid-quarter, Acts of God will discuss how personal preferences, politics, insurance systems, engineering and real estate priorities combine to increase vulnerability to hurricanes and other natural forces. John McPhee’s chapter Atchafalaya, from The Control of Nature (written before Hurricane Katrina), dramatically illustrates how human arrogance set up the conditions for disaster in the lower Atchafalaya/Mississippi River system.

From there we will move on to crises caused or exacerbated by humans, and our work will become more international. The topics here are post-war recovery using Helena’s work on Memory and Peace-making, the global response to AIDS (reading The After Death Room) and lastly reading about the responses in New York to the collapse of the World Trade Center in American Ground. The last phases of the quarter will be both inspiring and discouraging as we learn about humanity’s responses to crisis. We hope you can take on the inspiration and act on it while using the discouraging to keep yourself aware of the traps into that even well-intentioned people can fall into.