Campus – and beyond – as lab

There are abundant opportunities to use the physical campus as a laboratory, as evidenced by this link from Sustainability at Princeton, and this link, also there, suggesting research questions. Among them, and inspired by them:

How can we use the arts and the humanities to build community of the table? In turn, how can the community of the table drive the science crucial to the future of humanity and Earth?

If the humanities offer insights into people’s motives—why different people do what they do and think what they think—then how might we put history, for example, to work to understand the embrace or rejection of (or indifference to) Princeton’s initiatives on food, energy, waste, transportation – and the intersection of those complex systems?

What populations of pollinators and other beneficial insects exist in the vicinity and what are their relative impacts on plant populations?

What’s the best mode of transportation for students from campus to agricultural projects under consideration for development along Washington Road?

Looking first at Dining Services, the most immediate connection: How can the university effectively encourage sustainable food choices? What knowledge, what principles, what basic understanding, what decision-making framework, what attention to detail must be in place, individually and in society, to make those food choices the default?

What factors cause wasted food on campus?

How can your dining hall or eating club achieve zero waste?

Why are there leftovers in sufficient quantities to demand donation?

Then there are opportunities to partner with businesses around town for research during off-peak hours.

In the NJ food shed, several artisan practitioners are exploring the possibility of research projects and/or internships, including

• Scott Anderson, owner of Elements and Mistral and protege of James Beard Award Winner and Science, Society & Dinner lecturer Craig Shelton;
• Jim Nawn, owner of Great Road Farm and three farm-to-table restaurants in Princeton – two in partnership with the university;
• Jon and Robin McConaughy of Brick Farm, with agriculture, market and restaurants – they want to create a closed-loop system with an institution in town and their enterprises;
• Jonathan and Nina White of Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, where students can intern and learn how to build carbon in the soil, make award-winning cheeses and breads with locally grown heirloom grains;
• Liz Lempert, mayor of Princeton, is leading a Bloomberg Mayor’s grant in an effort to divert residents’ food waste to a compost program rather than the landfill; and,
• Adrian Hyde, executive director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association in New Jersey, a nonprofit that nurtures food-centered entrepreneurship.

From a tiny acorn…an event grows

Acorns and oak leaves photo illustration from "Bitter Medicine is Stronger," The Multispecies Salon website companion to the book. Click on photo for link to site.

Acorns and oak leaves photo illustration from “Bitter Medicine is Stronger,” a page from the website companion to the book, “The Multispecies Salon.” Click on photo for link to site.

Explore the acorn mush tradition of the Pomo people of northern California and through that, a window to the displacement of native people and native plant species on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the first of a series of lunchtime discussions hosted by the Princeton Environmental Institute.

PEI writes:

“The discussions will orbit around two key questions: Which beings flourish, and which fail, when natural and cultural worlds intermingle and collide? In the aftermath of disasters—in blasted landscapes that have been transformed by multiple catastrophes—what are the possibilities of biocultural hope?”

The first event, “Suburban Foraging: Acorn Mush,” begins with acorn gathering at 10 a.m. at Guyot atrium. Lunch, mush-tasting and discussion follow at 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and will be led by Kimberly Tallbear, associate professor of native studies at the University of Alberta; Linda Noel, a Koyungkawi poet (click here for an interview with her); Tom Boellstorff, author of the essay (PDF) up for discussion and a professor of anthropology at UC Irvine, as virtual guest; and Henry Horn, Princeton University emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

“The Multispecies Salon” was initially an art exhibition. Gleanings from exhibition  – essays and recipes – co-authored by Kim Tallbear, Linda Noel and others, were gathered into a book edited by Eben Kirksey, currently a visiting professor at Princeton Environmental Institute and in the anthropology department. Read a Kirksey interview here.

Background: Native plants and peoples persist in suburbs that have been altered by long histories of white settler colonialism and commercial development. In the case of the oak and its acorns, the bitter mush product evokes the history of massacres, forced marches, and internment for the Pomo, and also the challenges that native plant species face.

The Thursday event will focus on an essay, “Bitter Medicine is Stronger” (abstract) and acorn mush recipe from the book by collaborators Noel and Tallbear, and the Boellstorff essay, “Botanical Decolonization: Rethinking Native Plants,” which explores ideas of Francis Bacon along the way to arguing that

“planting and displanting humans and plants are elements of the same multispecies colonial endeavor, and that native plant advocacy is part of a broad process of botanical decolonization and a strategic location for ethical action in the Anthropocene.”

Please RSVP and register here, or catch the livestream here. Because of space constraints, Multispecies Salon events are restricted to members of the university community, except by special request.