One of the more painful results of Bobby “The Butcherizer” Jindal’s state budget cuts is the slashing and dismantling of certain elements of higher education. Go figure. In the case of UL Lafayette, that includes the phasing out — over the next few years — of the Department of Renewable Resources and its two curricula of sustainable agriculture and environmental and sustainable resources. This realignment could have an adverse effect on the employment of one of our campus’ favorite and most colorful characters, Griff Blakewood.
History of Griff in five words, more or less? Louisiana native crossed the Basin 20 years ago and got born again.
Typical day in the life of Griff? An infinitely variable wave which follows the general pattern of: awaken-remember-doubleshotmusictime-birdseed-pedalthinkride-realityteach-writesomething-pedalreflectride-family-read-dream-repeat…
I recently got wind that, as a result of Bobby Jindal’s budget cuts, your Renewable Resources department is being shut down or possibly combined with another department. WTH? Yes, the Department of Renewable Resources and its two curricula are being phased out over the next few years, and although environmental science will still exist at UL, it will become a more basic science curriculum, possibly in a new geosciences program, which will not, as far as I understand, be based on sustainability.
Bummer. The students under you have flourished. They saved the horse farm and in turn are responsible for Lafayette’s next big green-space and city park. Thoughts? No matter what happens in the current reshuffling, my career at UL thus far has been the most meaningful and important period in my life, and I will always be thankful for the opportunity that this university has given me. I believe that I truly found my “calling” in teaching my passion and seeing my students respond by not just believing they could make a better world, but actually accomplishing it. I have been, and hopefully will continue to be, part of a learning community of truly beautiful human beings who care for each other and the amazing space we share.
What were the biggest benefits of having a Renewable Resources department at UL? What will the community and UL lack when it is shut down? Thomas Jefferson believed that the role of higher education was to enable Americans to “read and understand what is going on in the world in order to keep their part going on right.” What is presently “going on in the world,” from climate and biodiversity changes, to population and immigration issues, to oil spills and nuclear meltdowns, to deficit spending and economic instability, is a crisis of non-sustainability which has its roots, I believe, in a failure to provide the sort of education Jefferson believed was essential for a self-governing people. Renewable Resources was about sustainability, understanding earth as our only home and thinking about the most reasonable and realistic path to ensuring the possibility of a flourishing future for humans and the other earthlings. But the end of Renewable Resources does not necessarily mean the end of sustainability at UL. There are faculty members in many departments at UL whom I consider to be sustainability scholars; right off the top of my head I can name colleagues in the departments of anthropology, architecture, art, biology, engineering, geology, humanities, history, physics, political science and sociology who consider sustainability to be a high priority. There is no reason we cannot create an interdisciplinary sustainability studies program at this university that will actually increase the number of graduates prepared to deal with our global challenges.
Griff, you know some people reading this will assume that your department is full of neo-hippies, trying to save the earth when they’re not dancing around at drum circles. Name some things that nobody knows about the department. I suspect that we have a few more neo-hippies than most other curricula, but I should point out that some of them are among our most successful graduates, now making their mark in graduate programs and environmental careers. But we also have great success stories among students who consider themselves religious conservatives, who have transcended the “dominion” approach to resource management, embracing instead the idea of stewardship: caring for the gift that God has given them.
Amen. What’s the future hold? I am impressed that cinematic artists are the prophets of the current generation. Should the human species remain committed to its vision of technotopia and infinite economic growth at the expense of nature, some future generation will find itself in the world of The Matrix, or (if they are a little luckier), Wall.e. If we are a little wiser, the Avatar outcome is still possible (I have yet to meet one person who was cheering for the machines!), and we will learn to embrace human existence as but one species in a living system comprised of millions, all of us co-evolving on this miracle planet with five billion years’ worth of sunshine left to power our living, learning, dancing and loving.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.