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The 2024 New River Symposium

We are pleased to announce that The Upper New has been invited to participate in the 2024 New River Symposium hosted by the New River Conservancy at Radford University in Radford, Virginia on April 11-12, 2024.

Photograph of the Upper New River near Farmers Fish Camp bridge in North Carolina.

The theme for the 2024 Symposium is

Rivers3 – Reconnect | Restore | Recreate

The program schedule has been announced!  Upper New founder Dr. Benjamin Erlandson will be giving a concurrent session presentation on Friday afternoon.  The Upper New will also be represented with two posters in the Thursday afternoon poster session.  More details for the presentation and posters can be found below.

2024 New River Symposium

Conference registration (and a link to the PDF of the full program) can be found at the NRC website.  On the PDF version of the program, more information can be found about the keynote speakers as well.

Here is what the New River Conservancy has to say about the 2024 New River Symposium:

The 2024 New River Symposium is a multi-disciplinary conference and celebration of the New River watershed, open to anyone with a professional or amateur interest in the New River.  Anthropologists, artists, teachers, students (undergraduate and graduate), historians, researchers, community leaders, government officials, stewards, river keepers, planners, boaters, birders, anglers, and friends from up and down the New are all welcome.

We think this is going to be a great symposium.  We highly recommend attending if you are able!

The Presentation: Responsible Recreation?

From 2:30 – 3:40 pm in the Salamander Room, as part of the concurrent session Reconnect: Perspectives, Dr. Erlandson will be speaking about the following topic:  Wilderness and (the Coddling Of) the American Mind: Can we recreate responsibly?

Here’s the abstract for the presentation: 

To understand responsible recreation in the 21st century, we first explore connections between Wilderness and the American Mind (Nash, 1967) and The Coddling of the American Mind (Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018), including observed and potential manifestations of the “three great untruths” and several forms of distorted automatic thinking, especially concerning humans recreating in natural spaces, supported by evidence of the destructive potential of “herd mentality”, comparing recreation and restoration through the lens of fair use and what might be different were we all to Think Like a Commoner (Bollier, 2014).  Ingold’s (2018) anthropological “terms of environmental engagement” will be compared with demonstrations of self-efficacy (e.g. Bandura) and the subjective perils of self-assessment while conceptualizing a licensure/certification system for a “continuing education program” approach to supporting (and managing compliance for) responsible recreation for the general public, in the context of systems wisdom, ecological literacy, and communities of practice.  Considering this current age of Surveillance Capitalism (Zuboff, 2018), taken to the extreme of Surveillance Ecoism, how far will we need to go to make ourselves responsible for our individual and collective actions as a species?  Example cases within the Upper New River Basin will serve as pragmatic demonstrations of potential learning experiences for concepts of responsible recreation discussed throughout the presentation, including a longitudinal multi-use proposal for the currently defunct Bluffs Lodge in Doughton Park, as hub for interspecific basin boundary agency and transactional experiences.

Posters: The Pulse Of The Species and Half-Earth

On Thursday, beginning at 4pm, posters will be on display in the Walleye Room and Halls.  Dr. Erlandson will be on hand to discuss the posters presented by The Upper New.

The first poster is titled: The Pulse Of The Species: Introducing the Interactive Basin Project.  

Here’s the abstract for the poster:

We begin with an overview of the Interactive Basin Project (IBP), a multi-layered interactive map and data visualizations, interconnected, with initial visual and spatial focus of the IBP upon the Upper New River Basin (05050001), including equipment “in the wild” in each of the eighteen 10-digit watersheds within the UNR Basin (camera traps, geocached kiosks, programmable geolocated drones, etc.).  We’ll discuss how we intend for people to interact with the IBP across hybrid experiences, using The Pulse Of The Species (TPOTS) project as our primary pedagogical example, including maps, guidebooks, and other curricula designed and delivered by The Upper New (eliciting eco-reflective narratives).  We’ll discuss how and why we intend to hybridize experiences—using near field communication (NFC) tags loaded with custom learning data—for longitudinal collections of incidental local-global learning journeys for a variety of stakeholders, resulting in the foundation and growth of interspecific ecological communities of practice for identity formation through three modes of belonging (to the biosphere): engagement, alignment, and imagination.  We’ll describe a curricular example: an in situ exploration of “what might have been” if the Blue Ridge Project hydroelectric dams were built in 1976 (flooding thousands of acres along the VA/NC border, to be decommissioned in 2026, a permanent net energy loss) specifically to expose the “generational forgetting” that often plagues our environmental psychology.  We’ll connect these curricular concepts to current learning projects, including research narratives, eco-critical reviews, Eco Challenges, an annotated eco-bibliography, seminar workshops, and our multimodal readers theater series.

The second poster is titled: Is “Half-Earth” enough?  What does ecological justice look like, and how will we know it if we think we see it?  

Here’s the abstract for the poster:

We introduce the pragmatics of ecological justice with a review of the Half-Earth (Wilson, 2016) concept, coupled with basic concepts of Continental Conservation (Soulé, et al, 1999): the core areas, connectivity, and buffer zones, focused on our continent: Rewilding North America (Foreman, 2004), aligned locally with the contiguous wilderness of federal and state park lands and wildlife sanctuaries crossing the cusp of the Upper New River basin, along the escarpment in Alleghany and Wilkes counties of North Carolina.  We’ll explore specific ways the Upper New River basin fits into the continental conservation puzzle, and how to use Half-Earth as a starting point for achieving ecological justice for all inhabitants of the biosphere.  We’ll describe the pragmatics of intuitive justice, compare environmental and ecological perspectives, and rationalize ecological justice as the “achievement” of an ecoliterate human species: using pragmatic examples of mindset shifts, systems wisdom, and leverage points for nonlinear systems intervention.  We’ll then explore ecological justice as a culmination of lifelong learning and practice concerning The Commons and collective human behavior change in service of a truly sustainable global society housing nine billion humans ( 0.01% of total biomass) in the biosphere.  We’ll consider the intuitive justice served up by “smart cities” and a “deceptively simple” solution such as driverless cars.  We’ll hypothesize future networked transit corridors and urban core districts for a justified distribution of humans, where we sleep, eat, work, learn, heal, and believe, as loving resistance fighters.  Can we have ecological justice?  Can we DO ecological justice?

Complementing The 2024 New River Symposium

We are in the process of assembling companion web pages for each of the posters and presentations hosted on the Upper New website.  These pages will complement and extend the posters and presentation, essentially hybridizing the experience for 2024 New River Symposium attendees.

Following the conclusion of the symposium, we plan to host digital versions of the posters and presentations on the Upper New website, ideally with narration, if possible.

Depending on engagement with symposium attendees, we will also consider drafting three full white papers for dissemination following the symposium.

EC logo used for post about 2024 New River Symposium

By The Upper New Review

The Upper New Review is an environmental literary arts magazine based in the Upper New River basin, which intersects the states of North Carolina and Virginia in the United States of America in present-day North America. We are seeking out place-based creative works from all over the globe.