Navigating the Anthropocene River

July 27th, 2020

On immersive, field-based education and an exploration of the (dis)comforts of an approach Anthropocene River Travelers describe as “being at home-in-the-world.”

A traveler’s guide to the (dis)comforts of being at home-in-the-world

In September 2019, a group of travelers boarded a set of canoes and set off from the Mississippi River’s headwaters in Lake Itasca, embarking on a hundred-day journey down the river’s length: the Anthropocene River Journey, in which twenty-five scholars, artists, and activists along with students from River Semester of Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota participated. In this essay, Joe Underhill, who organizes the River Semester at Augsburg University, recounts the many experiences the travelers underwent on both land and water, relating them to the ideas and practices of what might constitute an “Anthropocene curriculum.” Confrontations with the often destructive social, economic, and political realities of those who live along the river offered a stark contrast with the more joyful, even spiritual experiences of life in the field. Critically reflecting upon this experiment in immersive, field-based education, Underhill and fellow travelers offer an exploration of the (dis)comforts of an approach that they suggest could be called “being at home-in-the-world.”