Though the skies were grey and full of rain clouds, the view of vibrant autumn trees and the kind welcoming to her office lifted the gloomy mood as we commenced our interview with Professor Anne Milne from the Department of English here at UTSC.
Anne specializes in Eighteenth Century British Literature and Romanticism dating from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What made Anne stand out to us as a Face of Sustainability is her admiration of nature and her work as an ecocritic.
“My research and writing focuses on the relationship between literature and the environment in this specific 18th century british literature context. So I focus on literature within that period but I look at it from the perspective of environmental studies.”
Anne currently teaches a course called Geography and Regionalism in Literature (a kind of introduction to ecocriticism and experiential education). The course allowed the Sustainability Office to work with her class through hands on workshops such as our Fair Trade themed Food Discussion Cafe held during Campus Fair Trade Week as well as gardening and nature walks in the valley. In addition to the interactive learning, rather than an in class presentation, an assignment was designed to allow students to conduct and lead their own interpretive walks.
“They’ve been great. They've all been really conceptually interesting. We had a walk that prevented us from going into certain spaces. We were really thinking about tourism and the kind of imposition that tourists make on the environments. We had one on safety audits on campus to see what spaces are dangerous in various ways. We talked about physical dangers like slips and trips but also about sexual assault and those more nefarious and dangerous kinds of concerns. We also had a walk that focussed on the internet as a space so we spent a couple of weeks talking about privacy.”
Through her work on campus, Anne describes what sustainability means to her through her interactions with younger generations
“A lot of the people I interact with are much younger than me. So, I think that going back to the root of sustainability and thinking about the need to pass on to generations a planet that's in reasonably good shape (or has the potential to be in reasonably good shape) is the sort of thing that motivates me, certainly in my work.”
One of her biggest environmental influences is Rachel Carson, an American scientist, environmentalist and advocate who warned everyone of the perils of DDT. In 2011, Anne was a member of a research fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany.
“I’m not as science-y as her but I really respected the public advocacy work that she did especially as a woman in the early 1960s when she had a really hard time to even be credible source.
Growing up in a generation where pollution was a major issue, Anne grew up with an awareness for water quality and air quality. Ever since she was a child she always loved being outdoors; one of her favorite activities was swimming but as Anne grew older she noticed the depletion of safe outdoor spaces for recreational swimming. She comments:
“I think you really start to develop a kind of environmental consciousness when you have that kind of personal connection to the natural world.”
Professor Milne also enjoys hiking. A memorable trail that she acknowledged was one that wound around the lakeshore at Woodbine beach. Anne was dog-sitting at the time and took the opportunity during the cold winter months to enjoy views of the lake.
“It was freezing cold but it was so beautiful. Just incredibly beautiful . seeing the lake in all its different guises everyday was a really good experience.”
During the summer, Anne assisted the Sustainability Office in weekly garden maintenance down in the Valley. The days were hot and the sun shone bright but we got to grow some amazing fruits, vegetables and herbs with her help!
“I actually got into gardening when I was in my twenties. My parents were not very big gardeners. They had a few flowers around the house, but I got into vegetable gardening from a young age. You get hooked on it. It seems uncool to be gardening in your early twenties but you can't help yourself.”
Anne understands the benefits of living an actively sustainable lifestyle and shares with us some of her perks from going green.
“In terms of gardening, I get to eat good food! I think generally, by knowing more about sustainable practices, it leads to a better quality of life. Spending more time outside is healthier and eating good food that's locally sourced, grown myself, or bought directly from the person that grew it adds to my quality of life. I’ve been going to local farmers markets near where I live. Even if you just go to the same farmers market every week, you start to get to know the people there and you have these interactions with them. You can ask them questions about what they’re growing and what to do with what they're growing. So, I think it’s about quality of life and relationships.”
It was a wonderful opportunity to get to interview Professor Anne Milne of the English Department. If you know anyone associated with UTSC (a student, staff member or faculty) let us know so that they can carry the torch and become our next Face of Sustainability!