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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Cindy Yong at 8:27PM
Dr. Jake Brenner

Blog posting by Cindy Yong, Writing; Biology '16, FLEFF Blogger, Eagleville, PA


            A map of Ithaca College Natural Lands (ICNL), a wooden bookcase hugged with books of all kind, a quirky clock on the wall, and two mountain bikes inside the office give a glimpse into Jake Brenner’s life.  Jake Brenner is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Science at Ithaca College and the Faculty Manager of ICNL, where he rides his mountain bike once a week to survey the area.

            As an undergraduate in Lawrence University, Dr. Brenner studied Biology and Spanish.  He has a love for Latin America and for traveling.  He highlights how “maps don’t teach us about place,” and are mathematical in only showing distance.

            For Dr. Brenner, traveling is key, since it represents immersion in a place with a different “culture” and “characters.”  He recognizes the unexplored meaning to each place – looking beyond the name or dots on a map to its symbolic value.

            Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Dr. Brenner studied Geography as a graduate at Clark University.  He says he didn’t choose the profession – more like the profession chose him.  With an open smile, he recalls how he was “picked by geographers to be one of them.”

             He teaches about “human-environment geography,” which can be simplified to mean the interactions between nature and society.  Like FLEFF, Dr. Brenner has a broad definition of HABITATS.

             “People are made who they are by interactions with the environment,” whether that connection be from “agriculture” to “AIDS.”

             With his hands folded in his lap, Dr. Brenner said he was interested in these interactions and “how people manage private lands,” which is why ICNL is an ideal educational location.  However, it’s clear Dr. Brenner thinks on a big picture level and outside standard thoughts regarding the environment.

             “We think of these places as places where conservation happens.”  Standing up, he walked behind me to reach the ICNL map.  With his hand, he created a circle around the Ithaca area while saying he was interested in these “green spaces.”  He regards private land as “unexplored” opportunities to make connections.  For more insight, watch this video.

             While we talked about geography, I reflected back on my own education.  I took a Geography class in 7th grade but not much emphasis was placed on the subject thereafter.  Dr. Brenner agreed that Europe is a lot more advanced in its teaching and gifted me with this quote by Ambrose Bierce:

             “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

            When you enjoy what you’re doing, work doesn't seem like ‘work.’  Dr. Brenner will bring this same passion to his FLEFF mini course “Where on Earth?!  Geographies of Space and Place in Environmental Film.”  The task will be to find themes of place and space in films.

            Dr. Brenner is a right fit for FLEFF, since he brings in a unique perspective and introspective questions about geography that challenge the value we put on places and our interactions within them.

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