April 25, 2007

Called for Something Greater

The topic of sustainability and how to persuade people to adopt sustainable living practices is very complex and difficult to provide a complete answer. After reading Ridley and Low and their “tit-for-tat� theory, where one only helps another if the one in need has helped them in the past or would help them in the future, it is easy to see that it is one of humanity’s innate qualities to primarily look out for itself instead of others. I do believe that this kind of natural survival instinct is very prominent among humanity, but I think we have underestimated how charitable and compassionate human beings can really be. I think humanity has the capability to get past their own needs to meet the needs of others with no benefit or reward granted to them in return. For example, people who volunteer are great examples of what it means to genuinely care about the needs and lives of others who are less fortunate than they are by rising above their own self-interests. The best example of this selfless mindset is seen in the lifestyle that Mother Teresa led. Day in and out she put aside her self-interests to work among the poorest of the poor to make a huge impact on their quality of life. I understand that we cannot all be self-less to the extent that Mother Teresa was, but I do think we are all capable of rising above the sole interests of ourselves. This being said, why isn’t humanity changing its behaviors on how we’re treating the environment? Sadly, I think that even though humanity is capable of selfless acts, I think that most of us choose not to act on them either because of the lack of knowledge of potential negative impacts, or simply because we do not have time due to humanity’s fast lifestyle pace. This being said, I do think that the government needs to step in to provide some incentives to force those who lack knowledge and time to make better choices for the benefit of the environment. In addition, I think that it is also still important, even with government intervention, to keep appealing to morality and conscience since humanity is capable of thinking beyond themselves and their own interests and desires.

April 18, 2007

What about the "nice guys?"

I think the discussion held between Tempest Williams and Lopez touches on a very sensitive subject. I think it is an interesting point that they brought up but I do think that they are only seeing one side of the issue. To say that the bodies of women and nature are both “subjugated� by men seems to be making a generalization. Stereotypically, some young men, especially in high school and college, are looked up to if they frequently engage in sexual intercourse with multiple partners. If all men were this way, however, I don’t think women would fall in love nearly as much as they do. Because, honestly, what woman would fall in love with a man who just uses her for her body? Therefore, not all men just use women for their bodies. There are plenty of genuine men in the world who have a serious respect for women and their bodies. I also do not think that it is fair just to point the finger at men. I am sure that there are many women in this world who do not care about men and their feelings and instead just use them for their bodies. I think it is very one sided to just blame men for this misdeed since I think it overlaps in both genders.
As far as nature is concerned, I think the same principle holds true. I do believe that men “subjugate� nature as seen in Tempest Williams’ “Burrowing Owls.� I also believe that this might be seen more prevalently with men than with women, but I am sure that women are guilty of mining nature to some degree as well. I think that since women are usually much more in-tune with their emotions and have more of a sensitive side, it is easier for them to see how their actions will affect others. Therefore, when it comes to nature, it is easier for women to show more respect towards it and to connect more deeply with it. I do think men, since they are not as in-tune with their emotions, are unable to connect as deeply to nature as women can. This being said, many men do tend to see nature as something they can “dominate.� I agree with Lopez that this problem stems from men’s lack of intimacy within themselves. I think that if they were more in touch with their emotions and how their actions affect others, they would have a greater respect for nature and for women as well. Overall, I think that Lopez was speaking some truth in the discussion, but I really think that she was over-generalizing because I know that a vast number of men do not just use women for their bodies and disrespect nature. A lot of men long for a beautiful and lasting relationship with one woman and they also respect nature and its beauty as well.

April 11, 2007

Paradise

The most beautiful place that comes to mind is warm with a soft wind that blows lightly across one’s face. It is painted with the turquoise of a glassy ocean, the white of sand, the blue of an unveiled sky, and the green of immense branches from palm trees that proudly stand tall by the shore. A blinding sphere of light gloriously radiates down on the water that leaves a reflection of a million sparkling diamonds covering the land. The countless sands carpet the shore and extend for miles to the horizon. White caps of the water rise and fall on the exposed shore to die again leaving their foamy memory. The tide washes ashore kelp and dead jellyfish as crabs scuttle across their barren desert of sand snapping their claws as they go. The vibrant ocean swims with life of all sizes. Schools of colorful fish move to the flow of the deep blue. Hunters of the sea prey on the weak and the small, maintaining the balance. Seaweed dances to the rhythm of the current. Unimaginable and mysterious creatures dwell in the unseen. On the shore, lovers sprawl and converse surrounded by the warmth of the sand and the sun on their bare skin. The intoxication of the sweet air fills their lungs as they savor the taste of the sea on their tongues. The fragrant aroma in the air brings freedom from cares. Laughing, smiling, running, loving. Nothing matters but the importance of each other.

April 4, 2007

Connect the Dots

I truly do believe that in order to maintain our balance as humans, it is essential to have a connection with the natural world. I believe that since we live in such a fast-paced world that barely pauses for a second, we need to have some sense of peace or tranquility in our lives in order to maintain our sanity. Also, even though I think man’s own inventions can be awe-inspiring and very beautiful, such as works of art or architecture, I still think there is something deeper found in the natural beauty of this world that we could never come close to creating. For example, I can really relate to this in my personal life. Every second week in August, my family, including relatives of my Mom’s side of the family, and I spend a week in a cabin up near Pequot Lakes, Minnesota on a small lake, called Star Lake. I look forward to this week all year long since it is the only real vacation I have from this society of ours. Even though it is nice to see family that I do not see very often, the main reason I love spending time on this lake is because of the slow-paced lifestyle I can maintain for a week. My favorite thing to do is to sit on a wooden, swinging bench right on the shore of the lake. I have sat for hours on the bench just observing the natural world around me. I watch the water and the distant shore where I can almost always spot a beaver or a deer. I love feeling their pace of life and I wish that I could be apart of it because it is so relaxed and tranquil. I also love just sitting there and listening to the rhythm of the water and the call of the loon. I feel like all of my 5 senses are just soaking everything up and I have become more connected with nature. Sitting there, I also contemplate how I’m living and how, if it all, it correlates to how I wish I was living. I feel like all my petty worries and anxieties that constantly weigh me down in my “civilized� lifestyle in society are lifted and I am free to think about issues that truly have meaning. I wish that I could experience this connection every weekend! I believe I would be living a more fulfilled life since I would not be bogged down with such trivial anxieties and fears.

March 28, 2007

Give a Little Bit... of your love to the Earth

I visited the “Living Green Expo� website and clicked the link to calculate the carbon footprint that I’m leaving on this Earth, and even though I did not actually calculate my carbon footprint, I could see that I definitely do not meet the 10% challenge. I didn’t think there were so many little things we could do to decrease the expenditure of carbon! I can admit that I’ve never really thought about making sure when I buy a washing machine it has an Energy Star label. I have never even heard of that before…but maybe that is just how out of tuned I am to what we’re doing to the environment. I think that is a lot of what is causing such harm to the environment-ignorance and the lack of knowledge that there are other ways that individuals can make small changes in their everyday lives that can reduce negative effects on the environment.
Looking at my personal life, I don’t engage in many activities that have a negative impact on the environment since college life leaves me with little or no options of what kind of washing machine I use for example. I try to always recycle, even though sometimes I am lazy and I won’t go out of my way to find a recycling bin. The U of M makes it pretty easy though having them everywhere! I rarely drive, but when I do, I drive pretty far distances across the twin cities. I definitely would not, however, be willing to give up driving far distances since that is the only way I can see my close friends and family members. It would be quite a workout to bike 30 miles to see my fiancée’s family or old friends from high school! A change that I could easily do that the 10% challenge suggested would be to replace incandescent light bulbs with high efficiency compact fluorescent lamps instead. I believe the latter last a whole heck of a lot longer than the former. As far as other daily changes go, such as buying appliances with Energy Star labels, I should keep these in mind for the future when I buy my own house. I wonder, however, if these specially designed appliances cost relatively more, equal, or less to the leading appliances that consumers purchase. The 10% challenge also suggested refraining from the use of air conditions and clothing dryers. I think a life without air conditions would be miserable, but possible I guess. Also, it would be pretty tough to live without a clothes dryer, especially in Minnesota with our harsh winters! (But then again, there is global warming, so maybe the winters won’t be so bad in the future…) Overall, I think I would be pretty open to making changes that benefit the environment. I might have to make some sacrifices, such as not buying an SUV (which I was really wanting) but I could possibly live with that! I think we all have become so comfortable living a life with so many luxuries that harm the environment. I really want to reduce negative effects on the environment, but sometimes it is really hard to get past how nice these luxuries are and to see how much of an impact we can make on the environment if we all give a little.

March 21, 2007

Respect the principles by which nature works

I believe this issue of pollution that Carson, Moore, and Boyle all raise is very important to consider. After reading these, especially Carson, my eyes were opened to just how interconnected we are to the Earth. Our relationship with our environment is reciprocal-if we harm the environment, it will not reap any fruits for us. I have always known how dangerous pesticides can be for the environment, but it did not really strike me until now how even at-home insecticides can be dangerous as well. I really think we need to step back and think first about how our actions will affect our environment before we cause any more damage to it. In doing so, we are respecting the environment like we should. I also think that instead of trying to work against nature by using so many destructive and toxic chemicals, we need to learn to “accommodate ourselves to this planet� like Carson, Moore, and Boyle all suggest. Carson makes a good point when she brings up the idea how nature already has its own form of checks and balances. While talking about the most effective techniques of farming while respecting the “principles by which nature works,� Carson claims, “Single-crop farming does not take advantage of the principles by which nature works; it is agriculture as an engineer might conceive it to be. Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds.� From this one should take away that it is pertinent for the good of our environment to respect the “principles by which nature works.� If we work with nature instead of against it, I believe our environment will be a healthier place in which to live. I think the first step then would be to scientifically understand just exactly how nature works and how we can use its natural checks and balances in our favor. This may be difficult but I think it is worth the effort. The future of our environment depends on it.

March 7, 2007

Global Warming

Global warming is without a doubt one of the most debated issues of environmentalism today. Is it occurring or not? I personally do not strongly believe either way, but after reading Richard S. Lindzen’s article, “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus,� I am greatly persuaded to believe that our world as we know it is not on the edge of doom due to global warming. I think that Lindzen makes a really good argument for several reasons. First of all, Lindzen is a scientist whose expertise is on climate. This very fact alone gives him a whole lot of credibility when it comes to discussing this topic of global warming that is supposedly affecting our climate. Although I did not really follow the science exactly, the fact that he can scientifically prove that this issue is not of large concern is another major reason why his argument makes more logical sense. Richard S. Lindzen talks about how from his calculations, even if carbon dioxide were to double, this would not have a major effect on our climate. Lindzen claims that, “It is still of interest to ask what we would expect a doubling of carbon dioxide to do. A large number of calculations show that if this is all that happened, we might expect a warming of from .5 to 1.2 degrees centigrade. The general consensus is that such warming would present few, if any, problems.� I think this claim should be more readily believed, since it is coming from a scientist, than arguments environmentalists make that they merely claim yet cannot prove. I also found Lindzen’s article persuading not only because of all the factual evidence he was able to bring to the discussion of this issue, but also for another valid reason. Lindzen brings up a good point when he talks about how other scientists who do not deal with climate change should not be held accountable for their viewpoints about global warming. So many scientists who do not even deal with matters of the climate were being used as sources to back up the claim of global warming. I think this is not right since they do not even have knowledge of what they are claiming. Overall, Lindzen’s article was very persuasive on the fact that our world is not at stake because of this environmental issue of global warming.

February 28, 2007

Tim Treadwell a.k.a. The Grizzly Man

I thought the story of Timothy Treadwell in the movie, “Grizzly Man� was very intriguing. I have never heard before of anyone leaving society to live with such wild animals for such an extended period of time. I think Tim’s whole idea of trying to leave his humanness behind and “mutate� into a grizzly bear by connecting with them so deeply (I think he called it something like a religious experience) is completely ridiculous. As much as someone can appreciate and admire these grizzly bears, I do not think that anyone is truly able to become “as one� with these bears. I think that Tim had very good intentions in trying to help the bears by filming beautiful footage of these wild animals to raise awareness. Still, I do not think that invading the wild animal’s territory was very respectful on his part. I know he just wanted to help them, but he cannot coexist in the same environment with the grizzly bears! I think the bear biologist was right when he spoke of the fact that as humans, we can never truly be a part of their world—It is just logical sense. The wild is the home of wild animals, not humans. There are many problems with his quest to live alone in the wild with these bears. One being that he still needs human interaction. Tim spoke a lot about how it gets very lonely even though he is surrounded by all of these wild creatures. He obviously needs some other kind of creature to get by-a woman (this is seen by the fact that he was visited by several different ladies…) Another thing that I thought was kind of ridiculous was how Tim was talked to the grizzly bears and other animals, such as the fox. I found it astonishing how close to these wild animals he was able to get and not get hurt. Yet, I found it very silly how talked to them in such a “motherese� tone by saying such things like, “Oh, I love you!� I really do not think that those wild animals had any real idea of what he was saying to them. It was very amazing though how he was able to get so close to the animals and the bears would just walk away instead of hurting him. It was also incredible how he was able to play with those foxes and how they would let him pet them. I do not think that would have ever been the case, however, with the wild grizzly bears. Overall, I really appreciated the footage of the animals and the amazement of how close he was actually able to get to them. However, I do not think it was necessarily worth it to live out there with them since he did not come out of it alive. I think if he wanted to create awareness and leave a message for others to leave the bears alone, I think he should have been an example of that instead of disrespecting the bears himself by invading their territory. It is really too bad that his life had to end the way it did.

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http://www.grizzlypeople.com/home.php -- This is the Grizzly People official website where there are great photos of bears, foxes, and the wilderness.

February 21, 2007

We Need a Balance

Throughout this past section of determining the relationship between religion and Environmentalism or the relationship between science and Environmentalism, I have come to a realization. I believe that there needs to be a balance between these three different components of religion, science, and Environmentalism. I have learned from reading such articles, “For God So Loved the World,� written by Bruce Barcott, and Barbara Kingsolver’s, “A Fist in the Eye of God,� that both religion and science are important when it comes to the issue of Environmentalism. Science plays an important role by bringing an objective perspective to the table. Through science, we have the power to research and investigate the harm and changes we may possibly be bringing to this Earth of ours. Through science, we can also get a good sense of how to improve our environment. We need knowledge of how the world works and how we are affecting it to really bring about any positive change. With so many advancements today, however, it may be tricky to tell where to draw the line when it comes to science being involved. This is a major reason why religion needs to interact with science as well. Religion brings moral guidance to the table, which is really necessary if we are so concerned about doing what is right for our Earth. Just because science is capable of something, say cloning for example, it is not always appropriate or morally right to do so. Not only does religion provide morals, but the more religion is involved, the more environment will be affected. Barcott talks about how more and more often these days, religions, particularly Christianity, take it upon themselves to initiate concerns for the environment. Christianity believes that it is their duty to take care of the Earth that God so wonderfully created for them. They believe that it is their job to sustain this beautiful creation that God gave to them. To them, it is like taking care of a precious gift that a very beloved friend gave. Overall, these two components, religion and science, are capable of working hand in hand with Environmentalism. Religion’s beliefs initiate its members to view the Earth as a gift that is their duty to protect. This spurs much involvement and interest in helping our world become a better place. Science is also useful in bringing solid research and facts to the table. Both are important and without this balance, it will not be possible for humanity to better protect our environment for thousands of more years to come.

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http://www.counterbalance.org/ .....some insight as to how religion and science are connected

February 14, 2007

For God So Loved the World

As I read Bruce Barcott’s “For God So Loved the World,� it slowly dawned on me how interconnected environmentalism and religion really are. Although I never thought that this issue of environmentalism belonged just to the stereotypical “tree hugger,� I never really found my place in it before now. I really did not like the way Barcott stereotyped environmentalists as liberals advocating gay marriage, but he did really persuade me on how environmentalism has a big role in religion. I am a very strong Catholic, myself, and therefore I obviously believe that God created this world that we dwell in today. I liked how Barcott made a comparison between God and an artist when he says, “Look around you—at those hills, at that river. That’s God’s art.� I really think this holds a lot of truth. All the natural things that a person can see each day-a beautiful sunrise, bright blue oceans, complex creatures on land, sea and in the air, aromatic flowers, budding trees, breathtaking sunsets, glittering stars overhead at night-are worth more than anything manmade. I think we take these natural wonders for granted so much. No one could ever have created these except for God Himself. When God created the world full of these gifts, He gave authority over them to mankind. Just because we were given this authority, however, it does not mean that we are free to abuse nature. I believe that with more authority, comes more responsibilities. Therefore, I do not think that God was saying that we could do whatever we wanted to nature, I think He was saying that it is OUR job now to take care of it. God gave us this most wonderful gift of beautiful life all around us! Why then would we abuse it and trash it? When we receive a gift, say a new car, we do not just go out and drive the car recklessly crashing into things. That would be foolish. Instead, we take care to make sure nothing harms our beloved new car. Why then would we foolishly hurt this gift of life from our God? Do we value cars more than nature? That seems ridiculous, but that is exactly what we are doing when we treat nature with such abuse. I believe that it is our job as Christians and also as religious people to cherish this most precious gift that we have authority over. We can either continue to abuse it, or we can truly change our behaviors to ensure that this natural world of ours will be fostered for millenniums to come.

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http://www.gaspig.com/catholics.htm -- This site talks about the involvement of Christians (especially Catholics) in environmental issues.

February 7, 2007

Perception

I found, “The City’s Laughter� by Lisa Couturier very thought provoking as I was reading it. I felt that compared to other authors we have read lately, such as Annie Dillard and David Abram, I could relate more with Couturier. Like the other writers, she still talks about nature, however, she speaks about nature within a context we are all more familiar with-the city. I think we can all relate, to some degree or another, to her scenario of the cockroaches. I know that personally I have had to deal with mice and bugs in my old house before and it has NOT been pleasant!
As I was pondering the theme of perception in Couturier’s writing, I found it very interesting how she describes nature so differently from the other authors we have previously read. In Couturier, she views nature, such as the mice, as interesting little creatures that have such an, “acute sense of hearing and sensitive whiskers.� She looks almost in awe of how the mice by the subway can, “sense oncoming trains much before trains are seen by lesser mortals.� Lesser mortals? Is she putting mice on a pedestal above humanity? She also views nature in a different extreme light, which is what she does when she speaks about the cockroaches. She sees these creatures as entities to just be exterminated. Cockroaches clearly disgust Couturier as seen when she writes about how she slept at night to avoid touching any cockroaches, “and my boyfriend, atop of whom I slept all night, as though on a two-by-four over water.� To Couturier, it seems as though she perceives nature as something from which we are separate. Nature to her, is something we can either be fascinated by, disgusted by, or somewhere in between. Although, I do not know how much mice would fascinate her if they were in her house like the cockroaches were. She perceives nature as something of which she is ultimately not a part. I think this perception of nature is different than the other authors we have discussed, such as David Abram. He seemed as though he perceived nature as something you were a big part of. He believed that the source of one’s problems was an imbalance with nature and a non-reciprocal relationship with it. Everything a person did intertwined with nature and their environment. To Couturier, it seems as though she has more of an observational relationship with nature and she perceives it from the outside.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perception

This link talks about the relationship between perception and reality. I found it interesting!

January 31, 2007

Awake and SEE

I found Annie Dillard’s, “Heaven and Earth in Jest,� very interesting, though at times I found it difficult to understand. Even so, I still wanted to read on because I thought the way she went into so much detail about nature was very compelling. I loved how she used so much imagery to paint a really clear picture of her surroundings-nature. I found it interesting how she described the creek that she lived by as, “the stream of light pouring down.� I took light to possibly mean Truth. She could have meant that being around nature-the woods, the creek-gave her insight to what was really true, or real, in the world. Later on she tells how she is always brought to the water because, “It carries it own lights.� She also says that water is, “the mystery of the continuous creation and all that providence implies.� The creek could also be described as the life cycle and how it is constantly moving and always fresh. I really thought this was beautiful how she described the creek.
I think Annie Dillard is trying to tell us, mankind, that we need to wake up from our sleepwalking and pay closer attention to nature than we presently do. This is seen in the examples she gives us. In the example of the mockingbird, grace and beauty can be seen in how the bird so effortlessly falls thirty-two feet from the ground and at the last second spreads his tail to avoid hitting the ground. The second example she gives is of the sharks. This image of hundreds of sharks in a feeding frenzy is a very powerful one. Dillard is telling us that nature is trying to be noticed and appreciated more than it is right now. To me, these images show just how wondrous nature can be. I found it appropriate when Dillard says, “The least we can do is try to be there.� I think we need to take more time to observe nature and notice all the beauty, power and grace that it offers us. Through taking a closer look at nature in our surroundings, a better sense of who we are and what our role here on Earth is will naturally follow.

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http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~sparks/dillard/bio.htm--> A Biography of Annie Dillard. She has an interesting life story....Check it out! :)

January 25, 2007

Break It Down

In response to the given question: “Why did Thoreau choose the woods as the place to conduct his experiment?� I believe it makes perfect sense why Thoreau chose to go to the woods. Thoreau was trying to get at the underlying principles of life and of what it really consisted. In order to do this, he needed to simplify life and get rid of all the extraneous things that were distracting him from doing this. So where else would he go, then to Nature, Herself? In surrounding himself in Nature alone, which includes the woods and everything in it that is in their natural state of being, Thoreau allows himself to get at the bottom of what life is all about. I believe that in order to find meaning in life, he needed to go back to the state in which the Earth was first created. Only then would Thoreau be able to truly understand what life was intended to be like. Unlike in a village, where there are many confounders, the woods are very simplified. In the village, there are too many activities and people to be distracted by. Also, in society, it is very easy to get caught up in the rush of things in every day living. People in the village live from day to day without even truly “living� or being “awake� at all. These people, who get caught up in a monotonous routine each day are merely just surviving, not truly experiencing life for all that it is worth. People in society become imprisoned and weighed down with expectations and duties. They are not very free to live fully. Thoreau needed to escape this imprisonment to be able to see what was at the very core of life-what its bare element was, and how to experience life fully. Freeing himself from the society found in the village, Thoreau allowed himself to contemplate the true meaning and purpose of life. Thoreau believed this was necessary because if life is not lived with a purpose, there was no point in living.

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This is a site that comments on Thoreau: http://thoreau.eserver.org/oneless.html
It might give you a different perspective.