April 26, 2007

Money isn't always evil.

When you are dealing with a population of such a large size with such variance in morals, you really do have to find something that can appeal to all of them. Money! Our country doesn’t run on our morals (though it is nice to think) as much as it does on money and economic advancement. We are capitalists not socialists. Look at what the prospect of money has done to the work force. It’s hard to imagine many people going to work if they weren’t being paid. Would you ever think that if we appealed to people’s “better side? and told them that it would better our society if they worked for free, that many people would go to work willingly? It’s a wonderfully idealistic thought and completely unrealistic. The same thing applies to leading sustainable lives. We need incentives if we are to limit our freedom!
People have talked a lot about the wealthy who are unwilling to comply or just don’t care and continue to drive their SUVs. However, I think that one demographic we often forget in our society is the lower class working families who are struggling just to survive. How could you possibly care what is happening to your environment if you can barely support yourself and your family? The tactic of appealing to people’s emotions and their “better nature? cannot be feasible when there are so many other things to worry about in our world for many people. Of course I’m not saying that such people don’t care, but that for humans, survival is always most important. If you can’t survive now, what difference does it make what happens in the future?
The ability to have time or means to take care of the world is a privilege that many people don’t have. Before we are to tackle this issue at a global(or even national) level in terms of appealing to people’s “better sides?, we must eliminate all other factors that are most immediately important. Only when there are no wars or famine or squalor, can we expect everyone to think of what we are doing to future generations. Until than we have to think in terms of self-interest. Many people don’t have any other way to live.

April 19, 2007

didn't we learn in 2nd grade that generalizations are bad?

While I find that Williams has a point in drawing a connection between the subjection of women and subjection of land, I think she does an awful job in presenting her case. Her stance on the issue and writing in this essay alienates too many for it to be an effective piece. While I am pro-equal rights, I tend to think that extreme feminism is just a reversal of sexism. The essay is teeming with generalizations that I think detract from any point that she may have and discredit her.
To say that women have a spiritual connection to the land is an outrageous generalization. I don’t even know what that means. Spiritual connection has nothing to do with whether you have one x-chromosome or two in my estimation. Williams and her friend may have a special connection to the land, just the same as men such as Thoreau or Abbey. I’m sure there are millions of women and men who have no spiritual connection to the land. It’s about your principles, not your anatomy.
What I think causes an alienation from nature is not an inherent loss of intimacy realized at birth, but a need for wealth and power that grasps some(of both sexes) later in life. Williams talks about the perpetrators of destructive actions against the earth as being men who have lost touch with themselves. I think she should be blaming people who have forgotten other factors and now think only of themselves.
The key issue here however is the continuation of the “blame game?. We’ve had this discussion before about science and religion. Pointing fingers only allows the problem to continue to grow while we squabble amongst ourselves. Williams gives a recommendation that men change their ways, but spends most of the essay bashing our actions. Maybe we should all change our ways. Maybe women and men are having an equally negative impact on the environment. What does it mean that women have a special spiritual connection to the land that men don’t? If they do then why don’t I see a drastic difference in the way that men and women treat the earth? Until I see that there is a remarkable difference, I will refuse to accept the point that Williams makes.
There is no difference between men and women. There is a difference between people who care and people who don't.

March 30, 2007

You can meet lots of fun people on the bus...

Personal pollution is a much less visible problem than corporate pollution, but it is one that is just as worrisome and as harmful. You don’t see monstrous smoke stakes spewing billowing clouds of pollution into the sky, but we all need to take a step back and see the impact that we each have. According to the EPA, in 2005 the US generated 245 million tons of solid waste, which equals to about 1,600 pounds per person in one year! While this figure was calculated to include recycled products(which is a rather small percentage), it is still rather outstanding, especially when you considered that that is only the amount of solid waste. This figure doesn’t even touch the problem of air pollution!
Now add to this the roughly 6 billion other people in the world, polluting just as much, and you can see that we have a serious problem.
In my personal life, I try to minimize my impact. I believe in the importance of recycling and do so as much as possible, but even that it’s very effective in the long run. It’s so hard to be mindful of pollution when we have a million other things to worry about and when it’s so much easier to just throw things in the trash can….or even just on the ground. Products have too much packaging, paper is wasted to readily.
I do take the bus to and from the U everyday, but even so I find myself driving a lot on the weekends and evenings. I’m an advocate of public transportation and biking, but a lot of the time it is just impractical to do these. If I were to drive to school, it would take me all of 8 minutes(I’ve clocked it) to jumped on 35W and navigate the freeways to the U. On the bus, I have to transfer once on Franklin and it ends up taking me about 40 minutes. That’s 32 wasted minutes! Fortunately I don’t even have a car to tempt me.
I think convenience is the most important thing to focus on if we want to reduce our waste. We need to make it convenient to recycle. We need to make it convenient to take the bus. Unless we all partake in this effort, it hardly matters what you or I do personally. Recycling may make you feel good about yourself, but I think the real way to make an impact is to work with the recycling companies and the government to create more widespread change.
Make busses more socially acceptable, make recycling bins as prevelent as garbage cans. Social change is needed and not just a smattering of individual change!

March 22, 2007

good fences don't always make good neighbors

We really don’t understand how the world works. People need to realize that the earth has been able to sustain itself for millions of years because of a balance in the environment. Sure, there are diseases and natural disasters that happen all the time, but they are all part of the balance and all serve some sort of purpose. The problem is that we don’t like these “disasters? because they negatively impact our well being. A perfect example is the fuss that forest fires cause. Naturally, they are an important aspect to forest regeneration, but when you read a headline proclaiming another forest fire, you can be certain that the article will be negative. I recall the fires in the BWCA last summer that caused so much panic. How much property damage will be done? Who will lose their homes? We have, in a way, demonized forest fires because they are an inconvenience to us. Not to downplay the suffering of people who have lost everything due to forest fires, but we have only ourselves to blame. The practice of containing forest fires has become common, but a thousand years ago, these fires would have be able to burn without constraints. Can we really understand the full ramifications of our actions by not letting the fires blaze uncontrolled? If we are to live in this world, we have to accept that the earth has a certain way of functioning that might not always seem logical to us. According, the practice of man started, controlled burns has taken root(no pun intended...). These burns allow portions of the forest to be rejuvenated while at the same time protecting people and property from the fires. We are trying to adapt to the needs of the earth, but it’s hard to say now if these controlled burns can achieve the same results. Carson highlighted another area in which humans are interfering with the natural way of the world. Single crop farming is very detrimental to the environment. Not only does it ruin the soil, but it allows for certain types of insects and other animals to thrive, while more or less eliminating others. In the natural world, there is diversity in plant life so that all different animals can survive. With single crop farming, only the animals that can feed on that particular crop will survive. With the abundance of food, their number will flourish, and as their numbers flourish, they will eat more and more of the crop. Clearly this is bad for the farmer, who will do anything to get rid of these bugs. So, in comes pesticides and we all know the bad things that arise with overuse. We need to be come proactive in how we deal with this problem. It’s much more complex than the issue of forest fires, and it would be impossible to turn away from the single crop farm now, but we have to think of ways that we can become better neighbors with our world.

March 7, 2007

Agree to Agree.

Naomi Oreskes really has a good point. If we spend so much time arguing about whether this issue of global warming is true or contrived, we don’t have time to think about how to fix it. She shows clearly that although the details are still up for debate, the main point (that global warming does exist and that humans are causing it) has been accepted by almost all credible sources. She gives a list of all the associations and societies and unions of a qualified status that have announced that they believe that humans are to blame for global warming. There’s no denying that this list is impressive, so why must people still cry out against it? The sooner we all come to an agreement, the soon real actions can be taken.
Why do skeptics even care? What can possibly be gained from taking no action? I can find many advantages from trying to live in a more eco-friendly way, even if there is no actual need for it. Maybe we aren’t causing warming, but there is no denying that people living in a city like Los Angeles, which is almost constantly blanketed in smog, could benefit from a reduction in CO2 emissions. Couldn’t ecosystems benefit from a reduction in forestry if we develop new synthetic materials? Couldn’t we help our economy if we developed new fuel sources so we wouldn’t have to depend on oil for the Middle East? This argument is stupid. What difference does it make if global warming exists or if we are causing it? There are plenty of other reasons for changing our lifestyles. The problem is that people won't unless there is a dire need to. Maybe humans don't cause global warming, but if we don't have a threat against our well being, we will continue to exploit the environment.

Here is Los Angeles is smog. http://www.interet-general.info/IMG/US-Los-Angeles-Smog-1-2.jpg

March 1, 2007

Public Opinion

The problem that most people have with a religious view of the environment is that it can lead to an unrealistic view of the world. Grizzly Man gives us a man, Timothy Treadwell, who by common perception is a lunatic. Not only does he live in the wilderness by himself for a part of each year, but he interacts with bears. Most people cannot relate to this man and yet here he is being portrayed in a major documentary see by a large portion of the public. How will his character affect what the public thinks about a religious view of environmentalism? I would think that the effect would almost certainly be negative. This guy is crazy, he is taking a religious view on environmentalism, thus taking a religious view on environmentalism is crazy. The documentary doesn’t do a good job of portraying Treadwell in my opinion. Most of the film is of him playing with animals and it only touches on what he did outside of the wilderness to help protect and educate people. They had the scene in the classroom and his ex-girlfriend mentioned that they started an organization, but these scenes were few and far between. Herzog may have been trying to create a film that celebrated Treadwell’s life, but I feel that the typical view just sees a crazy man who has crazy beliefs that caused his own death. I can’t decide if I feel that Herzog is actually trying to say something about a religious approach or if he just wanted to do a story on this unique guy. Either way, the effect is what it is and while some may be influenced to come closer to nature by his story, I feel that people would generally be alienated. Also, the fact the Treadwell is eventually killed by one of his bears signals to the audience that you shouldn’t do what this man did. He messed with nature and tried to become closer to it and look what happened to him. The fact that he was killed only strengthens the idea that we are separate from nature and that it should be kept that way. Conversely, it could be said that the fact that he was able to live together with these huge bears for 15 years without been viciously attacked once. Treadwell may certainly have been on to something that most people can perceive, but the film does nothing to inspire(and in fact deters) a more religious approach to environmentalism.
I thought the scenery was outstanding so here are some pictures of Katmai National Park

February 22, 2007

Saving the world one blog post at a time

How do we explain things that we can’t understand? Throughout history humans depended upon the concept of an all-knowing entity, above the capacity of human understanding, to explain the unexplainable. We grant any unknown thing this status until science allows us to explain it in terms that we understand. Humans have become increasingly scientific as time as past and as we have progressed in this way, many thing that were once mysteries have been explained scientifically and a religious and spiritual view of the world has given way to a more scientific and empirical view of the world. We, as humans, want to understand! We understand more and more about things in our lives, but we are still missing the basic questions in life: Why are we here? How did we get here? And basic concepts, namely, how to deal with our environment.
Things that can’t be explained scientifically are generally the things that are disputed the most amongst people. Can we go a day without people arguing and killing over religious beliefs? Or a day in which no on fights about evolution and creationism? Ethics, morals, religion are things that can’t be generally agreed on. When was the last time you heard two people arguing about whether a rock fell to the ground because of gravity or because of some three headed turtle that lives in the center of the earth and attracts objects? Science makes things concrete. There is no debate over gravity. There is no debate over the concept of photosynthesis or cellular respiration as far as I know. The problem than with environmentalism is that we can’t totally prove, scientifically, that the earth’s climate is changing due to humans and that it is irreversible. We might be able to conclude that it is very highly likely, but even if we could say that it is 100% due to humans, we would still need time for this idea to be generally accepted. Certainly the works of Galileo and others were not immediately accepted, and in fact, large unaccepted as well as alienating. I believe that someday climate change will become a scientific fact, but the problem is that perhaps we don’t have enough time. Currently I believe that it is largely a religious based science which is why there is so much debate about it in the first place. However, this religious aspect is also necessary until it can become a generally accepted scientific fact. We need to be acting now....we needed to be acting long ago, actually....and while science may slowly convince the whole, I believe that religion has, and will continue to, convince a smaller proportion or highly active individuals. If we have any chance at making environmentalism achieve its main goal of preserving the environment, I think we need both a scientific and religious aspect.

February 15, 2007

hold the carrots if they're babies for crying out loud

Religion is a confusing thing to say the least. How can such a wide range of thoughts on one issue come from one book? I’m sure that the Bible is up to personal interpretation, but it’s perplexing to me that two people can have polar opposite opinions and claim to believe in the some religion and read from the same book. Is nature God’s gift to humans for the sole purpose of our benefit, or is it a gift that we were meant to both give and take from? Are we the masters or are we the caretakers? I find it inherent that environmentalism should be connected with religion as far as a religious person’s view is concerned and yet there is division. As far as I can see, there is nothing horribly wrong with being concerned with the well-being of our planet regardless of whether you are religious or not, and yet there are the religious conservatives who refuse to admit or take action against blatant environmental problems. Are we to just throw away this gift that we have been given? Perhaps we should use it to advance ourselves, but shouldn’t we then also give back so that we can advance ourselves further?
I am not at all surprised that some of the most important environmental groups are religious, and in fact I’m surprised that they haven’t always been the dominate group in fighting for the environment.
One thing that history has seemed to prove is that as time pasts, the public becomes more and more open-minded. Things like equality in race, gender, religion, have come to pass and I can only assume that it is a matter of time until the even the most conservative of Christians realizes that we have to be caretakers or this world. Maybe they’ll even see that two men being married isn’t so bad either.
I’m tired and this post is real bad.

February 8, 2007

One With Nature?

Lisa Couturier gives us a completely new look on how a person can perceive the natural world. While the previous works we have read all point the reader away from society in order to find nature, Couturier shows us how to see it in our own cities. Everything becomes natural, and when you think about it, everything certainly is. She makes the comparison between people in big cities and a community of ants. Most people would look at an anthill(or for that matter, a bird’s nest or a beaver’s dam) and say that those structures are natural, but aren’t these things just like our houses and skyscrapers? I would bet that most people would categorize the Sears Tower as something that is natural. The professor in this work makes this brilliant connection that really offers a new perspective. Discovering that we as humans, and all the byproducts that we create, are only a part of the natural world can be an enlightening experience, but I believe that it can also be very detrimental. Couturier quotes an author named Gary Snyder, who she believes inspired her professor, “ ‘By these lights there is nothing unnatural about New York City, or toxic waste, or atomic energy, and nothing-by definition-that we do or experience in life is ‘unnatural’’?
We touched on this in class briefly last week and I think it is an important thing to note that if we as humans see ourselves and our actions just as a part of nature, we will be unable to notice the things that we do to harm the our environment. Suddenly the pollution that our cars emit into the air becomes acceptable because it’s just a part of the natural system that we are part of. While humans may essentially be just one part of the natural world, we need to be able to step back and be responsible for our actions because they have the more impact than the actions of any other species. We may be just as much a part of nature as the squirrels that run all over Minneapolis, but are they capable of destroying the world the way we are?


February 1, 2007

Enthusiastic Writing

When I compare reading Thoreau and Annie Dillard, one large difference is very obvious and very important. Both writers are experiencing the exact same situation, that is, exploring and appreciating the wilderness by themselves, but the way that they describe there experience is completely opposite. Both books provide philosophical views on nature and our relationship with it, but Thoreau writes in a rather dry and slow-paced manner while Dillard writes in a more upbeat and lively fashion that really grabs the attention of the reader. I really enjoyed reading Dillard much more than Thoreau simply because of the writing style that she employs. She gives everything life and really expresses what nature is to her while added in philosophical ideas for the reader to ponder while Thoreau focuses largely on the mind and the state of mind that nature can put one in and focuses secondarily on what that nature actually is. The reader gets the sense that Dillard has come to the woods because she genuinely enjoys it while in Walden it seems more that Thoreau has retreated to the woods mainly to get away from the village. Certainly Dillard is a much more contemporary author and so it is easier for me to relate to her, but I just love the passion that she writes with. She doesn’t hold everything in nature up on a pedestal. She yells at steer and tries to scare frogs, but all the while she is still in awe of everything. She offers an idea to people to take or leave and merely suggests that we take more time to notice nature and understand it. She doesn’t force us into anything, but her writing persuaded me so effectively. She makes nature sound like the most exciting thing ever and I’m sure this reading would appeal much more to the average person than Thoreau’s would.

This gives you an idea of the kind of person that she is and her writing style.

January 29, 2007



I thought it was good to see that his pond and the surrounding area looked like.

Simply put...

I believe that Thoreau decided that he needed to live alone in the woods in order to conduct his experiment because in order to live life as deliberately and simply as possible you have to separate yourself from the things that complicate life. To Thoreau, modern technology, social structures and government only tarnish life and detract from it and so in order to see what exactly life is, he had to distance himself from all human influences.
So many things become possible when you remove yourself from society and live your life with only your interests in mind. Time becomes virtually obsolete because there are no schedules to adhere to. When you are hungry, you will eat. When you are tired, you will sleep. The only thing you have to worry about is your needs and so you are free to meet them as you please. This is accomplished only when you strip away all the outside influences in life and get down to the core and the basic meaning of it. It’s strange that the way to understand what life is more fully is to remove yourself from it. Society comes to define being so much that the individual is lost and in order to regain it you have to remove yourself from time to time. Even today it is common people go on weekends out into the country; Minnesota is the land of cabins after all. Why do we do it? I would say to enjoy the natural beauty of the world, to take a break from the hectic pace of life and live it a little more deliberately and to find themselves. Thoreau only takes this concept to an extreme, but it still is something that almost everyone can at least relate to slightly.
Thoreau wanted to see what life is like when everything is slowed down to the pace that it was intended to be. In the villages and in the large cities, everyone is in a rush to make gains for themselves so that they can live a better life. In the wilderness, nothing is rushed and no animals have any boss to please or strict schedule to keep and so everything is much more relaxed and deliberate and simple. When you are in the towns, you don’t have time to stop and enjoy everything and experience life fully and even if you do, there are always people around you that are on the go and so it is impossible to experience simplicity in the towns like you can in the wild.