April 12, 2007

nothing

I get out of the car and stretch, still tiered from the night of packing and making last minute decisions. The place is empty in the morning fog, except for my companions. Seven of them all doing the same as me. Unloading packs and various gear out the back of a large van. I am the first to put my pack on, anxious for the hike. After making the final adjustments, I grab my camera and walk the forty yards to where I think the rim is. I can’t tell exactly where it is from here because the fog so thick I can only see about twenty yards in all directions. As I get closer towards the rim. I see nothing. Nothing except white emptiness. There are a few shrubs on the cliff sides to the left and right and on the slope directly below me. As I wait for the others, I pull out my camera and take a few shots of nothing. When everyone gathers at my point, I feel sorry for those who will never experience this place. The endless valleys and trenches that make this enormous canyon. The layered stone, still pools, and trickling streams that end in a raging, boulder-crushing river somewhere down below. As it starts to snow, everyone heads off down the trail leaving me to take one last photo of nothing.

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March 22, 2007

Dead Cats and Hermaphroditic Frogs

Nature has a very complexed system of checks and balances that occur naturally. This is how nature works. These checks have been around since the beginning of time and have had no problems keeping the world in balance. That is until man came along. Man has, since technology has allowed, altered the natural world in many ways. Many of these alterations are extremely harmful to the environment, let alone, the human population. Some even believe we (civilization as a whole) have created our own dooms day. Maybe we have or maybe we haven’t, but we still have a great influence on the environment. The article by T.C. Boyle talks about the balance in nature. How disrupting one side of the balance will, in turn, screw up the other side. He gives the example of DDT being used shoddily in developing countries. He explains the trouble of using DDT to kill off the large amounts of mosquitoes. The trouble is that mosquitoes aren’t the only specie killed off. Many wasps are murdered in the process. Once the wasps are gone, the caterpillars flourished and ate the roofs right off the tops of the native’s huts. Then the natives got all pissed off when it rained because they had nowhere to go for shelter. As you can see, what we do to the environment doesn’t just affect the environment. It affects us too. Humans need to be more respectful to the environment and obey the laws of nature. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use pesticides because they are bad. We just need to be more careful with them. If the individual that was in charge of the situation presented in the article would have used the DDT in a more intelligent way, many of the problems could have been avoided. They could have treated a small test area first to observe the effects. Then, they would have found out the consequences on a small scale. Which, in some cases may not be enough. I found an article from Discover magazine about the effects of Atrazine (one of the most widely used weed killers in agriculture today and used in over 80 countries) on frogs. Atrazine is made by Syngenta, a very prominent company when it comes to agriculture. Syngenta sold over $6.3 billion in crop-related chemicals and other products in 2001. With this large of a company, you can be sure the EPA and other government agencies are closely testing the chemicals Syngenta concocts. But with Atrazine, it’s a different story. Somehow, Atrazine passed all the testing and the EPA said that it could be present in drinking water at levels of three parts per billion before it was harmful only to find out it wasn’t as safe as they thought. It was found that this chemical, in very small amounts (less that one part per billion) changes the genetic makeup of frogs turning them into hermaphrodites. It changes the hormones produced in male frogs, making them grow female body parts. Think about that next time you take a drink from the water fountain.

Hermaphroditic Frogs

February 22, 2007

Gigantic Asteroid

In his speech “Environmentalism as Religion? Michael Crichton talks about the predictions that scientists have made in the past that turn out to be false. These predictions include running out of fossil fuels or natural resources and the prediction made that said half of the species on Earth will extinct by the year 2000. Obviously these predictions did not come true, but at the time they were made, the majority of the world believed them. Why did people believe this? Because it’s what they wanted to hear. Large companies always knew that burning fossil fuels is bad, but they didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it. Finally someone came along and said if humans continue with their current activities all the fossil fuel on the planet will be used up in X amount of years. Now all of a sudden everyone gets excited because the government gets involved. Now all of the large companies and corporations that have been using all the fossil fuels and polluting the environment have a little motivation to research alternative fuels and practices. That motivation is called money and it comes from the government in the form of grants. The fact of the matter is nobody in the world has any clue to how much oil is left in the Earth. All scientists can do is estimate how much is left using the knowledge they currently have and depending on how they estimate it, there is a wide range of possible answers. This same situation is true for any prediction someone makes about the future. The current prediction that everyone wants to know is how long it will be before the people of Earth are treading water because the ice caps have melted. The fact is nobody will ever know until it happens. There are so many events that can happen to even begin to make this prediction. I think people spend to much time worrying about the future than they do actually doing something about it. Who knows, maybe in ten years the Earth will be destroyed by a gigantic asteroid and all of the thing done to ensure the future will be nothing but a waste of time.


Fossil Fuels

February 8, 2007

HUMANS = ANTS

I like the way Lisa Couturier talks about how human civilization is very similar ant colonies. How the skyscrapers are like ant hills and the roads and highways are like little trails of ants out working. I don’t like it because it’s a new idea I heard and it sounds interesting. I like it because I think about this topic all the time. I think about how humans are just like drones. For most of our lives we go out every morning and do the same thing day after day.
If you compare a colony of ants to human civilization what do you see? You see hundreds of individuals all out doing there job. There are ants that build the intricate tunnels and hills just as humans have construction workers that build the network of roads and buildings. Ants have specialized individuals that do nothing but protect the colony just as we have a military to do our fighting. There are certain ants that do nothing but care for the queen and young larvae just as humans have doctors and nurses specialized in caring for others. Humans have farmers and ranchers to produce food for the communities just as ants have workers that gather food for the colony. The more I look at it, the more human civilization resembles that of an ant colony. Also, the more advanced human civilization gets and the more specialized people get in there jobs the more like ant colonies we become. Back in the day when a family lived by themselves and were self sufficient, they did every thing to survive on their own. They built their own homes and made their own tools. Then they lived in their home and used their tools to farm the land and raise animals for food. They had no need for anyone else and did not resemble a colony of ants at all. Now most people are specialized into one job and that’s the only thing they know how to do. Just like ants.

interesting link

February 1, 2007

Dillard's Blood

After reading “Heaven and Earth in Jest? I get the feeling that Annie Dillard is really in touch with nature. She doesn’t just like nature for the beauty or because it is a peaceful place to escape. I believe she loves nature for the spiritual experiences. She doesn’t just go for a walk in the woods to get away from civilization. She actually goes out and finds a peaceful place to sit. Then she just sits there and takes the nature in and absorbs everything there is to be seen or heard. I think this is why she is such a good nature writer; it lets her describe nature in such detail.
I also think that she doesn’t see death as an ending, but as a beginning for new life. She describes this when she writes about the frog and the giant water bug. Although she is saddened by the death of the frog, she sees that the death can lead to new life for the giant water bug. She explained this situation as one of the many mysterious happenings of nature that the average persons never get to experience. Another such event she writes about is when she sees the mockingbird play a sort of game. One where it falls four stories and right before it hits the ground, spreads its wings and glides gracefully floats into the grass. It’s these experiences that she has that really let her appreciate the full beauty of nature and because of this, she despises what humans have done to modify nature. I see this when she talks about the cows and how they are nothing but walking food. She talks about how the cows are engineered products developed by humans for nothing but food and shoes and how you can’t see though to a cow’s brain because there is too much beef fat behind their eyes.
Dillard has so many experiences with nature that she feels like it is her duty to inform the world of these. She says this when she talks about how she is the arrow of the Native Americans and the blood that drips from the arrow is her book that she writes and disperses though the world.

link

January 25, 2007

Thoreau = Social Outcast

Maybe Thoreau chose the woods as a place to live because he was fed up with the constraints of time and sick of the things people do to be a member of society. He was tired of all the hustle and bustle of the village and just wanted to get away from it all. By living in the woods, right along the side of nature, he was able to get away from the routine of life that people go though. He could eat, sleep, and work when ever he wanted to and nobody could tell him what to do. Maybe he wanted to find the true meaning of life and thought he could find it in nature. He might have thought that by living in nature he could get away from the routine of life; being born, getting an education, job, earn money so you can get married, have kids, and die. But did he really get away from this routine. I guess what I am trying to get at is nature is little more than a routine of life and death. Take a rabbit for example. A rabbit is born, raised to maturity by its parents, goes off on its own, finds a mate, makes babies, and finally dies. The same could be said about almost any specie that is found in nature. It’s all one big routine that cycles around and around until the end of time. And it’s not just living species that go through the cycle either. The Earth, Sun, Moon, and start go through the same cycle. It’s everywhere, there is no escaping it.
On the question of if I agree with Thoreau, I guess I do agree with some of his points. It is possible to get away from the hassles of society while living by one’s self in the woods. I’ve been on a lot of camping trips in my life. The ones where we would go out for two weeks with nothing but food, the clothes on our backs, and a few rolls of TP. They are a lot of fun. We ate when we were hungry and slept when we were tired. We never knew what time it was and did whatever we wanted. It would be a very easy way to live, but I don’t think that someone’s life would be complete by just living in the woods. I think it would take a lot more than that. Like a lot of sitting around and doing nothing but thinking. Maybe that is what Thoreau was doing. Or maybe he left town because he was a social outcast and the town folk chased him out. That’s the vibe I got after reading this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau in Wikipedia. Sounds to me like after he burnt down the forest and didn’t pay taxes for six years a lot of people didn’t like him. Oh well, tell me what you think.