April 26, 2007

The Essential Transformation

This week we're thinking about sustainability. Ridley and Low contest that in order to get people to adopt sustainable business and living practices we must appeal to their self-interest. This week I want you to consider whether we can get people to live sustainably by appealing to their better natures, or whether we need to provide some incentive or disincentive to create change. Or, would an appeal to both conscience and self-interest be our best bet? Why?
I believe the only way to make people to care about the environment is to appeal to their self interest as presented in the article. No body wants to change unless they have to. Businesses are concerned about profit, not the environment. And those who do change are put at a comparative disadvantage. The only way to regulate change is to enforce it through restrictions and incentives to be more environmentally friendly or face harsh consequences. I thought that the zer0-emission idea was ingenius. It said that people should strive towards no pollution, and anything above that would be counted against them. Although some businesses would have an almost impossible task of reaching this, they would try to get as close as possible for the sake of their business. The way we are going about change now is based on morals, which really isn't working.
I do believe that global warming will bring about enough consequences in the near future that we can link to it that we will finally change our mindset about the environment and preserving it.
A movement is neccessary. Here are things that I looked up that could make a HUGE difference if even a fair percentage of the population took part.
In your home

1. Recycle everything: newspapers, bottles and cans, aluminum foil, etc.
2. Don't use electrical appliances when you can easily do by hand, such as opening cans.
3. Use cold water in the washer whenever possible.
4. Re-use brown paper bags to line your trash can instead of plastic bags. Re-use bread bags and produce bags.
5. Store food in re-usable containers.
6. Save wire hangers and return them to the dry cleaners.
7. Donate used items to a charitable organization or thrift shop.
8. Don't leave water running needlessly.
9. Turn your heat down, and wear a sweater.
10. Turn off the lights, TV, or other electrical appliances when you are out of a room.
11. Flush the toilet less often.
12. Turn down the heat and turn off the water heater before you leave for vacation.

In the yard

14. Start a compost pile.
15. Put up birdfeeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths.
16. Pull weeds instead of using herbicides.
17. Use only organic fertilizers.
18. Compost your leaves and yard debris, or take them to a yard debris recycler.
19. Take extra plastic and rubber pots back to the nursery.
20. Plant short, dense shrubs close to your home's foundation to help insulate your home against cold.

In the car

22. Keep your car tuned up and your oil changed.
23. Carpool, if possible.
24. Use public transit whenever possible.
25. On weekends, ride your bike or walk instead.
26. Buy a car that is more fuel-efficient and produces lower emissions.
27. Recycle your engine oil.
28. Keep your tires properly inflated.
29. Keep your wheels properly aligned.
30. Save trash and dispose of it at a rest stop.

At the store


37. Avoid buying food or products packaged in plastic or styrofoam containers since they cannot be recycled.
38. Think twice about buying "disposable" products. (They end up in landfills.)
39. Buy paper products instead of plastic if you must buy "disposables."
40. Buy energy-efficient appliancess.
41. Don't buy products, such as styrofoam, that are hazardous to the environment or manufactured at the expense of important habitats such as rainforests.
42. Buy locally grown food and locally made products when possible.
43. Don't buy products made from endangered animals.

Not all of these need to apply to you immediately, but once we just start thinking about it, it will make a difference!

April 19, 2007

Gender and Nature

This week you should consider Terry Tempest Williams’ discussion with Sandy Lopez regarding the relationship of women and the land (page 83/10). Williams and her friend discuss how the both the bodies of women and the body of the earth have been mined, how men subjugate women and nature because they’ve lost intimacy with themselves. What do you make of the conversation between Tempest Willams and Lopez? Do you agree that there’s a connection between the way women and the land are treated? Do you think that a culture of domination is part of the problem when it comes to environmental abuses?

This is a tough subject to present a non-biased argument to. In our culture, men are encouraged to ignore their emotions in order to be protrayed as more dominant since they don't project their feelings. These are age-old techniques from nature itself to ultimately attract a mate and compete with members of the same sex. For example, men from around the world compete for social dominance and cultural success. It is a matter of cultural domination. In reality, what other option is there for man? You either fight or you lose. It is human nature to want to be better than your opponents and show your dominance. This is the very idea behind sports. From a young child, you are thrown into the competitive human nature and raised to want to win. Of course, you can believe that losing isn't all that bad, but in the end winning is a much better feeling. So we strive to win, we train and focus on victory. I think it is safe to say that athletes are more popular in society. And no, it doesn't end after high school. It is the same in college and the pros. Everyone wants to meet the WINNING athletes, the successful ones, which in turn are the POPULAR ones. And what is it that drives us to love these athletes? It's human nature.
Now, to address the main question at hand. This culture of domination has driven us to treat the land the same way which is what I believe is making it so hard for us to change our ways. It may be gender specific, but that is only due to the evolution of humans which has put men in this more dominant position. Most executive positions are held by males (this is not a stereotype, it is a fact). All the presidents of the United States have been males and most the leaders and presidents around the world are male. Why? Because our age-old human nature has deteremined the male is the dominant figure and the female the caretaker. Is this a problem? Yes and no. I think we are indeed making changes, and with the vast knowledge humanity is obtaining, I think eventually, and quite soon, we will value nature much more than we do now.

April 12, 2007

"That Special Place"

I will always have my cabin up north as a getaway from the hectic life style I can tend to work myself into. The three-and-a-half hour drive slowly weeds out the large industrial buildings and fast food joints and works the landscape into a lively wilderness. The final towns are quiet and small with locally owned businesses. I feel free. I would consider the old rambler that we call a cabin more of a shack really. Built in the 1930's during the Great Depression, it has little to brag about apart from priceless memories. The cabin lies nestled in between about 500 feet of land between two lakes. One is basically disgusting which we only use to hunt on in the fall. The other is a nice peaceful lake which I've rarely seen more than two boats on at a time. A narrow dirt road is the only connection back to civilization. The layout of the cabin is simple and includes a porch, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and lounging area. Surprisingly though, it can sleep at least 10. After you mess around with the medieval pump and the outdated electrical system, you might be lucky enough to have running water and electricity. We open all the windows to let the summer breeze stream through the cabin. My dad inspects the boat and pump and starts any necessary repairs. My dog and youngest brother are already in the water. I decide I'll lay on the hammock and decide if I should fish or water-ski first. In any case, I'm set to relax. It's amazing how little I can do in a day up north yet value it more than any productive day back in the cities. My only real concern is how much time I have before we need to go back.
The family bonding is another thing I love about the cabin. My grandparents have another cabin close by which is much more suitable to live in for longer periods of time (they usually stay the entire summer when they can.) This allows many of my other relatives to come up and stay too. Once nighttime rolls around the drinks start flowing alongside a big fire with maybe some old records going on in the background. I wish I could record some of those conversations. The humor is absolutely to die for. There are basically three levels of thought: the elders, the adults and the children. When they all clash, it's the perfect combination. I'll go in to grab a bite to eat and by the time I get back out my grandpa demonstrating how to properly block in football with my brother. Mind you my grandpa is pushing 80. You just never know what to expect and that is why I love it.
When I go up north with friends, it's a whole different story, and I must admit I would take a trip up with the family any day over a party weekend with friends. I don't know what anyone reading this would comment on.... I hope you have a similar getaway.

April 6, 2007

Sigurd Olson suggests that we require a connection with the natural world in order to maintain our balance. He states that human happiness and human dignity depend on our ability to maintain natural spaces and our connection to them. Do you agree with Olson? Why or why not?

The question really comes down to what you value in life. For many people, this is different. Some people might love the city environment, and others might preach that we can't live without nature. Where the problem arises, as with most environmental issues, is where the global consesus should lie. It seems morally right to preserve the environment, which makes sense since we need it for our survival. Once we cross the threshold from survival to enjoyment and connection, matters become problematic.
Once we realise that we need to preserve the environment, the next question is to what extent? There are many different levels of course, all of these relating back to our values. I personally think that a great deal of natural spaces need to be preserved alogn with our connection with them. We can create these superficial parks and overpopulated real-estate lakes, but people need more than that in my mind. So in this sense I agree with Olson, and I'll tell you why.
For anyone reading this, I'm assuming that you are within the realm of the industrial revolution. This was a great time for mankind no doubt, but in our drive for a dominating economy in the US, we tended to neglect the very thing that was keeping us happy; nature. Now, at this time, there was plenty of space, and even with surging industry, nature was plentiful. This is not the case today. As we ride the exponetial population curve, urban communities are growing more and more into cities. You'll never hear a case about nature over running a town, but you sure as heck will hear countless stories along the lines of when your elders drove on this same stretch of road, it was "dirt and only one gas station at the corner." Now it may have a strip mall, various fast food restaurants and a booming residential community looking for that break from the city life. Well there seems to be no limit to the reach of the city. It is spreading across America to accomodate our growing demands for resources, living space and industry.
It is time to set our values straight and figure out what truely makes us happy. If the environment falls under that category, then maybe it would be in our best interest to start preserving it or laying down some set of "city-limits". Another problem I really think we at least need to start considering is the population. Once the earth reaches its peak (in 2050 or whenever they estimate) humans will be fighting over the last of the resources on earth which will result in enormous conflicts. The world market will become so corrupt that war is almost inevitable as countries do everything in their will to obtain the resources to feed their dying economy. I guess I kind of ranted on to doomsday there, but my main point is that nature preservation should be valued much higher than what it is currently!

March 29, 2007

Me? Save the Earth?

We've talked in class about corporate pollution, but we haven't really discussed the impact we have on the environment as individuals. This week, I'd like you to think a bit about your own environmental impact. What things do you do every day, what activities do you engage in, what products do you consume, which have an impact on the environment? Are you willing to alter your behavior--drive less often, consume fewer products--in order to live more lightly on the land? Why or why not?

It is easy to write papers, debate in class and theorize a million things that we are doing wrong to the environment, but how easy is it for us to actually change our own way of life? Of course, this should be the first step in any global effort to be more eco-friendly. Even though a huge coal power plant is going to do a lot more damage to the atmosphere than you, if there were maybe a city-wide campaigne to be smart about our transportation and watch our pollution, then we would be making a difference. Personally, I really don't want to commit to a different more eco-friendly lifestyle. I know it's the right thing to do, but I'm sure, like most other people, it isn't easy to abide by all these restrictions. When you don't worry about your impacts on the environment, you live a much more comfortable lifestyle. Our economy in the US is geared toward a capitalist market. This leaves little room to consider our environmental consequences.
Take the current trend to more fuel-efficient cars in the US. Are you really buying a hybrid because you want to save the world or is it because it gets good gas milage and gas prices are kind of high now. Certainly, you can be classified under the group that cares about air pollution, but that is only by default. I can almost guarentee that hybrids would almost be off the entire market if gas prices had taken a turn for cheaper rather than more expensive back in about fall of 2001.
Our relationship with the environment is for comfort, not conservation. People go to their cabins with screen windows and a plumbing system. You aren't really exposing yourself to the wilderness, you are just retreating from your busy life style. And you sure as heck aren't going to worry about how much gas your ski-doo is burning, or that small bag of trash you left at the campfire. As I've said before, it only once we start seeing dramatic consequences that are directly linked to our old habbits of being sloppy with our pollution that we will finally change our ways...

March 22, 2007

Planet Earth for the Taking

The essays by Carson, Moore, and Boyle all raise questions about our need to “accommodate ourselves to this planet.? Based on the readings for this week, do you believe we need to do more to respect the “principles by which nature works?? Refer to at least one of these readings in your response.

As we go about our daily lives so entranced in our own little world, we very seldom think about our relationship with nature. Carson brings up an interesting argument with the farming industry and how we rooted a pesticide problem long ago which has just amplified with time. This is a good example of us not understanding the principles of nature.
It all comes down to science. Our great knowledge from the works of Darwin and others let's us realize that when you introduce a poison into a habitat, survival of the fittest will weed out the weak. This leaves the few lucky random gene mutations that are resistant to the chemicals to survive and flourish. The only way we know how to fight this is to use more and more potent chemicals to irradiate the insects only to buy a little time before the next wave swarms in. IT was mentioned by Moore, I believe, that we were probably better off not even using pesticides in the first place at all since we have just created an even worse problem.
As we "accommodate ourselves to the planet" we need to obviously be worried about our survival. In this case, we are worried about the food supply. It is similar to most other problems in the economy where we don't seem to deal with them until the effects are already under way. Personally, I think the answer to this problem is bio-engineered products that take advantage of the genetics of both the insects and the plants. The whole reason that everything went bad in the first place was because of the genes, so I say fight genes with genes. This seems vague, but it seems like the only way out. Some might argue that you can't manipulate nature, it will only get you in the end. To them, I say that is what HAS been happening in the past since we had a shallow understanding. With the new and constantly growing bank of knowledge with genetic engineering and fundamentals of nature, I think we can overcome this almost century-old problem.
In the mean time, if we are going to get crazy about how we are destroying the environment, we should first focus our efforts on something more relevant like global warming...

March 8, 2007

Global Warming is Real

It is evident that the world is warming up. This should be a global concern, because with rising temperatures there are: Heat waves and periods of unseasonably warm weather, Ocean warming, sea-level rising and coastal flooding, Glaciers melting, and Arctic and Antarctic warming.
Without proper control, these factors will continue to grow and devastate civilization around the earth. On top of this, other factors will be triggered by these. They include Spreading of Diseases, Earlier Spring arrival, Plant and Animal range shifts and population changes, Coral reef bleaching, More potent weather patterns brought on from a rising temperature in El Nino, and Droughts and fires. The factors presented are worth taking immediate action on before matters get any worse. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology and other practical solutions already at our disposal. Climate is an important part of any country’s identity. It governs not simply the geography, but other factors very political in nature, like the economy. For example, countries that are in desert areas are less likely to be major timber manufacturers than countries with forests. If the climate of a region were to suddenly change, the countries in that region would be affected tremendously in all forms. If the climate of the United States’ Midwest were to become very hot and dry, without rainfall for all the crops in the region, then the agricultural strength of the United States would be diminished, causing a huge economic backlash, not just on the United States, but on the world as well.
If one was to consider the economic impact of climate change, they would know sudden climate change is a big deal. But another aspect of what a sudden climate change would affect is politics of countries. Governments of all countries are responsible for the well-being of their countries. If the government comes into contact with scientists with evidence that climate may change, thus changing the well-being of a country in all its aspects, the subject can become extremely political.
This information is from my research paper for a freshman seminar on global warming first semester. We talked about the opposition for a good portion of time, which is dominated by the loner Richard Lindzen. Although there may be natural cyclical patterns in the earth's climate, there is no doubt that humans are contributing to the global warming. Since we can't alter these natural climate cycles, we should do what we CAN do and reduce our emissions.

March 1, 2007

Grizzly Man

Grizzly man. Where do I begin. It's hard to choose a staring point when so many emotions are displayed in such a short time. We start with humor and seriousness at the same time to show a man's love for his work in the introduction. Immediately, the audience is presented with an interesting, out of the ordinary character trying to decide if he is likeable or maybe a wacko. Then we are told in a greater depth about his work; how he tours schools and presents his work free of charge, how he founded Grizzly People (can't remember if that is correct) and works to protect the grizzly bears. The movie takes a tragic turn when you are told about his death. You only start to assume that it was a bear and pray that the ironic event didn't take place. You need to make the judgement for yourself, was he in the wrong for trying to force a connection with the bears and unfortunately bringing the girlfriend in with him? In the end, I think it is only nature going back to its equilibrium. As much as you want to see nature be gentle and bond with a nice human being who consistenly chants "I love you" its not how the wilderness works. Nature, in most contrast to our world, is survival of the fittest. Cute animals die everyday, it's a fact. There is nothing gentle about nature. The only way to connect with nature is with animals we can domesticate. Even in this sense, I wouldn't consider it being much in touch with nature. Once again, it's a forced connection, luckily the common dog and cat doesn't know any better and will love you no matter what. I guess the real point I'm trying to get at is that you can't force love in nature.

This was apparently the world's largest Grizzly Bear - 12'6" 1600lbs -
http://www.anomalies-unlimited.com/Odd%20Pics%202/Grizzly.html

February 23, 2007

Environmentalism as Religion

Just as Micheal Chricton points out, environmentalism lacks the nessessary facts to make it viable and not just based on beliefs. As humans, we naturally seek answers to fundemental questions such as: Why are we here? What is our soul? What happens to us when we die? Modern science cannot explain these phenomenon, but religion can indeed answer these questions. That is why humans choose to believe a certain religion, they want answers to what they cannot gain thru logic. Science can only explain what we've discovered so far; our realm of knowledge. A person would much rather believe there is salvation than comtemplate their existense their entire life. Now, I am certainly not saying that religion is wrong just, because science cannot disprove it... This leaves religion in the grey zone, the safety zone. This is where it creates conflicts with science and where the whole evolution vs creation debate came from. There really is no evidence for either, so either can be believed to be true. This comes back to the whole point that Michael started with: us distinguishing truth from reality. I think this is a cery good point to look into. Propaganda is another big factor. Someone can go ahead and say something that could be interesting or worth believing, but it is our choice to find the truth... Beyond any religion, science theory or even environmentalism, this is the key point behind everything.

February 8, 2007

Sight vs Mind

Seeing is presented as a theme to think about in Annie Dillard’s passage. When I normally think of sight, it’s just a sense, nothing more. Sight is a very dominant sense though. When people can’t see (in the dark) we are uncomfortable. Although Annie alludes to the sense of sight, the whole piece of writing is referring how seeing is more observing and understanding. Annie continually visits the feeling of wondering our place with nature and our inner self. She describes to great extent the life she observes in nature. The vocabulary she uses represents what she is actually seeing with her eyes. “Seeing us of course very much a matter of verbalization.? She is trying to make meaning of sight and look for some sort of pathway beyond sight, explaining life. Dillard talks about how writing is seeing. It is hard to visualize without words to describe to your mind what you are seeing. She wants us to learn to see using our mind and not just our eyes. A blind person from birth will never be able to experience this. If they were suddenly given sight, they wouldn’t be able to decipher between a circle or a car. They would be lost in what they believed what was true or what they gathered from their other senses while they were blind. They don’t have that crucial connection between sight and mind that creates the sensation that Dillard is talking about.
Here is a link to the world’s top blind golfer: http://www.happynews.com/news/12252005/israeli-is-worlds-top-blind-golfer.htm

February 1, 2007

Life in Everything?

In Dillard’s Heaven and Earth in Jest, I think there are a lot of interesting ideas thrown out there. One key event is the water bug sucking life from the fog. Most importantly, it is how it does it. It injects enzymes which break down the frog internally into a juice which can be devoured. Now as gruesome as this may seem, the way Dillard presented it, it makes the reader think of the spirit in existence. From our knowledge of it, whether it be Nature or God or whatever you think, this force which pours life into beings across the earth still remains a mystery. You can study biology and metabolism and think we know oh so much. I hope though, that I’m making sense in the fact that we really don’t know where this spirit of life is derived from. I find it amazing how we can take the biology of a living being and break them down into the same simple elements, each of which is not alive. Or is it? Does each atom contain its own sort of life? In this sense, than everything that has been devoured by living beings contains an enormous part of the past, one which is hard to fathom. It is like those food chains that we are all familiar with, but once it reaches the bottom it scatters to some random point, since it includes the time factor. Would it make sense that everything from the pass has its own living part in us? Dillard explains how we are far from reaching this knowledge even it if had some chance at being true.

Annie Dillard biography: http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~sparks/dillard/bio.htm

January 27, 2007

Routine...


Thoreau chose the woods as the place to conduct his experiment because to him, nature represents pure and real life. In the village, Thoreau fails to feel this sense of life making him retreat into the woods. The village tends to run your life into a routine as described vigorously by Thoreau in his writing. As an escape to this routine, Thoreau obviously picks the woods.
Once he enters the woods, he can truly appreciate life itself and reflect upon it. When he is surrounded by the clutter in the village, it seems he can only focus on how cliched everything is. Nature acts as his spiritual getaway from these thoughts, and even although this is a mental battle, the physical aspects of nature are a key factor. He brags about how the time flows and fishing on his river. He even claims that he is on Mount Olympus itself as if he were godlike. Thoreau makes many generalizations and deems nature as the purest form of life. Nature may help people relax, slow down, and think about what is really going on. It is easy to get into a routine and not think about what is actually going on in your life. It took my awhile to realize I was in college making big decisions impacting essentially the rest of my life. I can relate to Thoreau how our lives can get into an almost programmed state. You are raised to think you should go to college, get a good job, marry, raise kids, etc... The definition of a successful life has already been established before you can really find meaning in it for yourself; your own definition. Thoreau’s definition may simply be awareness and recognition or spiritually in touch. Routine is the most efficient way to get work done. Although retreating into the wilderness might promote creativity or broaden awareness, humanity can’t fit that into its busy schedule. Our species is constantly evolving, looking to learn and discover more. It is hard to accommodate reflection.
This is just some random link I found, can’t really vouch for it.
http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/thoreau/walden/