All posts by burkba

The Decision Should Not Be Made by One Person

I had never heard the term “geo-engineering” before reading these two pieces. The prospect is frightening, because as  I read the article from the Atlantic, I thought geo-engineering seemed like such a great solution. The prospect of cooling the earth and preserving the climate the way it is now was so appealing, I didn’t stop to think about any consequences of geo-engineering methods until reading the excerpts from the book. It would be very easy for a wealthy individual to take the matter if climate change into their own hands without fully considering the repercussions of such drastic measures.

I think it was a smart move to keep the idea of geo-engineering out of the public eye for so long. As the book mentions, humans in developed countries are so comfortable, of course they would choose any alternate method of controlling carbon emissions and global temperatures over reducing their luxuries. I know personally it’s difficult to make sustainable, earth-friendly choices, and our society does not make it any easier. I lean with the Soterian view, to use the words of Hamilton. That being said, it is apparent that we are quickly reaching a point of no return, and large scale manipulation of the climate may be our only chance to preserve human culture. I hesitate to support geo-engineering however, because usually when people start to manipulate and become involved in natural processes other living beings suffer.

Whatever the final decision about geo-engineering is, it should be made collectively, with the support of as many nations as possible. Not everyone will agree, and for good reason some nations will oppose, but the more people on board the more effective the transition. I would only hope that in addition to geo-engineering, methods to cut down on carbon emissions continue to be funded and pursued. The politics behind climate change are so complicated, it makes me glad I am not in a position of power, having to make big decisions on the behalf of others.

Listening to In a Wild Sanctuary

I’ve been playing the clarinet for about ten years now. I play in a lot of musical groups on campus, and these chapters made me completely rethink the concept of music. The kind of music we make now is so refined, so edited, and we practice and rehearse to perfection. As much work that goes into an Oregon State Wind Ensemble concert, for example, is in a way nothing compared to the work that has gone into the soundscape of natural environments that has been changing and evolving for millions of years.

I especially like reading about the difference in sound of all the different oceans. Lots of weathering and wear went into making each coast sound unique. I tried to find some of the sounds that Krause refers to in this book, I would absolutely love if we could listen to some in class! I think I would understand the idea of differing soundscapes better if I could hear what he was talking about.

I’m listening to Beaver and Krause’s album In a Wild Sanctuary as I write this reflection. It’s really cool that I can hear some of the things he mentions in his book- like the sound of thunder, and the synthesizer that was so popular in the 60’s/70’s when it was being produced. I actually looked into buying a copy of the CD, but found that the cheapest I could find it for is about $100. I am curious as to why that is.

I think we can tie this piece back into the idea of the Anthropocene in terms of biodiversity. Many of these places that produce such spectacular sounds are in danger, and I think it’s important to protect and appreciate them while they’re still around.

Sorry this reflection was very scattered and had a lot of unconnected thoughts, but that’s what this writing provided for me. Multiple realizations and ideas came to me in a random order while reading this and thinking about music. It was very interesting to read.

Climate Justice as an Ad Campaign?

The first time I heard the phrase “climate justice” was in a 2015 Ben and Jerry’s ad campaign, which stressed the importance of the Paris Accord. Our world is clearly full of injustices, but I cannot think of a bigger injustice than millions of people losing their home and everything they have ever known because of the way people thousands of miles away live their lives. Especially because, in some cases, the people who will be affected have no idea that anything is changing, or that their culture is in danger. The picture below is the image of the Ben and Jerry’s campaign.

Ben & Jerry's talks about Climate Justice

Traditional ecological knowledge is a vital and deep rooted part of many cultures, and as described in the context of the 2004 tsunami, it is invaluable knowledge passed down through generations. It can help with hunting, agricultural practices, and avoiding storms, in addition to the cultural significance the knowledge holds. It is tragic that this cultural knowledge passed down for hundreds of years is rapidly becoming obsolete, as the climate changes, and weather and wildlife patterns change with the rising temperature. Without that long-established awareness of the environment around these communities, especially those in coastal cities and on islands, they won’t be able to anticipate the ever worsening storms and rising sea levels.

The theory behind expanding representation around climate policy is very interesting. I am a bit confused by this reading’s explanation of climate policy, but I would be very interested to learn more about it. Again, it seems unfair that the people who are being affected by climate change the most are not the ones causing it, and also don’t really get a say in how matters dealing to climate change are addressed and handled. I can only hope we can improve our political discourse.

Dystopian Society or Future Reality?

It is no secret to anyone that we live in a society of disparity, and as more and more crises related to the changing climate occur, that gap is only going to grow. We read dystopian fiction all the time- it has worked itself into all genres from young adult to science fiction. However, the point behind dystopian stories is that it imagines a future that we’ll never see, so it can be fun to imagine. In this short story, the dystopia is a likely reality, and it is terrifying to think that droughts on the level Paolo Bacigalupi describes are on their way. The United States has so many large cities built in deserts, and water will be the first resource to go.

In the story, Lolo and Annie are described as “water ticks,” and they’re only given any resources (in this case water and money) as long as they are useful to the wealthy elite down in California that are getting the water from the river. The thing that I found so interesting about this story is that the other tamarisk hunter, Travis, was a real estate agent before the drought started. In no world would he be considered in the lower classes of our society, but he ended up scrounging for water and other resources. He wasn’t wealthy or important enough to be part of the people who get to be part of California, where the water is being directed to. There would be so many other people who die of thirst, people who don’t have the resources a real estate agent would have in our society.

Another thing that I found interesting about this short story is the use of water as currency. It is a bit unrelated to the climate change part of the story and this class, but it is surprising to me that money is used at all during the crisis described. As people abandoned whole towns, looters went in and, I’m sure, took anything of value. When water is such a commodity and there are no stores left, only goods left over from a dying society, what value could money possibly have? I would definitely be interested in hearing more about Lolo’s story, if Paolo Bacigalupi was interested in writing more.

Positive Feedback Loops Can Be Dangerous

The most well recognized positive feedback loop in nature is probably the action of giving birth. Every response to a stimulus causes a reaction that produces more of the stimulus, and more of the reaction. The process becomes more and more intense until the baby is born, more hormones, more contractions, until an end goal is reached and the body returns to its equilibrium state. It seems that Co2 emissions on Earth are becoming a positive feedback loop- more CO2 emissions lead to more warming, which promotes glacial melting, which produces more CO2 emissions. More warming also promotes warmer soil and increased microbial growth, which in turn produces more CO2 emissions. Many factors are working together to compound the effects of CO2 emissions. It is alarming that we are close to the closing of “Stabilized Earth” as an option. If we keep letting things go the way they are now, its only going to keep compounding, and unlike a person giving birth, the Earth cannot easily return to its equilibrium state after the end goal, because there is no end goal. The planet will just keep warming.

What I don’t seem to understand is why people choose not to listen to experts when it comes to a rising average temperature on the planet. We listen to experts in so many other situations- we listen to doctors, and experts on the stock market, but when it comes to climate change as a whole society seems to be ignoring the authorities on the subject. It is also unfair that those who contribute to climate change the least will be the most affected by it. Climate vulnerable communities are not those who are causing the rise in temperature. I think it is important for every citizen to know the impact they have on this planet and all the people on it. Unless we can band together as a species very soon it might be too late. Individuals can do their best to reduce their personal emissions, but it really needs to be a government decision to make drastic policy changes when it comes to carbon emissions.

Image result for map of climate vulnerability

Going Against Social Norms is Hard!

I fully understand that eating meat is bad for the environment. I know it’s not the best thing for my health. I know I could be making better choices. However, living a meat-free life is harder than one would imagine. Meat is a great source of protein, and as a person with an iron deficiency meat is often the best way to get the nutrients I need. Going meat-free is a lifestyle I would definitely be interested in, but it is a difficult path, or at least that’s the way I perceive it as a person who eats meat. I am also definitely biased as a meat eating person, but there are ways to raise animals for food products that does not involve their pain and suffering, and this article ignored all farming techniques where that is the case- they say all animals suffer.

In addition, this article uses the word “murder” quite often. I am not sure how I feel about animals as sentient beings and if we are morally obligated to not kill them. For example, the article compared killing and eating other humans to killing animals. I am not sure I’d draw that same connection. I agree with the ideas of the article: we should eat less meat because it is better for us and it is better for the environment and it is better for the animals. I just don’t think calling people who eat meat murderers is the best way to get them to stop eating meat. I think a better way to go about it is to perhaps politicize the matter more by placing taxes, or something similar, on meat consumption. It has been done before on soda, something similar could probably be done for meat. Another method could be treating meat similar to cigarettes- run media campaigns that warn against the dangers of eating meat (bad for the environment, increased likelihood of obesity, etc.) to convince people that eating meat should be lessened. Berating people for doing it is only going to make them more resistant to stop eating meat. People generally don’t like being told what to do, especially if it’s to stop doing something they enjoy.

Overall, I think the article has a good thought behind it, I just don’t think presenting ideas on meat eating in this way is the most efficient way to achieve a goal of our country eating less animal products- whatever the underlying motivation may be.

Nature, or Religion?

When reading these 22 theses on nature, I can’t help but think of Martin Luther’s 95 theses on religion, both because of the name, and loosely because of content. The way the author of these 22 theses describes nature is spiritual. Saying nature is “all encompassing,” “simply given,” and “radically open,” is not usually a way in which we think about nature. The first thesis implores the importance of considering humans to be a part of nature, and nature as being a part of humans, especially in our anthropocentric age of climate change and general destruction of the planet. Perhaps if more people thought about nature with the same reverence and respect people grant their religions, we would be more prone to take care of our planet.

The sections on perception are particularly resonant with the idea of nature as a spiritual entity. All things surrounding us change us, at least in small ways. The same feelings of awe and connection many people feel while out in natural spaces could be described similarly to religious connections people experience. The author of these theses, however, in a way argues that those feelings of connection need to be felt even in areas that humans have heavily impacted. We are part of nature, and cannot be without it, so by extension our communities and human inventions should be revered as natural. It is because of this we must change the ways the human parts of nature effect all other parts. There should be no separation, and the way we currently live our lives brings about that separation.

This article brings up an interesting point about nature: we are just a small part of it. Nature is “all encompassing,” as the theses describe, so it will go on once we are gone. Any harm to nature will eventually be repaired, but it is not likely that humans will be there to see it. Nature will go on without us. It is much more resilient and flexible than humans are.

It Sure Seems Great in Theory

Is degrowth the only way to save our planet from the effects of climate change? I don’t know. Would it help negate the consequences of our materialistic world? Absolutely. But is it practical? I just don’t see it. I personally love the idea of degrowth in theory, but when thinking about it further, when realizing all the benefits of this “growth centered society” and all its capitalist  comforts would essentially be lost in a degrowth society, my brain gives me pause. Specialization and division of labor is a cornerstone belief of all heavily industrialized societies, like the one we live in in this country. I love the fact that someone else has specialized in agriculture and food preparation so I don’t have to. Going back to a self sustainable economy is an admirable goal to have, but spreading it to the general population will be more easily said than done.

The main problem I see with the degrowth movement is in its implication. In order to truly convince citizens that this is the way to save our future, small steps into these “grassroots nowtopias” the authors of this week’s reading describe will have to be taken, and at the rate the climate is changing, I do not know if we have time for the small steps to be taken. However, that same thing could be said about any movement looking to make radical change. I just know persuading our culture to give up so many of the comforts and conveniences of modern capitalist life will not be a painless endeavor. This is especially the case with a lot of the political ideals proposed by the degrowth movement, such as a wage ceiling, or a living wage. Humans as a whole do not like change, and a movement to such “radical” beliefs by our standards may not go over well, especially among those who are “successful” by the capitalist standards described in the reading.

I’m not sure if the world is ready for the commencement of a degrowth society, but for the sake of our future, I hope we are. Or at the very least, leaders of the movement can implicate it in a digestible way for the general human population.  I fear though, like with every utopian society, it sounds better in practice than it will actually transpire in reality.

Image result for degrowth


But Aren’t Humans Special?

There is not a doubt in my mind that there is something unique about humans. Our ability to communicate, collaborate, and think deeply and profoundly about the world around us is astonishing. That being said, humans also have an unmatched capability to be selfish, ignorant, and greedy. Our range of abilities allows us to change the world around us in ways that are absolutely unprecedented on this planet in the past. Historically, our technological advancements have only benefitted us as humans. The industrial revolution may have improved the short-term quality of life for the people directly impacted by the technology, but now almost 200 years later we are seeing the down falls of that once cutting-edge technology. This week’s reading pieces were interesting, because while Lynn While essentially blames advances in technology for our destruction of the natural world, Pope Francis argues that only further advances in technology can work to reverse the damage. It is also very interesting that White’s essay urges people to abandon the Christian idea of human superiority, as that disregard for other life forms is the reason humans are now in the current climate crisis that we are in. The current Pope, the leader of one of the biggest Christian factions, is now stressing the importance of plants and animals not only for their benefit to humans, but also as individual lives. The views of the Christian faith seem to be evolving, at least a little bit. I think it is that ability to change our ways that makes humans so unique. We can consider the world around us, and actively work to change it. Hopefully this time we will be changing it for the bettering of all species- not just for our personal advancement. It is this ability to change that makes me hopeful for the future of this species and this planet. If any species can combat the current crisis, I believe it is humans. After all, isn’t it undeniable that humans are special?