All posts by dacuse

Earth’s Future in Danger

“Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” written by Will Steffen and many others, explores four main questions about the future of our planet due to the current ecological crisis. The first inquires about a threshold of the Earth that if crossed, could lead to a destabilization in the range of increasing temperature, and the second asks where that threshold may be if one exists. The third takes this idea of a threshold further and investigates that if that threshold is crossed, what are some possible “implications […] for the wellbeing of human societies”, and the final query involves thinking about ways to prevent society from reaching the threshold and possibilities of maintaining “interglacial-like conditions”.

It was determined that a two-degree Celsius rise in temperature is the threshold for Earth and if it is crossed, could result in a Hothouse Earth with even higher temperatures and sea levels. If consistent efforts are not made to prevent this from happening and keep the Earth stabilized, then this is likely to be the result and increase the “risk that positive feedbacks could play an important role in determining the Earth System’s trajectory”, meaning that the Earth also has to learn to fight back against the environmental deterioration that is occurring and once the threshold is crossed.

The article emphasizes that the answer to avoiding the Earth crossing the irreversible threshold is that humanity needs to work towards a more cooperative relationship with the Earth and be less dominate. If this is not done, then the Earth may become “uncontrollable and dangerous” with increased “risks for health, economies, political stability” and “the habitability of the planet for humans”. For example, two major aspects of human life are under grave danger on the Hothouse Earth: “agricultural production and water supplies”.

Therefore, it is important that humanity recognizes and is educated on the risk of raising the Earth’s temperature by one more degree Celsius. Once everyone understands the dangers of the path of the current degradation of the planet, people will be more willing to work together towards the common goal of saving the Earth. This would result in humans being more supportive and respectful towards the Earth and hopefully stabilize the planet.

Truth in the Fiction?

“The Tamarisk Hunter” written by Paolo Bacigalupi explores an alternate story in which California is the only state in the United States that is not suffering from a water shortage. He destroys tamarisk in order to earn money as well as a water bounty.

Although this is climate-fiction, this is quite similar to what we are dealing with currently. The government shutting down the water bounty program, and therefore Lolo, the main protagonists, only way of earning an income as well as money to support himself and his wife, parallels with large cooperations ignoring how much impact that they personally have on the current climate crisis. For example, when companies remind individual people to regulate their carbon footprint while they are causing even more damage to the environment in comparison.

This story allows us to relate to the characters on a personal level and feel what they feel. Despite it being fiction, it assists in us being able to imagine the struggles that could result due to climate change without having to have to experience the issues to the extent as in the climate fiction. However, it may also cause some people allow the word “fiction” take over their thoughts on the matter and think that because the story is not equivalent to our reality, that it is impossible for the hardships exhibited in the text to be possible of happening.

Therefore, I believe that in order to get people to listen and therefore want to fight against the destruction of the natural world, there needs to be a way to connect to people on a personal level, through a novel in this case in which they can relate to the characters, while also maintaining a degree of nonfiction and portraying the risks of not working to prevent the deterioration of the environment as we know it.

Nature: The World’s First Source of Music

Both excerpts from The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause, and Soundscape – Tuning of the World by R. Murray Schafer exhibit similar thoughts on how the music is made up of the sounds in nature and our environment. However, Schafer expands on those thoughts and brings up the point that music is built off expressing one’s emotions.

Krause introduces sounds in nature as being the first music to have ever existed on Earth; water being the very first. He primarily discusses water and its deep roots in society from the beginning of time, to current studies on ocean life such as whale calls. I feel as though he wishes to convey that water is what links all life forms on Earth together. It is something we all have in common; we all need water in order to survive. He points out that although water is something that we all have in common, it sounds different and tells a different story anywhere you go in the world, or even the country. Water, and in turn nature, is therefore not only able to connect everyone, but provide a history to tell everyone who visits its shores.

Schafer on the other hand, although agreeing with nature being a part of music, also iterates that it can be created through emotion. He recognizes that music in Greek mythology had two sides: Athena versus Hermes. Athena creates a nomos due to her being so moved by the cries of Medusa’s sisters following her death, while Hermes constructed a lyre out of a turtle’s shell when he discovered that it could produce sound. The prior is music inspired by Athena’s feelings, and the latter utilizing logic and what was found around Hermes in nature. Schafer also points out that music is also capable of reflecting what is happening around us by mentioning that “vagaries of Richard Strauss are perfectly consistent with the waning of the […] Austro-Hungarian Empire” (Schafer 7) which bolsters his idea of emotion playing a significant part of composing music.

Geoengineering: Do the Pros Exceed the Cons?

To geoengineer, or to not geoengineer; that is the question. There are many pros and cons to possible solutions to climate change involving geoengineering. The real question is: do the pros outweigh the possible risks? I personally do not think that we should rely so heavily on the possibilities of geoengineering being successful.

I believe that the risks far exceed the possible success. The fact that the plans for fixing the environment could majorly backfire and cause even more damage than was already there originally is too big of a consequence to think about utilizing geoengineering techniques to prevent the destruction of our ecosystem. Geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert discloses that if, for example, sulfur aerosols were chosen to be the method of choice for reversing climate change, they “would cool the planet, but we’d risk calamity the moment we stopped pumping: the aerosols would rain down and years’ worth of accumulated carbon would make temperatures surge” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/07/re-engineering-the-earth/307552/) which would cause more harm than good and be worse for the planet than what it is currently suffering from today. 

Not to mention the fact that the nations would have to find a way to split the cost if the solution is to impact the entire planet, not just one country, or one continent. Although geoengineering solutions are cheap and affordable by a singular country, I feel that it is important that everyone share the cost if the method of choice is capable of affecting the whole world. This raises more questions: how should the cost be distributed? Should the region with the most blame for climate crisis pay for it? Should everyone pay the same amount? Should countries with a higher carbon footprint in relation to everyone else have to pay more than those with a smaller carbon footprint?

In all honesty, I feel as though geoengineering should be a last resort. The possible negative side effects should serve as motivation for people to find better solutions with the technology we have currently at our disposal. However, if awareness is not brought to those who support geoengineering as a primary method of fixing the destruction of the environment, then they will be less inspired to help the planet now and increase the risk for increased climate crisis.

Sustainability: Lost in Translation

“Sustainability”, from Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen explores how language barriers between different cultures has affected the current environmental dilemma. The United Nations has dedicated time to concoct plans for sustainability regarding the natural world, however this has caused some unintentional issues; an example being that the word “sustainability” does not directly translate to Spanish. In Spanish, it could potentially possess two different definitions: “to be maintained over time” or “a sense of being reasonable” (Maldonado, Meza, Yates-Doerr).

One of the problems that arises has to do with people assuming that the rest of the world understands the same words but, in reality, they do not. This results in the problem that if a group of people – a large population due to approximately 5.85% of the world’s population speaks Spanish (https://www.listsworld.com/top-10-languages-most-spoken-worldwide/) – does not understand a goal set forth by the United Nations. If this occurs, then the human race cannot cohesively work together towards the common outcome of restoring and sustaining the environment. It creates a split and is therefore more of a burden if everyone wanting to save the planet is not on the same page. Another issue this miscommunication causes as a result of the first is that this leads them to find different solutions to their common problem, which works against each other because of their different interpretations of the term “sustainability”. Opposing solutions become problems because the populations would not be working together to power one large fix to the obstacle, they instead, formulate smaller solutions and do not have a shared mindset.

However, if this hurdle were to be overcome, then we would still have to deal with consequences of modernity and its negative affluences it has had on the environment. Perhaps the question is not: what should we invent that could help sustain the environment? But instead, “what sustainable strategies could we find and repurpose for the current time period?” Advancing technology, while it can be extremely beneficial, can also be detrimental and why not find clean and renewable resources in the past that can also be used in the present day, as a woman named Doña Marta was able to utilize goat feces as fertilizer and their urine as an insecticide (Maldonado, Meza, Yates-Doerr).

Fixing the environmental deterioration needs to be a combination of teamwork between countries and therefore an understanding of possible roadblocks that could come with translation. In addition, being aware that the future is not always the best place to look to for solutions to this dilemma, we need to recognize the past as being a possibility too.

Lear and Plenty Coups: The Answers to Our Ecological Crisis

Allen Thompson’s article “Radical Hope for Living Well in a Warmer World”, explores the causes and possible solutions to our current ecological crisis. His main points rely heavily on Jonathan Lear’s opinions about consumerism and cultural change as well as his thoughts about Plenty Coups, the final chief of the Crow Nation he writes about in his book, The Radical Hope. Thompson utilizes these this information in order to further his claim about how the future needs to be supported by humans possessing resolve in living with lower standards of living to support the changes necessary to assist in solving our current ecological issues.

Lear places a lot of blame of the current damage on our ecosystem on the Industrial Revolution, and in turn, consumerism. The Industrial Revolution gave way to people expecting more from life and raising the standard of living through the advancement of technology which resulted in people’s need for more products increasing due to consumerism. This leads to Lear’s point that “Homo sapiens have been exploiting carbon-based form of energy throughout history, as relentlessly as existing technologies would permit” (Thompson 3) and have therefore largely increased the world’s carbon footprint over the years. An increased carbon-footprint has caused damage to the atmosphere that, without any solution, will cause irreversible damage. This can be solved however, by future generations creating new ways of creating clean sources of renewable energy. This new way of thinking is critical but will create cultural changes and new ways of thinking.

Lear also brings up Plenty Coups, who was the last chief of Crow Nation. He praises him for the leadership strategies he enacted through the Crow Tribe’s time of cultural devastation. The Crow tribe’s way of life became out of the question. These people were not only threatened by nearby tribes, but more severely, the European settlers. According to Lear, Plenty Coups illustrated a radical hope of overcoming these setbacks through encouraging his people to be more courageous and prideful to be who they were and to ultimately have hope to a better future.

Thompson combines both aforementioned ideas and concludes that we need to recognize the impending destruction that could be wrought on our environment in order to not end up devastated like the Crows. In order to do that, we need to develop a different mindset; one that does not rely so heavily on consumerism and more so on reducing our standards of living in order to make the reductions necessary to decrease our carbon-footprint. With both points in mind, Thompson hopes that humans can find the resolve they so desperately need to prevent further damage to the ecosystem and to themselves.

Mistreatment of Humans and Land: The Causes of Our Ecologic Crisis

In Kathryn Yusoff’s first chapter of her book A Billion Black Anthropocene’s or None, she addresses geology as well as how racism in colonial times, has negatively impacted the Earth today; her primary argument is that black and brown peoples being treated as inhuman has resulted in the current population treating their environment inhumanely. However, to be frank, I feel as though I only understand the basics of Yusoff’s work despite reading and re-reading over sections multiple times.

Yusoff goes into deeper detail of justifying her claim by utilizing slavery of African Americans as a prime example of the mistreatment of “inhuman objects”. She iterates that the mistreatment and domination of an entire population through slavery has influenced others’ mindsets of believing that they are not only able to, but also encouraged to subjugate inanimate objects or other beings to whatever treatment they deem reasonable. Another example of this being when Christopher Columbus first discovered the Americas. Although it wasn’t African Americans being taken advantage of, he forcibly took control of the Native American population that he came upon due to him viewing them as weak and savage. As a result of this misguided mindset, he enslaved the natives and forced them to find and excavate gold, and when they didn’t fulfill their quota, he often severed off their hands as punishment. This act of extorting both the native peoples and the land supports Yusoff’s claim of geologic and racial issues being the stem of the current environmental deterioration attributable to the people in these examples possessing self-righteous mentalities.

This common mindset relates to the poor treatment and current ecological crisis by the past ill treatment of land while being colonized by the Americans. For example, during the 1800s, Americans killed millions of bison, nearly wiping out an entire species which would’ve severely damaged the ecosystem if preventive efforts hadn’t been made by President Roosevelt. This was largely the cause of hunting for sport, however this also occurred because of the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad. Both elements were committed purposefully and with full knowledge of what negative outcomes could come out of them emphasizing the selfish and tunnel-vision perspectives that the Americans had while trying to attain their goals.

All in all, Yusoff explains that geologic and racial factors in the past have negatively influenced the modern world. Hopefully, by bringing awareness to these possible contributions to the damaged environment we have today, people will be able to prevent any further damage from happening as well as possibly finding a way to reverse the current level of destruction.

Man: The Master or Caretaker of Nature

Both Lynn White Jr. and Pope Francesco have extremely passionate views on the ecological dilemma that the world faces today. However, they differ vastly and are complete opposites to one another when it comes to the solution to this issue. While White believes that religion, or more specifically Christianity, is to blame, the current Pope is convinced that religion is the answer.

White thinks that threats of the destruction of our ecosystem wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the creation of the Christian religion. He argues that the belief that God created the Earth: Adam and Eve, and then animals, has led humans to determine that they are more important than nature and are therefore nature’s masters. He justifies his claim by explaining that many great inventors, mathematicians, physicists, have all utilized religion as their reasoning as to why they worked so tirelessly to create new technology, theories, etcetera. So, although technology played a vital part in the disruption and damage to our planet, White still insists that the underlying cause was Christianity and people’s goals to please God.

Pope Francesco on the other hand, is adamant that religion is what will save the ecosystem. He not only thought it vital to clarify that maiming, disrespecting, and destroying the Earth are sins, but also reinforcing the idea that humans are a part of nature and as a result, have a duty to protect and take care of the natural world. He refers to the Earth as a “sister” to solidify his point and appeal to people’s emotional connections to family due to his whole aim being based on uniting people as one through common beliefs, while also spreading awareness to the ignorant of the crisis in order to combat the current issue plaguing the world.

At one pole, you have someone declaring that Christianity is the sole purpose of ecological despair, but on the other, you have a Christian leader declaring the opposite. I personally don’t believe either due to a lack of connection to any sort of religion and therefore see no problem or solution in religious views; which leads me to think about what the actual reason for the obstacles that nature is facing today and whether the cause is because of humans or some other greater idea that hasn’t yet been discovered or discussed.