All posts by haydenm

Singing Shrimp may win the next, “America’s Got Talent”

In The Great Animal Orchestra, Bernie Krause writes, “Pound for pound, one of the loudest organisms in the animal kingdom is, oddly enough, the inch-and-a-half-long snapping shrimp”.  He notes, “It (The shrimp) generates a signal (sound) with its large claw that can meet or exceed 200 dB underwater—a sound pressure level equivalent to around 165 dB in air”.  The decibel output of the shrimp is so great, it can be compared to that of a symphony orchestra, which is known to generate up to around 110 dBA.  And when compared to the decibel output of a screaming human, the shrimp still measures 48 dBA greater.  In a final comparison, Krause explains the true incredulity of the feat this “inch-and-a-half-long snapping shrimp” is able to accomplish.  Few other natural sounds generated in air—negating a volcanic eruption or crack of thunder— hold the potential to cause hearing damage.

To me this is truly amazing.  I may live my whole life without seeing this shrimp.  But thanks to people like Krause, I may not lose the ability to witness the soundscape this incredible shrimp creates each and every day.  While this shrimp lives day in and day out underwater, subjecting the marine life around it to the resonating snap of its claw, ground dwellers are ignorant to its song.

In summation to the artfully written chapter, Sound as My Mentor, I feel Krause conveyed a  strong urgency for us all to increase our appreciation for a medium we do not see.  “(Sound) plays a key role in the ways societies express themselves; it is fundamental to the collective voice of the natural world, to music, and to acoustic notes of all kinds”.  And from what I gather, the sounds which we don’t hear could be our biggest loss.  My question however, is how do you get people to stop and listen? And if we all do take brief moments to appreciate the sounds and breath of nature, how do we take the next step to protect each sound and maintain the nature of Earth’s ecosystem?

“The fourth major sound property, acoustic envelope, determines the shape and texture of a sound through time”.  With that in mind, what will the acoustic envelope of the Anthropocene be?  I hope the final notes are anything but silent.

The Loss of A Culture

Imagine feeling that you have been wiped off the map.  I can’t.  Reading Robert Figueroa’s Indigenous Peoples and Cultural Losses, I have never felt more blissfully ignorant of my sense of entitlement.  While recent political changes have made me question if the land I’m standing on will be destroyed with nuclear warfare by a break in mutual agreements such as the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, I’ve never considered the loss of my culture due to human-based climate change.  I’ve thought about the impending loss of coastal cities in America and Europe, I’ve read about small Pacific islands wiped out from record-setting hurricanes, but I can’t say until now that I’ve ever considered a culture feeling invalidated from the loss of their land not by warfare, but by blatant disregard of the rate of climate change.

Across the globe, there are communities which persist despite the lack of awareness by others that they exist, and their indigenous lands are threatened.  in Figueroa’s text, a Kiwi woman explains, “…I’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m from Tuvalu.’  They’ll say, ‘and where’s that?’ What shall I say, ‘oh, it has disappeared or submerged under the sea because of global warming?’ So, like that’s our identity, or culture.  Everything will disappear…Definitely its going to be really hard for us to accept that we’re no longer on the map.” in other words, “Where goes the environment, so goes the culture”.  And, “Ecopsyhcologists regard this complete shift of environmental identity by loss of place to be a form of post-traumatic stress disorder”.

Nevertheless, despite the call to arms and awareness that Figueroa established, I’m left concerned with whether others can feel empathy towards strangers’ causes.  The most pressing question which stands is: How can we provide climate justice if we have yet to offer cultural justice?  Throughout the world, indigenous communities continue to be threatened, exploited, and disadvantaged.  They are disproportionately represented, yet they arguably have the most to lose.  They support a culture which remains deeply rooted in a bond with nature and the land upon which they exist and respect.  Meanwhile entire communities living in cities operate on a sense of entitlement and ignorance that the land does and always will provide for them.  That other people will always consider taking care of the land and producing food because that is their job.  It is only one part of the issue, but for as long as we disassociate ourselves from one another and from the Earth.  As long as we attribute taking care of the land to farmers and people close to the earth–people with few resources and connections to do so–the climate will continue to fail.  The proposal to change the nature with which climate is treated requires a shift in thinking from mainstream cultures, and an effort to reintegrate a respect for the world and the resources all around us into the anthropocene cultures of today.


Cast Away 2: Over Dry Land

In Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Tamarisk Hunter, the fictional world blends with an imagination of a future yet to come.  A world where natural resources are rationed, and have become a display of wealth for the rich, and forms of payment to the less fortunate.

The protagonist of the story, Lolo, and his partner, Annie, are known as “water ticks”.  They represent a remaining population which survives day-to-day hunting tamarisks in exchange for water.  Each day, “Pouring water into Maggie’s trough, and looking around at his dusty patch with Annie out in the fields, Lolo reminds himself how lucky he is.  He hasn’t blown away.”  Lolo spends his day in search of tamarisk to sell to the government in exchange for water, so that he and Annie can water their crops, and survive in the barren lands outside of California.  The concept of the future world Lolo and Annie persist in seems all too near to where our world may head considering our Earth’s current critical trajectory.

In our modern century, each day brings further warming to Earth’s surfaces, in turn rapidly evolving the ecology of the land where humanity presides.  For Lolo and Annie, a further progression of our Earth’s current state is presumed.  The ecology of the poles has developed to better produce crops, while the rangelands and farmlands have become dust bowls.  Water has remained a constant for the wealthy, but has become a luxury to the lower and middle classes.  Overall, I found the idea of this story to be inline with a possible future for humanity.  The interesting, but unsurprising footnotes for me were: the extent of government control over natural resources, the yet uneven distribution among the population of said natural resources, and the exploitation of the government laws to survive freely, and the ever pertinent belief that the Earth’s period of crisis will soon end.

Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?

In Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, the authors explore the risk of a Hothouse Earth Pathway.  “The Anthropocene represents the beginning of a very rapid human-driven trajectory of the Earth System away from the glacial-interglacial limit cycle toward new, hotter climatic conditions and a profoundly different biosphere.”  Their analysis concerns the current state of the Earth System, the trajectory of the System in the past, the potential to change the magnitude and direction of the System, and the threshold when the energy required to redirect is no longer feasible to create.

This in mind, I found their examination of the biogeophysical feedback process within the Earth System, opened my mind to understand the ecological crisis as a negative feedback loop.  They address the System to be coupled with direct human degradation of the biosphere in a manner which is so deterministic, the range of potential future trajectories is greatly limited.  In other terms, the present state of the Earth System allows for a high probability of the elimination of immediate trajectories, and assumes a low potential for any near future reversibility.  In addition, the goal of the Earth System should be “stability”.  Where stability is defined as the inverse of the potential energy of the system, and the Earth System should strive to reach an unstable state, or high potential.

Overall, I truly appreciated the unique perspective on our ecological crisis from the standpoint of physics.  The concern for feedback loops, external forces, thresholds, and the interpretation of Earth as a complex ‘Earth System’ really intrigued me.  I hope such a rational perspective and grounded analysis can reach more individuals in an effort to reroute our societies.  The Anthropocene may have dawned as a grim era, but it can still evolve to take a new direction.  My only concern is that our time to put enough vectors in place to redirect ourselves will not be enough.  I hope we don’t let it pass us by.

Fish are friends, not food.

Choices are important.  They represent our sense of freedom, and provide many in Western cultures a feeling of antiquated autonomy from some of the few required political taxations, such as those on luxury items, liquor or cigarettes.  Taxes which often inflate the price of goods harmful to users or the environment.

In On the limits of food autonomy, “A classic defense by meat eaters is to declare that their food practices are a personal choice.  Furthermore, vegans are often asked to ‘respect’ the choices of others as a mean of closing down critical conversations.” …. “However what is lost from such a request is the recognition that for most consumers of animal products no choice as such has been made.  Consuming animals is a dominant cultural practice, and so it is part of the set of normalized values and ontological distinctions of the culture we are born into.”  As such, it would appear the requirement for change must start at a global or federal level.  Individual choice to harm the environment must be removed.

“Deploying privacy as a strategy or deflecting criticism incorrectly assumes that such food choices fall within the boundaries of acceptable autonomous actions.  As the taboos against eating other humans and companion species demonstrate, food autonomy does not translate into the license to eat whatever (or whomever) one wants.  The prohibition against cannibalism is not encountered as a limitation on human freedom, because this food ‘choice’ is incompatible with the ownership, exploitation and murder of fellow human beings.  Humans are not food and the desire to consume the flesh of homosapiens is pathological.”  Rather than an argument of who counts as “morally considerable life”, I think we are obligated to consider how great is the existent need for government to supersede ‘choice’.  Western social cultures establish the right for individuals to choose their diet.  And the impact on our ecology has primarily been a response to the growing western populations and the growing demand for animal consumption.

The argument of needing to eat meat is obviously quick to solve. Humans are omnivores, we have adapted to such, and commonly eat both plants and animals.  That said, it is often more humane to consider consuming the flesh of a plant versus an animal.  This is because, while both are considered sentient, the animal is considered akin to our species.  It is notable to mention, plants too are exploited and stressed, to rapidly produce food for mankind.  Arguably however, the stress animals endure is much greater due to their higher cognitive reasoning, but regardless, both are exploited.  Similarly both the plant and animal production cycles impact our world negatively due to the larger-scale productions developed each year, but the output of noxious gases from animal production is much greater.

I agree with the sentiment, and I strongly believe moderation is key.  That said, I believe the reality of Western culture electing for governmental control over food consumption is near non-existent.  Too much is engrained in the concept of giving up meat.  To have empathy for animals, we first must have empathy for ourselves and those around us.  Awareness is key.

Human nature: an oxymoron?

Good grief.  The ideas presented in the afterword Twenty-Two Theses on Nature are “all-encompassing”.   The statements often proved much more verbose than required to portray an idea.  Nevertheless, the overall concepts extended from the theses are agreeable.

First, given our ecological crisis of today, Man versus Nature is no longer an option.  “We can no longer think of Nature as one side of a binary opposition”.  With a continued practice of this idiom, our world resources will continue to decline, and our human population will continue to struggle against a Whole much larger than ourselves.

Second, Nature has always been, and always will be.  “The radical unknowability of Nature is not an epistemological constraint; it is a basic, and positive, ontological feature of Nature itself.  Regardless of the affects Man has imposed upon Nature, humanity’s understanding of Nature is that it will persist past our timeline.  Planets, moons, stars, galaxies, and solar systems will all endure.

Third, Nature is a loose construct with much to still be discovered.  “Perception is only a particular sort of causality.  When I perceive something, this means that the thing in question has affected me in some way”…”But if I’m affected by something, then that something has had an effect upon me.”  And “I am often affected by things without overtly perceiving them.  I feel the symptoms of a cold, but I do not sense the virus that actually causes me to fall ill.”  Humans have adeptly realized the extent of our ecological crisis through the construct of Nature.  Global warming directly swells Earth’s oceans, and species suffer as habitats are rapidly dissolved, all due in part to the implicit nature of humanity.  Humans are the virus to the Nature of Earth.  We see the symptoms, but a virus cannot contain itself from spreading.

Given these Twenty-Two Theses on Nature, I find it intriguing to consider further developing the current concept of human nature.  To perceive “human nature” not as the essence of humanity, but as a descriptor of the adapted environment around us.  Nature will continue to exist, but humanity has developed a perceived control of nature through food production and technology.  Given Nature is a loose construct, I encourage us all to consider if “human nature” could mean a Nature where humans adapt to better coexist and provide nature and resources to the world.

Sharing is Caring

Common understanding is that growth is a positive and attainable goal, which can be measured.  For a world to thrive and succeed, it must seek the best for its people.  A move which is often interpreted to mean new industrial developments, vast resources, and adaptable technologies.  The concept presented in “Degrowth” is portrayed in a manner which alludes “degrowth” is in fact the real positive and attainable goal our world should be seeking.  In the sense that “degrowth” in fact provides a net positive impact to the world, unlike the method of “growth” which is, “uneconomic and unjust”…”because the benefits accrue to those who hold power and the costs to those who are marginalized.”

The idea presented declares growth to be ecologically unsustainable and claims that above a certain level, growth does not increase happiness.  This in turn exposes “Degrowth”  to be an anti-capitalist manifesto.  Similar to White’s position that Christianity is the root of our world’s current ecological crisis.  “Degrowth” takes a position that Capitalism is the primary cause for our world’s ecological crisis due to our engrained need for growth, and the Earth’s inherent limit of resources.  Capitalism is truly the root of all evil.

Overall, I have doubts that the argument for degrowth could be successfully carried out.  The idea is in a simplistic form similar to the conceptual framework of Socialism.  It simply lacks the official title of such.  Nonetheless, I do not believe humanity has the ability to reach full equality.  The idea is antiquated and the desire to compete is widely accepted to be part of human nature.  Self-limitation can be taught and enforced, but the empathy for others and recognition for the need would be the most difficult task to achieve for the entirety of society.  Sharing is caring, but the world is a tuned to siblings, and sharing is not always easy.


Go East, Young Man, Go East!

Current ideal often encourages anything which is new or perceived as an advancement.  Little homage, however is shown to previous designs, and rarely are unintended consequences considered.  This ideal influences humanity to diverge from a respect for nature.  As White discusses in The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, a greater awareness and respect may have been more prevalent if humanity felt there was a human-like presence in every object in nature, which comprises our world.  The idea of Paganism is therefore able to establish a sense of camaraderie through animism, with ideally a lesser tendency to exploit those similar to our own kind.  In theory, I find this concept of religion shaping our view of the world, and specifically nature, fascinating.  In reality, I have little faith that religion is the answer.  Religion is only as strong as it’s following.  In truth, I believe we may find our answers in more than one stronghold.   

I believe the act of growing up in nature teaches one more respect for the world that is around them.  Not in the literal sense of run with the wolves, but rather growing up perhaps in Pacific Northwest America, where there are vast forests and abundant primarily, sustainable agricultural communities.  After all, one’s surroundings shape them as they grow, be that concrete jungles or vast forests within reach of their backyards.  Humanity thrives from interaction, and relates based on experience.  When one grows up physically closer to nature the may feel closer to nature.

Reading the two works together felt like a unique opportunity.  White wrote The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis in 1967, decades before Pope Francis was elected, and began to introduce new ideals for modern Christianity.  Nevertheless, White offers Saint Francis as the “patron saint for ecologists”.  I can only hope this means humanity is capable of continuing to heal our world through our faith in one another and a greater admiration for the world which supports us all.

In 1865, in an editorial in the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley wrote, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”  Today, America has reached tremendous advances with technology and expanded across the states.  Regardless of order, the world has expanded as well.  The current demand for resources outweighs the availability, and the lack of understanding and respect for the world which supports us will continue to drive humanity to a premature death.  To change our ways, humanity must realign its values to persevere. Additionally, the development of technology for the use of supporting the earth—including all its inhabitants—must be established.  Now out with the old ideal.  Go East, young man, and carry a new view for America.  For our world.