In the article “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” the authors discuss how human impact is drastically changing the earth. It is highlighted that “human activity now rivals geological forces in influencing the trajectory for the Earth system has important implications for both Earth System science and societal decision making” (1). The “sum total of human impacts on the system needs to be taken into account for analyzing future trajectories of the Earth System” is also emphasized (1). The article goes on to discuss how our way of life has greatly increased CO2 in the atmosphere. They also mention that only through “deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, protection and enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere” can we help stabilize the earth (5). But they also discuss that we are going to have to adapt to unavoidable impacts of global warming that is already occurring. They also share what is at stake: “severe risk for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans” (5). The part of the article that was most jarring for me was the large uncertainty about what could happen in the future, all the unknowns. We know it is going to be destructive and the window to limit the worst of it is slowly dwindling.
“The Tamarisk Hunter” by Bacigaupi details a fictional time where water is scarce and only those in California seem to be living in any semblance of comfort. The protagonist Lolo survives as a Tamarisk hunter which makes him $2.88 a day, plus a water bounty.
The scary thing is that this story doesn’t seem that far from the truth. Our future could look very similar. As we have talked about in great lengths in class, there are certain groups of people that will and are feeling the effects of climate change first. They are paying the highest price for our way of life.
In the story California bought rivers and were controlling who gets water and how much. At first people weren’t all that worried when California began calling the water sources but soon it became a much bigger problem. It wasn’t even that there wasn’t water, it was the fact that they couldn’t touch it because it was to go straight to California. While we currently don’t have states doing that, wealthy corporations have been buying up public water sources for a while now. In fact the company Nestle has been trying to privatize water for years. So even though this story is fiction it has grains of truth. We should take note from the story and pay closer attention to what is happening around us before this dystopian story becomes a reality.
Reading “Voices from the Land” reminded me that there are so many ways in which we take for granted the environment around us. We assume it will always be there and we rarely give it a second chance. One section in the chapter really stood out to me though, the story about the Wy-am tribe and their sacred waterfall. Their lives for generations had revolved around this one waterfall. They not only fished in this specific area but they considered it a sacred voice where divine messages were conveyed to them. Unfortunately on the morning of March 10th, 1957 US Army Corps of Engineers had the steel gates of the Dalles Dam to shut tight which in turn submerged the sacred water and fishing site for the Wy-am tribe.
This story reminds me about how a great deal of our conversations in class have emphasized the fact that minorities and the most vulnerable people in our population will be the first ones to feel the effects of climate change. The indigenous tribes in the US treat the land with more care and compassion than we have as a whole and they respect the earth in a way that we have yet to learn and put into practice.
Before reading “Re-Engineering the Earth” I didn’t know that there was a large body of science dedicated to Geo-engineering. After reading these two articles geoengineering feels like a “quick fix” so people can continue to live their lives in a way that harms the environment and increases the devastation that is climate change. At first glance many of the Geo-engineering solutions sounded promising but then when you took a second look and found out about the potentially dangerous drawbacks it takes a darker turn. The article highlights one geoengineering plan which is to pump sulfur into the atmosphere, while this plan would help 6 billion people, 1 billion people would suffer the drastic consequences. Specifically, people in Africa, and Asia. To me Geo-engineering seems to be a way for countries/people who have the means to “buy” their way out of the devastation that climate change will ultimately cause them. Like we have discussed in class, many times these countries are the ones that are making the most greenhouse gases, but they are ultimately not the ones who will feel the full weight of climate change. It almost feels like a cop out.
The article also suggests that if people believe that in an emergency there is a way to cool the earth down in the future, people won’t be as interested in helping lower carbon emissions. It might make countries more hesitant to keep policies that limit the emission of carbon. Geo-engineering takes away the urgency and importance that should surround the climate crisis. As of right now I don’t think we should be thinking about methods to Geo-engineering our way out of the problem. We should be focusing on how to lower carbon emissions, living in ways that lower our personal carbon footprint and keeping the overall temperatures from rising.
Climate change is a major problem we as a society are having to face. But it is something that is and will continue to affect people at disproportionate rates. As of right now the way we have been going about discussing and trying to tackle climate change seems to leave several important voices out. In the article Sustainability, it highlights the importance of acknowledging and learning about different cultures and people’s way of life in the context of sustainability.
Like we have discussed in class, climate change is going to affect the most vulnerable first and yet we as a society continue to leave them out of our conversations. Major nations are talking to each other about climate change, but they are leaving out some of the smaller nations who are already feeling the disastrous effects of climate change. These nations are making life altering decisions assuming that their views and ideas will match up with everyone else’s. It is so easy to forget or ignore things that are not in our day to day lives, but like the article states “we might also pay attention to whose practices of time and space dominate the discussions and whose go ignored”. We miss valuable insight when we fail to include everyone in the conversations. How are we possibly going to limit the devastating effects of climate change if we fail to acknowledge everyone around us?
In Thompson’s piece “A Radical Hope in a Warmer World”, he discusses how the lives we have grown accustomed to living in are vulnerable. The consumer culture we have so carefully cultivated is in desperate need of a change if we are to help diminish the catastrophic effects of climate change. As Thompson puts it, “today’s consumer culture would not be possible without the Industrial Revolution and so is intimately connected, at least historically, to the burning of fossil fuels for energy (Thompson 2).” As of right now most of our fuel is closely tied to the burning of fossil fuel and throughout history we have been “exploiting carbon-based forms of energy” (Thompson 3). I agree that our lifestyles need to change pretty dramatically, and we can’t just wait for technology to be our safety net. Especially since we have a limited amount of time before the effects of climate change become too great. But in what ways do we need to change our lifestyles? And how do we get people to do it? While I agree with Thompson that our lifestyles do need to change, how should we go about it?
It is hard for me to imagine a world where people actively change their lifestyles to limit the effects of climate change when we are currently living in a time where there are people who still don’t believe climate change is a big deal. Or they just don’t believe it is a real thing. I think a lot of people, especially here in the US have grown accustomed to the lavish lifestyles we lead and I’m not positive people are ready to change that. Especially since those who are currently feeling the effects of climate change right now, and those who will soon feel the effects of climate change are really not the ones causing most of the damage to the climate right now. Climate change is going to affect the powerful and rich last and I don’t see them giving up their lifestyles anytime soon.
The author of “A Billion Black Anthropocene or None” suggests that the way Geology is discussed and displayed undermines the long history of exploitation of people of color, specifically black and brown people. The author states that when categorizing matter as property and properties, “the slave in this formulation is rendered as matter, recognized through an inhuman property relation” (Yusoff 17). The author goes on to highlight how the way we talk about geology can ultimately suggest that those who were exploited were just objects. She seems to be arguing that by writing geology the way that we do we are in our own way justifying all the exploitation that occurred, we are erasing the human aspects of those who were wronged.
When we are writing, especially about history it is easy to forget that the events that are being discussed actually happened and it directly affected real people at that time. It is so easy to distance yourself from it, but the word choices we use matter. Like the author discussed, the way we describe something can help to humanize a person or with a few quick changes we can completely strip them of their human aspects.
I thought this piece was really interesting to read, though I did have to read it more than once to understand it fully. I still feel as though I didn’t completely understand everything that was pointed out in this chapter, but hopefully being able to discuss it in class will help to clarify the last few things that I am not as clear on.
Even though Lynn White Jr. and Pope Francis come from completely different sides when discussing the impacts humans play on the environment, they both share at least a few common points. One piece of contention that both Lynn White Jr. and Pope Francis share is the section of Genesis where it states humans have “dominion” over the earth. Pope Francis actively calls out people for incorrectly interpreting the bible and states that “we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures” (Francis 49). While Pope Francis attempts to change the way, people look at the earth through the eyes of the bible, Lynn White Jr. takes a different route. He argues that the way the bible was written gives people the notion that they are more important than any of the other creatures on this planet. He suggests that because of that line in Genesis people believe that “no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man’s purpose” (White 4). Ultimately, while they go about it in different ways, both Pope Francis and Lynn White Jr. seem to conclude that when people view themselves as “above” the environment they will treat it with very little care. They will place their own personal comfort over everything else, creating and fueling this ecological crisis.
An Honors Colloquium in Environmental Arts and Humanities