All posts by perrycy

Engineering a Better World: not just facts and figures

When considering the future of our earth and how humans might be able to overcome climate change disasters, we often think of reducing our carbon footprint and industrial activities. However, it seems secondary to think of other alternatives to further change our existing conditions on earth. Geoengineering initially seems like a science fiction attempt at dealing with our predicted issues. After reading the article on Re-Engineering the Earth, it becomes apparent that geo-engineering is extremely powerful and has the capability to dramatically steer the course of climate change. While some prefer to stay away from this type of technological development (as it is a little scary and holds lots of unknowns), I personally think that it is the perfect solution to our problems. The unknown effects of gassing the planet to reduce the sun’s direct impact on planet earth are on the other hand quite concerning.  Ideally, we will soon be able to remove carbon through man-made means without dramatically changing the planet. The issues with storage and cost are pertinent, but what are we to do? Hopefully, humans will be able to reduce our carbon footprint through our daily actions. But, in the future, if we aren’t doing enough I definitely think humans may have to turn to geo-engineering solutions and innovation.

 

It is apparent that geoengineering will soon come to the forefront of politics, as it involves all societies on this planet. But who will initiate the use of geoengineering solutions? Who will fund programs and research and who will oppose these methods? Hopefully, various societies will be able to come together for the betterment of our global community. I found it fascinating that climate engineering comes with moral debate, rather than a pure means of survival as a race. In addition, the concept of humans rejecting the idea to simply change our actions in order to reduce our carbon footprint seems bizarre. But when reading about the moral corruption connected to climate change, it makes sense. If humans agree to change their actions, then they will admit that they were doing something wrong in the first place. It is time for us to take responsibility for our actions and own up to our mistakes as a species. Once we do this, then we will be able to make progress and begin to fix our climate change issues.

Up Next On Your Spotify Playlist:

From a young age, I have enjoyed music and the emotions it cultivates. However, I have never thought about geophony or the marine soundscape. It makes sense that the origins of beautiful sounds come from nature in thousands of ways. If you listen to what is currently on the radio or popular music, it initially sounds incredibly different from what one would perceive as sounds of nature. As I pondered this for longer, I realized that the number of sounds created in nature is unlimited and there are so many sources.

Sound is an extremely powerful sensory experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this excerpt of literature. The sections describing certain natural scenarios engulfed me in memories of experiencing those similar sounds. For instance, the description of how the shoreline waves change depending on the depth brought memories hearing the waves crash on the beach.

The story of the native american people sharing their connection with nature to others served as a valuable indication of the importance of geophony. It was crushing to read about the disappearance of their waterfall from the implementation of a dam. This reminded me about last week’s topic of indigenous people and the threat posed to their culture through the environment. Where we read about the importance of language diversity, this seemed to be reflected in the sounds experienced by the native communities.

I have never heard of soundscape albums, and I am eager to listen to one. I found the part about the Japanese removing these albums from the shelves (for reminding them too much of war sounds) to be fascinating. This presented a clear example which illustrated the powerful impact which sound can have. White noise surrounds us as we go about our day, but sometimes we manage to actually listen. When you tune into your surroundings and listen, you can hear the crunch of your footsteps or the leaves rustling. Geophonies are most likely overpowered by other disruptive sounds of bustling cities and humans, but maybe if we try hard enough we can still learn to appreciate the sounds of nature.

Life Is Certainly Not Fair

When I first entered the world of environmental issues, I had no idea that social issues would be extremely woven into the entire problem. Looking back, I had tons to learn and my perception of climate change issues was quite limited. I have begun to understand the wider spectrum of climate change issues including the pure environmental aspect, economic issues, and social justice problems. Today, it makes sense now that climate change would cause a cultural loss among indigenous people. However, what is the extent to which this culture loss will occur? The disproportionate effects of climate change seem unfair, but how would we fix this? Indigenous communities have the lowest contributions to carbon emissions and the like, so why exactly is it that they will suffer the most before other communities? Their vulnerability to the effects of climate change is worrisome, and more people need to be aware of this.

Indigenous communities lack the mindset which exploits their natural resources and mistreats their ecosystems. This is unlike the colonial determination to take what they want from the earth and drain its resources. In the early days, indigenous communities lacked representation, so they didn’t have the opportunity to influence decision making on environmental topics.

Cultural sustainability is a new topic for me, and it has emphasized the importance of maintaining cultural beliefs, heritage, practices, and more. Many indigenous communities way of life and culture are based upon an important relationship with nature. If this nature is negatively impacted by climate change, then it will damage their culture as well. Cultural sustainability needs to be protected, and within this category is the need for protection of ecological knowledge. From long ago, colonial oppression has tested indigenous people’s traditional knowledge. Now, we need to respect their knowledge and realize that it has come up against an entire background of injustice. Endangered languages must also be protected to prevent cultural assimilation and promote cultural sustainability.

More than just the Cold Hard Truth

Bill McKibben’s introduction of “I’m With the Bears” references human opposition to reality. Humankind’s distaste for the truth, in comparison to a fictitious story, encapsulates our desire for a better world. However, when faced with the decision to either continue on our path of destruction or shift our methods to preserving our planet, what stops us from following the path to this better world? At this point in time, we have all the resources for learning facts about our current descent into environmental degradation. So why haven’t we completely understood the extent to which complications will be felt? McKibben suggests that we need to make people understand what things “feel” like which future implications. What better way to do this than storytelling? The scientists can provide simulations, predictions, and data, and hopefully, the humanities areas (such as economists, psychologists, and theologians) can convey these feelings.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Tamarisk Hunter” emphasizes a possible future where the government controls the scarce water resources. This really got me thinking about how precious our water is, and how we take it for granted. Why is the price of water so low? It should cost more to reflect how valuable it is. The setting of California is interesting because we already hear so much news about their water shortages. It’s scary that the characters within the short story have lived in our current time and are only a short whiles into the future. This means that it could happen really soon. At this rate, a future outcome could very well look similar to this portrayal of our world. The privileged will be allowed water, and the poorer communities will be cut off. I thought it was quite interesting that the national guard was responsible for the lay of the land. The strategy implemented by the Californian government seems daunting since they aimed to cut off certain cities in a specific order which would be quietest. If people are unaware of future possibilities in a world with limited water from climate change, this story may as well occur. More people need to be introduced to these stories and look at climate change’s implications in a sense of the real world and real possibilities. Hopefully, we can figure something out before it is too late.

Crossing the Line? What to do before it’s too late.

First of all, it is important to raise awareness that there does exist a hothouse threshold. Ecosystems, economies, and society comprise the broad categories of our entire world. If the threshold is crossed, these three sectors will be radically changed. So what exactly can we do to prevent this hothouse state of the earth if it is coming? The article first mentions the decarbonization of the global economy. This will prove extremely difficult as money and companies will refuse to give up profits. We need to be able to look further into the future if we plan on saving ourselves and the environment. Shortsightedness will only benefit the companies in current day activities but will damage our society, ecosystems, and economy in the long run. A low fossil fuel economy is ideal, but the political state of our world is very much against this. In addition to decarbonization of the global economy, technological innovations will be necessary to move in a positive direction. It seems like as things progressively get worse, and this might be the only way that people step up to further sustainable innovation. The other methods we might use to prevent crossing this threshold include new governance arrangements and transformed social values. I believe that these two may be the hardest to achieve. Humans are creatures of habit and we are stubborn in our beliefs. The transformation of social values will take lots of positive role models and change in popular thinking. The negative feedback loops we need to put in place to stay in Stabilized Earth include carbon uptake by land and ocean systems. These are crucial to our environment, but I don’t think that it alone will fix our problems. Increasing the number of carbon sinks will also help. The third negative feedback loop of modifying Earth’s energy balance is slightly confusing, as it is a new idea. All in all, hopefully, these three negative feedback loops will reduce the degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems, economy, and society. 

Mother or Father Nature?

Throughout this reading, there were two main concepts which caught my attention. With regards to animal sciences, the choice of animal consumption and feminist approach to these ethical debates intrigued me.

 

It does indeed seem quite normal that animals are considered to be a large part of our food industry. It almost appears as a challenge against our entire culture to remove these animals from our consumption. This being said, the question of our relationship with animals is being brought up more often. People need to understand that our food is shaping our perception of nature as a whole. If we remove ourselves from animals which we consume, this furthers the concept that we are divided from nature. This connects to a previous topic on our discussion of humankind’s perspective of nature. It is important to understand that we aren’t a separate entity from nature. This is the only way that we can respect our environment. If humans understood their impact on ecosystems, perhaps they would treat it with more care. Animal consuming practiceshave become ingrained in our society, and it will take drastic measures to shift away from this. Will this have to be a political or legal transition? From our current position, it does appear that something will have to force the majority of the world to alter their consumption of animals.

The feminist bioethics portion of this excerpt was a new region of thought for me. I had previously never considered how different perspectives could be based on gender. It is apparent that in general, humans have been characterized as being masculine. From our terms “mankind” and reference to humans as “man”, it seems common. Ecofeminism is also an interesting concept. This portrays masculinity as the reason behind most problems. I don’t think we can blame all our environmental problems on masculinity, it is just a product of human nature. However, some aspects of masculinity like hunting in animal consumption might support this train of thought.

A Classic Joke: How many humans does it take to understand nature?

Humans have desperately desired to reign over nature since the beginning of time. For that matter, humans have sought control over their surroundings via numerous methods. I found it particularly interesting that there are so many formulated these on nature. Humans want to control it, yet they struggle to understand the entirety of nature. These theses appear as another means by which humans think they can control things, as they want to classify nature and put it in its place.  

The train of thought which follows with the desire for humans to be a small part of nature (instead of over-glorifying the human race) was seen in multiple theses. This seems to be quite prevalent in our society today, as humans begin to realize the consequences of their actions with regard to the environment.  

In particular, thesis 14 widened my perspective on understanding nature. This emphasized the difference between focusing on informational terms rather than energetic ones. It alluded to humans having excessive concern for informatics which is ruining our comprehension of energetics. Where nature falls into this thesis, I am not exactly sure. However, in this day and age, data and information rule human society. Nature is merely thought of in quantitative measure. For instance, humans care about the population of a species, the amount of pollution emitted into the atmosphere, the amount of untouched land, and the volume of resources left. I think that maybe this thesis wants humans to understand nature as a whole, and see our world in more than facts and data.  

On the other hand, thesis 16 argued that perception becomes action through obtaining information. This thesis appears to place an importance on processing information, and not just for humans. The excerpt provides an example of this process in a tree. I found this very interesting because usually, humans perceive themselves as the main or sole user of information, facts, and data. However, according to thesis 16, the crucial use of information is prevalent throughout nature.  

Whether these theses emphasize the relationship between cause and effect within information, the infiniteness of space and nature, or the transformation of energy, there will never be enough written theses to explain the different views on nature. One of my personal favorite theses explained that nature is the thing which places the everything we know in a common world. Nature cannot be explained, for it is such a broad aspect of existence. To every individual, it means something quite different, but that is what makes it so fascinating to ponder.

 

The Economy is on Fire! Stop, Drop, and Roll- Let’s Put it Out.

Gorz’s theory on degrowth and consumption reminded me of the throwaway culture presented in last week’s reading. This is a major concern as our capitalistic society rarely considers the idea of consuming less. The movements supported in the early 2000s, specifically in France were very fascinating to learn about because they exhibit the growth of an early idea. I wonder what particular combination of things lead France to be the center for this birth of political ecology and environmental justice. The term degrowth hasn’t typically been used by others who surround me. In fact, I believe this is the first time I have heard it. However, I do believe that it conveys an important point in environmental sustainability. For instance, there needs to be a larger emphasis on reducing one’s electricity use rather than solely trying to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources (solar, wind, etc.).

In today’s society, particularly America, we base our values of success, happiness, and worth in the form of materialistic goods. The bigger the house, the more successful… Right? This mindset has promoted the growth of our economy and helped us develop at a rapid rate. Degrowth directly contradicts with the motives of growing an economy. So, what would this look like if we suddenly got the majority of our world to embrace the ideals of degrowth? Degrowth criticises growth and capitalism. An economy thrives on consumption and a growing presence of services and companies. Is this simply an ingrained part of human nature? It is noted that negative GDP growth will be a likely outcome if degrowth occurs. Rather, I think that there needs to be a shift in the dispersion of wealth throughout various sectors of industry and geographic regions. This political ideology would shrink the “dirty industries or the financial sector” while promoting health, education, and sustainable practices.

 

The emphasis on critiquing the word “development” seems interesting as I have previously never considered it as a negative word. On the other hand, I would understand if they were concerned with words such as overdeveloped. At the same time, it makes sense as to refrain from confusing anyone attempting to follow the degrowth ideals.

The overarching limits of growth to the entirety of our society seem rooted in a desire for simpler living and happiness. One statement, “growth can never satisfy positional competition; it can only make it worse” struck me as being a cry for fairness and equality. Growth tends to lift someone or something up while leaving others behind. In many facets of life, too much of anything can create a negative impact. At this point in time, I think that degrowth might be human kinds only chance at saving our environment and socially changing to create more equal communities.

Got Writer’s Block? Use “Man vs. Nature”, it’s a Timeless Theme!

Lynn White Jr’s introduction of The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis swiftly expresses that the presence of humankind has produced dramatic effects on the globe’s environment.  In our hurry to develop our society through technological means (and otherwise), humans have altered ecosystems, damaged wildlife, and polluted the atmosphere. But why does it seem that a large majority of earth’s human inhabitants have failed to understand their daily impact on surrounding ecosystems? I appreciated the initial look into the medieval view of man and nature as it showed the transition of man becoming a separate entity from nature. This marks an important change in the thought that humans tend to see nature as something they can manipulate and have the right to use at the expense of their environment. The exploitative attitude which White discusses reminds me of present-day greed and ways in which corporate power abuses natural resources. It was interesting to see the effect of religion on people’s perspectives on their relationship with the environment. How drastically has this changed the course of human’s attitude towards nature? When reading this material, it dawned upon me that this dilemma has remained extremely prevalent throughout literature. This timeless theme of “Man vs. Nature” has appeared in many novels I’ve read since the beginning of high school (ie. Heart of Darkness, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The God of Small Things). Why does man assume that he is more powerful than nature? When the ideals of Saint Francis when he first preached about 800 years ago, his ideas for an alternative Christianity were revolutionary. Today, it seems that these ideas for equality of all creatures still hold to be revolutionary, but I hope that they become more centralized.

Pope Francis’ “environmental encyclical” illuminates the present conditions of a global attitude regarding the environment. Changes are rapidly occurring, and a sense of urgency to fix our environment has risen in various places. The topics of pollution, waste, and throwaway culture are extremely prevalent, but what can we do to stop it? What methods will be most effective, how much time do we have to reverse the damage we have already exerted on our ecosystems? When looking from a global perspective, our climate holds us together. It seems as though we are living in someone else’s sewer. If another person dumps hazards into the air, those surrounding that individual have no choice but to take in the toxins they didn’t release in the first place. Humans need to understand the scale of climate change as a problem, this is the first crucial step in making progress to fix our environment.