All posts by switalla

An Odd Aftertaste

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In “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” by Will Steffen and others, it is proposed that due to Anthropic activity, the world is currently at a “fork in the road”. One where humanity prevails in halting climate crisis and leads to a “stabilized earth”; or one where humanity fails, leaving the Earth in a “Hothouse” state, by passing a threshold where intrinsic biogeophysical feedbacks take over. While this idea of a so called “tipping point” is honestly quite terrifying, I also see this as an odd place to end this class.
When discussing this idea of an Anthropocene, thoughts of rigorous, methodical, scientific papers like this come to mind. Ones that take a look at what little information we have to predict what could possibly come ahead. However, for essentially all of this course, that has not been the case. From history, to music, and to fictional writing there has been many odd takes on possible approaches to the dilemma that humanity faces. This is actually why I find it odd that this writing is what we finish with.
Usually when approaching a problem you delve into more standardized approaches before resorting to alternative ones right? As then the abstract becomes more understandable by the time you get to it. However, for this, it seems to be quite the opposite.
In our most recent activity, a large talking point was that of what makes a climate crisis such a unique problem. The speaker asserted that it was because it is such a seemingly impossible one, one that is so much greater than a single person, and one that is on such a larger scale than we can comprehend. That’s why I find it so interesting that this topic was approached in a fashion that I am not used to, and if such is intentional, I am curious to see the reasoning behind it.


Humanizing Nature Through Sound

The Effect of Music on Plant Growth | Dengarden

In Murray Schafer’s “The soundscape: our sonic environment and the tuning of the world”, they discuss how the sounds of the world are changing, but more importantly how that effects “every corner of man’s life”. Because of this, Bernie Krause in “The Great Animal Orchestra”, writes about his mission to recreate the sounds of nature. Travelling around the world, Krause tries to capture important sounds of many cultures, as well as their significance. Combining these samples, Krause can make “natural” soundscapes representative of many areas.

To me, I see this is as quite a powerful tool to immerse someone in nature. Hearing the sounds of a place overwhelmed by the beauty of nature can be just as influential on your thought process of the world as actually seeing it, however, it is much easier to accomplish in practice. Society has a way of normalizing our destruction of nature, as it is often beneficial to those in power to alter the public’s perception to the extent of the destruction. However, given a much more personal experience with those natural places, as well as the education on what specifically is happening to them, could turn that tide. This is where I see an interesting idea with the application of this kind of work, using it to humanize nature. And this is exactly where Krause seems to be headed.

Krause’s work reminds me of a similar project done by a group called “Sound Builders”. They use the physical leaves of plants to create sound. To do this, they pin electrodes on two sides of the leaves and then transfer the electronic outputs into sound. While the process sounds quite harmful to the plant, the electrodes are only on for a brief period of time and has no effect on the plant’s health. Sound Builders then present their work as a way to educate the public on environmental sciences, similar to how I see the application of Krause’s work impacting communities.

Sound Builder’s project:

Picture from:

The Risk of Innovation

In Graeme Wood’s article, “Re-Engineering the Earth” on the Atlantic, they discuss the possibilities of solving the climate crisis from a Geo-engineering prospective. The main argument for this, is that it it much more cost effective. Wood claims that “$100 billion could reverse anthropogenic climate change entirely, and some experts suspect that a hundredth of that sum would suffice.” Wood follows that up with “To stop global warming the old-fashioned way, by cutting carbon emissions, would cost on the order of $1 trillion yearly.”

Wood follows this claim by discussing many of the Geo-engineering ideas proposed to solve this problem. Some of them are quite out there, like shooting 840 trillion Frisbee-sized ceramic disks in-between us and the sun. While some are much more reasonable, like building ships that propel sea water in the air to create whiter and fluffier clouds, they still all raise a concern with me.

At some point in the future if we rely on Geo-engineering, we will have to make a very costly decision on what the best method to do so is. Funding any one of the projects discussed would take a very large sum of money and we would only be able to test them on small scales before deciding on one. This small amount of evidence would be what we rely on to solve a global issue and any number of factors could go wrong when scaling up the project.

To me, this is why it seems much smarter to take a route that we have proven works, and instead of geo-engineering a sort of “third state” of the world, we should do our best to revert it back to its first state. Sure the decision could be much more costly, but it is also a much more guaranteed way of solving the climate crisis and has much less possible ramifications on us as a species if something does go wrong when solving it with a geo-engineering solution.

The Hypocrisy of Sustainability

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In “Sustainability”, from the series: Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen, the publication brings up the valid point that “Sustainability is an English Word.” And with that in mind, its clear to see that not only is “Stustainability” a word derived from the English language, but more importantly, the fact that it is western in nature and ideals. This is exactly what the publication discusses.

There is an irony to the word Sustainability. It is an ideal from a culture that most defies it. We preach ideals of Sustainability to the point that we almost force it upon others, others who often meet those ideals better than ourselves. This is what I saw in Marta’s story, the far reaching effects of the western ideals of Sustainability. From her giant silver solos, to her U.S. supplied nutrients, western society had manifested this ideal, forcing it upon others.

However, the problem with this ideal is not in its own nature. In fact, its much more about the hypocrisy of our actions with it. We agree that the world needs to be more sustainable as we see the issues it causes everyday in western society, but instead of forcing ourselves to change it, we’ve decided other parts of the world must do it first.
Of course, in the western world this kind of assimilation is not a new idea. Most prominently, this idea was formed in the eyes of religion, in this case mostly Christianity. However, this kind of assimilation is much different, not just in nature, but rather in the fact that we assimilate others to what we don’t do ourselves so they can delay the problem for us.

We agree that there is a need for change so much to the point that we fund a massive amount of resources in order to advocate for it, yet we hold ourselves to a double standard. To me, this is the real kicker. We force others to change so we don’t have to, and I see no other word for that than hypocrisy.

Picture from the book, “the giving tree”

Seven Generations Ahead

Seven Generations Ahead

In Allen Thompson’s “A World They Don’t Deserve: Moral failure and deep adaptation”, he discusses two key assumptions. The first one being that the next few hundred years of both the natural and social world are deeply uncertain, and the second being that members of the present generation have a moral responsibility to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference”. However, the point that Thompson brings up that truly resonates with me is the fact that he calls any failure to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference “moral failure”.
This detail of his second assumption I find both true, and burdening. It doesn’t matter what world the current generation was given. As long as there is still time to change it, it is on them to do so. It is always the burden of the current generation to lay the groundwork for the next one, but it has never been more burdening to do so.
Failing to do this aspect can come in a number of ways. Of course, the main point and seemingly the most pressing one is that of climate change. While there is not a full consensus of when irreversible damage will occur from the effects of climate change, it is agreed that such things will happen soon.
Personally, I think that the biggest responsibility this puts on the worlds current generation is to change the world we live in. It is a fact that the way we live right now is not sustainable and it is our moral responsibility to change the systems we find ourselves in. However, there is also the matter of shaping how this and future generations think. Currently most of the world that produces carbon emissions and majority of the worlds garbage are run in systems that prioritize yourself first. The strange thing is that this form of thinking has only been so dominant in recent history. This means transforming this way of thinking would be world changing. We need to change our ways of thinking to become more sustainable and instead of looking out for our own gain of material wealth, we need to look out for the natural wealth of the generations to come.


An ADOLESCENT anthropocene

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In her book, “A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None”, Kathryn Yusoff discusses how modern civilization has failed to “properly identify its own histories” (Yusoff 13). She credits the victors of history with incorrectly writing their own history, often leaving out, dehumanizing, or ignoring the exploitation of other cultures. Specifically, how White history does this to primarily black and brown people. Yusoff mentions multiple places where history has come up short, and asks us: who are we to define a new age if we cant even get our own history accurate?

I think that Kathryn Yusoff defies the common idea of an Anthropocene in quite an interesting manner. Instead of denying its potential existence, she instead denies its potential infancy. By asking us to “consider what historicity would resist framing this epoch as a ‘new’ condition that forgets its histories of oppression and dispossession” (15). There is no doubt in my mind that our history and geology are immensely incomplete in the way Yusoff describes, leaving out essential details that dehumanizes, and incorrectly defines many past events.

However, in the grand scale of things, I don’t see much vitality in understanding how we reached the Anthropocene. Rather, the fact that we are in one matters. And to me I don’t see how the points of incorrect history and geology effects that. And so while I agree with almost all of the points in the text that I understand, I struggle to find how it relates to the current issue at hand. I very much understand that I likely misinterpreted this text or took some of its points out of context or at least I hope that is the case as it did raise quite interesting points. They were just not ones that necessarily change how we should approach our rapidly incoming doom that is the Anthropocene. I hope to come to a better understanding of the text in next class.


Cherry Picking

In Lynn White Jr.’s science magazine article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis”, he takes a critical stance on the effects of Christianity and Western Ideology’s effects on the environment. He discusses the duality of man and nature in the eyes of the christian church, a duality where man always reins superior. White credit’s this shift in ideology to Christianity’s dominance over paganism and eastern philosophy; which tend to view nature as a much more inclusive part of humanity.
However, I believe Lynn White Jr. overgeneralizes the church, thus causing him to be too critical. Sure, if paganism was the dominant religion in our world, our world would most likely have a much more environmentally conscious outlook. Nonetheless, many supporters of the church have spoken outcries against the same issues White discusses. As Saint John Paul II discusses, human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.” He then continues with, “human life itself is a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement.” At this time John Paul II was the pope, head of the catholic church and a representative of Christianity. He sees the ideals of the west towards nature and seeks to change them, even implying that the general public’s idea of nature is wrong and not what the church wants it to be. This is why the pope then proceeds with “Our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with gods original gift of all that is.”
Lynn White’s argument is based off of a cherry picked view of Christianity that is becoming increasingly outdated, as even the church is now starting to realize its environmental impacts and looks to change them. That in no way makes the historical aspect of what he is saying wrong, but simply not the full story.