All posts by Michael

Hearing Nature

The more and more I go on through my path of academia I realize more and more how truly disconnected from the earth we all are. This class, along with a few others, have really opened my eyes to how unnatural the lives that humans have created are. I’m not saying this in a purely negative and accusatory way, but more in an observational way. From the food we eat, to the structures we live under, to the way we treat animals and nature, we have disconnected ourselves from out natural selves. And now I realized that almost everything we hear is a sound made by us and not the earth. Rarely do we hear the earth speak, and even rarer do we hear it sing. This makes me sad. I want to be able to hear the earth, but it is being droned out every second of every day by cars, or construction, or lawn mowers, or my roommate fucking blasting t.v. in the living room right now. When I walk to class, I don’t even try to listen anymore. I instead put in my headphones and listen to music, so if a bird was trying to sing to for me I wouldn’t hear them. Music is interesting, because it as well is getting shaped by this unnaturalness that I’m trying to get at. A thousand years ago the only way to hear music would be to sit in the presence of a musician and have them share a song with you. And although you can view humans as shaping a piece of brass into a horn in order to create different sounds as unnatural, I think the natural human aspect of it outweighs the rest. I don’t know if you can say that anymore. With this era of technology, sounds are not created as often as they used to be (with artists actually using something to produce a physical sound), but merely arranging sounds (like using sounds on a computer to create a melody and a beat, for example). Now personally I love today’s music and I have no longing to go back to the days of classical music, nor am I arguing that music today isn’t as musical, but rather that it is not as natural. I like. listening to music in my airpods, but I kinds just wish I could hear the birds sing.

Sickening To Think About

‘Sickening’… get it?

This week readings focuses on epidemic, old and new and how they have shaped our world. To me, they have made me think about how much our present views and attitudes are perfectly shaped by our past. Without the presence of deadly disease that revenged the Americans, what would’ve the outcome been. We view Europe as the most powerful and advanced group of people from 1000 AD on, but how much of that is due to these diseases? If 90% of all Americans weren’t wiped out and were available to fight the colonizers as they were attempting to colonize I think there would’ve been a different outcome. I still think Europe would’ve colonized to a certain degree because of their technology but we can not be certain at all that they would’ve been able to take down the Aztec or Mayan empires. However, we do have a reference. The Native Americans from current day America were not just wiped out by disease. From what I’ve learned, their population estimates were in the 50 millions and they by 1960 they numbered a little over 5 million. And as I said, this was not just due to disease, it was an intentional genocide, brought about by the means of murder, in the physical and cultural sense. So I think that the Europeans would’ve still had much “success”, but the Aztecs and Mayans were very powerful at their peaks, which the Europeans never had to face, as stated by the readings (unless I’m misinterpreting them). The Americas today are now in shambles, being completely dominated for centuries by Europe and now dominated by the modern colonizer of America. I wonder if they would have a nation that would be considered by todays standards powerful if they were available to fight.

Nature in Man or Man in Nature

This weeks reading is a very philosophical piece on how we view nature, how we could view nature, and how we should view nature. It focuses on our relationship with nature and how that shapes our understanding of nature and our place within it.

Our relationship with nature is really really weird and it just keeps getting weirder. I don’t really know what it means to be a human anymore considering how alienated we are from this earth. Growing up in Oregon was a blessing as far as the United States goes, but even with the mountains and vast forests and ocean readily available for us to experience do we actually experience them? I’ll go on a hike but only walk on a procured human walking path, I’ll go skiing on Mt. Hood and will practically just be playing a game on the mountain between trips to the lodge for a hot drink, I’ll go to the beach and lay on a towel and use a plastic shovel to dig a hole, I’ll go camping and sit in a warmed trailer or a closed up tent. I done this stuff a lot, and I feel like I’ve “experienced” nature more than the average person, but have I even experienced it? When I walk down the street here at OSU I love to view the trees as they change colors, but these trees have been placed there for precisely that reason and nothing more. Arranged in a row and evenly spaced out. I don’t feel like modern day humans in this western culture have a connection to the earth past the relationship that produces us a profit. We view it as a sport, an activity, a view, an attraction, a resource, something we can exploit, sometimes something we can protect, but never as a part of us.

Culture Kills

This weeks reading was a New Yorker book review article of the book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”, which was written by Jared Diamond who is very famous for writing Guns, Germs, and Steel. This is a book that also focuses on the ecological and cultural differences between societies in order to analyze if they “succeed” or not. In his first book, succeeding meant domination. In this book, succeeding simply means surviving.

Diamond looks into a couple different societies and mainly focuses on the Norse colonies in Greenland, which were established by vikings led by Erik the Red 1000 years ago. This colony ended up not surviving and dying out after a cold winter. Diamond argues that this is due to cultural reasons- the Norse, and specifically their culture- were too at odds with the land of green and were not willing to adapt to it at all. Another example of this is how the people of Easter Island have chopped down every tree they could down to the stump. This was a little different though, with Diamond talking about how the location, among many other physical factors, made their society at very high risk to not survive. Diamond also talked about Measure 37, a law that we recently passed here in Oregon that scaled back on zoning restrictions that had previously been protecting wildlife and coastal areas for years. This is another example of how the cultural aspect of our societies being at odds with where the societies are located can have dire consequences. It will be interesting and extremely depressing to see how Measure 37 proves Diamond’s point. We can only pray that it doesn’t.

This got me thinking about the focus of this class. In my view, our current cultural values are diametrically opposed with the will of nature. Well, I go as far as diametrically, but you get the point. Are we going to starve once the cold winter comes? Or are we going to eat the fish? I would think that once it comes to eating cow hoofs we would change our ways but I don’t really know. The capitalist society that is currently dominating the world might not find it economically feasible to eat the fish, which is a scary thought.

Playing God

This week’s reading is an article titled “Geoengineering and sustainability”, written by Leslie Paul Thiele, and while it has a very boring title it is a very interesting piece. It focuses on how far we should ethically go to attempt to fix the environment. There are two differing ideologies: the Gaian perspective and the Promethean perspective. The Gaian perspective is centered around the idea that we are a species that has evolved from the dirt of this earth just like every other species, so we don’t morally have the right to deploy power over the entire planet to the extent that some people are proposing. Essentially, they want to keep Earth as the holder of power and are against geoengineering. The Promethean perspective is pro-geoengineering and view it as a rightful technological evolution that we should take. They think that geoengineering is the best quipped solution to effectively addressing climate change.

Personally, I think that I am very much in favor of the Gaian perspective if you couldn’t pick that up already. I hadn’t thought about the actual moral qualms with effecting the planet to the extent that geoengineering would. I don’t fully disagree with the Promethean perspective considering that I want to be open to solutions to climate change, but I think that the Earth deserves respect. I am starting to view humans with an ecological perspective in the sense that I want to think of us as a species that, while very unique, are apart of a diverse environment full of unique species. We have already literally paved our way on this planet and have built stone into the sky and it seems like there is no way to go back. But I don’t think that we necessarily need to go forward. Technological progress, to me, has very little relevance to quality of life. We don’t need to go forward and to take control over every aspect of this planet. Also, once we do it, there is no going back. It’s not like we have shown that as a species we have enough self control to do this once and then not start to exploit it.

Overall, we are not gods. We are humans, and I think we should act like it. I am against playing god.

How to View the Anthropocene

This weeks reading focuses on the how different groups of people conceptualize the age of anthropocene. Personally, I do view the anthropocene as an indicator of impending doom. I don’t know how not to. While technologies has made some amazing advances that has projected the human race into earthly gods through the likes of medicine, space travel, and the insane quality of life some individuals possess, I think you would be hard-pressed to find somebody who is knowledgable on the issue to say that all of this has been worth it. It would be impossible to do so if you’re talking to people that have ecocentric view on life compared to people with biocentric or “speciesest” views on life. Over the last year or so, mostly through education at Oregon State University as well as climate change waving the flag of death at me from the foreseeable distance, I have tried to develop more of an ecocentric view on life an how we interact with the environment. I have been trying to view humans as just another species which obviously leads me to view how we have dug our place into this earth as reprehensible. I genuinely have no idea how to begin to understand how Indigenous people must feel after their way of life was torn from them by us. Whyte talks about this in the reading when he says “Yet for many indigenous peoples, the Anthropocene is not experienced as threatening in precisely the same sense because the particular era of settlement I am describing forced many of our societies to let go of so many relationships with plants, animals and ecosystems at a wrongfully rapid pace”. In a lot of ways they have already experienced the anthropocene, or least the start of it. We don’t know how to experience life and subsequently we have destroyed it. I will never be able to connect with the earth as a human should, and yes, I am very pessimistic, but I feel like we are nearing the point in our evolution where this will be available to no one.

The Role of Art and the Artist

In the reading Art and Ecology by Andrew Brown, Brown brings up cave paintings when discussing the history of act that depicts the world around us. He makes a point about how cave paintings enact a two-fold interaction with the environment: it is a representation of nature through our eyes, and it uses supplies from the earth to create. From this arrises an interesting relationship in which we use art to attempt to understand the world around us and the only way we can create art is by taking from the earth and repurposing it. And this specific relationship is what Brown is talking about in this reading. In almost every way the art that is created can be viewed in the terms of the creator. In other words, the ideologies that the artist possesses influences the art that is created in a major way. This is especially seen in environmental and natural art where the artist is depicting the world around them, much like the cave paintings from thousands of years ago. Brown talks about how art during the American colonial period depicted a landscape that is there to be conquered, beauty meant to be tamed, which can directly be tied back to the colonizers’ attitude nature and the land of America in general, in other words manifest destiny. Today, with the earth burning and eternal doom rising from every crack in which we had put it, art is again reflecting our views of the world. One area of environmental art Brown talks about is the almost performative art that is meant to bring awareness to issues relating to climate change. With us, as a society, now being “aware” of our impact on the earth, there is a hyper-focus among people that actually care on how everything actually does impact the earth. When it comes to environmental art, artists can be easily ridiculed for how their art pieces emit carbon emissions, or waste unnecessarily, or things of that sort. This brings up the question: To what extent does the awareness that the art brings negates the environmental impact that the art has. This question can be related to personal responsibility for climate change itself. I think that this is a very interesting question and debate to be had, and one that everybody should be thinking about. It is clear that the artists today are asking us to.

Unnaturally Evolving Past Nature

This weeks readings focus on the origin of the current age of Anthropocene, which indicates the time period we’re currently living in where human interaction and involvement with the earth has had a major impact on our environment. My perception of environmental activism has been that recognizing that climate change is an issue wasn’t common thought about until relatively recently and especially that it is a serious and life-threatening issue. I see now that there were environmental activists who, back in the year 1967 in this case, were spot on in some of their assessments regarding our involvement and impact on the environment. The science regarding our actual impact wasn’t developed like it is today, but the sentiment was the same then. Not even that, but White Jr. was able to, depending on your view, assess valid blame for why we are the way we are. He argues that it is the views and morals that are brought up through the Christian religion that have and currently dominate Western culture’s worldview that is to blame for how we treat the world we live on. Among many examples, along with detailing other cultures technological advancements and their relationship with those advancements, Lynn points to the scripture of Christianity and specifically Genesis, the origin story. This is something that Pope Francesco, in the other reading, which was sort-of a reply to Lynn (or at least his school of thought), couldn’t deny. Genesis intentionally lays the groundwork for humans to have a relationship with our Earth that puts us in a position of “rightful” power over plants and animals and the overall environment. Animals were made for the company of man and for food, and plants and fruit were made for humans to eat. In contrast, cultures like the Indigenous people of America are able to have their form of religion, develop many types of technology, advance their society, but because of their world view they don’t destroy the earth in the process.