All posts by leeb5

Nature Isn’t What We Think It Is

This week our reading was again unlike anything we have seen before. As its name suggests, we are presented with Twenty-two Theses on Nature. The general theme was that we need to reimagine the way we perceive and define nature. One of those that stood out to me was thesis number two. It said that we need to disconnect nature from humanity. Too often we believe we try to or believe we can mold nature to benefit ourselves. While humanity can be thought of as a part of nature, the opposite is not true. Nature is separate from humans and is not formed on anything innately human. I wonder, if we were to change this perception, or had we thought of nature in this way from the beginning, would climate change be as big of an issue as it is now? Isn’t the reason we are in this anthropogenic crisis is because we prioritized our own benefit over the health of the planet? 

Another point that I thought was interesting was within thesis number four. It described nature as “all-encompassing” but not whole. Nature as a sum does not exist. To be honest I am not sure as to whether I fully understand this point but I have never thought of nature in this way. This thesis has definitely made me think for a bit, even after finishing the entire piece. To say that nature is all-encompassing means that we exist within it. It’s safe to assume then that there are likely ecological consequences to decisions we have not even considered yet.  

I think that this collection can provide an important foundation as to how we should approach conserving, and eventually revitalizing, our environments. If we maintain the same mindset we have now, finding solutions will be harder, if not impossible.

The ENd for Hunters

Paolo Bacigalupi puts a fictional spin on reality within The Tamarisk Hunter. The story follows Lolo and his attempts to secure a source of water. In order to do so, he works everyday by pulling up tamarisk from the water beds. He does this so that he and his wife won’t be pushed off the land like her parents had been. I thought the story was interesting and was different from our previous readings. 

It focuses on the possible effects of a drought on the people and the land. You could say that this is a warning for what is to come if we continue to allow our current climate to change even more. As humans contribute to global warming, it makes a large impact upon the amount of precipitation there is. Drier soils means less water less water is evaporated when dry seasons come up. This has been very apparent in states like California. 

The setting of the story is along the colorado river. Every day Lolo rides his camel down to the riverbank in order to pick tamarisk, his reward is $2.88 a day plus water bounty. Lolo uses a secret trick in order to take advantage of the current system. When he rips up tamarisk, he also salvages some and replants them in other areas. This allows it to regrow so he can harvest it later on. One day the Utah National Guard shows up and it worries Lolo. He thinks that they’ve found out about his job plots but they are actually there to offer him compensation. It’s been decided that there is no longer a need for the water bounty because the government saw profit elsewhere. This concept illustrates the prioritization of monetary benefit over many other things. It’s been a key piece of climate change denier’s argument to say that fixing climate change would sacrifice our economy. 

The Vikings Committed Suicide and We May Too

The Vanishing provides a new way for us to understand the coming and goings of different civilizations. The author relies heavily on Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed as a source of evidence. 

He focuses on the story of the Vikings and how they attempted to survive on Greenland. What was the real reason for their sudden disappearance from history? Were they truly unable to maintain order and so just fell into chaos destroying themselves? Diamond says no, but he does believe they led themselves to their own end. 

Diamond argues that the Norse were wiped out because they treated Greenland as if it were a lush, green, and plentiful environment. This was not the case at all. For the most part, it was uninhabitable and temperatures were far from warm. Ice and snow were everywhere. Despite that, the Norse mowed down trees and tore up turf for fuel and building homes. It’s estimated that a single home cost about ten acres worth of land. The ecosystem just couldn’t keep up. 

In these areas, plants grew very slowly and the topsoil wasn’t very thick. The grass that once served as a protective layer from the winds was gone. This led to a decrease in hay yields and wood for fuel; winters became much harder to survive. 

Another point that Diamond makes was the Norse peoples’ refusal to adapt. Not only did they consume natural resources at a dangerous rate, but they also had too much pride in their cultural traditions. Looking at the animal remains in debris, the number of fish bones found was less than ten. In an area where fishing is one of the strongest attractions, it is quite unbelievable that they chose not to eat it; and yet they did. They prioritized their cultural survival over their biological survival. 

The author compares this to the modern-day passing of measure 37 in Oregon. Are we too sacrificing the health and safety of our lands in order to preserve what we believe to be culturally significant? The author is warning us that we may be repeating the same mistakes and not just in Oregon, but all over the world.

The Walls of Plastic that Surround Us

  1. This piece is called the Labyrinth of Plastic Waste and, as its name suggests, it is a comment on the human population’s disregard for their use of plastics. It a topic that is very prominent when discussing the state of waste in the world, especially in the ocean. The art is relevant and its meaning is clear making it very effective at drawing attention to the main issue. 
  2. I would have to say that this piece relies much more on aesthetics than any science. You can only appreciate it by looking at it in its entirety. The walls of plastic are a warning of what’s to come and maybe what’s already present. You are meant to walk through and be surrounded by all of the plastic waste. 
  3. By creating a maze of out of this material, the artist has created a stronger message than if the plastic had just been strewn about. This interpretation is strongly related to the overall aesthetic. Again, it is meant to bring awareness and caution to a growing issue.  
  4. I believe that there is a call to action here. The artist is saying that we need to curb our use of plastics and dispose of them in a much better way. I don’t think anyone looked at it and thought that they were being urged to create more of a mess. 
  5. Based on looks, I can’t imagine that the cost of creating the maze was very high. It’s actually likely that the artist recycled by using waste they had found in their environment. To me, it seems like they used PVC pipes to the walls from which the plastic is hung. The last thing to note would be the area that it covers which looks relatively small. Overall, the potential for it to create change would be greater than its costs. 

The Threat of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples

Climate change has become a major topic of interest lately. While the increase in awareness is exciting and overdue, it has left some things to be overlooked. Its widespread discussion has allowed it to become generalized. There are many facets to the issue that is climate change and Robert Melchior Figueroa discusses one of these in Climate Change and Society. In this piece, he discusses the effects of climate change on Indigenous peoples. 

Figueroa touches on the loss of indigenous languages, knowledge, and place. Although these groups of people have been here longer and contribute the least to climate change, they are being affected to a far greater degree. A lot of this is due to displacement. As the consequences become more severe, some indigenous communities have been forced out of their homelands. When they lose these places, which often have strong ties to their culture, they not only lose their home but also a part of their identity. It’s even said that some professionals recognize this as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The rate at which this injustice occurs is increasing and has even led to what is being called the Climate refugee. Statistics estimate that by 2060 there could be nearly 200 million people who classify as a climate refugee. 

Restorative justice is proposed as a solution to this problem. To provide a brief definition, restorative justice is the idea that the victims and offenders should be brought together to meet and discuss a resolution. Doing so will allow for the full involvement of the indigenous people in making decisions that affect them directly. Historically, those who determined what would happene with native land disregarded the thoughts of those who originally inhabited the area. Figueroa notes that these attributes are even mirrored within state systems such as the courts.   

Sustainable, Sostenible, and Sustentable

Humanity is currently in the midst of an ecological crisis and everyday the consequences become more apparent. The movement toward reforming our exploitation of the natural world has slowly risen but it may not gain the necessary momentum in time. We hear the word sustainability a lot, especially in today’s news. It’s a word that everyone knows and has a general understanding of within the context of human consumption. Rarely would we need to deliberate the meaning of the word but after reading Sustainability, by Maria Garcia Maldonado, Rosario Garcia Meza, and Emily Yates-Doerr, it seems that it might be a topic for discussion. 

The author recalls the Nutricion para el desarollo sostenible conference in 2015. They describe the moment when a speaker asked if the word sustainable should be translated into Spanish as sostenible or sustentable. Both were valid translations but conveyed different meanings. 

Again, the author notices a similar issue when staying at Dona Marta’s house in Guatemala. Though the effects of recent policy change were apparent, action was no different than before. The new implementations were “english” and therefore Marta was uninfluenced by it. I find it hard to believe any real progress can be made if there isn’t a way to translate and define our problem and its solutions.  Despite the lack of understanding though, Marta clearly worried about the future and so did the others around her. In their own way, each person worked to preserve something. Whether it be their farms, wage labor, or their own lives, all of it was a part of their own definition for sustainability. At the end of the article, the author speaks on defining our terms with ideas that may be too specific. Now is a time where the relationship between humans and the natural world is being redefined so maybe we should account for this in our interpretation of possible solutions. While there are certainly right and wrong ways to manage our natural resources, we should refrain from excluding multiple options. Especially if they ignore or alienate other cultural practices that have been held on to for generations.

Is Religion the solution or the cause of Our Ecologic Crisis?

The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, by Lynn White, Jr., comments on the union between science, technology, and man’s interpretations of religion. It proposes that the current state of our ecologic crisis stems from those three ideas. When describing the advancement of how humans plowed fields for agricultural use, White highlights how these new ideas were geared towards exploiting nature rather than being a part of it. Old methods like cross-plowing were gentle compared to new methods that were more violent and disruptive. These new methods made it easier to not only turn the soil but to also farm much greater areas of land. The progress in science and technology that she describes had been influenced by Christian beliefs in man’s relationship with nature. With this in mind, she draws the conclusion that Christianity in and of itself, tends to affirm man as a dominator of nature. The solution to our crisis, therefore, can not be found by applying more science and technology. We must first redefine the relationship between us and the natural world, unattached from Christianity. 

Pope Francis shares his own beliefs in Laudato Si. He argues that it is clear God wanted man to be both cultivator and caretaker for nature and our fellow man. While we can use it for our own subsistence, to take anything more than that is beyond our discretion. It is also our God-given duty to maintain the natural world for the next generations, for they too will require its resources. Pope Francis urges us to recognize our existence as one not only created by God but to exist by his side. By devoting ourselves to faith convictions we can provide ourselves with the motivation needed to fulfill our duty. He quotes the stories of Cain and Abel and of Noah to further his argument. In both cases, God sees a lack of justice and so he delivers punishment. To truly maintain justice we must also watch out for the more vulnerable peoples around us.