As technology advances and there are more and more people in the world, their sounds begin to reach further into less touched areas of the planet. Schafer’s comments about the acoustic presence of humans in the global soundscape reminds me of animals that are negatively affected by the additional sounds created by humans in the Anthropocene. The first type of animal that comes to mind is a whale, a staple part of the oceanic soundscape, as their calls can communicate over many miles. The addition of things like cargo ships negatively affect the whale communication and may be harmful for them to be able to find both food and mates in order to reproduce. The second animal that comes to mind that is impacted by noisier soundscapes are owls who use their hearing as a large part of their hunting system to locate prey.
I also found that the association between soundscapes and history are largely overlooked. A soundscape or recording of an are could tell a historian about where that place is and how it functions. For example, a soundscape recorded in Deli, India, would be distinctly different from on filmed in St. Petersburg. Those two soundscapes would be distinctly different, allowing a historian to deconstruct the lives of people in different areas, giving better perceptions of how individuals live.
On page 10, Schafer comments that “In the West the ear gave way to the eye as the most important gatherer of information about the time of the Renaissance, with the development of the printing press and perspective painting.” That mostly speaks to the transition in the way the world consumed media, prior to that, literacy rates were much lower, meaning that people would have to hear things like news by ear. The change in soundscape between pre-renaissance and post-industrial revolution is therefore drastic in urban centers, not only because of advancement in manufacturing ability but the change of human habit. The transition between the time periods would be very clear if the two different soundscapes could have been recorded.
I fount the 13th thesis to be particularly interesting as I can see it in what is happening in the world today. The 13th thesis suggests that the amount of energy in and around earth is constant, and it cannot be changed. I can then take different forms by being converted into different releases and absorptions. To me that reflects the extremely intense Atlantic tropical storm season in 2020. The storms in the Atlantic Ocean have been far more frequent this year and more intense as well, therefore reflecting the increased amount of energy that is being dissipated and absorbed in the world. Based on the thesis, that extra energy is a conversion from energy stored in more stable things, such as oil reserves or trees. The destruction and emission of those stable energy reserves results in more energy in the atmosphere. The extra energy is then dissipated to the ground through storms and other weather events. This tropical storm season is yet another example of the irregularity cause by unnatural human energy releases into the atmosphere.
The one that seemed to kind of be in opposition to 13 was 3, where it says that nature should never be a “given”. Thesis 3 says that change in nature always happens, and it is an ever-evolving thing, whereas 13 says it does not. The important distinction that makes the two theses agree with each other is that energy amount is constant, but how the energy is used and distributed is always evolving. 13 caters more to the idea that humans as a part of nature accelerated changes in it as a result of activity, whereas 3 says that nature would have changed regardless of human action through things like evolution. The two compliment each other well as they encompass ideas on how humans within nature can change it compared to how it would change without additional human input.
A tamarisk is an invasive tree that consumes a large amount of water in a desert environment. In “The Tamarisk Hunter” a dry future is painted upon the American Southwest, where water is scarce as a result of an extended period of drought. To keep water feeding the Colorado River into California. Lolo, the tamarisk hunter, is most likely located in Arizona or Colorado, where it is generally dry, but snows in Winter to feed the Colorado River. Lolo gets paid by the government to pull out tamarisk in order to keel water flowing to the river for the river to meet the amount of water it needs when it enters California. Drought during the story is so bad that the towns surrounding Lolo’s location are ghost towns, without enough water for residents to shower on a weekly basis.
The impacts of climate change combined with invasive species are apparent in the story. Drought occurred as a result of the climate change, creating less sustained water for use in the Colorado River. Tamarisk’s large amount of water consumption takes away further amounts of water from the river, particularly when it is near smaller tributaries, causing environmental and economic destruction as a result.
Tamarisk reminds me of other invasive species crises in the United States, like the Asian carp in the Mississippi River system. Like tamarisk’s impact on the economy in “The Tamarisk Hunter,” the Asian carp could cause further economic impact if they reach the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes have a large fishing industry, and the introduction of the carp would result in large scale habitat destruction, as they breed quickly and out compete native species for food. On a more relevant note to us in Oregon, the Zebra mussel and Quagga muscles do much of the same as the Asian carp. Environmental change, partly due to invasive species is yet another example of the impact that humans have on the environment.
The environment’s impact on every person is pronounced. “The Vanishing” by Malcolm Gladwell explores that impact with regards to social survival. The preservation of a certain lifestyle and diet is simply unsustainable in most regards, as demonstrated by the Norse and the Easter Islanders. In the case of the Norse, their demise was a result of their stubbornness to maintain status within their culture. That involved not eating fish, or ringed seals, which is easily the most sustainable food source during all seasons in Greenland. As a result, the environment retaliated and could no longer meet the demands of the culture, rather than the people.
The other case discussed in the article, is the Easter Islanders, where the same type of demise hit them. The trees and soil on the island could not sustain the culture and the number of people practicing it there. The disappearance of the trees lead to the rapid degradation of humanity, and therefore living culture on the island.
Put into a modern context, the environment is not such a small island or fjord, it is the whole globe. An increasing number of people and a demand to maintain our “social glue” as a planet will lead to a similar demise. The changing climate is what determines how we live and die as a planet, as everything that feeds and maintains humans comes from it. Given its rapid degradation and inevitable disappearance on the current path, steps towards managing it for survival are necessary.
Diamond distinguishes between social and biological survival, but on a global scale, biological survival is more important. I say that because social survival needs to be cast aside for biological survival to occur. By emphasizing biological survival, social survival will take on a new form, taking on the values on biological survival.
Katie Paterson’s sound of Vatnajokull Glacier melting draws attention to climate change through the accelerated melting of glaciers. It specifically points to the overall warming of cooler climates, impacting the systems life depends on. Glaciers specifically impact how erosion occurs, how water is release in large watersheds in late summer and store lots of water. The reduction in the amount of glacial area impacts the rising sea levels which are impacting low lying places throughout the world.
Paterson’s work encourages and brings attention to the severity and speed at which glaciers are melting, rather than aesthetic. Although the sound is satisfying to listen to, that sound may only become more pronounced as the climate continues to change at the rate it is. Using the work, the discussion of how to address the changing climate and rising sea levels as a result comes up as a result of the role glaciers play in the global freshwater system. The sounds of the melting glacier remind me of the glacier that is closest to me. The glacier on Mt. Hood is the smallest it has ever been (October 2020) and losing it would impact the local areas in many ways. Its loss can result in an economic impact for the people that use the glacier in the summer months as a livelihood, as Timberline is the only ski area in North America that is open year-round, drawing professional skiers, and others from around the globe, and in turn contributing to the local economy. Another result is that it would impact the local watershed negatively, impacting salmon and steelhead runs, which are also economic drivers in the area. The forest below the glacier, in the water shed it feeds would also be impacted by little water coming from the glacier in late summer, potentially contributing to more intense wildfires.
The work does not call for action, as partial melting is a normal process for glaciers in summer months, but the conversation surrounding the sound leads to a call for action. As for the materials required for the piece, it requires electronics, most likely produced in China and energy to keep it up on servers so people have access to it. The major environmental impacts are just the shipping for the microphone and getting it to Iceland and the glacier, so it is not zero by any means. However, it creates a conversation that is invaluable for changing perspectives and education about glaciers and the role they play in the earth’s ecosystem.
Cultural loss comes from many aspects, the one I tend to think of is colonialism. That general thought comes from what I have learned previously. In that context cultural loss comes from an immediate change in politics and power in a region, where typically “Western” cultures force themselves upon indigenous people. Cultural loss may not come from just colonialism, some of it may not even be classified as loss. Some cultures may evolve over time, creating cultural evolution.
At the root of cultural loss is the deficit in the information that is being passed from generation to generation. In many cases, such as native populations in many parts of the world, older generations may not be able to live long enough to pass down their knowledge. Indigenous people are the most susceptible to climate change and instability. The reason for that is because climate change alters the traditional aspects that are the cornerstones of their culture. When the climate changes, many seasonal animal migration patterns and crop rotations are altered, creating a deficit in knowledge of the environment that surrounds them.
The core of many cultures might be language, and the loss of a language may be the demise of the culture it belongs to. As we learned last week, communication across languages is difficult, for example the word “sustainability” does not have a direct translation to other languages. The same exists with the loss of language. Language, for many indigenous cultures was the only way stories and knowledge were passed from generation to generation. Without the existence of written language, some cultures are in danger of truly being lost as a result of the death of the spoken language. The nature of language, particularly indigenous ones, is that there is no exact or perfect translation. The nuance of that in cultural loss is that, even if it is recorded, the oral history will never have an exact translation, and therefore exact perspective and purpose.
The “fix” or righting of wrongs put forward by western cultures in reparations, and land to those effected by cultural loss and climate change in the name of sustainability is happening too late. It is happening in a way that does not always make sense to the people most affected. The changes have already had a large effect on their way of life, and more restrictions prevent them from being able to protect their way of life and culture. The mindset of all parties needs to change in order for a fix to actually work where all can live in a sustainable way where culture can be preserved.
Humans manipulating the environment around them to get the resources they need is nothing new since agriculture became a large part of civilization. Humans have become too good at that manipulation, to the point where it negatively effects the overall health of the planet. It is difficult to point a finger at the cause of the current climate crisis, as discussed last week. Whatever caused is, solving the crisis involves sustainability.
“Sustainability” recognizes the nuance of the word and its shortcomings in other “markets” that do not speak English. The business of pitching sustainability to cultures and is difficult because of its lack of direct translations. Breaking tradition or habit for sustainability when the term is not even understood is a difficult process for those who must do the changing. That is exemplified by Marta, who needed to put all her crop into large silos instead of protecting them with chemicals and pesticides.
Another side of sustainability that is lost in translation is that of the global scale. Marta does not really understand the bigger picture because of her more isolated language cultural barrier. The cultural barrier on the global scale is more difficult to deal with. For example, cultures that are working only to survive will be more difficult to convince to change their habits in the name of sustainability.
The idea that more powerful and developed parts of the world should take leadership in the sustainability may be a more difficult than some anticipate. As the people in Marta’s community demonstrate, they are trying to protect their industry and themselves from “encroaching markets” that are typically dominated by those bigger powers. Measures taken that are meant to deter larger powers from sweeping up their economy may not involve sustainability. Regardless, the statement “the world is not innocent” (Maldonado) applies to the situation, where when change needs to be made, it comes with a cost. In the case of sustainability, the cost may be a culture, a view, or a person’s way of life.
The argument that religion has destroyed the environment stands in some instances through the role it has played in the technological advancement of culture, technology, and society. With ecological downfall in sight, Pope Francis argues that part of the creation described in Christian faith is intertwined with nature meaning proper following of the Christianity requires that humans be stewards of the natural world.
Francis’s view does not agree with that of Lynn White. White’s message counters that of Francis in a way that is more directed at the Christianity itself. White points out the Franciscan way of viewing nature and conserving it glorifies the creator instead of conserving what is given. Another argument that White poses is that “No new set of basic values has been accepted in out society to displace those of Christianity,” meaning that religion is at the core of what society deems to be good and bad. Upon deeper consideration, that means that even those who have refuted dominant belief systems remain within their core values of good and bad, which in turn reflect on decisions concerning environmental stress. White believes that Christianity serves as a vehicle for self-prosperity in which the environment is the sacrifice in the name of the god which brings it.
Pope Francis brings to light an issue regarding Christianity and its power and how it could be used for change. Using his power on Christianity he hopes to highlight and bring a message to Christians to insight change in behaviors. In chapter two of Laodato Si, he covers topics that plague the protection of what all Christians call home. He begins by exploring throwaway culture and its costs on both the environment and human life in hopes of changing habits of his followers. Unless the word of the Church can be used for positive change in the ecological crisis faced today, messages and belief of its existence would be lost into the masses, as a major line of influence and communication would be closed.
An Honors Colloquium in Environmental Arts and Humanities