Sharawaji is the perfect sound. It’s the phenomena that David Rothenberg has to write pages about just to explain what it means. There is no one example that could be known as the perfect sound, because as we learn the perfect sound is subjective. It can only be perfect to you, or perfect to that moment, or perfect to the place. Through the many combinations of stories I think I was able to begin forming my own understanding of the word. I don’t think I will truly understand it anytime soon, but I was so captivated that I’m sure I will keep my ears open to try and find it.
To start my understanding I examined my own favorite sound, the sound of my heartbeat underwater in a bathtub. When I reflected on this sound I knew that I enjoy it because It brings me comfort and I only hear it at the perfect moment: a calming bath. After reading the entirety of this chapter I found the truth in why I enjoy this sound, and what makes a sound perfect. A large portion of the text revolves around this idea of the tremendous sound of a glacier breaking. Its a powerful sound but what makes it tremendous is the fact that it is an equally powerful occurrence. When a glarier breaks we are faced with what this class is all about, the consequences of human actions. The concept of the earth being destroyed. On its own we know its real, we talk about it daily, yet somehow nothing seems to be done about it. Maybe that’s because we never hear the sound of the glacier breaking. Just because we know its happening doesn’t mean it’s really a reality. Even more thought provoking is the idea from Galvani, that when a glacier hears the sound of a crumbling glacier, will they too crumble? Maybe this tremendous sound is so powerful because it is the sound of death, and when a glacier is faced with its own death it too may choose to cave.
This is a sound of life and death. In this glacier cascade, eventually there will be no more glaciers to crumble, and finally the sound will stop. We as humans will be left with no sound. We knew the glaciers died and through the sound of them crumbling we knew they were once alive. In this moment when there are no more sounds for us to hear, we will realize the meaning of sharawaji, that the perfect sound is anything that proves we are alive. And surely when I can no longer hear my own favorite sound it will be proof of my death.
What I understood from the text is that during the peak of the pandemic would have been the most opportune moment for a country to seize global control. As we all know the pandemic shut down entire country’s with ease. The pandemic had an impact on almost all parts of our daily lives, from closures and shipping delays to unemployment and government relief. During this time nations across the world have all been struggling to stay functioning. Fighting the pandemic resulted in governments having to spread themselves thin to take care of all citizens and promote creating a cure. As you noticed no one had time to care about anything besides the pandemic. This time of weakness would have been the perfect opportunity to annex your neighbors. A good government would be prioritizing the safety of its people, so they would not risk the consequence of trying to assemble a war effort. In order to sustain a war production needs to at its peak, and during the pandemic with its unemployment there would just be no way to fight back.
This is what occurred during the colonization of the Americas, except ten fold. Imagine a foe who already has more advanced weaponry and military technologies, and now imagine that your nations population was reduced to only a 5th. If you outnumber them, then you have an equal playing field, but to be reduced to such small numbers and have no guns, was an assured defeat for all native Americans. This is the concept of biowarfare. Viruses not only are more deadly but are a silent killer who can stab you but can’t be stabbed back. The rampant mortality alone would classify them as the strongest weapon ever known to man, but there’s also the strain on the people who have to take care of the sick just to keep the civilization alive. Large civilizations depend on laborer’s, and when all of your farmers die then where the heck will all the food come from. Just the death of 1 farmer could result in the starvation of 30 civilians. Biowarfare is the most powerful weapon and while the Europeans may not have even know about it, it was the only way they were able to conquer all of the Americas.
This goes to show that while nuclear bombs and guns may seem scary, the most likely cause of death for all of humanity may be something as small as a germ. What’s even more scary is that we have seen the purposeful use of biowarfare in the past through medieval siege tactics involving catapulting dead body’s and livestock into cities to promote illness. The power of biowarfare is too much for humans to control, and any future in which we attempt this would be cruel and irresponsible.
Of all the theses I find myself drawn to number 4 and 5; most importantly the powerful association they propose between nature and the future. As most these agree nature is the unpredictable cacophony of the universe that has been set in motion since the beginning of time. If we think about the entire universe as an astrophysicist would we know that entropy is always increasing, meaning our world is consistently spontaneously dispersing energy until what we predict to be the end of the universe. This will be when there is nothing left in the universe to react, with no reactions then its the same as time being frozen. We know the world will stop once it has distributed all its energy, just like how we know that a ball will fall to the ground once it’s been thrown. Since we know its final position and the action it takes to achieve this position then we can calculate all known positions of the ball as it travels.
If we can calculate the exact position of the ball, couldn’t we theoretically use the end result of the universe and the knowledge of how it is dispersing to predict all known positions of everything in the universe? Meaning we could create a grand theory that can tell us the exact position of all living things with respect to time. It would be the ability to see the future. But if we could use the starting position of the universe and its end to predict everything then wouldn’t we just become actors in the great movie of the universe? The world as we know it would be one predetermined series of events that transpire with our individual actions being already set into motion before we were even born. I think this is quite a hysterical ponderance, the idea that all of our decisions don’t matter. Which is why I’m grateful for nature.
In theses 4 and 5 we say that nature can’t be reduced to a calculation, and that there is absolutely no way to add up every interaction in the world to create a fixed equation that would be able to predict the future. Because nature in its very essence is an idea that can’t be calculated for, it’s the very thought that what ever is impossible is possible. Nature is hope. It lets me know that I have free will, that what I do matters. Nature assures us that our reality isn’t occurring inside some math equation, nature finds a way to tell us that we are all alive in this world.
This summary got me thinking quite a bit about our future on this earth and who’s going to deal with the mess we are creating. My whole life when thinking about the apocalypse and the end of humanity it’s always been about social struggles between humans and other humans. This has been a general mindset ever since the start of globalization. We no longer had to worry about starvation if food can be transported across the entire globe in a week. If all your crops fail you don’t just starve anymore. Money gets tight and maybe you go homeless but even then there is no such thing as starvation in a first world country. Following the world wars and creation of nuclear weapons it seems like a safe bet to say that the world might just end in a massive explosion. This thought is obviously very common among the older generations who experienced the affects and cultural shift of the time, and are therefore bound to be common in todays youth since their culture gets taught to us. This fear of the near explosive apocalypse has pushed the fear of running out of trees far out of our minds. No one is worried about starvation when there’s a nuclear bomb dropping in an hour. This cultural ideology is what’s at the root of our lack of motivation to figure out sustainability. Why worry about the distant future when right now in this very moment that money could go towards people in need somewhere else in the world. It just seems like a waste to invest in solving a problem that hasn’t had consequences yet.
After this reading it just seems more and more likely that the death of the human race will be a slow gradual starvation brought on by our aspirations. In the end when we all realize that there’s only one forest left, the effort we put in the save that last forest will be twenty times the amount of effort that we could use right now to prevent that future. An ounce of sustainability is worth of pound hopeless last attempt endeavor at the end of the world on a planet that no longer can sustain life.
So I guess there’s two ways to look at it, the world will end in ice or fire. Our cultural and political failures due to differences of opinions will result in mass chaos thus destroying our civilizations (fire). The slow inevitable strangulation of our planet until our sheer population mass can no longer be sustained and we desperately try to turn back time (ice). The “collapse” brings great insight into this death by ice, and hopefully we all are aware of death by fire. I’d like to think there’s a third option, where we don’t go out with a bang and never have to chop down that final tree.
When there are two sides to an argument it’s easy to see the opposing views as the enemy. I think a dominant example of this in Americans lives is the political debate between republicans and democrats. It’s not to hard to believe that if someone disagrees with you then they are fighting against you, but really in an argument we are on the same side and want the same things but just have different thoughts on what it looks like and how to get there. Both political party’s want the best for the citizens of the United States, just like both the “Gaian” and “Promethean” perspectives want the best possible outcome for the future. In Geoengineering and Sustainability Thiele works to show us this middle ground so that we can try and work together to create the best outcome for our dangerous and daunting future.
In order to better understand this middle ground between two philosophy’s we must first understand what the problem at hand is: how to best use geoengineering to solve climate change. Geoengineering is a study of science where humans implicant large scale ideas in order to alter earth. While this sounds like a promising way to solve all our conflicts we are then faced with the fundamental problem: are we even allowed to do this? Id like to think that if we change the whole world that we would need the whole world to vote on it, and yet there is no democracy for wild animals. The fish had no say in whether or not their waters become polluted, and they will have no say on the way we decide to “fix” their water.
When approaching the problem of geoengineering we learn there are two polar perspectives, the Gaian and Promethean. Gaian has its historical origins from mother nature and the balance of the earth, while Promethean is rooted in the power of humans to innovate and create. The Gaian way of thinking believes that to alter the world like we have (climate change) is throwing off the natural balance of the world which was set up to be its own pulsing heart created from all of nature living together. While the Promethean believe that through our intervention we can save life and make the world better then it was ever intended to be. Create a perfect future molded into an artificial balance of a well oiled machine.
While it may be easy to say that they are completely different ideologies Thiele shows that in the end both are working towards one goal. The end goal of sustainability. All humans want earth to live forever, we just have different views on how we can get there. Gaians may want to rip down cities and return to monkey while Prometheans might chop down every tree to create artificial infinite carbon sinks. In both futures we chose sustainability so maybe through compromise we can come up with less extreme options where we work as a team to prolong our planet.
There was an Idea thrown around during our mock debate of the Lynn White vs. Pope Francis arguments. The idea that indigenous people had managed to find a balance between their self expansion and preserving the environment. We brought up this idea in regards to the wester colonizers, who believed in Christianity, and who obviously were not able to find a balance between themselves and the environment because that’s where we are now. In the dystopian earth threatening future created by the colonizers. In a world where there aren’t herds of wild buffalos roaming free across the countryside’s. What I find so fascinating about this thought we had in our mock debate is that its the main topic of Kyle Whyte’s article Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene.
In his video interview he brings up that climate change is not a new thought for the indigenous people. They have been recording through their stories and culture the interactions that indigenous people have with the plants and animals around them. One modern work that I keep thinking of which showcases these interactions is Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Kimmerer. It is a fascinating collection of indigenous folklores that cornicle the scientific interactions with various plants and flora across the country. A specific example is the way that indigenous people would use sweet grass to braid and create their objects, and through this relationship the sweet grass actually would benefit. Then once the natives were removed from their lands these populations of sweet grass that once were harvested and braided where now left untouched. I’m pretty sure this very negatively affected their population but I don’t recall how. The book is filled with these interaction of well recorded environmental changes and balancing, where indigenous people were able to create symbiotic relationships with the environment around. This kept their respect for the environment and the world higher overall which if left to rule North America may have never led to the dystopia that we are in now.
All these messages are now being brought up for one purpose, and that’s to protect ALL of the earth, not just the parts of it we like the most. In this day and age with all our technology and actions with unknown consequence’s its so hard to be aware of how just one individual affects the world around them. Just buying one water bottle could trace back to endangering thousands of species, so where at this point where humans are no longer being held accountable for their actions since so much of them are near impossible to account for. We are in a dystopian future where so much of our earth is in danger, and as much as we would like to there is no way to go back. So we have to move forward doing as much as we can to make the change we want for our earth.
We all have our own connection to nature. Here in Oregon any time you step outside we are fortunate enough to have a breathtaking view of mountain ranges, forests, or endless valleys of golden grains. Nature untouched by man is art already, worthy of paintings and pictures. Yet there is something quite surreal when you can view nature and know that it didn’t always look like that, and we have permanently changed it for all of eternity. There’s no way to go back to how it was. There’s a pride in knowing we can change the world, but its also a haunting feeling knowing that you can never get back what you lost. Yet still favorite view on this earth is an outlook high up in the mountains, and during the day you can see for miles the untouched land sprawling out below it. Then at night the eerie glow of windmills cities away lights up the night sky with thousands of red beaming eyes. The earth is it’s own masterpiece painting, and everything we do changes it in sporadic and unknown ways.
This feeling might be what these artist are tying to bring to people, what they are tying to remind us of. We all have our own location in the world that brings us a feeling of pride for our creation but with a slight wince of unease for what it used to be. Maybe a few years ago, or maybe lifetimes ago, but our reach has change almost every location in the world in some way or another. The artists bring up these emotions in us as part of their responsibility to themselves as good artists. Allowing people to resonate and connect with their art is what an artist strives for. The real question is why do they feel the need to bring up these exact emotions. Why show us nature and the effect we have had on it. These artists obviously must feel a connection of their own to nature and are using their talents to share this feeling with others. I don’t believe that there can be an agenda behind their artwork. The paper has mild tones of whether artists either have the right to try and change someone’s else’s perspective, and if it is instead their duty to try and persuade others. I believe the artist can create what ever they want. Its not the artists job to change our thinking, its their job to get us thinking. No picture of nature can be propaganda, because everyone may look at it different.
My favorite piece of art was Nancy Holts Sun Tunnel. The tube is like the human eye, focused towards the distance at the largest mountain. Only able to see what’s in our field of view. In one way it amplifies the beauty of nature, but in another it limits what we can see. Similar to our technology. Through our science we are able to see newer and greater things, but as a results we are diminishing the parts of nature and the world that we deem mundane.
Nancy Holt, “Sun Tunnel“
Both writings: The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis by Lynn White and On Care For our Common Home by Pope Francis agree that for the last 200 years humans have embraced an anthropocentric tyranny over all of nature and the world. That is the extent of their agreement. The crucial argument proposed by both writings is: when and how did this tyranny begin? Lynn examines the ecological dangers of western technology by tracing back to a shift in morals and values which he believes enabled our scourge on nature. Meanwhile Pope Francis works to preserve the Bible from being the origin of human centered belief, by shifting blame onto the human sin and misinterpretations.
In his text Lynn outlines his process of, as the name states, trying to discover the historical origin of our ongoing tyranny. He first makes a case to show just how much humans were able to impact the world around them, through his use of historical examples and modern ecological facts. He then goes on to signify the importance in technological advancements that let the western culture capitalize on what the world had to offer. He claims that while there were many great scientific discovers all across the globe, much information was lost or translated into only Latin, which in the end is why he believes that all science and technology advancements are have inherent western ideals. So what are these ideals you may ask? Well these ideals are what he calls mans distinction from nature. Once man was able to separate themselves from the nature around them it allowed remorseless exploitation to be effortless. He claims this shift in belief, was in the end due to the embrace of Christianity and depart from pagan animalism. When humans revered each creation of the earth to be its own sentient being we were in unity as equals, but once Christianity enlightened man to stand above the rest of the world is when and why we began our tyranny.
Pope Francis uses his extensive knowledge of the bible and its true meaning to show the world that the bible is not the cause for humans self centered rampart across the environment. Through use of scriptures and passages he shows that when created men were not created to be tyrants, but rulers. Through the use of our intelligent and god given powers we must care for and protect the world while keeping it in balance. The bible says that men are to walk among all creatures of life not above them but as their shepherds. His response to the human centered destruction of the environment is that man has sins and that material processions and power have corrupted humans to abandon their divine responsibilities and exploit the earth. He goes on to say that Jesus and the Lord is against the unhealthy dualism that divides man and nature, but even so that dualism went on to taint the bibles good name through human actions. The Pope argues that it was not the bible that set man down the path of tyranny, but instead the sins of man.
In the end both Lynn White and Pope Francis come to their own conclusions for why man was able to lay waste to our own home. Lynn puts the blame onto christen values, while the Pope sets the blame on human sins.