HEP vs NEP- a word from Earnest

IMG_1485Tree Blog 9

 

 

The HEP theory claims that humans are such a uniquely superior species that they are exempt from environmental forces. Shaped by the leading Western worldview of the time, this was the popular societal paradigm from the industrial revolution until the second half of the 20th century. Human dominance was justified by the uniqueness of our culture, which is far more adaptable over a shorter period than an ecosystem or biological process. Culture also has the capacity to accumulate and innovate, making it an unbounded resource capable of solving all natural problems. As humans are not governed by natural conditions, they have complete control of their own destiny. Any potential limitations posed by the natural world, are surpassable using human intellect and ingenuity.

In the 1970’s, scholars began to see limitations emerging with regards to our natural resources. This coined the term ‘New Ecological Theory (NEP)’. This theory was one of the first of its kind that took environmental variables into account and it completely contradicted the HEP theory. While HEP sees humans as separate/above the natural environment, NEP suggests that human beings are an integral part of the ecosystem and as much a part of it as any other species, we are still ecologically interdependent. The NEP notes the power of social and cultural forces, however it does not set us above these forces. Instead, humans are impacted by the cause, effect, and feedback loops of ecosystems. The earth has a finite level of natural resources and waste repositories. Thus the biosphere/physical environment can impose restrictions on human activity.

My conceptualization of these theories, with regards to my tree, is much more strongly directed towards the NEP theory than the HEP. The reason for my stance is simple, without the cycles of the natural world human beings would not, and could not exist. My tree is a London Plane tree hybrid, among its many uses is its unique ability to reduce the ambient air pollution more than most other tree species. This skill enables this species to be very advantageous in a wide variety of locations that have poor air quality.
Lucky enough for Earnest and his cousins, there are plenty of human-inhabited landscapes that are in desperate need of trees with such skills. Unfortunately for Earnest and his cousins, there are plenty of human-inhabited landscapes that are in desperate need of trees to remedy the consequences of their activities and only once they realize the severity of their actions do they seek out trees such as Earnest.
I find the NEP paradigm more relevant because it is the paradigm in which we must trust if we are to move forward. For far too long we have allowed HEP principles to be the underlying infrastructure of our economy, basing our current and future energy, social, environmental problems on the idea that; whatever issue we face we can overcome given enough time and money.
There are also other theories that are similar to the ideas brought up in the HEP and NEP argument. One of these seeks to determine sustainability, however they do so by splitting sustainability into two sections; weak and strong sustainability. Weak sustainability is comparable with the HEP side of the debate, it implies that human capital (produced) and natural capital are interchangeable. In very weak sustainability, as long as total capital is consistent and at a certain level then it does not matter whether that capital be natural or produced. While in strong sustainability the future generations are of utmost importance, due mainly to their inherent right to receive a planet with the same natural resources that were present in generations before. Weak sustainability says that we do not know what future generations will or won’t need/want, so we are best to serve ourselves however we please as long as we maintain total capital.

Falling over

IMG_1580Tree Blog 8

 

On this wonderful day I chose to go and visit my old pal Earnest. The weather is extremely persistent in its efforts to catch up on all the lack of rain we have had over the past two months. As a result I am huddled between earnest and a brick wall trying to stay as dry as possible.
The surround fields have changed dramatically since my last visit. No longer is the grass a vivid green and the staunch trees standing tall and unmoving. Today the grass looks like a treacherous war field offering severe consequences to those silly enough to traverse it. While the once proud trees are now being thrown around as if a puppet master has them all on a string. The sky only seems to add to the threatening nature of my predicament. Deep blue-grey swirls combined with midnight black whirls, create an eerie environment devoid of color and light. At this time of day (approx. 4pm) and with such poor natural lighting, it is hard to distinguish tones/patterns with much detail. Not only that, but the downpour of rain has left most of his trunk a dark brown only spoiled by slight stains of a greeny-brown moss that is dotted up the full length of Earnest.
I have noticed that there are far fewer squirrels out today than were here for my last blog. However there are the brave few who have decided that their need for food is worth getting their bushy tails wet, although I might add not a single one of them went past a certain height on the trees due to the strong winds.

Today I did not see many kids walking by who looked happy. It seemed as though everyone had been ‘put out’ by this shocking thing we call rain. I heard a girl walk past saying “I wish it never rained, that would be really cool”, and similarly a male saying “Dude this rain is bulls**t, it either gets my hair wet or I have to wear a hat”.

However I found complete tranquility in the surrounding water droplets. The persistent rain created an eerie environment on Morgan field; well at least from where Earnest and myself are sitting. The air seems to be hanging around, as though the onslaught of rain water is restricting the air flow. Smells and sounds remain fairly consistent when you are sitting still. For me the most rewarding thing about the rain is the complete tranquility that is so embedded in its very nature. I often listen to rain when I am trying to sleep at night and being out by Earnest with the rain falling at my feet, allowed me to temporarily escape my physical form, either that or I fell asleep.
I watch as tiny droplets slowly make their way down Earnest’s body, as though he and gravity are fighting over which will claim the most droplets for themselves. Still focusing on water, I turn my gaze towards the concrete path laid out ahead of me. I watch as the rainwater takes on a very different form than when descending a tree trunk. I notice that the water on the footpath seems to be constantly seeking escape. While it may flow easier down the concrete form, the rainwater seems desperate in its attempts to find soil, grass, hedges.

Falling slowly

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It is nearing the end of October here at Dickinson and the Fall is coming into its own increasingly quickly. Leaves of every color litter the campus grounds, kept somewhat at bay by the dedication of our groundskeepers, but mainly by the powerful leaf blower they each have strapped to their backs. The array of leaves serve as a playground for many woodland organisms, the squirrels especially seem to have taken a shine to a particular pile of leaves situated between Earnest and the North-East corner of Morgan Hall.

On this unassuming afternoon the campus has been rewarded with surprisingly weather. Students and professors alike seem delighted to get one more days-use out of “those nice shorts I have” before they are locked away and forgotten about for 4 miserable months. A pair of freshman boys attempt to attract the attention of several sunbathing girls, however their attempts are either not witnessed or simply ignored…I guess their Frisbee skills were not quite up to par.
The sky is a bright baby blue dotted here and there by a lone cloud, these white wisps of moisture acting like jellyfish of the air. Continuing on from top to bottom; the surrounding trees were going through a tremendous change. Every day more and more little soldiers fall to the ground in aid of the soil/ground quality. As I am thinking about our horrible custom to rake our leaves; Earnest reaches out and gives me a piece of wisdom. A single leaf of his slowly swirls, and twirls, and whirls its way toward the ground making slow arching circles in its decent path. When it at last settles down, on a patch of grass close to my feet, I feel obliged to pick it up.
At first touch it is very fragile, not in a sense that it will crumble but rather that it has no strength/rigidity to its structure. The leaf has a cool feel to it at first. The top side has a dull brown tone which is dotted with dark green/brown spots, while the bottom side has the same spots yet its base color is much paler than the top, almost a creamy brown. However it was the texture of the leaf that captured my attention the most. The topside was extremely smooth while the bottom felt like a light-grade sandpaper.

In all honesty…today Earnest looked a little tired, and very relieved to be receiving all of these rays. He has lost a large majority of his leaves already, a lot faster than some other trees I see around campus, by now he has lost about 70% of his bulk. There have also been some small branches, that Earnest felt he no longer needed, that have been laid at his feet for whoever/whatever desires them. In terms of Earnest himself, he has not changed dramatically from the previous blog, however I am bale to witness much of his change simply by bearing witness to the change going on around him. He is a part of his environment, so when it changes so does he. Regardless of how it may appear.

 

Mari’s Value

Mari has a lot of value to the world around her. In the spring, she blooms beautiful yellow flowers that look like butterflies sitting on her branches. These flowers are pollinated by beetles, bees, and other insects. They provide food to the insects that pollinate them.

The flowers also produce a sweet aroma that is pleasant to humans. The bright yellow petals add color to the landscape and are appealing to the eye. Her yellow flowers brighten up the area by the Quarry which is mostly green. She adds character.

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Mari blossoms in late winter/early spring, which means she is some of the first color to appear after winter. This is especially useful to people like me that can get really depressed in the winter. Seeing the first bits of color after a long winter gives me hope and reminds me that spring is coming soon, bringing warm weather with it.

Mari adds a lot to the world around her. She is a source of food, life, and hope.

We are not exempt

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The Human Exemptionalism Paradigm (HEP) is the set of principles surrounding the idea that the human race is separated from the environment, and that we are superior and therefore are not bounded by natural resources. This kind of thought is dangerous for the environment, humans, and Mari. This kind of thinking justifies cutting down trees with little thought to how it will affect us. We can drive two minutes down the road to our friend’s house without worrying how the pollution will affect us as a race. We believe we will adapt.

This is far from true. Humans are not exempt from their environment; the environment does have an impact on us. This is why the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) was introduced. NEP is the set of principles surrounding the idea that humans, in fact, are influenced by the environment. The resources humans depend on are finite and limited, and if we use them all up or destroy them, the human race will not survive.

I prefer the NEP principles. I think it is important to take care of the world around us. My dad always used to say “we only have one earth, so we better take care of it.” If we don’t, the human race doesn’t have a future. We cannot afford to continue to cut down forests and pollute our water and create so much waste if we want to survive. We are a critical part of our environment, and we need to act like we care.

If if we continue to cut down trees without thinking about the consequences, we will suffer in the future. We have to save Mari and her friends in order to have a future on earth.

The Best Tree Around

IMG_4901Final post. Final words to write down.

Why is my tree the best, why should my tree be one that should always be saved, well here is my argument.

My tree, my heroic, majestic, lovely, Eastern Hemlock has been through hell and back. To start all of its family, his cousins, brothers, sisters, mother and father have been hit with the Hemlock Woody Adelgid. This is a horrible disease that the hemlocks get from an insect. The insect drains all of the water and nutrients from the tree until there is nothing else left to support the tree, and thus killing it. This tree is relatively young for Hemlocks and has so much life to live. Being one of a few trees even in the state that has not been hit with this disease is saying something in its self. This tree needs to be saved so that it can keep growing the hemlock population in the area and not just die out like this family. Seeing as this tree is one of a few that has yet to be hit, maybe research can be done to understand why. We can learn so much from this tree. We can do more testing in the field to understand if there is a treatment and see if we can prevent this from growing into other untouched areas. This tree can give us hope, hope that we will be able to look out our windows and see Hemlocks in a few years.

Another reason why my tree to be saved and has been through hell is that it literally went through war and was wounded in battle and lives to tell the story. In the summer it fought through the battle of the summer rainstorm and won. This tree was moving all around trying to save everyone around it and was able to, but it was hit and his top was hit by lightning. He lost what some say is one of the most important things on a tree, its apical meristem. This is at the very top and is what allows the tree to grow up and out in its typical shape. Some say that without it, that it would be the same, but this tree couldn’t accept that future. My hemlock worked through the rest of the summer to try and grow and many said that it was not possible, but Hemlock wouldn’t take that. After many months of no growth in October it was recorded that it grew 3 inches. Many said that it was impossible, but my Hemlock is a survivor and showed everyone up. He grew, and continues to grow everyday.

This tree should be saved because it gives me hope. I look at this tree every other day as I walk to class and I think about what is has gone through and how it needs a break from struggle and just needs love. This tree can spread its hope through the campus and become something more.

This is more than just a tree, this is a strong warrior. This Eastern Hemlock has seen more trouble and death than I have and technically we are about the same ago. This tree has so much more life to give and more hope to give to those around it. It deserves more than it is given.

SAVE POP

There is so much about Pop that I love. He will become a tall and handsome tree three times the age of an average human lifespan. He will bloom every spring and these beautiful bright yellow flowers will emerge and provide energy for bees and butterflies (plus they smell amazing). It is used often as a reforesting species because of their rapid growth. Tulip trees have been around since the age of the dinosaurs. They grow taller then oaks or maples and make great loop hammock trees because of their sturdiness. I have learned so much from this project and Pop.  I have a new found appreciation for nature and the human condition, it is a whole new world. 

We Are All Part Of Something Bigger

To me, Pop is a friend and an important part of the environment here. He provides a home for so many of the native organisms, especially cardinals (they are one of my favorite birds). He is a home for so many insects as well. From the ants to the bees and butterflies that visit his yellow flowers in the spring, he does it all. He has seen so much on this campus too. The many students he has listened to and heard their concerns, fears and doubts. He is part of a beautiful campus that is as photogenic as Leonardo DiCaprio in the Titanic, which happens to be one of Pop’s favorite movies). He may be a young tree still but he’s part of a huge system. Trees release the oxygen we need to breathe and the dwindling number of trees equals a dwindling amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Pop is helping to combat this. Every tree is a part of this ecosystem just as we are all part of the ecosystem in which we live. Pop also really enjoys where he lives and the experiences he has been a part of. He is very connected to this campus and the people who inhabit it.

HEP or NEP?

According to NEP (New Ecological Paradigm) humans are just as much as part of nature and my friend Pop (the tree I haven’t mentioned his name in awhile). We all have a part to play in this world and we are all part of the same shift and changing environment. Our lives are equal in value and worth. We expend energy and live together in harmony.

According to HEP (Human Exceptionalism Paradigm), humans are above nature and there doesn’t need to be a relationship between humans and nature. The only exception is that we aren’t meant to use these recourses to any extent we deem necessary. Natural recourses are there for the taking regardless of how it affects the environment. Unfortunately, I think this is how a lot of people think theses days. We have lost our connection with nature due to the rise of large cities and suburbs. I wish that more people understood our relationship with the natural world; we are just as much a part of it as the other animals and living things. To preserve the land we have left, we need to understand that we are animals too and all apart of an ever connected ecological system.

Field Notes Day 3

As I walk to my tree after class, the sun is low in the sky and even though it’s only late afternoon. The leaves on all the trees are turning and falling with consistency now. As I near my tree I stop to wonder at the beauty of a sugar maple who’s leaves are a deep red yellow. As I approached my tree I can see how he has lost the majority of his leaves in one week. The ones still attached were becoming more and more yellow and brittle. The veins in the leaves have become dark and hollow. Everything seems just as slow as the week previous and the air is cold now. There is briskness in the walk of the students they pass by. They seem to be trying to hurry out of the wind and cold air. The squirrels are darting around still, stopping every few feet to make a small hole in the ground. It has been nice to actually spend this time with my tree. I have actually started writing again. I’ve found out more about myself.