Archive for category 2012 This Land is MY Land?

Building connections: How my home changed from Madison to Carlisle

Me holding peromyscus leucopus (white footed mouse). Caught in Sherman trap.

I have always felt a connection to the earth but it wasn’t until I took this class that I attributed part of this relationship to my being a woman. I have always loved being outside and observing nature. But my connection with the land was very clinical and detached. For example, I by my second year at Dickinson I could name the common mammal species in the area, I knew popular geographic land marks, I was aware of conservation issues in Pennsylvania, but I had no idea how such issues were effecting the people who live here. In class we talked about hydraulic fracking, a method used to extract nature gas from shale. I was well aware of the effects on the ecosystem. I had learned about fracking in some environmental science classes I took and knew the drawbacks of this practice on the environment. But it wasn’t until I learned about it in this class that I realized the negative impacts of the people living in fracking areas. Now I know I’m lucky that I grew up in an area that has no fracking. But issues like fracking make me wonder about what might be going on where I grew up.

As my relationship and knowledge of Pennsylvania has increased, I feel more and more distanced from my hometown of Madison. Its not so much that my knowledge of Connecticut is decreasing, but more that I am realize the gaps in that knowledge. Its a a strange feeling. I have only spent four years here in Carlisle, but I have learned so much that I feel my knowledge if Madison is insignificant. I don’t know if the species I have studied here at school are also common species back home. If I went back to Madison now would I recognize the forrest where I spent so much time growing up? Now I’m not sure. Realizing this, has made me feel that I can’t go back to Connecticut after graduation.

Holding Yellow spotted and Jefferson's salamander egg masses.

The idea of starting over completely, after coming so far and learning so much seems impossible. This is what has lead me to pursue career options close to Carlisle. I always thought that I would end up working in the West, somewhere like Yellowstone National Park where I could research grey wolves. But now that my graduation is approaching, I feel like I can’t leave Pensylvania. I believe this is partially to do with the fear that all seniors have of leaving academia and stepping out into the real world, but I also think it has to do with the relationship I have built with the land in this area. I know it so well and love it, that I can’t imagine leaving. I have become passionate about issues and species in this area, I fear who will take up these causes if I leave. If I stay would I even be able to make a difference? Or would it not matter at all? This is what scares me more than anything: the thought that I could protest and write as much as I want but it might not change a thing.

The idea that we are “stuck in a rut” with environmental issues in PA and there’s nothing we can do to change them. For example, I know that if deer populations are allowed to remain unrestrained, our forests will disappear. The damage can already be seen in many areas of high deer population. The signs are obvious to me: browselines, canopy gaps with no trees competing to fill the void, increase in red maple and back cherry, decrease in bird species diversity, decrease in oak and hickory numbers, and increase in deer facilitated invasive species. When we take first years out to Reinaman Wildlife Preserve, the usual response is “Oh look at that pretty grass”. At Reinaman where deer hunting is prohibited, you can see over 200 meters through the trees and the forest floor is covered in light green grass. To the untrained eye it may look beautiful, to me it looks sick. It is a diseased and dying ecosystem that will be replaced with grassland or a red maple monoculture in less than 100 years. Its probably too late to save Reinaman, but if people are educated about what is happening there, its possible to prevent similar failings elsewhere. Last week I interviewed Professor Kim Van Fleet about here research in Ornithology. When speaking about her inspiration for becoming a scientist she said, “I’ve realize that I can’t save the whole world, but I can save a pice of it.” I couldn’t agree with her more. And the piece I want to save is Pennsylvania.

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The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling

I’m going to begin this blog post by being brutally honest. The class we spent playing in the dirt did nothing for me. I emerged from that dirt playing session unchanged. If anything, I grew frustrated. When unleashed onto the academic quad for some one-on-one time with dirt, I felt a little lost, even though this was the same dirt I trod on every day on my way to class. To settle my mind, I went to one of my favorite places on campus, the backyard of the Guest House. I sat with my notebook, trying my best to figure out “Who is the soil?” and “How is the land wild?” and “How am I wild?”

A glimpse of a fall night spent behind the Guest House, one of my favorite outdoor spaces.

Maybe it’s because this assignment did not push me out of my comfort zone. For me, lying barefoot on the ground and getting dirt under my nails is an everyday occurrence. Maybe I need to push myself farther to strengthen my relationship with the land. I thought for a while that I should try something radical, like tasting the soil, but then I realized that in a way, I already have soil coursing through my body. The connection that David Suzuki makes in the Made from the Soil chapter in The Sacred Balance is that “earth is the food of life”(92). Of course, we are not ingesting the earth directly, as Suzuki goes on to explain, but we absorb it through our daily subsistence. “Soil continues to be the main source of humankind’s nutrition” (101). Most of the world’s population lives primarily off of grain; therefore, we are dependent on soil to continue assisting us in agriculture. We have entrusted soil to sustain us so we in turn need to sustain it.

I currently have two bottles of Stewart’s Grape Soda bottles sitting on my windowsill. One is filled with grass and was given to me by a friend after we sat outside on afternoon, just talking and running our idle fingers through the grass. The other bottle I filled with dirt. It was while I was filling the bottle that I finally gained the insight I was missing from class last Friday. I was scooping up the dirt and pouring it down the neck of the bottle when I began to notice movement. The sun was low in the sky and I squinted towards the ground to see that all around me, ants were crawling around in this dirt. This dirt was more than what supported me and my built environment. It was even more than the crucial base of agriculture. It was an environment that stretched worldwide, was made up of minuscule parts, and sustained life as small as those ants and as large as me. When I thought of the breadth and scale of all things affected by soil, I realized just how much in my life I owe to it.

While my home now is truly Dickinson College and the Carlisle area, I cannot help but referring back to my house in central New Jersey when people ask me about home. Through my coursework this semester I’ve been running into the topic of home, land, and environment over and over and it’s been leaving me a bit uncertain. Growing up I believed I lived in a rural area, because I lived down the street from horse farms and I had to drive ten miles to the grocery store. It really was not until I came to Dickinson that I realized my home state is really all I know. I don’t have much experience traveling the world or even the country. I’ve never lived anywhere else and my whole family has lived in the same area for multiple generations. When I take a step back and realize that this country is enormous and home to many different environments, once again, scale is a difficult concept for me to grasp. Listening to the chorus of Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, I hear:

“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me”

The words remind me that I really only know a small portion of the vast country that I live in. Yet, if I move past seeing myself as just as resident of the Eastern United States, I am the same as a silk tree growing in China, or a Meerkat burrowing in South Africa. We are all residences of soil.

In my History of Environment course we examined the concept that modern states make landscapes look like maps rather than maps being made to look like landscapes. With so much focus being on borders, we see our environment through the lenses of defined territory, rather than being simply defined by the soil that covers our land. If we can see beyond boundaries and scale, our connection with the world takes on a whole new meaning, all powered by the basic building block of soil.

Do borders make landscapes even when soil transcends these state-made boundaries?

 

-Amber McGarvey

 

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This Land (Ice) is MY Land

I like to think I am connected with nature both at home and at school.  At Dickinson, for example, whenever I walk from the library to the HUB I always choose to take what I call “the nature walk” – instead of walking on the concrete through Britton Plaza, I always choose to take the little mulch path.  No joke!

"Nature walk" trail in Britton Plaza.

At home I like to think I am more connected with nature and the land around me, simply because I am more exposed to the nature.  Whether it be the winter or the summer, my brothers and I are always playing sports outside.  In the winter, I am always playing pond hockey.  Pond hockey is much different than regular hockey in a rink, simply because of the element of nature you add to the game.

My friends and I playing hockey, note the Dickinson jersey.

Personally, I enjoy pond hockey more than playing in a rink; you can breathe the air straight from the atmosphere rather than from inside a rink, the trees tower over you rather than the roof of the arena, and the ice is real not artificial.  There’s just something about playing pond hockey that is much different than “regular hockey” and for that reason everyone should play at least once in their lives.

In the summer, my brothers are always outside playing wiffleball in our backyard.  I almost feel more connected with the land during the summer because we always tend to play wiffleball without our shoes on.  Of course my mom is not happy with us playing without shoes, but for some reason there is a more relaxing, natural feel in playing barefoot.  Much like pond hockey is the most natural way to play hockey, for me playing barefoot is the most natural way to play wiffleball.

I love the land at my home.   Of all the parts of nature, I value the grass, dirt, and the fresh air the most.  After some of the readings we have done thus far in Ecofeminism, I have learned how polluted the air in Carlisle and the Cumberland county is; according to stateoftheair.org some neighboring counties to Carlisle placed in the top 20 most polluted air in the United States.  It took me almost a year and a half at Dickinson to discover how toxic the air we breathe in everyday here in Carlisle really is.  This air toxicity, according to Sandra Steingraber’s in her book Living Downstream, can lead to dangerous cancers such as lung cancer.  Steingraber suggests that with a “five-year survival rate of only 15 percent, lung cancer is so swiftly fatal that we rarely hear stories of its victims” (175).  This statistic scares me because I am exposed to these toxins everyday without even knowing it; whether it be second hand cigarette smoke or the polluted Carlisle air, we are exposed to more toxins than we may be aware of at Dickinson College.

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The Facts are in Front of your Face

Before taking this class, I never really thought about my connection to the land that was around me.  Looking back I realize how important it was to my childhood, most of which was spent outside and on the water.  Growing up, my summers consisted of sailing and going out on Manhasset Bay with all my friends, or spending time with my family in Greece.  I never thought how much I would miss being surrounded by the water, even in thewinter, when I came to Dickinson. I built a strong bond and a high level of respect for the bay, ocean, sea, etc. just because of all the amazing memories that I have from those places.  I was always aware that our environment was in danger, but it was never really a concern that went through my head.

It wasn’t until I read Living Downstream, by Sandra Steingraber, that I realized how the blessing of living on Manhasset Bay could also potentially threaten my health in the future.  Throughout my High School career, I was a member of the Manhasset Crew Team.  We practiced twice every day at Bar Beach, in Port Washington.  Every day, our team would row past a power plant directly on the coast of the beach.  Every time we would row past the plant I would always crack a joke about how healthy that must be for all of us and continue the workout.  After reading about the cancer cluster study done in Long Island and how the exposure to chemical plants has increased the likelihood of breast cancer in many women living in the surrounding area, I have become very concerned what that could mean for me.

Google maps image of Power Plant

Bar Beach, Where I would row every day.

This semester, not only learning how we are exposed to harsh toxins on a daily basis from our class, I did a project about Diesel Idling in Pennsylvania.  We discovered that the diesel fine particulate emitted by the trucks and buses constantly traveling through our town bring forth many short-term and long term-effects to our health and surrounding environment.  Because Carlisle is an area of heavy truck traffic, our air quality is greatly impacted by this.  Thanks to Act 124, a law constructed to reduce excess pollution given off from diesel trucks while they idle, there are ways that we can reduce the amount of pollutants put into our air on a daily basis just by enforcing the law that stops diesel trucks from idling their engines.

The sad reality is that from taking this class, as well as many other things I’ve learned this semester, it is apparent to me that no matter where I go my surrounding environment can be horrible for my health and the health of my peers.  I love where I grew up, I love where I am now, but if we continue to live the way we do our environment as well as our lives are in danger.

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Is it My Land?

“This land is your land, this land is my land

From California to the New York Island

From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me.” – Woody Gutherie, 1940’s

 

Whether you believe the earth was created in seven days or that it formed over millions and millions of years, there is one thing that I think we can all know for sure: the Earth and the land is here for us and maintains us. However, although this popular and patriotic folk song from the 1940’s reminds us of this fact, it is clear that all of us have taken its lyrics too seriously and believe that since “this land is my land,” we can treat it and use solely to benefit our needs.

 

Over the last couple weeks in our Ecofeminism class, we have been focusing on analyzing and breaking down the relationship between our bodies and the land that we live on. In order to do this, we have been reading and discussing several books that not only bring up a great variety of issues concerning the land around us and our own bodies but also raise a lot of important questions and offer solutions to these issues. We began with Sandra Steingraber’s powerful book Living Downstream (2010) which is a very personal and honest yet extremely in-depth analysis of cancers and their direct and indirect relationships to the environment. In this book, Steingraber introduces her readers to a multitude of case studies, which stand as evidence of the effects that the population’s handling and manipulation of the environment around us can have on our bodies’ well being. From Steingraber’s book we transitioned to Soil not Oil by Vandana Shiva, which although different in its approach, provides a framework that we can use to change our relationship to the environment in order to slow down and maybe even stop the environmental crises developing around us. Unlike Steingraber’s book, Shiva focuses on the big picture, immediately urging us that “we will either make a democratic transition from oil to soil or we will perish.” (p. 7) According to Shiva, our Earth as we know it is in the middle of three major crises; a climate crisis in which global warming is a threat to our survival, an energy crisis where reaching peak oil (the end of cheap oil) will dismantle our structures of industrialization and globalization and last but not definitely not least the food crisis, in which our population’s food sources are being squandered by the first two crises.

After reading both of these books, I find it impossible to ignore the breathtaking number of issues that our handling of the environment has caused and will continue to cause if we do not take action. Prior to taking this class, I was aware of some of these issues and how they can affect our lives on earth. However, I cannot lie and say that I tried to do anything with the information I knew or even tried to become more informed. The truth is that I have always been one of those people that although is easily persuaded in accepting that there are issues at hand in our environment, I let myself become consumed in sadness and completely convince myself that there is just nothing I can do about any of it.

 

What difference can I make? Yes I can recycle things here and there or choose to not drive a car but in the big picture, what difference does that really make? It’s not like my sole actions are going to single-handedly solve these three crises. Yes I know that if we all think this way then we will be even worse off, but can we truly make enough of a difference if we all pitch in?

 

Until I took this class, my answers to all of these questions would have be straight-up “No.” Yes, I did know deep down that I was wrong, but I felt too defeated and distraught to accept it and I chose to live in denial. I’m ashamed admit know that I chose to ignore, just like I’m sure many other people do when they listen to “This Land is My Land” and get lost in its catchy tune. However, after reading both Steingraber’s and Shiva’s books, I can say that it is time to snap out of it and stop being a coward. In Soil not Oil, Shiva introduces the idea of pseudo-solutions, solutions that seem to solve the issues at hand but may actually add to those issues over time, and actual real solutions that do address the three crises. Although she argues that we must collectively come up and implement real solutions that will have us moving towards reaching “Earth Democracy,” an active and complete transformation of our lifestyle and structures to one centered around soil, I believe that taking some action over no action is an important first step. With the urgency of the crises developing around us, I do agree with Shiva that we should focus on creating real solutions over superficial ones but I also believe that arriving to those solutions will take actions that will result in trial and error. In other words, I am now willing to participate in creating some changes than in ignoring the problem as a whole.

I do not want to claim that I have suddenly been reborn an outspoken environmental activist, but am very grateful to both of these women for truly convincing me that I do have a responsibility in changing our lifestyles because I am connected to the land. Maybe I had never understood this before having grown up in New York City, where having Central Park with its abundant trees is somewhat of a miracle, but I’m tired of making excuses.  However, I have felt disconnected to the land in big part because I haven’t really been surrounded by it. The only place where I have truly felt any sort of connection is in Colombia, where my parents are from. It is because of this distance between my body and the actual land that I am so grateful for reading these two books, which in a very small way have not only interested me in pursuing more connection with the land but in actually recognizing that it and its population needs help fast.

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The Land and Us

Since the beginning of this course, I have been thinking more deeply on the interconnectivity between life forms and the land they inhabit. In our society, I feel like we think of land as merely a place to live on. But whether we realize it or not, we influence our land and our land definitely has an effect upon us. We depend on the natural resources our land contains in order to make our living. As a part of the ecosystem, we have evolved to fit our planet’s natural systems, and our land is the basis for those systems. Geologically speaking, the main difference between the climate of the earth now and the climate of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods when dinosaurs lived is the movement of the tectonic plates’ effect on volcanic activity. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our land determines our way of life.

 

It is also important to acknowledge  the effect we can have on our land. When we treat our land as if it were our plaything or property rather than the basis for all of our life, we risk the delicate balance that we require in order to survive. Global climate change is perhaps the most obvious example of this. It is a fact that the earth will obviously survive any climate shift we might cause, as will some life. In changing the climate of our planet, we are effectively participating in natural selection by providing the method of our own extinction.

 

Another example of the effect we have on our land is our use of synthetic chemicals and their subsequent bioaccumulation. In Living Downstream, Sandra Steingraber discusses how certain chemicals (e.g. DDT) can now be found all over the planet because of their persistence in the environment and our widespread circulation and use of them. These synthetic chemicals and their effects upon our land, its ecosystem, and consequently ourselves is an excellent example of the interconnectivity I mentioned. Let’s take DDT as an example. We sprayed DDT all over our land for agricultural reasons. Even now, decades after the ban on its use, DDT still persists within our bodies, our water, and our soil. This bioaccumulation has had many negative effects for our bodies as well as the bodies of animals.We put something into the land, and the land gave it right back to us. Clearly, we are intimately and closely related to our land. I have come to understand that we as a people need to begin to acknowledge that.

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Land, Survival and Development

“Prices of food are rising worldwide. More than 33 countries have witnessed food riots” (Shiva 2). Little do people know that the Arab Spring started in Egypt and Tunisia due to rising food prices (mainly bread) and authoritarian regimes in power as old as four decades were overthrown. The most important fact to learn from the Arab Spring is that food is not a luxury but a vital necessity without which no one can survive and due to various factors such as climate change, using corn and soy for bio-fuel and Western policies with corporate globalization is leading to rising food prices which will put add another billion to the existing one billion people who are starving and lack access to clean water.

The Bread Man: A man using bread to metaphorically construct a helmet to protest the rising cost of daily essential food items that ultimately led to the ouster of the regime of Mubarak and resulted in the Arab Spring Movement across the continent.

Climate change with rising temperatures world-wide has led to a number of droughts and floods in various parts of the world. The past decade has been the warmest decade ever with a significant increase in extreme weather such as tornadoes, tsunamis, floods and droughts all across the globe that significantly reduced the amount of harvest by ruining the very land that produces the crops. Also mono-culturing and growing only soy or corn as in Illinois is quite detrimental in the long run as it greatly reduces the yield and more and more fertilizers are needed which are leaked into the water systems. The fact that 21,350,000 acres in Illinois are planted with corn and soy has resulted in atrazine found almost every river and stream in Illinois (Steingraber 152, 157). Atrazine is a known endocrine disruptor in humans and animals and greatly destroys bio-diversity by preventing plants from doing photosynthesis (Steingraber 157). Also drinking water contaminated with nitrates from fertilizers causes leads to higher amounts of bladder and ovarian cancers (Steingraber 161). For instance, more than 50 percent of the water wells in Iowa farms are contaminated with nitrates and are unsuitable for drinking (Wells and Wirth 308).

Thus Western policies such as the ones dictated by the development policies of the World Bank, the structural policies of the International Monetary Fund which encourage the Green Revolution in developing countries has done nothing but ruin the farmers lives and increase the profits of the fertilizer companies as increasing amounts of fertilizers are needed to produce the crops. Also the increasing amount of fertilizers leaks chemicals into the atmosphere which cause cancer. Thus now food scarcity has become the biggest issue in developing countries and they are increasingly importing food whereas before the Green Revolution they were self-sufficient in food.

Thus it is high time that people rise up against the corporations such as Cargill, Monsanto, DuPont and others that are making a profit at the cost of ruining lives of millions of people and ruining the environment through the production and use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. People need to realize that local farming is the final solution to the problem with less dependence on petroleum. Then only we will be self-sufficient in food. Thus we need to value the land greatly. People need to realize that you can buy everything from Wal-Mart but it is land that produces everything. Thus the true value of land need to restored. If we overlook the true value of land it is going to be late to save a billion people from going into starvation.

Thus this Ecofeminism course has greatly changed my perception of the real value of land. As an Economics and International Business and Management major all I learnt was that land is just a factor of production and nothing special. But through the class discussions and a broad range of readings done in this class I came to learn about the various implications of development policies on the land and the people and eco-system surrounding it and its implications on society in general.

Traditional Paddy farming in Bangladesh using a cow rather than a tractor to plough the land. Cow manure is also an excellent organic fertilizer.

Works Cited

Shiva, Vandana. Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Crisis. Cambridge, MA: South End, 2008. Print.

Steingraber, Sandra. Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2010. Print.

Wells, Betty, and Danielle Wirth. “Remediating Development through an Ecofeminist Lens.” Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature. Ed. Karen Warren. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997. 300-14. Print.

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True Transformation

In the first blog for this course (Ecofeminism), we were prompted to reflect on our relationship with nature. I remember struggling with this prompt and thinking should I be in this class? My relationship with nature was non-existent. In my blog, I spoke about not liking to be outdoors. I am allergic to grass, so as a child I spent most of my time indoors playing with dolls. It didn’t help that I lived on a street where the houses were close together, there aren’t many trees, and I barely had a back yard. The environment was not a big priority for me. My family recycled, and I thought that was my one environmental good deed.

I never would have guess how taking this course would change my viewpoint on the environment and what is important. I now know that while I may not enjoy hiking, still don’t like bugs, and am unable to roll around in the grass, I STILL can have a relationship with nature. In fact, I now realize that I am intertwined with nature, a part of nature, so therefore, the relationship I have with the environment can not be erased.

Reading Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber really touched me and helped me understand how I am in fact one with nature. I breath in air, and the food i eat comes from soil. If you think about it, when we die our body becomes one with nature more than ever, as we are buried. Steingraber not only helped me to understand how I do have a relationship with nature even if I didn’t realize or recognize it, but she also helped me to realize how important environmental justice is because all of the toxins in the environment are directly affecting me as well. I really enjoyed reading Steingrabers work and am glad that she shared her own personal narrative.

Soil Not Oil by Vandana Shiva and The Green Belt Movement by Wangari Maathai helped to really send the message home. Shiva discusses three crises: climate, energy, and food. She also discusses how these crises overlap. I now realize how one action toward the environment, affect it in many other ways. Maathai states that “little immediate and economic value is attached to soil per se, perhaps because the effects of losing it are gradual and have not been flet yet- at least by the masses (39).” After reading these three works and participating in our class discussions, I realize that everything we do does in fact affect the environment, and because we are one with the environement it in turn directly affects us. We can’t wait until its too late, we must realize the value of the soil and environment NOW. I now understand how all of my actions make a difference and also realize that ONLY recycling is not enough.

Dickinson Farm

 I really appreciate the fact that I attend a college who knows that preserving the environment is important and shows that it is a priority through its actions.

Solar Panels Installed by Dickinson

Although I will be graduating in a few weeks, I am glad that I decided to take this course. My beliefs and viewpoints have truly transformed.   I will continue to educate myself and find ways that I can change my lifestyle to the greatest benefit of the environment.

 

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Not So Insignificant After All

At the beginning of the course, as I stated in my first blog post, my connection to the environment was essentially nonexistent. My surrounding environment has always been a backdrop to more important things- something to look at while I’m sprinting to class, a place to sit and get tan when it’s warm out, a small-talk topic that I whip out when I’m feeling awkward etc. Global warming and the climate crisis were thrown at me from various erratic science teachers in high school and was referred to as fictitious by my conservative parents. I was, all in all, detached from and oblivious to the environment and clueless of its problems. Since taking this course, I am repeatedly forced to look through several different lenses at the environment. Science perspectives, feminist perspectives, a United States Citizen perspective, a human living in this world perspective, all of which engaged me with nature and the environment in a new and interesting way.

All of these perspectives have also placed the land in a personal narrative for me. When our class read Living Down Stream, I saw just how much the land is involved in everyone’s story, and Cancerland further implanted me into direct connection with the land. In an idyllic world that was filled with rainbows and butterflies, the land would have a magical power to purify itself of all the hideous chemicals that us humans throw at it. With the connection drawn between chemicals, pesticides and toxic medicine and cancer, a disease that effects everyone’s life in some way or another, I can’t help but get mad at the land for its inability to protect us from these exposures. This is probably the only thing that I dislike about the land, which can easily be over looked because a self cleansing system is a lot to ask of an object, and because I love so much about it as a whole.

Ecofeminism as a subject and as a class makes me look at the land as a living, breathing entity that binds humans and more specifically women together through the fact that we all share it and we all interact with it on a daily basis. The whole idea of six degrees of separation works in a strange way through the land, I believe, because I do not know anyone in Africa or other distant lands, but I do have a connection to them through the land that we both share. Women in the United States and women in other countries and on different continents are all working together to protect the land from the damage that mankind is inflicting on it, and this mutual adoration and feelings of protection that is shared globally is something that I love most about the land.

My personal value of the land increased significantly once I started taking this class because I never fully thought about all that it produces for me. Up until this semester, I obviously knew that food came from farms and all that jazz, but the mechanics behind the growing of the food was a mystery to me. Now that I know about all the work that the land has to do and all of the damage that is done to it in order to give ME sustenance, my opinion of its value increased exponentially.

With all of my respect and love for the land that Ecofeminism taught me, I know that there is a lot to be done to protect it and I can no longer ignore the land and all the problems that it is facing.

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“And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’ if this land’s still made for you and me..”

Not the best view, but this is a picture of me on the steps to our cottage from my Grandmother's garden.Ever since I could kneel, I have helped my Grandmother weed and plant flowers in her garden outside of our summer cottage in Block Island, Rhode Island. My Grandmother has been working on the garden for over twenty years. My Grandma knows more about that garden more than I know about anything. She has figured out what deer do not eat, what time all of the plants and flowers grow during the year, and exactly where to plant each plant and flower according to the shade. My Grandma’s garden is her sacred place. I have not significantly contributed to her garden, but I have always loved helping my Grandma weed, kneeling next to her on her light green foam pad. She always wears a huge floppy straw hat and digs into the soil like it was the thing she was put on earth to do. It is not just playing with dirt for her or for me; I connect with her in that soil.

I have always felt connected to the environment and the land. I am from urban Baltimore, so I did not grow up around a lot of trees and wildlife, but most of the best times of my life have been in or around the Gunpowder River, which is about 30 minutes from my townhouse in the city. One of my only clear memories from Pre-School is going to the river and standing on a huge rock, looking down at my Mom and my baby brother in the grass. I spent all day jumping off of that rock into the cool running water and digging my hands in the dirt on the bank, digging for whatever I could to build castles and anything I could imagine.

The Gunpowder River.

I have always valued land and its complexities. What is land? It’s everything we live, breathe, eat, and sleep on. I do not understand how people say that they do not have a connection to the land. IT IS LIFE. We are born on land, our food comes from land, and we live (for the most part) on land, and do almost everything ON LAND. Everyone has a connection to land because it is where we exist as human beings.

When we talked about soil in class, I realized that land is even more complex than I thought. Soil holds millions of organisms, creatures, and resources that humans unquestionably need to survive. Soil is a system- just like humans are! Our culture exploits land like it exploits women. We weed, for example, because it “looks better.” Land and soil is manipulated and altered for asthetics or for maximum profits that will have consequences. The land is treated like a non-living object for our benefit, when in fact land holds more living things than any humans do.

I have also, however, definitely been ignorant to land. For example, I know that I eat the food that comes from farmers that reshape land and exploit it for more profit. Steingraber writes “… I worry that, over the past half century, a focus on producing two commodity crops in gargantuan quantities has resulted in a drastic simplification of Illinois’ agricultural system” (153). Steingraber uses this one example out of countless ways that that farmers and people ignorantly abuse soil like it is endless. Abuse of the land will only stretch so far before there are consequences. The realization that our resources, including land, are worth more than money needs to be made. I have no idea what it will take to make people start taking action. We discussed in class, for example, that the food crisis might come to people’s attention when certain foods start disappearing, like seafood. As a Marylander, I LOVE Blue Crabs more than almost anything, but without them consumers might actually begin to realize that they need to know about their food, where it comes from, and how it effects the environment as a whole.

Before this class, I had a genuine, meaningful connection to land, but I did not understand that I was exploiting it, probably on a daily basis. Now, I know that land is even more important than I thought and that I need to learn about what I am doing to both help and hurt the land around me. I need to do my best to figure out what I can do to preserve the earth’s resources the best that I can. I need to raise awareness and tell people what they can to preserve the land that is essential in every human life.

I chose this political cartoon to show how land is often seen as something that can be conquered and nothing more.

This land is not made for you and me- it is made for you, me, and every other system within it. This land is not made for us to thoughtlessly plow and destroy as humans have exploited it in the past. This land is a living organism that should be protected, or this land will not always be.

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