Valerie Weiner

David John’s piece really struck me. Even the first sentence alone is striking: “the human footprint is growing at the expense of other species and the integrity of ecosystems.” He does not mean that human innovation is not part of nature, but that humans have colonized nature to a point where it and we no longer share the same properties. We have become aggressive conquerors of nature and we didn’t even know it (for most of history). But my questions is, what does this mean moving forward? John argues that

“The path forward is not about sacrifice, It is about recovering what we have long ago sacrificed—our wholeness and our connection to other life and our deepest selves. We traded these away for hierarchy and distractions in a deal we did not understand”.

Ok…so what does that look like? The problem with John’s piece is that it is a criticism of ideas that doesn’t eventually provide its own ideas on how to combat these issues wholly. It is easy to criticize when you don’t provide an alternative.

He claims that we should “recover what we have long ago sacrificed—our wholeness and our connection to other life and our deepest selves”. Frankly, digging for oil is easier than that. I don’t mean that to be obnoxious but that is a crazy unrealistic goal for humanity when given no guidance as to how to make it happen. That is the essential problem with all of the authors we have read this semester: either their ideas are too practical and lack vision or heart, or they are all heart and absolutely no practicality. The reason I care is because I really enjoyed how John breaks down the criticisms of conservation—particularly “Humans are part of Nature…etc.”. This section answers a lot of the nuanced issues I been grappling with. I do believe that humans are a part of nature, but as John notes that relationship alone “cannot justify our every-growing footprint. The human domination of other species and ecosystems is basically the same as the colonial domination of some people by others, visiting brutally stupid exploitation, displacement, and death to its victims.”

That is an incredibly vivid analogy. Our history of colonialism is bloodied, murderous and inhumane, to compare this history to our domination of nature is both jarring and humbling. I’m just trying to figure out how this will actually have a different impact than someone like Thoreau. John is no doubt making a different statement than transcendentalists were, that is not what I am comparing. I am comparing the effectiveness of the two approaches in enacting real change.

So what does John’s analysis actually do? So, ok now humans are part of nature but need to recognize that they need to be checked before they continue to live freely so as to not continue colonizing nature. What would that look like? I am tired of reading peoples criticisms of one another or theories about what the human-nature relationship is or isn’t—I really need solutions. The closest John gets is to say “We have long had the means to control our numbers—though some have always had fears about who will fill the armies and workshops and support the old” but even this is a copout. John is pushing back against the concepts of “gardening, pristine wilderness, how long people have occupied a place, or how much damage they have done” and that sounds nice as I have problems with these concepts as well. But I need answers; I need John to give me something to do. I loved this reading so much but was utterly disappointed by the end. Once again, we have a critic with no positive, workable solution to a problem that continues to keep me awake at night. Lord knows I need sleep.


Leave A Comment, Written on May 3rd, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

3 May 2017

Week 15 Response Paper

The TED talk and readings for the final week of class highlight many of the topics and themes touched on throughout the semester. For example, what constitutes “natural”, what can be considered “nature”, d are humans considered to be part of “nature” among others. Emma Marris’s TED talk “Nature is everywhere” argued that humans need to reconsider how they define “nature”. She argues that “nature” should not be defined purely on the basis of where humans have not been or land humans have not altered. Conversely, David Johns has a more pessimistic outlook on humans’ ability to impact the plant from his piece “With Friends Like These, Wilderness and Biodiversity Do Not Need Enemies”. He finds merit in preserving lands without or with minimal human influence. While I agree with Marris over Johns, both sides of the argument are problematic and will not lead to solutions to current challenges facing the environment and the planet.

Johns, like many environmentalists, is what Marris would describe as a “purist”. He views humans entirely separate from nature— a concept written about consistently by many environmental writers. However, his arguments and the critical tone of his writing do not help build consensus amongst differing points of view, rather his arguments and writing style are off-putting and self-serving. Likewise, Marris makes the opposite argument by claiming everything is part of nature which would bound to offend those who have strong opposing opinions. Why are environmental issues framed as all or nothing? Both lines of thinking are equally alienating to large portions of the population. Jack Turner contemplates the most thought provoking and relevant concept I have come across all semester, “To construct a new conservation ethic, we need to first understand why we impose a human order on nonhuman orders. (111)” Turner highlights inadvertently the types of questions we should be asking in regards to humans’ relationship with the environment. The questions we ask should help us better understand the rationale behind human decision making since fundamental assumptions (such as are humans part of or distinct from nature) cannot be agreed upon. If economists, like environmentalists, could not agree on the variables that sum to the gross domestic product macroeconomics would not exist. For our field to grow and thrive it is essential that we find answers to these fundamental questions, like economists figured out how to calculate GDP.

Jack Turner identified the same problem I have been struggling with all semester—the logical inconsistencies in many arguments made by those advocating for conservation in extreme terms. Turner writes “Stewards of the cosmos? A nature we make? This is the reductio ad adsurdum of the American conservation movement.” (116) His writing questions what the current goal of the movement is and clearly states that if you disagree with such claims articulated by conservation supporters you are made to look as if you do not care about the environment. This type of rhetoric is harmful and does not lead towards building consensus or enhancing understanding of differing points of view.

Leave A Comment, Written on May 3rd, 2017 , Uncategorized

This concluding set of readings offers final insight into how we, as humans in a changing climate, can negotiate with ourselves to find our true place in nature. Each material elaborates on the ever-discussed concept of untouched nature and wildness among human manipulation, ultimately fueling my personal conclusion that humans are a part of nature as much as any species, thus our actions are “natural” in some sense. 

Marris’s TED Talk was almost a reflection on our coursework to this point. Her stance that we’ve changed everything, even the air is reminiscent of early discussions in our class, while her point that it takes a lot of effort to make nature look untouched reminds me of Pollan’s words on the effort we put into wild landscaping. One of her concluding thoughts that “untouched nature is unloved nature” brings a new dynamic into the human place in nature argument. If we are not allowed to touch or manipulate the world around us, what makes us want to fight for it? We must be able to experience nature in every way in order to defend it.

I identified most with Jack Turner’s piece because of his healthy dose of cynicism. His argument around the museum and Disney-like quality of national parks “not providing sanctuary  from human artifice” resonated with me as it was a well-founded and supported observation. However unmanicured they may seem, the environments that we appreciate in national parks are falsified. The author comments that these environments are simply too controlled to be wild. He meets these concerns by defining what wildness is, a land that is self-willed and able to maintain order according to its own principles. This profound definition finally offered me a solidified way to view potentially wild spaces. Among the many injustices that humans impose and Turner elaborates on, he offers his final argument that we need to first understand why we have decided that we have ownership and precedence over other species, in an effort to find a solution. Then, we need to design and maintain a new conservation ethic that revolves around wildness. Turner’s solutions, while not without their faults of being grandiose and nearly unattainable, offer the reader some optimism-something we have rarely come across in this course. Turner fails to fully recognize that man has touched nearly every edge of the earth, but still forms solidified arguments that can stand against many of our previous readings and fill me with a more comprehensive understanding of my own place in the natural world.

Johns’s piece felt less content rich and more fragmented than the other materials. However, I appreciated his final argument that humans are behaving like a slow asteroid to the earth and his questioning of the greater purpose of our species. I found it slightly disheartening that after pages of debunking common nature/man relationship assumptions, he declared that none of it matters. Of course I agree in some sense, we can question and ponder in our higher education institution what it really means to be in nature, apart of nature, and destroy nature, but what can we actually do? Here, we can take Turner’s argument one step further and say that we need to fully assess what made humans decide that they’re superior and then decide how we can move forward. In our everyday lives, we can improve our impact on the planet in a myriad of ways. Small steps may not fix even one horrendous thing we have done to eliminate species, warm the planet, and cause sea level rise, but by informing others about these small changes-maybe we can. These authors may disagree with that, but I’m afraid it’s all we can do.

Leave A Comment, Written on May 3rd, 2017 , Uncategorized

For the last week of class, we watched a TED Talk by Emma Marris titled “Nature is everywhere—we just need to learn to see it”. I will not lie, doing the readings for this week, watching the video, and the very thought of having to write this paper were daunting tasks. However, I am very pleased to have watched this TED Talk. I feel that I have always struggled with my own definition of nature, as many other people have and that has been evident this semester. Throughout my first and second years at Dickinson I fell under the trap of thinking nature is an untouched, pristine, Edenic place and yes, there are places that are more so relatable to these ideal than others but more recently my thoughts have been challenged.

The first time I thought about humans as animals was in Professor Nichols class titled American Nature Writing where we dipped our toes into the “natural” versus “non-natural” debate. People brought up the fact that we are technically animals and everything we build is also “nature” because it is made of “natural” products. We build a bed to put in our home for comfort in much the same way that ant constructs its sand hill or a bird constructs its nest. Humans are animals building for their comfort. With this being said, I turn to the With Friends like These piece written by David Johns. Johns makes an essential statement that “acknowledging humans as part of Nature cannot justify our ever-growing footprint. The human domination of other species and ecosystems is basically the same as the colonial domination of some people by others, visiting brutally stupid exploitation, displacement, and death on its victims…. The conceit that humans are godlike rest on assumptions”.

So in developing my own definition, I find myself agreeing now more than ever that humans are part of nature but this does not justify our over-consuming actions. We are continuing to degrade the earths pre-human state by creating roads, adding plastics to our oceans, and changing the very chemistry of our oceans and atmosphere. These processes have already occurred, and we must begin to accept that our presence has impacted every surface on this planet. This challenges more widely-accepted definitions of nature; there are still remote places that seem more “natural” but we cannot forget there is still human involvement. Marris expresses that we should completely revisit our concept of nature. I resonated with her ideas very closely as they touch upon a lot of the thoughts I have been having in the past few weeks but have been just jumbled ideas thrown around here and there.

Marris thinks that perhaps nature is not these pristine places (because natural parks are managed so closely and intently to make them appear untouched) but that a new definition could include anywhere that life thrives and species are growing. People often say they prefer to stay indoors because they do not think they live near nature but this is bullshit. Get on a bike or stand up and walk outside, there is green within walking distance. It might not be the Grand Canyon but for example, a meadow-filled bridge in Philadelphia that drew in 50 insect species without the touch of a human hand. This type of nature is still nature but we tend to disregard it and devalue it. Marris says this is wrong and not the way to go about fostering a youthful generation that is passionate about nature. I agree full-heartedly.

Humans need to get outside. They need feel, see, and smell earths creations first-hand in order to nurture any sense of appreciation for it. Society cannot keep defining nature as that which is untouched because that is gone; we cannot ignore what is in close proximity to us. Towards the end of her lecture, Marris said two statements “that which is untouched is unloved” and that something as small as a flower “deserves to be touched and appreciated”. Her conclusion (not to be too cheesy) made me want to stop what I was doing and go outside in that very moment and spend time with people in my life that I do not spend enough time with.

Leave A Comment, Written on May 3rd, 2017 , Uncategorized

Reconnecting with nature is an exciting, almost hipster idea. The “back to the land” movement that started in the 1970’s and is popular today, is an attempt to reconnect with nature by living closer to the land and the source of one’s resources. Along with reconnecting with nature is defining, or redefining, nature. The video “Nature is Everywhere” by Emma Marris and the two texts “Wild and the Defense of Nature” by Jack Turner and “With Friends Like These” by David Johns all explore these topics of defining and connecting with nature.

Firstly, nature needs to be redefined. Emma Marris, in her TedTalk titled “Nature is Everywhere,” claims exactly that: nature is everywhere, it just needs to be thought about differently. And to think about it differently, we need to interact with it differently. Nature is not just large vast landscapes such as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. It can be a state forest or a neighborhood park or an empty lot in a city. Nature is anything living, including humans! Marris emphasizes the need for play in and with nature; if we interact with nature, we will care about it. One example of this is improving water quality through engaging citizens in their local environments through canoe trips on a river. If an individual knows and cares about their local environment, hopefully they will care about it! They way we currently interact with our environment is too controlled and sterile – nature is messy and unpredictable so why do we try to make it clean and monitored.

Marris begins to get at how humans control nature and how problematic it is to defining and connecting with nature. Jack Turner takes this idea further, criticizing how humans define and interact with nature because of how constrictive it is. Humans are taking tracts of nature to preserve (for its benefit?) but in doing so, we halt nature from its natural processes. Turner says wildness is “autonomous and self-willed” (107) and when we preserve it, “Nature ‘ends’ because it loses it self-ordering structure, hence its autonomy, hence its wildness,” (109). Our very way of preserving nature is restrictive because nature is not stagnant; it adapts with change, whether that change is caused by humans or not. By recognizing that our preservation strategies may not the best for nature, we can move towards a change in how we define, treat, and connect with natural spaces.

Different from Marris and David Johns, Turner suggests “benign neglect” (116) to restore nature. I find this idea fascinating and seemingly effective but I wonder if there will be natural spaces to neglect benignly if we do not preserve them in the first place. Perhaps we take Marris’ idea of redefining nature to be city lots or the side of a highway, along with Johns’ idea of connecting with nature through science and wonder, and then we can then leave these spaces we value so much to their own autonomous processes, fostering a more natural “nature.”   

Leave A Comment, Written on May 2nd, 2017 , Uncategorized

The concept, creation, and care for natural space surrounding a house is an important topic in the environmental and sociological fields of study. I say “spaces surrounding a house” because sometimes it is a grass lawn (or lack of one), sometimes a garden, sometimes a regionally appropriate plantings and rocks. But whatever configuration, the idea of owning, controlling, obsessing over these spaces is very essential not only to the history of environmental topics but also political, sociological, and philosophical. Author Michael Pollan adds to this discourse – in his opinion, the only one to do so since Thoreau – in his book Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education. As the title says, Pollan is interested in the idea and actualization of gardens but, naturally, he spends much of his book talking about lawns in general, through anecdote, history, and analysis.

Designing a landscape, a lawn or a garden in this case, include changing the landscape, either from its natural form or from a previously altered state. Pollan shares this process through anecdotes about his childhood home in The Gates on Long Island where his family bought a plot of land in a development. This plot had quite a bit of forest on it, which they cleared, laid a foundation, built a house, and created a home. This seems so basic but what interests me is how humans change the landscape to create a home. This is a topic that I am exploring in my final video project. I dislike houses from an environmental perspective because they are disruptive to the landscape but as Marcus Key pointed out in our interview, beavers also change the space around them immensely when they create their homes. It is just with different building materials, and I would argue, at a different scale. Why do humans feel they need to alter the landscape so much that it is unrecognizable, just to build a home? Sure it is still nature – the house is built out of natural material, the yard is made of living organisms, the woods still loom behind the house – but to me, it is completely changed.

Beyond the house itself, the lawn is another almost more important space of control of nature. Planting plants that are not part of the natural ecosystem, digging up rock from the earth and grinding it up to lay in patterns, waging a war against plants that help inferior organisms. Michael Pollan describes a house’s yard a bit more gently but he clearly has an opinion on the obsession over human’s control of the nature outside of their house – “keep the woods at bay,” (2). The social implications of not caring for this space could take down a weak person, not as stubborn as Pollan’s own father.

Pollan expresses a duality of human’s relationship with nature: caretaker and destructor. I identify with both of these: planning a future garden/farm to care for the species that I like (apples, arugula, sunflowers), while spending hours removing the species I do not. I also ponder the impact of agriculture, from small-scale gardens to thousand-acre farms: is agriculture a way to care for the planet or the best example of how humans harm it?

Leave A Comment, Written on May 2nd, 2017 , Uncategorized

ENST 406


Jackie Goodwin

Second Nature is a humorous account of the author’s own experiences of maneuvering his relationship with nature through keeping a garden. As a reader of Pollan’s books, I was expecting to sense the upper class, elite white male complex that I typically do in his work, but failed to see that in Second Nature. Instead, Pollan writes what many Americans have experienced in gardening with an ounce of sarcasm and casualness. He laments the traditional American obsession with lawns by attempting to connect with his neighbors as if to say, “I am a conscientious homeowner. I share your middle class values” (61), yet ponders certain rebellion regarding the traditional maintenance of his lawn. In discussing the history of his land and journey to gardening, Pollan is able to effectively communicate what his place in nature is, while taking the reader for a ride through his life’s fumbles and moments of discovery.

Pollan openly discusses the crude relationship that Americans have with the land, specifically through land ownership. He writes that we often have a “skewed” relationship to nature by thinking that our lawns exhibit the natural setting, even though they’re constantly doused in chemicals and manipulated. Here, Pollan explains with historical evidence and a strong opinion exactly what I’ve needed answered throughout our course. I’ve yearned to hear a first hand account of someone working through their relationship with nature, knowing as much as we do. He openly uses his experiences to educate the reader on our their hypocrisy, while explaining why it harms the planet morally and physically. Pollan uses gardens as a way to “meet halfway” between the perfect manicuring of lawns and wildness. It increases one’s awareness of the natural world in a more give and take relationship, as opposed to the dictatorship that is meticulous mowing and landscaping.

Throughout the book, Pollan debunks common misconceptions about what nature and wildness truly are, tieing into much of what we’ve already discussed in class. He does this very well when speaking about weeds and how they are often seen as wild and “in the wrong place”. He counters this by arguing that weeds are just as cultivated as any other plant. Their placement is often not wild, but once the result of man’s impact. Instead, he writes that wilderness is a taboo in our culture and further drives a wedge between us and nature. Pollan follows this pattern consistently throughout Second Nature, exploring a common phenomenon in man’s relationship to land and quickly showing its faults. This style of writing held my attention well and contributed to the overall success of this book.

Pollan’s journey of self-reflection in relationship to the natural world, specifically how we manipulate it, has encouraged me to think about my own relationship with nature. I appreciate Pollan’s perspective more than the romantic authors we have read, including Thoreau and Abbey. Pollan is more honest about his faults and hypocrisy in becoming a steward of the land, whereas Thoreau and the like place themselves on pedestals, expecting a level of respect for their sacrifices and immersion in the natural world. Pollan tells a relatable story that I can personally identify with, as I’ve always had a fascination with gardens. My parents never gardened, but my grandparents had a small and respectable garden at their home in Washington. Loaded with fresh vegetables and strawberries, I loved watching them tend tirelessly to these plants who depended on my grandparents’ care to thrive. As I move forward in my own life, I see myself experiencing an introduction to gardening similar to that of Pollan’s, likely starting with pest management as he describes with his pesky woodchuck and experiencing many certain failures along the way.

Leave A Comment, Written on April 26th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Wesley Lickus

Human Place in Nature

Professor Beevers

26 April 2017

Week 14 Response

Pollan seeks his “proper place in nature” through a detailed and objective insight into gardening through the seasons. He teaches his reader what he understands as the differences between transformed and untransformed nature; a place where humans control their “tame suburban plots” completely and a place where they control less. Pollan’s past gardening experience did not prepare him for the real nature, for the “large and rapacious animals, hegemonies of weeds … killing frosts in June and September, and boulders of inconceivable weight and number” (3). Perhaps both places, the countryside of New England and his small garden plot can be considered natural, so then it was the change in his environment that was the unexpected transition.

Pollan presents a refreshing and realistic view on his environment as a modern environmentalist. In his introduction, Pollan discusses the influence that Thoreau had on his childhood. But now, Thoreau’s lack of action while living at Walden deems him as an incomplete thinker according to Pollan. There is no longer a need to return to wilderness as Thoreau did, as there is little wilderness left. Wilderness is becoming smaller and only found in small microhabitats such as those that Annie Dillard explores in her “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”. The narrative that Pollan presents while thinking back to his childhood as a backyard explorer should inspire us all to think back to those moments that we all share. Pollan lived in an inspirational setting where the garden was allowed to take over the lawn. His childhood imagination is one we can all think back to, “There is room enough for a world between a lilac and a wall” (7), he says. There is life at all angles, and all levels of our existence. As humans we may have to search a little harder to seek them out.

Pollan’s battle with his resident woodchuck puts him in touch with a dark attitude towards nature. Nature continues it’s ingrained instincts in an unfaltering goal of survival, and reminds Pollan of “how willing we are to poison her in the single-minded pursuit of some short-term objective” (44). Our human dominant instinct shines through the simple task of protecting our tomatoes.

Though I wouldn’t consider the lawn in front of my parent’s house in Maine as being under “totalitarian rule” (48), I do understand Pollan’s point about the contrast between the ways of managing the human-centric naturalized landscape. However, I disagree that a lawn “represents a subjugation of the forest as utter and complete as a parking lot” (48). A lawn encourages less runoff than pure pavement, and can be managed in a way that doesn’t use harmful chemicals. Pollan also developed a much needed point regarding the naturalist’s dilemma: nature unchained will take over, and a garden even located in the most secluded of places will soon be overrun with plants and animals we see as pests. A garden from this point of view is largely unnatural, however justifiable because of the end goal we all need which is food.

Why has the garden become a tool to express political viewpoints, flaunt socioeconomic status, or support communities that “define [themselves] in opposition” (206)? A garden is not an object that should draw or support conflict, or generate grievances between gardeners. These are in fact the exact opposite and most unnatural things a garden should do. A garden should make us happy and hopeful, and act “as a place, both real and metaphorical, where nature and culture can be wedded in a way that can benefit both” (5). As unique people, we will have different ways of gardening, but we must not loose sight of the goal we are looking to achieve.

At times, no matter how educated or able we are to critique the idea of a garden and discuss if it deserves the title of nature or if establishing a boundary between the garden and outside world gives the plot an unethical superiority towards critters that see it on the menu, we must step back and admire the earth we cultivate for what it is more simply. Started from tiny seeds, these plants grow into monuments each summer, and bear fruit to feed us. Through these small plots of land, we build value towards and a closer understanding of humanity. We teach each other and build community around the slow magic that is the growth of a plant, and we earn our escape from the plastic bagged mystery sitting on supermarket shelves. A garden is as natural as we make it, as our own context sees as right for us. Any garden, I think, is a good garden.

Leave A Comment, Written on April 25th, 2017 , Uncategorized

In Michael Pollan’s novel Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, he describes the act of gardening as an intimate relationship with nature, in which one learns the give and take of the land.  Unlike hiking and other adventurous outdoor activities, gardening may not offer an immediate emotional high; hours of shoveling dirt, weeding, pruning, watering, sunlight and patience must occur before one experiences the fruits of their labor.  However, I have found that the slow, tedium of gardening teaches you not only about the soil stuck under your fingernails, but about yourself.  It is these hours spent outside away from technology, toiling away rain or shine, which have allowed my mind to race away into a state of personal reflection.

Throughout my childhood, I spent days outside helping my father with yardwork, sometimes willingly, sometimes not-so-willingly.  Living on a 17-acre farm, there was always something to do, and in my father’s eye, it was best to be proactive.  In the small rural town of Shickshinny, our neighbors were few and far between.  Nevertheless, he insisted that we mow every visible field that wasn’t used for agriculture.  Heaven forbid yellow dandelions began popping up in front of our home.  This often-entailed hours with the lawn mower, sculpting clean rows back and forth in the large open fields.  Granted, on a riding mower this wasn’t the most physically challenging task.  So, to keep things interesting in the more intricate spaces, I zipped around apple trees and bushes and sometimes skidded down hills, challenging the monotony of the orderly rows.  Gliding across the grass, my thoughts often wandered through that week’s events or big decisions ahead.  It was sitting on the tractor that I contemplated hardships with friends, college choices and what I was going to have for lunch when I was finally done with mowing the lawn.

While Pollan’s experiences varied from my own, I was constantly drawing upon similarities from his stories, sparking suppressed or forgotten memories.  For instance, I recall walking through my grandmother’s cul-de-sac neighborhood, rows of identically sided homes separated by lush green lawns and strips of sidewalk.  As I strolled with my parents, we came across a home whose lawn was unlike the rest.  My parents scoffed at the presence of a garden in the front yard, teaming with vegetables and surrounded by overgrown grasses.  Like Pollan’s experience, there was rumored contention with this uncivilized and rebellious neighbor.  At the time, I also was uncomfortable with the disruption in the neighborhood’s orderly façade, agreeing with my family’s complaints.

However, over the past few years, I have thought back to this unique lawn and the societal norms that sculpted by opinion of what right and wrong looks like.  American culture tells me that I am a part of a larger society and should contribute to my community’s success by doing my part, including mowing my lawn and caring for my neighborhood’s appearance.  My obsessive-compulsive tendencies tell me that everything should be neat and orderly, sculpting landscapes in an organized fashion.  My environmental education at Dickinson tells me to convince my dad not to mow ever single field on our farm; alternate fields seasonally and let them fallow to save gasoline and sequester carbon!

On the other hand, my wild side tells me to let go and let fields revert to nature.  So often I get caught up with wanting to understand and maintain control of everything in my life, including the environments around me.  However, the Earth and its systems are so much more complex than I will ever comprehend.  Through self-reflection in the fields, I have grown to know the importance of simplicity.  To accept the ups and downs of each day, and to appreciate the simple moments and memories of dirt under my fingernails and between my toes.

Leave A Comment, Written on April 25th, 2017 , Uncategorized

In response to the title of one of the TED talks – “The dawn of de-extinction: Are you ready?” – Yes. Yes, I absolutely am ready. I’ve actually thought about this in the back of my mind for years that science could easily reach the level of bringing extinct species back to life and preserving endangered ones, and now it’s actually happening.

Scientifically speaking, being able to redesign nature or restore it to its original functions is a fantastic idea, though when it comes to intervention at the global level, I have several concerns. Perhaps I am uneducated on the subject, but proposing the release of iron slurry into the oceans or sulfate particles into the atmosphere just seems to have too many unknown variables at stake. Technologies such as GMO plants have been tested and proven to be safe for human consumption because they have surpassed the level of controlled laboratory testing and theoretical simulations, and it was possible to test them in the laboratory because it’s easy to grow and monitor plants. It’s not nearly as easy to make a mini-Earth with its own gravitational and magnetic fields for the purpose of simulating a release of sulfate particles into the atmosphere.

The NYT opinion piece also implanted another concern about geoengineering into my mind – conservatives. (I feel I’m justified in mentioning this in a paper, because we’ve reached the point at which modern politics has such an extensive reach into our lives that it can no longer be separated from society and everyday life. In short, we no longer have the luxury of sparing ourselves personal frustration because to ignore the issues would spell disaster.) A particular quote from the piece resonated with me strongly: “Engineering the climate is intuitively appealing to a powerful strand of Western technological thought that sees no ethical or other obstacle to total domination of nature. And that is why some conservative think tanks that have for years denied or downplayed the science of climate change suddenly support geoengineering, the solution to a problem they once said did not exist.” For the most part, conservative ideologies have some echo of self-motivation, while liberal ideologies tend to have an altruistic component. Both are important to societal and governmental functionality, but this self-motivation, if left unchecked, can become problematic. It develops into greed, selfishness, and the willful ignorance of things that either do not directly impact the individual or have solutions which would result in some reduction of personal gain.

I fear the impact that politics will have on the successful implementation of any of these solutions, as the nature of today’s politics when a solution is proposed is either to immediately shut it down without consideration, or to hastily push it through without perfecting it first. I hide in my little scientific bubble because it’s the only place where reason and logic and patience take precedence over personal feelings, but I realize that’s a bit of a selfish action since the introduction of scientific developments into society requires, at some point, legislation regulating or encouraging its use. A technology can have the potential to be a miracle: cutting off funding for future research can prevent this, while on the other hand prematurely introducing it before research on the full extent of its impacts is completed can result in disaster.


(Note: I was going to polish up my response this morning but I had to walk into town to pick up my poster for the SSRS this afternoon. Come by if you can!)

Leave A Comment, Written on April 12th, 2017 , Uncategorized

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ENST 406 Senior Seminar

Understanding the Human Place in Nature — Spring 2017