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.

Written on May 3rd, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

12 April 2017

Response Paper: Week 12

Is environmentalism a wealthy man’s hobby? Prominent environmentalists since the beginning of the movement have been predominantly wealthy. It is not often that you see people in the third world advocating for renewable energy or “greener” farming practices. This week’s readings spanned a variety of topics from geoengineering to GMOs to the value of biodiversity. The readings, although some indirectly, seek to answer the question “at what cost?” is the environment worth preserving. E.O Wilson wrote a piece for the Sierra Club titled, “A Biologist’s Manifesto for Preserving Life on Earth”. Wilson argues that half of all of Earth’s land should be set aside to be preserved. He believes that by setting such land aside humanity will be able to ensure the survival of 80% of the world’s species. On the most basic level, one should be asking is Wilson’s claim even valid? Have scientists even identified 80% of the world’s species? Scientists find thousands of new species every year! Ironically, in a general sense the people who would agree with Wilson are some of the staunchest “social justice” advocates. Advocating for Wilson’s point of view and social justice causes are not easily reconcilable. The forced preservation of 50% of the Earth’s land is most certainly going to impact those in the developing world more than a millionaire in a penthouse in Manhattan. The question that needs to be asked is do those advocating for such causes believe that a few hundred species of insects are more valuable than millions of human lives?

Similarly, an Op-ed in the New York Times discusses the merits and risks of geoengineering. Geoengineering raises many questions, however what I ended up paying most attention to in the article was one line, which said “… 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”. The author never states which think tanks are writing such pieces or what their exact positions. He bashes conservatives by speaking in general terms, a think tank will obviously put out a more sophisticated analysis than gloss over one sentence summary written in this op-ed.

Stephen Meyer’s “The End of the Wild” is consistent with the message from other writer’s we have read this semester, especially Bill McKibben. While I disagree with Meyer’s argument, I appreciate his straight-forward writing style. Unlike other environmental writers he is direct, he has no qualms about letting the reader know that if you disagree with his position that you are immoral. Meyer writes, “Therefore, we should not evaluate these efforts in terms of their capacity to stop the end of the wild. Their enduring value is that they establish a moral imperative. Like the Ten Commandments, they remind us who we could be.” I appreciated Meyer’s honesty, but his entire book highlights why it is increasingly challenging to find common ground on environmental issues. Telling people that they are immoral or do not understand the consequences of their actions is both arrogant and off-putting. People understand that there are trade-offs to their actions. Meyer may disagree about the worthiness of the trade-offs, but that does not mean that the trade-offs are immoral. When environmentalists frame their positions on the basis of morality, it becomes challenging to find common ground to tackle environmental issues facing society. Have you ever won an argument by telling someone that everything they believe is incorrect? My conjecture is most likely not. This week’s writings highlight the central reason why this debate over environmental issues will not be easily solved. The entire debate boils down to freedom. Should people be able to decide for themselves how to live their lives? I believe most people would say yes. My point may seem dramatic and potentially out of context, but is particularly relevant to this discussion. These writers believe that they know what is best for humanity and the environment. They believe that if you disagree you not educated enough to understand the severity of your own actions. Implementing these writers’ ideas means reducing the ability of individuals to make their own choices. For example, if we set aside 50% of the Earth to be preserved, we are severely restricting where an individual may choose to live. Personally, I care about the environment but I value freedom. It is because I value freedom that I do not agree with the majority of the mainstream environmentalism.

Written on April 12th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

5 April 2017

Week 11 Response Paper

“His view was frankly anthropocentric.” Anne Whiston Spirn writes in regards to Fredrick Law Olmsted’s approach to managing Yosemite Park. Olmsted suggested that persevering Yosemite would be best accomplished through managing the natural landscape (92). Olmsted argued, more or less, that Yosemite should be valued because it would benefit the human population. He did not emphasize preserving Yosemite out of its intrinsic value, an argument many other “environmentalists” commonly utilize today. Spirn writes that Olmsted “was a pragmatic visionary”. It does not seem likely that people would be referring to Olmsted as a “pragmatic visionary” if he was not successful in his large scale projects. If Fredrick Law Olmsted did not speak from an “anthropocentric” point of view it does not seem likely that he would have been able to undertake such large projects in the first place.

I argue that Fredrick Law Olmsted was able to become a “pragmatic visionary” because of his anthropocentric point of view due to the diverse array of people he needed to convince to see the merits in his argument. Olmsted argued that Yosemite should be a park made available to the public and managed through the federal government. He argued that the scenic qualities should be preserved for all Americans by highlighting the “monopoly” over natural scenery that existed in Great Britain (92-93). Essentially Olmsted made an argument against private property in this particular circumstance—making his accomplishments even more impressive. Arguing from an anthropocentric point of view was critical for gaining support from those that may not have otherwise supported his ideas. Olmsted was able to find common ground on which to connect with legislators (i.e improvements in public health from access to “natural scenery”) (93) and persuade them that his ideas were in their constituencies best interest.

After reflecting on the entire reading, I wondered why Olmsted is barely mentioned among today’s environmentalists and why his accomplishments are not more revered. He was successful at incorporating green spaces into urban environments and helped set aside scenic land for public use—does that not all sound great? The difference between Olmsted and today’s current environmentalists is that he was pragmatic and anthropocentric. Olmsted’s style of persuasion is a direct contrast to those that advocate for similar projects or causes today. Olmsted was not turning the conversation into a question of morality and morally condemning those that disagreed. Olmsted argued from a place that put the betterment of Americans as the main focus, not the intrinsic value of the environment. Olmsted’s approach was more logical. Why would you try to persuade congress or other governmental bodies to do something purely on the basis that it benefits the environment. The trees do not walk up to the ballot box in November. If environmentalists fail to show the connection between protecting the environment and the benefits to the people, how can you blame elected officials for prioritizing other initiatives that have a clear link to improving the lives of the people they are elected to represent. Olmsted was successful because he was able to do just that.

Written on April 5th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

29 March 2017

Week 10 Response

The readings for class this week highlight the many diverse views of those who consider themselves to be “environmentalists”. The reading by Di Chiro highlights one of the main rifts that divides the environmental movement—are humans part of or distinct from nature? Environmental justice advocates are described by Di Chiro as consisting of primarily low-income minority groups aiming at solving problems plaguing their local communities. Conversely, Di Chiro explains “new environmentalists” are charged with preserving “wild” spaces, for example the author would agree that John Muir would be placed into this category. So which group is right? Can both groups be considered environmentalists? How large of a tent is the environmental movement? To answer that question, “nature” must first be defined. Until “nature” is defined limited and sporadic success of the environmental movement will continue to be the norm. As President Abraham Lincoln famously said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

 

Gottlieb wrote that “nature” was one of the most complex words in the English language (20). He goes on to discuss the same divide that Di Chiro wrote about in his piece, although providing different examples. Gottlieb tries to “trace” back the origins over the divide of the word “nature”. He attributes it to the rise of Western urban cities and industrialization (21). However that explanation does not adequately address the complexity of “nature”. One’s definition of nature is formed from culture, religion, socio-economic backgrounds among other factors. Using our class as example, if all 13 students were asked to define “nature”, we would have 13 different answers—even with holding level of education constant.

 

Is it necessary to have one universal definition of “nature”? Many environmental advocates inexplicitly indicate that it is necessary. I do not believe that it is necessary to have one universal definition of “nature”, if the goal is to act in the best interest of the community and maximize happiness. “New Environmentalists” claim that people have a yearning for “wild” spaces untouched by man and “Environmental Justice” advocates believe that impacts of development on human health should be adequately taken into account—both, more or less, advocating for what they view is in the best interest of the people. “Nature” should be decided at the community level. New York City or rural Idaho are drastically different landscapes and present different complex issues. Let the people who live in those environments every day decide what is best for their community and best for preserving what they deem as “nature”.

 

Gottlieb describes how the loss of “nature” has been commonly associated with the loss of “community” (61). Gottlieb is critical of capitalism and industrialization and indicates that it is a driver of the widespread loss of “community”. The contributing factors to the loss of community can be debated, and its root cause is not a particularly important point to flush out. However, if the goal is to foster the sense of “community” that society has lost, empower those at the local level to make decisions that directly impact their local environment. Incentivize people to reengage with their local community, incentivize people to vote in local elections, and incentivize people to value civic engagement – environmental issues can be a conduit to this. Not only will rebuilding the sense of “community” in neighborhoods, towns and cities be advantageous for the environment, but it will be advantageous for our democracy. In Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville described how local communities were the basis of democracy. Strengthening the sense of “community across America is a win-win—for the environment and the country.

Written on March 29th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

The Organic Machine by Richard White describes the changes occurring in and around the Columbia River over time. The book goes into great detail about the pre-industrial uses of the river by the Native Americans and early European settlers. It also describes the processes and effects of damming and other industrial uses of the Columbia River. Throughout the book, White implicitly makes his views on federal and state regulations impacting the river known by describing almost all as ineffectual and inefficient.  It can be inferred from his writing that he has a reverence for nature and nostalgia for a pre-industrialized era based on his descriptions of the Native Americans’ relationship with the river. With regard to Native American craftsmanship, White writes that “[i]n the Indians cedar canoes, efficiency and art met and became one” (8).  Despite all of these descriptions, White never suggests solutions or changes that should be made to the process of crafting federal and state regulations. Instead White leaves solutions to the reader’s interpretation.

Towards the end of the book, White devoted a few pages to the creation of nuclear power, including the production of plutonium for atomic weapons, and the subsequent effects such production had on the Columbia River and people. The location for the “Manhattan Project” was a site near the Columbia River. White is critical of the location for the Project and deemed the river as an “atomic” space created by the government after the Project’s creation. His discussion of the Manhattan Project seems out of place in relation to the rest of the book when his lengthy descriptions of the short-comings of government policies and regulations are taken into account. The Manhattan Project was an efficient and effective government-funded endeavor that helped the United States win WWII. White is critical of the government’s lack of transparency in communicating the potential risks of the Project to the people living nearby. In fairness, the Manhattan Project was extraordinary, groundbreaking, classified, critical to the US war effort, and the magnitude and severity of the associated risks were not fully known at that time.

White does not acknowledge or even suggest that the Manhattan Project was a unique situation, and downplays the critical nature of the Project. White writes mockingly “Secrecy was essential. Plutonium guarded American freedom.” White points out in hindsight the damage done to the Columbia River and the negative, although not entirely discernable, health effects on Americans. He does not mention the benefits of the Project, or its trade-offs—therefore giving the reader an incomplete picture of the situation. White takes an extreme and provocative approach when he writes that deaths of Americans as a result of nuclear production were planned by the US government (88). The US government took on the feat of developing nuclear technology with the hopes of saving American lives. White does not give a figure on how many Americans died as a result of the Manhattan Project, nor does he cite relevant literature about the thousands of American, and Japanese, lives that were saved because the bomb effectively ended WWII. He states that the Project cleanup fees may exceed $50 billion dollars (88). However, consider that the cost of the United States staying in the pacific theater longer and allowing the USSR to gain greater influence in post-war Europe as result is a much greater cost than the potential $50 billion dollar clean up fee. The American way of life and our values are worth more than a dollar amount economists may try to place on it. White’s discussion of the Manhattan Project is another example of how extreme advocacy for the environment alienates people who might otherwise would be sympathetic to the cause. He does not present complete information and does not discuss the trade-offs of the Project in a pragmatic way.

White’s criticisms of a variety of government policies and regulations undermine many of the actions environmentalist call for today. Many environmentalists call for greater federal regulation of industries and natural resources as a means of preserving the environment. White’s examples show that far-reaching regulations made thousands of miles away in Washington D.C do not make circumstances better. For example, the call for electricity production at levels far higher than the demand caused unnecessary damage to the Columbia River and salmon populations. If the markets were left to work on their own those electricity producing dams would never have been built. The decline in salmon populations led to hardships for fisherman and regulations that further complicated the situation. If the goal is to protect the Columbia River for intrinsic value and for the local communities, then allow the local communities, not Washington, to determine what is in their own best interests.

Written on March 22nd, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

1 March 2017

Reaction Paper #4

Does humanity take precedence over nature? The answer to this question presents the primary conflict between those who consider themselves “environmentalists” and those who do not. Thoreau, Abbey, Leopold and a host of other environmental writers all discuss the grandeur, necessity or even spirituality associated with nature. The environment takes on a life of its own, and some respects God-like qualities, in their writings. Plumwood’s piece, Being Prey, about her near-death experience with an alligator is consistent with the majority of environmental writers. After reading her piece, one walks away with the sense that despite humans’ place in the food chain, they are not invincible to the forces of nature. Near the end of the piece, Plumwood describes how she advocated for the alligator to live after it nearly took her life. Plumwood is showing that she views human life on the same playing field as predators in the wild. Plumwood goes on to write, “It seems to me that in the human supremacist culture of the West there is a strong effort to deny that we humans are also animals positioned in the food chain.” (7) As one reads the piece there is an evident switch in tone from reverence and awe-stricken in the beginning to reducing humanity to the likes of animals by the end. Plumwood’s quote highlights the point where the environmental movement fails to connect with people time and again. When these writers go beyond advocating for conservation or describing nature’s wonders, they alienate people who do not ascribe to the same extreme utilitarian view—the equality between humans and the rest of the environment.

In most cases, environmental writers and movements are not as forthcoming as Plumwood in her writing. The Fire Ant Wars by Joshua Bul Buhs is a great example of how the environmental movement indirectly advocates for its causes rather than being forthright. The controversy over the USDA’s program to eradicate fire ants evolved into a fabricated political issue once policies could not be stopped on environmental grounds alone. The USDA and EPA viewed fire ants as a threat to agriculture, livestock and even detrimental in the fight against communism. From the reading, it appears that the early attempts by environmental activists combating the USDA’s use of insecticide was rooted in misconstruing political ideology rather than science.

According to Buhs, “Conformity was the root not only of the good economy but also of totalitarianism. And democratic institutions, while guaranteeing that Americans were the freest people on earth, could also be perverted to squash the individual liberties they purported to defend.” (384). These two sentences are a smokescreen for the activists true intentions. These activists did not care about protecting freedom or democracy, they wanted to impose their own view of the role of humans in the environment on the rest of the nation and have policies follow accordingly. Can you blame President Eisenhower for wanting to protect the economy and the livelihood of American farmers? Fire ants were viewed as threat to such livelihood. Protecting farmers’ ability to compete in the market does not lead to a totalitarian state as the author describes, but rather promotes the free market that has been a beacon of hope for millions of Americans seeking to create a better life for themselves and their family. Moreover, creating more regulations on the economy is not a path to protecting individual liberties, but rather is a path towards restricting liberties and economic freedom. Economist Milton Friedman argues that the market structure cannot be separate from the political structure — meaning that a free market economy and democracy go hand-in-hand. The ruse of protecting democracy was brilliant in the context of the Cold War; however, attempting to mislead the public into believing that eradicating fire ants was a threat to such democracy is ridiculous.

Tactics similar to those described above still occur today among environmental activists. Such tactics are the reason the movement has had little success and will continue to have little success compared to other movements in US history. Instead of being open and honest with its objectives, the movement attempts to turn its perceived opponents’ arguments, to borrow a line from Buhs, “on its head”. This begs the questions, do environmental activists not feel as though they can win support on the merits of their positions alone? If so, should they rethink their objectives?

Written on March 1st, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

15 February 2017

Reaction Paper #3

In Frank Sinatra’s song Love and Marriage, he famously sang “you can’t have one without the other”. That notion is applicable to William Cronon’s view of the “wilderness” and society in his piece “The Trouble with Wilderness”. Cronon argues that the idea of “wilderness” is a social and cultural construct created to satisfy people’s need to escape from the hardships and troubles of everyday life. He writes the wilderness “is a place of freedom in which we can recover the true selves we have lost to the corrupting influences of our artificial lives”.

Many writers advocating for the preservation of “wilderness” due so on the basis that nature has an intrinsic value and that man has an innate desire for it. These ideas are echoed in Muir, Abbey, Thoreau, McKibben and others. Compared to those writers, Cronon’s argument is provocative because it challenges many of the fundamental premises of the environmental movement.

Both explicitly and implicitly, Cronon highlights the shortcomings of man as a primary reason for our fascination with “wilderness”. He implies that the human race would rather flight than fight. He explains how “wilderness” is synonymous with hope, for example the myth of the American frontier and the clear distinction between humans and nature. If “wilderness” still exists there is still some part of the world to run to when the idea of starting fresh is easier than facing challenges directly. This begs the question: can the environmental movement be summed up as nothing more than fear? Cronon writes that some of the biggest supporters for “wilderness” preservation are those that have gained the most from the capitalist system and industrialization.

In the process of explaining the merits of “wilderness”, American society has misrepresented the Native Americans’ relationship with the environment. Native Americans’ are portrayed to have had a minimal impact on the environment, and even are depicted as stewards of the environment. However, Cronon debunks these commonly held assumptions. He cites examples of Native Americans burning large areas of land for farming. He writes that Native American tribes played a significant role in manipulating the environment. Additionally, Charles Mann writes that researchers grossly underestimated the time frame when Naïve Americans first appeared in the Americas. If we do not know definitely when Native Americans first appeared, how can we possibly know that the Native Americans had a minimal impact on the environment? Mann writes that when Columbus arrived in the West Indies it was “thoroughly dominated by humankind”. With that information in mind, it is not far-fetched to claim that history is taught through rose colored glasses.

Interestingly, Cronon describes the accounts of early English settlers in New England in his book “Changes in the Land”. These settlers are not described as viewing the Native Americans as perfectly harmonious with the environment. Rather, it appears that the settlers are more interested in comparing the typical gender roles and culture of the Native Americans to their own. Cronon’s historical account of the “new world” is vastly different the story of Pocahontas and what children are taught in elementary schools

Cronon made an excellent point. He identified the subconscious reasoning for people’s fascination with the “wilderness”. While his ideas depict the human race as more fragile than many would like to accept, his view towards the environment is pragmatic and honest. While Cronon’s views are starkly different from many other environmental writers, I believe his ideas will resonate with more people than one might initially expect.

Written on February 15th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

8 February 2017

Reaction Paper #2

How do you communicate science to the masses? This is a question that arises in nearly every natural science course, but especially environmental science and studies courses. This is a question that has been asked since the beginning of the environmental movement and still does not have a widely-accepted answer today. When reading The End of Nature by Bill McKibben, I realized that many writers advocating for conservation, preservation or the necessity of combating climate change make the same argument—the necessity of “nature” or “wilderness” for the health and sanity of the human condition. Throughout his book, McKibben routinely touches on Thoreau, Muir, Burroughs and other widely read authors. These men lived at different times, told different stories but all had the same argument. If there are not two exact people on this planet, why are all of these authors making the same exact argument?

The first half of Bill McKibben’s book is an account of how people manipulated and changed the environment. He describes nature as entirely septate and independent of the influence of man. He provides facts, figures and data points to quantify the changes that have occurred or are predicted to occur in the world. He follows the numbers with an analogy or anecdotal account of changes he has witnessed in “nature”. For example, he provides scientific evidence about “biomass crashes” in pine forests due to global warming. To contextualize the information he just conveyed, he quotes a historian referencing famine— “There are relatively few people who die directly from starvation; they die from dysentery or various infectious diseases.” (30) McKibben is arguing that articulating the “why” trees or humans die does not matter, so much, because in the end both are dead. It should not be surprising how McKibben sets up his arguments because he spends the first few pages explaining why everything is a matter of perspective.

Throughout the book, McKibben argues that man has finally dominated nature and that nature is dead. However, he also explains that consequences of anthropogenic climate change are not definitive or absolute. He explains how different leading NASA models do not come to the same conclusions. This begs the question, if people have truly dominated nature then should we be able to know the definitive impacts of our actions? I say yes. McKibben needs to be pessimistic to show the gravity of his point, however I think that it is discouraging to the average reader rather than encouraging the average reader to act. Painting such a bleak and hopeless picture of the future of humanity will not compel people to change their actions or lifestyles. What is the point of changing behavior if it is already too late?

Near the end of the book, McKibben said that individuals making small changes for the betterment of “nature” is a gesture. Intermittingly throughout his writing he makes statements aimed at understanding the lack of human initiative in preventing the end of nature. For example, he argues that people do not attach themselves to nature because irreversible damage has already occurred. Then, McKibben continues on claiming that it is the same reasoning behind why people do not befriend the terminally ill. These statements and others show that McKibben is conflicted about whether nature can be saved, despite the strong statement he makes declaring nature as already dead. Why spend time contemplating reasons why something is not being saved if there is no hope of saving it? McKibben does not acknowledge this inconsistency in his argument.

Written on February 8th, 2017 , Uncategorized

Krysti Oschal

1 February 2017

Reaction Paper #1

Howard Zahniser’s “The Need for Wilderness Areas” described the necessity of areas that must be “managed as to be left unmanaged”. His passion for preservation of the natural environment is admirable, however his approach is both extreme and narrow. Zahniser uses strong language throughout the piece in addition to making vast assumptions about the preferences and attitudes people have towards the “wilderness”. He argues that the “wilderness” is the perfect place to find peace and is unrivaled esthetically. He places the environment on a level playing field as the human race and describes it in spiritual terms. He goes as far as to say that the need for “wilderness” is innate. Initially I found Zahniser to have an extremely secular view of the world, but then realized that the “wilderness” is his religion. For others, especially religious people reading his writing, they find the same solace in their faith as Zahniser does in the “wilderness”. Morevoer, I have the same awe-stricken reaction standing in the middle of Time Square or looking up at a skyscraper as I do looking out at the Grand Canyon. Zahniser’s argument is flawed because it fails to take into account that human ingenuity may be just as impressive as the “wilderness” to some people.

Implicitly, Zahniser acknowledges in his writing that his view is a minority and unconventional one. He argues that it would be difficult to find someone in a democratic government that would not jump at the opportunity to serve a minority public interest. Overall, Zahniser’s writing is a perfect example of why the environmental movement has only been partially successful at reaching the masses. Zahniser, like Thoreau, could be interpreted as being both elitist and condescending in the way they write. Their use of strong language and grandiose comparisons are not and should not be surprising. The authors are trying to show the importance of the cause they are advocating for, whether that is land preservation in Zahniser’s case or transcendentalism in Thoreau’s case, to an audience that is not guaranteed to be receptive. However, this approach does not resonate with everyone because the tone of the writing is not much different than a parent lecturing a child.

In “Walden”, Thoreau argues that people are at the behest of the material world and are slaves to their responsibilities. Thoreau sees no difference between various types of commitments. He says, “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.” (62) After reading this line of Thoreau, I was challenged not to have the rest of his writing fall on deaf ears. Thoreau’s work implies that people are not conscious of the choices that they are making. Abandoning my responsibilities would not bring me happiness nor make me content as Thoreau implies. For me, commitments that I choose to engage in freely are some of my greatest learning experiences. For both Zahniser and Thoreau there is an objective morality, meaning they believe their thoughts on life and the role nature should play are undoubtedly correct.

When viewing Zahniser and Thoreau through this lens, it is easier to understand why environmental movements and campaigns against climate change are not always warmly accepted by the general public. People, especially Americans, do not like to be told how to live their lives. These writers, while not explicitly, are imposing their values and being extremely critical of those who do not prescribe to the same set of values as their own. Arguing for land perseveration or environmentalism on the basis of morality is not much different than Prohibition in the 1920s.

In conclusion, conservation and preservation of the environment is important to the future well-being of the planet and the human race. However, the way in which conservation and preservation are advocated for is extremely important. Discussing the environment in absolute terms and using personification is not going to resonate with a large portion of the population in the way Zahniser and Thoreau intended.

Written on February 1st, 2017 , Wild Nature (February 1)

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ENST 406 Senior Seminar

Understanding the Human Place in Nature — Spring 2017