living downstream

The film “Living Downstream” really does sum up and epitomize our semester, in terms of the idea that we must be more conscious about how our actions effect others. This idea is highlighted and narrated by Sarah Steingraber and her personal experiences, namely with cancer. Steingraber’s testimonial and overall narrative do an excellent job at framing how our society has become complacent with regard to our neighbors and overall community. Steingraber’s bout with cancer and the elevated levels of cancer that we have seen not only in our society, but in indigenous communities, highlights the fact that are actions have no bounds in this world where chemicals do not break down and carbon emissions are virtually unregulated. Due to this paradigm, our society and global community is susceptible to harms that are both unpredictable and difficult to understand where the harms are coming from. Through technological progress, we have begun to understand how we can avoid these harms and that they come from chemicals that we produce as human beings. But how do we live more aware of what lies downstream?

I believe that ultimately we have a responsibility that we have failed to fulfill as the world’s most educated and privileged individuals: looking out for everyone else. I understand that the global system is anarchic, but I firm believe that we have to fulfill a “good neighbor” policy since we have the ability to provide knowledge for the rest of the world. This means not only thinking about how our actions might effect those “living downstream” from us, but also the fact that we must sometimes travel “downstream”. This idea refers to traveling to the developing world and spreading values such as environmentalism to places who do not always have the education necessary to understand it. It is people like Steingraber who represent those who receive the short end of the stick with regard to our societies’ negligence. If we take more trips downstream and witness more cases like those of Steingraber, we might finally become more conscious of preserving the state of our environment and society.

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