Archive for category Course Discussion

“I’ll take a side order of rack, rib, rump, and shoulder, hold the obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol, please”

When Heidi Witmer came to lecture our class on her work with the food justice movement in Carlisle, I found her approach informative and optimistic. She painted a portrait of her growing up in Pennsylvania from her adolescence to her college years that gave insight to how her upbringing inevitably led her down the path of community-building by way of the food justice movement. While her story compelling, my mind seemed to wander away from her narrative and towards her initial question she posed to our class: ‘What’s the difference between nutrition and nourishment?’ (in which she later defined the difference between the two: nutrition is often based solely on what someone’s opinion of “healthy” is whereas nourishment holds a more personal connection and addresses the question of, “does this meet a need for you?”) Prior to Heidi’s distinction between the two, I had used the words synonymously, never aware of the vast discrepancy present. As Heidi continued to talk about how the misinterpretation of nourishment and nutriment play out in the nationwide fight in ending obesity), specifically among children (as seen with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative), I couldn’t help but think of the plethora of families in socioeconomically deprived inner city communities where nourishment often takes precedent over nutrition.





Thinking out of a Carlisle context, consider inner city communities that lack the financial and emotional support to gain access to resources to fresh food and are blindsided by the government, who continuously inundates these communities with fixed programs that provide members with short-term, unsatisfactory results rather than options to pursuing long-term, fulfilling results. With a food system concentrated on consumption rather than production, the quality of food has decreased and consequently, community health becomes an issue but often overshadowed by crime and gentrification in these inner city communities. It is especially difficult to voice the dangers of food choices to a community that is more concerned with violence in their neighborhoods and are just grateful to have the means to purchase groceries at the nearby grocery store, never mind organic or ‘sustainable’ produce.
In our fast food nation, because food choices are accepted as temporary and quick, many people are unfamiliar with the long-term effects these ‘practical’ yet impulsive eating choices can have on health. Part of this unknowingness stems from the lack of civic education provided for residents of these communities; thus, they resort to what’s familiar to them, whether that me the dollar menu at the local fast-food joint or the inadequate produce available at the nearby convenience stores or limited-assortment supermarkets.

With all this said, I found myself conflicted with Carol Adams’ argument in “The Feminist Trafficking Animals” on our society’s consumption of animals. Throughout the chapter, Adams argues that eating “meat” cannot be considered a personal choice but rather the mere act becomes a debate between the “political” and the “natural”. While I commend Adams for her firm (but at times frighteningly aggressive) stance on the cycle of oppression animals face by women, I do not think it was in her favor to make general statements about the need for all communities to adapt a vegetarianism lifestyle regardless of finances. Such statements like “vegetarianism has often been the only food option of poor people,” reinstates the ignorance often exuded by those who simply write about the oppressed and have little or no experience of being oppressed. I’m still a bit unclear as to whether Adams identified as an ecofeminist or not, but based on her outright claims and disregard for the deeper socio-economic implications behind why individuals follow certain ‘diets’, I’m gonna go ahead and say negative. But perhaps such a situation is too deeply rooted in the experience of certain individuals within these oppressed groups that an ecofeminist analysis would prove to be irrelevant, vague, and misguided. Perhaps a womanist view would be more appropriate in breaking down the layered intersections of people, nature/environment, and the welfare of human life and planet earth.

In no way am I trying to belittle Adams’ main argument, but my goal with responding to her chapter was to shed light upon the gaps and holes that are overlooked when discussing our meat-eating culture. Education and activism outreach, political engagement, policy-making, assessment of nourishment vs. nutrition are all just a few steps that should be integrated into the building the future of inner city communities in hopes of reducing daily trips to the fast-food corner store among residents and thus, alleviating widespread community health problems.

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Ecofeminism Start to Finish

At the beginning of taking this class, I knew nothing about ecofeminism. The name is pretty self explanatory, so I knew that it must combine some form of feminism with something about the environment. As I have said in my earlier posts, my interaction with the environment was similar to a Subuaru commercial where venturing into the unknown natural world was done from a safe distance, within the confines of a warm and toasty (spider-free) form of transportation. Look, don’t touch was my motto. Over the course of the class, not everything was exactly interesting to me and sometimes I would shake my head and think a lot of it was silly or pushing it to be quite honest. I like to think of myself as my own form of feminist, but never much of an environmentalist so it was hard convincing me of the issues at first. The guest speakers are what really changed my view of ecofeminism and those people didn’t turn up until the end of the course. Seeing real people take on an ecofeminist lifestyle illustrated to me that these were real life problems, within our community and not just ideologies that affected people far far away from me.

The final icing on the cake, again coming at the end of the class, was the connection the class drew between the oppression of animals and women. The parallel was so obvious to me, that I truly believed it was a miracle for not realizing it before. I began to research PETA ads and almost every single one of them featured a naked woman celebrity who was thin and fit the standard of beauty. Although the articles we read related to animals, ecofeminism and women went much more into depth about the parallel and gave more serious examples than PETA ads, it still really struck me about how obviously an animals rights company was in turn choosing to objectify women for their cause.

Ecofeminism and I have had a long journey, but are finally crossing paths in a mutual understanding. I now know what it means to care about the land and am alerted to the fact that there are real issues that are jeopardizing the land and women.

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A Blessing in Disguise

Virginia is home to a large fan-base of hunting clubs because of the ideal landscape that provides for many foxes and other game. Fox hunting has taken a large role in my life because of my passion for horse back riding. Since the age of 4, I have been riding recreationally as well as competitively. One of my favorite events that happens every Thanksgiving is “The Blessing of the Hounds”.  Every year, people from far ranges of the East Coast, sometimes even Great Britain, come to this traditional ceremony at Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick, Virginia to watch the Keswick hunt club bless their fox hounds. Fox hunting is a popular pastime of some of Charlottesville’s oldest citizens. Locally, fox hunting is recognized as a highly regarded sport and many people participate in the weekly hunts that happen between the months of October and February.

The Blessing of the Hounds has been a tradition for decades now and it is something that the Charlottesville community looks forward to. But before I get into detail about the ceremony and the connection it makes to religion and animals, I feel that it is important to outline the objective of the fox hunt. Fox hunting started in the United States when Robert Brooke, a British huntsman, imported his hunting horses and hounds to the United States in 1650. The objective of the hunt originally was to start the hunt and end with a kill of the fox. However, throughout the years, there have been modifications to the tradition because of the Animal Cruelty societies and the objective of the hunt is to now trap, and release the animal without any harm. The way a hunt is structured is that there are three main individuals. There is: the hunt master, who precedes over every individual during the hunt and makes sure that everyone follows the path to the trapping of the fox; there is the “first flight” individuals who choose the paths less taken, which means they go over rough terrain, unsteady jumps, and streams with their horses – this is for the more experienced riders. And lastly, there are the “second flight” individuals who bring up the rear of the hunt pack and travel on the paths that are less rugged. The fox hounds always lead the hunt.

The Blessing of the Hounds ceremony is only performed in 4 established hunt clubs in the United States, and it is usually more common in Great Britain. The idea of the blessing is to pray for a profitable and exciting hunt to begin Thanksgiving and to give appreciation to the fox hounds and the horses of the hunt. I chose to focus on the Blessing of the Hounds for it is a ceremony so highly regarded in my community because it brings the animals onto the same stance as human individuals. Throughout our readings we discussed the dynamic relationship between the oppression of women and animals, and the similarities between the two with: medical and scientific technologies taking advantage of animals for testing, trafficking for commodification, the domestication of animals as a model of oppression, etc. Although we can look at the domestication of the foxhounds and their training as well as the domestication and training of the hunt horses, however, it is important to note that with this religious acceptance into the church, these animals are now on equal par with their domesticators. The priest goes along to each horse, and every hound with a blessing for each one. The morning of the Blessing is very special because this day symbolizes an appreciation for the animals, which eliminates what we defined as “alienation” or speciesism (79, Gruen) through the social roles.

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Vegetarianism: an Identity or Choice?

After our discussion on Friday about vegetarians and vegetarianism I got to thinking about the way in which food consumption governs our personal and political identity.  Is being a vegetarian/vegan simply about food choice?  Does the choice to eat meat end after the waitor takes orders at a restaurant?

Vegetarians can be  “pesco-vegetarian” , “pollo-vegetarian”, “vegetarian”, “lacto-vegetarian”, “ovo-vegetarian” and “vegan”.  Phew!  What choices one has in food consumption!  If we’re discussing political identity as an extension of personal choice, how is a “lacto-vegetarian” percieved as opposed to a “pollo-vegetarian”?  Is the consumption of any feminized or animal proteins enough to make your political identity as a vegetarian invalid?  Or does the line of acceptable consumption lie with “meat” consumption- aka “peco/pollo-vegetarians”?

Adams argues that the term meat “others animals”, and acts as a force that “naturaliz[es] animals as intrinsically consumable”.  She makes the argument that “to be a pig is to be pork” “to be a chicken is to be poultry”.  Thus, humans as a group with almost complete hegemonic power over animals feel entitled to treat them as simply a means to the end of meat consumption.  The thinking behind the process of meat-eating extends beyond the agro-industrial complex.  The choice to eat meat becomes a point of personal identity and the process of “othering” extends beyond the realm of meat production to human relations.

Let’s explore some potential intersections of politics and personal identity.  When asked “why are you a vegetarian?”  there are a variety of answers given.  Some common ones include: the opposition to animal cruelty, the disapproval of the energy used to raise animals for slaughter, the need to eat healthily, and cultural/religious reasons.  Let’s be real: some people hop on the vegetarian bandwagon because it’s trendy and fits in with their hippie-inspired boho-chic wardrobe.  Plus all of the Celebrities are doing it!  By stating these reasons, I am not trying to invalidate them or the decision to abstain from meat-eating trivial.  I am simply trying to point out that the desire to eat a vegetarian diet stems from a number of reasons.  Are some of these more politically-driven than others?  Who decides?

Perhaps it’s the outward declaration of vegetarianism that allows for political identity to become involved.  If one says that they are a vegetarian, then they are claiming an identity as determined by another person.  While this certainly exists within this context, it is a concept that can be more broadly applied.  Any personal choice can be subject to subjective classification by another.  The choice to perform as a woman, the choice to appear or pass at heteronormative, the choice to wear certain clothes and speak in a certain way all have connotations attached to them that we cannot escape.  While it may seem like a personal choice to purchase and wear a certain shirt, in a small way you are claiming an identity and asserting political power with that purchase.  When you wear that shirt you will be perceived in a certain way and may be able to mediate access to things you would otherwise not be privy to (meetings with people, ideas, opportunities etc.).  You are using your buying power to support (or not support) equitable business practices.

In a more abstract way, this concept can be tied back to any assumed identity (race, ethnicity, gender performance).  As a person who is of a minority status within a majority culture their actions and choices can viewed through a politicized  lens.  This is problematic because a personal choice becomes political (or racial or gendered) without the individual muttering a word.  Thus, by simply existing one can be viewed as self-identifying with a group (as determined by the individual in power!) and thus subject to all biases the person who is making these connections has previously determined!  It seems to be an abstract link, the process of  “othering”, whether it is in the context of glamorizing a vegetarian or placing racist assumptions on an individual is rampant.  It takes different forms and masks its self in different “identities”, but ultimately acts to subordinate any group which does not adhere to the majority’s conception of the “norm”.



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Is vegetarianism a pseudo-solution for a bigger problem?

For five years I was a vegetarian. My veggie phase lasted from the time I started 4H Camp until my second year of High School. When friends of mine find out I use to be a vegetarian, they always ask me why I am not anymore. I find that this is a hard question to answer without offending them. If I lie and say that I “gave up” then they think less of me for not sticking it out. If I say I disagree with the premise of vegetarianism then they get offended because I’m disagreeing with their life choice.

Chickens kept in close quarters are debeaked to keep them form pecking each other to death.

My issue with vegetarianism is that there are too many “types” and too many reasons why different people pursue this dietary choice. This is the reason why the ethical support of being a vegetarian is hard to obtain. In order to address this I will make the assumption that vegetarians fall under three major groups:  Those who are vegetarian because they don’t like meat, those who are vegetarian because they believe it gives health benefits that omnivory does not, and those who are vegetarian because they believe killing animals is wrong,

I don’t really have an issue with the first two groups. If you really don’t like the way meat tastes more power to you. I have met people like this in the past. For example, my cousin does not like the taste of red meat at all so she just doesn’t eat it. Don’t eat something you don’t enjoy. As for the second category, the potential health benefits of being a vegetarian cannot be ignored. However, research is still being conducted about the pros and cons of vegetarianism. I would encourage anyone thinking of making this choice for health reasons to investigate scholarly sources, and not just take word of mouth or the internet at face value.

However, here are my two cents about this point of view- Most of the health benefits that people believe vegetarianism grants them are really just benefits of eating low cholesterol and unprocessed foods. Online you can search for “health benefits of vegetarianism” and get hundreds if not thousands of websites leading you to articles about how being a vegetarian can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. However, one you start eating the processes vegetarian foods like fake chicken nuggets, the cholesterol levels are pretty much the same. Also, all the chemicals they put into that junk to make it taste like meat is probably much worse for you than just eating some chicken. Instead of going vegetarian to eat healthy, I would encourage people to eat healthy without it first. Proper portion control and understanding your dietary needs would provide pretty much the same benefits of vegetarianism without you having to take supplements for the holes being a vegetarian may leave in your diet.

The last category is the one that I come across most often and the one that I ascribed to while being vegetarian. It is also the one that I disagree with. When I made my choice to become a vegetarian, I was uneducated about physiology, I was young, loved animals, and thought I was doing a great service to the world by choosing not to eat them. However, today I would argue that vegetarianism is a misguided path for those who seek to help the animals we mass consume. The intentions of such vegetarians are admirable and deserve respect, but I feel they are addressing this issue the wrong way. I agree that life is sacred, but I also see that taking it is necessary to preserve balance in our world. It is true that there is great injustice occurring in the food industry. Most of the animals that end up on our dinner table were horribly mistreated before their deaths. They were most likely kept in cages too small for them, pumped full of antibiotics to make their meat safe to eat, and generally disrespected and abused.

No one understands the horror of this more than me. I come from a farming family where we treat out animals well. But because of my background I have also seen the other side up close and personal at farms not far from our own. Before taking charge of our family farm after my great uncle grew too old to manage it by himself, my father’s brother worked for the ASPCA in Boston rescuing abused animals. My uncle Steven is a great man and he taught my cousins and I how we should treat animals, humans, and the land. I grew up knowing that our cattle was well treated, but I know that not all animals are so lucky.

This is why I understand why people believe that being vegetarian is helping animals. However, most people are not truly appalled by eating meat, but instead by the injustices of the food industry as I have explained. Eating meat is natural and should not be considered wrong. Even recently we are learning how many animals we thought to be vegetation are actually omnivores. For example, most people think of deer as cute grass munching fuzzies, however, recent studies have proven that deer will eat songbird hatchlings and eggs from ground nests. Everyone needs protein, and meat is the best way to get it. I would argue that there is nothing wrong with killing other animals for meat as long as those animals are respected.

Therefore, instead of encouraging vegetarianism, I would encourage people to eat local foods from farmers they trust. This is true for every food group. It’s true that local meat is not as accessible as many other foods, but this is why I also would encourage people to speak out against the injustices occurring in the food industry. As I said earlier, I respect the spirit of vegetarianism, but if mistreatment of animals is the reason you are a vegetarian, I encourage you to seek a cure not a treatment. This issue needs a real solution and that won’t come out of a few people swearing off meat for the rest of their lives. The real solution is to end the need for people to be vegetarian by ensuring that the meat that ends up in our kitchens comes from animals that were treated with respect before their deaths.

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Poison Ivy And Ecofeminism

"Britta tries really hard to be relevent. She does her best to act compassionate and kind, but that doesn’t stop her from being selfish. She isn’t an honorable, strong hero, but she WANTS to be." (stickingupforsammy, tumblr)

As someone who enjoys Media I went looking to see if there were any portrayals of Ecofeminism to analyze. How we are reflected in modern pop culture can in turn show how any movement is thought of or what is considered relevant at any particular time; I’ve seen plenty of examples of feminism, straw feminism, animal rights activists, but no one who I could safely classify as an interpretation on Ecofeminism. It’s perfectly understandable, you only have to look at our classes first blogs to realize most people don’t know what Ecofeminism is, but it still bothered me. Could I call Britta Perry from television show Community an Ecofeminist? She’s a vegetarian and self declared feminist but I really couldn’t describe her as an Ecofeminist. She has a leather jacket and in three seasons her biggest eco issue was an oil spill. The Companions on Doctor Who? On a show where people can go to space it is the almost always female Companion who keeps the connection to the Earth. Who keeps the alien Doctor from getting lonely. But that felt like a stretch for a brain trying its hardest to find Media Representation.

Until I found her. My Straw Ecofeminist made by men who were likely unfamiliar with the term itself. Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy caring for her plants.

Yes, this is going to be a post about cartoons and comic books. But please stay with me on this one. For the purposes of this blog I define “straw” to mean: A character whose feminism/Ecofeminism is drawn only for the purposes of either proving them wrong or ridiculing them. Often made in ignorance of a movement. For the sake of exploring the character as a character and not a cheesecake pinup I will try to avoid including any overly sexualized images. However those are few and far between.

Pamela Isley is generally considered an ecoterrorist supervillain in her superhero world. She’s green, literally, and she uses her intense knowledge of plants and toxicity to destroy the spiraling urban wasteland of Gotham City whenever possible. Her real world origin is out of seductress— the character was created in 1966 but it wasn’t until after the rise of feminism (it was decided Batman needed a less sympathetic foil then thief Catwoman) that she got an origin of her own. In 1988, with little bumps and changes every since, Pamela was given an origin story that strangely suits the ones we’ve heard in class. And then sexism in comic books was gone forever.

… No, just kidding. Poison Ivy is a straw Ecofeminist, remember? She was a botanist who was seduced by a dude, experimented on, and subsequently gained toxins in her blood stream that made her deadly to the touch and immune to all poisons, viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The experiments also allowed her to produce mind-control pheromones that drive men wild at her touch. And infertility so she’d be grouchy about all this. The point being to make her natural but still “less than a women”.

When looking at Poison Ivy again after all this Ecofeminism I’ve been learning I honestly feel like the people who wrote her were listening in to our conversations through a muffled doorway.  So many things we talked about are inherent to her place in Batman mythos: the contrast between man as strong urban city with technology and strong will while women is all things natural, seductive, and planted.  That is essentially what we talked about the first day of class; when we all charted out womanly things and manly things. Poison Ivy sits very happily in the feminine and she’ll still destroy you with ease. Her questions of self worth when she becomes infertile are interesting, as a character she never seems to wonder why she feels less than for being unable to have children, but just like in class she wonders why so much of her worth is defined that way. Pamela no longer considers herself a person but rather an extension of the Earth; like someone was listening to us talk about the spirituality of soil and got an entirely literal idea from it.

She also spends a lot of time holding sharp objects and looking annoyed.

She’s not a good person, supervillian and all, but her style does occasionally indicate a writer who has picked up a copy of feminism 101. A copy of feminism 101 written in the 1970s. Despite (or maybe because she spends so much time) seducing men frequently she has a very low opinion on them. It always makes me think of when I talk to people and they act like being a Feminist means hating men. A lot. “Thoughtless. Worthless. Stupid. Man.” – (Poison Ivy, Batman: Hush) is the sort of quote you read coming out of her word bubbles quickly. When given time to elaborate on her loathing she expresses it in feminist rhetoric with eco inclinations to go with it. “I hate men. Because of what they do. They clip. They prune. They make us remake ourselves into what they want. A Madonna. A whore. A partner. A foe. And we do it. Because we need.” (Poison Ivy, Solo #6)

That quote is what makes her feel like a tragedy to me: because the character is made to be exactly all those things. She was innocent botanist academic; she was turned into temptress, and now she’s a partner to the villains, and simple Batman foe. She’s someone’s attempt at a feminist character in a universe where no one is quite sure what that entails. In the quote above she’s connected to the natural world and she describes it in feminine ways. A central part of Ecofeminism.

Click to enlarge. It's a little gross though.

Oddly enough one could make the argument that she is a terrorist community organizer. She cares about Gotham and about women— frequently growing parks without permission and taking care of Gotham’s large teenage runaway population. In this role she is Mother Earth: vengeful, nasty, but Mother Earth all the same. There are plenty of stories where she uses her powers to rob jewelry stores but those are often followed by ones where she rails against the ridiculously corrupt Gotham City system. In the comic Gotham Central she goes about it in extreme unethical ways, murdering her charges murderer but it’s interesting to note the way she phrases her revenge. First she humanizes the victim, reminds them that she was fifteen, that her name was Dee Dee, and that she loved to read. But when the time comes to destroy her enemy she does the “logical” Ecofeminism thing. She recycles their bodies into the soil!

Which is horrible, but exactly what you’d expect an angry Ecofeminist Supervillian to do.

Pamela is also very clearly in love with Harley.

She’s also one of the only people who consistently speaks out against one of comics most blatantly abusive couples: the Joker and Harley Quinn. For those of you who don’t know The Joker is a sociopath who likes to claim people just “Don’t get the joke.” Less well known is Harley Quinn- his former psychologist turned loving sidekick. She’s very smart, essentially powerless, and though very cheerful her self esteem is almost non existent. While the relationship is acknowledged as abusive by the narrative it is also a frequent form of comic relief. Batman himself seems sympathetic and will occasionally show kindness (he’s usually a bit busy when anywhere near the two of them) but Poison Ivy is the one who is consistently there to show support to Harley as a person. She’s blunt about how bad the situation is but always opens up her home when Harley tries to break the cycle. They fight and they argue and, yes, they rob the city blind, but at the end of it all Pamela consistently says the same thing. “You are a strong woman capable of so much. You are not alone.”  This is where she as a character gets to express values without having them undermined. She’ll never succeed, statue quo is all in comics and Harley Quinn will always revert to her old ways, but the simple message of it suits the character Poison Ivy has the potential to be. For all of the things she fights because she dislikes them there are people it is in her nature to fight for. It’s something positive in all of this.

Ranting about fictional Supervillians can be bad for your health.

Media Matters. While Poison Ivy will never be a good person or a consistently well written character I can see aspects of the Ecofeminist Movement in her. She equates herself to all things in nature, she’s aware of social roles in society, she tries her immoral best to Community Organize, and she’s sympathetic to women in need in her community. Her inherent loathing of men, her tendency to seduce everyone in sight while the artist loving draws in her curves, and her origin story keep her from being a fully fleshed out exploration of Ecofeminist (or Feminist) Issues. Personally I’m still glad that she as a character exists. I love nitpicking at aspects of portrayal in media and the thought that there were no fictional Ecofeminists to be found is inherently depressing. I’d rather find flaws in a portrayal, or reinterpret someone else’s bit of straw, than to discover there was nothing there at all. If nothing else the character gives me hope that the quality of character has great potential and will only improve.


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The Oppression of both Animals and Women

After reading articles by Carol J Adams and Lori Gruen, I have become greatly aware of the intertwining oppression of women and animals.

I think one can begin by talking about women and make-up. First of all, society has placed a construction around this ideal of “beauty” where women must wear make-up to cover themselves in a way that makes them “more appealing”. Girls grow up in a world where they look at magazines showing advertisements for make-up to cover their “blemishes” and mascara to make their eyelashes longer and “more beautiful”. This disturbs me in so many levels that women feel this great need to conform to this view of “beauty” for the opposite sex that society poses. One shouldn’t even get started with the prices that are put on such products to make them look “more pretty”. There are many women out in the world that feel the need to put on make-up everyday because society tells them “hey, if you don’t have make up, then you aren’t pretty. Thus you don’t care about your appearance to attract and appeal to others”.

Lets look at this in an ecofeminist lens which looks at the origins of make-up. Make-up is tested on animals for example especially lipstick. Make-up is tested on all types of animals to check the “safety” which puts animals in lots of pain and after their testing they are left to die. Fortunately there are companies out there that insure human ways of testing or insure that their product was not tested on animals.


Do you really need those longer lashes to conform to societies construction of beauty? Think about the next time you put on make-up.


Animals are constantly being oppressed by ways of treatment from injections to produce more milk to chickens being kept in such a confined space that they have no room to scratch or move. Most of these animals don’t even see the sunlight and are locked in a huge warehouses. One must realize, the majority of these animals that are being oppressed are female animals. Who produces the milk? who produces the eggs? Will this make you think again when you just want a glass of milk? or the next time that you want to make eggs for breakfast? One must consider that if one isn’t vegan or a vegetarian, that one supports this form of oppression towards animals and women. What do you think?

One thing that makes me very angry, is the fact that these big companies that raise the chickens to be slaughtered and keep cows confined in small spaces, don’t even allow this to really be publicized. One can only imagine why. These chickens are so confined that they contract diseases being exposed to different bacterias while stepping on their own poop. Many of these companies just care about their profits, so these animals rights are not even taken into consideration.

What will you do to protect these chickens?

Will you think next when you go to your local food store? Will you take the organic free range eggs or the eggs that were laid by chickens with no room to move? A huge majority of the animals that are mistreated are female bodied.

I think that people need to rethink the way they look at their food. I know that organic/free range food is priced higher, but if you have the money, it’s worth it. People should protest against these companies because if you eat an animal that was injected with hormones, you will contract those same hormones just because that company wants to produce as much food and gain the most profit.

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Pink Slime: Whose Lunch is Valued?

When I made the move from the elementary school building to the junior/senior high school building, I stopped packing my lunch. With that came the strange rules of what to eat at the cafeteria. Anything with beef was generally considered “unsafe” by segments of the student population, so hamburgers were avoided. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind this decision was, but I didn’t want to take my chances. If it had red meat, I wouldn’t eat it.

Hungry yet?

Recently I felt vindicated by this decision. There were a few articles in the news about this mysterious “pink slime” that is used in beef products. The pink slime is better known, and more successfully marketed as, finely textured lean beef. Beef Products Inc. has been creating this product for years, and it has been a mainstay in fast foods and school lunches. Although USDA has given this product the seal of approval, lately the product has been criticized for E. coli. Ammonia is used in processing the beef to kill the bacteria, yet it still comes up.

My mother is a middle school teacher. After reading about this debacle, I called her up in hopes that she would have more of an “inside persepective.” Sure enough, she had asked some of the cafeteria workers about the pink slime beef product, and they had a particularly disturbing answer. My mother’s school is given the product for free. Cafeteria workers therefore use the product before dipping into funding.

This incident is clearly indicative of a bigger problem, but is it particularly ecofeminist? The most basic connection is that women are generally in charge of taking care of children, which includes feeding them. If children are not getting the nutrition they need, society likes to point the finger at the mother. The fact that public schools, notoriously underfunded, have been using this for years when even McDonald’s won’t use it anymore is a bit suspect. McDonald’s has been publicly flogged for being intensely unhealthy (remember the film Supersize Me?), but it is cheap. Like the pink slime. Students going to public schools are susceptible to less healthy food by virtue of the food being cheap and the schools being underfunded.

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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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Is this Wasteland really MY Land?

My thoughts about land and my connection to it has changed drastically during the duration of this class because, at the beginning of the course. My first blog entry focused primarily on my flower farm in Virginia and how my family and our employees work with the land and the importance of our impact upon the soil, water dispersal, etc. Throughout the course, our understanding of the importance of keeping our environment safe from toxins and harmful environmental threats has turned into a global movement to free us of threats to our own health. My first blog entry discussed my connection with the earth and how our farm works with nature to create beautiful flowers for my mom to use for her florist business. Our farm steers away from harmful toxins, and we instead turn to our land’s natural cycle to produce flowers. Although we avoid using toxins for the growth of our flowers, we have no background understanding as to why we shouldn’t use these chemicals except for the sole reason of understanding that these toxins in some way impact our health. This may be part of the pitfall of humanity and our struggle to understand our impact on our environment – we think that our land is so stable because we see the vastness of the mountains and the great power of weather, but what we fail to understand is that nature is fragile with the impact of what we place upon the earth. We think that dumping small amounts of trash or toxins from our waste will not do any harm, but what we do not understand is that, although these impacts are small, they still accumulate into larger scale problems through time.Has my impact on my environment affected THIS?


In our readings, we have covered the impact of what we have put in our own environment and how it has affected our health with Steingraber’s memoir of her struggle with cancer. This reading was especially interesting because the focus wasn’t completely on how she, herself, struggled with health issues but she brought in case studies for the reader to understand that we globally struggle with the environment and what we put into it. Steingraber’s overall message was for us to wake up and smell the toxin-ridden flowers that we have created for ourselves. This was also the case with Vandana Shiva’s “Soil Not Oil”.

We must change the way we utilize our land before we have any hope for changing the way we live and breath and experience the health benefits of a clean environment. 

 In Shiva’s book, she breaks down the three main conditions from which we suffer from in our society: the food crisis, climate crisis, and the energy crisis. Understanding these effects on our communities on a local level helps us to understand where we can resolve these issues. In the book, Shiva makes all of these crises connect by explaining that where there are pitfalls with one crisis, the effect takes a toll on the remaining 2. I went in search of finding examples of these connections and was enlightened when I read up on an issue that was happening in my own backyard. In my rural community, we rely heavily upon chickens and other fowl for eggs, meat, and fertilizer for our plants. Thus, it was no wonder when one news headline caught my attention:


My initial reaction was: WHAT?! ARSENIC?! in CHICKENS THAT WE EAT? DISGUSTING.

And upon reading the article I was shocked that some of the largest food corporations in America, such  as Perdue and McDonald’s have had histories of using arsenic-based chicken feed for their chickens. How gross is that? PLUS, not only has it affected those who consumed the chicken, but the arsenic has seeped into the environment in high volumes because of the waste from the chickens and the fertilizer we use in our communities to feed our plants, which we also consume. Thus, it directly relates back to Shiva’s understanding of the connection we have with our environment and how one pitfall of our decisions with the environment, could lead into bigger problems in the long run.

In conclusion, I think that one of the main points I have taken away from our readings and discussions about our environmental impacts have lead me to believe that we have this ability to change our environment if we adopt the open minds of scientists that want to change the way we live our lives. However, it is impossible with the lack of funds and our dependency upon products and additives (such as arsenic with chickens) that allow us to make more money and allow us to progress substantially on the financial end of the spectrum.

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