Final Portfolio

December 17, 2010

Week 2: Cronon ” The Trouble With Wilderness”

Week 3: Abbey “Desert Solitaire”

Week 4: Coates “Nature” Chapter 1-5

Week 5: Coates ” Nature” Chapter 6-9

Week 6: no post

Week 7:  Environment and Society I present

Week 9: How to be Idle

Week 10: Eating Animals

Week 11: Breakfast of Biodiversity

Week 12: Robbins “Lawn People”

News Articles








Nature part 1

December 17, 2010

In reading Coates Nature, although dense I found some points really interesting in the book, that I’ll mark below. We as people tend to see ourselves as part of “nature”, however in a way we remain seperate from it, most likely mentally however this distaches us in a way from nature.

Coates says a couple things in the first chapters, that I either hope to challenge in class, or just want people to take note of for their significance.

page 9: Humanity did not create the natural world, but we did create the idea of nature.

page 10: We view nature the way we are taught to view nature, and thus through our anticipations of it. It is impossible to perfectly define and measure nature without some degree of ethnocentrism. Anthropocentric views gave us (what we view as) ‘authority’ over nature. This is one of my favorites.

page 11:Part of humanity’s separation from nature involves the creation of the perspective of nature as a ruthless, intensifying force that threatens the ever expanding population.

here i think its important to ask, if our population increase is really “nature’s” doing?

Coates also mentions here how no culture has existed without evironmental changes and challenges.

page 14: Environmentalism and environmental protection as we know it did not exist together before 1945.

page 16: We have not altered the earth’s surface to separate ourselves from nature, but simply the population increased and means of destruction became more powerful.

Western world and nature: I think it’s important that we take note of the role the Western world had over nature, Or hoped to have, as they saw it as inferior to them, wanting to have control over it. What does Coates say about this being how we lost nature?

page 48: Christianity in the Middle Ages viewed nature as something less than divinity.

The role of the Industrial Revolution… has led people to pronounce it the watershed between today’s impoverished world and the nature we have lost.

page 69: The Reformation brought little or no respect to the gain of nature.

Gaia- the godess of Earth. Mother Nature according to Greek Mythology

Digital Course Summary

December 17, 2010


Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Meadowlands

Week 3: Desert Solitaire

Week 4: Nature (part 1)

Week 5: Nature (part 2)

Weeks 6-7: Environment and Society

Week 8: Break

Week 9: How to be Idle

Week 10: Eating Animals (no longer)

Week 11: Breakfast of Biodiversity (John M and I presented/ led the conversation)

Week 12: Lawn People

Week 13:  Project Consultations

Week 14: Thanksgiving Break

Week 15-16: Project Presentations: Emailed to Krygier

Our lawns have taken over our minds

December 17, 2010

My parents are very liberal, wonderful people, who have taught me to think for myself, but they fertilizer our lawn, have it mowed, and water it during the summer.  The lawn has most definitely taken over their minds, and set them to work.  The lawn controls them, to the point where I’ll hear my mom criticize neighbors who have let their yards run wild–this is also because she is a master gardner and puts great labor into her trees and flowers.  Regardless though, what is the deal with have a perfect lawn?

Adding to the irony:

-The people who do put chemicals on their lawns believe that it is worse for the environment than those who do not use the chemicals.

-1999: US spent $1.2 billion on insecticides, not including the $9 billion total for all gardening consumption/products.

-Any explanation of this local phenomenon will reveal that it is nested within a wider context of pressures and coercions.

-American lawns as the conscious expression of the collective American psyche.

-Domestication:  who is to say who domesticated who??  Currently, maize cannot reproduce my itself, it is dependent on the human species.

-Modern lawns are not an expression of culture, although they do require inputs.

-What is the driving force behind the pressure to have a perfect lawn?  To give the impression that your home and household is also perfect?  Does this philosophy relate to wanting a perfect life?  A perfect body?  A perfect soul?  (Radiohead, Creep.)


Learning to be Idle: Lateness applied

December 17, 2010

This book caused me to indulge in an extra nap or two over break, and really prevented me from not only finishing the book, but doing a lot of work that should have been done.  The important point: I was happy, just like the toddler napping.

Discussion of “How to be Idle”:

  • Must be a discussion during a great lunch after a few martinis, a must, for anything and everything good in life.
  • Whole point of the point: enjoy life, try not to be so self-depricating, eat good food and drink merrily, have a cigarette occasionally, and make sure you nap if you need to.
  • Ancient Chinese Philosophy that “freedom and non-chalance” and essential in a “wise and merry philosophy of living”
  • Most pernicious myth of modern society:  that a job is the answer to all woes.
  • The clock and the machine tore us from nature.
  • Frightening person:  John Wesley–enjoyed terrifying and controlling small children through satanic images all to forge an obedient mindset later in life.
  • Low wages keep people from toiling.  Hunger as a motivation to work is now replaced with possessions and status (the need to achieve and obtain these things).
  • Socialism: Oscar Wilde regretted that a portion of the community had been enslaved, but to solve this by enslaving the entire community is childish.
  • According to UN report:  Work kills 2 million people per year.
  • The idler is the student of art and of living.
  • When I read this, life began to make sense:  John Lennon is the perfect image of a modern idler.  He and Yoko spent a week in bed for World Peace!
  • Speaking of, the ned os the perfect place to think, to be creative, and to come up with new ideas—I could not agree more.
  • While I was reading this book, I was drinking tea, and ironically, my tea bag read:  One of the best actions we can take, with courage, is to relax. –Yogi tea bag
  • Society pressures us to get out of bed so we don’t think too much, why not allow for more idleness?

  • Nazi’s were especially fearful of idlers–sent them to work-camps, this is very similar to Lord Farquaad of Shrek world.
  • pg. 41 spelling error of “magnificent”
  • Traditional skiving was during the 17th century when Saint Monday was celebrated by drinking; however; this tradition was killed by the industrial revolution.
  • During the hour of the hangover, noon, we should all just abandon ourselves to the hangover itself and watch Zoolander.  Okay!
  • Tom suggests that we need more days to “convalesce” so that we can reach our full strength and health before we go back to daily life after being sick.
  • Interesting, being ill as considered unpatriotic due to its inconvenience to the work culture.
  • At 3 pm, if naps are taken, they split the day in half and make it more manageable and less stressful.  There used to be much more relaxed work rhythms, but because of the industrial revolution, they are no longer.
  • Some of my favorite, and the world’s favorite people are idlers: John Lennon, Jesus, and Buddha: the nap as an early form of meditation.
  • Tea encourages more intelligent conversations, tea time in Japan and China are linked to seeking enlightenment, Zen Buddhist monks drink tea.  I agreed that loose leaf tea is always better and you can always find a huge selection.
  • Fishing: an activity of idlers.
  • Death: as the ultimate idleness.  Not sure how I feel about these thoughts.
  • In Summary, go enjoy life while smoking a cigarette!

Environment and Society

December 17, 2010

Topics of potentially thought-provoking conversation:

  • Types of people and there philosophies about their relationship with nature:
  • Our responsibility, stewardship, caring for the environment–should not be utilitarian (the people who are exploiting natural resources for profit)–“this piece of nature is useful to me, therefore it has value”
  • Gifford Pinchot vs. John Moir:  Pinchot is a utilitarian who is the head of the forest service “conservation.”  Moir founded the Sierra Club and is a preservationist.  During the Hetch Hetchy Valley controversy, Pinchot supported the valley in becoming a reservoir for the people of San Francisco to use while Moir opposed this because it would cut off water to the sequoia groves and take them down during the construction.  Pinchot’s argument was that it provided greater benefits for more people.
  • Aldo Leopold’s “The Land Ethic”–integrated ecology into an ethical framework=ecocentric, we are part of the environment and depend on its well-being, we have an interdependence relationship.
  • One step further: moral extensionism, meaning that we have a moral obligation to protect the environment.
  • Population–caused visions of scarcity e.g. Phoenix, Arizona during the 1990’s grew by 300 ppl per DAY, they use approximately 225 gallons of water per day (this is affluence) and they’ve lost the Gila monsters.
  • Geometric growth=exponential.  Malthus describes that:  wars, famine, and disease keep a population in check, warfare is counterproductive, and the moral-code of self-restraint will avert resource crisis.
  • I (environmental Impact)=PxAxT where P=population, A=affluence (level of consumption, how many goods per person are consumed, and T=technology.
  • Neo-Malthusians emphasize population growth as the greatest factor of environmental degradation.  Those opposing argue that technology is by far the worst due to our petrochemical based economy, and our excessive use of pesticides, and fossil fuels.  An alternative economy would offset the population growth.
  • Green Revolution:  used new cultivation techniques based on a heavy-inputs system of agriculture (which is very degrading to the environment and not sustainable and very expensive to maintain).  e.g. in India, 1965-1980 they increased wheat production x3!  This trend occurred in Indonesia and the Philippines.  These methods caused the calories produced to be more ecologically expensive due to the extensive and excessive use of pesticides/fertilizers, loss of soils, loss of biodiversity.
  • Current growth rates are declining (peaked in the 60’s and 70’s).  Is population the social driver of environmental change?  Or is environmental change the product/outcome of social/environmental circumstances?  Surprisingly, we are nearly at a population growth rate of <1%=ZPG (where the number of births =the number of deaths)  Reason for increase is a universal phenomenon of women becoming more educated and literate which is directly, significantly correlated with lower fertility rates.
  • Conclusion:  Malthusians are dangerous i.e. Indian sterilization = way too much emphasis on population growth, not enough on the driving forces (economy, society, politics).

  • Markets and commodities:  Two outlooks of Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon–believes that the future is always better than the present.  Population growth as a good phenomenon because it improved the quality of life: more people equals more good and innovative ideas, more demand for things such as clean air and water.
  • Economic worldview:  describes the creative potential of humans, the economy interacts with the population–e.g. as some or any commodity (e.g. fish) decline due to population growth and an increase in demand, the cost of the product also rises.  Then consumers are presented with a choice:  (use less or use something else) they may turn to a cheaper alternative which are innovations as a response to scarcity then the demand will decline, decreasing the cost, because the alternative they will use less of that product or commodity.
  • Paradox (Jevon’s Paradox):  conservation of goods may lead to the increased use of an alternative product and hence more environmental stress.
  • What about all environmental sources?  Coase Theorem, explains externalities i.e. pollution which is most efficiently controlled through the bargaining between parties, or property owners by the use of contracts.  This supports the free market where people can sort out their disagreements, come to understandings, and design rules and restrictions (socially and economically cheap).  Although efficient markets require public investments.
  • Market-based solutions to environmental problems include that the increase of money drives providers to new sources (tax), the money from the tax is then used to research or search for new alternatives. e.g. Swedish carbon taxation began in 1991.  e.g. Peak oil–we estimate that it peaked in the 70’s, hence the increased price in gasoline over time: whats next? Green economy or complete catastrophe.

  • Risks and Hazards:
  • The Great Flood of 1993:  occurred in the MidWest and there was over $20 billion in damages, killed 48 people, unpredictable?  are people irrational who live there?  what about people who live on the Mississippi floodplain, how irrational are they when they know the dangers??
  • The Indians, stated to the colonies:  never build on a floodplain, according to Hickcox.
  • Cap and Trade:  1995 Trading system was put into place when there was a prevalence of acid rain, after the cap and trade was implemented there was a 30% reduction (in acid rain).
  • Green consumption: demand for green, consumer demand for organic foods.  But really, how legitimate are these labels when it comes to both organic and “green”??
  • Gaps between Nature and the economy:  can the functioning of whole ecosystems be assured in markets that capture only the value of discrete and specific goods/services?  Crisis of equality–not equal/democratic:  top 1/5 of the worlds richest people earned 83% of the world’s income, money and power lies in the hands of corporate entities—not people!
  • Institutions and the commons:
  • Why is controlling carbon so hard when it is so important to be doing so?
  • Instantly in the air; emitted by one country is then burdened by all.
  • How can rules/norms of global behavior be fashioned to encourage shared costs/collective benefits?  On what scale is this cooperation possible?
  • Tragedy of the Commons:  “ruin is the destination all men rush, pursuing own best interest in a society that believes in its own best interest”–Garrett Hardin
  • Land and resources must be made into non-commons by the power of law and property.
  • Such institutions are plausible e.g. lobsters in Maine, the fishermen had a limit on the number of traps they could set e.g. they have self-regulated irrigation systems in Southern India.

Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Tuesday Morning

December 17, 2010

I’ve always loved the stars and especially the occasional meteor shower, Tuesday morning I was up late studying for two exams and was able to sight about five meteors near the constellation of Orion.  This was around the 3 am, a few hours after the moon descended behind the horizon which was great because then visibility was much clearer.  However, the temperature was unbearably cold!

If you are interested in other celestial events, check this site out for dates coming soon. The next meteor shower is January 4th, the Quadrantids!