Nature: Thoughts including Jim Morrison’s Poetic Thoughts (Part 2)

December 17, 2010

This book is quite dense, the density was definitely a challenge to remain focused through, I even put off writing my notes until now.  At least Jim Morrison is keeping me awake; his thoughts on nature can be heard in his poetic lyrics during “When the Music’s Over.”  Jim describes how humans have degraded our planet, the capitalist consumers placing profit on all natural resources (wanting the world NOW), humanity needing help (maybe by a religious force) connecting with nature again, and suggests that we can save energy by turning out the lights when we are done partying, when the music’s over; however, we probably should not be partying as hard as he did when he was alive.

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it…
We want the world and we want it…

Persian night, babe
See the light, babe
Save us!
Save us!

So when the music’s over
When the music’s over, yeah
When the music’s over
Turn out the lights
Turn out the lights
Turn out the lights

Topics of rich discussion about the second part of the Nature:

  • The Middle Ages:  Chenu describes the world soul, man as a microcosm and the universe as a macrocosm.  Christianity deeply inscribed into the Middle Age mind.
  • 4,000-6,000 years ago fire was used widely as a hunting mechanism; as a result during the middle of the Bronze Age, 1/2 of England was no longer “wildwood”
  • Most clearance of land was done by Cisterian monks from France who arrived and spread from Scotland to Hungary
  • Population/climate parallels:  Few degress warmer from 1086-1300, caused the population to grow from 1.5 million to 4 million.  Then it was cooler and wetter which increased cattle disease and led to poor harvest; one of those diseases was the bubonic plague which killed 25-40% of England’s population, and 20 million across Europe.
  • Landscapes of power
  • Animal Court Trials (strange)
  • St. Francis was an exception to the arrogant anthropocentrism of dominant christian religion e.g. he called animals “brother” and “sister.”  Other exceptions were monks, hermits, and Franciscans.
  • New Technology developed during the Midieval Ages, most importantly the plough share that required 8 oxen to pull and exploiting the land became easier.  As a result, “ecological triumphalism” arose where people had the impression that “we shape the world according to our needs”–much the same as it is today.  Huge environmental impact occurred during cathedral construction in the 12th-13th centuries.
  • The Advent of Modernity:  Metaphor of the petroleum station as how humanity has reduced nature to a resource to fuel its bottomless tank.  How did we get to this??
  • 17th Century Scientific Revolution:  capitalist modes of production
  • 18th Century Enlightenment Project:  locomotive of modernity with its emphasis of man as master of his own destiny and the supreme explanatory power of reason.  “What is nature?” because inseparable from “What can we do to nature?”
  • The World Beyond Europe:  the beatniks (basic revolutionaries of our time).
  • Zen Buddhism:  oneness of all life. *stresses low consumption levels*
  • Where are we headed?

Potential for Good

December 16, 2010

The Rainforest Alliance has been working on developing more sustainable productions of bananas since 1990.  As a result of the not for profit program, some 15 percent of all bananas sold internationally now come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. The group is especially proud of its agreements with two of the largest growers, Favorita and Chiquita.  All of Favorita’s farms in Ecuador and all of Chiquita’s farms in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama are certified sustainable under the program.  However, they still recommend that Americans boycott bananas and purchase local fruits instead until there is greater fairness and increases in pay (life) for the workers.

Eating the Rainforest, for breakfast!

December 16, 2010

Breakfast of Biodiversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction emphasizes the commonly exploitation patterns of corporate control over rain forest deforestation that is causing socioeconomic and environmental destruction in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and South East Asia.  The purpose of this book is to understand the great “web of causality” in which these corporations have caught the locals of the Latin American countries into; they are slowly sucking the life out of their prey, the natural resources from the locals.


Topics of Discussion:

  • Land: Rain forests make up 7% of the earth’s surface and 50% of all the plant and animal species.
  • Common pattern seen in the production of hamburgers and bananas:
  1. “visionary” capitalists see the economic opportunity in the goods (bananas)
  2. purchase/steal/bribe the local government for the land (in order to deforest it)
  3. import the local workers to the site (i.e. Nicaraguans)
  4. after the first boom period of the cash crop, BUST: now vast unemployment
  5. failure to find new work in a new region, they subsistence farm in the rain forest
  6. they deforest the rain forest for the subsistence agriculture
  7. Costa Ricans and other Latin American governments greet this business so help them out of their horrible debt.  The pattern of the unemployed moving to shantytowns nearby or farming has greatly decreased the size of the rain forest from 90% total original area in 1950, to 25% of the original, natural land today.
  • Standard Fruit Co.: DBCP, a fungicide left many workers sterile.  The Co. never paid them for their losses because they created loopholes to dance through to not pay the compensation.
  • Sarapiquí Valley, Costa Rica: 50,000 square hectares are bio. preserve, 100,000 square hectares are small legal farms, and 100,000 are old growth forests, small farms, pastures and fruit plantations.
  • They have no labor unions here
  • Solidarista Movement
  • “Bridges for Bananas” the U.S. military built infrastructure to better access and transport bananas
  • CORBANA: non-environmentally friendly research, done mostly to genetically modify the bananas e.g. fungal-resistant nanners
  • Most of the Costa Ricans support the banana plantation expansions because they are desperately trying to dig out national debt, however expectedly, most of the money leaves the country.


  • Single focus solutions: both are just single threads in the “web of causality,” the problem lies within the fabric itself
  1. smash capitalism
  2. birth control
  • Root causes of deforestation: Food insecurity and poverty. They are the antidote to simplistic views and they analyze the socio-economic-ecological systems which will resolve the issue if addressed.
  • Reveals: that there is enough land, it is just occupied by other activities.  Sustainable agricultural techniques are replaced by expensive, unnecessary, destructive, chemical methods.  This same pattern occurs in arid deserts of Africa: Food insecurity→degradation→desertification.  Then the cycle feeds into itself, once the land is desertified, the locals must move elsewhere, just as the peasants seek out the rain forest to farm.




This is what clear-cutting looks like.  (

  • Two Models to save the rain forest:
  1. Mainstream environmental movement approach:  Use money to purchase small islands of rain forest to protect.  The problem is that there is a lack of consciousness and power as to what occurs surrounding the islands i.e. pesticides and landless peasants.
  2. Political ecology strategy: Emphasizes the land between the islands and the people.  Works to use the land system so that the conditions of production are according to the needs of the local people.  This is a very Marxist ideology, where in my opinion, it seems a revolution would need to take place because of the obvious disharmony between the modes of production and the relations of production.  Vanermeer and Perfecto do mention another important Marxist point that this approach seeks to organize people who oppose ecological and socially demanding development; the people must unite with political forces with similar fundamental goals.
  • The Rainforest as both fragile and stable (resilient):  it is both,  but the chemical and deforestation inputs are too devastating for the rainforest to be resilient to, therefore the rainforest in more accurately categorized as fragile, much like a “house of cards”
  • Essential elements that describe the rainforest:
  1. High biodiversity: the more diverse the system, the more fragile it is.  Each species is very rare, maybe only 2 individuals in one species, hopefully they are close by for reproductive purposes.
  2. Sex/Pollination:  Mutualism.  Traplining by hummingbirds, they take note on where the nectar plants are so that they can always have food and be able to locate it.
  3. Herbivores:  Many insects and animals that eat only specific plants; can be threat to survival, however, plants have adapted defenses: structural, chemical, and mutual.
  4. Dispersal of offspring: squrrells and oaks, fruit seeds and stool.
  5. Soil: both rather infertile and super lush.
  • Rainforest diversity: SE Asia dominated by one species=a dream land for timber companies
  • Farming on rainforest soils:  Plenty of water and no winter BUT very acidic soils–nutrients in plant material rather than the soil(opposite case for the US corn belt).  Will have a good growing season during the first year and then the second will be a bust because the soil depletes so rapidly leaving the farmer in poverty.  Many pests–can destroy a crop within days, weeds, and diseases that love hot, wet environments.  All these factors work against the farmer and contribute to them moving on to new plots of land to work for the first boom of season.
  • 5 basic soil types:
  1. acidic (high in aluminum and iron)
  2. alluvial (deposited by floodplains, stores nutrients well)
  3. volcanic (rich when young)
  4. hillside (erodes rapidly)
  5. swamp (rich in organic material)
  • Soil mosaic: very important to know in order to be successful and sustainable.  Planting perennials is also a must, growing seasonal crops is possible if agroecosystems are in place (among trees of fruit and timber).  e.g. Javanese gardens include over 600 different species of plants.

More deforestation, this is in Brazil.

United Fruit Co.:  forced many peasants off of their own land and into acid soils (unproductive), by 1950, 75% of the peasants were without land or it was marginal.  Arbenz was a good politician who was trying to fight for the rights of the peasants to have land (their land), so then the CIA had bombs dropped over Guatemala City to frighten the people and Arbenz so that he would resign, sadly yet understandably he resigned.

  • Farming=production of food from the land.
  • Agriculture=production of food from petroleum.
  • Other factors that degrade the land:  the use of internal combustion engines, DDT, the Green Revolution during the 60’s (bad–led to the dependency on chemicals, now: all GMO’s.  Gross!)
  • Agricultural activities deforesting the rainforest are embedded into larger structures:
  • Modern agriculture:
  1. suppliers (supply inputs such as machinery, pesticides, fertilizers, and seeds)
  2. the unit (farm and farmers=food, fiber)
  3. to who they supply to =milled grains, canned vegetables, fast food

Notice that farmers are the middle step between supply and demand, this causes them to be apart of the industrial system, the worker of the food factory (personally, I think this has become a typical example of other realms of life adopting a “McDonaldized” model.  In a Marxist way of looking at this the laborers are the proletariat and the those who own the machines (like factories,  the means of production) are the bourgeoise, again there is great disharmony between the two–a revolution is necessary for these people who are being exploited.

  • Repeating pattern:  When Fruit Co. or other mass producing fruit companies cut back on production,  the unemployed worker must either migrate or carve a piece of the rainforest to farm.  The base of the development is for economic growth= the Global North who owns the means of production and are solely concerned about the feeding in to the demands of the global north working class and their consumption of the product (their profits).  If we were to boycott the consumption/ purchase of bananas and tropical timbers, there would be no demand, and then demands for fair treatment and payment of the corporation’s workers could be made.
  • Overall:  the lack of land and the lack of food security is the driving force of deforestation.
  • The force that is creating the landless peasants is the cause.
  • In order to save the lungs of the world we must change the world systems.  Personally, I believe this must begin on a person level, starting with educating the masses about this, and then implementing huge boycotts–boycotts are very effective when multinational corporations start to lose money.  That’s their whole aim, but in masses we have the power to point in which direction that aim should go and how it gets there.

December 15, 2010

Week 2: Meadowlands

Notes on reading

Environmental article:

week 3: desert solitaire

Notes on reading:

Environmental article…rangers-humans/

week 4: Nature part 1

notes on readings

Environmental article:…ting-in-mexico

week 5: Nature part 2

notes on reading:

Environmental article:…s’-breath-away/

week 6: Environment and society part 1

notes on reading:

Environmental article:

week 7: Environment and society part 2

Environmental article:…l-fuel-use-nyt/

week 8: no class

week 9: How to be idle

notes on reading:

Week 10: eating animals

Environmental news article:…-virginia-mine/

no notes

Week 11: Breakfast of biodiversity 

notes on reading:

Week: 12: Lawn People

no notes

Environmental article:…l-fuel-use-nyt/

Week 13 – 15 Course Project report:



In the Wild, a Big Threat to Rangers: Humans

December 15, 2010

Park rangers have reported more encounters with people with guns. So far this year two park rangers have been shat on the job A forest ranger in Pennsylvania was fatally shot in November when he confronted a man hunting illegally. Another ranger in Utah was shot during a traffic stop in the park, he was seriously wounded. Park rangers encounter people with guns so often that one said he assumes everyone has a gun. The increase in guns in national parks is attributed to the growth of communities around the parks and a 2009 law that makes it legal to carry guns in most national parks. Since 1980 fifteen national forest rangers have been killed by people carrying guns. Many forest rangers now carry sun-guns or tasers if not their own guns for protection,.

Modest Climate Change Steps Are Goal of Meeting in Mexico

December 15, 2010

At the end of October, representatives from 200 nations met in Mexico to try and lay the ground work for the initial steps to try and combat climate change. Disagreements between The United States and China, the two largest producers of greenhouse gasses over how they will share emission cuts. The representatives are trying to reach an agreement on how a “green fund” will be managed. The fund will give aid to poor nations so they can begin mover towards clean technology and to protect tropical rain forests.

Big Brains Steal Insects’ Breath Away

December 15, 2010

Big Brains Steal Insects’ Breath Away
A new report finds that insects that can go a long time without breathing have larger and more complex brains.  One type of cockroach can go without breathing for seven minutes and their puba can go several hours. These insects need to breath constantly when they are using energy however, they can go into sleep like states where they do not need to breath for long periods of time. Many types of insects can enter into this state including, types butterflies, grasshoppers and beatls.