‘Nature’, Coates (Ch. 6-9)
-(pg. 111) ‘When US cavalry first entered Yosemite Valley, California in the 1850s, it was a place of work and people. The meadows and open woodland struck white visitors who came in the soldiers’ wake as park-like because Indians had intensively managed the valley to maximize the number of game and animals and acorns (as well as to create recreational opportunities.’
Coates goes on to discuss a response from an Indian woman decades later in 1929 that views the Americanized management of the landscape as untidy and overgrown. This is a sentiment that I would have never even conceived prior to taking this class. In my head, as probably many others, my conception of the frontier, and areas such as these were ‘wild’ and ‘free’ growth that had not been groomed. In a way the party had already started long before the Europeans expanded West to ‘tame’ the frontier.
-(pg. 121) ‘. . . the former Barron Garden at Menlo Park, California. Carved out of oak savannah, the 380 acre Barron Garden consciously aped the aristocratic parks of Europe, and English visitors were astonished and delighted to find a place of such old world refinement in barbaric, rugged nineteenth-century California.’
I was hoping to find some possible images from Barron garden in Menlo Park, California. I had no such luck. I was able to locate the city of Menlo Park’s website and even found no mention of ‘Barron garden’. After visiting http://www.menlopark.org/ I gathered that the area is a affluent living community that consists of multiple parks but none of them are named ‘Barron’. It would have been interesting to understand what these European visitors were impressed by with the park.
-(pg. 139) ‘The doctrine of the ‘survival of the fittest’, (. . .which Darwin borrowed from the British social and political thinker Herbert Spencer) could be construed as the supreme justification of man’s dominion: humankind sat at the apex of life forms by virtue of its evolutionary superiority.’
‘Life is the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.’
In the quote above, I feel as if Spencer was speaking closely to his idea of ‘survival of the fittest’. On a daily basis we are presented with the stressors and stimuli of life that call for internal responses to external events that help to shape ourselves and the greater world around us.
-(pg. 143) ‘Allee’s work on interactions between organisms, pointing to the beneficial effects of aggregation and collaboration among insects, was stamped by the horrors of the First World War, and by his Quaker beliefs. Allee believed his research on animals challenged the misunderstanding and misuse of Darwinism as a justification for war and authoritarianism.’
Warder Clyde Allee:
‘The mortal enemies of man are not his fellows of another continent or race; they are the aspects of the physical world which limit or challenge his control, the disease germs that attack him and his domesticated plants and animals, and the insects that carry many of these germs as well as working notable direct injury. This is not the age of man, however great his superiority in size and intelligence; it is literally the age of insects.’
The quote above echoes the stance that Allee held towards a war footing that many followers of Darwinism held at the time prior to and during WWI. His views work to diffuse this “war drumming” mentality in favor of focusing on a perspective that deals with his life’s work; insects. He viewed insects the enemy of man, a war against germs and disease.
-(pg. 145) ‘In Capital (1867), Marx lambasted capitalism for its profligate use of raw materials and failure to recycle waste products, but focused on loss of soil fertility: ‘All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil.’
‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.’
I’ve always believed that there is nothing new under the Sun. Even in the 19th century Marx recognized the vampire like nature of Capitalism. In his time he saw the mass consumption and depletion of resources by the elite and business owners. He recognized the way in which capitalism has raped the environment that continues to this day. I don’t think he would be the least bit surprised at the condition of our environment in the 21st century.
-(pg. 162) ‘Socialists, Orwell claimed, ‘will usually assume’ that critics of machine civilization ‘want to revert to a “state of nature”- meaning some stinking palaeolithic cave’.
George Orwell accepted machines as a fact of life; a necessity of life. In one hand many of us can criticize the advance of technology and capitalism, but act like spoiled children if we were asked to give up many of the comforts and efficiencies of modern life. In a way I feel like we are so far down the line of progression in capitalism and mass production that a shift in any major paradigm would cripple most peoples’ psyche.
-(pg. 172) ‘. . . the mavericks within Earth First! Who (in 1987) regarded famine and AIDS as Mother Nature’s tough love for the planet. . . ‘
Earth First! Symbol:
A claim such as the one above can be rational when assigning agency and being to something such as Nature. This gives “Mom” the ability to correct her children and discipline them for their bad behavior. But to lump AIDS in to such a claim is extreme in my opinion, better suited for religious fanatics that make similar claims for the actions of terrible sinners. The worth of any man in principle is greater than any non-human form.
-(pg. 173) ‘Francis Fukuyama acknowledged that the twentieth century ‘has made all of us into deep historical pessimists:’
‘Our own experience has taught us, seemingly, that the future is more likely than not to contain new and unimagined evils, from fanatical dictatorships and bloody genocides to the banalization of life through modern consumerism, and that unprecedented disasters await us from nuclear winter to global warming.’
Sadly, I think much of what Fukuyama is saying is what I feel on a daily basis. In my head there is a generalized anxiety about the future of this planet and the quality of life that the majority of the population will face; an existence of gritted teeth and suffering. The idea of ‘new and unimagined’ evils is what I tend to wrestle with. In the complexity of post-modern life, what will be the reality when something really turns for the worst. Now I am thinking of the Terminator films.
(pg. 191) ‘Given that our tastes in nature are manipulated by society and culture- especially the designation of the rare and the valuable- Martin Krieger has argued that there is no limit to the extent to which we can be molded in our preference.’
How I relate to this statement is through music. I am sort of a music snub in the sense that I believe any good music is dead. The best decades of any genre in American music history were between the mid 1950’s through maybe 2005. I can already see my own bias. But the point that I am trying to make is that many of the youth today may never get to experience some of the best musical art representation in history due to no fault of their own. They will simply be born into a world where they will consider their current reality to be “as good as it gets”. What happens if they never come across that Moody Blues or Rolling stone album? The value of their existence will then be substituted for some teen idol like Justin Bieber.
‘Pueblo Chemical Depot Makes Progress With Pueblo Plex’
On a more positive note, Pueblo Plex is taking over 23,000 acres of the Pueblo Chemical Plant. They have destroyed 560 munitions and by 2019 plan on having all munitions destroyed. This is making residents in the local community feel happier and safer given the potential risk of these materials. Much of the effort by Pueblo Plex has contained many of the hazardous materials that were a result of human error due to the US Army.
Still awaiting approval of the SIP grant.