Todd D’Andrea: Environment and Society by Paul Robbins et al. Notes/Project Update/Current Event

Notes: Environment and Society by Paul Robbins et al.

(pg. 4 of intro) ‘Anthropocene: A metaphoric term sometimes applied to our current era, when people exert enormous influence on environments all around the Earth, but where control of these environments and their enormously complex ecologies is inevitably elusive.’

I have never seen this term used before and I find it interesting.  This seems to be a great all-encompassing term for where we stand as a species in regards to our relationship with Earth.  It is as if we have such a capability to consume and use the resources of the Earth, but have no idea how to manage and maintain the consequences of our actions.

(pg. 19) ‘. . . Based on an assumption that all people lived like they do in the United States, the Earth could sustain only two billion people, or less than one-third of the world’s current population.’

This is a pretty scary assertion to me.  When I read this I was kind of shaking my head given the likely “cliff” that we are approaching in terms of sustainability among the nations of the world.  From a policy perspective I don’t even know how governments would go about taking actions that would leverage this reduction in population.  As we discussed in class before, this is such a sensitive topic to probably most people in the world.  Do we mandate a certain number of children a couple can have? Do we systematically encourage people to “off” themselves at a certain age of limited viability in the name of the collective whole of humanity?

(pg. 37) ‘Market failure: A situation or condition where the production or exchange of a good or service is not efficient; this refers to a range of perverse economic outcomes stemming from market problems like monopoly or uncontrolled externalities.’

I assume with this terminology that it is closely related to a Capitalistic economy.  The economic crisis of 2008/2009 stemmed from this lack of ‘efficiency’ in relation to the housing market being fueled by subprime mortgages that were a result of a lack of oversight by government regulators.  As these crises continue to occur it seems as if they will be a normal pattern given the volatility of a free market society and tendency towards limited capital growth.

(pg. 53) ‘Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.  Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.’

There is a lot to unpack in this quote from Hardin.  It all stems from the actions of man given the freedom and mobility in an open environment to each “pursue happiness”.  There seems to be a fine line when attempting to balance freedom and the desires of man to live their lives to the upmost quality that they can.  This assumption almost gives humans an idea of natural fault in their striving towards wants and needs.  We each have a tendency towards a fear of missing out and needing to reign in temptation and a lack of self-control.

(pg. 68) ‘Stewardship:  Taking responsibility for the property or fate of others; stewardship of land and natural resources is often used in a religious context, such as “caring for creation”.’

Having grown up in the Catholic Church this term of ‘Stewardship’ was applied to many aspects of living a “Godly life”.  In my experience this term was first and foremost applied to one’s body, not just the environment around us.  The assumption of this statement is one that looks at a person’s body as something that should be cared for and respected as it is created in the likeness and image of God, and that this body is a “temple” for the Holy Spirit to dwell in.  As such the body is something that should not be abused or harmed.

(pg. 94) ‘One of the problems with assessing risk is that people’s perception and estimation of risk is not fully rational and is influenced by emotion or affect.’

You see this so often in the conflicts within governing legislative branches of countries.  There are those on one side of the aisle screaming in emotion and concern about a given issue; sound the alarm, and then on the other side of the aisle there are those who could care less and brush off the issue as an overreaction or a rush to conclusion.  This all leads to inaction on the part of those in power because neither side can get to the objective concern at hand and find a rational approach to dealing with a problem.  If you throw in special interest groups and political agendas, this discourse becomes even more convoluted and muddled.

(pg. 110) ‘Globalization: An ongoing process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a globe-spanning network of exchange.’

Just this past Thursday, in my Urban Geography course we were discussing the difficulty of defining this term.  We were touching on the fact that when this term is used for example in a research paper, that it can become elusive in the attempt to apply to what is occurring in cities and countries across the world.  A key piece to understanding this term simplistically is understanding that local societies have become more integrated within a global network of intersectionality, whereby the actions of say one corporation in certain location can impact the exchange and performance of another cities growth and direction.

(pg. 130) John Gast, “American Progress”, 1872



This painting is almost laughable to me, but I’m sure at the time of its creation it spoke to the climate of beliefs of the American people who were expanding westward.  It’s sad really in the painting as you see the “dark” left side of the painting where bison are being driven away from the land, equated in the same way to the “heathen” Indians in the lower left hand corner.  This work is so thematic and ideological, portraying the “innocent” and “God given determinism” of Americans taking what is “rightly” theirs.  Did anyone ever slow down to think of the ramifications of their actions and how they might be destroying other people in the process?

(pg. 173) ‘Secondary Succession: The regrowth of vegetation and return of species to an area cleared or reduced by disturbance, as where a forest recovers its “climax vegetation” cover after a fire.’


I found this figure to be helpful in understanding the idea of ‘climax vegetation’. It is interesting how the natural progression of a forested area begins with exposed rock that begins to produce microscopic organisms that then combine as moss feeding into soil that is a means of the start of plant growth.


Project Update

Last week I gave specifics to the way in which the $750.00 of the SIP grant was spent on three men who are homeless in the Delaware community.  This week I will be following up with these men to discuss some of their personal experiences with homelessness in order to better understand homelessness for a term paper that I am writing in Urban Geography.  Also, Thomas will likely be coordinating with Jon Peterson of the United Church of Christ to drop off some of the supplies and materials that he has been collecting over the past 11 weeks.

Current Event

Here are the facts: If you eat vegan even for just one day a week, you have had a greater positive environmental impact than if you were to eat only locally-grown food seven days a week. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off of our roads. If everyone ate vegetarian one day a week, we’d also save 100 billion gallons of water (aka enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost four months); 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock (enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year); and 70 million gallons of gas (enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined and then some) (Krantz, 2016).


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