Notes for 9/7: Emily Howald

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This entirely fake transit map feels like either Edward Abbey’s worst nightmare or the perfect execution of his plan for the parks regarding roads (see page 65).

Notes on Abbey:

Of course my first thoughts on this are how Abbey is almost the perfect stereotype of the man seeking the west that Cronon often referred to in his article about wilderness. Abbey doesn’t like the affects of man and finds nature the true great place. He idealizes the cowboys and hates office workers driving cars everywhere. Yet he says this: “A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. I may never in my life get to Alaksa, for example, but I am grateful that it’s there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.” This sounds a lot like Cronon’s polarity of wilderness and civilization.

Something I find myself wondering through most of the book is “who is abbey?” and more importantly “where did he come from?” He mainly only talks about his experiences in Utah and not about himself. You can get an idea of him from his opinions and what he appreciates enough to describe but I really want to know where he came from. That can make a person’s opinions and views of life understandable or more clear. But I don’t quite have that with Abbey. And so I wonder.

Another thing that occurred to me about Abbey (and probably also about his generation of environmentalists) is the lack of concern for certain issues and a strong concern for others. I guess this is simply the change of what we are aware of or what we care about. Abbey despises the “great american road trip” that makes it’s way through several different national parks. Nowadays concern might lie on the gas emissions, waste left behind, and the incredible amount of disposables (mostly plastic) that end up being consumed. But abbey cares about the cars and more importantly the roads.

Cool quote and interesting thought: “Water, water, water…. There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, of water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”

Current Environmental Notes:

The current political campaings for upcoming presidential election bring up plenty on environmental issues. Some of the things spouted out can be pretty far from the truth, so recently I read a fact check of each of the party platforms from the convention from LiveScience. They fact-checked all science related information, much of which was environmental. One such political stance (and the facts held in contrary) that shocked me was that of the RNC:

“The Democratic Party does not understand that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource. Those who mine it and their families should be protected from the Democratic Party’s radical anti-coal agenda.”

First, I was shocked that anyone would call coal clean. Then as I read the science behind it I was shocked again by how un-clean it is or is reported to be by studies. Burning coal is supposed to be bad because of gases released but it is just as bad for human health at a more immediate level. Most environmental causes are discredited or seen as less important because it doesn’t affect people directly or immediately. Just taking into account deaths (estimated 13,000 yearly) coal is a very people-centric problem and is not entirely (or even mostly) an environmental issue. I also found interesting that in the book Cathedral, Forge, and Waterway: Technology and Inventions in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies there is a tidbit that talked about the middle ages people not burning coal (or at least not often) because they were afraid of its toxic fumes. So the idea (or fact) that coal is un-clean has been around for quite awhile.

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One Response to Notes for 9/7: Emily Howald

  1. […] September 7th: Edward Abbey, National Parks, and Science according to RNC […]

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