Notes on Reading: Meadowlands**

December 14, 2016

*FOUND THIS IN MY DRAFTS. FORGOT TO PUBLISH!

I honestly found this to be a fascinating read. The way he describes the Meadowlands and its history is honestly very interesting and it seems to be a weird combination of toxic dump/failed attempts at development and the stubbornness of ‘nature’ persevering through all of it. While it isn’t traditional wilderness it really does blur the line. There is no mistaking human influence and structures but it still has a sense of wild-ness to it that refuses to submit. The way in which he approaches and explores it is something I would honestly be interested in but to be honest it seems like he went through a lot and more in depth than many others (including myself) would likely go. It is admirable and I am kinda considering visiting there if I ever get the chance as although it may not be the exact same as when he visited, it is still something I would like to see for myself and maybe even study (as a person interested in Environmental Science).

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Garbage Matters Notes + CurrentEvent

November 16, 2016

By Amanda Apicella

I found the ways in which the author divided up the approaches/views towards waste in various works to be pretty interesting and a pretty accurate/effective way to distinguish between these schools of thought. We have talked a lot in this class about divisions and viewing things as “separate” from humanity/us and where those divisions lie or if they are not entirely founded in reality (aka are arbitrary to varying degrees) so considering how often it comes up this is a significant distinction when it comes to topics like this. This time though it is our relationship with waste and how it is treated. Although none are necessarily “wrong” as the author states, it does give insight into different ways people view waste and how it relates to us/our society as a whole. Considering that I don’t often hear of people referring to waste in a positive manner due to the word’s connotations, It is interesting to see how many different ways it is viewed/addressed that I never really considered before (most of the time I hear about waste it is in the “waste as hazard” way of addressing it). The waste as a resource section was particularly relevant to me as I have always been interested in recycling and the extent/effects of it. The idea of viewing recycling and waste as a resource in terms of being similar to other cycles/systems that we also see in nature was something I was aware of but never really fully thought about to be honest. When it comes to “nature” we tend to think of everything as a cycle when it comes to animal waste/leavings and even death but when it comes to our own waste/leavings we tend to fall into the “one way street” way of thinking, even if it isn’t intentional. The waste as a commodity section was something I didn’t even realize was a “thing” so to speak as it just never seems to be thought of that way by people not familiar with it. The trade and market regarding waste considered hazardous just never really came to mind and I honestly plan to look into it more as it seems to be a fascinating topic.

 

Current Event: Study finds limited sign of soil adaptation to climate warming

Soil is releasing 9x more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all human activities combined due to natural respiration of soil microbes/plant roots. Due to the increased temperatures of soil across all biomes, there is significantly increased respiration as well as releasing of stored carbon dioxide in previously frozen soil in the Arctic. Data regarding the effects on and of soil in relation to climate change is needed to be studied and gathered more extensively as they also need to obtain data from non/under-represented regions to include in the wider dataset. Considering the significance of their contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases we already know about, this is a serious issue that we need to look more into and potentially find a way to address it (or at least mitigate the problems it will likely cause).


Pacia Purcell: Garbology

November 16, 2016

The book mentions a few alternatives to landfills. One such alternative is burning the trash to create energy that can be used. This is already done in some places such as Sweden and Connecticut. Not only does this practice cut back on the amount of trash that ends up in landfills, but it also provides alternatives to unsustainable practices of producing energy. At the creation of one large landfill mentioned in the book, the thought of using the trash to run a power plant was proposed, however was not put into action. Landfills are cheaper options and have a higher profit margin. People in this society are money crazy, because they have to be. Here in America and many other places around the world, you won’t go far without money, but you can go far by harming the environment. The world’s drive for money is causing an environmental crisis.

A great majority of the book dealt with the topic of plastic and mentioned how one woman researched the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans and eaten by the wildlife. When plastic in the oceans is mentioned everyone thinks about those plastic rings that hold cans or bottles of pop together and how they end up wrapped around a turtle’s body or some poor penguin’s throat. However there is a lot more plastic in the water than what meets the eye. Small, unseeable particles of plastic are present throughout the water. These can come from many sources, but many are washed down the shower drain and come from your favorite hygiene products. Many soaps, shampoos, and face washes contain plastics that are unknowingly washed down the drain when you rinse off. Who knew that trying to be cleanly could be so bad for the environment? Some of these plastics are discarded into the ocean, where they are eaten unknowingly by fish, which can not only cause problems for the fish, but those who eat the fish also.

Humans rely heavily on plastic. Looking around my room I can’t help but notice all the things that are made of plastic and the things that probably contain plastic, but you just can’t be sure. Plastic is cheaper to produce than alternative materials in many situations. However, humans still overuse plastic for things that really need not exist. Many candies contain plastic parts from which you eat the candy off of. There are many little, cheap, plastic toys that are bought one day and thrown away the next. Many cheap plastic things are not made with the thought of do people need this, but rather do people want this? This makes people sound greedy and in truth they are. Why else would products that harm the environment be produced if humans did not necessarily need them? From human greed for more money and human greed for more material things. Plastic is a huge part of the composition of our landfills, and a lot of plastic that is produced could not be and humans would be just fine.


Pacia Purcell: Placing Animals

November 9, 2016

This book dealt with the interactions and relationships between humans and animals. One of these interactions deals with horses and their interactions in all ways dealing with humans. As an avid horse-lover and rider I feel as if I must weigh in on this issue and how I personally interact with them.

For years throughout my childhood, I rode and showed horses. I still continue to ride today, however not to the seriousness that I once did. I cringe slightly to think back on how how much money was spent on and for horses. This was talked about in the book. The horse economy is insane. People watch shows like Dance Moms and Toddlers and Tiaras and think wow those moms are crazy. That’s like going to a horse show. Except instead of one child the parents have two, their child and the horse. People spend crazy amounts of money on getting perfectly trained that come from amazing bloodlines and are trained to perform in ways that horses don’t naturally move. People spend thousands of dollars on an outfit to show in. After spending all this money on horses and their child, parents go crazy if their child doesn’t win or at least place. Horses are dressed up, shaved, banded and braided, shot up with drugs, and paraded around. Horse shows are crazy.

Upon looking at my relationship with horses I feel a bit like a hypocrite. I am a vegetarian for the reasons of how animals are treated. Yet, at least once a week I put on my leather boots and gloves made from the skin of cows. I put my leather saddle (I’ve owned probably close to 15 over the years) on my horse and and bridle him with my leather bridle. Occasionally if my horse is acting up, I strap on my spurs with leather straps. Sometimes I feel bad about all the leather that I own, but I also think to myself, what else would I use. All of these materials are made with synthetic material, but if you showed up at a show with these materials you would definitely not win a thing. I have owned synthetic boots before and honestly they sucked. They fell apart within a year. Yet they were cheaper and not made of animal products.

Additionally, the book talks about the morals in riding and using horses the way that humans do, especially in racing. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself and my own horse. My horse is a thoroughbred, the breed usually used for horses who race. He was bred to be a racehorse, but his times during training were too slow. He is now used as a hunter jumper horse. He is crazy and loves to throw fits, however despite this I know that he enjoys what he does. He loves to jump. When riding him you can tell. I can’t explain it, but I can feel it. Additionally he loves to run. He runs for fun. When he needs to burn off some steam, he runs. When he is unsure of what to do he runs and he runs fast. As a horse bred to run, he loves it. I believe that race horses love to run and probably enjoy racing.

The book also brings up bestiality, with some people being known to believe that animals can consent to sexual acts with humans, which is absurd. Sexual consent means saying yes to sexual acts. The vast majority of animals cannot speak and so therefore cannot consent. The book also brings up the topic of why consent would matter here, but not in our other relationships of animals, such as eating them. I’m sure if we were able to reason with animals and asked them if they were okay with humans killing them to eat them, they would definitely say no. So even if they do “want it” and are able to consent why would that matter. We take everything else from animals why should sex be any different.

A whole chapter was devoted to farming and animal agriculture. Once again, the concept that some animals are treated like gods while others are viewed as property was brought up. Additionally religions that don’t eat meat were brought up and their biased towards certain animals that they literally view as gods and worship. One specific instance of this bias was brought up with tigers. When a restaurant in Texas tried to sell tiger, there was an uproar. However, in some Asian countries tigers are bred and sold for consumption. What you eat is dependent upon the culture that you live in, however one thing doesn’t change, some animals are treated as objects, while others are treated like family.


Environment and Society: Max Kerns

November 3, 2016

 

Environment and Society is an excellent source and should be used as a text for anyone that would like to know more about the interactions between humans and the environment. The Authors view the main issue with all environmental problems to be in concerns of the total human population.

Chapter 2:

Zero population growth, I was particularly interested in the model that global population is likely to reach stability in the next 50 years.

Also that National Fertility rates and literacy rates seem to go hand in hand.

I = P*A*T and the idea that different people have different ecological footprints.

Chapter 3:

Environmental scarcity drives markets, innovations, and new products.

Incentives to but more environmental products, though education about products truly meeting these guidelines are important. Green Business is and can be an opportunity for profit.

This made me wonder about ideas behind things like the energy saving light bulb.  How do government subsidies and politics play into these models?

Chapter 4:

Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the idea that individuals often do not make the best overall choice for the greater group. I wondered how this played into basic statistics.

Tragedy of the Commons: basic to all environmental discussions. Generally this is when a group shares a resource that many act out of personal interest that can hurt the group as a whole. Though once confronted with this, the group can learn to cooperate for the better good.

Chapter 5:

This is a bit of review from a lot of the reading we have done thus far. Basically deals with ethics when dealing with the natural realm. Though this brings up ideas of whether an eco-centric of anthropocentric system is more ideal.

Chapter 6:

This chapter mainly deals with risk and understanding problems or hazards with the human population, though also understanding that this is perspective based, and meaning that the individual assessment might not always be viewed in a logic or coherent state.

I found this particularly interesting when looking at the places that vast amounts of people live in the United States, particularly when looking at coastal areas or high risk areas. I recently did a report on the Sierra Nevada fault systems, and the amount of people in the shakedown area of California is intense.

More later.

 

 

 


Environment and Society

October 26, 2016

By: Amanda Apicella

Throughout “Environment and Society” the authors discuss the various schools of thought when it comes to environmental issues and humans’ roles in it. There are many contradicting points and ways of thinking that are brought up and the purpose of this book that was stated in the introduction (to give a wide variety of viewpoints to get a fuller picture and challenge our own opinions and potentially recognize our own assumptions they may be based on) is pretty well done.

This was especially true for me when it came to the initial chapters regarding “Population and Scarcity” and “Markets and Commodities” which made me reconsider a few of my own viewpoints. I will admit that when it comes to the economy and the inner workings of businesses (the pros and cons of various systems too) I am not the most knowledgeable by a long shot. I used to think in just solutions rather than the means to achieve them so to speak so when these topics were brought up in the book it really provided some insight and different views/factors that I may not have really considered much before. I did know that the issues regarding regulations and the approaches to dealing with these problems was complicated but it really did make me reconsider the various approaches and possibilities of it. Jevon’s Paradox (where innovations leading to more efficient use of resources actually leads to increased usage overall than even before) honestly blew my mind when I was reading about it but when I really stopped to think about it, it did make sense (even if it complicated the issue further in terms of solutions).

The issue of human population has always been a hot topic and in the first chapter the authors address it from different points of view and bring in different approaches that throw different assumptions/viewpoints into question (including each other). They discussed different approaches and their effectiveness/ethics in controlling populations (as well as different factors that play a part in or cause populations to increase/decrease/stabilize in the first place) but also brought up some other views from people who point out that populations may not be a “problem” as we make it out to be or may just be a symptom rather than a cause. The role of women’s rights in population control I found to be quite interesting as it does make a lot of sense and clearly has historical credibility when it comes to women’s literacy rates and birth-rates in various countries. Rather than trying to force a population or control it through sterilization (or through not assisting the poor and allowing those that can’t support themselves/their families to suffer and die) as some viewpoints suggested, an effective approach may be to actually empower the people through education and providing means of controlling their own reproduction so they can limit it themselves. Giving people options/freedom and education to make informed choices not only helps in terms of population but also may help with innovations by leading to more people participating in the sciences/inventing in general. It also allows for poorer people to potentially be able to improve their own condition without being held back by having to support children (can have them when planned for so all the children are provided for properly). To counter that though, they also bring up the potential good of larger populations (leading to more innovation in technology and more efficiency/environmentally friendly practices being practiced out of necessity). To contrast that point as well they also bring up the aforementioned issue of increased efficiency in technologies potentially leading to more excessive consumption that is actually more damaging in its effects than before.

It is clear there are many factors to dealing with the balance/relationship between human society and the environment and challenging our own opinions and assumptions is necessary to figure out potential solutions. There is no perfect argument or solution that will cover everything or come with no downsides/issues of its own. By realizing different factors these viewpoints argue around, and in turn scrutinizing our own opinions/assumptions, we can at least approach these topics with a more informed and aware opinion (or theory) than we did before.

 


Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer: Max Kerns

October 5, 2016

 

I found Eating Animals to be a great read for anyone that has ever even slightly thought about the food they consume on a daily basis.  It is highly entertaining and resembles the sort of stories one might tall around the dinner table. However, I should warn, this book and food tend not to go together. It is honest and blunt at times but keep the reader actively engaged even when they might not want to be. The dialogue that starts with a new father, concerned for his child, unleashes a journey into the world of factory farms, animal cruelty, and general production of food for the masses. It even goes as far as, to try to explain some of the deep rooted issues we have when it comes to our own consumption of meat. The book suggests that in the end when thinking about food, the almost logical discourse is one of vegetarianism, though it even suggests that the book is not a straightforward case. What the author opens is a dialogue that many can discuss and understand. The systems in place are far from perfect and reading this book helps the individual gain some insight to their own consumption of food with the implications it has on a much larger scale.

 

I have decided to do my discussions a little different this week as the book covers so many different ideas and topics. I will be using a bit bigger of a brush and apologize if anyone is offended. This is something I have always thought about throughout my life and have questions.

 

 I was and have been an on and off again vegetarian since I was a very young child. I was even really extreme two times in my life and was strict vegan the longest run was about 3 years.

 

I do believe that as a member of the human race we should treat animals with better care and conditions. Below are some exploratory questions that I pose in order to better understand my personal ideas.

 

Some things the book made me think about: (I would like to add this is a very rough draft for ideas for a class discussion, this book made me think quite a bit on the idea of eating animals. I would like to come back to better organize these thoughts, but if you proceed to read this, know these are thoughts simply that came from the ideas in the book.)

 

Does my dog love me? Or am I in a symbiotic relationship with a food begger..

 

In several ideas / concepts in the books we are given an idea that eating meat it barbaric, in round about ways, one of the most profound to me was “a case for eating dogs”. I always find it interesting that dog becomes on the most widely used examples when it comes to eating meat vs not eating meat. It is very interesting that every culture has its own taboos on which animals to eat and which we do not eat. Is this something that happens only when a society has options? I am not so sure that pioneers or humans living off the land gave much thought to eating to surviving. So I am curious if this is typically branded from a more modern perspective. I know many religious teachings have implications as well.

 

So I was thinking as I was lying in bed about my dog and I. Loki has been a wonderful addition and I found the ideas surrounding humane societies, using euthanized dogs and cats to feed farm animals very interesting. I also found it interesting that the author suggests we pull out the middle man and just serve dog, though tongue in cheek.

 

As I was more over thinking about my best friend I started to wonder if he has the same questions. I am pretty sure he has mapped out how long we would be locked in a house with no food before he turned on me. I would like to think that he has a higher sense of being. However, at the end of the day if I was dead, and he had no food, I am pretty positive he would do what he had to do. This is not much worse than my own thoughts of if it came down to my own survival would I eat my own dog? I would like to think I was above it. However I do not ever recall a time in my life, with food so readily available, ever being so hungry that I myself would have to act on instinct. The different here is, though my dog may be sad or upset I am gone, I am not sure he would feel remorse for eating me. I on the other hand would have an intense guilt for eating my dog. SO, maybe that is why there is a disconnect on the idea of consumption. Possibly we do not want to have these complex ideas come up every time we shove something into our mouths.

 

 Something about meat?

 

I have always been interested that when I am a vegan or vegetarian why it upsets so many people. I have never rallied or discussed someone else’s eating habits. I just chose for myself. Then as I talk to people they will inevitably find out there becomes this hostile conversation. Why do you not eat meat? That’s crazy? Humans have sharp teeth for a reason? Then they go on to try and entice me back to eating meat, MMMMM, this steak is so juicy and tender. It really seems odd to me that there is something almost inherent of humans in this way. Why would anyone give a shit what I eat it is not on their plate. (I do not argue because it is often wasted) I will say that is was funny when I was vegan I always cooked thanksgiving dinner. 2 Birds and eight hours later, I still cooked out of tradition for the family, though I added a variety of vegan dishes. I did not tell people that the mac and cheese was vegan, or the potato salad, or even the brownies. Though my mom had to leak it after everyone had their first plate. Then everyone became a detective and tried to decide what they could eat and what they wouldn’t eat, as a stand to all meat eaters. The vegan stuff was not bad for them, they just didn’t want anything to do with it.

 

Food and sex:

 

I also find it funny that after years of working in the restaurant industry the way the sexes eat. Par example, when a man and women on a first date go to a restaurant, the man normally orders steak or a burger, and the women normally has a salad. I have seen this time and time again. Is this meat thing driven by an alpha male genetic idea? Women also tend to when not “really” friends play into these roles, oh I want a steak, but I will just have the salad, and the boss lady orders the meat and they all giggle and say oh your being so bad. When a man is in a group of men and orders a salad he is an “insert not so friendly word here” and when men are together there always seems to be a food challenge. So is there a hierarchy of meat?

 

Blood?

 

How rare does it need to be to excite?  Just another curiosity I have, there seems to be this excitement to meat and blood. Does it remind one of the fight verse beast? I know that in my humble lifetime I have seen numerous accounts of people reacting oddly to rare food. Even a little too excited. One of my friends used to tell me when he was hunting that when he killed a deer he would cut a piece from it to taste the fresh kill. We are no longer friends but I always wondered why? I mean there has to be a blood connection here somewhere or there would not be overwhelming sells of vampire related stuff. Is there something about being the top of the food chain? Is it the desire to be beast like? I am unsure. I mean why do people spend hours watching the majestic cheetah take down the gazelle. Does it go to something deeper in the human condition a sadistic nature? Is it equally upsetting when a bear mauls a person, as when a person kills a bear?

 

Food Factories:

 

I think we can all agree they are bullshit. However, maybe what should be called into question is the way we eat really being the bullshit part of it more so than the practice. It is all supply vs demand after all. So in my head when I logically think about my food consumption, I think how different it must be from the typical food consumption of my grandparents and great grandparents. I look at how they ate. Normally meat was purchased to last much longer. You would purchase a part of an animal that normally included the skin and bone. Meat was not eaten at every meal, though different parts were used. The entire part of the animal had some use. Normally in my mind from being small, meat was eaten as a main course on special night normally the weekends, then the rest of the week a stock as used in various other ways to feed the family. I do not think it was ever assumed that one would eat an animal at every meal. There is also a difference when someone has to slaughter the family cow to survive versus a 5 minute exchange at any of the various fast food venues.

 

I also think it is odd that we condemn the behavior of worker in the factory farms, and before you go crazy, please hear me out. I understand that the violent acts the do seem crazy to anyone not working in a food factory. I can only imagine the conditions that these humans work in. It would only seem appropriate that if the conditions the animals live in is detestable than the working conditions could not be much better. I also think working in these conditions, the smells, the sounds, the ideas of coming face to face with what you eat has to have a toll on any individual. I helped one of my grandfather castrate a baby pig, and believe me the scream is something I still remember quite vividly. There has to be some sort of disconnect.

 

Also in addition, how humane is humane? How softly does one kill the animal? Does one lay it down and sing it to death while we feathering its belly? It is silly to me that we make examples out of workers that are destroying these animals for fun, but have no regret sending the burger or steak or chicken or tuna back that was not made to perfection, because everyone attached to the food network knows what perfection is. That meat was not given a goof life and killed for nourishment, it had one bite taken out of it and thrown in a garbage can and a new life was taken. The numerous amount of food that is thrown away just because one wants a taste of it is also a factor.

 

So riddle me this, if you are taking the animals life via a wood chipper that doesn’t always get the job done on first pass, or by stomping its head into a concrete block, what is the difference? It just seems to me that if I am not the one taking the animals life for my consumption with my own two hands, then I should not be surprised if someone else does it in a manner that I disagree with. Sorry this is just my belief.

 

Population is the real issue:

 

When the dialogue goes to vegetarianism I always wonder about the plants as being living things as well. I also wonder more about the dialogue of eating plants only vs meat. It seems to me that there is likely still some balance. I read about how much food could be made with fields that if we didn’t use them for grazing. However, I never truly understand this point and might be somewhat ignorant. It only seems to me that I do not graze constantly. There is a bit of science to the amount of consumption that needs to be done by a human to perform certain activities. I consume for energy. I am pretty sure that grazing on a field of grass is not going to work as an alternative. Now I also know that there are plants that I can eat that are very vitamin rich and other sources of protein in the plant kingdom. Though to feed the mass of people, would there not still need to be fields placed? This leads to less biodiversity and cutting of trees. If we speed this process up and say either we ate all the animals, or went to a vegetarian diet. With the way the population is growing wouldn’t we still need to do the same things? Would there not be outcry in the future to save the green? As that is already a concern? So is the real question we are posing here one of responsibility of the human population. I think that is a much more important question and one that unfortunately opens another dialogue altogether.