“Eating Animals” Review by Mahnoor

November 6, 2019

Eating Animals has probably been my favorite book so far. I engaged with this material the most, especially outside of class. I shared passages and pages with my family, on social media, with my boyfriend, etc. It lead to me having lengthy discussions and debates even with strangers.

I went vegetarian last year because of the environmental impact of large scale factory farming, but I had no idea just how bad it really was. I didn’t know about the “fecal soup” that chicken meat absorbs leading to 83% of it being contaminated with bacteria, that diseased animal flesh is injected with broth to make it taste normal, the politics behind labelling food, the tremendous amounts of by-catch from fishing, the concept of broilers versus layers and the 250 million male layers brutally slaughtered every year, the disparity and shortage of family farmers to the point that they represent only 1% of animal farmers, the legal barriers and shortcomings of the “Humane Act,” and the deep moral implications of taking the lives of sentient beings. And these are only the things I can think of off the top of my head.

This book was eye-opening and life-changing. It made me reconsider how I would want to raise a family, when or if it is appropriate to confront these issues with other people,  and the kind of work I want to be doing in the Peace Corps (and my future career). I actually reached out to a Peace Corps recruiter with questions directly targeting their animal husbandry practices to see if their approaches wer ethical, and where I was willing to draw the line if they were not. I unfortunately didn’t break into factory farms during this reading but I definitely reflected back on my experiences in Pakistan where I would regularly see chickens being painfully transported in trucks, with cages as small as the book describes, and where I would also experience Eid (a religious holiday) during which my family would slaughter 3-4 animals in their backyard in front of me. It always felt wrong and I would refuse to eat that day and now I understand more fully why. I would definitely read this again and recommend it to everyone I know.

“Nature” Review by Mahnoor

November 6, 2019

Peter Coates takes his readers on a journey through time and mostly-European space to explore the established definitions and abstract, variable concept of “nature.” He follows the evolution of what nature (or what it means to be natural) signifies and how that changes as we evolve, similar to William Cronon’s framework in “The Trouble with Wilderness”. Coates points out overlooked ideas relating to human destruction and environmental degradation existing as far back as ancient Greek and Roman times, trying to demystify the past by illustrating timeless human ‘nature.’ We see the philosophical contrasts from the Enlightenment to the Romantic period, and how those effect the concept of nature and how humans relate to it. His discussion on the treatment of and misleading view about indigenous peoples was interesting as well, especially in relation to the video from the 70s we viewed in class about the “crying Indian” and pollution. This was an insightful book for sure, but it would lose me sometimes.

News 11/5

November 6, 2019

Title: Lost Trees Hugely Overrated as Environmental Threat, Study Finds.
The leading sentence that caught my eye with this article was “Carbon emissions from deforestation much smaller than previously though, economists say,” simply because you hear in almost every environmental class, ecology class, etc. that we shouldn’t be cutting down trees because we are hurting our planet, which this article still supports, however, it’s not as extreme as once thought.
This study took place just 32 miles south at The Ohio State University in partner with Yale. Since the 1900’s deforestation for timber and farmland is responsible for about 92 billion tons of carbon emissions, but the estimate that was found in this study is about a fifth of what was found previous. Brent Sohngen, a professor at Ohio State, found that deforestation has contributed to 484 billion tons of carbon – a third of all human made emissions since 1900.
They found that there has been a significant shift toward how we treat forests, and that the reforestation and forest management efforts that have taken rise in the last century have led to a smaller carbon burden. They also found that previous estimates argued that 27% of human made carbon emissions were from deforestation where new research estimates it only being 7%.
They concluded that by not taking into account planting and management of global forests over the last 70 years allowed for the overestimated net emissions to be concluded.
The researchers on this study did say not to ignore the forests because trees have a large role in protecting against climate change. Forest management is important in planting trees, adjusting stock rates for optimal growth, careful fertilization, irrigation and drain management all in effort to enhance forest growth. Forests are effective in sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and be used as a source of bioenergy.
I found this whole article to be interesting and tried to pull out what I found most interesting. Be kind to forests, people!

Placing Animals: 11/5

November 6, 2019

I was excited to get started on reading this book and I wasn’t disappointed when finished. I thought that Urbanik took an interesting look on animal geography and does a good job allowing the reader to reflect on their own type of animal geography. I enjoyed how Urbanik took the reader into a urban dominant world where the people only experience animals as food, clothing items, pets and backyard wildlife and how the understanding of the animal world is limited.
I always seem to find myself enjoying the books that give me the opportunity to reflect on my life and that is exactly what Urbanik did with Placing Animals. As stated on p. xi Urbanik invites the reader to “see and reflect on your own particular relationships with non-humans and why you have them,” and “to consider animals from a geographic perspective.”
I have the relationship with my animals, Gus and Kitten, that gives me a sense of love, safety and yes, I look at them like they’re my children. I want to make sure they’re safe and well taken care of, but I never truly thought viewing them from a geographic perspective, which this book allowed me to begin.
I really enjoyed the book because Urbanik uses history from fifth century BCE to present in a way to get a grasp on how animal geography has changed, and the view of animals and why they are here and what they are used for has changed overtime. Overall, I thought this book gave many examples and raises many more and ethical questions that took me outside of my comfort zone as I thought about what Urbanik was presenting me. I never took the time to understand animal geography until this semester, and I still don’t fully understand it, but this book gives me more information that I felt I was lacking.

Down to Earth: 10/30

November 6, 2019

I did enjoy the book, and I specifically appreciated how the book itself was subdivided into twenty short segments. Having multiple segments helped me grasp what exactly he was trying to get across with this book – the reality of a changing ecological environment and the reaction to it.
Latour did something right when he began the book with the evaluation of the election of Donald Trump and the impact Trump’s election has had. Latour writes that is represents a contradiction: maximum profit without regard to the masses and rush backwards towards nationalism, but he doesn’t dwell on Trump alone he broadens the discussion to global politics.

I don’t really know a whole heck of a lot about global politics other than what I hear on the news and how it causes a lot of discussions between world leaders, which I believe needs to happen. I felt that because Latour is a philosopher by trade this book used lots of words and phrases that I had to do more research towards or provide some deep thinking moments. Although I did enjoy the book, it was a lot different from what I am used to reading and it did take me time to understand what exactly Latour was trying to get across in this specific book.

The EU’s “Agriculture Mafia”

November 4, 2019

“Central and Eastern Europe had lots of land, much of it still state-owned, a legacy of the Communist era. European officials worked closely with incoming governments on issues such as meeting food testing standards, or controlling borders, yet only limited attention was paid to the subsidies.”

“European Union officials dismissed a 2015 report that recommended tightening farm-subsidy rules as a safeguard against Central and Eastern European land grabbing. The European Parliament rejected a bill that would have banned politicians from benefiting from the subsidies they administer. And top officials swat away suggestions of fraud.”

Wolves competing with livestock’s?

October 30, 2019

I found this article considering our last discussion quite interesting due to how we see factory farming vs how we see wild animals and considering the idea of what animals are truly impactful to the environment and what activities are infact better or worse for the environment and how activities as such are divisive and a deciding factor towards the environment.