Author Archives: Amanda

Three Peas in a Pod

I was finishing up Hull’s book Infinite Nature tonight since I’ve been working on my paper this week and I definitely see a lot of similarities between Hull’s chapter 12 and Thoreau and Emerson’s essays. Hull speaks about people using nature in a relaxing way – in order to get away from the stresses of everyday life. This reminded me a lot of the things Thoreau spoke about in his essay. Hull writes about modern times, whereas Thoreau was writing about simpler times back when he was around, but both are making the same statements: Nature is soothing. Hull also gives many descriptions of nature that remind me of Emerson’s essay. Hull writes about being able to “smell the soil…, feel the cool breeze against your skin, hear the leaves rustle in the air, and watch puffy clouds float above a swaying canopy” (page 183). The description of this scene in nature reminds me of exactly the kind of scene one would read in Emerson’s essay. I just thought it was kind of cool how we were reading the last couple chapters of Hull’s book at the same time as reading the two essays by Emerson and Thoreau and how much all three tied in together.

The Beauty of a Sunset

Emerson’s chapter about beauty was my favorite part of Nature.  Some of his descriptions of his experiences in nature in this section really stuck out to me. One passage that I liked was when he described a January sunset. He writes that the “western clouds divided and subdivided themselves into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable softness, and the air had so much life and sweetness…” (page 15). Does this not remind you of a sunset from here in Kansas? Kansas may not have the best scenery to look at compared to, say, the mountains in Colorado, but we do have spectacular sunsets. To watch the sky turn into shades of reds, oranges, and pinks is truly beautiful. The sunsets never quite look the same either, which is pretty amazing as well. I also liked how he mentioned that many city residents think that nature is only pretty during half of the year (summer). He says that he finds just as much beauty in winter, too. I must agree with this. To look out over a snow-filled field that has not been touched by the feet of animals or humans is quite a scene. It’s peaceful and has a sense of tranquility. Although I do not like the cold and do not like to go out into the cold, looking out at it is always breathtaking.

Becoming One with Nature

Into the Wild begins with a quote from Lord Byron that speaks about nature. The quote is very fitting for the movie with the quote speaking about loving nature more than loving man. The movie then moves into a close up of a woman’s face as she springs up from her sleep, in what seems like a bad dream. She says something about seeing “him” to her husband who tries to comfort her. The movie then transitions into scenes of nature that we come to learn is in Fairbanks, Alaska as yellow words come across the screen. The words seem to be a letter to someone, as if the man is speaking to someone directly. A high camera angle shows a car pulling up into the middle of nowhere and zooms in on a man exiting the car and heading out into the wilderness. This man then finds an old, abandoned Alaskan transit bus out in the wild and decides to make a home out of it. Up until this point, the viewer has no idea what the woman has to do with the man that we are watching, but it is easy to assume that she was referring to this man when she spoke of her dream.

We find out that the woman is the mother of the man in the next part of the movie, as we see her and her husband at a college graduation. They call the name of Christopher McCandless and we see the same man from earlier, only much more clean cut and younger. We then hear this man narrating a poem to his sister as they are on their way to lunch with the family. The poem he is reading is stating that the parents should not have met and when his sister asks about it, he says that it could fit for either of them. This is a foreshadowing of what we will later learn about Christopher’s parents’ relationship.

Although his parents want him to further his education and tell him they will help him with the cost of going to Harvard Law, Chris decides he would rather go out into the wild and leave everyone behind. The viewer sees him donating all of his savings to charity, while we hear his sister narrating. His sister speaks of Chris never liking the material possessions that his parents have always had.

The movie continues through Chris’ travels, where he meets many new people. He comes upon a hippie couple that lives out of a camper and stays with them for a while. He meets a girl that develops feelings for him and works in a grain elevator for a man named Wayne. He also comes across a foreign couple while canoeing through a river and meets an old man on his last portion of his journey before going to his final destination: Alaska. Although he cares for each of these people, he leaves them each, in turn, to continue towards his final goal. The movie is a serious of flashbacks, where the real time is Chris in Alaska surviving on his own and the flashbacks are his journey up to where he is. During this journey he gives himself a new name, Alex Supertramp, and only gives this name to the people he meets. After eating some poisonous berries out in Alaska, Chris becomes very ill and can no longer eat. He becomes increasingly skinny until he gets to the point of death. The viewer sees a sign saying that he lived a happy life and he signs it with his real name. The final scene of the movie is a close up on Chris’ face as he dies and then zooms out to the surrounding area above the bus.

Into the Wild demonstrates how one can love the people around him, but still love nature more. Chris had many opportunities to stay with people he cared about (including his sister who narrates throughout the whole movie and misses him), but chooses to go out and live in the wild instead. Chris’ life demonstrates the ability to have a close relationship with nature, one that does not require destruction.

Amanda

Playing God

For my research paper I am going to be discussing genetic engineering of crops. It has both ecological and philosophical debates that I feel fit well into the topics that we have discussed in the class.

My thesis: Although there are benefits to genetically engineering our food sources, ultimately it is unethical and poses too many threats to both our own species and the environment around us.

The first part of my paper will focus on explaining the actual process of genetic engineering. It’s slightly difficult to have an opinion on something that you do not understand, so I figured this would fit best in the beginning. I will then speak about how exactly the safety of genetically engineered food is determined. Next I will go over the few pros of genetic engineering and then focus on the cons of the topic. Cons include both risks to humans and risks to the environment. The rest of the paper will be used to discuss the ethical and philosophical issues of the topic. This includes: looking at the issue in terms of deep ecology (where all living organisms have rights); the fact that it will decrease biodiversity; viewing the environment in a holistic approach in which not changing nature to benefit humans is better; using Diehm’s identification-as-kinship to draw connections between humans and the environment and how most of us would not want to be genetically engineered; how engineering food may help to provide more food at quicker rates, thus condoning the increase in population of the earth (which at the rate it is increasing we all know is catastrophic); and finally how it is unethical in the aspect that we are “playing God.”  Finally, I will conclude with how the cons out weigh the few pros there are and how we should stick to non-genetically engineered crops and organisms.

Here are five of my sources in APA format:

1. Regal, P. J. (2003). Foundations for Safe Genetic Engineering? Perspectives from Ecology, Evolution, and Agriculture. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica: Section B, Soil & Plant Science, 5357-59.
This article discusses many things relative to genetic engineering, including “leapfrogging” (spreading of genetically mutated plants) and other ecological concerns.

2. Jefferson, V. (2006). The Ethical Dilemma of Genetically Modified Food. Journal Of Environmental Health, 69(1), 33-34.
This article speaks about the ethical concerns of genetically engineered food. It includes a utilitarian approach to argue for it and the view that it could cause harm to argue against it.

3. Henry, R. J. (1998). Modern biology, genetic engineering and the food supply. Australian Journal Of Nutrition & Dietetics, 55(1), 25.
This article spends the majority of the time speaking about the benefits to biotechnology (genetic engineering is a form of biotechnology).

4. Risks of genetic engineering. (2002, October 30). Retrieved from http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/risks-of-genetic-engineering.html
This online article gives detailed explanations of the risks of genetic engineering to both humans and the environment.

5. Shorrocks, B., & Coates, D. (1993). The release of genetically-engineered organisms. British Ecological Society, (4), Retrieved from http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/The-release-of-genetically-engineered-organisms.pdf
This article discusses how exactly genetically engineered organisms are created.

Giving Nature Our Attention

In Thoreau’s essay “Nature” he speaks about going into the woods and not actually being in the woods. He is referring to being in the woods in “spirit.” It is very easy to be somewhere physically, but not as easy to be somewhere spiritually. He speaks of how sometimes it is difficult to “shake off the village.” Although we do not necessarily live in a village per say, it is often hard to clear your head of worldly matters and just enjoy the nature that you are in. People’s lives are so full of their job and paying bills that people often struggle to make time to just relax and take in the natural beauty of the world around them. Thoreau asks, “what business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?” Here, I think he means that it is basically a waste to be out in nature trying to enjoy it if your mind is stuck elsewhere. Nature is so beautiful that it deserves your undivided attention when you are in its presence; it’s almost an insult to be out in nature and not pay attention to its actual beauty. If only people would realize how beautiful nature is and the attention it deserves, then maybe people would be less likely to harm it.

Princess of The Wolves

Just as with the other movies that we have watched, the very opening scene of Princess Mononoke was a foreshadowing of what was to come. The scene opens up with a view above the forest and mountains with a narrator speaking about man and beast no longer living in harmony together as they once had, causing the forest to be destroyed. The camera angle then lowers into the forest as we see some weird type of creature moving through the trees. A younger man (who we come to find out is the Prince Ashitaka) and an older man guarding the town decide this creature is a demon boar and Ashitaka chooses to try to save the town from the demon. While killing the boar, Ashitaka becomes injured and is later told that he is cursed. He has to leave the village and travel to the west in order to try to find a cure to the curse, or he will die from it.

There is a scene of Ashitaka riding through the nature where he comes to a town. He meets a monk (Jigo) who tells him that there is a place in the forest that may be able to cure him, but that it is not safe for man. Ashitaka decides to go anyway and sets out that way. We then see a scene of Lady Eboshi and her people being attacked by wolves while they are trying to work up in the mountains. One of the wolves is shot and a few of their men fall off the cliffs to their assumed death. Ashitaka then comes across two of the men who made the fall off the cliff and actually lived. He sees a girl sucking blood out of the injured wolf and asks for her help. She yells at him to go away and he goes on into the forest to get the men home.

Ashitaka gets the men back to their home, Irontown, and learns that Lady Eboshi is cutting down the forests in order to get the iron under the ground. Due to Lady Eboshi’s actions, the spirit-wolf girl (San or Princess Mononoke), attacks the village in hopes of killing Lady Eboshi. Ashitaka separates San from Lady Eboshi and leaves carrying San. On his way out of the village, Ashitaka is shot and injured, but he continues on anyway.

San is able to get Ashitaka to the magical forest where the Great Forest Spirit heals his wound, but not his curse. Soon after there is a fight between the boars and the humans and it ends in the lead boar becoming a demon. The demon boar captures San and Ashitaka, with the help of the mother wolf, saves her from the demon boar. The Great Forest Spirit causes the demon boar and the mother wolf to die. Right after, Lady Eboshi shoots the Great Forest Spirit’s head off and the spirit tries to find its head. During this time, anything the spirit touches dies. Ashitaka is able to warn the people of Irontown in time to save them, but their village is destroyed. San and Ashitaka get the Great Forest Spirit’s head from Jigo and return it to the spirit. The spirit then dies, but all the nature comes back to life. Once woken up, Ashitaka realizes his marks from the curse are fading/almost completely gone. San and Ashitaka decide to live in separate areas: San in the forest and Ashitaka helping the people of Irontown rebuild their home, but they agree to meet frequently. There is now a connection between man and nature, in which humans are no longer hurting the forest.

I must admit I was the least excited about watching Princess Mononoke out of all the movies for this class. I am not a fan of anime and I figured this would just be another one of the typical Japanese anime movies. Although the animation and some of the ideas did follow the typical anime movie, there were other aspects of the film that did not seem very anime to me. There were many characteristics of the film that were similar to that of the films we watch that are the normal “Hollywood” productions. For instance, the way the camera angles were done reminded me of a non-anime movie that one would watch. One example of this is the shots above the trees in the sky. There were several of these in this movie, just as there were scenes like this in both of the other movies that we have watched so far. There were also many scenes that displayed the beauty of the nature surrounding the film, just as there were these types of scenes in the other movies as well.

Amanda

Early Scientific Exploration

Reading chapter 9 of Hull’s book was really interesting to me. I like when religion is brought into the topic, even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Hull writes (I’ve posted about this before). That being said, I thought it was interesting to read that a lot of the scientific experiments done in the early ages were performed with religious purposes in mind. People such as Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Calvin all believed that nature and universal laws showed proof of intentional design. I don’t ever remember learning this as I’ve grown up either. Everybody now-a-days is so concerned with separating religion from education (and everything else for that matter) that we aren’t even taught that there were many religious reasons for scientific experiments. We’ve gained extreme amounts of information through these scientists and just to think that we may not have gained all of this information if some of them weren’t performing them for religious reasons amazes me. I know everybody is entitled to their own religious beliefs, but I am glad these scientists shared some of the same religious views that I do.

Amanda