Author Archives: Amber

Technology – BLEH.

Everyday I go to work and stare at a computer the entire day.  Everyday, just the same, I come home and stare at a computer all night long doing homework.  

Some days this drudgery just completely baffles me.  This continual absorption of technology is like the meaningless work that Thoreau and Emerson discourage. 

If that’s true, I completely understand where they are coming from.  Some days all I want to do is go outside and enjoy the fresh air.  Sometimes the confines of my house just suffocate me. 

I’ve found that just getting out of the house can refresh my mind.  It can give me a new perspective on the drudgery and allow me to reconnect with myself. 

I don’t think “the healing power of nature” is just a saying.

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Alone with Nature

As I delve into Thoreau, I can’t help but second-guess his insistence on being alone with nature.  Yes, connecting with nature allows you, as an individual, time to learn things about yourself, but we learn a lot about ourselves by interacting with people, too. 

Maybe this is because I am a people-person (I prefer to be surrounded by people than to sit at home alone), or maybe it is because I realize that I would never be able to truly know myself without the interactions from others.  By this social interaction, especially as children, we learn concepts like patience and what it means to be loved. 

Living alone in the wilderness does not give us those necessary understandings.

Research Paper Proposal – American Agriculture and the Environment

Abstract:

For my research paper, I want to examine the effects of modern agriculture on the environment.  With a focus on American agriculture, I feel like I can obtain a strong understanding of the overall environmental impact.  The main parts of modern agriculture that I wish to focus on are water usage, pesticide usage, herbicide usage, and growth hormones in livestock.

Each specific section of modern agriculture has altered Earth’s natural cycle.  First by assessing the effects of over-usage of the water supply to maintain farmland, I will show that America’s watersheds are depleting.  The other sections of my paper will analyze the different chemicals brought about by the agricultural revolution.  Like never before, farms are being “nourished” (herbicides), “protected” (pesticides), and “beefed up” (growth hormones) through the use of chemicals unnatural to the Earth’s environment. 

Although I realize that these modern agricultural trends were brought about by the need for a more effective farming system, they are counter-productive in the sense that they are ultimately hurting our environment.  Each foreign, man-made chemical used in farming techniques makes its way into the soils and destroys nature. 

The best solution for reducing industrial agriculture’s effect on the environment is to resort to low-impact, natural farming.

Thesis:

The American agricultural revolution has greatly impacted the surrounding environment through the over-usage of water supplies and various man-made chemicals.

Sources:

(1) Ward, Neil, and Richard Munton. “Conceptualizing Agriculture — Environment Relations.” Sociologia Ruralis 32.1 (1992): 127-145. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 27 July 2013.

(2) Verhagen, et al. “Quantifying The Sustainability Of Agriculture.” Irrigation & Drainage Systems 21.1 (2007): 1-15. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 July 2013.

(3) Horrigan, Leo, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker. “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address The Environment And Human Health Harms Of Industrial Agriculture.” Environmental Health Perspectives 110.5 (2002): 445. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 July 2013.

(4) Miller, Dale A. “Environmentalism And The New Agriculture.” Vital Speeches Of The Day 57.7 (1991): 221. History Reference Center. Web. 27 July 2013.

(5) Edwards, Clive A. “Pesticides In Agriculture And The Environment.” Quarterly Review Of Biology 79.1 (2004): 102. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 July 2013.

(6) Conkin, Paul K. “A Revolution Down on the Farm: The Transformation of American Agriculture Since 1929.” University Press of Kentucky: 2008. 

Screening Report – “Into the Wild”

Into the Wild is a movie released in 2007 that is based off of a novel by Jon Krakauer.

The plot of the movie centers around a young man that just graduated from college.  Instead of following the path that his parents encourage him to take, he decides to set out on a journey to find himself: a journey into the wilderness of Alaska.

By relinquishing all of his ties to the modern world (giving up all money/college funds, relationships, identification, etc.), Christopher McCandless forces himself to completely give up on his previous way of life.  Once he leaves, there is no turning back.

As he makes his way to Alaska, Chris meets new and interesting people that help him get closer to understanding himself.  He learns, through meeting the hippie couple, the old man, the farmer, and the foreign couple, the meaning of his existence and the meaning of life.

Although in the end Chris dies alone in the wilderness of Alaska, he lived a full and well-rounded life.  He learned much in his short life, and developed a strong understanding of the meaning of human existence.

A major theme in this movie is the search for self-identification.  Through connecting with nature, experiencing the world, and meeting different types of people during his journey, Chris begins to find himself.  He starts understanding his purpose and how he fits into the grand scheme of things.

Although I can’t see myself taking the same adventure that Chris did, I can see why a journey like his would be eye-opening.  The sacrifices he made were sometimes selfish, but he was brave in doing them.  I believe that his journey allowed Chris to connect with nature and figure out his place in God’s plan far deeper than a city-dweller.

Our Responsibility?

I just re-read The Land Ethic by Aldo Leopold to prepare for the test, and couldn’t help but begin to feel ashamed for my lack of ecological ethics.  Like many others in today’s society, I take the food I eat, the clothes I wear, and the water I use for granted.  My disconnect from nature is far greater than it should be, and this article reminded me that everything comes from something else.  I rely on the environment to stay healthy and provide me with what I expect, yet I don’t really do much to help ensure that environment health.

As Leopold explains, we are apart of the environment.  We are included in the food chain, rather than in control of it.  We have a responsibility to show respect to the other parts of that chain by keeping them healthy.  It’s essential for our own survival.

My question, though, is that if we are apart of this massive biological/environmental system, why is it our (the human’s) sole responsibility to keep it healthy and functioning?  Do other creatures within the system not have the same responsibilities? 

I realize that humans are stomping the largest carbon footprint of any other part of the chain, but I wonder if birds that migrate too far south one year can be just as environmentally-altering as a human that plants a foreign fruit.

Screening Report – “Princess Mononoke”

Princess Mononoke is a 1997 Japanese animated film. 

The premise of the movie centers around a young warrior named Ashitaka.  Prince Ashitaka initially is forced to fight off a demon bore to save his city.  During the fight, he is attacked by the evil spirit and poisoned with hate.  Soon after he is wounded, he learns of his fate: to travel West and help stop the hate.

During his travels, he finds two men who have been injured during a fight.  When he helps them return home, he finds an iron-making village that is in constant battle with the forest that surrounds it.

Prince Ashitaka quickly realizes his purpose is to end the fight between the Gods of the forest (with Princess Mononoke) and the village who is destroying the surrounding forest.

Due to the constant fighting, the humans (the people of the village) and the animals of the forest are filling with extreme hate – the same hate that is slowly beginning to consume Prince Ashitaka.

Eventually, Prince Ashitaka wins the trust of Princess Mononoke and together they break the curse and save the forest and the people of the village. 

In all, I think Princess Mononoke provides an exceptional representation of society’s current struggle between nature and industrial progression.  The movie forces the audience to reevaluate our tendencies to take advantage of nature and the environment. 

Screening Report – “Avatar”

James Cameron’s Avatar was released in 2009.  Originally, this movie was meant to be filmed in 1997, but, due to a lack of technological progress, James Cameron decided to wait.  Ultimately, because of his patience, Avatar is now known for being one of the world’s greatest animated movies.

 

The plot of the movie revolves around an ex-marine, Jake Sulley, who became disabled during his service.  After his twin brother died, government officials propositioned him to take his brother’s avatar to assist with a mining operation on Pandora to obtain a rare mineral called unobtainium.

 

With this avatar, Jake was instructed to try and connect with the Na’vi, the natives of Pandora.  Through a little dumb luck, Jake was able to achieve this at a relatively fast pace.  Through several trials, Jake proved himself with the Omaticaya tribe. 

 

Such trials bonded Jake with the people he was initially sent to manipulate.  Soon after his newfound loyalty to the Na’vi, the military forces from Earth planned an attack on the Omaticaya’s home tree.  Since the tree was rooted atop of a large supply of unobtainium, military forces decided the best option was to shoot the tree down.  Unfortunately, this decision left the Omaticaya with no home.

 

With the home-field advantage, support from other Na’vi tribes, and the unexpected assistance of the native animals, the Omaticaya successfully fought back against the military forces.  The movie ends with an complete Na’vi victory, and a ceremony where Jake takes the body of the avatar for good.

 

Due to the nature of this movie, it is important to note the original purpose of the film, which was to bring light to the issue of the environment.  More and more humans are taking advantage of the Earth’s natural resources, just like they began doing on Pandora. 

 

Avatar shows that being “one” with nature like the Na’vi is a much better alternative to raping the land.  By respecting your surroundings, all life can live together in harmony: the same concept utilized by Gandhi.