Preface

We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” Wendell BerryThe Long-Legged House

When beginning the process of writing these short essays I had only stepped but a toe into the giant ocean that is Environmentalism. Before beginning my foyer into Environmentalism my ideas on the subject were quite limited; they consisted mainly of the thought that Environmentalism was nothing more than recycling and reducing our carbon footprint, that living as an environmentalist was akin to living in a house built out of sustainable resources with solar panels on the roof and relying on rainwater as your source of water. But it was through this process that I learned that environmentalism is so much more than that, that environmentalism is like a large tree with many branches that twist and turn, some intersecting while others never meet. That to truly understand Environmentalism one must “Branch Out” and explore all the term has to offer. When one begins their journey into the world of Environmentalism they begin to learn a lot more about the world around them and also begin to see the world as being bigger than themselves. The biggest take away that I got from my own personal journey is seeing how selfish I truly am and how truly absorbed into the capitalist culture where we buy something and then throw it away a couple of years or even a month later. I often see my phones or other electronics as obsolete after they release a new model and think about how much I want to get the latest and greatest while I still have a perfectly fine working model in my hands. I often forget how dangerous a mindset like that can be and how I have all these perfectly good working machines tucked away in some desk drawer. I learned so much about myself through this journey and about the greater world around me and I hope to be able to continue the lessons I have learned and gain more insight moving forward. My learning journey is not yet done, nor will it ever be done there is still much for me to learn and I don’t know if I will ever know everything there is to learn before I die, but I look forward to my continuing journey and trying to learn as much as possible.

Before beginning my journey into writing these essays and reading these novels I did not think that I could include Environmentalism into my future career as an English Teacher, I thought that the subject was better saved for a science classroom or maybe even another subject entirely. Before this, I didn’t think it was my place to teach the subject, maybe talk about it briefly when reading Thoreau or Emerson. But as I began to read more, write more and discuss these novels in class more I began to understand that I could bring Environmentalism into my classroom and that I could help the cause by teaching the future generations through literature much like I myself learned in Mark Long’s class. I learned that there were so many more Environmental writers than just Emerson or Thoreau, that those two are just the tip of the iceberg. It was through this experience that I gained a new found respect and love of Environmentalism as well as an inspiration to take what I’ve learned and brought it into my own classroom to teach my future students.

The Forgotten Side of Environmentalism

When discussing Environmentalism we often take ourselves out of the equation, as if we are not part of the environment or as if we are somehow better than any other plant or animal that is a part of our environment. As mentioned in my previous post we are nothing but animals at our core and thus we are also part of the discussion on environmentalism. We often concern ourselves over saving animals that we have put in danger such as rhinos or animals that have put themselves in danger such as pandas, but we never really stop to think how we can help and how we can save our fellow man, how we can help them in their life and give them the same opportunities that we were afforded. We often forget that there are people who are struggling to get by every day, that many can’t afford the luxuries we take for granted, some can’t even afford to properly feed themselves. We either forget the struggles of others or voluntarily ignore them because it is often easier to close your eyes and block your ears then it is to take the time and try to help another human out of a tough predicament.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle outlines this phenomenon quite well and shows the reader the struggles that people face in trying to achieve the American Dream that we all are so desperately vying for whether they come from wealth or poverty. The Novel does a fantastic job in showing the split that has been created in humans. With world one being Delany and Kyra, the two white affluent main characters who live in their “open” community and world two being Candido and America, the two other main characters who are Hispanic and live in the world of poverty. For Delany and Kyra, their world is one of choice and privilege; their privilege comes from their citizenship in the United States and their race. Delany and Kyra don’t have to worry about putting food on their table or saving money because they have a steady income. They have everything that Candido and America could ever want and more. The world that Candido and America live in is vastly different from the world of Delany and Kyra, for Candido and America their goal is to survive, to be able to make enough money that they can support their soon to be family and to be able to afford to feed themselves. They do not have the luxury of being born in America; they had to fight to get here across dangerous terrain all while dodging the border police, just for the small hope, the small chance that they could find a better life in this country. Every step forward the two seem to take has them walking three steps back, they struggle constantly but don’t give up and keep moving forward no matter how dire the consequences may seem at times.

One of the biggest points of contention within the book is whether or not the community that Delany and Kyra live in should be gated with a better wall built around the perimeter or whether the fence they have now and the openness of the community should stay. This is very reminiscent of the current argument of whether or not we should be building the proposed wall by our President. Kyra after losing both of her dogs to coyotes and dealing with people threatening her at one of the properties she is trying to sell, slowly begins to believe that the better wall around the community sounds like a good idea, and when others begin to play on her fears she becomes very motivated for building the wall. She wants the wall to go up to separate the community from nature which is why she bought her house in the first place, the plot she chose was the closest to nature that she could get in the development. Although after dealing with those who threatened her she wants the wall to be built to separate her from people who cannot afford to live where she does, to separate her from poverty. Delany is against the wall but also at the same time is not the liberal humanist he declares himself to be. Throughout the course of the novel, Delany slowly becomes more and more bigoted against those who are not like him. He begins to group all types of people into one and begins to profile. In the end of the book, Delany goes mad in the pursuit of Candido who he believes has been causing problems when he actually wasn’t which brings us to this passage: “Delany didn’t care. He didn’t care about the hazard, he didn’t care about the other drivers or the wet road or the insurance rates – all he cared about was the Mexican, the man who’d invaded his life like some unshakable parasite, like a disease” (332). Delany has one goal in mind, to get back at the man who he believes has been causing all these problems in his life, in this pursuit he puts all the blame on Candido who he refers to only as “The Mexican” as well as a parasite or a disease rather than a human. He only looks at him this way because of his race rather than any actual proof. In his pursuit, the only thing that prevents him from fully attacking Candido is seeing that just like him Candido is trying to provide for his family. Although while Kyra and Delany caused so many problems for Candido and America, Candido and America still treat the two as humans, and even when they lose everything at the end of the book Candido still saves the man who almost killed him and later chased him, not because he had anything to gain but because he was a true humanist.

Overall the Tortilla Curtain brings up a lot of important arguments both pertaining to humans and nature as well. The wall was originally liked by Kyra as a way to protect her family from coyotes and other dangers of nature; she wanted to use it as a dividing line between the community and the nature she enjoyed so much before the loss of her dogs. Although the other argument is the treatment of other humans whose only difference from them was the color of their skin and their background. Both are arguments about environmentalism.

Humans: Animals or Something More? (WORK IN PROGRESS)

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this” Bertrand Russell. At our base level humans are animals, we are not a step above the rest nor but instead just the top of the food chain. We often think that we are on a whole different classification of life than animals but if one looks at the skeletal structure of a primate compared to that of a man one can see the obvious connection the two have.

 

So what makes us different from animals? Some have multiple answers to that question while others imply state: nothing. Many argue that it is our empathy that sets us apart from animals, the ability to understand the feelings of another and at times feel those feelings as well as the need or want to comfort them in these situations, that our ability to feel for another and think beyond or own survival. Although, dogs (man’s best friend) have also shown this ability as well, in fact dogs and humans are some of the few animals capable of showing empathy. According to a 2012 study called “Empathic-Like Responding by Domestic Dogs (Canis Familiaris) to Distress in Humans: An Exploratory Study” conducted in the U.K. by Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer “the dogs approached whoever was crying regardless of their identity. In addition, when the person who was crying ignored them (as they were instructed to do), if the dogs were egoistically motivated, one might expect them to turn to the other available non-crying person for comfort, particularly if that person were their owner. However, only two dogs approached both people during the crying condition (one approached the crying stranger first and then her owner, the other approached the calm stranger prior to going over to his crying owner and then when the stranger was crying approached the stranger prior to his owner)”. The conclusion of this experiment was that dogs do in fact do seek to comfort those in distress and do show empathy towards humans. Some may say that it’s our ability to problem solve that sets us apart from animals, but crows are notorious for being able to figure out complex puzzles in a short amount of time. Finally, some may say that it is our ability to create and build that sets us apart from animals, but birds often build nests and beavers often build complex dams and lodges what take dynamite to be able to break.

Monkeywrenching: Positive Protesting or Dangerous Protesting?

There are many ways in which one can try to save the Earth and while each one differs in approach the end goal is to protect what often cannot protect itself. While some chose to fight for the world from inside “The machine” by getting a job as someone who measures ecological impact or as an environmental lawyer, others chose different paths such as protesting such as promoting through art or even rarer as Monkeywrenching. This type of environmental protest is often rare, and it’s a good reason that it is rare because to Monkeywrench means to sabotage something as a way to protest. This sabotage often includes the destruction of industrial equipment or even billboards. Many call this form of protest a form of terrorism due to its destructive and sometimes possibly harmful results.

Monkey Wrenching is outlined best in the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. The novel does a superb job of showing off what is in the mind of the people who commit these acts and also details how these people are often flawed in their personalities. George Hayduke (who just goes by his last name) is the character that is often most attributed to this book and his flaws come in droves, he has a skewed view of the world and often takes things too far in unproportioned responses. One of his largest flaws is his anger, which often leads him to drastic measures such as the destruction of a police car by stealing it and leaving on train tracks after the police officer had arrested him for public intoxication. The scene is described as follows:

“Hayduke abandoned Hall’s care there in the crux of the crossing… As he hustled away from the scene of the crime, arms full and heart beating with joy, he heard – beneath the screech of brakes, the bellow of klaxons – one solid metallic crash, deeply satisfying, richly prolonged. He looked over his shoulder. The head locomotive, air brakes groaning… The car rolled once; the gas tank ruptured, exploded into saffron and violet flame…” (24-25).

This method of revenge was extreme and not only caused damage to the car of the officer but to the train and surrounding areas as well, in enacting his petty revenge against the officer who was doing his job the night he arrested Hayduke he put more than just property at risk, he put people at risk as well. Edward Abbey does an excellent job of fleshing out his character such as Hayduke and making you like them but still making you realize that they are quite human and in fact pretty fallible. The other characters in the novel like Doc, Bonnie, and Seen Smith are fleshed out like this as well.

The Monkey Wrench Gang is a good book and gives the reader a glimpse into the world of Monkeywrenching as well as the world of Ecological Protest. It gives the reader the insight into this often unthought-of or often unheard of world, a world that many try to hide away from the public. Although, the actions of the characters in the book should not be emulated or seen as a positive way to protest, what they are doing is dangerous and illegal. While Monkeywrenching is glorified in this novel it is important to remember how harmful and dangerous it can be. These sabotages are not harm free, they often come at a cost and those who are operating machinery after it has been sabotaged are often in danger of losing their lives because someone didn’t agree with the methods of their employer. These people that get hurt often have homes and families that they return to every night; they also often are not the bad guys but simply are trying to do their job to support their family. The real villains if any are the owners of these companies and corporations who make the decision to impact the earth, but one cannot get to these owners by destroying some of their equipment. Another issue with monkeywrenching is the fact that people often focus on the actions of those sabotaging and the damage it caused rather than the reason that the people did it, the message often gets lost in the act itself.

There are less harmful ways to protest and combat the growing threat of Ecological destruction. Though these methods often are more difficult than monkeywrenching, destruction of property is easy (not getting caught is another story) but to convey your message through non-violence is often difficult. So far in this class we have already seen the various ways in which other authors have conveyed their thoughts and feelings towards environmental destruction which range from a scientific pursuit like Rachel Carson chose in her book The Silent Spring all the way to a fictionalized story like Linda Hogan chose in Solar Storms: all these methods of conveying information through writing are just as poignant as monkeywrenching. Another way that we can protest is by switching our current self-centered thoughts which are Anthropocentric to more Biocentric or Ecocentric ideas. This is often the most difficult to do, it requires the citizen to change their way of thinking which has often been ingrained in them since birth. We often allow a lot to happen to our world when it can benefit us, we burn fossil fuels to travel and to keep our houses warm, and we allow strip mining in Africa in search of minerals like Coltan which is an ore that we use in the majority of our cell phones and electronics. We also have become a wasteful society where we will often throw away working technology just to get a new phone which has a few more bells and whistles (most of which is never actually used). This way of thinking is dangerous and as soon as we move on from a society obsessed with possession, control, convenience, and comfort we cannot truly begin to help our planet.

A War not a Battle

Refuge brought a lot to mind while reading but what stood out the most to me was the battle with cancer that takes center stage while reading. It’s something that stood out to me and made it hard for me to read because Cancer is a disease that has often shown up in my life and caused havoc upon my family and my childhood. I’ve seen many of my family members and friends battle various types of cancer and while some have beaten it many lost their battles. The one battle that I witnessed that affected me the most was the battle that my brother fought when I was only in second grade. Battle is definitely the correct word for cancer, although maybe war would be a better fit because with cancer there are victories and defeats throughout the course of treatment. The victories are the days that it seems like cancer has gone into remission, when the chemo is working, or the days that the medicines that you take and the chemo you go through doesn’t prevent you from going out and living your life. The defeats, on the other hand, are those moments when you can’t get out of bed because you are too weak or when you learn that the cancer despite all your efforts is still growing. Every day is a battle with cancer which is why war should be the term for fighting the illness. It’s a disease that tries to take and when it is done taking away from the person who it’s in it takes the person away from their family. When cancer wins it is never satisfied enough and must deliver that final blow.

While other thoughts and memories of my life have faded and been forgotten or filed away elsewhere in my mind the entirety of his battle has remained cemented in place. I can still remember the smell of the hospital as we walked into it week after week, the smell of industrial cleaner and the faint smell of food being cooked in the kitchen. I can remember the sounds of the hospital, the carts in the hall, the hushed conversations, the ringing of the phones, and the beeping of the heart monitors. I can remember seeing my brother, the one person in the world who I truly looked up to as a symbol of strength, laying in the hospital bed with a bandage around his head from his initial surgery and tubes and wires attached to his arms. I remember being so afraid in that moment and hating myself for showing that fear and making my brother think that I was afraid of him even though what I was afraid of was losing him. I remember the days after his first trip to Boston Children’s Hospital, the good days where the family seemed to be normal if only for a fleeting moment and the days where I knew our family would never be the same again. My brother’s war in total lasted 9 months, December to September; though he fought hard and kept fighting harder and harder the cancer too fought more and more. The battles he fought were long and strenuous and still impact my family and me to this day. His cancer took him away from me and in the process ripped a hole in me that I don’t think can ever truly be closed. I don’t ever really publicize my full story and I rarely tell even my closest friends that I’ve made because I’m afraid of being pitied or that people will look at me with a different lens other than who I am. I often feel like I’m forced to hide a part of myself from the world, a part that has caused a lot in my life.

 

This is a work in progress and will be updated tomorrow when I feel more up to it. It’s a very difficult story for me to talk about let alone put into words but I will fully finish this assignment

The Journey of Angel

The Journey of Angel in the novel Solar Storms is not an easy one, although journeys rarely are. Most journeys are full of strife and complications that lead the character down a path of self-discovery, where they learn about whom they truly are and who they can be under the façade of normalcy they shroud themselves in. The truth is it is not about the destination of the Journey but the experiences made along the way; Lord of the Rings is not about Frodo destroying The Ring, it’s about him proving that even the smallest of person can have great power and that perseverance and determination can let you achieve your goals, no one believes that a small Hobbit could possibly hold onto and dispose of the most powerful artifact known to Middle Earth which could determine the future of the land but he does. In a similar case while the destination of Angels Journey is to find her mother who long since abandoned her she instead finds herself and is able to rebuild who she is.

In the beginning of the story Angel is traveling by boat back to Adams Rib where she was born, the fact that she travels by boat through water is an important factor to the story since water has long been a symbol for change and has been around since the story of the River Styx. One example of the use of water for change is the play Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman water plays an integral part in the play with a pool being the most important prop in the center of the stage when the characters of the play enter this pool they change (Metamorphose) and exit the water transformed. This is the beginning of the transformation of Angel and the start of her Journey. She begins her journey with the baggage of her past; she is constantly reminded of her pain that has occurred in her life by the physical manifestation of this baggage and pain which takes the form of the scar that is on her face. She is embarrassed by this scar and often tries to conceal it “A curtain of dark red hair falling straight down over the right side of my dark face. Like a waterfall, I imagined, and I hope it covered the scar I believed would heal, maybe even vanish if only I could remember where they’d come from” (25). She cannot even remember where they came from but only holds the knowledge that they are not a positive moment in her life.

One of the most important factors in the transformation of Angel is the help of the strong women both related and not that help her understand who she is and how strong she can truly be. Through these women (Dora Rouge, Agnes, Bush) Angel learns about herself and the history of her ancestors as well as the history of her immediate family. She also learns valuable skills such as how to swim, fish, canoe, and see underwater. These women also take the place of Angel’s parents and take her into their home and provide her with love and support, something that she did not have while in the foster system. Though she is not directly related to Bush, Bush takes Angel under her wing and guides her, in a way Bush is more of a mother to Angel than Hannah (Her actual mother) ever was and ever will be. It is during this time (winter) that Angel begins to break down that she was at the beginning of the novel and begins to work on lessening her baggage that she has carried with her, she begins to build her positive memories of her new found/rediscovered family. She also begins the process of forgetting the bad ones that she believes define her, though she does not totally forget the bad since they are still a part of her life. She becomes more positive from this and less embarrassed by the scars that she believes dictate her past; she becomes a strong woman like those that have been taking care of her. As spring approaches she has emerged from the winter like the trees and the flowers anew, she has become a new woman and has left the baggage of her past behind her. This renewal becomes apparent on page 325 where Angel states “Decisions are made in a person’s life by small moments of knowing, each moment opening until, like pieces of a quilt, one day everything comes together in a precise, clear knowing. It enters the present as if it had come all of a piece. It was in this way that I began to understand who I was. Every piece of myself was together anew, a shifted pattern”. Through this quote Angel is aware of how much the culmination of the experiences she has had on Adams Rib which range from her learning to swim to the death of Dora Rouge to finally finding and meeting her mother and realizing that she is not in any state to be her mother or to be the mother of Aurora, a sister Angel never knew she had. She takes Aurora into her care to raise and nurture her and break the cycle of abuse that has been a constant for the last few generations. Angel now has the opportunity to provide the life she never had to her sister.

The Importance of Presentation

Marilyn Manson once said: “I think everybody’s got a presentation. Everybody looks a certain way because they want to convey a certain image. You look a certain way because you want people to listen to you in a certain way”. What Manson is saying pertains to peoples clothing and style but can easily be adapted to the way in which one presents information. We all have information to present to the world whether it be who we are or information that we want the world to know, and we all have a different way in which we can present this information to the masses. In class so far we have looked at: Ramachandra Guha’s Environmentalism: A Global History, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island, and Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America. In each of these books, the author chose a different way to present their information to the reader. These different forms of presenting information both have their advantages and disadvantages; some prove to be more beneficial while others leave the reader asking: What did I just read?

Ramachandra Guha focuses on the reading and exploration of case studies in his book Environmentalism a Global History. He provides thoughtful and insightful dialogue along with these case studies that explore the ideas of environmentalism and how environmentalism occurs around the world. He goes into detail for each country and their policies about environmentalism as well as how these policies affect the world as a whole as well as how citizens of those countries view the concept of Environmentalism. He talks not only of the strengths of the countries but their weaknesses as well mentioning how one country has good policies about something such as fossil fuels while they lack in recycling. He takes a non-partial viewpoint of these countries which allows the reader to be able to better form their opinion. Of course when a book is title Environmentalism, one can assume which side Guha is on. This is a highly effective way to keep the reader’s interest and to teach them rather than scold or force them into one’s own ideologies.

Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring chooses to present her findings and her views in a scientific way of writing, unlike the other authors that have been read so far. She makes use of simile and metaphor to better explain the concepts she discusses in her book. She also uses easier to understand science terms to help the reader better get a grasp of the more difficult to understand concepts that she attempts to convey in her book. While she simplifies these concepts she does not dumb them down, in fact, they still remain complex concepts but are simply more understandable. This method of conveying ideas proved to be beneficial for Carson and allows the reader to not get bored with talk of science they cannot understand since they do not have a degree in biology or chemistry. It also creates a sense of accomplishment for the reader that they can understand these complex concepts. Finally, Carson interweaves science and real-life examples where these concepts have been shown to take place. While these methods proved to be useful, there are downsides to this method. Some readers fall into the all too common trap of the short attention span society that we have slowly become. This means that some readers might get easily bored with the talk of science and explore different options that give them a more “quick fix” for their entertainment.

Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island takes a different approach entirely of spreading the ideas of Environmentalism. Unlike the author authors such as Guha, Carson, or Berry, Snyder chooses to use poetry in order to tell his story and to discuss his opinions and ideas of Environmentalism. Poetry is often not thought of when one is looking into a way to spread their message, people often forget that one of the biggest benefits of using poetry is the ability to say a lot with only a couple of words, one can tell a whole story with only 50 words in poetry, the reader just needs to read between the lines. Poetry has the benefit in the ability to say a lot in a little but can often be misconstrued or misunderstood which can create problems for the author to inform the reader of the message they are trying to convey.

Wendell Berry in The Unsettling of America chooses to go with more personal thought as opposed to the routes of science, poetry, and case studies that the other authors used to explore the movement. The use of an argumentative essay-esque writing style has some benefits to the style, it allows the author to write about what they are passionate about and that passion can clearly be seen in the writing. It also allows the reader to see a specific viewpoint that they may otherwise not consider when looking into concepts such as Environmentalism, such as the use of agriculture and the often forgotten human element. Though there are downsides to this method, for one the author’s views may often come on too strong and may deter the reader from wanting to continue reading, Berry shows this many times in his novel where he takes on a sometimes radical viewpoint that the majority does not fully agree with or believe in, such as his ideas about how we have become weaker as a society since we no longer are an agriculture-based society as we once were. Another downside is the lack of fact checking and citing of information which may lead the reader to wonder if what the author has written is simply just conjecture.

There are many ways in which one can convey their ideas in their writings, those listed above are only the tip of the iceberg for these methods. I’m interested to see what other methods we will see as we continue to read more for class and discuss. If I had to chose a personal favorite of the methods above I would have to say it’s a tie between Guha’s method and Snyder’s method. While both different in nature they both provide different strengths that are unique to them.

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

The Unsettling Thoughts of Wendell Berry

The beginning of agriculture within a group of people is often considered the beginning of a civilization. It’s the point at which the group settles down, to build a life in one space. When agriculture begins it means that the days of a nomadic lifestyle are gone, the days of hunter-gathering begins to diminish in favor of farming and ranches. Agriculture and the rise of culture are often have developed hand in hand and without agriculture life on Earth, today may have been very different to how it currently is. According to the article titled Early Agriculture and the Rise of Civilization (Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery) published on encyclopedia.com “As agriculture evolved in these locations, so did the social, economic, and cultural practices that led to what is known as civilization”.

Wendell Berry in his collection of Essays entitled The Unsettling of America concurs with this thought and believes that the loss of the common practice of agriculture has created a huge history for America and the common man. He believes in the disappearance the farmer and the farm. Although, for man, the idea of the disappearance of the American farmer brings up an important question to the average man: “If the American farmer has disappeared then where has he gone?”. The obvious answer is that the farmer did not suddenly disappear in some farmer based rapture that only affected those who wore overalls and rode tractors, but instead the farmer did what humans often do, they evolved. The sons and daughters of farmers soon realized that they did not need to follow in the footsteps of their parents, as Herbert Hoover said “But the son of the farmer will be a doctor or a worker or even a banker, and his daughter a teacher. The son of a worker will be an employer – or maybe president”. And that is exactly what they did; they moved on and became the future that they wanted. Although Berry determines this to be a turning point for the worst, he believes the world to be in two categories: The Exploiters (A specialist or expert) and the Nurturers (Those who care about the earth and health). He believes the model exploiter to be someone like a strip miner, while the model nurturer to be a farmer (one can already see which of the two categories he prefers). In more modern standards the ideal exploiter would be a Fracker – someone who destroys the Earth in search of oil and other fossil fuels used to heat our homes and drive our cars, these people often are doing this Fracking with no regards to the environment or the possible outcomes as a result of this process. While the ideal nurturer would be the old-fashioned farmer who grows food for himself and the community, a constant both in the time of the book being written and now. He states “The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiters goal is money, profit; the nurturers goal is health – his land, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s” (9). Based on the definition of both Exploiters and Nurturers given by Berry one would assume that Berry believes that the common man is an exploiter rather than a nurturer. But what is Berry really saying by this statement? Is he simply diminishing the common man to be someone who cares for nothing but himself and money rather than his family, community, or country? Is he calling the average reader, calling us out as a group of people whose sole goal in life is personal gain?

In his essay titled The Ecological Crisis as a Crisis of Character Berry brings up more of his thoughts and feelings about the modern man and how this phenomenon of the disappearing agriculture society is affecting the average man. He begins by stating “American citizen now consigns the problem of food production to agriculturists and ‘agribusinessmen’” (22). This statement is true, we as a society rely on those whose job (their expert field) is to grow and raise our food for us to buy for our own dinner table. But just as we rely on the farmer to feed us the farmer relies on us to teach their children, to clothe him and his family, to provide the tools they use, to bring them the water they need. It’s a symbiotic relationship rather than a parasitic one. He later goes on to talk about his views on the common man, on us. He puts great effort into writing this man as dull as possible, making it sound as if no excitement in his life. Unsurprisingly he then follows up his description of this “average man” by stating “The fact is, however, that this is probably the most unhappy citizen in the history of the world. He has not the power to provide for himself with anything but money, and his money is inflating like a balloon and drifting away, subject to historical circumstances and the power of other people” (22). He continues to talk about the reasons why this man is unhappy and why this dull life is unsurprisingly terrible. This begs the question: are we as average American citizens unhappy? Has becoming a society in which we are specialists really created a country in which we have become unhappy? The answer is no, the average man has not become depressed simply because they make money instead of tending to the land if anything the average man and society has, in fact, become happier because they are now doing what they want in their life rather than having to do anything. A man can now choose their path, their life, they do not have to wake up at the crack of dawn to begin their work or break their back shoveling and lifting. It’s created a society where you don’t have to be an able-bodied person to survive. We have not abandoned agriculture but rather simplified the process and created a more efficient way to grow our food, by Berry’s definition the farmer is now one of those exploiters – trying to find the quickest and easiest way to do their job. Berry is not some crazy person who is spouting nonsense, in fact, much of what he says about the Average man is true, we are exploiters. The point of his essay was to bring this to our attention and inform us that it is not too late for us to change, that we can become less of the exploiter and work towards becoming the nurturer.

On “By Frazier Creek Falls”

As someone who often feels a call to drop all social media and to ditch my phone so that I may go out and explore the world around me and to experience life to the fullest the poem of By Frazier Creek Falls stood out to me the most as one that I can truly connect with. It reminds me so much of my experience of nature and my longing to go camping and exploring once again like I did when I was younger and had less cares about the world. I often wonder if the reason why going into nature is so alluring to me currently is to explore like I once did or as a means to escape the adult world that I have grown up into. Escaping from the stress of school, and work life, escaping from all the negative news that seems to have overtaken the media, escaping from the debates on what is patriotic or who said what to who on Twitter. In nature none of those things matter, it’s just you and the world around you to see and experience. This is not to say that I would ever do something along the lines of what Christopher McCandless did and then later written about by Krakauer in Into the Wild, I would most likely have a “dumb phone” in case of emergencies. Now onto the Poem itself, it begins with two lines:

“Standing up on lifted, folded rock

Looking out and down”

This section is talking about surveying the land around oneself from the top of a mountain, or in this case the top of the falls.

“The creek falls to a far valley.

Hills beyond that

Facing, half forested, dry

–clear sky

Strong wind in the

Stiff glittering needle clusters

Of the pine—their brown

Round trunk bodies

Straight, still;

Rustling trembling limbs and twigs”

In this stanza of the poem, Snyder uses new lines as a way to break up the sentence and to provide more of an almost basic human language aspect to the poem. One could easily read the poem in this form like a caveman and it would sound like it fits. This could have been purposeful of Gary Snyder as a return to the basics of nature type writing. He uses – to emphasize spacing of the reading when one reads this poem out loud. The way in which Snyder structures many of his poems reminds me of stage notes of a director towards their actor (you the reader), though for his poetry its built-in to the lines rather than written in the margins or in the space between the lies. In this section Gary Snyder also uses beautiful imagery that as one reads they can begin to piece it together in their mind on how this valley may look. One will notice that there are no animals in this section, there are no cars, or any signs of human life beyond that of the author, the poem is simply Snyder and the world around him below his feet and in his sight.

“Listen”

Along the lines of the term “stop and smell the roses” this is often something one forgets about when in the woods or in nature. Nature has its own white noise, the sound of rustling leaves, of birds chirping and bugs attempting to find a mate. One may even call the noise of nature a symphony, a group of noise that one would not think belong together but create a beautiful sound when they do. When one compares this to the sound of the city, which is synthetic and loud and segmented, I would be surprised if anyone would decide to choose the sound of the city over the sound of nature.

“This living flowing land

Is all there is forever

We are it

It sings through us—

We could live on this Earth

Without Clothes or tools”

Snyder is trying to explain to the reader that the world around us is a part of us, much like he is part of the environment of the Falls. He state that the land “is all there is forever” he is saying that this is the only earth we have and that we need to take care of it because it is as much a part of us are we are a part of it, we do not get a second chance or a do over, there is no undo button, once the mess has been made it will be difficult to clean up. His final two lines of “We could live on this Earth, Without Clothes or tools” probably meant something totally different to how one may interoperate it today. Today it means that we could live without all the tools of convince that we live with today, we could live without constantly poisoning our environment with greenhouse gases and other chemicals we don’t properly take care of. We could live “naked” without the creature comforts that we rely on today.

The last section of the poem is something that I agree with but with a few caveats, the first of which is we should still rely on the many great innovations of science since they not only prolong our life but also make life more enjoyable to live, for example I have allergies that include pollen, if I didn’t have medicine to take care of these allergies I would not be able to explore nature without the possibility of going into anaphylactic shock. Though I do believe we could do with less polluting and less reliance on the small devices within our pocket, they seem to dictate our lives to us and can be as addictive as any other substance. Over all this poem rang true to my inner thoughts and left me wanting to go on a walk of the trails in Keene.

Photo Credit: Paul Jarvis

A Lesson Learned Time and Time Again

Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park said “Ian: Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” this is a pretty poignant thought and one that is incredibly relatable to not only Silent Spring but to the problems we are currently dealing with now. Carson begins her book with two quotes: the first from Keats gives the books its title, while the second quote comes from E. B. White who says: “I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively, instead of skeptically and dictatorially”. This quote as well as the one from Jurassic park both bring up the same idea, the idea that we often think more about how to do something or how to beat nature, though we don’t always think about the repercussions of our actions, we don’t think about the effects of beating nature into submission, we are too obsessed with results.

While Rachel Carson meant for this quote to be attributed to the spreading of DDT as a pesticide and the repercussions of its effects on other wildlife and humans as well it is one of those quotes that is timeless and follows us for the time to come. We are obsessed with the idea of controlling nature, the thought of it is even in our media, our superheroes control the elements, our Sci-Fi movies and shows have concepts like controlling gravity, our sci-fi novels talk of immortality and cheating nature of the certainty of death. It is something that has been shown time and time again, for instance in the movie Avatar by James Cameron the villain attempts to take over the planet and rob it of its resources in an attempt to make money, though by doing so they must destroy the area and mistreat the beings that live on the planet, they do not hesitate to do so. These are just a few choice examples of this phenomenon and they do not reflect all of our media but do represent a good portion of what we watch and what we read on a day to day basis. Some films such as Avatar itself as well as Wall-e follow the same path as Rachel Carson and try to warn us about what can happen when we try to control “beat nature into submission”, they do a good job at illustrating how the lifestyle we live can have adverse effects on the planet that we live on, and drive home the point that we cannot simply abandon our planet like they do in Wall-e, we only have one earth.

Examples of our attempts to control nature can be seen in a variety of different places across the globe, though for this argument it will mainly focus on America. To begin Las Vegas Nevada is a lush paradise akin to the Nile in which plants grow and fountains are everywhere, although like the Nile Vegas exists in the middle of a desert. We did not find Vegas this way, we made it this way by drawing in water from Lake Mead which was created after the creation of the Hoover Dam. Although Vegas has been running into a huge problem, they are losing water in Lake Mead rapidly, and as the city’s population grows and the use of water continues to climb it is only causing the lake to diminish faster and faster. According to the article “The Race to Stop Las Vegas from Running Dry” published in 2014 by The Telegraph and written by Nick Allen “Mr. Barnett [Tim Barnett, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography]  predicts it may be a “dead pool” that provides no water by about 2036”. This Lake not only benefits the humans of Las Vegas but the wildlife around the lake as well, when it drains it will not only affect those who live in Vegas but the animals who rely on this oasis in the desert as well. Another example of attempting to control nature is the settling and building of the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, both cities are near the San Andreas fault and both have experienced many earthquakes in the time since their founding. Many attempts to earthquake-proof homes and buildings have been made and a large amount of time and money has gone into research for solutions to homes being destroyed by earthquakes. Citizens know the threat that they are under but still continue to live their lives in their homes and in their area which is inevitably a ticking time bomb for a large earthquake.

Call it human perseverance or just plain ignorance trying to control nature has been a common practice in human history and will most likely remain so for quite some time. Though we need to ask ourselves a very simple question: How many times must we learn the lesson that nature cannot be controlled before it sticks? We need to look at ways to work with nature rather than beating it until it does what we want it to, if we work with nature the results could end up being more favorable than one might expect, after all, we figured out that we can make pesticides from things found in nature rather than relying on harsh chemicals manufactured by man.