Starting off with Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, I would say that this book definitely shifted my view on nature as a whole. It taught me that the environment is more than just the “outside” as many first assume and that we have a lot to be grateful for, from it. I loved how Kimmerer incorporated origin stories and her culture into the readings, as well as her own personal experiences. Her dualistic perspective on nature, coming from both an indigenous woman and a scientist was very interesting to read. I was genuinely excited to read chapters from this book each week; It made me view the world in a much better light than my usual pessimistic perspective.
Exposure by Robert Bilott, on the other hand, was definitely different from Kimmerer, but nonetheless a great read. It exposes (pun intended) the frightening lengths a large-scale company will go to make money and make sure that their poor choices remain hidden. Although, it was a bit depressing to read about a topic like this, the book did teach me a lot about the legal hardships people have to go through to get justice for a seemingly obvious deserved outcome. Bilott did a fantastic job of writing in a way that made everything easy to understand and kept me interested, especially when it came to the specifics of the trials. It allowed me to get very involved in the narrative and feel connected to the outcome.
Doing this project on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals has taught me that most problems relating to the ocean root from our society’s habits of overbuying and irresponsible consumption. It definitely makes me more aware of my own shopping patterns and in a way, guilts me into making responsible decisions. I have also been reminded to regard the ocean and it’s inhabitants as equals on this planet, and not so much as something completely separate of me. It is our duty as people on this Earth to take care of it and make sure that we all appreciate what it gives us.
The “Allegiance to Gratitude” chapter in Braiding Sweetgrass pointed out to me just how forced the Pledge of Allegiance was on many of us during our childhood. It is crazy to think how most of us memorized the pledge by heart, yet don’t really know what it means or necessarily believe what it means. My favorite quote from this chapter comes from Kimmerer’s daughter : “And it’s not exactly liberty if they force you to say it, is it? “(106). I think the Thanksgiving Address discussed in the book is a great way to properly pledge loyalty to the world. I loved how it was split up into different sections by the different things the Earth provides to us; It definitely makes it more personal and shows how each thing deserves their own special appreciation. Kimmerer mentions that humans are the only living things capable of gratitude. This really stuck out to me and made me realize that being grateful for all that we have is such an important aspect of life.
Growing up in an urban environment, I have had few very meaningful encounters with nature. Despite this, my family tried their best to instill a love of nature into me and this included our yearly camping trip to Pennsylvania. There are a lot of things I loved about going camping, but one thing that stands out the most to me was my ability to touch and interact with bugs while I was there. I wouldn’t dare touch a bug I found in my backyard, but in the camping context, it was different. My favorite insect to play with was a fuzzy little caterpillar. Although I was only a child, like Robin Wall Kimmerer with the ducks, I felt this maternal instinct to take care of the caterpillars and not harm them. This was extremely opposed to my bad habit of killing bugs at home. Overall, I truly believe these camping trips were what helped me develop my love for the environment and my desire to protect it.
I chose to read Liz’s project about lithium-ion batteries and their impact on the environment. It was interesting to learn that these lithium batteries are used in electric cars, which are meant to be the “greener” alternative to a normal car. Although it is great that cleaner energy is becoming popular, these batteries still have their own detrimental effects such as water contamination and air pollution from the mining process of lithium. This is just another example of a situation, where alternatives may not always be better or simply cannot be 100% better. This project reminded me of the the idea of “toxic trespassing” in chapter 5 of Bigelow & Swinehart. Without even knowing, many of our everyday products such as cars and batteries have a way of harming us.
I decided to do my midterm projecton plastic toothbrushes and their effect on the environment. I discovered a lot of interesting, yet scary information while compiling data for this pamphlet. I hope you can learn something new and I hope this helps put things into perspective, especially when it comes to responsible consumption.
While going through a few of my peer’s websites, I encountered a lot of interesting information and opinions on environmental issues discussed in class. One thing that stood out to me was a post on Jared’s website about a computer game called Civilization VI. It is a game that gives players control over their own empire, including the struggle of using resources and emitting greenhouse gases. This is very fascinating to me because it shows people how difficult it is to create a “perfect” world, while also depicting the scary outcomes of not trying hard enough. Video games are honestly the last thing I think of when talking about the media’s portrayal of global warming. This is why I was surprised to read another post by a different classmate on a video game as well. Gabby wrote about a game called, Bee Stimulator on her website. This particular game puts players into the perspective of a tiny bee that travels to different places. Its main goal is to educate people about the dangers bees currently face and to appreciate their work on the natural world. It is nice to know that there is some representation on environmental subjects in the video game realm and that people are able to get first hand simulated experience on today’s issues. Although, I’m not one to play video games often, reading these posts definitely made me curious and excited to learn more.
In our current world, unfortunately and frustratingly there are more oil and toxin spills than one can count. Although most of us choose to look at this as another adversity that tells of the horrible way we treat our planet, John Sabraw chose to take a more positive route. Sabraw is an eco-friendly art professor that teamed up with environmental engineer Dr. Guy Riefler to develop a method of filtering colorful iron pigments from contaminated water. Sabraw uses these pigments to create psychedelic looking art. Many local streams in Ohio are toxic and are already an orange color due to acid runoff from abandoned coal mines. This leaves the water supply of the state at risk as well as the people living there. Sabraw has plans to further his and his team’s research and eventually find a profitable way of cleaning contaminated water. This would create a whole new business of sustainably removing pollutants. I appreciate how Sabraw is making something beautiful out of something so horrible. He shares a new style of art without undermining the severity of the issue at hand. This kind of issue is far too common nowadays, as can be seen in the amount of stories of toxin spills presented in Bigelow and Swinehart’s book as well as Bilott’s “Exposure”. Water contamination affects the entire lifestyles of both animals and people. Margaret Curole – a cajun shrimper from Louisiana that suffered from the collapse of the local shrimping industry sums it up by stating, “I don’t trust our government. I don’t trust anybody in power”.
One of my favorite books and movies as a child was “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. This story talks about a man named the Once-ler who stumbles upon open land filled with many beautiful Truffula trees and various kinds of animals. He cut down one tree and created something called a “thneed”, which is essentially a piece of cloth with many purposes. The Lorax is a creature that lives in the land and “…speaks for the trees” as he famously states. The Lorax warns the Once-ler about his actions, but he does not listen. The Once-ler creates a large factory on the land, which eventually cuts down all the trees and causes all the animals to leave. This book does such a good job of simplifying the very real notion of industrialization and consumerism so that children can understand and relate it to their own cities and towns. I believe that it is extremely important for kids to grasp the idea that the Earth is not an unlimited playground of resources and that our actions have consequences. Relating to the Bali Climate Change Principles, this story also touches on biodiversity and how changes in the environment can lead to a drastic and disheartening alteration in life. The book notifies people of what can go wrong if something isn’t done right away, similar to principle #16 that calls for the prevention of the extinction of biodiversity and culture. Additionally, the way that the book ends is very inspiring, especially to younger audiences who can see themselves in the character of the little boy Ted, who is given the last Truffula tree seed to plant and start a new forest. As principle #23 declares, the youth are equal partners in environmental movements against climate change and all kids should know that they can make a difference, despite their small size. I would definitely recommend this story/movie, if anyone has not read/seen it already, to people of all ages looking for an easy and light-hearted read on a modern environmental issue.
An environmental front runner that peaked my interest is Adrianna Quintero. She is an activist based in San Francisco, that founded “Voces Verdes” (Green voices), which is a coalition of latino organizations and businesses that advocate for clean water, working against climate change, and finding renewable resources. She also played a part in the Safe Drinking Water Act and is in charge of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) latino advocacy efforts. Quintero has written many influential reports on environmental threats and their impact on the latino community. Currently, she is on the board of the U.S. Climate Action Network and uses “Voces Verdes” to convey how consequences associated with climate change (droughts, wild fires, flooding, and glacier melting) specifically affect Latin American people and communities. Under this category, falls many indigenous groups that reside in Latin America – one being the Aymara people of Bolivia as mentioned in the “Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change” activity in the Bigelow & Swinehart book. The Aymara people, as well as other groups in Bolivia and Peru have been struggling with Andes glacier melting, which threatens their water supply and the future of their agriculture based lifestyles.