All posts by Devon

Preface

This group of essay’s is dedicated to environmentalism and the importance of saving our environment. This class has not only expanded my knowledge on how to be environmentally conscious, but also my ability to inform others who are interested in the same social issues. The overall theme of my blog posts is to help raise awareness of certain environmental issues within our society.

Each blog post has something uniquely in common, they each consist of a picture of my 2014 trip to Muir Woods in San Francisco, California. This trip inspired a lot of my writing for most of my bog posts. Muir Woods is a beautiful National Monument that has been preserved by the National Park Service for many years. It has been protected by the government thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt who declared it a National Monument on January 9, 1908. It is named after naturalist John Muir, even though the original suggest name was the Kent  Monument.

The main attraction of the park are the beautiful Sequoia Sempervirnes trees, more commonly known as the Coastal Redwoods. The National Monument itself is a Coastal Redwood Forest. The tallest tree in the forest is 258 feet high and the oldest tree is 1.200 years old.

The trip my family took to the Redwood Forest inspired my entire family to become more environmental conscious. It was the beginning steps for us to realize that our actions have consequences in the long run. To be in the forest surrounded by all the Redwood trees, the birds, fish, and all the other animals that make the forest their home is truly an other worldly experience. Being able to place my hand on the bark of a tree that has been alive for hundreds of years was an experience I will never forget. To be deep in the forest completely surrounded by the trees with no technology was an eye opening experience. It gave my family a chance to enjoy being outdoors with no stress of work or other outside influences bothering us. To be able to be separated from technology and industry from the outside world also gave my family a chance to step back and appreciate all that nature has to offer. It is truly a shame that our society is constantly finding new reasons to cut down more trees and pollute our air and water sources, if we do not change these bad habits soon we will find ourselves in a trash filled world.

Our Writing in an Endangered World course this semester has only made these problems stand out more, whether it was learning it through informational texts like Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring, or through novel’s like T.C Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain. All the information we were able to require only makes our generation realize even more the great lengths we must take to slowly start saving our environment. At the beginning of the course I was very unaware of how many current issues were happening involving our environment, and becoming aware has been a long and frustrating process. As we come to the end of the course I hope to encourage not only myself in continuing to stay environmentally conscious, but to spread the word to many others, how important it is to realize that we only have one beautiful environment, and if we destroy it we will never be able to get it back.

 

 

The Wall Between Two Worlds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T.C. Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain is an environmental novel that displays the lives of  two very different married couples and their day to day struggles. Kyra and Delaney are a very self obsessed couple. They constantly obsess about being safe from the Mexicans that lurk in their neighborhood. Kyra and Delaney have experienced many abuses to their neighborhood including graffiti by the accused Mexicans as well as verbal abuse. The many men that represent the Mexicans in this novel are all illegal immigrants that are forced to live off the land because of their inability to make enough money. Kyra and Delaney are also faced with many of nature’s obstacles including the coyotes who attacked and murder both of their dogs.  Their experiences lead them to become obsessed with their own safety.

This is ironic when America and Candido’s lives are compared to Kyra and Delaney’s. America and Candido are from Tijuana and are forced to live in extreme circumstances out in the wilderness because of their lack of money. They are discriminated against which makes it very difficult for them to find steady work. They live in a shack made of branches and poorly made material out in the woods, in hopes of saving enough money to someday buy an apartment with running water and a bedroom. America and Candido’s struggles make Kyra and Delaney’s struggles look pathetic. They are forced to endure extreme circumstances and budget themselves with little to no money. Not only are they forced to live off scraps of food, but they encounter many different enemies while simply trying to survive off the land in the canyon. One unfortunate encounter they have is one day when America is off at work and Candido is forced to stay in their make shift home because of being hit by Delaney’s car.

Candido hides himself in the bushes while white men storm into his home and destroy all his belongings including tarring up America’s only good dress. Not only are they constantly victims of being discriminated against, whether it is in the grocery store or in their own home but America is also a victim of sexual abuse. While coming home from work one day she was walking down the trail  when approached by two strange men. They forced themselves on her, later on the reader learns that this is the cause of her baby’s blindness disability. America being pregnant and being forced to give birth in a shed in someone’s backyard is one of the main points of my argument. She is in danger of causing harm to her  body and her baby. In my opinion, this is the most extreme case of a dangerous situation that Candido and America have been placed in. Neither of them are doctors and are unaware of how to properly care for her or the baby in this situation. Luckily thanks to their experience of living in such extreme conditions, Candido is able to pull together anything that he might need to attempt to care for America and their baby. Boyle writes, “It was the moment Candido had been waiting for. He leaned forward  with a knife and cut the blue cord that was  like a length of a sausage and with a rag dipped in water wiped the mess from the tiny limbs and torso” (T.C Boyle 297). It is very ironic how much more dangerous Candido and America’s lives are yet Kyra and Delaney are the ones obsessed with their safety.

Kyra and Delany come from a very different world then Candido and America do. Kyra and Delaney have a lot of privilege because of their citizenship and material possessions. A reoccurring theme in this novel is racism, represented mostly by Delaney and other white characters. Kyra and Delaney are blind to the abundance of food, clothes, and shelter they are giving access too, making Candido and America’s situation seem even more severe. Candido and America are constantly working, whether it is for money or to preserve what they have of their shelter in the woods. They do not have access to the same kind of luxuries that Kyra and Delaney do because they are not citizens. They are forced to do what it takes to survive, putting them at a huge disadvantage when it comes to trying to find a decent place to live. They have no control when white people come and destroy their home in the woods, and are unable to call for help when Candido is hurt, or America is giving birth in fear of being deported. They are forced to live in the moment taking every day as it comes as apposed to Kyra and Delany who are given the pleasure of being to plan out each day as they desire.

Another ironic part of this novel is that both couples live very close in distance to each other but experience drastically different lives. One major goal that both couples have in common is their wish to be happy and live comfortably, even though their definitions of living comfortably are drastically different. The character Delaney is constantly faced with inner struggles with his fellow white citizens. Although he is racist himself, he does not openly acknowledge this and goes against the popular vote to have the wall build around their houses. Delaney tries to prove himself as a humanist but is unable to step away from the generalizations that other citizens also make about the Mexicans.

This novel has a lot to contribute to our understanding of environmentalism. It is able to clearly paint a picture of two very extremely different environmentalists, and the pros and cons of their way of life. This novel shows how are society is in need of finding a balance between these extreme ways of life and how if we continue to fight amongst  ourselves we will be never be able to come together and find ways to help improve our ways of life to benefitting our environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Mountains

The Practice of The Wild by Gary Snyder is a must read for any interested environmentalist, advanced or amateur. What stood out to me was Gary Synder’s interest in giving different parts of the environment gendered definitions. Synder states, “Mountains also have mystic associations of verticality, spirit, height, transcendence, hardness, resistance, and masculinity. For the Chinese they are exemplars of the “yang” : dry, hard, male, and bright. Waters are feminine: wet, soft, dark “yin” with associations of fluid-but-strong, seeking (and carving) the lowest, soulful, life giving, shape-shifting” (108 Synder). He uses mountains as a symbol to describe the masculine qualities such as dry and hard. He uses water as a symbol to describe the feminine qualities such as wet, soft, and dark. It might be a little bit biased to give those qualities to certain parts of nature, but personally I like the idea. Synder also goes on to describe how mountains are a symbol of independence. They are a very spiritual place free of political control. Mountains and waters push and pull against each other just like the ocean and the moon. They need each other to function properly. “Mountains and Waters are a dyad that together make wholeness possible: wisdom and compassion are the two components of realization” (108 Synder). Water and mountains balance the entire wilderness. They allow living and nonliving beings to continue to grow and expand at their own healthy rate. The journey of water is really beautiful, because everything needs water to survive. “The path of water is such that when it rises to the sky, it becomes raindrops; when it falls to the ground, it becomes rivers” (109 Synder).

 

The Wilderness is a large uncontrollable place. It is beautifully chaotic and anyone who has any appreciation for nature should be fighting to keep our wilderness healthy and beautiful. Synder states that the”Wilderness is a place where the wild potential is fully expressed, a diversity of living and nonliving beings flourishing according to their own sorts of order” (12 Synder). When outside influences become involved and start causing damage to the wilderness it effects the diversity of living and nonliving beings. As a society we have to come together and realize that we cannot control the wilderness. It is Wild, and will adapt for better or for worse no matter what we decide to do to it. We  have to learn to protect our wilderness and to let it remain wild, instead of trying to control it’s every quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clear Cutting

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey is a fantastic novel that tells a great story of the fight of environmentalist and their struggle to fight for their beliefs while protecting the environment. Their famous term, monkeywrench, is defined as sabotaging or damaging any machines or workers who plan to break environmental laws and hurt the environment. The monkeywrenchers goal is to protect the environment and all the living beings in it.

Abbey mentions the term clear cutting on page 229 and many other chapters throughout the novel. Clear Cutting is defined as a logging practice of which many trees in the area are uniformly cut down. Clear Cutting is a form of deforestation, it destroys the homes of many different ecosystems. What many are unaware is that clear cutting destroys the land and all the beings living within a certain mile radius of the location. When clear cutting occurs, the land will most likely never be the same. It will take many decades for the trees to regrow and return to the original state it was in.

Protecting the environment is every characters life long passion. Every character in this novel resorts to sabotaging heavy machinery including bulldozers and even trains. Abbey uses the concept through one of his main characters when he states, “Hayduke thought. Finally the idea arrived. He said, “My job is to save the fucking wilderness. I don’t know anything else worth saving. That’s simple, right?” (Abbey 229).  All these characters care about is saving the wilderness and the ecosystems existing within it. They all live for saving the environment in anyway they can think of, and Hayduke is the most fearless out of all of them. Hayduke stands out as the most courageous character, willing to do anything, even with the danger of the law on his back. If clear cutting continues it will not only destroy many natural habitats, but continue to influence climate change in the long term.

The American Logging Industry has many different uses for the lumber, including houses for the American people to build their very own homes with. Unfortunately it is the most profitable logging method, and although the cleared land could be left for farmers to make use of it could potentially damage the soil and ruin the farmers ability to grow certain crops on the land. Another major issue is the water damage that is caused due to clear cutting. This relates to the issue of the Glen  Canyon Dam that the monkey wrenches search out to destroy.

Clear Cutting can destroy the lands ability to absorb water, and can cause severe flooding to the area. Flooding can result in erosion causing even more damage to ecosystems like fish in nearby lakes or rivers. This can then result in rapid river movement during storms, not only causing damage to our roads but completely eliminate surrounding habitats. Our society needs to come together and stop the government from allowing clear cutting to continue in our forests. There are a lot more negative aspects then positive aspects when clear cutting is involved.

 

 

 

Natural vs. Unnatural

Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams is a memoir that takes the battle of cancer head on. This novel touches upon the beauty of the natural world meanwhile learning how to deal with the unnatural, like the horrible disease of cancer and the effects of nuclear weapons testing during this time period around 1991 in the west.

This memoir is about how to deal with change, and makes many connections between the natural world and the impact that humans have on their surroundings. Williams uses the flooding of the Great Salt Lake and the decline of various bird species at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to make these connections and stress the importance of saving our environment.

Death is a natural part of life, because we are only human we find it very difficult to cope with. Accepting change is a hard task in itself, but to be told by a doctor that you have a disease that puts a time limit on your life is a tragic event to have to deal with. To be a family member of someone with this disease is also tragic, to be forced to watch someone you love struggle is heartbreaking. The most important thing is how you choose to deal with the tragic news, and in Refuge, Diane, Terry’s mother, takes the situation head on and decides she wants her and her family to live their lives to the fullest. “I am slowly, painfully discovering that my refuge is not found in my mother, my grandmother, or even the birds of Bear River. My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change” (Williams 178). Accepting death is a really hard concept to make peace with. Williams has the right idea saying that she must turn to love in order to find her refuge. I cannot even begin to imagine how someone could begin to love death, but maybe if one can find peace and come to terms that it is only a natural part of life, just maybe it will be a little easier to live their lives everyday. The most important thing to realize is that you need to reach out to your loved ones in your time of need. It is very important to have a loving support system when having to face an obstacle as difficult as losing a loved one.

The women in this memoir have a deep connection to the natural world, and feel very passionately about the birds in the refuge. The women are quick to realize the effects of the government because of the rise and fall of the lake.

They realize how most of the birds at the refuge end up disappearing because of their need to find somewhere else more suitable for them to live.

Diane and Terry find solitude in the bird refuge. They use solitude to find peace within themselves and help themselves except the situation that they are inevitably in. They also use solitude to find their own connection in nature. No matter how hard times became for their family, they were always able to turn to the solitude they found in nature to comfort them in their time of need.

Solar Storms – Finding yourself

Solar Storms by Linda Hogan is a coming of age story about a young girl named Angel. It’s about how she comes to discover herself and define her own identity. She learns about her past, where and who she came from. Angel learns how to absorb and except her past, and also how to forgive and forget events and people that she cannot change. This  novel shows that even though your past experiences may shape who you come to be as you grow, you have the power inside yourself to decide who you want to be, no matter the circumstances you find yourself to be in. Even though Angel comes from a really dark past, and has been tainted by the touch of abuse and hatred by others, including her own mother, she is able to overcome the hatred and find love in herself, enabling her to fight for the land she has come to love with her whole heart.

Angel’s mother is where the majority of her abuse and negativity stem from. Angel’s mother Hannah was known to have a “heart of ice” (76), because of all the men that have abused her. Hannah targeted some of this abuse towards Angel, resulting in an attempt on her life when she was just a baby. Not only was she left out in the snow and almost frozen to death, but her mother physically “like a dog, she bit your face with her teeth” (246).  In result this leaves Angel with physical and emotional scars, even after being separated from her mother.

After being moved around from one foster home to another, Angel is finally reconnected with the women who make her whole again, including Dora Rogue,  Agnes, and Bush. These women help her complete her journey of trying to figure out who she is and where she came from. Not only do these women help her find herself but also help her develop a love and understanding of the natural word that surrounds her.

The connection that stood out the most was the connection that Linda Hogan makes between Angel’s abusive past and the abuse that we put our environment through as a culture in society. The symbol of the hydroelectric dam can be translated as a metaphor for the abuse our society causes the natural world. Angel’s goal is to stop the building of the dam, before it floods the land and causes more harm than good. Another connection that I noticed was the connection between the men that abused Angel’s mother Hannah, and the abuse that the dam was causing to the Native people’s land. When Angel is able to make this connection for herself, she finds it in her heart to forgive her mother comparing both abuses. She sees the land “was being drilled to see what else could be taken, looted, and mined before the waters covered this little length of earth” (219).  Just like her mother was being abused by the men until they took every last ounce of love that was in her body.  It is really interesting to see the connection between the abuse of women and the abuse of the earth, and even more ironic to think that if we did not have women or our earth, life wouldn’t even exist in the first place.

In this novel we learn and understand the importance of taking ones past into consideration and not letting hold you back from shaping your future the way you want it to be. This novel also enables us to see the relationship between shaping our self identity and our culture within society as a whole.

One in The Same

Body, Health, Land – Connection = By hurting our land we are hurting our body

Quote: Berry –

Quote: Snyder –

Quote: Carson –

 

Our bodies are one with the land that surrounds us. By causing harm to the land and our environment, we are ultimately hurting our own bodies and health, physically and mentally. There is a connection with our psychological well being, and our physical bodies with the earth. There is also a connection between what we decide to put into our bodies along with the effect it has on not only ourselves but the earth as well.

Most of the time we consider ourselves healthy if we do not feel any pain. Berry suggests that the definition of being healthy is directly related to the concept of being whole. He states, “If the body is healthy, then it is whole. But how can it be whole and yet be dependent, as it obviously is, upon other bodies and upon the earth, upon all the rest of Creation, in fact?” (107 Berry). Our psychological and physical well beings depend upon the earth, similarly to how we depend on other human beings to survive. Unlike how the ocean and moon have a steady balance of push and pull, our connection to the land around us suffers by the way our society decides to treat it.

Another quote that really stood out to me was Berry’s quote, “The body cannot be whole alone” (107 Berry). We depend on the earth to support our overall well being, just like we depend on farmers to grow our food.

When we forget the importance of the earth and all the wonders it is able to produce, it becomes the beginning of a chain reaction, unstoppable violence. “To damage the earth is to damage your children. To despise the ground is to despise its fruit; to despise the fruit is to despise its eaters” (Berry 110). When we begin to damage the earth we alter its appearance for our unborn children’s generation. We risk taking away the beautiful scenery we were able to grow up with, all because of industrialization. To think our future children may not be able to play in the same forests or lay by the same rivers we once did all because no one could speak up for our environment, becomes a very saddening thought. When we begin to add pesticides and other poisons to farms on our earth to get rid of small annoying insects, we fail to realize the long term and greater effects they start to have on our planet, slowly killing everything we should be constantly fighting to protect. If our modern society had the ability to care about our planet in the same way we care about our individual selves, we would make a rapid change to our environment. We are so obsessed with ourselves and our self image that we rarely take the time to consider the effect it has on others and our environment.

Destructive Consiousness

“Some people are less destructive than others, and some are more conscious of their destructiveness than others” (20 Berry).

“For some, their involvement in pollution, soil depletion, strip-mining, deforestation, industrial and commercial waste is simply a “practical” compromise, a necessary “reality” the price of modern comfort and convenience” (21 Berry).

 

We have many choices when it comes to making decisions about our environment. As a society we can continue to live on pretending that we are not destroying our environment, or we can fight back, take action, and do something about it.

It is nearly impossible to not be causing destruction in our every day lives. As Wendell Berry states in his book, The Unsettling of America, “I cannot think of any American whom I know or have heard of, who is not contributing in some way to destruction” (20 Berry). Many people find it very hard, if not impossible, to completely separate ourselves from the technologies and powers that our damaging our environment.

The best way that people can begin to make the distinctions about how to stop causing harm to our environment is to simply start to be aware of it. Take into consideration your everyday activities, and be conscious of what you are doing that you can change. Wendell Berry suggests, “Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live” (Berry 21). It all comes back to this one important decision, are we able to make a change, that could in the long term be life changing ?

Depending on who you are and how you decide to live your life, it may vary how conscious you are of the destruction you may cause.

Mysterious Turtle Island

For Nothing

“Earth a flower,

A phlox on the steep

slopes of light

hanging over the vast

solid spaces small rotten crystals;

salts.

Earth a flower

by a gulf where a raven

flaps by once

a glimmer, a color

forgotten as all

falls away.

A flower

for nothing;

an offer;

no taker;

Snow-trickle, feldspar, dirt” (Snyder 34).

Most of Gary Snyder poetry is dedicated to the mysterious wonders of the earth. In his book Turtle Island, every poem has some connection to nature and life as we know it.  The poem For Nothing stood out to me because it talks about Earth as if it were a flower. This poem mentions some of earths basic functions with some contrasting images like in the line, “small rotten crystals.” Crystals are suppose to be beautiful sparkling energy producing sources, but because of this poems negative tone he mentions them as rotten, in other words, useless. Or as Gary Snyder would probably say, For Nothing. In the next stanza he refers to a raven, and how all is forgotten and falls away. I believe that these stanzas, especially the last one where he refers to,

“A flower

for nothing;

an offer;

no taker;” (Snyder 34).

that we are hurting and destroying earth in many different ways, and that everything we do to try and make it better, is all for nothing if we continue to cause harm to the earth.

 

The Dazzle

“the dazzle, the seduction the

design

intoxicated and quivering,

bees? is it flowers? why does this seed move around.

the one

divides itself, divides, and divides again.

“we all know where that leads”

blinding storms of gold pollen.

-grope through that?

the dazzle

and the blue clay.

“all that moves, loves to sing”

the roots are at work.

unseen.” (Snyder 65).

This poem contrasts from For Nothing because it has a more positive tone to it. Instead of giving negative images, it gives many positive images like, a seed planted in the ground, dividing and growing larger and larger. Another positive image this poem gives us in contrast to the For Nothing poem is the image of the roots of a trees being hard at work, but unable to be seen by the human eye because they are underground. The line “blinding storms of golden pollen” also really stood out, giving the reader the idea of what a plant or tree would be like when it is fully grown.

The Dangers of DDT

In Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring she explains how DDT  was a chemical used in many pesticides. Even forty years later after it was banned in the U.S , we still live with its long lasting effects. One of the saddest and most brutal effects is the loss of ATP molecules in birds eggs because of the overwhelming application of DDT molecules. Baby chicks fail to develop because their fertilization process becomes interrupted by the poison of the DDT molecules. The baby chick eggs have to be able to produce ATP molecules to get the baby chicks to term and hatch. If the ATP molecules cannot reach the mitochondria within the cell then the cell cannot begin to divide and carry the embryo to produce a new born baby chick. The baby chick will die if the egg cells will not divide and produce enough cells. “The fires of life that flickered for a few days now extinguished” (Carson 206). It is so sad that the effects of DDT are damaging the beautiful life of our environment, leaving eggs of many types of bird eggs cold and lifeless. Farmers and gardeners need to stop using harmful pesticides that could spread and ruin the oxidation process of the baby chick eggs. “Knowing that DDT and other (perhaps all) chlorinated hydrocarbons stop the energy-producing cycle by inactivating a specific enzyme or uncoupling the energy-producing mechanism, it is hard to see how any egg so loaded with residues could complete process of development” (Carson 206). Knowing that the effects of DDT are able to end life, why do people in our society still use harmful pesticides? It will only be a matter of time before more species of animals experience a large impact on deaths at birth because of DDT. Not only animals, but humans will also suffer greatly if the spread of the poisons continues to spread. If we cannot stop using these harmful poisons on our environment, the cells could stop producing altogether and become malignant. We are at risk for causing damage to chromosomes and causing mutations to many species including our own. If our society does not find a new way to keep our environment free of harmful pesticides we will be forced deal with the life ending consequences. We must be able to come together and raise awareness of the many issues we have developed because of the use of DDT. Taking a look Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is the perfect way to understand the cause and effect of these issues, and how to take the best steps in preventing anymore long term damage to our environment.