Preface

A “Life Lesson”, a concept or idea that brings reflection or experience to mind. A “lesson” also implies the idea of trial and error, something that is as old as mankind itself. Although we often learn our lessons, it often takes time to act on our new knowledge. My goal of this project was to relay the knowledge we gained in this class onto a different space.

This class, the projects and the blogs we produced for it became a dynamic and highly interesting outlet for creative writing, as well as self-education about some of the biggest problems we have in our world. As a student, I feel like my primary goal is to educate myself in a way that will benefit myself, the environment and our society. The field of environmentalism is concentrated in the betterment of the human race, it is of its core principles. The texts we read have been challenging, raising questions that I had never addressed before. Examining these ethical dilemmas has been a challenge but it serves a noble purpose.

We must come together as a people to address the problems we have: our excessive pollution, the overuse of dangerous and harmful materials as well as the worlds need for sustainable living practices. To fail to address these issues will eventually lead to a devastating point of no return for our natural world. If we actively try to transition our lives away from this direction, then we will be able to spend more time building for a better future. The lessons we have learned from these texts allow us to do so.

The opportunity to work with such gifted and talented peers, with a brilliant professor at our helm has opened up a center for productive discussion and development as students. One of the recurring themes of environmental literature is the idea of people coming together and working towards a common goal. We live in such a diverse and beautiful world, with so many brilliant cultures and people, all of which show a shared love for our world in one way or another. The different authors we have read have shared this principle idea. Gary Snyder, very often has a peaceful and unifying style of writing, the kind that seeks to destroy the social constructions that prevent people from understanding each other and working together.

The classroom helped create a contextual basis, with which to base or knowledge off, only to expand and contrast the views we share. The use of a WordPress Blog has allowed us to relay our information in a variety of ways. I believe this plays an essential role in the development process. The blog creates another form of identity, a writer.

Communication has been and will always be an essential part of our society and culture, literature, media and other types of art included. It is an outlet for creative expression that can also stand as an impactful message for all those who see it. I have found that the communication that occurred in our class proved to be key in understanding and processing material. The blogs proved to be an artistic challenge,  but I found strength in the transition from my preferred style of writing to something more appropriate for the online platform.

In a day in age where media is a growing presence, people are drawn to it as their primary means of reading about current events or even just reading for pleasure. There are pros and cons to this, as it shows that selective distribution of information is highly practiced and easily done. This project is aimed to eliminate this factor and produce an educational and entertaining program that serves to deliver the world environmentalism to you.

I have learned about the simplicity and specificity of Environmentalism, a complicated and diverse movement. The key to humanity’s success lies within us, as a people. Our surroundings are our resources and one another is our support. Together we can reach a common goal of saving our Earth and sticking together as people.

My collection of essays is a reflection of the Life Lessons I have learned while reading environmental literature. Those who absorb and contribute the valuable information in this field have unimaginable potential to make an active change in this beautiful world we call home.

TC BOYLE

“The whole thing had happened so quickly. One minute he was winding his way up the canyon with a backseat full of newspapers, mayonnaise jars and Diet Coke cans for the recycler, thinking nothing, absolutely nothing, and the next thing he knew the car was skewed across the shoulder in a dissipating fan of dust. The man must have been crouching in the bushes like some feral thing, like a stray dog or bird-mauling cat, and at the last possible moment he’d flung himself across the road in a mad suicidal scramble. There was the astonished look, a flash of mustache, the collapsing mouth flung open in a mute cry, and then the brake, the impact, the marimba rattle of the stones beneath the car, and finally, the dust. The car had stalled, the air conditioner blowing full, the voice on the radio nattering on about import quotas and American jobs. The man was gone. Delaney opened his eyes and unclenched his teeth. The accident was over, already a moment in history” (17-18).

Boyle captures a surreal moment in the first chapter of the book. It opens up the plot of two men and their families, their personal feelings and plights. Boyle captures this especially with his blunt honesty to the reality of the setting. 1990s California is presented in The Tortilla Curtain as a volatile place, on the brink of social unrest. Delaney, one of two main characters is a privileged man who is frustrated with the growing presence of Mexican people in his town. His racist and bigoted views are clear pretty early. Delaney’s ignorance reinforces many of the social expectations and misconceptions that arise in the plot. While some of his personal views are radical, Delaney is a hard-working man who provides for his family and dislikes the destruction to the natural world.

As we discussed in class, Delaney has a sort of “Environmental Interest” that regards his hiking habits. In truth, Delaney’s frustration mostly comes from Candido and America’s shack built in the middle of the natural landscape.

“The whole thing had happened so quickly. One minute he was winding his way up the canyon with a backseat full of newspapers, mayonnaise jars and Diet Coke cans for the recycler, thinking nothing, absolutely nothing, and the next thing he knew the car was skewed across the shoulder in a dissipating fan of dust. The man must have been crouching in the bushes like some feral thing, like a stray dog or bird-mauling cat, and at the last possible moment he’d flung himself across the road in a mad suicidal scramble. There was the astonished look, a flash of mustache, the collapsing mouth flung open in a mute cry, and then the brake, the impact, the marimba rattle of the stones beneath the car, and finally, the dust. The car had stalled, the air conditioner blowing full, the voice on the radio nattering on about import quotas and American jobs. The man was gone. Delaney opened his eyes and unclenched his teeth. The accident was over, already a moment in history”(28).

Boyle hides some of Delaney’s racist tendencies behind these sort of situations. His views are still very rooted in poorly constructed ideas, but it becomes clear that he is a simple and fragile man. Delaney’s simple characteristics are representing an overwhelming statistic of people in America, the privileged and disconnected from the realities of today’s world.

We used the board in class to distribute the qualities of Candido and Delaney: the way the two are affected by each-other is important to explain each character using the other as a reinforcement or testament to that sort of character.

 

Wild Essay: Water-Hole, here, there and everywhere..

Water-holes, the word beginning the essay, appears to be a symbol as well as a physical location of major importance. I think about an open and barren safari wilderness, parched of life and lush greens. But, in the middle of this wasteland, an open pool of blue crisp water, waiting to refresh and quench the thirsts of all who wander towards it. It is a soothing thought, a thought pertaining to an area untouched or undisturbed by man.  Although this sounds like an overly vibrant description, it comes to mind. Water has a strange way of connecting all living things.

Beyond our chemical make-up being composed of mostly water, it is an essential part of our physical lives. It has an archetypal presence in the literary world as well as our human world. ” In the hunting and gathering way of life, the whole territory of a given group is fairly equally experienced by everyone. Those wild and sacred spots have many uses. There are places where women go for seclusion, places where the bodies of the dead are taken, and spots where young men and women are called for special instruction. Such places are numinous, loaded with meaning and power” (124-5). The Earth is a shared space, home to all that populate it. When I think of the term “Waterhole” Snyder’s essay embodies the togetherness that it as a location provides.   “A place kept by custom open to all” (126). For a culture, this might mean a place of worship, a connection to the natural world that spawned life as we know it. For an inner city, this could be the public pool where you meet friends, family, maybe you’re significant other for a day of leisure.  “Very powerful. Very much in mind. We learned later that it was indeed a place where young men were taken for ceremony” (128)

Although the ideas behind the two examples may be vastly different at an initial glance, it embodies the same ideals.  It is a habitual behavior that is defined by our respective culture. Water, is the major recurring idea behind this essay, the way it runs through us all. Snyder uses descriptive language in all of these essays, using various natural elements as a pattern. Snyder often reiterates the importance of understanding his writing, not just reading it. To be consciously thinking about “Environmentalism” is to be thoroughly dissecting his work.

I’ve had a similar experience of my own when pondering the complexities of water within the human world. My father and I often take trips to Salisbury, Massachusetts to visit my uncle. Very often, when the weather is nice, my father and I enjoy walking the full length of the Hampton Beach strip, just over the border in Seabrook, New Hampshire. The strip has changed its identity throughout the years. Once home to the Mob, dive-bars and dark corners, the area has cleaned up, outfitted with a new identity, of steel jungle gyms and resort style chairs lining the far edge. Imported South American blond sands line the beaches now, a contrast from the grainy and pebble-covered beaches just across the border.

As we walk we comment on the everlasting beauty of the ocean, a mere hundred yards from the strip. The line between man-made and entirely natural is virtually non-existent to most who stroll the beaches. Does this knowledge even matter on a beautiful walk along the beach? I believe it does, and that is the message I believe Snyder is trying to convey. The natural world is a fragile spectacle, it’s beauty unmatched by anything man-made.

The water-hole, an idea that can be defined or experienced by a variety of circumstances. For me, the Water-Hole is a place of meeting, recognition, and appreciation for the living things around you. My father and I walk the strip as an appreciation for the biggest body of life besides us, our watering hole,  it is everyone’s.

The line that defines one side from the next is increasingly blurry. The problems plaguing our environment are being ignored by those who have yet to understand. Those people, then cover the eyes of those they convince, to dismiss the biggest problem of our generation.

 

The Monkey Wrench Gang: Wrecking Crew

The Monkey Wrench Gang is easily the most radical book we’ve read in class thus far. The mix of wild character personas and an action filled plot is a contrast from some of the scientific data and fact we’ve read in Rachel Carson or Wendell Berry. The identities and characters of the text are the best element of the text. Abbey uses these characters to create/simulate identities for the radical environmental counter-culture.

Edward Abbey also introduces a variety of characters, identities, and personalities that both feed off and destroy each other. Hayduke is a great example of an expansive character who undergoes major changes to his lifestyle when he joins the gang. The  text spends a little time with Hayduke in the beginning. You learn about his military past and how that has developed his persona into that of a hard worker with a rough edge.

“He had bought the jeep, a sandstorm-blasted sun-bleached blue, in San Diego from a team of car dealers named Square Deal Andy and Top Dollar Johnny. The fuel pump had given out first, near Brawley, and at Yuma, limping off the freeway with a flat, he discovered that Square Deal had sold him (for only $2795, it’s true) a jeep without a jack. Small problems: he liked this machine; he was pleased with the handy extras—roll bars, auxiliary gas tank, mag rims and wide-tread tires, the Warn hubs and the Warn winch with 150-foot cable, the gimbal-mounted beer-can holder screwed to the dash, the free and natural paint job” (33). I find this quote very funny, Abbey uses everyday misfortune and humor of a deceitful car salesman to justify Hayduke’s initial anger. Although the text is fictional, I find this quote to be major, without this weird hiccup in his plans, Hayduke may never have come across Smith as he did. The early origins of Hayduke also shown revealing his nasty and growing drinking problem. This is highlighted especially when Abbey notes Hayduke’s preferred method of keeping time while on the road.

“He drank another beer as he drove along. Two and a half six-packs to Lee’s Ferry. Out there in the open Southwest, he and his friends measured highway distances in per-capita six-packs of beer. L.A. to Phoenix, four six-packs; Tucson to Flagstaff, three six-packs; Phoenix to New York, thirty-five six-packs. (Time is relative, said Heraclitus a long time ago, and distance a function of velocity. Since the ultimate goal of transport technology is the annihilation of space, the compression of all Being into one pure point, it follows that six-packs help. Speed is the ultimate drug and rockets run on alcohol. Hayduke had formulated this theory all by himself” (35).

This quote stands out as a snapshot of a way of life that was far simpler than the world we know today. Although crushing beers on a desert highway is far from responsible, it is seen as a minor crime in comparison to half of the activities tied to the gang. In today’s world,  if such a gang were to come together, drunk-driving and binge-drinking would probably be a clear indicator that someone is unprepared or immature about the cause. But in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, our relationship with alcohol had not fully changed, as is shown.

Doc and Bonnie show an interesting relationship as well. With a noticeable age difference and appearance, the two make an odd couple. But, I believe Abbey did this on purpose, introducing a “couple”, who defy most cultural expectations about dating or love for that matter. Bonnie, exceeds her role as “employee” due to the sexual nature of her relationship with Doc. She exceeds to a point where it is obvious, that Doc has grown very dependent on his bright and beautiful partner. Unfortunately, Bonnie does not hide that the Doc’s financial stability is key in her presence, but not the extent of her feelings. She truly cares for the man, as she knows he is kind by nature and as the plot continues, a loyal member to his cause. Doc’s role as a pacifist is an interesting choice. It is for that reason, that climactic action doesn’t bury the protagonists early. The line between a violent and non-violent attack blurs throughout the book. Without Doc’s passive and anti-violence ways, the plot could have carried out much differently. For instance, if Hayduke had led the assaults, the safety of all the gang would certainly be in his hands, a risky move.

Abbey employs Smith as well as a median point between the other two Male protagonists. He possesses the energy and willingness of a Hayduke. Smith shares his dislike for the changing landscape and new construction, a clear indicator of what side he’s on. When it comes time to act and deliver their message, Smith has a reserved side that is similar to Doc.  His age allows him to keep up with the others with ease. The characters, together, create a perfect image of a non-violent resistance group, full of diversity and vitality. In short, I believe Abbey created the ideal gang for him, his associates and everyone who believed the things he did.

 

Refuge

My Nanny and I, Sept. 2015

What defines solitude? Is it the absence of other people, familiar surroundings, or is it simply a state of mind that one reaches based on their own feelings and thoughts? Terry Tempest Williams exhibits a variety of ways that we can view the concept of solitude. She uses a variety of experiences, including those of her family, to shape and define the obscure and challenging term.

Terry’s Mother encounters “solitude” or the idea of it while fighting her cancer. Several times she admits that her definition of solitude changes with her experiences. Refuge is written in a virtuous tone, very conscious of family and ethical values within a community. William’s struggle to understand the disease and the destruction it leaves in its wake. Simultaneous to the problems of William’s family, the Bird Sanctuary of Salt Lake is slowly being flooded and damaged more and more by rising levels of lake water. The destruction is slow and mostly irreparable, similar to the devastating and quick power that cancer can have on a body.  William’s use of descriptive language allows the reader to process her text as a story, opening up her life as if the reader was there with them. Not all stories of disease end in sadness and despair. Refuge helps illustrate the wide spectrum of thoughts and ideas that go hand and hand with life and death. Terry creates this perspective by addressing both her thoughts as well as those around her.

I hadn’t thought about the concept of solitude being a shared experience. Solitude,  by the nature of the word, gives me thoughts of an enclosed presence. Williams breaks down this expectation, showing that personal perspective often shows true feelings. The word seems to symbolically clash with the title “Refuge”. Refuge implies an escape from something, danger or a troubling pursuit, wheres solitude breaks away all outside influences. Certain circumstances, as our society has shown, has linked the term to incarceration. Prisoners who misbehave or break the rules can end up in “solitary confinement”. When I think about the term “solitude” this is the image that my mind conjures. So when the term was used by William’s, her mother, as a feeling associated with cancer, I was truly shocked.

I have seen Cancer take the lives of family members. Recently, this was my Grandmother on my Mother’s side. Janet Roy, passed away surrounded by her family and friends after Lung Cancer had taken her. She confronted her disease with the same ferocity and spirit that she had running throughout her persona. As her time grew shorter, we noticed that “Nanny” as we grandkids affectionately called her, was coming to terms with her mortality. She knew that the disease separated her from the rest of us, even though we all wished to help fight the battle anyway we could. She knew she was headed towards a “good death”.

We’ve discussed the concept of “Good Death” in my Civil War class, the Western Hemisphere based idea of being with family and friends, looking upon familiar faces, at your home, with someone to listen to your last words, your mark left on the Earth. Nanny knew she was headed towards this “good death”, and in the end, I believe that thought and reality, was a refuge within itself. The Cancer, her mortal wound, had certainly secluded her into a solitude of being the case. She was not, by any means, locked out or trapped away from the loving embrace of life and family in the time she had.

I see similarities in Refuge to my nanny’s fight with Cancer. It tells a story of triumph, and defeat, as well as love and hate, natural and unnatural aspects of our world. One of the biggest challenges that’s seen on all levels of life, is mortality. The idea of death is present everywhere there is life.

Solar Storms: A Personally Natural Development.

The Coming-Of-Age story has been used many times in our world’s literature to interpret or explain some of the challenging lessons we face in our early lives. Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms uses the coming-of-age format to illustrate an ongoing struggle of land annexation and racial prejudice that indigenous people of North America face even today. Hogan uses the protagonist’s development of maturity and growing knowledge to better understand and the problems she deals with.

Hogan gives the character a dark past that is not initially revealed to the reader, with hints about the horrors and difficulty faced before the novel begins. “In my life this far, there had been two places, two things that shaped and moved me, two things that were my very own, that I did not ever leave behind or allow to have taken from me. They were like rooms I inhabited, rooms owned, not rented. One, the darkest, was a room of fear, fear of everything—silence, closeness, motionlessness and how it made me think and feel. Fear was what made me run, from homes, from people. Moving made me feel as if I left that fear behind, shed it like a skin, but always, slowly, a piece at a time, it would find me again; and then I would remember things that had never quite shaped themselves whole” (Hogan 43).

This quote stands out to me in a multitude of ways. I believe this is Hogan directly linking Angel to her ancestors, the native people who were systematically killed or relocated throughout the 17th, 18th, 19th as well as 20th century. The coming-of-age story has grown commonly in Native American literature, with genocide, family dysfunction and social disruption all recurring themes.

She shares a haunting past, her family history shrouded in mystery, it is not surprising that this girl struggled to make sense of her surroundings in the first half of the text. Angel grows to respect and enjoy the company of those around her as time passes, but learns to adjust and accept others. Although some personal values are contrasting, the women she encounters all share the same respect for the ecology of their land and their people. It is also important to remember that often, the native people would not identify their practices as that of Western Civilization, but one of their own respective land and or ecosystem. This concept has long puzzled European settlers who failed to understand or adopt the way of life long held by the native people. Instead, it became pursued as a threat and poison to American society. Many tribes had sacred animals that were a major part of their religious and natural connection to the Earth.

“There were tribes of bears in those days. They were around for thousands of years, clear back to when we lived by the laws of nature. A bear could only be killed at a certain time of the year and that was for meat and medicine and fur. Even then it was a rare thing when an Indian killed a bear, because bears resemble men” (82).

This particular quote stands out to me as it shows a shows an active knowledge of the other inhabiting organisms, and the choice to sustainably hunt them, even if needed. Agnes is depicted removing all parts of a special bear she had tried to save in this emotional flashback, “When all the life had flowed out of it, Agnes took the knife and slid it under the skin. I went to her. “What are you doing?” I said, but she didn’t answer me. She knew I’d been there all along, and that I was crying. It was hard work to skin and quarter the bear. She removed the liver, the heart. She knew that bear inch by inch, where every muscle joined bone” (85).

This sort of practice is recurring in Native American literature, where the relationship between man and beast is closer to “natural neighbor” than prey. Although the role the animal might play is defined as sustenance, the respect is universal. The relationship between Native Americans and the physical land of North America have ties that date back thousands of years before European settlers arrived. For this reason, the natural elements that play in human life are far more substantial than that of the recent few centuries. Angel also has in addition begun to understand the darker side of the human being as her past is opened up. 

It is revealed that multiple matriarchs of her family, Loretta as well as Hannah, had suffered immensely in their lifetimes. The pain that they shared is in a way, bottled up inside of poor Angel, who shows volatility at certain points throughout the text, But like our Earth, the inflicted pain on the body shows at some point. I believe that Angel and her relatives are representative of our Earth as well as the indigenous people of North America. Years and Years of oppression and pain has left a host of problems that are beginning to affect the future of these people.

Recurring Themes in Our Environmental World: Trial and Error

The texts we’ve read in class have offered a descriptive ad intellectual insight to the established and growing field of environmentalism. From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America, we have read and understood the argument of the author. We have processed their data, their proposed evidence, we have discussed it, for it’s ethical as well logical significance. The texts we read are impactful, sometimes this comes in a brutally honest manner. Time after time again, we sit back and think to ourselves, “Damn they are completely right”. Part of what makes them right is that they acknowledge that there is not a sole answer for the growing problems, but they must be solved working together, addressing all fields and covering all bases.

So why do some fight back against the progress of science? I don’t believe there is one answer to that question or the many that follow it. We discussed in class the dangers of “specialized thinking” or what too much weight on one end of the spectrum might do. The exclusion of certain subjects is always a result. The key is a balance, an equal understanding or at least an acknowledgment of all parts of the working machine. Wendell Berry discusses the role of “traditional agriculture” and its struggle to survive in a growing commercially economic world. “The attitudes and values of traditional agriculture still survive in our time and are supported by the experience of our time. Their survival is marginal and is mostly ignored both by the colleges of agriculture and by the agricultural press, which, if they acknowledge it at all, do so in order to treat it with contempt. But survivors do exist. They are connected by a sort of network that one travels by hearsay and friendship. By now I have encountered a good many of them, and have been impressed as often by the excellence of their characters as by the excellence of their farms. They are people of principle, both stubborn and adventurous, independent enough to trust their own experience and strong enough to hold in considerable isolation to truths not officially or popularly favored” (Berry 294).

I bolded some of the points I believe reinforce the dangers of specialized thinking. The survival through time stands out as an example of how a progressive world can push out old ways of thinking. The “experience”, allows the participant to make the active choice, as they possess the knowledge to make that choice. Some people make their decisions because they know nothing else or have no other realistic option. The terms “hearsay and friendship” just bring a happy thought to mind. If humans, want to make progress in the field of environmentalism, we must work together. Togetherness and unity are one of the recurring themes of environmentalism. We must seek similarities over differences, as true progress cannot be made when invisible differences get in the way.

Rachel Carson focuses one chapter specifically on the direct consequences of mankind’s meddling with dangerous poisons and toxins, she titles in “The Human Price”. I believe this was another effort to erase the lines in the sand that humanity has drawn for itself to fight over. This title was to reach out and say “Hey, this is a problem that applies to you me and everyone in-between. No one is immune to these chemicals or the effects they have on our genes. Carson outlines the message at hand, “Now our major concern is no longer the disease organisms that were once omnipresent; sanitation, better living conditions, and new drugs have given us a high degree of control over infectious disease. Today we are concerned over a different kind of hazard that lurks in our environment–a hazard we ourselves have introduced into our world as our modern way of life has evolved” (Carson 187).  

We must expand the lens through which we view our world and all that live here. The bias of one field of study can easily suppress or distract mankind from important information elsewhere. As a people, we must come together and re-think our way of educating. Environmentalism must be on the ground floor of education, as it is the future of healthy living for all the organisms of Earth.

 

 

A Willow tree on the 11th fairway, a rare sight in Berkshire County.

Although we may not be able to keep the past. If we can preserve and conserve it accordingly to our own actions and decisions, we stand a chance at keeping it as pretty as the pictures. Guha addresses the idea that politics plays a bigger role than we can understand. In chapter 7, he outlines that contributors come from all backgrounds, “This book has highlighted thinkers and movements from the First and Third Worlds, but has thus far left unmentioned the people and territories in between” (Guha 125).

Guha includes the notion that politics play far more into this field than we can see with the naked eye. He addresses some countries inability to act for themselves, some governments disregarding the rights of their citizens for purely capital reasons. The differences that have come about in Earth and mankind’s short history are by no means comparable to the time it took for Earth to become inhabitable at all. The least we can do is adjust the sails for the sake of taking care of our universal body in space. The questions and ideas that come to mind when discussing such things can be challenging. That is what makes this problem one of great importance, as it applies to every single one of us.

Wendell Berry: An Environmental Hammer.

What is the character of the human being? Do we create our own or does the character create us? The questions are a bit challenging. Wendell Berry titles the second chapter of his book The Unsettling of America: “The Ecological Crisis as a Crisis of Character”. We discussed in class what a crisis of character might be or how we might interpret an example of it. Wendell Berry does this in a direct condemnation of what we might consider a “crisis of character”: “The Sierra Club, for example, had owned stocks and bonds in Exxon, General Motors, Tenneco, steel companies “having the worst pollution records in the industry,” Public Service Company of Colorado, “strip-mining firms with 53 leases covering nearly 180,000 acres and pulp-mill operators cited by environmentalists for their poor water pollution controls.” (Berry 47). The aforementioned companies actions are a perfect example, as it shows that the Sierra Club, in a sense, compromised some of their traits, as part to a building of their character.

Malicious intent often isn’t behind the “mask” of the men and women who commit the crisis of character. But it is sometimes through the ignorance of not knowing enough is when the actions are committed, often it is about circumstance. The idea that the members of these societies would profit off companies is such a abstract and strange thought. But nothing can be perfect right?  The later members would learn to understand they can only try to fix their mistakes, without erasing them, “These investments proved deeply embarrassing once they were made public, but the Club’s officers responded as quickly as possible by making appropriate changes in its investment policy. And so if it were only a question of policy, these investments could easily be forgotten, dismissed as aberrations of the sort that inevitably turn up now and again in the workings of organizations” (47).

Even today, the deceitful ways still exist in an advertising-based world. Picking up most bottles of Dawn Dish Soap today, you might see a small animal, most likely being washed or in the process of drying from a bath of Dawn Soap. You might smile and get the bottle just for that reason. I distinctly remember this Ad campaign starting in reaction to a series of oil spills throughout the world. Although it is a noble cause to actively try to find the best way to clean all affected animal. One might wonder how much money is being made of a plight to fix a massive corporations error? These questions are addressed in The Unsettling of America, along with many of the problems that would plague the natural world in the coming decades.

First, to understand some of the statements Berry makes, one has to understand their role in the ecology of our world. Berry also discusses our reliance on conveniences of life, like fossil fuels and all the trades that play into the consumption of these resources. Our species has grown so reliant on our ways of life, that simple adjustments to the system or the slightest lack of control can cause a severe backlash. This shows that we have to address our personal consumption problems before we can truly make progress. Some have already seen the cause and effect, and disregard the valuable information that could be used. Berry points out, it is often the heads of big companies that bury or seek to discredit this information.

“The split between what we think and what we do is profound. It is not just possible, it is altogether to be expected, that our society would produce conservationists who invest in strip-mining companies, just as it must inevitably produce asthmatic executives whose industries pollute the air and vice-presidents of pesticide corporations whose children are dying of cancer. And these people will tell you that this is the way the “real world” works. They will pride themselves on their sacrifices for “our standard of living.” They will call themselves “practical men” and “hardheaded realists.” And they will have their justifications in abundance from intellectuals, college professors, clergymen, politicians. The viciousness of a mentality that can look complacently upon disease as “part of the cost” would be obvious to any child. But this is the “realism” of millions of modern adult” (48).

We saw this sort of opposing action meet Rachel Carson after the publication of Silent Spring, where people tried to discredit her and the years of research that produced Silent Spring. According to Linda Lear’s Introduction in Silent Spring, “Carson questioned the moral rights of government to leave its citizens unprotected from substances they could neither physically avoid or publicly question” (Carson xv).

Berry incorporates some of the same messages about exposing the government for their corrupt and hypocritical practices. In essence, Berry’s The Unsettling of America is a similar rhetorical, informational piece, created to accurately educate about a growing problem.

 

The Intense & Subtle Language of Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

The title of Turtle Island brings to mind images of a giant beast, laying dormant as an entire host of species live and thrive on its back. Would the turtle still be alive? Most likely not, as our treatment of this planet, especially the North American continent, has done more destruction to the natural world than aid it. But where do we cut our losses and attribute the damage to modern development, essential to all that we do as humans in this day and age? The descriptive and beautifully honest poems of  Turtle Island help create another lens in which to view environmentalism, similar to that of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

“The Father is the Void The Wife Waves  Their child is Matter. Matter makes it with his mother And their child is Life, a daughter. The Daughter is the Great Mother Who, with her father/brother Matter as her lover, Gives birth to the Mind” (Snyder 11).

Snyder’s book Turtle Island simplifies and intensifies the way in which we view our world and how humans have interacted with Earth. It draws more beautiful, articulate and abstract language to a subject with much room for description. One is challenged to think about the life they live and the decisions that they may have made. The tone is constantly flowing and changing, showing a variety of themes without the straying of the message and major theme too much. Why do these poems matter? They matter because the message they convey is one of unity, not only on “Turtle Island”, but with the rest of our planet, Earth.

Personally, Environmentalism and its values are better understood when there is compromise present.  Seeking similarities instead of differences in method are key to progress as a whole. I believe Snyder addresses the social problems to show that true progress cannot be made if issues of inequality and prejudice still have power.  The political aspects of the poems are what truly gives these poems their bite, as Snyder’s personal bias shows that he will directly condemn those who violate and destroy nature and the organisms that make it up.

The scenes described in the poems are usually of the betrayal of the natural relationship between man and beast, man, abusing his neighbor, using natural resources carelessly, without taking into consideration what might happen as a result of their action. The men who make these decisions are condemned for their actions, as the animals, plants and sometimes people cannot speak up for themselves. The biggest tyrants and bullies of our world have been those who suppress our ability to speak out and know the truth. The men who act on behalf of the corporations are cast aside as simply uncaring and uninformed pawns in a much larger capitalist plot, their actions one part of a big machine that has been running consistently. 

7th Green

While I don’t believe the damage of pesticide use, logging and mono-crop farming was always foreseen, much better measures could have been taken to ensure the safety and stability of these practices at their given time. The malicious intent of destroying our natural world is certainly present in society today, but the knowledge of today’s scientific community acts as a conscience. Some of those made those mistakes in the past did it out of ignorance, a lack of knowledge of the true toxicity of these practices to Earth. The battle between logic and morals is apparent in the environmental field. When does one stop thinking about themselves in such a centralized way? I think it’s also important to note that future generations have been brought up with an understanding of environmentalism that was not available to previous generations.

The years of research and developments in the field allow students like myself to have an informed and unbiased opinion. This was not always the social norm, as before the nineteen-fifties and sixties, conforming was much more the norm for young people. Do as you’re told, and do it well, this view has left the most American people, who have grown to be independent in a variety of ways. Environmentalist views fall in line with this. Gary Snyder was a poet of the Beat Movement, was a free thinker and a voice for many of the young people reading into the environmentalist movement of that time. Reading his work now gives context to a growing movement that is running out of time to make real change occur. 

Silent Spring: a Persuasive Tale of Truth.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring challenges those who read it with questions and answers regarding the way humans have exploited the natural world and the ways in which they do so. This is done mostly by identifying and thoroughly examining the use of toxic chemicals in our environment and their effect throughout the course of time. Carson uses both scientific data as well as a persuasive argument against their use.

Carson also takes the social responsibility of condemning those who put so many lives in danger. She overcomes the societal expectations of her time period and does so with grace. Brains always seem to beat brawn, and Carson proves this with her vast scientific knowledge, eloquent use of language, and respectful subtlety.

Carson’s use of beautiful, poetic language allows the reader to imagine vividly what Carson describes. “In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines. The foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the fall mornings” (Carson 1). This quote reminds me of what one might imagine as the stereotypical American town. Carson’s description brings picturesque images I can imagine when I think of my hometown. The destruction of environments like this has shown a continuous cause and effect cycle. Carson’s book provides evidence that man is directly correlated with the destruction and misuse of our environment.

As a class we have addressed the idea that Carson brings to mind about pesticide use, she quotes Jean Rostand, “The obligation to endure gives us the right to know” (Carson 13). This quote truly challenges the ethics of man and the role ethics play in our capitalist world, how the decisions of just a few people can impact so many others. Carson attacks the administrations that allowed the use of toxins on unsuspecting people: We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge. If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such notion (12-13).

Carson uses the Founding Father’s legacy of our democracy’s most precious laws, oldest documents to be a common point made when addressing modern issues with dated policies. Some basic principles Although many of our country’s most prolific documents stand only to protect citizens, there have been instances where interpretations disregard those it suppose to represent.  It further continues the repeating theme of cause and effect.

Carson uses information from many different sources and colleagues in the scientific field. The use of primary sources gives credibility that hadn’t been seen in the environmentalism field before. The personal connections help show that there was an underground movement that had long been heating up, Rachel Carson helped bring it to full boil. So where is the support for this? No one person is completely spared of the exposure on our Earth, as we all share it.

Although some may face more difficulty than others, it is a collective problem that everyone alive has inherited. We all should share the same interest in finding out more about the consequences of our actions, and how we can take more responsible measures when using our Earth. The impact of this book still has relevance today, especially within this recent year. Imagine the publication of a text with similar themes and impact as Silent Spring, which condemns the actions of certain groups with dignity and respect, without the unrealistic bias that extreme writing can create. This sort of writing is what truly gives the reader a claim, argument, evidence and concludes with reason. Until we can see the collective problem at hand, progress will remain still as ever.

Carson discusses the idea of a citizen’s “right to know” about the toxic and often harmful chemicals they are exposed to. Since seeing this phrase in the text, I have seen several public notices in workplaces as well as classrooms regarding the safety of those in attendance. Although there is no direct nod to Silent Spring, there is an implication that this sort of service would have been established in the wake of Silent Spring or during the last few decades. These sort of changes are evident in all levels of the field, with warning labels on Tuna cans regarding mercury all the way to Hazmat fences around reclaimed garbage dumps of the 20th century. We are collectively making changes to the way we view environmentalism.

 

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. First Mariner Books. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003. (p. 1, 12, 13).