Sustainability At Skidmore

For my final blog post, I thought it would be prudent to offer a few thoughts on the “green scene” at Skidmore, which I feel is pretty good.  Walking around Skidmore, it’s impossible to avoid seeing evidence of the pro-environmental movement on campus.  You’ll see it in the dining hall, where the dessert counter proudly boasts of its locally-produced products and the milk dispensers reassure you that your milk isn’t being flow in from halfway across the country.  You’ll see it in the clubs around campus, with student groups ranging from an “outing club,” which allows students to venture into the great outdoors, to more directly active groups, like the Environmental Action Committee.  We’re encouraged to recycle, and I think there are few people on campus who wouldn’t consider themselves progressive in their views on the environment.  While we’re definitely not perfect (recycling within the dorms is, as far as I can tell, non-existent), our community definitely has the right attitude towards the environment.  Going into the future, I’d love to see Skidmore continue to transition towards a greener campus.  Low-flow toilets could be used (which would also cut down on the school’s water bill).  Bottle recycling bins could be installed next to all trash cans.  General recycling could be made easier within the dorms.  While we still have a long way to go, I believe that Skidmore is a very green community, and its pro-green attitude bodes well for improvements to be made in the future.

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In Conclusion

In class awhile back, in relation to Ed Abbey, Michael brought up the idea of microcosm versus macrocosm. As the semester concludes I find myself looking back at old entries on this blog and thinking about this idea. The microcosm, however small, is what makes up the macrocosm. We are the microcosm, and we are piecing things together as we go. Literature is the microcosm, which can effect the macrocosm. From Muir to Carson to Abbey to Seuss to local citizens, we have studied different attempts at outcry. As Kate and Olivia brought up during their presentation today, there are many routes to saving the environment. At this final point in our course I feel that literature is one spoke of the wheel, along with film, activism, art, education, and who knows what else. I feel each spoke is equally important and needs attention. A holistic approach is all that can save the environment, not solely writing, and certainly not solely blowing up buildings.

We wonder what we can even do then– though I change my ideas every week practically, fluctuating between the idea that we need to reform education so children can know a love for nature at young ages, and the idea that we should all just right now run into the woods and live off of the land in peace…. anyway, at this point, I think we keep reading, we keep learning, we keep writing, we keep searching for what is right, we keep emphasizing environmental preservation, and searching for ways to make these hopes realities. Baby steps. The microcosm.

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The Lorax

Awhile back in class we discussed how children’s books can influence the reader without them realizing it. One way that I think that the books can influence the reader is by the use of rhythm. When a word rhythms with another word it sets up a beat within our head, when a beat or tempo is created it becomes automatically easier to remember because we associate the words with the beat. Think of song lyrics and how after one or two times you are able to remember the words. It’s the same thing with rhyming books. I think that by making the Lorax rhythm, it makes the words which carry the actual purpose of the book and keeps them in our minds and memories.

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A Part or Apart?

I think the most important question that Professor Marx raised in his talk about humans and the natural world is whether or not people are a part of or apart from the natural environment. I think there is a large gap between what “should” be and what actually is. I believe that humans should live in close connection with the natural world; they should know where their food comes from, they should travel over the land by foot when possible, they shouldn’t pollute, etc. In other words, I think humans should be “a part” of the natural world. But now, in the 21st century, the vast majority of us live “apart” from the land. Our food comes to us from processing plants all the way across the ocean, we travel in machines that separate us from the world around us, and we carelessly harm the ecosystems upon which we depend. I think, in a sense, society needs to take a step backwards. We need to learn how to depend less on modern technology and more on “old-fashioned” skills like farming, that allow us to connect to the natural world. Peoples like the native american tribes prior to European settlement took such good care of the land because they saw themselves as one with it. The primary reason that we are now so destructive is because for the most part, we’ve ceased to see ourselves as one with the land. Essentially, what humanity needs to do is re-learn something that deep down it’s already known for thousands of years.

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We affect the environment, it affects us in return…

I do recognize the fact that this source is not entirely accurate, but I couldn’t help noticing it and finding it relevant to our class. The story of the article is very similar to those in Silent Spring. 1) Humans use pesticides to make life easier and more efficient. 2) Pesticides poison water and other elements of the environment. 3) Humans are poisoned in return.

I’m sure you or your parents may have noticed how many more people have multiple allergies now than before. Is it possible that our actions are causing in increase in allergies. Pesticides can damage many areas of the body, but could it be permanently affecting our digestive and immune systems to the point where we can no longer tolerate certain foods. The research is not solid, but there is definitely a correlation between increased pesticide use and increased allergies. The article states that the presence of allergies has risen 18% between 1997 and 2007, a significant find.

Just as with Silent Spring and other evidence of the danger of DDT, will this newly discovered danger have an effect on our pesticide use. It is logical and true that we are more likely to want change if human health is at risk, and allergies are definitely dangerous and inconvenient. Is it enough? WHat would Rachel Carson think about these findings…?–abc-news-health.html

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Too late to save the earth?

When Alina and I interviewed Jeff Olson of Alta Planning and Design, a topic that he focused on for some time was whether or not individuals still have the ability to exact positive change on the environment. He referenced Bill McKibben’s article, “The Terrifying New Math of Climate Change,” written for Rolling Stone magazine in which McKibben aserts that the environment has sustained such a critical amount of destruction that nothing short of massive changes at the White House level can have any effect. Jeff greatly respects McKibben but also greatly disagrees with this line of reasoning. Jeff’s entire line of work is centered around allowing people to take individual action to help the earth; for example he has played a large role in the bike sharing programs that can be seen in many major cities across the country which allow citizens to rent bicycles right on the street from an automatic dispenser. Jeff thinks that individual citizens certainly still have the ability to positively impact the natural world and he thinks they should continue to do so. I side with Jeff; I think it’s crucial that people continue to take action to prevent climate change, such as walking to work or using more efficient cars. If we allow ourselves to adopt the view that it’s “too late,” what hope does society have? If we adopt this view, isn’t that the same as thinking “I won’t vote because only one vote doesn’t matter anyways,” which as we all know is a detrimental outlook to have? Even if McKibben is right, and it truly is too late, there’s no way to absolutely prove that fact at this point and so we must persevere in the fight to reverse climate change.

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Eco Terrorism: Revisited

After writing our “any means necessary” papers in response to eco-terrorism, I began to think about the role of government when dealing with environmental issues. Based on the government’s slow and inefficient reputation, I can understand and sympathize with extremist environmental groups. For my paper my thesis was essentially that I agree with the sentiment of extremist groups, but ultimately they are impractical and inefficient. While my research on groups like Earth First! and ELF prove my point that their actions are typically more detrimental to their cause than helpful, I wanted to use this blog post to explain the other side. I think that it is unfair to simply chalking up these groups to being inefficient and ultimately not very helpful to their cause. I still believe that their actions typically are only looking at short-term effects instead of working with the government (which is also inefficient) to make long-term changes in our society. However, I didn’t really get a chance in my paper to explain my utmost respect for the members of these groups.

Most members of these groups risk so much of their lives – their careers, their bank accounts, their relationships – to try and further a cause that they so vehemently believe in. They purposefully go against the law in order to take matters into their own hands and try to minimize the profit from environmental harm.They have no central authority or leadership and instead operate under ideology – which is a difficult task to adhere to and operate successfully under for decades. They do not compromise, which can be detrimental to their cause because in some scenarios some change is better than none, but regardless it is an admirable trait of these groups. Now that I have rambled about extremist environmental groups to better my own conscious for slamming on them in my paper, I would love to hear the other perspective. While I want to believe that these group’s means are effective, ultimately I have yet to see so.

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Reminiscence of Muir

Throughout the process of this project, I have been continuously reminded of John Muir by Jerry and my interview subject, Rabbi Linda Motzkin. In our interview, she put a lot of emphasis on experiencing wilderness and the spiritual wonder that is the natural world. I couldn’t help noticing similarities between her and Muir in these beliefs. She told us childhood stories of camping in the national parks and forests, which were made possible by the work of John Muir, and the effect these trips had on her relationship with the earth. She then passed this experience onto her own children, and see’s firsthand the effect it had on her own children. She feels that at the root of the environmental issue is the fact that too many people have not really experienced wilderness. So, then, why would they feel obligated or determined to save it? For too many people, nature is associated with disgust and sometimes fear, instead of awe and appreciation.

I also got a sense of Rabbi Motzkin’s spiritual relationship with nature. As Muir often insisted, she believes that an excess of “civilization” is undermining the powers of nature and furthering the destruction on wilderness. It goes with the belief that everyone should experience nature, but it goes beyond that. Also important is implementing nature and a care for nature in one’s life. Linda discussed the ways she inserts her love of the natural world into her life, and it is all very do-able for people.

So, can literature save the environment? Surely the question doesn’t have one right answer, but surely it can inspire people to do the above. Books about the beauty of nature can help us become reacquainted with it. Books urging people to go organic or local, informing us about things that destroy the environment, and even children’s books like The Lorax make us care.

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