Wolves are some of the least understood of the predators that humans have pitted themselves against over the ages, others being sharks, bears, and large cats. One of the main reasons is that they compete with humans for resources. These predators won’t usually outright attack humans unless threatened, but humans will and have killed them in scores because of food and resources. This makes it extra difficult to make the case for their conservation in the face of endangerment and extinction.
I received this poster and bumper sticker in the mail yesterday from Defenders of Wildlife, along with a letter and fliers asking me to donate to the organization with the added incentive of receiving a wolf photo book and/or aluminum water bottle.
I have supported them with a donation in the past, but I am doubtful whether I will give again.
I have a few reasons for this. The main one being that this type of physical mail is so gimmicky and quite annoying, that I do not want to encourage them to send me more by responding to it. I’m hoping that by ignoring their waste of paper (even if it is recycled paper), they will eventually stop it. It would be nice if there were a way to opt out of physical mailings and in place of that receive emails, but as far as I can tell from their website, there is no such thing.
But still, I hope that the people who are reached by their campaigns truly consider conservation more seriously than the pamphlets suggest. The materials could be more informative, but I understand that the species-focus has been one of the most successful strategies.
This is where a more scientifically literate society would be very different. Conservation groups would not have to take the single species or simple issue angle in order to garner public support.
In areas of the world where most people live in and with the environment and accompanying wildlife, human culture has deeper understanding of the relationships of the ecosystems. We may not be able to return to that type of interaction with nature in this country, but perhaps with better incorporation of science into society we can achieve something similar.
This is what I hope to contribute to with my work!
Last friday, I volunteered at the Solar-Powered Film Series hosted by Solar One and Green Edge NYC. I found out about this event from Green Edge NYC (specifically Patricia Curry). It was great to meet up with people doing great work in New York regarding sustainability and community outreach! Thanks should go out to both organizations who put on a great series!
This night’s film was The Garden, about a group of urban farmers in L.A. who started their 14 acre garden after the riots in 1992. They go through some hardship starting in 2004 when they have to fight to prevent eviction.
It was an emotional film! It was frustrating how unsympathetic to farming the people trying to get the land were. The community went through several legal difficulties during their fight. I felt worked up about protecting the plants and the relationship that the people developed with the plants, more than the human interests involved. So many of the trees they planted were producing fruit and took many years to reach that point, and the community gained so much from their relationship with the land. But if you watch the film, you will see what happened. The film also brings to the fore the reality that many groups are constantly in conflict with each other because of things like land and development. There are many ways that things could have gone, and the film documents this journey.
Here is a video/slideshow that I made from the pictures and video I took of the events:
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(This piece was written Fall 2007.)
Our perception of Nature has everything to do with the way that we live our lives. People who trivialize the importance of nature to their daily lives take for granted what Nature has given and allowed us to accomplish. It may seem that we may rely on Nature’s resources indefinitely, but at what cost to Nature? Our time on Earth has been but a few blinks of the eye in the great geological scale of time yet the impacts that we have made while “conquering” our domain will most likely last for much longer. Differing perspectives on Nature will define the relationships and the types of interactions that we have with Nature.
Two great thinkers who approach this topic are William Cronon and Aldo Leopold. Both believe that the characteristics of man’s relationship with Nature depend on how man approaches Nature. The overarching Western idea that the Earth with its natural resources were meant for man’s use and progress came to the Americas with the Europeans. Several thinkers argue that this school of thought is deeply rooted in religion, and so is that much more ingrained in the culture. Followers were taught that the resources given to man by nature were limitless and for the taking while in other parts of the world people believe in the interconnectedness of all things in the world. This fundamental difference in thought has lead to many advances in society but at the expense of the natural world (i.e. the Industrial Revolution).
Cronon’s article titled “The Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature” discusses the common interpretations during his time of the idea of “wilderness” and why that is important to the way the public views and thinks about Nature. One of his major points is that the “wilderness” to most people during the colonization of this nation was a savage and dangerous place in need of “conquering.” The Frontier was for everyone’s taking. Once the wilderness was conquered, however, the perception of nature is changed. People began to think of the wilderness as something to use for their own benefits and economic gains. Eventually, the frontier no longer existed and this passing of the frontier started people thinking that maybe something should be done to prevent complete loss of their beloved “wilderness.”
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Pirates and their relationship with international fishing industry
Illegal fishing and dumping continues to be a major problem on the Somali coast, but you wouldn’t sense that from reading the news (unless you pay especially close attention, see the paragraphs at the end of this article). International ships also are huge competitors in the fishing industry, making it difficult for local smallholder fisherman.
The stories that were all over the news a few weeks ago were all about the American crew and captain who were attacked by pirates off the coast of Somali. We feel sympathy for those who had to fight off the pirates, and the captain who was a hostage for several days.
But what is at the root? What causes this tension between pirates and commercial ships? Why do the pirates do what they do?
I don’t have an answer, but I think that more research could be done to investigate the human-environment conflict here. I wrote about human-environment conflicts in an earlier post, and would hope that there is more research being done on this front.
I’m going to look more into this in the coming weeks and maybe get back to this topic, but in the meantime if you have any thoughts, I would like to hear them!
A discussion about vertical farming and some of its environmental implications
(Portions of the quoted text have been edited from the raw transcript.)
Vertical farming has been brought into the forefront recently, with a spot in the film FUEL, articles in TIME, Scientific American, as well as others in the past 6 months. What this concept entails is growing food in a controlled indoor environment in vertical structures that could be built in cities, urban centers, and as annexes to new buildings being constructed. Plants can be grown hydroponically, and even some livestock can be raised. The technology is there, as is most of the ecological understanding.
The man behind this concept is Dickson Despommier, Ph.D., a professor of medical ecology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. He is the kind of guy who gives away copies of The Lorax to spread love for the environment. He even keeps extra copies of them on his shelf in his office at Columbia’s Medical Campus. I visited him at this office, which, by the way, has a great view of the Hudson River. When asked how this vertical farming idea developed, Despommier tells the story about how the idea came out of a somewhat failed class project investigating rooftop gardening in New York City.
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Interdependence and the role of cultural attitudes (in the context of the global economic crisis)
(This piece was written Fall 2008.)
Much of the literature on conflict has focused on determining drivers and predictors of
conflict. While most have not come to any decisive conclusions, we may still gain insight as to
what are the underlying factors involved. The goal for this type of investigation is to find ways to
build peace where conflict has done damage or to determine states that are at immediate high risk
for conflict. In this short piece, I will examine a few ideas that may explain some aspects of
conflict, but may yet be proven drivers. These are concepts that seem to come up in literature
from across disciplines. I will focus specifically on two: interdependence on a global scale, and
the role of cultural attitudes.
It may be true that we may never fully understand the nature of conflict or be able to
explain the causes for its occurrence in all of its forms. However, these two ideas are also
extremely relevant in discussion of events other than outright conflict, such as the ongoing global
economic crisis. The crisis is not an outright conflict, but the implications are important to
consider for conflict prevention and peacekeeping. It has already increased tensions between the
United States and the world, as many leaders of other nations have blames the lack of regulation
on the banking system in the US. As I will discuss later, the interdependent nature of the world
society will increase the reaches of any crisis. Analysis of these concepts may bring much
needed insight for economic recovery, which I will address in the last section after I have made
arguments for why and how these concepts are applicable to the economic situation.
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