Self-Evaluation and Carbon Footprint Reduction (Practicum Essay)

I was unable to complete any of the suggested hands on practicum options for a number of reasons. First, I am the manager of the Fordham softball team and spend up to 20 hours a week working with them. I also have an on-campus job that normally takes up my time on the weekends and many weeknights. Finally, I am a member of the Fordham University Band and Orchestra, which holds their rehearsal every Monday and Thursday night from 5:30-6:45. All of the meetings for the various environmental clubs and groups on campus intersect with this time and while I normally would have just dropped my commitment to the band for this semester to complete a practicum, there is a scholarship component to it that I cannot afford to loose.

I’ll begin my practicum with a quick description of Fordham and New York City’s environmental plans. The Environmental Studies program at Fordham Rose Hill is relatively new. However, the university has formal partnerships with the New York Botanical Gardens, the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx River Alliance, and the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities. Therefore, Fordham environmental students have the unique opportunity to be a school in an urban environment but can conduct research and work with all different types of environments during their time at the university. Fordham has pledged to work towards sustainability in everything from buildings to energy and transportation to waste, recycling and minimization. Furthermore, Fordham reflects New York City in the that they both are facing aging infrastructure and a growing population and they must deal with their environmental impact and find a way to work towards a more sustainable environment while at the same time catering to the increasing population and old infrastructure. The University is working with the City of New York and its plan to reduce their carbon footprint 30% by 2017. This is the part of the sustainability plan that my practicum focuses on. I was unable to conduct field research or join any of the campus environmental clubs because of prior commitments but I was able to evaluate myself and my impact on the environment and take steps throughout the semester to make a change and reduce my footprint.

In my self-evaluation, it was reviled that it would take 7.1 planet Earths if everyone lived in the same way that I do. As I stated in my second blog, some of the factors that add to my ecological footprint are beyond my control. I am forced to travel a great deal for softball, both by car and by airplane, and it is this component of my footprint that I am going to have to wait for technological advancements that provide a cleaner way for efficient travel. However, until that day comes I have placed an emphasis and focus on the rest of the components that make up my ecological footprint and have tried to reduce it.

The Fordham University sustainability plan gives 10 simple steps to reducing your carbon footprint and I have used these to help guide me through my day-to-day activities and make sure that I am keeping the environment in mind with everything I do. The 10 simple steps are: switch it off, climate control, wasteful windows, minimize plug load, phantom power, Power down your computer, take the stairs, do only full loads of laundry, shorter showers and switch to efficient LED. I also used the “what if scenarios” provided by The Footprint Network to guide me to make changes in goods I buy and the food I eat.

After our final class I recalculated my carbon footprint and I’m proud to report that I’ve reduced my impact from needing 7.1 Earths to only needing 3.9. I am slightly disheartened that I couldn’t get the number down to only 1 Earth but I also realize that I live in a dependent situation still. I don’t live on my own or in my own house, which would allow me to make modifications and switch over to the green and sustainable technologies. I rely on Fordham and the sustainability plan that they have implemented here at the university and on my mom and grandmother when I am at home. Though I am reliant upon Fordham for shelter and other infrastructural things, I think this shift from home to school has also helped me a great deal in reducing my footprint. Because my first calculation came at the very beginning of the semester I put in information that was true while I was home for the summer vacation, but 3 months later a lot has changed. At home I have less of a choice of what I eat, but since I saw that food made up 14% of my footprint I took on the “what if” scenario proposed by The Footprint Network and cut down my intake of beef from once or twice a week to once every few weeks. I’ve also reduced the amount of poultry I eat to about once every other week. I still use dairy product pretty regularly but the reduction of meat products was enough to reduce my the percent from 14 to 10 percent of my footprint. I don’t do a great job of eating unprocessed foods but I do try to be aware of it if I have the option. I do know that because of Fordham sustainability plan they do buy local food, which is helpful to the reduction of my footprint. In total, I was able to reduce my impact from 21.8 global acres to 17.5 and from emitting 23 tons of Carbon dioxide to 18 tons. These are pretty big reductions in just a 3-month span and only making minor changes, none of which cost any money.

The biggest changes I made in term of reducing my footprint came as a result of following the aforementioned 10 simple steps provided by Fordham’s sustainability plan. Living in an apartment with 6 girls, not everyone is as concerned with as I am. But once I started my practicum I was able to get my roommates involved, which helped tremendously. Before I started this project my roommates and I would leave all the lights on all the time. We would also leave on the television even if there wasn’t anyone in the room watching it. We also started off the year without recycling. All of this changed pretty quickly once I began my practicum. Now, lights are off all day until they’re needed at night and even then we put as few lights on as possible and try to use only our personal lamps, which use more energy efficient bulbs. If we’re all in the same room watching shows on our individual laptops we try to shut them down and decide on one thing to watch on the television together to try and save energy that way. We even try to make dinner together at least once or twice a week so that we don’t use the stove for six separate smaller meals and waste energy. The biggest and most effective change that I’ve implemented in the room is recycling. In an apartment with 6 people, the EPA carbon footprint calculator estimates that we emit 4,932 pounds of carbon dioxide per year before recycling, which is what we were doing at the beginning of the semester. Since implementing a recycling system in our room, which has included everything on the EPA’s list, we have reduced our estimated carbon emissions to 2,895 pounds per year. That is a reduction of 2,037 pounds of carbon dioxide per year just by simply recycling.

I am a pretty big proponent of shallow ecology and I think the results of my practicum prove the point that practical measures can be taken at this very moment that will make a difference. I think the largest obstacle for applying practical policies and methods is the idea of cost, whether real or imagined. At home, I know we would like to use solar panels as our source of energy, but it costs a lot of money that my family doesn’t have to do something like that. At the same time, I bring my laundry home rather than doing it at Fordham because we have an energy efficient washer and dryer. The negative implications of costs, or perceived costs, of becoming environmentally friendly is evident in Fordham’s C+ grade calculated by greenreportcard.com. Endowment transparency and shareholder engagement both received F’s on the report card, while investment priorities only received a C (this is probably linked to the fact that Fordham does hold stock in fossil fuels, which student led environmental clubs are currently trying to urge the school to divest from). Fordham also only received a C for student involvement. I believe there are a lot of improvements that the school can make that wouldn’t cost very much money at all. I would start these changes with making sure that next to every garbage can there are also recycling bins, not just outside the major buildings. Students are lazy, myself included, and if there isn’t a recycling option near or in site materials that could have been and should have been recycled will get thrown away as regular trash. I saw what recycling did to reduce my footprint and I can only imagine what a few more recycling cans around campus would do to reduce the footprint of Fordham as a community. We have a unique opportunity here on a college campus. I think low grade Fordham received in regards to its endowment and shareholder participation comes from the fact that those alumni who are major stakeholders in those financial affairs come from a different generation that doesn’t understand or recognize or take issue with climate change and environmental degradation the way that my generation does. Therefore, I think that Fordham needs to do a better job with getting the students involved. Not every student needs to be an environmental studies major or minor to care about and be able to reduce their impact on the environment. Running programs in the dorms that work with the Bronx River Alliance would be a great way to get the Fordham community working with the surrounding Bronx community, a goal that the university is extremely vocal about. There are small upgrades that can be made to each dorm to make them more environmentally friendly because, although Fordham received an A in green building and an A in climate change and energy I currently live in Walsh hall, which is a 13-story apartment style dormitory and it is in desperate need of some updates. The reason that I give all of this information and background of Fordham is to put my practicum and personal carbon footprint in to context. As good as I did in reducing my footprint, I am not in complete control of my surrounding environment. If Fordham were to take small steps to update its infrastructure and sustainability policies, and if they were to encourage the student body to make the small changes that my roommates and I made, we as a community could take huge strides in reducing our carbon footprint. That is the ultimate lesson that I learned from my practicum; it doesn’t take hundreds or millions of dollars or some huge lifestyle change, it just takes a little bit of effort and accountability to make sure you’re doing all of the small things to make a big impact.

 Bibliography

“Household Carbon Footprint Calculator.” EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency,

n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/ind-calculator.html&gt;.

“Footprint Calculator.” FootprintNetwork.org. Global Footprint Network, n.d. Web. 12

Dec. 2014. <http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/&gt;.

“Fordham University College Sustainability Report Card 2011.” GreenReportCard.com.

Sustainable Endowments Institute, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. <http://www.greenreportcard.org/report-card-2011/schools/fordham-university.html&gt;.

“Plan NYC.” NYC.gov. December 15.

http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/html/sustainability/sustainability.shtml

“Sustainability at Fordham Univeristy.” Fordham.edu. December 15, 2014.

http://legacy.fordham.edu/campus_resources/campus_facilities/facilities_managemen/sustainability/index.asp.

“Top 10 Ways to Save: Simple Tips to Reduce your Carbon Footprint.” Fordham.edu. 16

December 2014. http://legacy.fordham.edu/campus_resources/campus_facilities/facilities_managemen/sustainability/top_10_ways_to_save!_82576.asp.

My Personal Ethical Positioning/Reasoning

When I first tackled the question of what my worldview is and my reasoning behind it I stated that I found myself somewhere between Stewardship and Environmental Wisdom but leaning more towards wisdom. I think I remained pretty steady with that view throughout the remainder of this course and all of our class discussions. I do believe that humans are a part of and are dependent upon nature. We have taken advantage of and used the resources provided to use by nature in an unsustainable manner to produce the societies in which we live and one quick catastrophic natural event could wipe those societies out. We have to respect the fragility and power of nature and learn how it is that nature has been able to sustain itself and turn these lessons in to practices.

I believe that non-human species do have moral standing. However, I also argue that a certain amount of proportionality does exist, meaning, a horse or a monkey or a whale has more moral standing than a mouse or an ant. In this course we talk mainly about the moral standing of humans and non-humans in terms of other animal species but we don’t discuss the moral standing of plants at any considerable length. I think that we as humans have always been and will (for the foreseeable future) be the ones who have the power of placing or judging value in others and that this will always come with a certain air of dominance. It’s how we acknowledge and use that dominance that matters. I know that plants are an integral part of our earth community and I do believe that their worth is immeasurable to not only this planet but to the very essence of human life and existence. Therefore, I do believe that we must make every effort to protect plant life but I’m not exactly sure how this translates in terms of the moral value that does or does not exist in plants.

Furthermore, I am a strong proponent of shallow ecology or environmental pragmatism. I think that this type of ethic (be it anthropocentric or ethically neutral) fits in well with my worldview because it ascribes to the idea that resources are limited and we don’t have time to wait for a groundbreaking environmental ethic to emerge before we act. Leopold said, “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”[1] We have to work and take steps now towards preserving as much life, be it plant or animal, to make sure that if/when a solution and an ethic does emerge there will still be an environment left to care for. I think this line of reasoning is a result of or, at the very least, fits in with my work and mindset as a political science major and aspiring attorney. Environmental Wisdom advocates for earth-sustaining forms of economic growth and discourages the forms that are detrimental and degrading. I believe that there are practical policies that we can and need to put in place now that would promote these earth-sustaining forms of growth. If we do this now, sacrifice in the short term, I think we will foster an environment and a people that really start to buy in to an environmental ethic and wisdom. Doing the small practical things now instead of trying to create or waiting for an environmental ethic to emerge is not so much a sacrifice as it is a first step or building-block to that ultimate goal of an ethic.

[1] https://myfiles.fordham.edu/users/evanburen/4302/Miller7%20-%20chapter25.pdf, p.668.

Is the Web of Life Unraveling? (Blog 21)

The videos we watched in class presents us with a pretty bleak picture of the future and the impact that humans have had on the life processes and balance here on earth. The short video that explains 4.5 billion of creation and evolution within a 24 hour span says that single cells were created at 4am, earth is covered in forests at 10:24pm, dinosaurs go extinct at 11:41pm and humans emerge at 11:58pm. Recorded human history and life only spans a few seconds. The following video, entitled “Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction,” shows that those few seconds of human life may be coming to a rapid end if web-of-life-fbsomething is not done to protect the biodiversity on this planet. According to the scientist the natural rate of extinction is 1 in 1 million, which is about 10 per year. The current rate of extinction is at least 10 if not 100 times greater than this. The problem is that the rate of extinction has now surpassed the rate at which new species are evolving. There have been 5 mass extinctions in the last 500 million years, all of which were dramatic events. We are currently experiencing the signs that a 6th mass extinction is on its way and its cause is very much related to humans and human activities. Just to give an idea of the evidence supporting this idea of a new mass extinction the video states: the population of land animals is down 28% since 1970, Marine Birds are down 30% since 1995, Big Ocean Fish are down 90% since 1950, Freshwater Fish are down 50% since 1987, Marine Animals are down 28% since 1970 and Songbirds are down 50% since 1965. These numbers are staggering but the problem does not lie within the dwindling numbers it lies within the lose of diversity among populations and the loss of biodiversity that form the net that supports human life and all other life on Earth.

The message of this film was very much so an apocalyptic one. I fear that this may be to the detriment of the much-needed awareness for the issue if people perceive it as just another doomsday scare tactic. In any case, the most shocking part of this film for me was the idea that the effects of this mass extinction aren’t hundreds and thousands of years away, they will take place within a few decades, within a generation. We’ve talked about inter-generational justice before and I can’t imagine my children or grandchildren growing up in the world without elephants or tigers or any number of the amazing creatures that I’ve had the privilege of inhabiting the world with. There are so many things that this film puts into perspective for me and enlightened me about. Endangered species and extinction are always talked about and framed in terms of pure numbers. This is the way they are thought about and implemented with protective policies and it’s how most people understand the situation. But the scientists in this film talked about the issue of population; that if there are 10 populations of a certain species around the world and 9 go extinct, it will be ok because we still have 1 and we can regenerate and repopulate from there. However, this is an incorrect assumption because with the extinction of those 9 populations we lost critical genetic information that created the diversity that allowed those populations to spread and thrive in different regions around the world. Anther interesting point that was made was that the question is often asked, why do we care? Why does it matter? Why should I care if a certain plant in the amazon or insect or amphibian went extinct? And the answer is extinctthat maybe we won’t come in direct contact or directly need those particular animals and species but the net of diverse organisms support the organisms that we care about. Therefore, they do very much, albeit indirectly, effect us. The scientists also talk about how there are currently over 120 drugs that owe their origins mostly to plants. The biodiversity on Earth is a genetic bank, one that with the proper research we as humans can and have cashed in on to cure many of our common and deadly ailments. There is so much about this film that I found informing and could talk about it for days and days and pages and pages but the last thing that I want to mention is the research aspect of this impending (or ongoing?) mass extinction. One of the environmental biologists said that she and her team searched for hundred of kilometers to find forest that they could conduct their research in when she realized that soon there will be no place left to conduct actual field research. Norman Myers talks about the disappearing Tropical Forests and the life that inhabits them. I think, for me, this particular point really hit home for me. I can remember being in elementary school, around 3rd grade, and doing a project on deforestation. It was rudimentary and the work of an 8 year old, but it’s a very scary idea of how much worse the situation has gotten since I did that project; since I was first introduced to the idea of environmental degradation. The sheer number of species and populations lost since then is overwhelming. This is not a problem that is being dragged out across centuries; it’s happening within decades, within my lifetime. That is the scariest part. I think it’s time that we put an end to our rampant consumerism and start acting as responsible environmental citizens.

Question: Is the mass extinction currently happening or is it impending? Scientists agree that this is a problem and one that we should worry about, but is it one that we know enough about to act upon in a beneficial manner?

Ecofeminism (Blog 25)

Karen Warren provides us with an argument that links the conceptually oppressive and patriarchal framework placed on females to the one that’s also, supposedly, placed on nature. Warren defines a “feminist issue” as “any issue that contributes in some way to understanding the oppression of women.”[1] She goes on to say that a logic of domination has been created and functioning in a manner that is patriarchal and justifies the twin domination of females and nature. Therefore, ecological feminism “is the position that t4e2c32e81f12fadc87d53684d35d9aedhere are important connections-historical, symbolic, theoretical-between the domination of women and the domination of nonhuman nature.”[2] Warren also uses argues that an ecological feminism would include within its ethic issues that are often lost and considered irrelevant or useless in mainstream philosophical ethics such as “values of care, love, friendship, and appropriate trust,”[3] and that feminist and environmental ethicists have brought these different ethical issues to the conversation by using first-person narrative. Finally, Warren talks a lot about relationships, particularly by using the first-person narrative about a rock climbing experience, and she gives the distinction between a conqueror-type relationship and an emergent caring-type relationship. For Warren, it’s about included what’s been excluded in the past. Building relationships based on faith and lived experience from which an ethical meaning emerges rather than is forced upon a person or a situation.

ecofeminism1

First and foremost I would like to state that I am a feminist. I’m not ashamed of it and I think for any woman in today’s society who wants to get a job outside of the home and wants to be treated equally to her male co-workers within that job and environment with the same opportunities for mobility and wage earnings then she too would be hard-pressed to say she’s not a feminist. That being said, I have a difficult time buying in to Warren’s ecofeminism argument. First of all, feminism often has a negative connotation attached to it and the environmental movement is having a hard enough time convincing people that they have a duty to the environment and all things that inhabit it, coupling this with feminism just seems like an impractical move for both movements. Both carry a lot of baggage and differ ideologically, historically and they’re both at very different points in their movements. Women have been fighting for their rights since the mid 1800’s, whereas the environmental movement didn’t begin until the mid to late 1900’s. Part of Warren’s argument and analysis relies on Maria Lugones’ “loving perception” theory or gal_5645ideology. Lugones says, “The limits of loving perception are determined only by the limits of one’s… ability to respond lovingly (or with appropriate care, trust, or friendship)- whether it is to other humans or to the nonhumans world and elements of it.”[4] I think this a good idea, an admirable one even, but it’s just too idealistic. Maybe I’m jaded; we’ve covered so many different theories, concepts and philosophies that it just seems like we have all these great ideas that are just never going to work in the real world. But it this case Lugones’ theory sounds so hippy all about peace, love and (pardon the pun) flower power. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, in fact the hippy movement was huge spreading all over the world and maybe Maria Lugones is on to something, maybe bringing love back in to this world is what we need most for change to occur. But that movement happened at a different time with different motivations and I’m just not convinced that this “love yourself and all things around you” type of idea is practically applicable and considering the stance I took in favor of environmental pragmatism over deep ecology in my last blog, it seems only right that I can’t bring myself to agree or back something that I don’t believe is practical. Finally, Warren concludes by saying, “feminism must embrace ecological feminism if it is to end the domination of women because the domination of women is tied conceptually and historically to the domination of nature. A responsible environmental ethic also must embrace feminism.”[5] I disagree, I think that based on Warren’s argument feminism must embrace ecological feminism but a responsible environmental ethic does not necessarily have to embrace feminism. I see can agree with the point that nature has taken on a feminine connotation. However, I don’t think that this conceptual framework of oppression that has been place on nature by Warren actually necessarily stems from this connotation or association. In the end, I’m just not convinced. I’m not convinced of the connection between or the necessity to join together feminism and environmentalism. I’m not convinced that it’s the right thing to do for either movement. I’m just not convinced by Warren’s logic or arguments.

Question: I understand how the framework is technically oppressive if you climb a mountain with an “arrogant perception” but how does it necessarily fit a patriarchal conceptual framework when women interact with the environment and act as dominators and conquerors of it as well?

[1] Donald VanDeVeer and Christine Pierce, The Environmental Ethics & Policy Book (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning, 2003), 282.

[2] VanDeVeer, 279.

[3] VanDeVeer, 290

[4] VanDeVeer, 288.

[5] VanDeVeer, 291.

Deep v. Shallow Ecology (Blog 24)

There were two sets of readings for this class but I was responsible for a presentation on shallow ecology so I will maintain my focus on that for the purpose of this blog. Shallow ecology or environmental pragmatism is the idea, as Weston describes it, that we c20120710-185526an’t start an environmental movement as deep ecology proposes with a top down approach; This would mean focusing on the theories and fundamental beliefs first. Weston says that we are at the originary stage of the process of creating an environmental ethic and this stage calls for a bottom up approach. For Weston, this approach means compromising and co-evolving over time, while at the same time calling for immediate action to implement sustainable policies and technologies now. Weston also recognizes that his theory of environmental pragmatism could be construed as anthropocentric but he says, “If environmental ethics is indeed at an originary stage, we can have only the barest sense of what ethics for a culture truly beyond anthropocentrism would actually look like.”[1] He continues by saying, “when anthropocentrism is finally cut down to size, for example, there is no reason to think that what we will have or need in its place is something call ‘non-anthropocentrism’ at all.”[2] Weston is all about getting the conversation started and leaving the door open for experimentation and theory, while at the same time making sure that we do the practical things such as creating environmental sustainable policies and communities, recycling and being energy efficient. He wants to create space; space for an environmental ethic to grow out of its originary stage and space for interaction to occur amongst humans and nature.

I think Weston is very much like Leopold in that he believes in the power of the connection that people have or can have with nature. But he also knows this sort of deep ecology is disabled by trying to change deeply entrenched beliefs. As I mentioned before, he also confronts the anthropocentrism within his argument claiming that we really can’t conceive of a world or culture beyond anthropocentrism. By no means does he rule out the possibility of one developing but he also isn’t so quick to rule out an environmental ethic that is anthropocentric. I think this something that we’ve encountered in our class discussions. It always seemed hard to discuss the non-anthropocentric theories and their real-world implications and green-technology-header-2practicality and after reading Weston and his argument it has become apparent to me that the difficulty comes from the fact that we really don’t know what a non-anthropocentric ethic would really look like and trying to conceive of one seems rather silly. In addition, when talking about the concept of rights and its possible extension to include animals or trees Weston says, “the force of these arguments lies in the way they open up the possibility of new connections, not in the way they settle or “close” any question. Their work is more creative than summative.”[3] I found this practice of open-endedness to be extremely frustrating in one of our class discussions earlier in the semester. But I think that Weston’s argument has convinced me of the idea that while we may have this instinct to try and jump to conclusions and come up with immediate solutions to the problems that we have deconstructed, there really is no way to conceive the idea of the ethic that will actually come about. Therefore, you cannot argue definitively in favor or against any of the ethics or answers created. When placed in opposition of each other, deep ecology against shallow ecology, I find myself leaning heavily in favor of shallow ecology and I think there are a few reasons for this. First, when faced with a task I often find myself overwhelmed if I look at it in its entirety but when broken down it to smaller more manageable tasks I’m no thCADCRF0Wlonger overwhelmed. I find deep ecology to be an overwhelming task. It is asking for a fundamental change in ideology, when for most people (myself included) what that change should be is inconceivable. A second reason that I favor shallow ecology is because I’m very interested in the political side of the environment and the creation of sustainable policies. However, a lot of times the inaction on the part of congress or some other law making body is that we don’t know the whole truth yet so we can’t act until all of the science is conclusive. This idea of needing every last piece of reassurance before acting has never sat well with me. The more time we sit around waiting for science to evolve further or for a fundamental ethical change to occur within society the more damage we are doing. We know enough to take practical measures to slow down the damage that we’re doing and I like that shallow ecology leaves room and even encourages us to do these things in the short term, while an environmental ethic builds in the long term.

Question: Would Leopold be considered a proponent of deep or shallow ecology?

[1] Weston, “Enabling Environmental Practice,” 465.

[2] Weston, 465.

[3] Weston, 465.

The Living Earth (Blog 23)

What is Earth? How did it get here? How did life evolve on Earth? What role does life play on the planet? These are just a few of the questions that Brian Swimme tries to answer, specifically in his film “Journey of the Universe: An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation.” Throughout the whole film Swimme tries to drive home this point that the world is not a mechanized systemolecular-explosion-smallm as many have thought, through which life was accidentally created. Rather, the Earth is a living and changing “organism” which has interacted with the sun in a way that made life inevitable. Life is woven in to our atmosphere and our Earth as a whole and it has been created and sustained in was almost appears to be a deliberate manner. They view the evolutionary process, not just human evolution but also the evolution of the earth and its natural processes, as one that is continuous and ongoing. The system is a delicate one, but it is also one that has been able to cope with different elements and factors that would have or should have destroyed life on this planet. The earth reacts to these factors always producing and maintain conditions to sustain life. This is the first truly scientific and historical piece that we have looked at that describes the relationship of life forms and earth, how they developed and how or if they can be sustained.

One of the things that I found most interesting about Swimme’s argument was that we are not living on earth but rather participants in an intricate system that, for all intents and purposes, is analogous to a living cell. But upon further reflection I think this argument could have huge implications on the movement towards an environmental ethic. The reason I say this is because it appears that humans take living cells very seriously. They have become the center for the pro life v. pro-choice debate. Considering the fact that we just discussed the role that religion plays in the environmental ethic I could think of no better way to exemplify the importance of Swimme’s theory and analogy. If in fact the Earth is like a living cell than those who are pro life will have no choice but to fight for its protection. This idea could become the basis for a whole new movement if it is continually framed in this light. Another thing that I found interesting is how often new theories and discoveries, be it the discovery that the Earth actually revolves around the Sun or the theory that the essence of life is number, were shunned and 1218-814bbe39hidden away rather than embraced or revered. I thought this worked well with what Anthony Weston said about the early stages of development and how “we continue to regard the contingency, open-endedness, and uncertainty of “new” values as an objection to them, ruling them out of ethical court entirely, or else as a kind of embarrassment to be quickly papered over with an ethical theory.”[1] While in the case of the Journey of the Universe Swimme is not speaking specifically of the development of an ethic he does show how new ideas were quickly thrown out or covered up only to have their brilliance discovered and uncovered many years later. I think he gives pretty sufficient proof of this unwillingness to change by showing that if Pythagoras, the father of math himself, had to hide out in a cave there is really very little tolerance by humans for anything new. This seems so paradoxical when Swimme himself claims that life has learned to learn. The story of how we think the Universe was formed and how life began and has flourished and developed is the most fascinating and thought provoking story that one can hear or study. But there was something about this film that really brought about a sense of calm in terms of the future of the environment. The Earth and its surrounding universe were created and have survived for billions of years and things have not been stagnant throughout the course of those years. Changes have occurred and the Earth, its mechanisms and the life forms that inhabit and that are entwined with it have been forced to change as well in order to maintain the life and environment that it has created. Therefore, it seems to me that the Earth will once again balance itself out and maybe it’s already in the process of doing that. This brings me back to a point that I believe I made in one of my earlier blogs; maybe the Earth is not the one that needs saving but rather humans are the ones that need to be saved.

Question: What place does this type of knowledge of the evolutionary and biological processes have in the different worldviews that we have studied?

[1] Weston, “Enabling Environmental Practice,” 464.

A New Religion Or A New Religious Movement? (Blog 22)

The readings and videos for this week took a few different stances on how to remedy the problem but all put religion at the center of the item1911_animalkingdom_iconecological crisis. Lynn White Jr. gives a very historical argument as to what role the Christian church and movement has played in mans perceived dominance over all things non-human. His argument is that the victory of Christianity over Paganism was the end of human’s spiritual connection to all aspects of the environment in which they live. It was also the supposed end of their reluctance to exploit nature. White insists that technological invention is distinctively Western and Christian. Therefore, all of the ecological issues that have arisen out of these Christian technological advancements are a fundamental fault of the Christian religion itself. White believes that for anything to change and ecologically friendly progress to be made a new religion must emerge to replace the flawed doctrine of Christianity. The Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey is more forgiving of the Christian faith not in the sense of forgiving Christians for the way that they have acted towards both humans and non-humans but, rather, forgiving in the idea that Christianity is a religion that’s built on love and because of this fundamental love there is hope that the Christian community can turn this around and lead a new movement that favors love of all God’s creatures. Linzey says, “Christian Churches then have been agents of oppression-that is common-place- but they can also be agents of liberation.”[1]

I find Lynn White Jr.’s historical account of Christianity very difficult to stomach. I think he is very selective in what he includes and what he doesn’t. For example, White quotes Ronald Regan who was, at the time, Governor of California as speaking for the entire Christian tradition when he allegedly said, “when you’ve seen one redwood tree you’ve seen them all.”[2] He’s quoting one man to back up his entire argument. I understand his need to be concise but I truly believe this quote to be an unfair misrepresentation of the Christian faith and community. I don’t believe that this is the sentiment of Californians or Americans on a large scale, regardless of their religious faith and beliefs. Furthermore, White is adamant that progress won’t be made and problems can’t be solved unless a new ecologically based or at least eco-friendly religion is founded. This is similar to a question that we examined and discussed earlier this year and this reading has done nothing00000000000000001957 to change my opinion. I don’t think a new religion is necessary. I think White is trying to reduce our current ecological situation back to a single origin or shift in mans demeanor towards nature and I think there is something fundamentally wrong with that. Man’s perceived dominance cannot and does not have one singular origin. It is a whole history of oppression from different cultures and beliefs. There are historical, religious, ethnic, geographical, and so many more factors that have resulted in the way that non-humans are treated by humans. I found Linzey to have a much better representation of the Christian faith and its doctrine in relation to humans and animals. My impression of Linzey’s argument is that the Church and Christian community have taken steps to combat racism and sexism and now it’s time to fight speciesism. There is no denying that Christianity and pretty much all other major religions have used and interpreted their religious doctrine to support some inhumane act at one point or another. But Linzey himself proves that Christians have a Gospel that is based on love. The ideas have always been there, it’s just the execution that has been a little off. I’ve often found that hate is too free and too often used human emotion. It’s a wasted emotion and a waste of time to focus one’s energy on hate. The only thing that comes from hate is more hate. I think the Christian church does a good job of teaching that and for that reason I think there is hope for a new movement led by the church to extend this love beyond humans to include (as was originally intended) all of God’s creatures because if the Church holds as much weight as White believes it does in the way it has negatively effected animals and the environment then it should hold enough weight to right its wrongs.

Question: White says, “our ecological crisis is the product of an emerging, entirely novel, democratic culture. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications.” Is White referring to the tragedy of the commons in this idea?

[1] Donald VanDeVeer and Christine Pierce, The Environmental Ethics & Policy Book (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning, 2003), 61.

[2] VanDeVeer, 57.