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Reading for Pattern

As part of the kind of the earnest and active exploration of environmental writing that we will pursue in the course, you will have an informal presentation in which you engage in some further reading. You can think of this assignment as our attempt to avoid the problem of “little reading” that Thoreau derogates in  the “Reading” chapter of Walden, as well as pursue the sort of organic and ecological thinking that Wendell Berry describes in “Solving for Pattern.” These presentations also focus on a social element of our course, relying on others for response and provocation as a way to develop our own understanding.  Even Thoreau had guides—and for that matter, for all his talk of solitude, aren’t we reading in the company of his thoughts and writing?

Here are the guidelines:

  • Present to class (approximately 5 minutes) ideas, images, keywords, concepts, and/or questions from some further reading that you have chosen to do.
  • Summarize this further reading and make an application to an element of environmental writing and thinking we have encountered in the course: a particular passage from a course text, a keyword, a concept raised in discussion.
  • Help us go further in thinking about the course element, perhaps seeing it differently (a contrasting perspective) or more ecologically (some further context provided by another discourse or discipline–biology, economics, literary theory, history). In other words, help us think about some larger patterns and problems related to course material.
    • Texts that you might select for this further reading and thinking:
      • a different text by one of the course authors–further reading in Dillard or Muir or Berry, etc
      • a text by one of the writers in American Earth we have not read–a topic or title that catches your eye as you browse through.
      • a critical text from another discourse that relates (at least as far as you see it) to elements from course reading or discussion: an article or excerpt from biology, ecology, economics, history, anthropology, philosophy, poetics, math, etc. This critical resource may be print or electronic (a web resource, a video, article from a database, etc.)
      • a creative text you know (poem, novel, film, play, performance) that correlates or contrasts with course material
  • Post a brief, summary of the further reading text you have chosen: include any bibliographic reference (so that others can possibly return to this resource for further reading related to the final project); a basic annotation of the resource (2-3 sentences: what the resource is, argues, focuses on); your thoughts and/or questions (2-3 sentences) as to the ways that this further reading resource connects, compares, contrasts with something from the course. Identify, using specific passages and keywords from course material, the connecting or contrasting patterns that you have in mind.
    • You will post your summary in a comment on this page (you can link to your blog or copy/paste the summary into the comment) on the day you are scheduled

Schedule for Further Reading Presentations:


  • W 10/17: Zachary, MacKenzie, Mary
  • W 10/24: AJ, Andrew
  • M 11/5: Julia, Alena
  • W 11/14: Alexa, Jennifer
  • W 11/28: Rian, Kaeo



38 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2018 5:00 pm

    Anohni sings very political songs, and has two poignant songs about the environment. One, called 4 Degrees, deals with climate change and laments the coming death of a myriad of species due to a predicted 4 degree change in the Earth’s climate. Anohni uses satire and irony in her song, singing “I want to see them burn” when she really means the opposite. She uses imagery such as megafauna like rhinos and lemurs and the generalized lyric of “and all those tiny creatures” to capture attention and get her point across because, especially with megafauna, people will not want these animals to die. Her other environmental activism song is called Why Did You Separate Me From The Earth? and it deals with how humans destroy the Earth for their own gain. Verse 2 goes “The rotten bodies threaded gold, the pitch of hair and sticky meat/The sea life cut with plastic, a white cross gilded gold/A case of white doves laying in the boiling snow/A sharp knife of concrete, the blue line of tuna’s throat”. Rotten bodies threaded gold shows how humans throw away their lives for currency, and then she goes into more questions of megafauna dying. The case of white doves laying in the boiling snow refers to peace being destroyed and the death of the environment. This relates to our course as she sings about the environment and how it is being destroyed and laments this fact. She is pushing towards/asking for a change in human behavior to repair the environment to the best of our abilities. She uses megafauna-a keyword in our course-irony, and imagery to convey this.

  2. November 5, 2018 7:37 pm

    After reading Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac,” a certain question the author states particularly resonates. He discusses in the section titled, “The Ecological Conscience” how people have to decide to be environmentally aware, and that they will not be so if they believe it is in the government’s responsibility to singlehandedly conserve Nature. Additionally, he argues our education about what the environment needs and what we should actually be doing to help preserve it is perhaps too small scoped. Leopold says in the anthology titled American Earth, that, “Is not this formula too easy to accomplish anything worth-while? It defines no right or wrong, assigns no obligation, calls for no sacrifice, implies no change in the current philosophy of values. In respect of land-use, it urges only enlightened self-interest. Just how far will such education take us?” (281).
    The idea that society has made environmental consciousness trivial is an interesting proposition. Lawrence Buell in The Future of Environmental Criticism comes to a complementary conclusion that the two evils that society commits of either labeling all environmentalists all as “tree huggers” or compromising on actually helping the environment (and consequently accomplishing relatively little due to fear of being so labeled) is abhorrent if life is to continue on earth. He argues that the “second-wave ecocriticism” should, “seek to redefine the concept of culture itself in organicist terms with a view to envisioning a ‘philosophy of organism’ that would break down the ‘hierarchical separations between human beings and other elements of the natural world’” (21, 22). This assertion, however, sparks the question of what tactic indeed will be potent enough to spurn mankind to preserve Nature and its species, as they learn to recognize their kinship with other members in the animal kingdom. In Buell’s eyes, trivializing environmentalism is a terrible solution, but likewise, pure scientific facts and statistics thus expressed are not particularly motivating to the general population in urging them to save our planet and its irrational members.
    George B. Schaller, in his prose piece “The Last Panda” subtly implies a different solution to motivate people that appears more powerful in trying to preserve our world. In this work, Schaller tells the story of a female panda and gives readers a glimpse into the typical day such a creature would experience amongst the bamboo in its forest dwelling. The chilling aspects of the poem are only hinted at, but they are an underlying menace throughout the prose. The title alludes to the panda’s singleness in a lesser sense than the actual monotony readers experience at the leisure but also apparent seclusion the panda resides in. Schaller writes that, “she once again foraged, the recycling of bamboo being the essence of her existence. She lived leisurely. Alone in these heights, the panda conveyed a sense of absolute solitude, an isolation that was almost mythic” (792). Though the prose is pretty and quite transfixing, the reality of the panda’s “absolute solitude,” upon reflection, is not a comforting or cheering fact.
    Secondly, the sounds of trees being cut down at the end of the piece is foreboding. After describing in lovely details the panda’s life and the features that make her an ideal fit for such an environment, such as, “her dense coat,” which makes her, “impervious to the elements,” the author transitions in the last paragraph to the dreaded sentence, “From below, near where the forest gave way to field, came the sound of an ax” (792). This threat to the panda’s habitat creates tension in the piece and make readers hope for some kind of solution that the author will provide to fix the problem by the end of the story. Unfortunately, no answer is provided, but this is the tactic that makes Schaller’s writing so effective: he does not directly criticize the tree cutters or tell people they should help the panda, but by creating a story and establishing an emotional connection between the reader and the panda, he indirectly encourages them to, if nothing else, consider the perspective of a different living being than him or herself.
    Ultimately, Schaller is more persuasive because “he studied humans closely enough to realize that he could use the appeal of these ‘charismatic megafauna’ to win the protection of the habitat on which they and many smaller species depend” (790). Charismatic megafauna are animals which are downright iconic in our culture and, due to their aesthetic or emotional appeal, are highly valued in society. Writing about these creatures is almost guaranteed to make people want to love and help them. Schaller is quite crafty in recognizing this, for by showing everyone the serious issue which is the beasts’ loss of habitat, he is instrumental in encouraging citizens to do their part in preserving land and its resources, which in turn preserves species.
    In the end, George B. Schaller understands an important concept: to help animals, one must get people involved, and there is no better way to influence people want to get involved then to make it about them. This tactic, perhaps more than any other previous attempt at educating the general public, is most effective in spurring them to action. Exploiting unscientific citizen’s emotions in an effort to make them think consciously may not be the method researchers ultimately want to employ, but until land ethics are paramount to society, these drastic, somewhat shameless measures must be taken to ensure species’ survival. Illustrating the thread between animals and humans is the probable lynchpin in securing the environmentalist movement to the public eye in these early stages.

    Works Cited
    Buell, Lawrence. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Blackwell, 2008.
    Leopold, Aldo. “A Sand County Almanac.” American Earth, by Bill McKibben, Library of America, 2008, p. 281.
    Schaller, George. “The Last Panda.” American Earth, by Bill McKibben, Library of America, 2008, pp. 790-792.

  3. October 17, 2018 6:11 pm

    One of the most stunning revelations that Annie Dillard makes in book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the intimate connection that she observes between mystery in nature, and a feeling of dreadful horror at what nature can show us. In the chapter “The Fixed”, Dillard writes about insects as though she is in a state of befuddlement and horror at the same time. “I never ask why of a vulture or shark, but I ask why of almost every insect I see. More than one insect – the possibility of fertile reproduction – is an assault on all human value, all hope of a reasonable god” (Dillard 64). What is it about insects that make them so repulsive to us? Dillard sees that they are just as much a part of nature as any fish species, or any bird species, and yet there is something mysteriously off-putting about the appearances and behaviors of insects. She alarmingly exclaims that insects can be so deliberately terrifying to look at, that they are “an assault on all human value, all hope of a reasonable god”. Not many people, including Dillard in this instance, want to accept the reality that has been laid bare about with what we share our world with. Humans may be on top of everything, and may think themselves stewards of the Earth, but ultimately, they must share the Earth with creatures that can be as horrible as insects.

    Despite the mysterious presence of life that can be so horrifying as insects, there are more mysteries that surround them, even though, as Dillard states, “The remarkable thing about the world of insects, is precisely that there is no veil cast over these horrors. These are mysteries performed in broad daylight before our very eyes; we can see every detail, and yet they are still mysteries” (Dillard 65). What else could make the presence of insects in the nature that we observe so mysterious? Could it be not only because that they exist when there are more lovely, larger creatures that we often look at, but also because of how alarmingly plentiful insects are? “The earth devotes an overwhelming proportion of its energy to these buzzings and leaps in the grass, to these brittle gnawings and crawlings about. Theirs is the biggest wedge of the pie: Why?” (Dillard 65) Through her thinking, Dillard realizes that insects are so mysterious because they are always there, even if they are not seen by our eyes. No veil can be cast over insects that would successfully hide them, because of how relentlessly plentiful they are. Even if they are not immediately seen, their presence is felt. Dillard starts this sentence off by describing some of the sounds (as well as actions) made by insects, because of how elusive they otherwise are to our notice. Dillard’s excerpts are here to remind us that even if insects are very elusive and mysterious before our notice, they are also a constant presence that stuns and terrorizes our minds. Such small creatures are living rent-free in our minds, even if we pretend otherwise.

    When I read about the mysterious and horrific glimpse of nature the insects provided Dillard, I had to think about Walt Whitman’s poem, This Compost. In this poem, the speaker talks about the unsettling feeling that nature can sometimes provide: “Something startles me where I thought I was safest, I withdraw from the still woods I loved” (Whitman 62). It’s this mysteriously unsettling feeling that nature can sometimes provide that is ironically easy to pick up on. In the poem, the speaker also refers to the source of his uncertainty and fright: the ground that he walks on in nature, which is potentially filled with creatures, both living and dead. What’s even more stunning to the speaker is how this ground, filled with such death, was also able to cause plenty of light to sprout. “Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick person – yet behold! The grass of the spring covers the prairies…” (Whitman 63). The presence of life in a section of nature, which was occupied with death, remains one of the most mysterious things about the entirety of nature on Earth. As life dies, it also grows in strength.

    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2016. Print.
    McKibben, Bill, and Al Gore. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008. 62-64. Print.

  4. October 17, 2018 3:44 pm

    In his very short essay, “About Trees,” J. Sterling Morton gives praise and grave importance to Arbor Day, while also giving his readers a lot of information about trees. He explains that trees, “are not proud,” and can “grow as luxuriantly beside the cabin of a pioneer as against the palace of a millionaire” (_American_Earth_, 126). He goes on to explain some of the life stages of a tree, equating some of them to the developmental stages of humans (ex: he mentions “tree baby-food,” “nursing leaves,” etc.) (_American_Earth_, 127). Later in the essay, Morton begins to speak critically of the importance of trees, warning that we need to replace the trees that are killed for things like the railway (_American_Earth_, 128). Throughout the essay, the reader is able to feel Morton’s appreciation of trees and understand his viewpoints for the need of trees. While this essay was written in the mid-late 1800s, its messages and themes still ring true today.

    The way Morton describes trees, especially at the beginning of the essay, with not only an appreciation but also a fondness, reminds me most immediately of the way Timothy Treadwell thought of and spoke of bears and the other animals he documented in his videos. While I cannot say for sure that Morton was as devoted to the cause of trees as Treadwell was to the bears, it’s safe to say that they are both dedicated to education and awareness. I also found some connections in the styles of writing between Morton and Annie Dillard, both of whom give detailed descriptions of what they’re talking about, as well as providing scientific background and understanding to their work. We were talking in class the other day about how Dillard’s combination of descriptions and science made her essays very dense, but Morton does the same kind of things and the point of his essay seems to be clear: we need more trees in order to prevent the earth from dying “of treelessness” (_American_Earth_, 128).

    Morton, J. Sterling. “About Trees.” American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau, by Bill McKibben and Al Gore, Literary Classics of the United States, 2008, pp. 126–128.

  5. November 30, 2016 2:57 pm

    (revised version; please grade this post)

    Recently, environmental critics have investigated the word “wilderness” to uncover its cultural origins and significance. In William Cronon’s “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” he defines wilderness as a social construct. Just as buildings, cars, and factories are the product of human invention, Cronon argues that the natural world is also part of man’s creation. Traditionally, Americans have connected the idea of wilderness with “the last remaining place where civilization…has not fully infected the earth.” Unlike man-made civilization, we perceived nature nature as “an island in the polluted sea of urban-industrial modernity.” Yet, Cronon closes the dichotomy between the pastoral and the developed civilization by arguing that nature is “quite profoundly a human creation.” For Cronon, nature or wilderness or wildness is a “product of that civilization.” Cronon’s belief that nature is socially constructed implies that nature is nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Since nature is as unnatural (or natural) as the sidewalks, park benches, and stop signs, everything—organic and man-made included—can be considered as nature. Cronon’s characteristically wild assertion aligns with Carolyn Finney’s sentiments on the matter.
    Like Cronon, Finney finds nature to be limited by our cultural connotations. Alongside national parks, rain forests, and verdant landscapes, Finney finds nature throughout the “streets of the city.” In her audio performance piece, “Ode to New York,” Finney argues that the city “is by nature, Nature itself. Redefined, rewritten…” She finds nature “together with the sound of the subway and cars and footsteps of hundreds of people marching…” Certainly, Cronon’s and Finney’s battle for a more expansive view of nature is compelling in that it justifies the naturalness of the artificial, concrete jungle. However, in coupling the natural with the unnatural, the organic with the synthetic, both authors fail to recognize the distinctiveness in the sensuous, vibrant, and living non-human world. To clarify this difference, philosopher and sleight-of-hand magician, David Abram, turns to his expertise in phenomenology.
    Unlike Cronon and Finney, Abram argues for a difference between the animate dimension and the realm of man-made, inanimate objects. In Abram’s “Spell of the Sensuous,” he delves into the philosophy that divides these two worlds. For Abram, the difference lies wholeheartedly in the living world’s ability to captivate, interact, and co-evolve with our bodily senses. To build his argument, Abram introduces Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a philosopher interested in the body’s unique capability to experience and perceive the ever-shifting world. Merleau-Ponty argues that in anything we perceive or experience, there is a silent conversation and reciprocity between the body and the perceived object taking place.
    Though most of us consider the “self, our innermost essence, as something incorporeal,” like the mind or the soul, Merleau-Ponty identifies “the subject with the bodily organism” (Abram, 45). Though the scientific worldview has diagrammed the sensuous, sentient life of the body in “physiology textbooks with its separable systems laid bare on each page,” the body is a living, animate, and perceptive entity that is sensitive to instantaneous changes in the environment. This “body subject,” a term coined by Merleau-Ponty, lies beneath the “anatomized and mechanical body,” and “actually experiencing things.” The “body subject” initiates all our endeavors and suffers all our passions; it is the very being that is responsible for Abram’s writing: “pondering a moment ago, [the body] suddenly took up this pen and scribbled these thoughts” (Abram, 52).
    This living, attentive, sensing body is not a programmed, hardwired computer that uses predetermined, genetic algorithms to cultivate movement. Rather, the “body subject” is in active participation with the sensuous world, constantly changing its form in response to the “wordless dimension of our sensory participations…for the intertwining of my body with the things it perceives is effected only through the interweaving of my senses” (Abram, 63).
    It is through the “body subject,” that Abram avoids falling into solipsistic fallacies or egotism. The “body subject” is the active participant in Husserl’s “life-world,” the intersubjective realm where other bodies are sensing and reacting (Abram 40). In essence, the subjective body’s ability to sense and interact with reality is what makes us fully human and thus, totally alive. Surely, we are not thinking minds or souls or egos in isolation from each other and the world; rather, we are sensing bodies, suspended into a “single, ever-shifting fabric, a single phenomenal world or reality” (Abram, 39).
    But how does phenomenology tie into ecology? How does a sensuous, continuously active, living world inform what is natural and unnatural? And, how do our bodies, the entity that is distinctively capable of sensing the world it co-evolved with, connect with environmental ethics?
    In the final section of the chapter “Philosophy on the Way to Ecology,” Abram claims that the “recuperation of the sensuous is the rediscovery of the earth” (Abram, 62). Here, Abram argues that inanimate objects are insufficient and inadequate to our highly adaptive and advanced sensing bodies—“from milk cartons to washing machines to computers our senses are drawn into a dance that endlessly reiterates itself without variation.” Our man-made, handcrafted objects cannot live up to the sensuousness and vitality of nature, nor can they fulfill or satiate our cravings to feel and interact. Our unnatural objects are constrained “by the specific functions for which they were built.” When our bodies master these “functions,” they provide our senses nothing new, and “so we must continually acquire new technologies, the latest model of this or that if we wish to stimulate ourselves” (64).
    When we reconnect with our animal senses, man-made civilization reappears as something “sadly superfluous and dull” (65). Though Cronon and Finney find nature “in the streets of the city,” Abram would argue that there is more to nature than meets the eye. Nature, Abram holds, is not only something to behold in vision, but also something to sense, to converse with, and to experience with your entire body. When nature is replaced with anything man-made, we inevitably substitute the sensuous organic with the manufactured mundane. Thus, Husserl’s “life-world” is replaced with single-dimension objects. Consequently, a world that is supposed to host an abundance of sensory-captivating organisms has been diluted with artifacts that lose their distinctiveness after its first use. As a result, our animal senses deaden; we lose contact and conversation with the living world. In part, we rid our bodies of what makes it alive and human.
    When the “profoundly carnal life-world” has been reduced to machines, tools, and gadgets, the simpler, less taxing route is to redefine what constitutes as nature- a path Cronon and Finney choose. However, the more realistic, rigorous, and challenging direction is to consider what it means to be human. When defining our human nature is taken seriously, one must include the keen sensory systems of the human body. After recuperating our animal senses, we are rewarded with an awakened, heightened, and sharpened perception of the world. The earth becomes more fragrant, vicious, abundant, and riveting. When our senses are revived, we, “body subjects” feel more alive than ever before. In Bill McKibben’s praise for Abram’s work and insights in “The Spell of the Sensuous”, McKibben says “he (David Abram) has written best instruction manual yet for becoming fully human. I walked outside when I was done and the world was a different place.”

    Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-human World. New York: Pantheon, 1996. Print.

    Cronon, William. “The Trouble with Wilderness; Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” William Cronon. N.p., 19 Aug. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

    Finney, Carolyn. “Ode to New York: A Performance Piece.” Humans and Nature. Center of Humans and Nature, 2013. Web.

  6. November 30, 2016 1:25 pm

    Throughout the semester I have been struck by the strong appeal to morality, that every author has for the environment. From The Compost by Walt Whitman, where Whitman discusses that mortality of man as well as nature, in order to place the two on a level playing field; to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, where Dillard saw nature consuming in itself, in the form of a frog being sucked by a giant waterbug. But what compelled these authors to approach morality in the first place? I saw it as the easiest thing to find in nature, when they try to anthropomorphize it.
    Anthropomorphizing is a relatively simple task for a writer to complete, especially since humans have only been open to human society as a culture for nearly a thousand years now. As a culture, human society is based in individuality, not the community that is necessary in the natural environment. Of course there is human culture, but we are so used to our human culture that we describe a pack of lions as group of anger rioters, or a group of fish as a ‘school’ because they are working together collectively. However, there are some writers, such as Native American writers, who just describe the ‘wild’ world for what it is untamed. We have seen this in class, where Native American writers just write about nature occurring, because their cultures are built around comparing nature to human things; whereas other cultures have lived in human society for so long that they have to humanize places and organisms in order to understand them.
    In Rural Hours, Cooper describes one of the first accounts of indigenous species in the new world. She carefully calls the two locations of this seeding as the New World and Old World, giving very cultured names, especially in the New World where the new is an untouched kingdom. But one book where the author not only brings the culture of society into the wild environment but he also anthropomorphizes that environment is in Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey.
    Desert Solitaire recounts the time that Abbey worked as a park ranger out in Arches National Monument in Utah. Abbey’s personality can be described as being hardy, stubborn, and antisocial. The one thing that intrigued me the most about Abbey is how he still described the environment in an anthropomorphized way, even after showing so much disgust for modern society, he was still observing the environment as if he was in the shopping mall getting annoyed at people he thought were being ridiculous. For instance, there was a horse in Desert Solitaire that ran off into the mountains after it was badly beaten one day. The horse had been up in the mountains for at least a decade alone, without anyone seeing it since it ran away, when Abbey decided to go and locate the horse. When Abbey found it, he was convinced that he was going to take this horse back to human society with him; this is not what the horse had in mind. Abbey proceeds to basically harass the horse, for hours trying to get this horse off the mountain, in which the horse does not budge. In the end Abbey just calls the horse stupid and walks off angry, the scene is very comical, though it is also disappointing that when Abbey does find the horse, the horse is just a stupid horse to him. Not the wild and majestic body encompassing nature that he really is.
    When we observe nature in a humanistic view we are only capturing a fraction of it, because in order to experience nature we have to observe it with a natural lens. Taking in the environment for what it is, so we don’t lose any detail or worth that it has to offer.

  7. November 29, 2016 5:31 pm

    To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, the Academy of American Poets commissioned fifty poets to write poems about a park in each of the fifty states in the “Imagine our Parks with Poems” series. More information about the project and all 50 poems are available here:

    Many of these poems address the parks directly, and may even go as far as to describe the political significance of the poem to the poet. Take Catoctin Mountains by Dora Malech, the poem written for Maryland (available here: In it, Malech wrestles with concepts of freedom and containment. She opens by describing “the ridges of trees/ flushed red/ as if holding/ their breath/ to blue distance,/ a/ wager made/ with the sky” (2). The trees are anthropomorphized as stubborn, holding their breath, trying to maintain a border against the unrestricted nature of the sky. This relates to Malech’s broader views of the National Park as a protective but also containing force.

    This is interesting in contrast to John Muir’s consideration of the trees and the sky in “A Windstorm in the Forest.” He writes, “The waving of a forest of the giant Sequoias is indescribably impressive and sublime, but the pines seem to me the best interpreters of winds. They are mighty waving goldenrods, ever in tune, singing and writing wind-music all their long century lives.” In Muir’s vision, the trees participate in the free and lyrical action of the wind. They are not stubborn against it, but rather conduits of its lyrical power.

    These two writers, though they are working in lyric language, still present political views. Malech sees the role of the individual (the tree) as a containing and contained. Total freedom may be chaotic and undesired. Later in the poem, she addresses the animals of the park that are“at fenced and guarded/ leisure, though the wind/ passes as it pleases,/ and when it shakes/ the trees, it is not/ an agreement at all” (31). The animals require the restriction of the park for their safety and leisure, though the wind provides evidence that there is a greater freedom that they do not have. However like the shaking and disagreeable wind, this freedom may be more chaotic. For Muir, the wind is not chaotic but harmonious, a thing that creates beautiful music with the trees. He feels that total freedom is a concept that improves the lives of individuals.

    Working from the same source material, the two present almost opposite aesthetic and political views. This exemplifies the power of the political statement that can be made by a poet in nature. These two poets resist the stereotype of nature poetry as limp meditations on flowers and bunnies. Muir and Malech work within complex questions, whose answers have real stakes for human beings.

  8. November 27, 2016 10:56 pm

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    This novel is about the Price family, which consists of a father who is a preacher, a mother, and their four daughters, who travel on a Christian mission to the Congo during the time the Congo is fighting for independence. Nathan, the father, believed that the people who lived in the Congo were completely uncivilized due to the way they wouldn’t be able to function in a society by his standards. He attempts to convert them all to Christianity, but refuses to understand their ways, and ends up failing. The novel is told through the perspectives of the daughters and their mother.

    The reason that this novel stood out to me as far as being a connection to environmental criticism is because it isn’t just about the Price family converting the Congolese; they also try to convert the land. At one point, the father decides to plant a garden, and goes about doing it the same way he would in Georgia. The Congolese woman assigned to help the family scolds him for how he plants his garden, stating, “You got to be make hills” (Kingsolver 40). The father refuses to listen, and when it pours down rain one day, “[t]he torrent had swamped the flat bed and the seeds rushed out like runaway boats” (Kingsolver 63). Then, the father takes the Congolese woman’s advice and makes the hills. This scene connects back to the idea of adapting to the land, which is clearly depicted in Wendell Berry’s “The Making of a Marginal Farm.” In this article, Berry states that he “saw that they were not ‘marginal’ because they ever were unfit for human use, but because in both culture and character we had been unfit to use them” (Berry 512). Therefore, Kingsolver demonstrates in her novel that one cannot force their ways onto the environment, they have to adapt to the land. She states it best in the very beginning of her novel, when the mother, Orleanna, says that “[w]e aimed for no more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth. And so it came to pass that we stepped down there on a place we believed unformed, where only darkness moved on the face of the waters. Now you laugh, day and night, while you gnaw on my bones” (Kingsolver 10). Here, she demonstrates the dangerous consequences that come out of refusing to adapt and trying to take control.

    This also connects to Rob Nixon’s introduction to “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor,” because the novel is set during the time that the Congo is fighting for independence. A lot of countries fought for control over the Congo because it is a place rich with natural resources. Nixon discusses the dangers of this leading to big businesses gaining control. These businesses are only worried about money, and the land suffers from this. In order to draw attention to this, Kingsolver references key figures in the fight for independence. Therefore, she can be seen as an environmental writer trying to make people aware of the problems happening in the Congo, which can be seen as another connection to Nixon, who discusses how environmental writers can act as advocates by creating this awareness. I am interested in pursuing this novel further in my Final Project, and hope to look further into Kingsolver’s use of language.

    Works Cited:

    Berry, Wendell. “The Making of a Marginal Farm.” American Earth, edited by Bill McKibben, Literary Classics of the United States, 2008, pp. 507-16. Print.

    Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005. Print.

    Nixon is in a file on Canvas.

  9. November 16, 2016 3:13 pm

    The works of literature we have read thus far may vary in content and rhetoric, however there is a similarity that is found within most of the texts we have read. Ethics constantly challenges your mind on the basis of ‘are you doing what’s right?’. According to the James Madison University, there are 8 key topics that one should think about when attempting to make an ethical decision; character, liberty, rights, empathy, responsibilities, fairness, outcome, and authority. These eight key questions reflect the best of humanity’s traditional ethical reasoning. I’m going to do closer reading on how the different use of language (poetic VS. scientific) creates a sense of ethics within the literature.

    In the chapter The Hidden Costs of Cheap Chickens, Singer points out a problem that we have in our own community— “Over-harvesting and the growth of human population in the region, with the pollution it brings, are partial reasons for the bay’s problems…” (Singer 29). While reading Singers work, I couldn’t help but to compare him to writes such as Dillard or Thoreau. There’s a poetic disconnect in which I find quite interesting. The works of Dillard and Thoreau are far more poetic and contain dense diction and complex syntax. However, what is intriguing with Singer is his factuality of stating a certain purpose and the importance of it. Through a more scientific explanation of our impacts on the environment, Singer is able to display outcome— “The bay now has “dead zones” that cannot support fish, crabs, oysters, or other species of ecological significance” (30). Unlike poetic authors like Dillard or Thoreau, Singer takes time to scientifically explain how our interaction with the environment has an outcome and this is an outcome we should have in the back of our minds.

    Dillard and Thoreau value the importance of self-discovery through the aid of the natural world, seemingly hiding behind a pen and paper. I read their work with an open mind and a sense of curiosity. A lot of my questions were answered through these readings; however, neither author really discussed on what we need to do as a society to shift our interaction with nature and how not to love nature to death. Despite this, both Dillard and Thoreau uses poetic rhetoric to display the ethics of character. Our interaction with nature can impact the way we view ourselves which can then impact our character. To help to discover the good life, one must first engage in thoughtful reflection on what kind of person one wants to become. In describing this ideal, one can describe good character traits, or virtues—ideals of good behavior to which we should aspire.

    The way authors like Momaday and Berry address the audience is different. In N. Scott Momaday’s, A First American Views His Land he shares “But in time he will come to understand that there is an intimate, vital link between the earth and himself, a link that implies an intricate network of rights and responsibilities” (Momaday 572). These rights and responsibilities are important in understanding our purpose when interacting with the environment around us—it’s ethical to find the link between earth and himself. A First American Views His Land was published in the late 70’s. During this time the EPA was given complete control over hazardous waste in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This act mandates the agency manage all aspects of toxic waste management. Through poetic language, Momaday acknowledges this toxic waste and how the ‘first American’ view it; “A large power plant in that same region spews a contamination into the sky that is visible for many miles. And yet…the Navajos perceive and celebrate the beauty of the physical world” (574).

  10. November 16, 2016 2:50 pm

    There are certain scenes in nature that are hard for words to describe. It is often a beauty that takes our breath away and leaves us wondering. Nature becomes so appealing to the human, that when submersed in it, we begin to understand we are just a part of it. Lawrence Buell associates this with the sublime – meaning of great heights, excellent, and awe inspiring. Something sublime will allow us to transcend into a greater line of thought and leaves us searching for a connection between the physical and spiritual realms.

    A wonderfully unique example of the sublime can be found in Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah. It takes the listener on a journey of life – questioning existence and then an extreme gratitude of life. The harmony in the song allows for people struggling in all aspects of life to see the beauty in nature. It is amazing that the beauty of the earth can be extended by the art of a human, and Emerson noticed that. This was the important connection he made in Nature, when he said “Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both”.

    Emerson also states, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, – no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving my eyes,) which nature cannot repair.” Leonard Cohen writes his own understanding of “returning to reason and faith” in the second verse of his song Hallelujah. Falling in love, for him, was the way to understanding human life. Once he allowed himself to love physically, he lost all his power and returned to being a part of nature.

    Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature, Addresses and Lectures. Emerson Central. 09/03/2009 22:36:17

  11. November 16, 2016 3:15 am

    For my further reading I chose to go back to a personal read, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. She was the first to introduce me to environmental reading and influenced my interest in this course. In her book, Carson expressed concern for the future of our planet in which most of the world seemed blind to. I think Carson and Dillard are two authors that touch on concepts alike, even if coming from different perspectives.

    Silent Spring is a classic that helped reverse the national pesticide policy and inspired an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After the book was published in 1962, many people became aware of the dangers and effects of widespread pesticide use. This led to protests against pesticides.

    Due to the success of the protests and thus changed environmental laws regrading pesticide use, twelve years later, Dillard was able to see and write about the animals that inspired her in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Dillard’s experiences may not have been possible without the changed laws influenced by Carson. For instance, the starlings that Dillard described in her novel could have been affected by DDT, a chemical that is found in pesticides that weakens bird eggs and leads to premature death of the embryos. A nationwide ban of DDT resulted from the publication of Silent Spring. Another example is that the aquatic life that Dillard described could have been disturbed by pesticide runoff.

    Dillard’s fear of the “Giant Water Bug” seems to symbolize a natural aversion to pesticides in my opinion. The water bug eats insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs (Dillard 8). I connected the two because pesticides are made by man to kill bugs, allowing man to thrive in a world without pests and the water bug thrives off of pests for food. It sounds to me that Dillard was appalled watching the insides of the frog get inhaled by the bug stating, “Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water; it was a monstrous and terrifying thing” (Dillard 7). Which leads me to believe that she would have the same reaction, if not greater, to experiencing 600 dead fish found in the river at Yellowstone due to DDT.

    In Silent Spring Cason writes, “We spray our elms and the following springs are silent of robin song, not because we sprayed the robins directly but because the poison travelled, step by step, through the now familiar elm leaf-earthworm-robin cycle” (Carson 189). Carson uses a robin for an example, that pesticides harm even the ones that are not intended for harm. This includes most, if not all, animals and insects. If mosquitoes are sprayed, praying mantises and spiders (who eat mosquitoes) are also affected by the spray. Dillard particularly brings attention to praying mantises in her chapter “The Fixed”, bring comic relief to their mating habits: “…‘No, don’t go near her, you fool, she’ll eat you alive.’ At the same time a chemical in his abdomen says, ‘Yes, by all means, now and forever yes’” (Dillard 58).

    Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. 215 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003: Houghton Mifflin, 1962. Print.
    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: Harper’s Magazine, 1974. Print.

  12. November 15, 2016 9:26 pm

    Perhaps one of the most explicit illustrations of our relationship to the environment exists in how we eat. Like Berry, who calls for attempts to “renew husbandry,” many epicurean members of the culinary community call for renewing gastronomy, and efforts to that end extend well beyond kitchens of the world’s finest restaurants. Chefs around the world, including figures like Dan Barber and Alain Passard, source ingredients to farms that they have established and sustained. These farms grow plants and raise animals for their sponsoring restaurants only. This push reflects a genuine desire to reclaim (to borrow another term invoked by Berry) the artistry of cookery.

    In a profile published by the New Yorker, chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s reveals his motivations for reclaiming intricate ingredients. He recalls his time at Johnson and Wales, a noted culinary school in the United States. During his training, he and his peers tasted Hoppin’ John, a popular Southern dish. “It was awful,” he remembers. An admirer of Southern cuisine, Brock blamed the ingredients—not the recipe—for the failure of the dish.

    This incident has served much of Brock’s culinary philosophy. Today, he works closely with farms to produce particular variations of plants, such as rice, which come to life in Brock’s laboratory. The article traces his shift and details the ways in which farming techniques have changed in recent years, producing—more often than not—subpar ingredients. Brock’s restaurant celebrates traditional Southern cooking while looking to the future of avant-garde techniques both in the kitchen and in the fields. The article, which rhetorically echoes Berry, presents Brock’s project as one of reclamation.

    For further reading: Burkhard Bilger, “True Grits,” The New Yorker, 31 October 2011.

  13. October 26, 2016 12:12 pm

    The outside source that I have chosen to incorporate is The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, written by Elizabeth Kolbert. The basic premise of this book may, at first, seem to put it slightly at odds with Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but there are some remarkable connections that can be drawn between the two—indeed, I almost feel as if they are in the same class, the same subgenre, of environmental writing. While Dillard is heavily focused on the explosion of life around her, Kolbert is, by necessity of her topic, focused on the snuffing out of that life. Yet, they both end up addressing the same themes of intricacy, and the sublimity of nature (if they approach this concept differently), and they are both books that strike me as science written for people who may not be scientifically literate. This is not, in any way, a knock against either of these books, but simply an observation about what the target audience seems to be (and is stated to be, in the case of Sixth Extinction).

    A recurring theme in Kolbert, and one that is established early, is that everything is connected. Some passages hearken to Dillard’s discussion of the goldfish tail before scaling out to the connection of all the atoms in the world. Only Kolbert starts big in many cases, and then scales in. In her discussion of coral reefs, she begins by talking about the ocean as a single chemical, physical body, before beginning to zoom in on the corals themselves, and then the individual, microscopic organisms that, in their mass-living arrangement, comprise the corals. This is a common theme in a variety of writings on the natural world, and really, it can be traced back to Leopold and, perhaps most notably, Muir, who once wrote that “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”. Even Thoreau discussed versions of this tenant, though I think he never put it quite as eloquently as Muir did. This hitched togetherness is what Dillard identifies as intricacy, and discusses in the context of her goldfish and the leaves that she investigates down to their toothed edges and branching veins.

    I think it is the focus on this that, in some ways, characterizes science writing for the masses of people who may not be familiar with scientific concepts. If it can be effectively imparted that everything is intricate on its own level, and that when you scale either in or out, there are still more layers of intricacy, then people begin to get a sense of the true size and scale of the natural world and it’s intertwining threads, without having to understand the exact connections. And once a person is hooked and ready to accept this premise, it’s a lot easier to begin to unravel these threads to show the incredible personality and human drama of the natural world (in Dillard’s case), or the extreme peril presented by picked apart this web of interconnectedness (in Kolbert’s case).

    Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction : an Unnatural History. New York :Henry Holt and Company, 2014. Print.

  14. Carolin Magdalena Jesussek permalink
    October 24, 2016 8:51 pm

    Gothic Nature and the Sublime in Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

    I would like to give a deeper insight on a topic touched upon in class: the concept of the sublime and how it can be evoked by terror. This notion is represented by the gothic elements in nature in Jane Austen’s Wuthering Heights. The sublime can be defined as a sense of elevation resulting from something inexplicable to humans that can be induced by terror, passion or privation.

    Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship in the novel grows in nature: from childhood on, they find refuge on the moors – a place that seems dangerous, wild and unexplored to others. They escape from a violent home in the weather-wracked estate of Wuthering Heights: an ancient, untamed and sinister place. On these ground the protagonists’ love for each other grows and the gothic display of nature plays a key role in it: the stormy weather reflects the passionate nature of Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s love. This Passion is one of the factors that can lead to an experience of the sublime in nature. Their love is beyond passionate when it becomes clear that they cannot survive without the other: “I am Heathcliff”, says Catherine.

    For the sake of societal status she marries a rich young man and both she and Heathcliff feel the intense consequences of their separation:
    Being apart is a maddening experience and shows the dark side of their all-consuming love. Catherine feels the urge to go back to nature: “I wish I were out of doors!”, where she could be with Heathcliff. When illness ties her to the bed, she tears “the pillow with her teeth; then raising herself up all burning, desired that I would open the window. We were in the middle of winter, the wind blew strong from the north-east, and I objected. Both the expressions flitting over her face, and the changes of her moods, began to alarm me terribly”. This shows how passion turns into madness which can invoke terror in the reader.

    Catherine’s mental state is mirrored in the weather conditions: “In the evening the weather broke: the wind shifted from south to north- east, and brought rain first, and then sleet and snow. […] And dreary, and chill, and dismal, that morrow did creep over!“ Since she fails to get back to nature with Heathcliff, she dies.

    The feeling of terror grows and is further enhanced by Heathcliff’s privation: “He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast being goaded to death with knives and spears. I observed several splashes of blood about the bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were both stained“. Heathcliff and Catherine become subjects to the destructiveness of love that is equally as uncontrollable as nature. The gothic aspects, the passionate nature of Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship and the destructive privation and maddening force that follows their separation are elements in the novel that lead up to a sublime experience in nature: “In every cloud, in every tree—filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day, I am surrounded with her image!”

    Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Smith, Elder & Co, 1870.

  15. October 19, 2016 2:10 am

    I think the thing that has intrigued me most thus far in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is her idea of texture. I find it relatable because it seems that without any major influence (such as Dillard), I have for the longest time had a mindset for looking at objects in the environment a little bit deeper; not just taking things for face value and moving on. In a sense, I kind of feel like Thoreau or Dillard at times; I live on my own farm surrounded by a fair amount of land with a whole host of characteristics to it that I can explore often. There’s a little bit of everything to be had where I live, which takes me to when Dillard wrote, “… feathers’ barbs, springtails in the soil, crystal in the rock, chloroplast streaming, rotifers pulsing, and the shape of the air in the pines,” as well as, “Landscape consists in the multiple, overlapping intricacies and forms that exist in a given space at a moment in time” (Dillard, 139). This lens to view the environment through brings about a deeper ecological sense that can be had for the world around us.

    After reading this part of Dillard, and thinking about it in terms of myself, I began to explore where else these ideas could be found or another text I have experienced that uses this approach. I could not help but jump to A Sand County Almanac, one of my favorite environmental works because of the ecological approach of Leopold and, unknowingly at the time, his same textural lens that he utilized while writing of his experiences on his land in Wisconsin. I think it makes sense to say that in order to achieve the land ethic that Leopold explained one must view things in Dillard’s textural way. How can a relationship between the land and the people who inhabit it form without us truly understanding what is around us? We need to pay attention to the intricacies, and as Dillard says, “Wherever there is life, there is twist and mess” (140).

    These intricacies are important in all parts of the environment. Dillard seems to focus more so on the texture of the planets, how Earth was at one point thought of as a pineapple shape with jaggedness, and the hills that can be found across a continent, among other physical properties of our planet (140). But she was wise to also mention the feathers’ barbs, and the air through the trees, but I think may not hold the same appreciation for these more minute aspects of the natural world as Leopold did. He capitalized on the texture of wildlife when he wrote, “they set wing and glide silently to the pond, black landing-gear lowered and rumps white against the far hill” (Leopold, 19). Leopold’s relating of trees to history also shows his close attention to the intricate and often overlooked aspects of nature; he describes as each ring is sawed through so are all of the past years and their events. I definitely think that Leopold was on the right track by looking not only at the world in an ecological sense in order to achieve the land ethic that he describes, but now having Dillard it seems that he was also viewing things on a textural level. I think a good way to look at it is: as something grows more and more intricate, it is likely becoming more and more important.

    Works Cited
    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. Print.
    Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There. Oxford UP, 1949. Print.

  16. October 18, 2016 6:13 pm

    I chose to do my further reading on the tragedy of the commons by Garret Hardin. I felt like this is always a central focus within all of the environmental classes I have taken, from high school until now. There is general focus within all of the readings we have done about this common ground (earth). There is a particular focus on agriculture and population growth when discussing the tragedy. This chapter also focuses on a more scientific concept that I found easier to relate to and comprehend. It differed to the readings we have focused on so far and discussed different impacts on earth. Hardin specifically focuses on the social aspect of the commons in that “each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his heard without limit” (439). This system Hardin mentions illustrates the tragedy being addressed.
    In Walden, Thoreau’s bean field touches on this concept, as he is limited to a certain area for his crop (Walden, 107). If Thoreau’s land was limitless, as Hardin mentions “Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all”(439).
    Each of the authors that we have read so far does not discuss the detrimental effects humans have on the commons. Although Thoreau discusses the industrialization of Walden Pond in his chapter about the train, he doesn’t talk about the consequences that industrializing and expanding can bring (Walden, 81). Therefore unlike the textbooks I have read does environmental literature solely discuss the luxuries of their commons. What would happen if the pollution from the train impacted Walden Pond? Would Thoreau then discuss the effects of the tragedy of the commons? Due to the freedom to use the pond, humans use up everything it has to offer. When comparing the texts that we have read it appears that the environmental authors in a way, glamorize nature, not addressing perhaps serious issues such as population growth or even climate change.
    Annie Dillard is another author that we have focused on recently, and although she has her differences when thinking about Thoreau, she too discusses nature as it appears to her. Her writing, particularly in the first few chapters of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek have made it very clear that she examines nature thoroughly, but fails to think about the repercussions of the “neighbors” that also visit the creek. Particularly when she is describing the event of the giant water bug, and the frog, her observations are very vivid. “Soon, part of his skin, formless as a prickled balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water” (Pilgrim, 8). Going back to the neighbors she often talks about, what effect do they have on the frog?

    Work Cited:
    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: HarperPerennial, 2007. Print.

    Hardin, Garrett. The Tragedy of the Commons. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since
    Thoreau. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008.438-450. Print.

    Thoreau, Henry D. The Bean Field. Ed. William J. Rossi. Walden Civil Disobedience and Other Writings. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. 107-114. Print.

    Thoreau, Henry D. Sounds. Ed. William J. Rossi. Walden Civil Disobedience and Other Writings. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. 78-90. Print.

  17. October 12, 2016 1:20 pm

    For this further reading exercise, I decided to focus on another text by Annie Dillard that dealt with her enthusiastic observation of the environment, as seen in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” I found the second chapter, “Seeing” particularly interesting and chose an essay that discusses seeing and close observation of organisms in a very similar way as the book. In her essay, “A Watcher of Things” Dillard compares the experiences of viewing pond water algae under a microscope as a child with her more recent observation of two whistling swans through binoculars at Daleville Pond. Around the age of twelve, Dillard studied pond water under a microscope in her parent’s basement. When her 5-watt bulb burned out, she used a lamp lying on its side, with its 75-watt bulb unknowingly frying and killing anything she put under the microscope, as well as causing her eyes to dry out. In the future, she is outside in Virginia, hiding in the reeds with binoculars and observing two whistling swans in flight. She describes the changing colors of the swans as the light plays with shadows, and how staring so deliberately at the bright sky to track the swans burned her eyes. In the end, a bird she originally described as “bigger than I was” becomes a tiny creature when she compares the situation to when she observed minuscule organisms in pond water.

    She focuses a great deal on the instruments that she uses for observation—the microscope and the binoculars. Both items helped facilitate an experience. With the microscope, it was the mesmerizing way the algae moved, like a dream. In regards to the binoculars, it was a way in which she “lost all sense of space” as she watched the swans fly, losing her balance in relation to the world. As she says in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” “this looking business is risky” (25). It throws you off, decenters you. Sometimes, it takes a while to know what you are looking at. Dillard said that as a child she did not know what she was doing with the microscope, but she enjoyed studying the organisms in the backdrop of blinding light. This experience with light is similar to a blind girl using her eyes for the first time: “she saw, but it did not mean anything but a lot of different kinds of brightness” (28). As the newly sighted girl gets used to her vision, the brightness becomes normal and the items residing in that light can be beautiful and worth studying too. When Dillard is old enough to observe the swans, she is still thrown off by the experience, but is better able to describe what she is seeing. Looking is worth the risk, but you must develop a practiced eye. Looking through the lenses, Dillard says in the essay, “is an acquired skill.” So how does one develop these skills of close observation? How do you learn to look at nature, past the brightness and the decentering value, in a way that makes sense of what you are seeing?

    Works Cited:
    Dillard, Annie. “A Watcher of Things.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 08 Apr. 1982. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.
    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: HarperPerennial, 2007. Print.

  18. October 12, 2016 12:41 pm

    The resource I selected comes from a book we read in my Traditional Ecological Knowledge class, called “Sacred Ecology.” The book is all about indigenous people’s relationship with their environments based on traditional knowledge systems. The chapter I chose to focus on is called ‘Cree Worldview “From the Inside.”’ It outlines the Cree’s strategies for adaptive management, as well as their land ethic (which, the author points out, does not distinguish between land and sea). Berkes assesses the commonly shared view held by American Indian communities, which is that nature should be respected. Respect can be broken down into four values: community, connectedness, concern for future generations, and humility (Berkes 122).
    As I read this, I thought of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, only to see it addressed in the following paragraph. The author critiques western environmental ethics, including Leopold. Berkes tells us that the Cree felt they had an obligation to respect nature, and nature, in turn, had an obligation to respect humans. Leopold, according to Berkes, only expresses that humans should extend this respect. Also missing from Western ethics is the concept of humility—though Berkes says that Leopold comes close to addressing this in his famous line intended to equalize humans with nature, taking them “from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it” (Leopold 278).
    Having read part of Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” beyond the “Land Ethic” section, I think that his concept of the energy circuit ties directly in with many Cree values about respect for the interconnectedness of life. But he goes on about how we must “evolve” our societal ethic, when in reality there are already hundreds of societies that have espoused these values for thousands of years–acting as though American Indian societies have gone extinct. He says the Pueblo Indians civilization has expired, however, this is a misconception. The modern-day Pueblo have adapted to exist in Western society but have never abandoned their history or land ethic.

    Works Cited
    Berkes, Fikret. Sacred Ecology. New York: Routledge, 2012. Discovery eBooks. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
    Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008. 266-294. Print.

  19. October 12, 2016 6:17 am

    Seeing and Complimentarity
    Frank Wilczek is a nobel-prize winning physicist, author of the book A Beautiful Question: Nature’s Deep Design, and interviewee of this podcast episode of “On Being” with Krista Tippett (, the critical resource I have chosen to relate to Annie Dillard and her chapter titled “Seeing” in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Wilczek, in his book and in the podcast, uses his incredible scientific background to answer a highly artful and philosophical question, “Why is the world so beautiful?” The discipline of physics (in which I admittedly have only a painfully remembered high school extent of knowledge in) offers the fundamental and deepest truths about reality. He poetically describes gravitational waves as “tremors in space-time”, gravitational fields as “geometry containing fluids”, and the physics standard model as “Core Theory.” The poetic perspective Wilczek takes seems and perhaps is still unusual, but then also clearly appropriate as I am reminded by the fact that what we call science now was before called ‘natural philosophy.’ “Beauty is notoriously thought to be subjective”, he says, “but it’s not entirely subjective.” It can and should inform objective truths or insights, according to Wilczek. Dillard is not a scientist, but she is a poet and the first chapter clearly supports this thought, especially in the line, “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there” (10). She conveys very well the constant awe and dazzlement she experiences in nature and her wonder and mystery about the creative forces of the universe. There is an apparent search for meaning. What Wilczek does is use beauty as a litmus test for his own theories and equations of the universe, holding them, he says as he must, to the highest aesthetic standard in his search for meaning. The mathematical and physical understanding of beauty to him is far from superficial. The notion of it has to be deep and complex to describe a reality that is truly strange and paradoxical and crazy.
    A key moment in the podcast is when he talks about the idea of complimentarity, a principle of physics discovered and defined by Niels Bohr (a colleague of Einstein) that phenomena on the atomic level must be understood to have both particle and wave properties. Light and electrons exist as both a particle and a wave and one property must be acknowledged without denying the other, in other words. Wilczek describes this scientific concept in human terms, when he talks of complementarity as this: “in ordinary reality and ordinary time and space, the opposite of a truth is a falsehood. [But] deep propositions have a meaning that goes beyond their surface. You can recognize a deep truth by the feature that its opposite is also a deep truth.” Though there is an apparent conflict between light being a particle and a wave, the beautiful and complimentary answer is that it is both. Wilczek says, if asked about his religion, he would call himself a complimentarian, which boils down to the practice of finding a whole and more coherent way of viewing the world and how it works. Dillard, in her second chapter “Seeing”, reflects on others and her own struggles to see the world whole with intense themes of light (direct and reflecting) and darkness. There is a determination communicated to see everything, to see all of nature’s beautiful qualities, while there is also a clear frustration with how much she can’t see. Dillard wants to heed Thoreau’s advice and return to her senses, presumably a clarity of vision, if this is about seeing things. Blindness, however, is paradoxically appreciated within the chapter via the discussion of von Senden’s book about cataract operations. Some blind people, given full vision, wanted to lose their sight and remain blind after the operations, being more comfortable operating within their inborn understanding of the world. Some other “many newly sighted people”, Dillard says, “ speak well of the world and teach us how dull is our own vision” (31). Dillard, in wanting to see things, thinks it best to take an abstracted and dazed view. She says she saw the world in color-patches for weeks after she finished the book, as the blind had described their worlds to be. Though this way of seeing could not last for long (she “couldn’t unpeach the peaches”), Dillard still strives and lives for those dazzling moments of infinite (and infant?) perspective (32). If seeing nature with eyes open is one truth, the opposite and another deep truth is being able to see nature with eyes closed of half-closed (like squinting at her hat’s brim to see the fish as flashes of brightness in the creek). The essence of complimentarity, Wilczek says, is that “you have to view the world in different ways to do it justice and the different ways can be very rich, can each be internally consistent, can each have its own language and rules, but they may be mutually incompatible.” A “full justice of reality”, however, takes them both into account. And I think this is what can be understood in Dillard’s writing and motivation, especially in this chapter, her desire to achieve a whole vision of reality in this rather complicated sense.

    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: Harper’s Magazine, 1974. Print.

  20. October 5, 2016 6:18 am

    For my further reading, I chose to take a look at some more modern and creative takes on environmentalism, specifically along the subject of trees and the destruction of the natural world for our own use as humans. As a student of American Studies and Music, I wanted to focus on musical works that connect both to literature and to social movements, specifically environmentalism. As such, I chose three short songs to look at; “This Land Is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie (lyrics printed in the American Earth anthology), “Where do the Children Play?” by Cat Stevens, and “If a Tree Falls” by Bruce Cockburn. These songs each present a different perspective of nature’s purpose and what its relationship should be to humanity.
    “This Land Is Your Land” describes the beauty of the world, both the natural world (“the redwood forest,” “the Canadian mountain”) as well as the manmade elements of the world (“the New York island,” “as I go walking this ribbon of highway”). Guthrie’s refrain is “This land is made for you and me,” implying a human ownership and right to use the land. “Where do the Children Play?” describes technological advancements and commercialization in the world, not necessarily criticizing them outright but portraying them negatively (“Well I think it’s fine, building jumbo planes…”). Stevens also presents a refrain, this time “where do the children play?” The implication here is slightly different: nature is still viewed as serving a purpose for people, but Stevens looks much less favorably on human destruction of the environment. Finally, “If a Tree Falls” presents a radically different viewpoint from the first two, angrily condemning the greed that has caused destruction of natural resources and begging people to listen for what the nature has to tell – “If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?”
    These works all connect to Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Redwood-Tree.” In his poem, Whitman describes hearing the farewell cries of the trees as they are cut down by humans. However, Whitman presents these trees as happily giving their lives for humans, saying “For a superber race, they too to grandly fill their time, / For them we abdicate, in them ourselves ye forest kings!” (Whitman 66). He goes on to tell of the trees’ lives coming to an end for a noble purpose: “I see the genius of the modern, child of the real and ideal, / Clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true America, heir of the past so grand, / To build a grander future” (70). Whitman presents the trees as resources to be used for the purpose of furthering human society; this is their purpose. This view can be seen reflected to some extent in Guthrie’s song – if the land is made for us, shouldn’t we use it for whatever we most need out of it? Stevens’ view is slightly different: we should take care of the natural world, but less for its own benefit than for our own enjoyment. The sadness Stevens holds is not in that the nature has disappeared, but in that the children cannot enjoy it. Therefore, nature still serves humans. Finally, Cockburn’s song presents a viewpoint that stands starkly against that of Whitman. Both men personify the trees, describing hearing their cries and their falling as if they are conscious beings themselves. However, Cockburn comes to a very different conclusion, in that humans have no right to destroy nature so willfully, and that the life of the trees should be considered and listened to. When analyzed together, these three songs and Whitman’s poem present four different perspectives on the same issue, and raise important questions for us as humans interacting with the natural world: What is our role as compared to nature? What right or ownership, if any, do we have over the natural world? And do we have a responsibility to take care of and protect nature, be it for our own enjoyment of it or for its intrinsic value?

    Cockburn, Bruce. If a Tree Falls. Bruce Cockburn. Jon Goldsmith, 1988. Web.
    Stevens, Cat. Where Do the Children Play? Cat Stevens. Paul Samwell-Smith, 1970. Web. (Lyrics:
    Guthrie, Woody. “This Land Is Your Land.” 1940. American Earth. Ed. Bill McKibben. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the U.S., 2008. 258-59. Print.
    Whitman, Walt. “Song of the Redwood-Tree.” 1855. American Earth. Ed. Bill McKibben. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the U.S., 2008. 65-70. Print.

  21. October 4, 2016 4:41 pm

    Within American Earth, there is a late essay from Thoreau titled Huckleberries. In this lecture-styled essay, Thoreau describes all he had learned from the seemingly simple task of picking huckleberries in the fields as a child, explaining that these fields were where he learned true “everlasting Laws, and Medicine and Theology”, teaching him more than he ever learned at university. Yet as Thoreau ages and the fields become privatized to where the same fruits could only be found in “large markets”, Thoreau claims that he saw “blight on the land”. By fencing off these fields from the public, he stated that a veil was being placed over nature, and that “nothing could deform her fair face more.” Throughout the essay, Thoreau struggles with the idea of new generations not having a close encounter with nature as he had growing up. Is what we see as production and moving forward actually blocking us from learning valuable lessons that the world could teach us? Are the processes by which “Farms” are now run preventing us from learning the “Laws” that Thoreau briefly mentions, or have we evolved to learn different laws through our modern way of life?
    As this was one of his late, unfinished essays that happened after Walden, this essay is almost sad to read as his tone towards society is now not based on their luxuries. Instead, his insults towards society focus around its disconnect from nature and all that they are missing out on, as if he almost feels bad for the rising generations after him. His appreciation of nature and the concept that the world could teach you more than a class ever could are both themes that are repeated throughout both Walden and Huckleberries, connecting Thoreau’s thoughts throughout both the writings. Possible keywords throughout this passage include blight, everlasting, and deform, as Thoreau focuses on the permanent changes he sees happening as society evolves and loses its direct connections to nature.

    Thoreau, Henry David. “Huckleberries.” American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. New York: Library of America, 2008. 26-36. Print.

  22. November 19, 2014 4:53 pm

    In Emerson’s famous essay, “The Over Soul” he discusses the intimate marriage between the innermost self and the natural world. In nature, becoming one with your soul is just as an organic experience has allowing your whole sense of being become a reverberation of nature’s specific microcosms as well as its expanse. Emerson states the concept of the Over-Soul is, “ within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other” (206). It is the ability and desire to understand the essence of nature and the human soul as one entity and how the two aspects relate more than they differ. This overarching idea correlates also to Abram’s, “The Ecology of Magic” as found in American Earth, where his discussion of magic exhibited in nature is beyond the outward exposure of mysticism and spell making. Magic within living creature as well as stimulated through nature is observing the internal being shown out to the external. The relationship of all our sense and projecting them outwards in a interpersonal manner is magic in that those who take part in such an “out of body experience” understand that nature is not only human intermingling it is the non human or even biographic aspects that make up our ecological world. Abram discloses an eye-opening truth in that, “…the traditional magician or medicine person functions primarily as an intermediary between human and nonhuman worlds, and only secondarily as a healer” (820). A magician in culture has been known to portray unexplainable mystical aspects. Abram’s and well as Emerson would argue that magic is a cultivation from deep within and allowing it to be a way to commune and embrace our world with deepest understanding on more than one level. It would be safe to ask, don’t we all then have this capability? “Magic” is more than the show, it is about the tell- the telling of how one person can make their relation to the world deeper than the materialization of the physical aspect that we relate to but making them a way to transform the self to the purest form.

    Abram, David. “The Ecology of Magic.” American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. New York: Library of America, 2008. 815-34. Print.

    Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “The Over-Soul.” Nature and Selected Essays. New York: Penguin Group, 1982. 205-24. Print.

  23. November 19, 2014 3:18 am

    As we have come to the end of these presentations, I feel that it would be prudent for me to cap-off, if you will, where we have been going with these in relation to class. For that reason, I have chosen to use a creative text entitled Cathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty. This is a memoir, written with narrative, novel-like qualities, that tells the story of Varty as a man who had a distinct experience growing up on a game reserve in Africa. This game reserve is a place called Londolozi, which was founded by his great-grandfather in the late nineteenth century and restored back to a natural condition by his father and uncle after years of neglect and improper husbandry. Varty has a plethora of experiences at this place, but what is more important is that these experiences create an aspect of this story something akin to the relationship between man and nature.

    A lot of these presentations so far have been dealing in some form with the communion between man and nature or the environment. With this summary in mind, this text sparked some of my own thinking about embarking into this final part of the course. I feel that this book is a project rather similar to that we have seen in Dillard or Thoreau, in that it highlights a person living in direct correspondence with nature and their thoughts about it. In it he cultivates greater truths and concepts about the world. Through his life here he learns courage in the face of a charging elephant, resilience in a crocodile attack that almost killed him, and many general wilderness skills. While this is more focused on his priority of thinking about his life-purpose within the confines of nature or environmentality, it shows elements of things we have been talking about. It shows space, place, and non-place, and reflectivity that I had seen in Thoreau and to an extent in Dillard. It also starts, in a small way, to get into something similar to what we have come to see in Singer and Mason. For example, in the concluding chapter to the book, Varty writes “I’ve learned that nothing is worth doing if it cannot be done from a place of deep peace. If we want to restore the planet, we must first restore ourselves…life isn’t about staying on track; it’s about constantly rediscovering the track…Maybe, like me, you also need to heal but you cant walk out into the wilderness this afternoon. But you can look up at the sky or that tree poking through the concrete and know that there are thousands of other people who feel equally disconnected from their inner and outer worlds. You can, from where you stand, make a decision to restore from within, even if your mind screams that it is not possible. Whatever feels unresolved, the animal part of you is already tracking the healing you need. Follow that trail; the medicine will feel like freedom. In that moment, you’ll become a part of restoring Eden.”

    Thus, I believe that the essence of environmental writing, given all we have talked about in this course, involves the fact that nature isn’t just trees and rocks, but everything that surrounds us in this world. The reason for the prevalence of this communion between man and nature would be that environmental writing teaches us that we need to use our blessing of consciousness to genuinely think about the setting in which we are existing, and the greater truths and concepts that are inherent in that. Ethics-as a process of thinking about our existence, the world, and how the side effects transfer between the both of us- is a way to drive all of this. This, as Mr. Varty says, is the ticket to “restoring Eden”; it makes the world a better place both for life as a whole and for us as a species.

    Varty, Boyd. Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home. New York: Random House LLC. 2014. Print.

  24. November 14, 2014 1:50 am

    For my presentation I focused on an article titled, “Can We Afford to Eat Ethically?” which tracked an experiment between two adults living in New Haven, Connecticut. This experiment was conducted to see if two people could live off of the government set, food stamp minimum of $248 dollars while also only shopping for grocery items that fell under the requirements of a SOLE product; sustainable, organic, local, and ethical.

    After researching what was considered to be SOLE foods and where they could be found, it became clear to the couple that if they stretched outside their comfort zones and erase their previous views of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, that they were able to eat ethically without breaking the bank. The overall results of their experiment ended particularly well and they confessed that even after their trial period of one month, they continued to live within the SOLE product guidelines without sacrificing their believes for their budget.

    Attached below is a link to the full article. This article and experiment was written and conducted by a Harvard Society of Fellows Program student and her boyfriend.

  25. November 12, 2014 2:51 pm

    In “Grizzly Love: The Queer Ecology of Timothy Treadwell” Colin Carman first justifies the melding of queer theory and environmental criticism as both disciplines examine how the concept of nature/natural can be manipulated to privilege one group (the natural) while punishing another group (the unnatural). Although queer does not describe Timothy Treadwell’s sexual identity, Carman argues that Treadwell’s methods of investigation queer the relationship between human and grizzly bear. Treadwell is subversively anthropomorphic because he assigns human qualities to bears while also asserting himself as a bear. In abandoning his human society to surround himself with the natural world, Treadwell joined Thoreau and Dillard in a certain rejection of human influence while still responding to human influence by anthropomorphizing the natural world. As Treadwell responds on behalf of the grizzly bears particularly in his documentary footage, he employs ethos and performs with rhetorical extravagance similar to Dillard. However, unlike Dillard who ultimately acknowledges the violence of nature, Treadwell cannot comprehend and refuses to process the bears can commit but chooses to view them as misunderstood.

    Something I find potentially problematic in the new field of queer ecology: does the effort to link queer theory and ecological criticism necessarily demand a consideration of nature in relation to humans?

    Carman, Colin. “Grizzly Love: The Queer Ecology of Timothy Treadwell.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 18.4 (2012): 507-28. Project Muse. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. .

  26. November 12, 2014 3:52 am

    Miller, Jay. “Why the Earth Is on the Back of a Turtle.” Man 9.2 (1974): 306-08. JSTOR. Web. 4 Nov. 2014. .
    “Why the World is on the Back of a Turtle,” a 1974 article written by Jay Miller, provides both a scholarly paraphrasing of Dutch colonist Jaspar Danckaerts’s initial account of the Northeastern Woodland Native American creation myth and further analysis into the significance the turtle held for natives, particularly the Delawares. Miller is adamant that for these natives, “life and the earth would have been impossible without the turtle supporting the world,” a concept that has significant impact upon the development of their environmentality. Unlike the majority of Western cultures, particularly Christian ones, Native Americans display a reverence for the natural world based upon a cultural assumption that their spirituality has a tangible impact upon the physical world. The mud that caked the back of the Great Turtle in the myth is the literal basis of the North America the Delawares inhabited, not a mere mythical representation of the foundation of the earth. Misunderstanding this significance is arguably the basis in the schism of environmental opinion between native cultures and the modern, Western, anthro-centric view that prompts David Abrams to dub non-Western intelligence “magic.”

    The depths of this divide are evidenced in Miller’s article due to his description of the immense symbolic significance the Great Turtle comes to hold in these Northeastern Woodland native cultures: in addition to life, the turtle represents consciousness. The Great Turtle is dichotomous because it resides in both land and water and forms the distinction between earth and sky. The Delawares understand this as an animal possessing power and intelligence that they do not and thus turn to turtles as “natural symbols of mediation.” The environmental significance of this mentality may be best understood when framed by the philosophical argument posited by William James: “Our judgments concerning the worth of things, big or little, depend on the feelings the things arouse in us.” By believing that the Great Turtle is the literal foundation of the land they lived upon as well as a source of consciousness that extended beyond human capacity, the Delawares create a culturally accepted “worth” for a natural subject that is spiritually, physically, and intellectually significant.

  27. November 12, 2014 2:46 am

    For my Further Reading Project, I focused on an excerpt from Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Within this text, Pollen follows a cow (unemotionally named 534) through the process of raising him for slaughter. Specifically, Pollen focuses on the problems (such as spread of disease, pollution, and over-dependence on oil) that are caused by feeding American cows corn in order to make them gain weight quickly and cheaply. Ultimately, Pollen argues that although it may seem as though corn is a cheap alternative to grass in these cows’ diets, there are hidden costs that make the process much more expensive for the American people.
    This piece relates directly to the discussion of ethical eating that we have begun in class. In The Ethics of What We Eat, the authors, Peter Singer and Jim Mason, focus more specifically on the suffering of the animals involved in the consumption of animal products. This piece expands on the concept of the “conscientious omnivore” that Singer and Mason present. While Singer and Mason take a more emotional view (which can be seen in their investigation of the chicken coops), Pollen makes heavy use of logos and focuses on the damages to human life caused by the food industry.

    Pollen, Michael. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ed. Bill McKibben. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008. 948-60. Print.

  28. October 28, 2014 8:43 pm

    Continuing with the themes of ecology and creation, Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” poses some of the same questions that Dillard explores Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Although this work is a poem rather than a novel, Oliver addresses many of the same topics as Dillard without exploring them in detail. The opening line of the poem asks “Who made the world?” (Oliver, 737). The lines that follow examine individual organisms, echoing Dillard’s question of whether the universe was made in jest. Dillard ultimately attempted to answer this question in her final chapter, “The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest… There is nothing to be done about it, but ignore it, or see,” (Dillard, 275). She acknowledges that she may not understand the purpose of every individual thing or the sheer number of organisms existing on Earth, but she accepts the responsibility of seeing it. “…but since I’ve seen it I must somehow deal with it, take it into account… and so I lift my microscope down from the shelf, spread a drop of duck pond on a glass slide, and try to look spring in the eye,” (Dillard, 123). Oliver also takes on the role of observer and allows it to become almost a spiritual experience. Paying attention is her way of both appreciating her surroundings and attempting to understand creation. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done?” (Oliver, 737). Dillard and Oliver also confront inevitable death in nature. Dillard claims, “Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me… We value the individual supremely, and nature values him not a whit,” (Dillard, 178). Oliver parallels Dillard’s statement when she asks, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?” (Oliver, 738). A dialogue of sorts exists between these works—as Oliver’s poem poses questions and leaves the answer up to the reader’s interpretation, Dillard revisits similar questions throughout her book until she comes to a rough conclusion at the end. Both authors confront the ambiguous nature of creation and the indifference of nature, asking who is responsible and why each organism ends up where it does. They endeavor to understand through observation, collecting as much knowledge as they can through their interactions with the natural world.

    Oliver, Mary. “The Summer Day.” American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau.New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States. 2008. 737-738.

    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. 1974.

  29. October 27, 2014 10:08 pm

    Here is the URL that links to “Lenses.”

  30. October 27, 2014 10:04 pm

    I chose to examine an essay by Annie Dillard entitled “Lenses” that appears in her work Teaching a Stone to Talk. The essay opens with Dillard discussing the difficulty of using a microscope before you become adjusted to it. It’s not until you train your eye to focus through the blurry light, train your eyelashes to not be fluttery distractions, and train your hand to twist the knobs in exactly the right direction that you can use a microscope properly and become “mesmerized” by the infinitesimal world it reveals. Dillard goes on to describe her childhood experiences with a microscope in her basement laboratory and how fascinated she was by the tiny yet vivacious life with which something as bland as pond water is teeming. In rather scientific yet also beautifully poetic terms, she details the life forms she observed, including algae and rotifers. Later in the essay, which is rather brief as a whole, she abruptly switches to an encounter she had with swans as an adult. As she focuses on them through the lens of her binoculars, she can’t help but comparing the swans to rotifers and the reeds around her to the waving strands of algae she once observed in a microscope slide.

    After reading this essay, I immediately thought of Purpura’s piece “’Poetry Is a Satisfying of the Desire for Resemblance’” where she describes how it is in human nature to seek, or even contrive, resemblance between the things we see in our surroundings. She personally sees it between a raccoon’s skull and a mushroom, and between a healing scar on her hand and a rose, similarly to how Dillard sees it between microscopic organisms and swans. Purpura writes of her experience, “…to be part of an order, a whole, a knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous…the resemblance bloomed and extended me” (27). This idea of searching for resemblance and order in material nature—and forging it when there is none—would appear to be a part of human nature, at least as these two writers see it. Perhaps we look for resemblance throughout nature, trying to adjust the lens of our microscopes or binoculars or smartphone cameras just enough to capture what we are trying to find. Perhaps we can’t help but impose human values like similarity on nature (i.e., it’s a known fact in social psychology that we subconsciously seek similarity when forming relationships with others and with our surroundings). And I suppose that this is where the term “environmental” reveals its true duality: it’s just as anthropomorphic as it is ecological. And if we as humans don’t seek out some sort of order in nature, if we don’t look for resemblance, if we don’t try to make sense of the somewhat blurry images we see through our still-focusing lenses, who will?

    Dillard, Annie. “Lenses.” Teaching a Stone to Talk. Central Oregon Community College. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. .

  31. October 22, 2014 11:52 am

    I have also selected Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as the focus of my study of patterns within and between environmental texts. Growing up only a short distance from the town of Silver Spring, MD that Carson inhabited, she was constantly brought up in my environmental classes and is part of what inspired me to pursue environmental politics. This book shows how one woman can make a difference in the human impact upon the environment, because it’s message and it’s popularity lead to the ban on the pesticide DDT. I had read this book previously from a scientific viewpoint in my Environmental Studies class and this time chose to focus on her opening chapter, which I find particularly beautiful, in an eerie and foreboding way, in how it introduces the key concepts of her writing and its explanation of why changing our lifestyle is necessary to our future well-being. Carson begins the chapter by describing a flourishing community, which slowly crumbles into a withered, disease-riddled one. Yet the cause of this tragedy is not mysterious at all, as Carson writes, “No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life is this stricken world. The people had done it to themselves,” (Carson 3). What she means by this is that pesticide application causes all of these side effects, aside from eliminating pests. Carson views pesticides as extremely unnatural and harmful, with no place in the environment. Though this town is imagined, the tragedies it endures are not; all of them have been faced somewhere as a result of pesticide application and many communities suffer from multiple effects. Key concepts that this chapter relates to, which are explored throughout the rest of the book are bioaccumulation, the chemistry of pesticides and why they do this damage, human health impacts, and the advantages of biological pest control rather than chemical pest control.

    Carson’s book relates particularly well to two writers we have examined during this course: Wendell Berry and Annie Dillard. Carson and Berry share their disdain for modernized farming techniques. Carson writes that, “By their very nature chemical controls are self-defeating, for they have been devised and applied without taking into account the complex biological systems against which they have been blindly hurdled,” (Carson 246). Here, she expresses her annoyance with the human tendency to seek out the fastest, simplest solutions to our problems without considering what unintended effects these solutions may have with applied to complex biological systems. At the rate at which we are producing new pesticides, they cannot be tested to determine what effects they may have in the long run on both ecosystems and people. We don’t realize that the costs may outweigh the benefits and in using pesticides, we are in a chemical race towards our own destruction. Similarly, in The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural & Agricultural, Berry writes that, “Our dilemma in agriculture now is that the industrial methods that have so spectacularly solved some of the problems of food production have been accompanied by “side effects” so damaging as to threaten the survival of farming,” (Berry 1). Both writers focus on the unintended “side effects” of modernized farming techniques, especially on the unpredictability of those side effects and the possibility of severely damaging outcomes. Both also tend to focus more on the anthropocentric viewpoint in describing these side effects. Carson focuses more on human health impacts of pesticides and the impacts they have upon animals we raise as livestock, as opposed to focusing more on the impacts on wildlife, and Berry focuses on agricultural impacts and those effects that could damage food production. I believe this anthropocentric focus ties to Dillard’s struggle in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek with applying human morals and emotions to the natural world, particularly in the passage on pages 168-169 in which she discusses our value of human infants in relation to barnacle larvae. We place a vast amount of importance upon ourselves, viewing all other creatures as lower-tiered. To get the response Carson wanted from her book, the ban of DDT, she had to appeal to people to make the change, which she did through focusing on human health impacts to both adults and children, and Berry did through focusing on agriculture impacts.

    Berry, Wendell. “Chapter 9: Solving for Pattern.” The gift of good land: further essays, cultural and agricultural. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981. Print.

    Carson, Rachel. Silent spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962. Print.

    Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York: Harper’s Magazine Press, 1974. Print.

  32. October 22, 2014 2:25 am

    Ellen Meloy was a writer about nature in the American West, particularly deserts of the Southwest. I am looking at her piece in “American Earth” called “The Flora and Fauna of Las Vegas”. In her piece, Meloy looks at man’s destructive influences on our place and space, to use the argument of Buell. Meloy gives us a dystopian view of the environment of Las Vegas. In an inhospitable place, man has designed a massive and rapidly growing city. This city is, a non place, constantly evolving, artificial, and a place to kill emotions in the mind numbing buzz of lights, lasers and perhaps baser things that can be found in the seedy city. This creates a dichotomy between this world and the world created by nature, a desert that does have it’s own life. Meloy looks at the Colorado river and how it’s being turned into a non place as man kind makes it our object, rather than the river it is. Her final argument is that man has created a place that “surges with the power of the River”. We have replaced the river with a “river” of sorts: an electric river. I connected this article to Buell but also to Thoreau and Dillard, both of whom would argue that man offers a contrasted form of nature that counters the natural realm, and they’d agree with this idea of space and non place as they focus on one small region but look at it from a broader view. Meloy does this when she zooms out of the Strip and focuses on the trend of the US West and our water wars we’ve created and subject our selves to.

    You can find this essay in American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau.

    Meloy, Ellen. “Flora and Fauna of Las Vegas” American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008. 793-808. Print.

  33. dhobbs2 permalink
    October 22, 2014 1:10 am

    In her essay “Everything Is a Human Being”, Alice Walker discusses how power within the world has slowly started to degrade and affect the Earth. She begins with a discussion of trees, using several rhetoric devices such as personification and an anecdotal style to demonstrate the relationship between humans and the natural world. Walker continues to develop her conversation about how power has affected the world by presenting the thought of how the Wasichus—“a term used by the Ogala Sioux to designate the white man” (663)—forced the Indians into submission, took over the land, and slowly began to degrade it. Walker relates how the drive for power has resulted in the destruction of the surrounding environment, claiming that humanity has come to the point where it treats the Earth like dirt. She concludes the essay with a possible solution to the problem that she presents; “The new way to exist on the Earth may well be the ancient way of the steadfast lovers of this particular land” (668). Walker’s style of writing was very reminiscent to me of that of “Economy” from Thoreau’s Walden. Throughout the entire essay, Walker discusses the flaws of humanity and how they have led to the dreadful treatment of the Earth. Just as Leopold believes that an emotional intellect is required to be a part of Nature, Walker says that we need to think of every aspect of the Earth as a human being. The style with which Walker writes blends the direct assessment of humanity of Thoreau, the anecdotal method of Dillard, and the emotional understanding of Leopold in a way that both carefully introduces the problem and then addresses it by the conclusion of the essay. Like many of the authors of the environmental literature that we have read thus far in class, Walker seems to truly understand and appreciate the concept of “environmentality”. Walker’s essay can be found in American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau.

    McKibben, Bill and Al Gore. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. New York , NY: Literary Classics of the United States:, 2008. 659-670. Print.

  34. October 15, 2014 12:01 pm

    For this presentation I am studying Whitman’s “Song of Myself” to examine Whitman and the idea of knowledge as a form of continual regrowth and am honing in on a few key sections. Whitman deals with the concept of regrowth throughout much of this piece and catalogs it in a number of ways—the most prominent of which being his revelations of growth in the natural world as a more complex process of interconnected regrowth. A part of the poem that is worthy of note in the 52 section-long poem to convey this is sections 19 and 20. Section 19 deals with the continuation of peoples as Whitman, “will not have a single person slighted or left away,” which he builds on in section 20. Whitman also notes the ubiquity of greater purpose as it is interconnected and reflected between man and landscape where he directly addresses his reader and begs questions of them in a recurring fashion. Here Whitman utilizes his medium or poetics in writing to convey his theme of regrowth through repeating nearly the same questions but building more onto them on them each time he regenerates the query. He again utilizes this convention in section 20 where he notes how men are, “deathless,” and how he sees himself reflected in all people over the course of “ten thousand or ten million years.” Whitman implicitly notes his understanding of time’s continual process in using the scientific term, “amplitude,” to explain its longevity and he accepts its ability to mutate and regrow.
    Whitman continues to gender his concept of regrowth to matters other than worldly phenomenon, but also to thought patterns and ideologies. One section of interest for Whitman’s detailing of knowledge as regrowth is number 23 where Whitman discusses, the “endless unfolding words of ages!” Whitman notes how facts offered up by the sciences are “useful and real” and he wishes to better know them but that they are not his main focus. Whitman chooses to, “enter by [facts] to an area of their dwelling,” or to utilize fact as a “reminder of life.” His mindset in approaching scientific precepts of such researchers as lexicographers, chemists, geologists, mathematicians is to accept their import in the natural world and to allow it to act as a foundation for understanding the world. Whitman sees constant learning or revisiting of the factual world in the natural world as a means of continually growing his idea of life. Dillard utilizes a similar approach in acquiring knowledge of the world so as to strengthen her ability to understand the “intricate textures” of it. While Whitman also uses the term “intricate” to describe his understanding of the purposes of persons and things in the world, which he acquired from “[prying] through the strata” and “[analyzing it] to a hair,” his interests in intricacy are somewhat different. He notes intricacy in understanding the interconnectedness of biotic natural phenomenon found in the environment with that of humanity in his piece, “Song of Myself.” Annie Dillard also wishes to “learn the shreds of creation that flourish…to keep [herself] open to their meanings…to impress myself at all times with the fullest possible force of their very reality” to understand the implications of the natural world’s scientific processes in a multifaceted or textured nature

    Whitman, Walt, Christopher Morley, and Lewis Daniel. Leaves of Grass. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1940. Print.

  35. October 15, 2014 12:04 am

    “The Jungle” is an early 20th century muckraking novel by Upton Sinclair. It is concerned with the large family of the Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and their toils and trials in the early 20th century Chicago such as attempting to buy a house, falling prey to a variety of conmen, and, finally, understanding their true positions in the working world in that, in truth, they are no better than the animals their employers, the packinghouses, slaughter by the millions. As Upton Sinclair remarked upon his novel, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach”. Instead of feeling sympathy for his characters and the animals within the novel, instead the public reacted with disgust and disbelief as to the workings of the packinghouses.

    I chose this reading because it is rather connected, in particular, to Annie Dillard’s chapter on Fecundity, and her horror on seeing animals and insects vigorously repopulating, but only to, in some cases, such as with the green lacewing eating its own eggs and a tigress devouring her own cub. In a similar manner, in “The Jungle”, humans are like the lacewing and the tigress: Jurgis and his family are human, but throughout the course of the novel, the packinghouse owners devour the family in some manner or the other, treating them like the hogs and cattle that are the prime product. Jurgis and his family are only as useful as the amount of work that the packinghouse owners are able to get out of them. In this case, then, is Dillard more upset about the action of the animals/insects of the Fecundity chapter, or is she upset at the realization that humans, too, are animals and are also subject to these brutal actions?

    Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. Dover: Dover Publications, 2001. Print.

  36. October 8, 2014 12:39 pm

    “Tending the Wild” is a book by Kat Anderson that focuses on Native Americans and the relationship with the American environment in California. The project here is to show that their environmental practices were “largely successful” by increasing biodiversity and heterogeneity.It does this by utilizing modern anthropological techniques such as the study of oral histories, interviews, as well as ecologists testimonies.

    I chose this reading because it is a blending of anthropological and environmental perspectives. I think it can be most valuable by critiquing some of the ideas we use in class. For example, concept of “wilderness”. to us is a pristine landscape untouched by man, but the Native Americans often use that word as a bad thing, referring to land that hasn’t been taken care of by humans (such as burning, harvesting, seed scattering) and thus not suitable for life. Another point is that we think of the “wild” as pure and removed from the influence of people, but in the case of California, the environment there is vast affected by Native American influence, increasing the diversity of the flora and fauna through these methods. Is the wild then truly untouched?

    Anderson, Kat. Tending the wild: Native American knowledge and the management of California’s natural resources. Univ of California Press, 2005.

  37. October 8, 2014 4:53 am

    “The Bear” is one of the short stories from William Faulkner’s book Go Down, Moses. It focuses on Isaac McCaslin, a young boy when the story starts, and his coming of age on a hunting preserve until he grows old enough to inherit the plantation left by his grandfather. As a boy Ike had promised himself that he would make up for the cruelty and self-interest of his grandfather, but as he ages he fails to have children and does indeed end up accepting his inheritance. Ike’s relationship with nature in this story is a complicated one. He uses nature as a way to escape the responsibility he feels for his grandfather’s actions. In this sense, Faulkner uses nature as a mere device in expressing Ike’s psychological state. However, in this way the story also emphasizes just how much the natural environment has an influence on human life—when Ike leaves the hunting preserve, he is no longer able to suppress the feeling of guilt that overwhelms him. Faulkner’s interpretation of human-nature interaction is encapsulated in the image of the hunting preserve that Ike and the other men inhabit: it gives off a false sense of naturalness, but really, it has been altered by humans in important ways. While Thoreau and Dillard present their own versions of the human world interacting with the natural one, Faulkner goes even further in showing how one’s surroundings, natural or otherwise, can affect one’s way of thinking and even one’s social interactions.

    Faulkner, William. Three Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses, Old Man, and The Bear. New York: Vintage, 1961.

  38. October 7, 2014 6:04 pm

    Rachel Carson is well known for Silent Spring, an environmental writing, which focuses on the affect people have on the environment. In the except of Silent Spring in “American Earth, Environmental Writing Since Thoreau,” Carson describes the beauties of spring and then how they have disappeared; she intends to address why throughout the book. The excerpt then goes into her scientific analysis of the changing population of bird species due to DDT poisoning. While Silent Spring has more of a scientific outlook on the environment than that of Thoreau, Carson still evokes emotions and thoughts out of her readers. The excerpt highlights her want to have readers realize that their actions are affecting the world around them and that no one gave them the right to eliminate species for their own benefits. She does this by using words such as eradicating and writing “There is a growing trend towards aerial applications of such deadly poisons as parathion to “control” concentrations of birds distasteful to farmers” (375). In reading the excerpt even though it is scientific it is not hard to find her beliefs and opinions of pesticides. She questions who has the right to destroy the environment including the bugs and birds because without them everyone’s spring would be silent.

    McKibben, Bill. American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the United States :, 2008. 365-376. Print.

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