Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures
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The Future Without Bees!

February 24th, 2017 | Posted by Barbara Lynn Weaver in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

(adapted from Margaret Atwood’s “It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change”)

 

The future without bees! Let’s imagine our best case scenario, and call it Image One.

There we are, sitting in rocking chairs on our back porches, watching the electronic, solar-powered bees pollinate our victory gardens. (Not victory of a war, but the victory of human survival. Scientists postulated that we wouldn’t get this far.) Thanks to the genius of robotics, we have eliminated the need to follow insect pollination patterns, and plants can be pollinated year round. We have just one season now, a perpetual spring. We managed to halt global warming in a temperature sweet spot. Crops grow with fervor unseen before, and every day is a beautiful day to spend the afternoon outside with a good book.

Everyone gave up beef. When we first lost the bees, the cow feed took a hit, and then the cows. Tofu is the new normal, and it’s okay- really- once you get used to it. Kids today won’t even know the difference.

We live in small, community oriented towns. Our homes are low-impact. Wind turbines line the country side, arranged so as not to interrupt avian flight patterns. Solar panels and geothermal wells power the robotics industry. And the robotics industry powers agriculture. Our invincible spring is pleasant and productive.

That’s Image One. It’s nice. It’s more or less plausible. Less, probably.

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Then there’s Image Two. Suppose that colony collapse disorder was accelerated and the future without bees arrived tomorrow. Suddenly, no bees, anywhere, at all.

You’d notice it slowly. Markets would empty over time. First to go would be the fruits and vegetables. And after the meat industry realized they had nothing more to feed the cattle, the hens, the hams; that too would disappear. The devastation of a bee-less world would demolish whole food chains. Within weeks, panic would set in.

There would be a run on the supermarkets. Anything left on the shelves would be pillaged and hoarded in post-apocalyptic basement bunkers. Some bright minds would rally and suggest solutions, but in the midst of a Food War, their ideas would come too late. “We could clone dead bees!” some would say. But there is no substitute for the natural way of the world.

There would be survivors, after the wars are said and done. And some foods would remain. Not many, but a chosen few. (Bees don’t pollinate everything, after all.) The world population would be drastically reduced. Humanity has expanded to fill the space made possible to it by bees, and without those bees, it would shrink with astounding rapidity.

Image Two is extreme, and also unlikely, but it exposes the truth: our lives depend on bees and without them, we can’t eat much of anything. We ought to be investing a lot of time, effort, and money in ways to protect them.

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In addition to Image One and Two, there’s also Image Three.

In Image Three, we incentivize farmers to establish habitats for honeybee populations. We stop using pesticides because bees aren’t pests after all. We plant flowers. Everywhere. Highways and backyards and front yards and schoolyards and graveyards. We create habitats for the creatures that create our dinner. In doing this, we are preventing collapse or at least preparing to weather the storm.

The death of bees could present a problematic future not unlike Image Two, but the main point is that the problems are not happening in some dim, distant future. They are happening now.

Blog Post 6

The following quote from Before the Flood really struck me: “What the U.S. is doing to the rest of the world is criminal”. For the first time, I considered the idea that there were winners and losers of climate change. After doing some research, I was unsurprised to confirm rather easily that the average American has a carbon footprint much greater than a resident of any other country in the world; yet, a heavier discussion exists that climate change has disproportionate effects on the poor.

How can this be? There is no single answer that sticks out the most. Damage resulting from natural disasters places the greatest burden on those that do not have the resources to protect themselves nor possess the clout to garner political attention. Rises in temperature will target the world’s poorest farmers in the hottest and driest areas, whose land will no longer be suitable for growing crops. Consequently, food prices will rise; the poorest spend the highest portion of income on food.

What can be done to address this inequality? An obvious answer is to say, “stop climate change”, but certain effects of climate change are already certain. The Red Cross exists, but it only seems to act after disaster has struck. Without money or power, the future seems bleak.  However, it is the people who change institutions. People that band together can create power, and If the poorest in each region unite to share their plight and bring it to the footsteps of their governments, who is to say they will be dismissed?

 

Works Cited:

Bullard, Gabe. “See What Climate Change Means for the World’s Poor.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 23 Feb. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/151201-datapoints-climate-change-poverty-agriculture/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Climate Change: the Poor Will Suffer Most.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2014, www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-poor-suffer-most-un-report. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

teaching complacency

February 24th, 2017 | Posted by Jessica Marlow in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I stirs, woken by the oh-so-familiar plop-plop-kerplop, plop-plop-kerplop mantra of water on water. The ceiling is leaking again, and I looks over at the large stove pot which has long since forgotten what it is like to house the comforting aroma of grandmama’s good chicken gumbo. It’s only a little over halfway full. That’s good, though I doubt the buses will still be running today. Rolling over, I check my iPhone – yep, there’s the email: school from home. What a shame. It’s always a hassle to coordinate the class-wide GoogleHangouts call when school is cancelled – there are always a few students “unable” to connect. However, when I confront them about missing class the next day I we meet in person, they always have a convenient excuse – last week, Maddie was complaining that her entire house’s WiFi was out because the rain damaged some part of their wireless technology or something. I actually felt kind of bad when I had to send her to ISS – In School Suspension. She was so earnest, but we all know lying is not a tolerable offense. And there’s no way the WiFi was down – there’s no way a little bit of rain could do that. In fact, President Bell just issued an official statement informing us that our efforts are paying off – Igloo and Glacier, the two last polar bears – just had a cub. As I scroll through Facebook, I see picture after picture of the happy family of bears. It’s been a while since there has been this much news – typically my feed consists of advertisements from different companies trying to sell this face mask that will miraculously remove all of your blackheads or some newly engineered kind of banana that has more protein in it than a chicken breast, peppered with interesting little quizzes claiming to be able to tell your age and weight based on your fashion sense and such. As I scroll through the pictures, I find myself wondering why ten years ago those radicals were making such a big deal about climate change. Life goes on – for us, and even for the polar bears. It’s realizations like this that make me appreciate just how accurate President Bell’s slogan is – it really is just “climate change, NOT everything change.” That being said, I need to at least put on a blouse and brush my hair; class starts in ten minutes, and I have to look presentable from the waist up at least – though my fuzzy purple pajama bottoms are staying on for sure. At least one good thing has come out of all this rain!

Blog #6 – Kevin Bhimani

February 24th, 2017 | Posted by Kevin Bhimani in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Kevin Bhimani

Blog #6 – It’s not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change

2/23/17

 

The article by Margaret Atwood was intriguing in more than one aspect. Simply the artistic format of the piece gives it incredible effectiveness as it is able to marry the notion of visual depictions with the message she is trying to get across. And the message is where it shines. Painting our future world in different scenarios (pictures as she calls them) and then reminding us that we are in total control of which picture ends up coming to fruition solely based on the actions we take is a very powerful concept to think about. Whether it be picture one with everything working out so that we almost live in a utopian society or picture two in which we run out of oil and something out of the likes of Mad Max is a reality or picture three in which some countries and people adapt to the rapid environmental changes we see whereas others don’t—all have the underlying idea that we are in control of them. It is a sobering thought to ponder as by watching Before the Flood and reading other articles about our future, it is all the more apparent that we cannot be apathetic with our actions. It’s countries like the U.S., like Canada, like Germany, and the other leaders of the world that have to start making changes if they want to see the developing nations follow suit. One of the points that stuck with me from the film was hearing that India and China were moving rapidly to increase their solar, wind, and renewable energy foothold in general whereas the U.S. up to this point has not yet made such strides due to the seemingly trivial aspects of Congressional hold-ups and such. Politics cannot get in the way of something that is so much more important like climate change, yet with our incredibly institutionalized society, it does. Ensuring that our structure of government does not impede the progress of that we need to see happen will be instrumental going forward.

 

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601093/china-is-on-an-epic-solar-power-binge/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Max_(franchise)

Before the Flood (2016) by Fisher Stevens

https://medium.com/matter/it-s-not-climate-change-it-s-everything-change-8fd9aa671804#.2u7pftrle

Faith and Climate Change

February 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Alyssa Cleveland in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Bill Clinton states that he believes that climate change is so hard for people to grasp because the concept of the future itself is “abstract”. This human inability to completely understand the seemingly unseen and unknown is a precise explanation as to why implementing personal level lifestyle changes has been such a challenge. Until climate change and all the resulting effects become an unavoidable truth in a person’s, it is quite impossible to move them to make changes. However, where I think this idea is lacking is assuming that once people grasp the future and accept climate change, then that will be all it takes to motivate them to change. Even in our class, a class full of people dedicated to learning about environmental issues plaguing our generation, it is hard make environmentally conscious decisions.

Along with having faith in the nearing future, it is also imperative that people are aware that climate change does not just mean a slight raise in their hometown’s temperature; the effects of climate change are unmeasurable. The human and environment not being connected was an idea that was quickly debunked by our course; however, it is still a very prominent thought that impacts the way in which common people and politicians view climate change. If they acknowledge climate change at all that is. Once people are able to see that the human and the environment are indeed connected, they will be able to not only accept that human action does in fact have an impact on the environment, but they will also be able to understand the a changing environment means changes for human society and culture. If we continue down the same path that we are on now, the effects of changing temperature will make natural disasters worse on human civilization, cities we know now will be underwater, displacing thousands of people, and the overall quality of life will decrease.

It is also important to highlight that the poorest people in each nation will feel the effects of these changes first. This is another reason governments and institutions have yet to make clear and powerful efforts towards making the environment a priority. While the poor will be hit first, due to the lack of money or resources to deal with the imminent natural disasters and rise in cost of resources, the effects will eventually reach the very rich. The earth is the habitat for ALL people and climate change and its effects do not care who you are or how much money you have. Money can only buy you so much time, but until people see that these effects are not poor-sensitive the current path of destruction will continue.

Reading stories about futures where humans have failed to take action against climate change are often frightening, but whenever I encounter such a fictional scenario, I worry that there is another side of the narrative that undermines its message about the necessity of saving the planet. Most of these stories depict the lengths that humans go to in order to continue surviving even when the natural world is dying. They retreat into cities and compounds contained within glass domes or walls of concrete; they construct fake landscapes that mimic what has been lost; they even flee to other planets in search of a new habitat. These solutions are costly and difficult and accessible only to a tiny percentage of people; yet, they show that our species can afford to continue ignoring the warning signs of our changing environment, only taking action when we are forced to by absolute necessity to ensure our own survival. In other words, a message is conveyed that runs counter to the author’s intentions: we don’t actually need to save the planet because we can find ways to carry on even when it has been destroyed.

This conclusion is not immediately obvious from reading the texts, and it is true that the characters are more likely to be shown as unhappy, unsatisfied, depressed, angry, and unfulfilled in their new way of living. Famine, pandemic, and war are not uncommon in these environmental dystopias. But the idea persists that we are not doomed forever if we do not take steps to reverse the effects of climate change and habitat destruction, and this presents a tricky challenge to authors. On the one hand, too many tales of utter devastation will eventually numb readers to the urgency of the issue; activists will be compared to the boy who cried wolf and taken less seriously because our society is not currently on the brink of crumbling entirely. On the other, presenting so many potential solutions to the survival of the human species allows audiences to relax knowing that we have options for self-preservation even if we fail to save the planet. The death of plants and animals is sad, but it rarely hits as hard as tales of the downfall of human society.

Writers must, therefore, tread carefully when they sit down to depict a post-climate change world. One potential way to avoid undermining their own message would be to begin their story at the beginning, rather than the middle. Start out by showing the path that society took to reach the point of retreating from the natural world and surviving day-to-day through a constant process of damage control and barely-stable coping mechanisms. If readers are dropped into a world where humans have already learned to survive in a way that is totally cut off from nature, they are unable to appreciate the difficult and terrible route that had to be traversed to achieve such a fragile existence. If our fiction makes survival look too easy, we risk creating an audience that lacks a necessary sense of urgency for saving the planet, and as a result, we may be underprepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

 

Note: Stories like Interstellar and Earth 2100 are particularly effective at depicting the journey from the beginning of the crisis to the “solution,” and consequently are especially successful at conveying the urgency of protecting our planet.

Another interesting point of discussion: If humans can survive despite being totally cut off from the natural world, do we actually need to do anything about climate change at all? Is there any point in protecting the environment when looking at things from a non-anthropocentric viewpoint?

This Week’s Links

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by Amanda Starling Gould in weekly_links - (0 Comments)

Interested in Sustainable Agriculture?

Check out Patagonia’s new 20-minute video Unbroken Ground.

“Our food choices are deeply connected to climate change. Unbroken Ground, a compelling Patagonia Provisions film directed by Chris Malloy, explains the critical role food will play in the next frontier of our efforts to solve the environmental crisis. This film explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.”

 

Interested in Reducing Waste?

Check out Trash is for Tossers

“I have been living a Zero Waste lifestyle for four years now and all of the trash that I have produced fits in one 16oz mason jar. What is in that jar? Check out this video to find out.”

 

Interested in Fashion?

Check out “Climate change puts weather on fashion students’ radar” via American Public Media’s Marketplace

 

Interested in Climate Data?

Check out #DataRefuge

A gas pump in the anthropocene

February 19th, 2017 | Posted by John Desan in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I remember when people came to see me hundreds of times a day. I could proudly fill up thousands of car gas tanks in a week. Now, no one sees me anymore. The government announced that the world has ran out of oil, which renders me obsolete, me and all the other millions of pumps world wide.

The owner of this stations talks with his friends about how the government will be creating new stations and that these stations would be power by “renewable energy.” But I do not think that people will like these stations. Over a hundred years ago the owner bought one of those electric charging stations, it could fill up a car faster and chapter than any other pump, but no one used it. Everyone still came to me.

Cars in the Anthropocene

February 18th, 2017 | Posted by Thabit Pulak in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I miss Jim. I used to be his main man – taking him wherever he’d want to go, as fast and comfortably as possible. I was there for him everytime he went to work. I was there for him when he needed to pick up his kids from school. I was there when he needed to go home. That all ended about 20 years ago though. Jim never gives me anymore attention. I am no longer Jim’s number 1, it is clear. I can’t understand even why Jim prefers to go to work in what I’d call a small eggshell on wheels. It was incredibly ugly. It was so compact, it would barely carry Jim and his wife, let alone his kids. When he turns it on, and leaves for work, I grimace at the sight and smell of the slightly metallic , white water vapor coming out of the eggshell. The eggshell mobile made no noise at all – that’s no fun. It was also slow as hell. I’d remember Jim laughing every time he’d push me to my limits – the loud roar of the engine was enough to wash all of his worries away. Those were the days where 0-60 in below 5 seconds was enough keep everyone happy. But things have changed. I am no longer in style…and I can’t quite understand why.

Riley Cohen – Blog Post 5

February 17th, 2017 | Posted by Riley Cohen in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The steam around me dissipates as a hand reaches through the hot cloud and grabs me firmly around my cylindrical body. The cycle wasn’t quite finished, and as a result I was still covered in hot water, but it was evident that this Supreme Being’s thirst had to be quenched immediately. I was placed on the counter next to an assortment of appliances, still hot. The being opened the fridge, which was directly opposite to me. Then, I felt a cool rush air as the door was shut. A jug of cool, Brita filtered water now felt that firm grasp and was approaching me. Once above my opening, the Being tilted the jug with ease and poured the liquid until I was brimming. The contrast of the cool water and my warm body sent a crack down the side of my body. It grew and grew until the glass finally gave, and I shattered into pieces. The being angrily grabbed the trashcan from across the room and in one swift sweep cleared the pieces of me off the table into the bin. The Being shut the lid of the trash, and almost immediately, I heard the sound of the dishwasher open again.