Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Author Archives: Margaret Overton

The Environment and Culture are Inseparable

February 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Margaret Overton in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The intersection between environment and culture is undeniable, from agriculture to art to the industries and professions that dominate different societies. In places like Japan or the Caribbean, where fishing is a prominent livelihood for many, issues of pollution in the water will be of much greater concern than in landlocked or desert-covered countries. In an area that relies on coal mining such as West Virginia, individuals may be much more opposed to green energy initiatives and stubbornly defend their way of life despite an outside narrative that discourages the continuing use of fossil fuels.

Religion has also had a large influence on the way societies and cultures view and interact with their environment. The Christian Bible teaches that humans are “stewards” of the Earth, which can be interpreted in multiple ways. Some Christians take this as a sign that the natural world is theirs to use as they wish; they are higher than plants and animals and have the right to take any resources they may want. Other Christians see their role as more similar to that of a protector; they have a sacred duty to take care of nature and make sure that the planet is healthy. However, in many South and Eastern Asian religions, humans are not seen as separate from the rest of the natural world, and are instead viewed as just another component of a greater spirit or cycle of life. In Hinduism, for example, a person may be reincarnated as an animal many times over until they eventually attain nirvana. In Taoism, all energy is part of the Tao: “the Way” or “the One,” which is sometimes described as the “flow of the universe” and a manifestation of nature. In both of these traditions, it is necessary to show respect towards the natural world because adherents view themselves as inseparable from the all-encompassing “oneness” of life in the universe.

As demonstrated in the Penrose story, the economic situation of a country or community will also have a large influence on the solutions that people find, if any. Interestingly, that particular account demonstrated a significant advantage that poorer nations have over countries such as the United States: a history of developing their own solutions on an individual level rather than relying on technological advancements, the government, corporations, or their own personal wealth to overcome or evade challenges. In other words, a long history of being left to fend for themselves will be the saving grace of poor communities.

A combination of these as well as many other factors will ultimately determine the way that different cultures respond to the challenges that arise as a result of climate change and human interference in the environment. Access to communication through technology or simple proximity to highly-populated areas; the cultural importance placed upon cooperation, ingenuity, tradition, and scores of other values; the availability of education to the general population; the historical interplay between nature and society as well as the influence of media on the overall narrative of the environment and how it should be treated: all of these components and more will vastly affect the approaches and attitudes of various groups in the face of a changing landscape. You just hope that in the end, the response will be one of empathy and not selfishness.

Blog Post: Why Queer Ecology is Pointless

January 28th, 2017 | Posted by Margaret Overton in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

by Margaret Overton

I think I’m finally beginning to put a finger on why the concept of queer ecology seemed so strange to me. The LGBTQ movement is primarily about social issues: the right to marry, the right to job security, the right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identification, and most importantly, the right to simple acceptance by others. But on the other hand, environmental activism and the study of ecology is far more about tangible changes to the world around us: developing clean energy, decreasing pollution, preserving biodiversity, and protecting ecosystems. In short, the two movements have zero goals in common, making it odd from the beginning that they should be working together.

But when I began looking into the different justifications for queer ecology as a practice, rather than an equal partnership, it began looking more like the LGBTQ movement had simply taken ideas about nature and used them to support their own goals, while doing nothing to promote environmental causes. Ecology disproved the idea of homosexuality being “unnatural,” but the relationship was not reciprocal; LGBTQ activists have done little to return the favor.

I would argue that since the two movements lack common grounds in terms of their goals or even the types of outcomes they want to see from society, the concept of queer ecology lacks a clear purpose for existing. In some cases, individuals may have interests that extend beyond LGBTQ rights (vegetarianism or veganism, for example) and they are able to use these areas as a foundation for environmental causes, but unless some overlap exists between the broader movements, they ought to remain separate. Instead, the best way for LGBTQ individuals to support the environment is as human beings, just like everybody else.

Blog Post – Margaret Overton

January 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Margaret Overton in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Prompt: “What is your favorite movie with an environmental message? Why? Do you think films that show what you value and do not want harmed (such as beautiful sunsets at the beach or healthy children playing at a park) or document a problem (such as people walking through apocalyptic floods or dirty water coming out of someone’s faucet) or portray a fictional time and place motivate people more? Why?”

When I was in tenth grade, I watched the ABC program Earth 2100, which attempted to predict the events of the next century based on our current [something] climate change, energy use, and treatment of natural resources. I wouldn’t necessarily call it my favorite environmental movie, but it is definitely the one that has had the biggest impact on me. It was terrifying to see that level of death and carnage laid out in a way that seemed entirely plausible, especially since they relied on an array of experts to make fact-based, logical predictions about the course of history. It gave me the impression of a dystopian future that was quickly approaching and nearly unstoppable, and I felt an overwhelming and slightly panicky sense of urgency by the end.

The advantage of depicting this hypothetical future was that the filmmakers had the ability to portray problems of a nature and dimension that have never been scene in modern times. Because it was a combination of the fantastically unprecedented and disconcertingly plausible, I think the film had a much greater emotional impact and motivated me more than it would have otherwise. Additionally, it not only showed what the world might look like if humans continue to ignore environmental disasters and global warming, but also took the audience through each failure and missed opportunity for action along the way, which made the subsequent destruction and loss of life far more devastating to experience.

Works Cited:

Bednar, R., Bicks, M., Avellino, R., Hirsch, L., Hanan, M., Neufel, J., Thomas, A., … MPI Home Video (Firm). (2009). Earth 2100. Orland Park, Ill.: MPI Home Video.

Cox, Robert, and Phaedra C. Pezullo. “Chapter 4 The Environment in/of Visual and Popular Culture.” Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2016. Print.

Introductions: Margaret Overton

January 12th, 2017 | Posted by Margaret Overton in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Name: Margaret Overton

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

Major: Psychology BS and Environmental Science and Policy minor

Three topics/ideas/issues that intrigue me: Child development, climate change/green energy, and college basketball

Most interesting bit of (fake) news I read today: This Clickhole article about how yawns are caused by ghosts putting their hands in people’s mouths