Author Archives: Brielle Tobin

Killing and Saving: The Intersection of Hunting Practices and Conservation

In a society where the popular belief is that humans and their environment are growing farther and farther apart, the solution of an investment in environmental conservation alongside an increase in human activity in that same environment may initially seem contradictory. In this project, I will analyze the intersection between conservation and hunting in numerous areas of the world with extremely varied physical and social climates to address how the human pursuit of food and game can benefit both environmental well-being and community development. Continuing in this discussion will be an attempt to define related terms and opposing theories, such as the debate of what exactly constitutes conservation and the stance of behavioral ecology and environmental ethics on this topic. Furthermore, I plan to interview local hunters in the Rocky Mountains to develop an in-depth perspective of human’s relationship with and feelings about spending time in nature doing this activity, as well as understanding the power of humans and their perception of their intended role within the wilderness. 

Permaculture at Home

As someone who grew up surrounded with monoculture and year-round hostile weather, I became incredibly inspired from Inhabit and our discussions on permaculture. So of course, I scoured the web to see if anyone from my glorious state of Wyoming had braved the years of trial and error to create a permaculture design to work in the sagebrush and pine covered, notoriously wind-blown landscape. It turns out, the only permaculture center in Wyoming resides in my hometown of Casper! The owner, Laurel Graham, keeps a blog of not only the environmental, nutritional, and social benefits of permaculture, but also of her intense appreciation of the peace that living off and with the land gives her. I learned through her blog and through this film about the vibrancy and the passion behind the practice and design of permaculture, and how it is something extremely special.

As volunteering at the Duke Farm was my first exposure to anything farming wise, I finally learned how I love caring for and having a hand in creating life, not to mention the rewarding act of contributing to a process that benefits both the Duke and the Durham communities. As inspiring stories of healthy and local food that benefits us in tandem with the environment mount, the only next step is for me to call my parents and start to work on transforming our backyard in a way none of us thought possible.

Reverie of a Familiar Place

(Is silence deafening?)

I often sit at the bottom of this valley at sunset, gazing lovingly across the land of my father, of his father, of his father, and of the others before him. In the faint bubbling of the stream, I hear my sister’s glee filled laugh as a rainbow trout flies out of the water and dances above his reflection on the underwater world, fighting her hook. In the distant barks of the elk, I hear my father exclaim when he spots the huge heard with binoculars during their annual migration. In the wind I hear my mother’s whispers, her words of wisdom gently shaking the pine trees that stretch to the heavens and creating waves across the sea of grass all the way to the horizon. Every small sound echoes across the landscape.

[If a person shares her thoughts, and no one is around to hear her, does she make a sound?]

In such a serene setting, hours from any light pollution, I would tell everyone at home about the innumerable stars at this amazing place. Now, I am the only one here to experience it, and have no one with which to share its majesty. In fact, I never will. I guess there is the truth that this place remains special to me, and that should be what matters. But will the streams, the elk, or the wind hold the same reverence for this place as my family did? As I still do? When I am gone as all the others have, will this place keep existing, a place of miracle, somehow untouched from the carnage we wreaked upon ourselves? Or is it only the existence of human thought that makes this place, or any place for that matter, seemingly remarkable?

{Is all beauty lost if there is no beholder?}

Giving Waste Up for Lent


Evident in the Encyclical is Pope Francis’ reverence for the history of the church, especially through the statements and opinions of his predecessors. While the Pope is known to have immense influence over the worldwide Catholic community, Pope Francis in particular is incredibly popular with protestants as well as non-Christians. Many consider his popularity as a result of his progressive attitudes, in opposition to the Catholic Church’s reputation of social conservatism. Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope to resign from the position since 1415, creating apprehension in Catholics on whether the Church would stick to old ways or if the new pope would diverge from classical conventions. Fortunately, Pope Francis was seen by many of the religious and non-religious communities as a breath of fresh air. He immediately moved hotly debated social issues such as homosexuality and abortion to the side and brought the overall wellbeing of the fellow human to the forefront of importance for the Church and for the world.

Regardless of scientific evidence, the issue of climate change is still “controversial”. Pope Francis, using the platform of the Encyclical, called for people to recognize their responsibility not only to planet, but to themselves. Through reading and comparing Pope Francis’ Encyclical and the Paris Climate Agreement, it becomes evident that international dialogue about climate change varies immensely depending on who is involved in the conversation. Governments and corporate interests were not the intended audience of the encyclical. Being raised as Catholic, I have experienced how the official opinion of the Pope is incredibly influential in both small and large global communities, with Francis’ Encyclical being no different. Hopefully, Francis’ words of love for one another can reach the morality of every person unaware of the harm of their actions and change their behavior for the betterment of us all.


The Impact of Visual Media on Human Emotion

Written imagery as well as visual imagery serve as necessary factors for effective communication in their respective mediums. The interpretation of such communication is often intentionally left open-ended. While some find a less direct form of messaging confusing, I argue that forcing an individual viewer to grapple with multiple possibilities of message is more beneficial in developing a curious and forward-thinking audience.

Take for example, Margaret Atwood’s It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything Change. The haunting animations used in the article coupled with the copious un-captioned photographs of times before, present, and yet to come, evoke a strong sense of mystery in the reader. Atwood, as an incredible artist, forces the act of not-knowing on the viewer, while at the same time provides a certain lens for them to view the issue. This avenue of communication is incredibly inspiring. These images of life in the future are just as prominent as the words within the article, and some could argue that they have more impact on the average reader. Business and marketing leader Ekaterina Walter stated, “Two years ago, marketers were spreading the maxim that ‘content is king,’ but now, it seems, ‘a picture really is worth a thousand words.'” If this statement has merit, then the film Before the Flood must have incredible impact on viewers, as I can vouch that it did for me.

In Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio travels the world to give a glimpse of multiple perspectives of people and interviews them in their native environment. I was amazed at the specific sites that DiCaprio travelled, as I had recently been there myself. In Kangerlassuaq, Greenland, I walked atop the Greenland Ice Sheet, in perhaps the exact same spot as DiCaprio, and witnessed scientific evidence of the glacier melt first-hand. On the other side of the world, Leonardo filmed the end of The Revenant in Ushuaia, Argentina, to find snow for the set. Surprisingly, a year prior I had set sail from the same southernmost city in the world, to witness climate change on the magnificent snowy desert of a continent. While visiting these places, going back through my photos, and watching Before the Flood, I have experienced the absolute beauty and majesty of places like the poles and have forced myself to recognize that in as short 20 years, some of these awe-inspiring places will be gone or completely unrecognizable. No amount of facts or statistics could have moved me as monumentally as these images have.

I hope that the inspiring imagery that the film and the article contain show that dismissal of the facts of reality in exchange for the comforting world of deliberate ignorance is not acceptable and that it they will finally influence some to change for the betterment of the world and all those in it.

Evighedsfjord, Greenland

Ilulissat Fjord (also known as Greenland’s Iceberg Factory)


Neko Harbour, Antarctica

Danco Island, Antarctica











Note: Students On Ice is the educational program I travelled with and I strongly advise perusing their website and resources if anyone is even somewhat interested in the polar regions:

Works Cited

Before the Flood (2016) by Fisher Stevens

Glasses of the Anthropocene

They don’t see. 

I guess I’m not sure if they ever truly saw. 

Was anything ever distinct 

To them? Was everything always blurry? Was the distance too great?

If they couldn’t see, then how shocked would I have made them be?

The lift of a veil into a world unseen.

A world that was right in front of them

All along. 

The World Without Borders – Brielle Tobin

Humans are notorious for multiple behaviors in our short history: categorizing, assigning value, and declaring ownership of things both human and nonhuman. Borders, along with who and what resides within them, are distinct examples of the history of human interaction with each other and with their environment. The three pieces of discussion this week hinge on these human ideals. They center on the division of natural resources and discuss this issue through numerous storytelling techniques.

In the fictional novel Oil on Water, authored by Helon Habila, two Nigerian journalists set out on a mission to rescue the wife of a British oil engineer from her kidnappers, Nigerian militants. The theme of this story is power; who has the right to control their environment? In the famed Berlin Conference of 1885, leaders of European nations gathered to draw borders and allocate sections of Africa among themselves. Following this event, Great Britain officially colonized Nigeria. Many believe that the conference was the precursor for present day strife in areas such as Nigeria, where civilians fight for the right to keep their land, the government fights for the right to trade oil with other nations, and the environment suffers as a result of both sides. If native ethnic groups were able to draw their own borders, perhaps the conflict over oil and natural resources would have occurred anyways, but perhaps native people could have remained in symbiosis with their environment, such as the island community in the novel who continue to worship their environment.

“Belgium’s King Leopold II divides up the spoils and takes the Congo as his own private state.”

Similarly, the short story The Petrol Pump by Italo Calvino discusses the rationing of oil. He creates a compelling tale through the use of poetic language woven into real-world events. Calvino personifies his automobile while also directly comparing it to the environment in the way that they are both running out of oil. I initially interpreted the story as set in the future, so with the price of crude oil at eleven dollars per barrel in the story, I couldn’t help but wonder what international crisis had led to the economy plummeting so steeply. This interpretation of the story is very pertinent to the state of oil today and how local prices and opinions about gas are directly impacted by the state of the international relations. Borders hereby impact not only countries in Africa affected by colonialism, but also has effects on the world in its increasing state of globalization.

Lastly, in the short film Pumzi I was struck by the lack of water present in a futuristic African territory. The film is set after a third World War entitled “The Water War”, and this setting supports an interpretation that nations began withholding water resources from one another. The concept of conflict over water rights is nothing new, and in many cases, land that contains the source of bodies of water is highly valued. Sources and their respective bodies of water that lie between man-made borders are in complete control of the nation that claims the source. The power that one country could have in the ability to decimate the environment and people living in another country is astonishing.

As a result of this discussion, I’m believe that we must continue to view the environment as part of one large ecosystem that we all thrive in. Victor Davis Hanson of the LA Times stated, “Borders are to distinct countries what fences are to neighbors: means of demarcating that something on one side is different from what lies on the other side.” However, this “demarcating” of people and resources is extremely harmful and confusing when it comes to environmental issues. As an increasing number of humanitarian organizations name themselves [Insert occupation] Without Borders, I can’t help to wonder, would it be more helpful in solving environmental issues to consider the environment to be beyond borders?

Works Cited

Calvino, Italo, and Tim Parks. “The Petrol Pump.” Numbers in the Dark: And Other Stories. New York: Pantheon, 1995. 170-75. Print.

Dodocutepoison. “Pumzi”. Youtube. Youtube, LLC. 2013.

Habila, Helon. Oil on Water: A Novel. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

Hanson, Victor Davis. “Why Borders Matter — and a Borderless World Is a Fantasy.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 31 July 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <>.

Environmental Issues in Different Cultures – Brielle Tobin

How do environmental issues register differently in different cultures?

In the preface of the novel Inuit, Polar Bears, and Sustainable Use, Mary May Simon, a fellow at the Arctic Institute of North America and former Canadian diplomat, recounts her personal history regarding ways of knowing in the Inuit community and their connections with wildlife. She says of hunting polar bears, “It is far more than just hunting, processing, and eating an animal. We respect that which gives us life and that which gives its own life for our very own. Imagine trying to grasp the depth of this understanding and principle in a world of farmed animals, artificial materials, supermarkets, and fast food restaurants?”(Simon vii). This is a response to the event in May 2008, where the United States categorized polar bears as a ‘depleted species’ under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. The act banned the importing of any polar bear goods, including those from sustainable conservation hunting programs. This action deeply impacted Inuit livelihoods, where there were already provincial and federal laws in place to ensure the health polar bear populations. This is a striking example of how cross-cultural misunderstanding can lead to smaller communities being overshadowed by a dominant society’s perspective.

This interaction is paralleled in the story Staying Afloat by Angela Penrose, where the narrator, who resides in Mexico, states her opinion on the communication with Americans about environmental issues in her community: “an American product pushed by smiling blond spokesmen in expensive ‘casual’ suits who promised miracles every time they opened their mouths” (Penrose 324). The ideology that environmental issues can be solved through purely one country’s actions is not only unhelpful when discussing these issues, but can be very harmful. Every person on earth is dealing with the changing climate, and as such we should fully respect the opinions and ideas of one another. Therefore, acknowledging the fact that environmental issues register differently in different cultures is necessary in order to create effective and long-lasting solutions to environmental problems.

An Inuit hunter wearing traditional hunting clothes for surviving the extreme cold. (

Works Cited

Penrose, Angela. “Staying Afloat.” Loosed Upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction. Ed. John Joseph Adams. Saga. 323-40. Print.

Simon, Mary May. “Preface.” Preface. Inuit, Polar Bears, and Sustainable Use: Local, National and International Perspectives. Ed. Milton M. R. Freeman and Lee Foote. Edmonton: CCI, 2009. Print.

Ethnography – Brielle Tobin

The term ethnography is centered around understanding the culture, customs, and way of life in a community, and as such this keyword is deeply connected to the field of anthropology. Deborah Bird Rose, author and professor in Environmental Humanities at UNSW, describes the diverse movements that have arisen around how a researcher conducts ethnography amidst our rapidly changing world. These movements are strongly connected to numerous other keywords discussed in class, such as globalization, where communities who previously did not have access now have the ability to communicate and interact with those of other cultures and share customs and ideas.

The cornerstone of this article is its emphasis on “multispecies ethnography”. Research has shown that many communities of indigenous peoples are intricately entangled with the surrounding world of nonhuman beings, a facet of life that is rapidly altering due to climate change. A student in our class mentioned the importance of the food chain in the animal kingdom, and how extinction of one species could drastically impact an entire ecosystem. Social interactions, whether they be human to human, animal to animal, or animal to human, will likewise become altered. In applying this knowledge to ethnography, one realizes that climate change not only affects human health, but also our social relations with each other and with the nonhuman world. We are all coping with death and the enormous loss of biodiversity we’ve grown attached to, as a result, the environmental humanities are becoming more necessary to describe both our changes and nonhuman changes in behavior.

I believe that the following picture represents how the vibrancy of interactions of living beings with one another, whether they be plants or primates, has faded due to human history on earth.

Works Cited

Adamson, Joni, William A. Gleason, and David N. Pellow. “Education.” Keywords for Environmental Studies. New York: New York UP, 2016. 89-92. Print. Web. 27 Jan. 2017. <>.

Brielle Tobin: Response to Environmental Communication

In the novel Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, author Dr. Robert Cox discusses the role of visual and popular culture in the context of environmental communication. Cox explores the use of condensation symbols, defined by Cox in Chapter 4 as “a word or phrase…that ‘stirs vivid impressions involving the listeners’ most basic values’”. He continues by examining the effects that the image of the polar bear, as a condensation symbol, has had on the communication of environmental problems. In Photo 4.2, Cox’s caption prompts a discussion around this type of symbol:

[W]hat difference would it make if an image of a climate change refugee became the new condensation symbol? Do you think polar bears on broken ice are more visually resonant than people walking through floods? As more humans are impacted by climate disruptions, do you think the condensation symbol will change?

When considering a response, I immediately referred back to an earlier passage in the novel where Cox described the history of Yosemite Valley. Those living in early eastern America became infatuated with the majesty and unequaled beauty of the valley through photography, and in order for the area to be secured as a tourist area, the native indigenous people living in the valley were either killed or relocated. This history is vital to our understanding of how images of people and images of the environment interact within the public sphere.

The removal represents how the relationship between native humans and their habitat was deemed inferior to the “pristine nature” of Yosemite Valley. There exists a romanticism that many people hold with the environment. This belief, coupled with the common view that humans are the sole cause of its destruction, are the reasons why images of the environment that are void of humans are so attractive and so powerful. There is a tendency of humans to sympathize with the environment, as we believe we are its spokespeople. Therefore, I hypothesize that photographs of human lives put at risk by climate change will likely be viewed as self-imposed and will not stir as much public outrage as a polar bear who had little contribution to the effects that have altered its environment so drastically. As a result of this praise for the environment and the loathing of human actions, photographs of the effects of environmental disaster inflicted on humans will most likely never be more synonymous with climate change than the depictions of polar bears starving on increasingly smaller ice flows.

Personally, I would prefer a public sphere that values and celebrates the connection and the coexistence of humans and the world surrounding them. This view is beautifully illustrated in Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s speech at the May 2000 EcoSummit conference:

We are not protecting nature for nature’s sake. We are protecting nature because it enriches us. It enriches us economically…It enriches us culturally, recreationally, aesthetically, spiritually, and historically…I do not want my children growing up in a world where we have lost touch with the seasons and tides, and the things that connects use to the ten thousand generations of human beings that were here before laptops, and that connect us ultimately to God. (Canadian Parliamentary Review 12)

Working through this other frame, a condensation symbol consisting of both humans and the environment would be incredibly influential and would more successfully contribute to the solving of vital environmental problems.

Works Cited

Kennedy, Robert F., Jr. “Who Speaks for the Environment?” Canadian Parliamentary Review 23.3 (2000): 12. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.

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.