Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

New Lenses

March 24th, 2017 | Posted by Alyssa Cleveland in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Central Park, New York City Bethesda terrace “What If You Could See WiFi?”

After looking through the environmental art pieces by artist Nickoley Lamn which demonstrate what it be like if we could see seemingly intangible aspects of digital life such as cellular network and wifi, I found myself viewing the world in all new ways. I began to see the world through a lens of viewing the carbon footprint of all of my actions and products that I have bought. I want to be clear that this tale of realization is one of present times, and not a fantasy that I have imagined for some dystopian, end-of-the-world future. This is not climate fiction; this is reality. It began when I sat down for breakfast, the moment in the day in which I begin to reflect on all that needs to accomplished in the day. As flavors of tropical fruits and southern specialties exploded in my mouth, I started to taste something a little more sour, and it wasn’t the pineapple either. It was the thought of the carbon footprint that the fruit and grains had on the environment. I had never really thought about my food in this way, but the stories we have read and viewed have begun to infiltrate my thinking and behaviors. I moved on throughout my day, and I began to have this emotional tie to everything that i had already knew had a negative impact on the environment, but for some reason, now everything seemed distorted, cars seemed like monsters, trashcans seemed to be overfilling with unnecessary waste, and the sound of water running in the bathroom seemed to be beating my ears.This disgust I felt when simply eating fruit is, I suppose, the purpose of environmental humanities in the first place. To enlist an emotional response from the viewer or reader, which will in turn create a behavior change or at least a mindset change. Admittedly, the rest of the population who does not feel the importance of these issues already will not have the same response to stories and art about environmental issues. However, humanities do have the ability to tap into the subconsciousness of people that will gradually make a difference.


I composed some memes of some “arguments” against climate change


Abstract: Reading the first chapter of the Carbon Diaries introduced the possibility of living in a society drastically altered from today catalyzed by a certain occurrence. In the world presented to us, there was a great storm that ramped up pressure to cut back usage of carbon. Reflecting upon this story, I began to ponder the potential consequences of an opposite situation, where the world had tried to convert its approach towards energy; yet, as a result of a deadly explosion caused by the new approach or another failure, the world instead decided to maximize its dependence on fossil fuels, leading to extreme wealth inequality and disregard for environmental rights. The imagery of such a world is found below.

a short short story

March 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Jessica Marlow in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The warm form next to me shifts, then a blast of cold hits. Small feet pad across cold wooden floors. I don’t even need to peek out from under my heavy grey blanket to know that Teiko has already woken up. But I don’t want to – not yet. It’s too cold. Cold and wet and lonely. The bed is nice. Nice and warm. I wish I had more blankets but Obaa-san says that we only have enough for one per bed. To my right I see Momiji sound asleep, and I nestle a little closer to the little furnace that is my sister. When I was little, I didn’t have any sisters though. It was just me and Okaa-san and Otou-san and the baby. I think the baby was a boy. But then the baby disappeared one day and Okaa-san cried and cried and eventually Otou-san got quieter and quieter. Some days he wouldn’t come home until very late and I sometimes I could hear the sound of him shouting over Okaa-sans crying. But then one day they disappeared too. Obaa-san says that they got caught in floodwaters while they were on their way home from visiting the local Shinto temple. Apparently she found me playing on the beach. So now we live together, Obaa-san and I, along with Teiko and Momiji and Akira and Rei and Kyoko and Risa and Daichi and this new boy named Shou. He’s new. Sometimes he’s still a bit shy and cries sometimes but we help him. Yesterday I taught him how to lay out the seeweed Rei and Daichi gather to dry on the port side of our house. Usually the water doesn’t rise up too high so it stays drier over there. I remember when I was little on special occasions we would eat something called fish sometimes. It was usually cold and slimy. Obaa-san says that we can’t eat fish anymore because lots of them died and a lot of the ones that are left have goo inside. So we eat seaweed. Maybe today I will teach Shou the game I learned where you count the wave crests and see how high we can get. Maybe I should get out of bed. But then again. It’s so warm here…

Environmental Art, Knut Bry

March 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Nanki Singh in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

See: http://www.tinagent.no/photographersdirectors/knut-bry/water-for-everyone

Knut Bry is a widely acclaimed photographer who hails from Norway. His photography is simple, non-abstract, yet deeply profound. In my mind, this is why he elicits strong emotional responses to his photographs. Last year, he began posting pictures of water. However, with hashtags that read “boycott Nestlé” and “water is for everyone”.

When I asked Mr. Bry the reason behind his hashtags, he told me “Several years ago, Nestlé diverted a river and cut off the only water source for two towns and a large Native reserve in British Columbia. The company declared that the water was a universal commodity for the taking, not a natural resource guaranteed for Canadians. They had armed guards at the gate from the U.S. and a large number of the locals were badly affected resultantly.”

Water is a limited resource, and a necessity for every life form on earth. However, problems begin to arise when large Multi National Companies -bolstered by strong lobbies- such as Nestle begin to exploit these resources. In turn, they cause damage not only to the environment but also to the people of the areas. Often, these people belong to the weaker sections of society. Institutional forces are arrayed against them, making them voiceless in the face of companies like nestle.

Despite the severe droughts in southern Ontario, Nestlé continues to extract four million liters of groundwater every day from an aquifer near Guelph. In fact, Nestlé pays approximately $15 per day for this precious resource. It only pays a mere $2.25 for every 1 million liters of water it takes. They then ship this water out, using plastic bottles and sell it all over the Americas- at a high profit. (Ferreras)

Knut Bry is not alone in believing that water is a human right, and that the turning of water into a commodity for the profit of the highest bidder- a travesty. Privatization of access to water is a slippery slope that has cost many countries- especially developing nations- dearly by selling the right to water to multinational corporations, who in turn are only interested in profit from sales to the highest bidder. Poor local residents are given last access after the profit is taken.

#boycottnestlé #waterisforeverone

Spring Break Links

March 11th, 2017 | Posted by Amanda Starling Gould in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Anthropocene Minerals

Rock solid evidence of Anthropocene seen in 208 minerals we made” via New Scientist

Plastiglomerate, the Anthropocene’s New Stone” an interview with Kelly Jazvac via Hyperallergic

Humans have caused an explosion of never-before-seen minerals all over the Earth” via The Washington Post

Climate Change and the Brain

Climate on the Mind” series via Grist

Your brain on climate change: why the threat produces apathy, not action” via The Guardian

This Is Your Brain on Climate Change” via The Nation

Technology, Waste, and Climate Change

Samsung and Greenpeace: what you need to know about e-waste” via The Guardian

“Greenpeace claims Samsung has 4.3m smartphones to dispose of after its Galaxy Note 7 recall. What’s the responsible way to recycle them?”

Greenpeace Closed Loop Manifesto & Campaign to “Redefine Innovation”

“We need gadgets as innovative for the planet as they are for our lives… The future is in our hands, let’s change it!”

The Restart Project

In Honor of International Women’s Day

All the sustainable ladies: 10 women who will inspire you

76 women on a glacier are changing the world

Femmes Environnementales: Your International Women’s Day Reading List. Nine female nature writers who will inspire you to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet

How Women Are Going From Climate Victims to Climate Leaders

In Environmental Justice News

Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns, With Plea to Pruitt to Protect Vulnerable Communities

and “Here’s What We Lose If We Gut The EPA’s Environmental Justice Work

And Then There’s This Little Guy

Special backpack helps boy to track pollution


In class this week we read the Pope’s encyclical on climate change. We compared it to the Paris agreement and learned that surprisingly the Pope takes a more extreme stance on the solution to climate. The main difference between the Paris agreement and the Pope is that the Pope directly isolates the cause of climate, namely human consumerist behavior.


The Pope, like many climate change activists, holds corporations and governments accountable for endorsing policies that encourage pollution. However, he recognizes that the incentives for these collections of people to act they way they do arises from consumer and voter preferences. If we lived in a world where people preferred eco-friendly products and recognized the immediate importance of climate change, governments and corporations wouldn’t have such an immense effect on the environment.

Pope Francis also dedicates a part of a chapter entirely to discussing the importance of education in relation to climate change. He holds that scientific knowledge is important to understanding our connection to nature, but it is not the only way in which we should relate to the environment. However, spirituality, to the Pope, is integral to cultivating a healthy relationship between human beings and nature. This is because the root cause of pollution is our incessant need to feel fulfilled by material objects. Without this consumer culture, climate change would not be such a ridiculous issue.



Encyclical Letter, LAUDATO SI,’ “On Care for Our Common Home”

Giving Waste Up for Lent

March 11th, 2017 | Posted by Brielle Tobin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


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.


Climate change reminds me a lot of the Marvel movies where there is a super-sized, evil villain who knocks down buildings, turns the sky to black, and takes an army of good guys to tackle it. They are monstrous forces and can refute any individual effort that threatens to bring it down.

While I have learned a ton from this class and can see the good that humanities can do to address climate change, I am a scientist at heart and believe in the techno-fix. The humanities is used to spread awareness, and it can do a wonderful and absolutely imperative job, but when that big battle does occur, it will be the physical tools and methods humans have developed that will ultimately fight climate change.

I wanted to take a moment to brainstorm some engineering feats that would make a difference. Trees are great, but what if, similar to a vacuum, there was a machine that could suck pollutants out of the water or carbon out of the air and use it to create materials? What if we could replicate the effects of a freezer or refrigerator on a mass scale to halt the temperature increase in the arctic? How long will it take to make corn an effective energy source? Can we adjust cattle feed so that cows release less methane?

When push comes to shove, these are the types of machines and mechanisms we will have to create in order to stop climate change. I have faith in humans to do it; still, all these projects require time and a team. The only question is if we start early enough before it is too late.