Earth Day

April 22, 2013–

I originally was planning on going to the dinning hall for their Earth Day festivities.  However, once I got there, the main dishes they were serving were not edible in my opinion…like grilled alligator.  I settled on subway for lunch instead.  I was not giving up on accomplishing my “Earth Day task”.  I had told my boyfriend of my assignment and we decided to plant tomato seeds at my house off 10th street, where I would be living for the coming year.  I had planted tomato seeds about five years ago and grown them until they were a full plant.  It was really inspiring to know I cared for this plant (watered it, attached it to a post, put a fence type device to protect from the rabbits) and was the reason for it growing to its large size. My boyfriend and I decided to plant the seeds and hope when we return in the summer that we will be able to use the tomatoes on hamburgers and to make homemade salsa to celebrate their growth. 

Manifesto- Memo

Memo

            My ethic is anthropocentric-biodiversity-sustainability.  I chose this ethic because first off we did come from nature and therefore, should not remove ourselves from it entirely.  I believe this idea is wrong.  We deserve to use nature just as any other animal does and that’s why I chose anthropocentricity.  Our use of nature is to benefit ourselves, but the aspect I chose to focus on is the biodiversity of wilderness.  Biodiversity benefits us in all types of scientific research.  However, without the sustainability aspect of this ethic, biodiversity will continue to diminish and diminish until there is nothing left.  We must act now to sustain what we have in order to continue to benefit ourselves.  Only at a rate though, that can continue biodiversity for future generations.

The area I had difficulty in was research.  Without a concrete idea of what I was going to write my manifesto on, searching for articles to support that idea is a little difficult.  As I was on the internet researching though, I stumbled upon a few sources that essentially helped formulate my ethic right there and then.  Additionally, it was a little difficult to incorporate the readings we had this semester because they were all over the place and it took a little planning to incorporate the right ones into my manifesto.

This piece demonstrates all the ideas I feel for wilderness.  It is something that can be used for other things such as recreation and energy.  However, medicine is something I feel strongly about seeing as I will be pursuing a career in it, but agriculture along with other technology are important areas of science to benefit humanity.  It is a stronger piece than I had originally thought I would come up with.  As the course was closing and information on the manifesto was being explained, I was really overwhelmed.  I did not think I had really formulated how I felt about wilderness.  I mean it is important and needs to be protected, but I hadn’t decided on for what reasons and how.  With that reason, I really am proud of the ethic I chose because I think it fits me and my personality.

Wilderness Writing Manifesto- Final Draft

Anthropocentric-Biodiversity-Sustainability Ethic

            The value of wilderness is a topic of intense discussion and debate about its use and its future.  Never has there been a concrete answer to either of these questions, let alone a concrete definition of wilderness itself.   At the rate humanity is expanding and growing intellectually, I believe the future for our environment is bleak.  Our modern world revolves around being self-centered and while I agree that striving for prosperity for ourselves is essential, the thirst for new inventions and medicines is driving wilderness to its obliteration.  Although it is beneficial to make advancements in these areas of science, we should not continue to expand onto undeveloped land at the rate we are now.  The opportunities that our environment, nature, and especially wilderness hold are unimaginable; humanity must recognize wilderness’s value if we want to continue to make advancements in all areas of science.  The key point is to sustain the biodiversity, variety and diversity of life, we have.  We should only use nature at a rate that can foster its longevity for future use.   Expansion would essentially kill the biodiversity that we are trying to preserve in order to promote scientific advancements.  The goal must be to sustain wilderness’s biodiversity in order to promote human health and continue to make advancements in medicine, agriculture, and other technology.

Biodiversity benefits humans locally and globally.  The future of these species is significant to everyone.  The average American does not even comprehend the basic impact that biodiversity on his or her life. Without it, simply going to the grocery store would be a different experience because agriculture would entail a completely different realm.  Scientists have yet to even come close to documenting every species out in the wild, meaning the possibilities these species could have are endless as of right now.  Documentation of all the species in the world will most likely never come due to the sheer number of organisms estimated, but more so because of how fast we are losing them from human impact: “biodiversity is Earth’s greatest library…once it’s gone, it’s gone.  Earths greatest library is burning” and we are just watching it happen (Pyle, 2012).  Therefore, we must sustain what we have right now.  A protected area of land that cannot be destructed through commercial or private contracting is one of the first steps we must take.  With two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity found in tropical rainforests, these are the areas that need to be protected at any extent.  Unfortunately only 9.8% of the whole tropical biome lies within protected areas, leaving the other 90.2% up for grabs to anyone (Gardener et al., 2013).  This is unacceptable if we want biodiversity to be sustained, leaving us with the only option of not only protecting more of the tropical biome, but also other wilderness regions in order to simply sustain what we have now.

Our country, or rather most of the entire world, is constantly in pursuit of the next best thing that will hit the market.  Not only is this pursuit typically overly competitive economically, but it is also dangerous to our environment.  It seems based of how far we have gotten in the past fifty years that it is safe to say there is no end to this path of destruction simply to have a new product come out on the market.  Biomedical research and the development of medicine drives a huge sector of our economic market.  Billions and billions of dollars are spent every year to try to create a new drug that will cure some ailment affecting Americans.  Many of these drugs are not just lab created, but are searched for in deep tropical rainforests, deserts, and hot springs of the world, called “bioprospecting” (Mackey et al., 2013).  Although these areas of the world are excellent resources, too often companies tear them to shreds in order to make the next big buck through the use of “biopiracy”.  When companies are not concerned for the area or the longevity of the wilderness it entails while appropriating knowledge and samples, biopiracy is being committed and this is a serious problem with the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization (Mackey et al., 2013).  In response, the World Health and Trade Organizations recognized those who commit biopiracy do so for the economic benefit, but also and more importantly to improve global health.  Therefore, the Nagoya Protocol establishes the requirements for preserving the biodiversity in these regions and methods for sharing the information gained in different areas globally (Mackey et al., 2013). Without new medical research, we cannot even begin to combat the diseases we have in our country.  We have to balance the thirst for medical research with the delicacy needed to sustain our biodiversity.

Humans assert their dominance over everything and because of that, we feel it’s “our right” to do what we want with nature creating an imbalance.  This imbalance can be rightfully demonstrated in the example of the Madagascar periwinkle flower.  This simple flower is only found on the island of Madagascar, yet its ability to help Leukemia is anything but ordinary.  Vinblastine and Vincristine are anti-cancer agents that have the ability to increase childhood leukemia survival rates from 10% to 95% (Madagascar Periwinkle, 2010). Throughout Madagascar however, humans decided to cut and burn large forest regions to benefit themselves as much as they could, while they caused demise of this magic flower treatment (Harris, 2013).  The biodiversity in the regions of wilderness that contain examples such as the Madagascar periwinkle flower has incredible medical prospects that are just waiting to be explored.  However, if man continues his conquest to assert his dominance, then there will be nothing left but concrete and roads.  All this unseen beauty and life in our wilderness can be gone in seconds because “man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity, and scope” (Leopold, 1948).  How many other cancer treatments just went up in flames because man decided to build a shopping center or a new apartment complex?  We just cannot know if we are destroying everything before we have even had a chance to explore the options in wilderness.

Not only can the biodiversity of an area be exploited for medicine, but agriculture can be just as destructive in its respective regions.  Agriculture is not a simple backyard farming project.  Most often big companies have large farmland and crop areas in order to create an adequate volume of products to be able to sell to consumers in mass amounts.  The pressure to create more and more is constant with the global population continually on the rise and yet, we are in an economic depression here in America.  It is not easy to make more, but spend less.  The world does not work that way and farmers have to cut corners to make ends meet for their companies.  In order to keep farmlands running the agricultural system has to maintain its crops, livestock, fertile soil, natural insects, bacteria, and fungi, and most importantly the holistic aspect of the “agroecosystem” (Thrupp, 2013).  With all of that to be concerned about, it is understandable that agriculture has to take a few hits to sustain its business.  I would not even look poorly upon such a farmer who is struggling for money and is overplanting his fields in the years after a strong drought hit to compensate for the crops lost.  As a result, he is losing the soil fertility by overplanting and has to clear-cut part of his land to find nutrient rich soil.  The nutrient poor land is losing its natural organisms without having food from the crops there to consume and the farmer is still trying to produce more to keep up with demand; only to receive less in return.  He is in debt trying to climb his way out of the dark circle he found himself in from the strong drought and the poor economic situation.  Too often the pressure to produce better and higher quantities of crops forces farmers into corners where they must make decisions they normally would decide against. Agriculture is an important aspect in everyone’s world, so I feel offering a stipend to those who choose not use poor farming techniques would benefit both the companies’ and local farmers’ checkbooks, but also sustain the biodiversity they have on their land.

There are definite options for those farmers who want to help sustain the biodiversity on their land.  Large scale companies have the most trouble with this because they are the ones that produce high quantities of one or two staple crops.  The world produces about seven thousand species of plants, but only a hundred-and-fifty are commercially significant (Thrupp, 2013).  If this progresses too far, homogenization of plant species is a real consequence and could eventually lead to total wipeout of certain crops caused by disease and pests (Thrupp, 2013).  Aldo Leopold discusses in his own ethic that “the result today is a progressive and mutual deterioration, not only of plants and soils, but of the animal community subsisting thereon” attesting to the fact that agriculture has taken a toll on the land (1948).  Local farmers and smaller scale companies have a much better chance of sustaining their biodiversity simply because they produce a wider range of crops.  Each crop offers something to the soil and the organisms living within it. Everything is interconnected and that idea is fundamental to agricultural biodiversity.  Introducing species into cropland to control pests, to bring in nutrients to the soil, and shifting crops in different areas on the grounds to preserve soil fertility are positive effects for agriculture.  Bringing in certain birds and other animals can support growth of the area as well (Thrupp, 2013).  The point is that little bits of effort that companies and farmers overlook to focus on tomorrow instead of a year from now, could save their agricultural diversity and their farm.  It may not always be economically prudent to save space for crops that are not going to make money, but soil infertility in the long run is much worse.  Therefore, anyone willing to promote biodiversity on their land should be offered a stipend to help offset some of the financial hardships that may accompany these alternative farming techniques.

Medicine and agriculture are obviously important to everyone in more ways than one.  We will continually be threatened with new ailments that need a vaccine and agriculture is at the base of many things economically for us.  Wilderness provides us with the resources to drive these sectors of our market, but the evidence shown describes the ways we are harming the world’s biodiversity.  There are more examples than those discussed here, but the point to be made is not to describe every attack on biodiversity.  It is rather to provide evidence that humanity is headed in the wrong direction and we have been headed that way for quite some time now.  With that being said, wilderness are areas that human impact has not tarnished as William Cronon says in his Trouble with Wilderness, “For many Americans wilderness stands as the last remaining place where civilization…has not fully infected the earth” (Cronon, 1995).  Humans expand for countless reasons but, “destruction of the natural environment is usually accompanied by short-term profits and then rapid local economic decline” (Wilson, 1988). This usually results in moving to the next location to use up those resources to continue the path of elimination.   These resources of biodiversity are a “largely untapped reservoir of new foods, pharmaceuticals, fibers, petroleum substitutes, and other products” (Wilson, 1988). It can be hard to see that the value in biodiversity needs to be sustained for its longevity, rather than the total amount it is worth in dollars.  However, in a hundred or a hundred and fifty years after no change is made, the value biodiversity has won’t just be apparent to anyone, it will be obvious.

The depth that biodiversity has cannot be overstated in addition to its value.  Everything in wilderness is interconnected.  The way the entire ecosystem thrives is based off of all the interactions of all the species.  Eliminating one means cutting one connection in the food web and that hurts the next and the next.  The fault is when human activity causes a species to die out or become diminished, but often that species is not seen day to day.  Humans do not try to save the insect that might help pollinate a plant, but only when the plant starts wavering and the animal dependent upon the plant starts to decrease in population, do we step in.  Bigger animals are easier to see and easier to notice when their population size is decreasing.  Our intervention does not solve anything because not only can we not save the insects that started the downfall, but trying to save the larger animal probably hurts other connections in the ecosystem as well.  Everything is a domino effect and we have to start now if we want to make any sort of impact on the way we have been acting for the past century. Wilson states, “Many of the diverse wildernesses that we hammered out America are already gone; hence in any practical program the unit areas to be preserved must vary greatly in size and in degree of wilderness” attesting to the fact that humans have caused this great problem in America and the change needs to be great (Wilson, 1949).  The plan implemented needs to sustain our biodiversity for the future, while allowing humans to still focus on making scientific advancements in areas of importance.

Wilderness yields a wealth of knowledge and value.  We deserve to be as much a part of the wilderness as any other organism.  We evolved right alongside it.  However, we have done a lot of activities and constructed too many things that have removed us from it.  Although, the argument that we do not deserve to put ourselves in any part of it is wrong.  The best way this can be put is by Kari Mosden in her Wilderness Debate when she stated, “one of the fallacies of ‘being human’ and being able to think everything to death, is that we have come to think of ourselves as outside of, or perhaps the end link of, the evolutionary loop or cycle” (Mosden, 2013).  Even though we have this deep ability to analyze and think, we are not any less a part of the evolutionary tree than all of the other organisms.  Our ability to think allows us to harness the value wilderness holds and use it to benefit humanity.  The giant barrier we need to put between us and that wealth of knowledge out there, is sustaining the biodiversity to maintain it for the future.  The difficulty we have is “learning to honor the wild—learning to remember and acknowledge the autonomy of the other” (Cronon, 1995).  Everything about honoring the wildness and sustaining its beauty, but immersing ourselves in the wealth of its knowledge is the basis for anthropocentric-biodiversity-sustainability ethic.

Works Cited

Gardner, T., J. Barlow, and R. Chazdon. “Prospects for Tropical Forest Biodiversity in a Human- modified World.” Wiley Online Library. Ecology Letters, 24 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

Harris, Angela. “Plight of Madagascar Affects Us All.” Hub Pages. Hub Pages, 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Leopold, Aldo. “The Land Ethic.” The Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There,1948. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Leopold, Aldo. ”Wilderness” The Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. 1949. 200-13. Web. 12 April 2013

Mackey, T., and B. Liang. “Integrating Biodiversity Management and Indigenous Biopiracy Protection to Promote Environmental Justice and Global Health.” Promoting Health Equity. American Journal of Public Health, June 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

“Madagascar Periwinkle.” Helios Dermatology. Helios Dermatology, 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Modsen, Kari. “Can Ecopsychology Save the Wilderness Debate.” Ecopsychology. Journal of International Community for Ecopsychology, 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Pyle, Richard. “The Race to Document Biodiversity.” NYTimes. New York Times, 5 Jan. 2012. Web. 1 May 2013.

Thrupp, L. “Linking Agricultural Biodiversity and Food Security: The Valuable Role of Agrobiodiversity for Sustainable Agriculture.” Wiley Online Library. International Affairs, 16 Dec. 2002. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995, 69-90

Wilson, E. O. “Biodiversity.” National Academy of Sciences. The National Academic Press, 1988. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

Societies’ Constraints- Memo

Memo

            This piece was founded upon the idea that I experienced in class, as written about in the actual polished piece.  It really made me think deeper about the way society goes about our daily business due to the way we were brought up—and these “rules”. I don’t know why I felt like it resonated with me so much, but I was questioning why everyone listens to society in this way if we always have to worry about being proper? Ultimately I did conclude that we have all these social norms in place so that people fit in and that we can function as a society.  I suppose it is necessary with that reasoning.  However, that does not mean that my piece should not argue the fact that we still need an outlet from all the stress and pressures of our lives.

            I did have a really difficult time writing this piece because I did not know how to write it as the narrator. I didn’t like switching from saying “I” to “they” to “we”.  It is not my usual style because it is not formal as most English classes are.  I also had difficulties in completing the length requirement for this piece.  I felt like I added in a lot of “padding” to complete the 2000 word requirement.  Truth be told, when I submitted it the first two times before comments on it were made, I was not really proud of it.  It is definitely not my best work, but the comments that both Dr. Egan and Mrs. West-Puckett made helped to kind of steer me in the direction of a piece that is written in this way (versus a typical research paper).  I am happier with the piece with my revisions, but nothing is every perfect and can always be improved upon. 

            While this piece is “supposed” to be directed towards college students, I feel like it can apply to anyone.  Society affects everyone and although college students are making a big transition in their lives, the ways I proposed to calm ourselves can apply to just about everyone.  I think this class helped to confirm the fact that simply going away from the general population (aka campus) and entering the world of nature does relieve some stress.  It is in this understanding I found within myself that I am most proud of. 

First Polished Piece- Societies’ Constraints

 

Societies’ Constraints

 

            Society has all too many types of preconceptions and unwritten rules that must be followed to be “socially acceptable”.  We are exposed to these guidelines that we must live by at an early age, probably beginning when we learn to speak.  “Don’t say that, don’t eat with your fingers, you must say mam’ and sir, say please and thank you, cross your legs if you are a lady, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, open the door for someone, wash your hands after using the restroom”.  We have all been in that position, when we get a dirty look for doing something without proper etiquette, leaving you to feel embarrassed. The list is truly endless, but without a “rulebook” to refer to, how are we required to follow social norm?  My question to you is, should we follow society’s rules all the time or follow our own motives to do what makes us happy without concern for society’s backfire?

            A really interesting experience happened to me a few weeks ago in one of my classes that made me stumble upon this topic in the first place.  The students were told to walk around campus until we found a location that “spoke” to us and write about an abstract idea relating to that spot.  Well, considering this was an honors class, it has always been pretty driven hard into our minds that what the teacher or professor says, goes: “rule”.  I ended up settling on a simple tree that I pass on a daily basis.  I never thought I would stumble upon an idea that really resonated with me, but within moments I was looking at the tree wanting to climb it. I had no clue as to why I had this urge to climb a tree, especially considering I never do things like that.  However, when the idea of the students walking by staring at me made me think twice realizing that it’s not really socially acceptable to start climbing all over the trees on a college campus. That’s when it hit me, social norms’ make us conform to “ideal” behavior and those who do not follow are looked down upon or even laughed at.  You never even think about that idea because it is engrained in you as a child to conform. When you really get down to it, this concept is ridiculous. Why should I withhold something from myself that may bring me joy just because a few students walking by will stare?  With that being said, I climbed the tree anyway and gave a stern look back at anyone glancing in my direction.

            When considering an idea that is thought to go against society, what is the proper way to deal with those motives?  Should we just sneeze on people and use our fingers when eating spaghetti?  No.  My proposal to let our guard down and become at ease with ourselves without concern for society’s’ backfire and dirty looks, is to go out the wilderness and free ourselves from our constraints.  Release some of that tension in a way that is not in the line of sight of the general population.  By seeking out wilderness, you are searching for a location away from society and away from the masses of people we are surrounded by on a daily basis.  Walking to a local park does not constitute as wilderness and neither is that tree I climbed on campus.  You must delve farther into the wilderness to really understand what it feels like when you are not checking in the back of your mind if your actions are socially acceptable.  Wilderness is a location where humans can frequently go and you are not expecting a stranger at every turn, but rather trees and wild life.  It is where you can go to hear the calls of the bird, the drum of the rain, the sound of the wind rustling the leaves, and the sun on your face.  It can be for example going hiking in a deep forest or canoeing down a river.  If your canoe flips, no one is there ready to snap a picture to load onto Facebook making you embarrassed. The only one who will know is you. 

            The real problem that society poses is ultimately the “Big Brother” concept:  constantly being watched. That being said, there is a massive, canyon size gap between nature and wilderness, which is differentiated based upon man himself.  Nature is incredibly more accessible than wilderness.  Nature is natural environment, but regularly includes humans:  a national park, the beautiful beaches across the east and west coast, and all the trails in the woods.  Wilderness is deep, untamed or touched land and forest. Human’s impact has not affected the lay of the land or left any trace of being there.  Wilderness is a location that man can be a part of, but if there is trace of his presence then the location is no longer wild.  The trails on Grandfather Mountain for example are nature, not wilderness because man made those trails and litter scatters the trails proving humans presence.  In Living Like Weasels, Annie Dillard comments on how nature, a location five minutes from suburbia, is a place of refuge to consult her own thoughts when she says, “I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it”. Dillard recognizes society’s impact on her own life and wants to forget and subsequently, go back to a time when things were not as constrained and rules were not everywhere. Even though Dillard can find freedom from society’s ties in nature, wilderness will bring the most peace of mind and the most privacy from society.

          Why should we even be considering going against society and its rules anyway?  I am pretty sure most of the human population does just fine without venturing away from their homes, phones, and computers.  However, western society is one of the highest stressed populations in the world and it shows with so many being clinically deemed depressed and prescribed medication for an endless list of aliments.  The depression can stem from anything, such as not making ends meet financially because it is socially less acceptable to be a family of five living in a one bedroom apartment; job stress because being unemployed is looked down upon; or even having a rough breakup with significant other because instead of doing your other obligations throughout the day, you are “Facebook stalking” your ex 24/7.  Therefore, the stress of daily life has to be juggled with society’s constraints and real life ups and downs. Only, we are real people and not stereotypes.  We do fall down and have trouble picking ourselves back up.  Releasing that stress in a calm environment is really the only way to not be gawked at or ridiculed for your mistakes.

            In the twenty-first century culture, we are never truly alone.  Having an endless list of methods for communication makes us connected to one another at all times of the day and technology is around every corner.  Being “plugged-in” is not always a good thing.  When I’m feeling down, instead of finding a way to deal with it or discuss it with a friend face to face, I typically just distract myself with TV, the internet, or venting via texting because daily life is literally so time pressed, I do not have time to concentrate on all the things that might be bothering me.  None of these really solves the root of the issue.  All that these do is hide the fact that something is actually bothering us and allowing us to face the problems out of the line of sight.  Wilderness can give us the time to focus on the real issues within ourselves.  It can also give you the freedom to speak your mind with a friend, without worrying about seeming “weak” in front of others.

           I suppose the next question you might be having is how to go about experiencing this freedom of mind and actions? There is no step by step answer because each person needs their own specific outlet or rather has their own “calling” in nature or the wilderness.  I know for a fact how I release my stress is not the way everyone does. I prefer to seek out an isolated place to just listen to the calming effects of the world around me.  It helps me to feel very small in comparison to the rest of humanity and the entire world, which makes my own problems seem more insignificant.  Each person frees themselves differently; as Henry David Thoreau frees himself by “walking”.  Thoreau states, “the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise… but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”  He notes that the simple act of walking does indeed allow him to experience the true adventure of the day because only the “the walker enjoys comparative freedom.”  What works for Thoreau or me is not necessarily what will work for you, but all you need to do is try. Next time you have an impulse such as I did by climbing a tree on campus, listen to it.  Take a walk into the woods, as Thoreau would advocate, and see where it takes you.  Don’t have a plan in mind, but rather follow your instincts.  Have no concern with what you need to be doing at that moment in the “real” world because at that moment you are with the natural elements and the beauty it holds will help set you free.

            The significance to me of freeing your mind from society lies with the fact you must ultimately free yourself as well.  Even Thoreau mentions that, “in my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations, and my obligations to society.” Society forces so many of these obligations on the population and even more so on college students.  The fact is though, that society is leaving us [college students] who may be barely twenty or even still technically a teenager, to abandon their childhood and thrust ourselves upon the real world’s demands.    Being a freshman at East Carolina University has been a huge wakeup call in some ways.  The time available to do things for myself has been replaced with endless amounts of homework and classes.  The stress almost never subsides, but rather is now a normal association of daily life.  Society expects us to be preparing to enter the workforce right after college or grad school; and if you are not putting in the effort now, you will not get the result you want post-graduation. Sometimes the stress is so overwhelming that you have to find an outlet for yourself.  While I have personal ways to help release that stress, it sometimes is not enough.  Therefore, if climbing a tree here and there makes each day even a little more enjoyable, then it is by far worth it in the long run.  The real cure is finding your own peace outside in nature and wilderness.

            When it comes down to it, society is a culture and all cultures have their own preconceptions and rules to follow. I just find with the dirty looks and laughter behind your back when you are not doing something socially acceptable, it can be exhausting.  College is full of new experiences and things to get involved with, you should not be hesitant due to the “rules” you must be following.  Although following the social timeline from high school to college to grad school to the workforce to getting married is the standard, it does not mean it is the only way to get from point A to point B.  Take your time and enjoy life as it happens.  Do not be concerned with society’s rules, release the stress that comes with daily life, and go into wilderness to breathe. 

 

Field Notes Memo

Memo

            Writing the field notes reflection helped me to really see its value.  I understood that writing field notes is important, especially to actual scientists, but it helped me to see that field notes is much more than writing basic characteristics of an organism or place.  Field notes are the five senses written into words and then more.  Although as students we received some experience in this area, we did not complete the task to the accuracy that scientists do.  That would take lots of practice that we just do not have time for in a semester long class, but the idea of field notes is valuable and I am glad to have learned about it.

            I would not say I had any difficulties in writing this reflection.  It was a simple, clear cut assignment and I believe I completed it to its full extent.  I liked that I was able to comment on the difficulties of physically writing the notes.  Before I had written field notes, I would never have considered the effect that the weather would have on it.  I feel like almost all three time I took field notes I had some kind of weather issue: too cold, too windy, or too wet.  Also, Dr. Egan shared with the class that she had actually named her own species and I kind of realized then that field notes would be one way to do that. Almost anyone could be able to really name a new species if they saw it, documented it, and recorded it scientifically.  The scientific aspect of these notes is the most important to me. 

Wilderness Manifesto Draft

Anthropocentric-Biodiversity-Sustainability Ethic

                Wilderness is a topic of intense discussion and debate about its use and its future.  Never has there been a concrete answer to either of these questions, let alone a concrete definition of wilderness itself.   At the rate humanity is expanding and growing intellectually, I believe the future for our environment is bleak.  Our modern world revolves around being self-centered and while I agree that striving for prosperity for ourselves is essential, the thirst for new inventions and medicines is driving wilderness to its obliteration.  The prospects that our environment, nature, and especially wilderness hold is unimaginable and humanity needs to recognize its value.  The key point is to sustain the biodiversity we have.  Although it is beneficial to make advancements in these areas of science, we should not continue to expand onto undeveloped land at the rate we are now.  We should only use nature at a rate that can continue its longevity for future use.   Expansion would essentially kill the biodiversity that we are trying to preserve in order to promote scientific advancements.  We must keep its biodiversity in order to promote human health and continue to make advancements in medicine, agriculture, and other technology.

Biodiversity benefits humans locally and globally.  The future of these species is significant to everyone.  The average American does not even comprehend the basic impact that biodiversity on his or her life. Without it, simply going to the grocery store would be a different experience because agriculture would entail a completely different realm.  Scientists have yet to even come close to documenting every species out in the wild, meaning the possibilities these species could have are endless as of right now.  Documentation of all the species in the world will most likely never come due to the sheer number of organisms estimated, but more so because of how fast we are losing them from human impact.  In order to even come close to trying to recording all wildlife, we must sustain what we have right now.  A protected area of land that cannot be destructed through commercial or private contracting is one of the first steps we must take.  With two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity found in tropical rainforests, these are the areas that need to be protected at any extent.  Unfortunately only 9.8% of the whole tropical biome lies within protected areas, leaving the other 90.2% up for grabs to anyone (Gardener et al., 2013).  This is unacceptable if we want the future of biodiversity to be sustained, leaving us with the only option of not only protecting more of the tropical biome, but also other wilderness regions in order to simply sustain what we have now.

Our country, or rather most of the entire world, is constantly in pursuit of the next best thing that will hit the market.  Not only is this pursuit typically overly competitive economically, but it is also dangerous to our environment.  It seems based of how far we have gotten in the past fifty years that it is safe to say there is no end to this path of destruction simply to have a new product come out on the market.  Biomedical research and the development of medicine drives a huge sector of our economic market.  Billions and billions of dollars are spent every year to try to create a new drug that will cure some ailment affecting Americans.  Many of these drugs are not just lab created, but are searched for in deep tropical rainforests, deserts, and hot springs of the world, called “bioprospecting” (Mackey et al., 2013).  Although these areas of the world are excellent resources, too often companies tear them to shreds in order to make the next big buck through the use of “biopiracy”.  When companies are not concerned for the area or the longevity of the wilderness it entails while appropriating knowledge and samples, biopiracy is being committed and this is a serious problem with the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization (Mackey et al., 2013).  In response, the World Health and Trade Organizations recognized those who commit biopiracy do so for the economic benefit, but also and more importantly to improve global health.  Therefore, the Nagoya Protocol establishes the requirements for preserving the biodiversity in these regions and methods for sharing the information gained in different areas globally (Mackey et al., 2013). Without new medical research, we cannot even begin to combat the diseases we have in our country.  We have to balance the thirst for medical research with the delicacy needed to sustain our biodiversity.

This imbalance in nature caused by humans can be rightfully demonstrated in the example of the Madagascar periwinkle flower.  This simple flower is only found on the island of Madagascar, yet its ability to help Leukemia is anything but ordinary.  Vinblastine and Vincristine are anti-cancer agents that have the ability to increase childhood leukemia survival rates from 10% to 95% (Madagascar Periwinkle, 2010). Throughout Madagascar however, cutting and burning of large forest regions has led to the demise of this magic flower treatment (Harris, 2013).  The biodiversity in the regions of wilderness that contain examples such as the Madagascar periwinkle flower has incredible medical prospects that are just waiting to be explored.  However, if man continues his conquest to build and build, then there will be nothing left but concrete and roads.  All this unseen beauty and life in our wilderness can be gone in seconds because “man’s invention of tools has enabled him to make changes of unprecedented violence, rapidity, and scope” (Leopold, 1948).  How many other cancer treatments just went up in flames because man decided to build a shopping center or a new apartment complex?  We just cannot know, if we are destroying everything before we have even had a chance to explore the options in wilderness.

Not only can the longevity of an area be exploited for medicine, but agriculture can be just as destructive.  Agriculture is not a simple backyard farming project.  Most often big companies have large farmland and crop areas in order to create an adequate volume of products to be able to sell to consumers in mass amounts.  The pressure to create more and more is constant with the global population continually on the rise and yet, we are in an economic depression here in America.  It is not easy to make more, but spend less.  The world does not work that way and farmers have to cut corners to make ends meet for their companies.  In order to keep farmlands running the agriculture system has to maintain its crops, livestock, fertile soil, natural insects, bacteria, and fungi, and most importantly the holistic aspect of the “agroecosystem” (Thrupp, 2013).  With all of that to be concerned about, it is understandable that agriculture has to take a few hits to sustain its business.  I would not even look poorly upon such a farmer who is struggling for money and overplants his fields in the years after a strong drought hit to compensate for the crops lost.  As a result, he loses the soil fertility by overplanting and has to clear-cut part of his land to find nutrient rich soil.  The nutrient poor land is losing its natural organisms without having food from the crops there to consume and the farmer is still trying to produce more to keep up with demand; only to receive less in return.  He is in debt trying to climb his way out of the dark circle he found himself in from the strong drought and the poor economic situation.  Too often the pressure to produce better and higher quantities of crops forces farmers into corners where they must make decisions they normally would decide against. Agriculture is an important aspect in everyone’s world, so I feel offering a stipend to those who choose not use poor farming techniques would benefit both the companies’ and local farmers’ checkbooks, but also sustain the biodiversity they have on their land.

There are definite options for those farmers who want to help sustain the biodiversity on their land.  Large scale companies have the most trouble with this because they are the ones that produce high quantities of one or two staple crops.  The world produces about seven thousand species of plants, but only a hundred-and-fifty are commercially significant (Thrupp, 2013).  If this progresses too far, homogenization of plant species is a real consequence and could eventually lead to total wipeout of certain crops caused by disease and pests (Thrupp, 2013).  Aldo Leopold discusses in his own ethic that “the result today is a progressive and mutual deterioration, not only of plants and soils, but of the animal community subsisting thereon” attesting to the fact that agriculture has taken a toll on the land (1948).  Local farmers and smaller scale companies have a much better chance of sustaining their biodiversity simply because they produce a wider range of crops.  Each crop offers something to the soil and the organisms living within it. Everything is interconnected and that idea is fundamental to agricultural biodiversity.  Introducing species into cropland to control pests, to bring in nutrients to the soil, and shifting crops in different areas on the grounds to preserve soil fertility are positive effects for agriculture.  Bringing in certain birds and other animals can support growth of the area as well (Thrupp, 2013).  The point is that little bits of effort that companies and farmers overlook to focus on tomorrow instead of a year from now, could save their agricultural diversity and their farm.  It may not always be economically prudent to save space for crops that are not going to make money, but soil infertility in the long run is much worse.  Therefore, anyone willing to promote biodiversity on their land should be offered a stipend to help offset some of the financial hardships that may accompany these alternative farming techniques.

Medicine and agriculture are obviously important to everyone in more ways than one.  We will continually be threatened with new ailments that need a vaccine and agriculture is at the base of many things economically for us.  Wilderness provides us with the resources to drive these sectors of our market, but the evidence shown describes the ways we are harming the world’s biodiversity.  There are more examples than those discussed here, but the point to be made is not to describe every attack on biodiversity.  It is rather to provide evidence that humanity is headed in the wrong direction and we have been headed that way for quite some time now.  With that being said, wilderness is areas that human impact has not tarnished as William Cronon says in his Trouble with Wilderness, “For many Americans wilderness stands as the last remaining place where civilization…has not fully infected the earth” (Cronon, 1995).  Humans expand for countless reasons but, “destruction of the natural environment is usually accompanied by short-term profits and then rapid local economic decline” (Wilson, 1988). This usually results in moving to the next location to use up those resources to continue the path of elimination.   These resources of biodiversity are a “largely untapped reservoir of new foods, pharmaceuticals, fibers, petroleum substitutes, and other products” (Wilson, 1988). It can be hard to see that the value in biodiversity needs to be sustained for its longevity, rather than the total amount it is worth in dollars.  However, in a hundred or a hundred and fifty years after no change was made, the value biodiversity had will be apparent to anyone.

The depth that biodiversity has cannot be overstated in addition to its value.  Everything in wilderness is interconnected.  The way the entire ecosystem thrives is based off of all the interactions of all the species.  Eliminating one means cutting one connection in the food web and that hurts the next and the next.  The fault is when human activity causes a species to die out or become diminished, but often that species is not seen day to day.  Humans do not try to save the insect that might help pollinate a plant, but only when the plant starts wavering and the animal dependent upon the plant starts to decrease in population, do we step in.  Bigger animals are easier to see and easier to notice when their population size is decreasing.  Our intervention does not solve anything because not only can we not save the insects that started the downfall, but trying to save the larger animal probably hurts other connections in the ecosystem as well.  Everything is a domino effect and we have to start now if we want to make any sort of impact on the way we have been acting for the past century. Wilson states, “Many of the diverse wildernesses that we hammered out America are already gone; hence in any practical program the unit areas to be preserved must vary greatly in size and in degree of wilderness” attesting to the fact that humans have caused this great problem in America and the change needs to be great (Wilson, 1949).  The plan implemented needs to sustain our biodiversity for the future, while allowing humans to still focus on making scientific advancements in areas of importance.

Wilderness is a wealth of knowledge and value.  We deserve to be as much a part of the wilderness as any other organism.  We evolved right alongside it.  However, we have done a lot of activities and constructed too many things that have removed us from it.  Although, the argument that we do not deserve to put ourselves in any part of it is wrong.  The best way this can be put is by Kari Mosden in her Wilderness Debate when she stated, “one of the fallacies of ‘being human’ and being able to think everything to death, is that we have come to think of ourselves as outside of, or perhaps the end link of, the evolutionary loop or cycle” (Mosden, 2013).  Even though we have this deep ability to analyze and think, we are not any less a part of the evolutionary tree than all of the other organisms.  It is this ability that I think we can harness the value wilderness holds concerning its biodiversity and use it to benefit humanity.  The giant barrier we need to put between us and that wealth of knowledge out there, is sustaining the biodiversity to maintain it for the future.  The difficulty we have is “learning to honor the wild—learning to remember and acknowledge the autonomy of the other” (Cronon, 1995).  Everything about honoring the wildness and sustaining its beauty, but immersing ourselves in the wealth of its knowledge is the basis for anthropocentric-biodiversity-sustainability ethic.

Works Cited

Gardner, T., J. Barlow, and R. Chazdon. “Prospects for Tropical Forest Biodiversity in a Human-modified World.” Wiley Online Library. Ecology Letters, 24 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

Harris, Angela. “Plight of Madagascar Affects Us All.” Hub Pages. Hub Pages, 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Leopold, Aldo. “The Land Ethic.” The Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There, 1948. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Leopold, Aldo. ”Wilderness” The Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. 1949. 200-13. Web. 12 April 2013

Mackey, T., and B. Liang. “Integrating Biodiversity Management and Indigenous Biopiracy Protection to Promote Environmental Justice and Global Health.” Promoting Health Equity. American Journal of Public Health, June 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

“Madagascar Periwinkle.” Helios Dermatology. Helios Dermatology, 2010. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Modsen, Kari. “Can Ecopsychology Save the Wilderness Debate.” Ecopsychology. Journal of International Community for Ecopsychology, 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

Thrupp, L. “Linking Agricultural Biodiversity and Food Security: The Valuable Role of Agrobiodiversity for Sustainable Agriculture.” Wiley Online Library. International Affairs, 16 Dec. 2002. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.

William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995, 69-90

Wilson, E. O. “Biodiversity.” National Academy of Sciences. The National Academic Press, 1988. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.