Over the past few months I have gained a lot of new knowledge, yeah commonplace, but it is true. Environmentally speaking, I have always been prone to “saving the environment.” Growing up with my environmentalist, albeit naggy, mother, I was very self-aware of my environmental foot print, well sorta.
The environment is important to me, I mean it should be important to all of us. However, I really never gave a second chance to acquiring a stance on environmental ethics. I never thought twice where my food came from, who produced, or even how the animal was killed. Neither did I care about animal rights, I just thought PETA was a type of bread, and I never even thought about how politics and religion influence our environmental policies. Well, not until I took my first environmental oriented class, my senior year in high school.
That class was the bomb. It really got my head spinning on the million of possibilities to really do some good with the world. Benefiting from that class, I decided to pursue at least a minor of environmental policy in college. Never did I once think that I would be majoring in it. Yet, without majoring in environmental policy I would have never learned about such interesting people, our world’s, as well as America’s, environmental history.
Here is my position: I am a weak anthropocentrist, a person thinks before acting, and I am definitely a person who believes in animal ethics. First things first, I do not understand how one cannot be for the rights of non-human animals gaining all rights that a sentient being is born with. They are sentient beings. We were not created to rule over the animals, instead we were created equally. Unfathomable, it is simply impossible for to understand how people do not care that animals are treated so poorly, but yet they can stare at a puppy’s photo and ooh and awe at its adorableness when there are animals being beaten, murdered, and skinned all over the planet. IT IS UNFATHOMABLE.
Secondly, I do not understand how people do not see the repercussions of pollution. Yes, I love my computer, my car, and other consumer products, but at least I can admit to the being a reason to being a part of our planet’s burden. Yes, we are the cause. Without us doing anything politically correct about the environment we will continue to suffer the wrath of global climate change, hello Sandy 2.0. It will not stop there, more and more super storms, or hundred year storms, will continue to consume our planet on a YEARLY basis, destroying everything natural or man-made it their paths.
I do not wish ill upon this planet, but it that is what it takes to give people the wake up call that so be it, destroy everything. Well, maybe that is a bit extreme, but our government is not doing much about it, and yes I am looking at you Obama. At least he is better than Romney, but not by much. I just wish we could spend more time finding alternative resources, funding alternative-fueled automobiles, and rehabilitating nature than destroying each other in war after war.
After that rant, I would like to express my gratitude for all I have learned this year in my class: Environmental Policy and its Ethics. I learned about a lot of different topics, mainly ones which affect a broad range of people, including myself. I do mention some of my personal stances above, but I realize that none of that really matters. It does not matter because there are larger, more important causes that need to be addressed before anyone can say anything about animal rights, as well as climate change. We need to fix our attitude first, without an adjustment nothing will change. Climate change is real. Nothing is false about it. These skeptics need to stop denying this force, otherwise it will just bite them right in the behind.
During my Junior year, fall semester, I took Environmental Ethics and its Ethics, with Professor van Buren, here at Fordham University (which is the purpose of this blog). The class went over a variety of subjects, compromising of many different ethical debates of today. It was a challenging, yet rewarding course, and it was able to really show how different people believe today. I believe it is all skewed due to high consumption of resource based products. However, this class did give me some hope for the future, and the St. Roses Garden is evidence of what younger generations are doing to combat this consumption, and improve our world environmentally.
A part of the class was a hands-on learning practicum working on Fordham’s St. Rose’s Garden, and this is a newly developed piece of Fordham property. Acquired from the Bronx, this garden is surrounded by a few buildings with flat roofs.
“St. Rose’s Garden is an organic miniature farm with 8 raised beds designed to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. It will serve as an outdoor laboratory, classroom, and social space for all students/volunteers.”
To say it was a learning experience would be an understatement. It was an experience like nothing before. Although it seems commonplace, CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture, is a new concept for me. Like most Fordham students, I did come from a near upper class family, a place where one did not question or even fathom where their food came from. However, I think I may need to explain what a CSA is once again. It is a group of people, shareholders, who come together and buy a piece of food grown, for a certain amount of time. Each person will pay the full price up front, and in turn will receive a load, usually 8lbs, of food each week. This will last for about 10 weeks or about as long as the growing season, which all depends up to the weather. Unfortunately the scheduled deliveries were all messed up because of Hurricane Sandy. Yet, that just means that people will receive substitute weeks during the month January.
Experiencing the CSA was so much fun. I worked 6 hours delivering food, which means I helped set up the CSA for the shareholders to come pick up. Basically, I would show up for my designated time-slot, then collect the vegetables from the truck. Next, I would set up the vegetables in a certain order. Laying the food out on the tables in Dagger Johns, the food take-out place located in the basement of the McGinely Center here at Fordham; I would place one basket of one type of food per table. At each table there would be one weighing station, allowing the shareholder to find out the weight of his or her bad after filling up with each vegetable. This is the process of getting ready for the shareholders to show up. In an earlier blog, I researched a similar program that is happening at Clemson University,
“Organic farms such as St. Rose’s Garden are becoming a common place amongst universities, like Clemson. At Clemson University, a farm: Organic Farm Project, was started in 2001 and currently uses 15 acres of land; and OFP is dedicated to similar purposes like Saint Rose’s Garden here at Fordham, to teach and provide research.”
Speaking of Fordham, I think I should talk about its history and its problem: Fordham University has been around for years. It is a part of the Hunts point sewer-shed, and the Bronx River watershed. This watershed is destroyed. For years, it has been used as a dumping ground for any garbage the local area had for it. However, it has been cleaned up due to the efforts of the Bronx River Alliance and its volunteers.
Bronx River restoration project, a project trying to fix the environmental degradation that has occurred along its banks for decades. Reconstructing from the bottom up will take decades but it reconstruction is working. People are restoring habitat, removing invasive species, fixing erosion all by looking at historical maps of the Bronx River. One can even look at the older maps of Fordham’s campus to see what has happened over the past decades degrading our schools landscape, soil, water and air. The campus used to be just a farm. The Rose Hill farm covered a broad amount of land, spanning to the Bronx River’s eastern border. This means that the farm used to own the land which is now owned by the New York Botanical Garden. Interestingly enough, there is a Fordham urban legend since the farm gave up land to the New York government, we get free water… which is a false myth. Back on topic, the Rose Hill Farm eventually changed over to a University. Fordham University was formed and one of its first buildings erected was Keating Hall, and it became a Fordham icon. However, over time Fordham has become less and less environmentally friendly, even if they constantly plant everywhere. These plants are homogenous. Planting shrubs and bushes everywhere, eliminating any possibility creating any sort of biodiversity.
Recently, I completed an environmental history course, focusing in North American Environmental history. The course was amazing, as well as the professor. It taught me a lot, and I gained a lot of respect for the environment, its ethics, and its followers. It really opened my eyes to how stubborn some of the people in this world are, including people here at Fordham. They only care about appearances and that is it. But lets get off that subject, I was really struck with Aldo Leopold, and his introduction of the tragedy of the commons. I can totally can see how it affects the environment, as well as its ethics. This concept even affects places like Saint Roses Garden.
St. Roses Garden is all about the learning experience, growing a variety of vegetables organically. If you allow too much nutrients to enter the soil it will kill the plants. If you over water the plants then you will kill the plants. One needs to find a perfect medium. Just like with the tragedy of the commons, if you kill off too many wolves you will increase the prey’s population. Thus, you should let nature play itself out. Maybe, that is something you can suggest for our garden, as well as the world’s agriculture. Let it grow, naturally… do not interfere.
Interfering with nature seems to be a common thing with humans, but I think CSA programs will help people better understand the capabilities of nature, and how organic agriculture works. Working together can teach humans the values of work, and the values of ethics. However:
Fordham is all about the flashiness. Flashing its credentials is priority number one, of course. However, factoring Fordham’s recent sustainability report card Fordham fails to impress and flash its larger than life credentials. Yes, I love my school; but sometimes the ostentatiousness surrounding its every move gets quite annoying, actually really annoying. Breaking away from this behavior would be beneficial, and it would actually show off Fordham’s sustainability plan. I mean other schools are doing the same so why not play up the plan? Receiving a B, NYU beat us with its sustainability plan, whereas we received a C+. Come on Fordham, we need to get everyone involved, students and all. Student body needs to become more consensus about this plan/environmental problem.
Fordham needs to open up, and talk about its stipends. Otherwise, things like St. Roses Garden will not continue thrive. I loved my experience with St. Roses, Jason, and the CSA. I loved meeting new people who live, love, and breathe the environment. Unfortunately Fordham does not really permit that, unless they begin to open up and become more receptive with new ideas.
I believe that this experience has changed me, for the better. Working those hours and learning about the ethics of the environment really changed my perspective on community supported projects, and I would love to start one in my own neighborhood.
Western Christian and Eastern Buddhist Ecological Spirituality and Environmental Ethics… what a weird mix. Some people would love to extend personhood to animals, and some already do this. Think about it, how often do you talk to your animal in the second person? If I may so myself, it must happen pretty often. I know I do it multiple times per day. Yet, there are religions out there that believe God created us as the authoritative figure on Earth, therefore we are above animals. They do not see God’s creations extending beyond humans, thus animals, etc. do not have souls. What I want to know is where did this thought come from? Lynn White and Andrew Linery provide an answer.
White’s “main area of research and inquiry was the role of technological invention in the Middle Ages” (Wikipedia). He believed the Middle Ages was the time which can be defined as the “genesis of Western technological supremacy,” founding the basis of all technological inventiveness (Wikipedia). Wanting to figure out why the scientific community thinks in a certain way, White seeks to understand how the relationship between science and technology began.
All significant science is western, dating back to the 17th century. White thinks the relationship between science and technology is recent, science was a form of contemplation: what brough them together was this dominion view in Christianity. This view can be used to subdue the Earth and create mastery. This mastery comes from this ideology that only man was created by God, and man only. Which explains why the church replaced pagan animism with cults of saints, because man had an effective monopoly of spirits. Hence, man does not need to answer to any natural spirits, just its monopoly of spirits. Therefore, God did not create nature, but we were created to have dominion over it.
Linzey takes a similar point of view, but takes a viewpoint from christianity, and its thinking. Christians have lost their identities, because most have a strong hatred for animals. In fact, in christian theology animals are used as satelites for Satan. Satan is viewed as an evil creature, so if animals are depicted as satelites of Satan then they must be evil, as well. For centuries, animals have been made to look evil. Depicting them in dimly light, dark, and evil situations give animals horrific denotations.
However, there is some hope in christianity. St. Francis of Assisi believe in the virtue of humility. Not only for individuals but man as a specie. He tries to despose man and his monarchy over animals. This dominion should not exist, have christians forgot their past, their story? They need to rethink their story, go back and see these untapped, marginalized stories of a world filled with animals and humans together, in harmony.
As a fellow catholic, similar to a christian (different sector) I do not believe animals are evil, but I will say that they are depicted as evil creatures, which is clearly ironic due to how inhumanely they are treated as of late, but I can see that once upon a time they were equal to us humans. Humans are an evil specie. I mean, look at the destruction we have caused amongst the ecosystems of this world, none of them look the same, and none of them will ever look the same. In my opinion, our world would do a whole lot better if religion did not exist. I guess people need something to hope for, to pray for; but why cannot people pray/hope for our world. This world is hanging on by a thread (not trying to sound cliche here but it is true). We focus on continually improving our technology, but what about the science which daily portrays the implications of our own doings?
I love the assessments done by White and Linzey, it helps one better understand the origin of this concept of us being higher up on the ladder in comparison to animals. Fortunately, that is not true. We are all equal. Now lets get that into all our dang minds. COME ON PEOPLE.
Politics are messy, heck, we should have listened to George Washington when he said we should not allow parties in our system, but what are you going to do?! Unfortunately, we face varieties of issues dealing with the environment and coming up with a single plan will be messy, difficult and bloody. No one will get their way 100%, compromise is the game that must be played.
Different agencies have been working feverishly over past decade to help legislation get past here in the United States, even around the world. Take the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which checked out the consequences of change amongst ecosystems and watersheds upon human well-being. Working with experts, their findings proved scientifically we need to conserve our ecosystems, and its services they provide. Ecosystem services are benefits provide to us for free, mainly purification or water, air, soil, and helps to weed out dying species. Giving up something was the key because need to improve our ecosystems, restoring would be better actually. Enhancing our decisions planned will allow countries to obtain the pros and cons of a certain project, and whether its repercussions are worth the destruction.
There are four ways to evaluate our ecosystems and its good and services, ecologically, economically, socioculturally and intrinsically. All these values help us obtain information about our ecosystems and their goods and services. Ecological value is based on a system of natural sciences; ecosystems have value because they maintain diverse life here on earth. Providing material/immaterial important for sustaining life on our planet. Economical values quantify nature, because knowing how to treat nature will ease our pain when pricing it. We want to measure everything in monetary terms, therefore we measure all economic values of ecosystems monetarily. Thus, helping access the impact of each decision, economically. Then, socio-culture values combines the idea of anthropocentric values and non-anthropocentric values. We value ecosystems outside of the services they provide directly to us, they matter to our surroundings, religion, national and personal ethical values and spiritual values. Therefore, the decision of what to do with an ecosystem should be done in an open forum type deal. Finally, intrinsic value tries to show how we can place moral values upon non-humans, as well as non-living species. Everything deserves a chance especially species which cannot speak for themselves.
It is important to think this over, everyone has a different opinion on these types of situations and we are certainly not going to appeal to everyone’s ideal solution, but we can compromise. Different people view ecosystems differently, take the indians they worship animals, almost like deities. Differing cultures apply their beliefs to their ecosystems differently than others, so coming to a conclusion is cumbersome. Reevaluating our needs and wants will help us become more in sync of what too do, but before that our world will continue suffer.
The Journey of the Universe, “an epic story of cosmic, earth, and human transformation”, is an Emmy award-winning film written by Thomas Swimme & Mary Evelyn Tucker. Thomas Swimme is a professor at the California Institute of integral studies in San Francisco, and Mary Tucker is Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, working in the environmental studies. The film situates itself on a Greek Island, for one day, as Swimme takes us on a “12 hour” journey over the course of a 56 minute documentary. The documentary connects the “big picture issues as the birth of the cosmos 14 billion years ago”, to the beginnings of the human genome as well as the human impact on Earth’s environment. All of this connects in a deep web of life, and it all started with the big bang.
Bang, the big bang, it all started. Our world has always been evolving and adjusting itself and its systems, for the better. This film illustrates this idea perfectly. Us humans have a huge impact on the planet and her natural systems and those systems stability. We are taking more out than we are putting back in. Why, well we are naturally selfish. One can compare this back to 2012 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, who believes that we should focus on what can make us money versus what can help us create a sustainable system between humans and the Earth’s natural systems. Yes, money does help our world move round but so does its native systems. Why not help preserve them… wouldn’t that create jobs and money. I surely don’t understand Mitt Romney’s plan.
Besides Romney’s plan, after the universe’s creation, humans have had a large impact upon the Earth, its cycles, and its dynamics, resulting in a period filled with environmental and social crisis. These crises have destroyed land, natural environmental systems and the dynamic of the environment with its systems; thus resulted in a recent push for fixes. The Sierra Club is an example of a group trying to fix this situation. Sierra Club founder John Muir devoted himself, as well as the club, “to the study and the protection of the Earth’s scenic and ecological resources.” We are all a part of this Earth and her story needs to be renewed, and this should mean a sincerest goodbye to our old story and values because, “a radical reassessment of the human situation is needed.” We need to look and see what is important to us and why because our story for the past 100 years is not the same as what our story today is, change. I believe change is what we need and the Journey of the Universe shows how we need change here on planet Earth.
Hey, guys my name is Connor Farrell. This blog is dedicated to my Environmental Ethics course, here at Fordham University. Hope you all like it, and thanks for subscribing!