Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Neatly embodied in Krech's words, "...critics....castigated Christianity for anthropocentrism..." is an often-resurfacing tendancy that never ceases to make me stop and think. Because Christianity is anti-anthropocentrist. Very much so.

A few verses to illustrate (NIV):

Matthew 37:40: "Jesus replied: ' "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.' " ---Loving God is the first commandment; Christianity is God-centric

2 Corinthians 5:15: "And he [Jesus Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

Matthew 26:6-12: "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. 'Why this waste?' they asked. 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.' Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.' "

Krech's shortcomings

Coming from an American Indian Studies background, I found Krech's book a bit hard to swallow. I felt like he may have unfairly singled out American Indian's. I certainly don't mean to dispute the fact that American Indian's treaded more heavily on the land than the stereotype allows, but I don't think that highlighting their "inefficiency" is a productive thesis. Compared to many other societies (mainstream America included), the American Indian's were, without argument, better at managing many of their resources. I don't think we're in any position to chastise somebody for wasting a little bit, when we as a society waste tremendous resources. As for Krech's discussion about the beaver, I think he fails to adequately discuss the beaver overkill as an effect of economic opportunity. Remember, Indian's are people too, and respond to similar stimuli as non-native people. Therefore, criticizing them for hunting beaver, when they were simply acting in response to economic changes is unreasonable. It's necessary to point out that we only criticize them for that because we hold them to such an unfair standard. But then again, I suppose that's Krech's point.

Wouldn't it have been more beneficial for Krech to write about the ingenuity of American Indian modes of political-economics in an attempt to dispute the stereotype that Indian's are simpler and "less civilized" than Euro-American's? I think displacing that stereotype is more important than displacing the ecological indian stereotype, and I think that it could have been done using the exact same research. For example, he could have talked about the Hohokam's irrigation strategies that were far superior to stereotypical images in Native agriculture, rather than discussing how irrigation rendered the soil useless (after many years of continuous use). Hell, that's the development of technology that we've all benefitted from. If the Indian's made some of those mistakes in America, so too did the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, etc. Why single out American Indian's? It seems like more important issues could have been addressed.

Land of Lost Monsters-Megafaunas

There are some clips on Discovery.com that elaborate and put visuals to what Krech speaks about in The Ecological Indian on page 33 about megafauna.

The first few clips describe the history of humans and hunting. The clip on Maori and Megabirds talks about how the birds did not fear humans making it easier to hunt them. This can be related to Krech on page 35, " ...men (and women) arrived in the New World with knowledge of hunting large animals, but thus did not fear them, and so hunters left megafaunal extinctions in the wake." Humans were taking advantage of the animals with their hunting skills. Also the last of all the clips gives some thoughts on how Land of Lost Monters thinks the megafauna went extinct in different continents.

This next link shows what it would have been like for the humans and the megabeast to encounter each other for the first time. (They are a little intense)
I am just happy there are no megafaunas after me for lunch.

-Allie G

Monday, February 26, 2007

More Animal/Human distinctions

One of the things Krech's book accomplishes is make the native America seem closer to the state of humans today. Whatever subconcious views we may have had relating the Native Americans of thousands of years ago to a more animalistic human who is naturally very much in tune with the processes of nature, are completely gone after reading this book, thanks to passages about true economic, hunting, land use, etc. practices. One of the most interesting lines in the book for me is found on page 46 about the disapearance of the Hohokam:

"They upset whatever balance existed between themselves and their environment."

THEY upset...not the balance was upset and they disapeared. It shows the weight we put on the idea of humans, any human in any time period, having total power to control the environment. It is a fundamental difference between the animals that really are interconnected with nature and must adapt to their environment. If an animal goes extinct it is through no fault of their own except that they couldn't develop a random mutation that made them more successful than the next guy. But for humans, even the idealized Noble Savage, it is because they somehow messed something up.

Assignment # 2 on Krech

Hi everyone,
On Friday we handed out the second assignment on Krech's Ecological Indian. Here is the assignment in case you missed class Friday. thanks everyone,

Writing assignment 2 for Nat. Res. 232: Critical Response
Due Wednesday February 28, 2007; please submit 2 hard copies
Please type your response, 1-2 pp.

Discuss and evaluate the following claim Shepard Krech makes in The Ecological Indian (p. 27):
The Noble Indian/Ecological Indian distorts culture. It masks cultural diversity. It occludes its actual connection to the behavior it purports to explain. Moreover, because it has entered the realm of common sense and as received wisdom is perceived as a fundamental truth, it serves to deflect any desire to fathom or confront the evidence for relationships between Indians and the environment.
What is the Ecological Indian? Why does Krech say it “masks cultural diversity”? And what does he mean when he says that as “received wisdom” it is perceived as a “fundamental truth”? In your response, refer to the book, and please provide specific page references wherever possible.

Reminder: Please treat your response as an essay. That means you should organize your response in terms of introduction, body, and conclusion. State your “thesis”—and give reasons and evidence for your views and for the positions you take.

You may wish to consult a writing guide or online sources for help on writing a critical response (e.g., http://wrt.syr.edu/pub/handbook/TheCriticalResponse.doc ).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cronon's Prologue

Usually I don't read prologues of books but I really enjoyed Cronon's Prologue in Nature's Metropolis. What I found particularly interesting about this section was how Cronon perceived natural and the unnatrual due to the fact that he grew up in a suburban area. I myself grew up in CT in a very suburban area and always considered it as a place with lots of nature even though if i walked about 10 minutes away from my house I would be surrounded by strip malls and busy streets. However, because I lived so close to New York City and traveled there frequently, the city was my comparison of the unnatural against the natural. I felt similar thoughts as Cronon would when entering the city as I was overwhelmed and claustrophobic. Just as Cronon grew up with a love for the rural landscape and hate toward the city, I did as well because I thought where I lived was "natural". I even still claim that there is not nearly enough nature in New York City for me ever want to live there and refuse to ever consider it. However after reading Cronon's prologue, I see the flaw in my way of thinking with me considering my home natural, because once I place myself in nature it no longer stays "natural". This made me think about the term "natural" further because of the controversy over its meaning. Because as Cronon says, "Nature is the place where we are not" (18), humans can never really feel like they are a part of nature and once we place our feet into this "virgin nature" we have indeed made it unnatural. I guess I know have to rethink about where I plan on living after college if no matter what I'll never get that "natural" experience I always wanted.
I'm glad we read the Cronon article before "The Ecological Indian;" the phrase from Cronon that really stuck with me, and seemed pertinent to the idea of the Ecological Indian, was "If we allow ourselves to believe that nature, to be true, must also be wild, then our very presence in nature represents its fall... by definition wilderness leaves no place for human beings" (pg. 80). The corollary is that humans, or progress, leaves no room for nature; they are mutually exclusive. Native Americans, however, seem to have escaped the idea that every human act destroys nature. Europeans embody all the destructive tendencies of humans, but Native Americans uphold those aspects of humanity that can exist in balance and harmony with the earth; at least, this is the popular conception of them. In a way this is insulting to Native Americans, because it insinuates that they are less advanced than Europeans: if progress destroys nature and Native Americans don't destroy nature, then Native Americans don't make progress. The message is also that any form of progress is bad for the earth.
I think the take-home message from both readings (as well as from "Pan's Travail," incidentally) is that people WILL have an effect on their environment, whether now or thousands of years ago, European or Native American. Krech gives plenty of examples to support this. It's naive and harmful to think that there's any way for us to avoid affecting the environment, and by holding up ideas like "wilderness" or the "Ecological Indian," we are denying the necessary reality of our human impact. Rather than polarizing certain groups as ecological (Native Americans) or destructive (Europeans), wouldn't it be better to acknowledge our impact and find real ways to manage it, rather than romanticizing unrealistic ideals?

the ecological indian

For a good portion of this book I found myself constantly thinking "so what?" to a lot of Krech's arguments/examples. Native Americans are humans, and as such can't be looked at as all-knowing/perfect "Gods" who never do anything that is "bad" for the environment. Also, at the same time, I felt like its hard to critique a group of people on their relationship with their environment, when our own culture is pretty destructive and wasteful of our resources today, even when information is more widely available. I didn't really particulary like my first reading of a lot of the book due mostly I guess to this negative feeling toward his arguments...but than at the end, I found I liked his epilogue and the overall summary/bigger picture he discusses in the last pages of his book. Taking a step back, I realized that he makes a good point that many Americans have associated this idea of the "ecological indian" to these people, which in many cases isn't fair, since it forces them into a separate group from the rest of us...also, I realized that I had even fallen into the "trap" of not looking carefully at the evidence of destruction caused by Native Americans because I couldn't help but to only compare them with other cultures that I deem more destructive.
One last thought on the ecological indian that I found interesting was when Krech discussed Native Americans as "frozen in this image" of the ecological indian. When Native Americans don't act as conservationists, we blame them for the destruction caused; yet for some reason the destruction we caused is not discussed/critiqued in the same way because we don't associate conservation as part of who we are. Americans tend to be very quick at generalizing and attacking other cultures/groups of people that don't do what we deem as important for the global environment; which, as Krech argues, and I agree with, is dehumanizing of these people.

Friday, February 23, 2007

On Lecture and Novak

First of all I just want to echo what Stephen said about the discussion of the Orient and their views toward nature. This was something that came to my mind during lecture on Wednesday.
When we were talking about the idea of idealizing the Orient for their apparent closeness to nature, the point was made that communism did more for environemntal issues than Zen Budhism ever did. But a distinction between Communism and Buddhism is necessary. Buddhism is idealized as a way to view nature because it creates a closeness with and appreication for the processes in our own lives and in nature. But it is very much an individual lifestyle choice, one that not everyone makes. Therefore, communism is more effective overall in solving environmetal problems, because it forces people to do certain things. Buddhism can and should still be considered an enlightened way to view nature, and even a solution, and the two should not be compared as one way or the other.

Second, I want to discuss an idea that I think we may have touched on in class (and maybe it was explicitly said and I missed it) that I thought of while reading the third chapter of Barbara Novak's book "Nature and Culture" about the meaning of the word sublime and how it is reflected in the art of the 18th and 19th centuries. The change in definition over this period of time, from "majestic, terrible, larger than life, to be feared" to the feeling of overpowering peace in the workings of humand and nature, sounds like a reflection of the change in the way people viewed the concept of God, which then manifested in the way nature was viewed, which then manifested in the way artist's portrayed nature for people to enjoy. Wow...pop culture runs deep....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

the Hudson River School

Heya everybody,
For your information and pleasure the Johnson is going to be running a small show of paintings by Jasper Francis Cropsey, Frederick Edwin Church, Martin Johnson Heade, William Bradford, William Sonntag, among others April 21-June 17. The Johnson newsletter states "these works exemplify the Hudson River school painters' outlook that God was experienced in the presence of nature, and nowhere better than in the grandeur of America's unspoiled landscape. The luminosity and serenity of these canvasses show these painters' successful synthesis of keen observation of the natural world with their romantic impulse to heighten the emotional impact of the views they depicted." Use your resources (responsibly).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In defense of the Orient

I wanted to respond to something said in class by Professor Tantillo on Romanticism and the Orient. Professor Tantillo and others argued that some environmentalist wrongly look towards Buddhism and other Oriental religions as models of ecological behavior. Tantillo brings up the point that the Communist government in China had a better track record on the environment than its predecessor.

I believe Tantillo’s argument against Oriental philosophies in class (whether that was his belief or just explaining what others have argued), as well and Lynn White’s arguments against Christianity are flawed because they do not separate two important factors: (1) What religion teaches us to believe/think/do and (2) What is actually believed/thought/done by the practitioners of religion. Christians and Christian societies often do not carry out Christian ideals and teachings. Likewise, not all Buddhists accurately practice Buddhist philosophy in their actions. Are the religions at fault for ecological (or any) harm done by the followers? I would say people are the cause of ecological damage, not religion. There are few (if not no) examples of environmental degradation that is the result from following the teachings of Christ or the Buddha.

That said, I believe Buddhism and Christianity are excellent philosophies for living in harmony with nature. If everyone practiced these religions accurately, the environmental crisis would be much less then it is today. However, I do agree with Tantillo, that religion cannot be depended on to solve environmental problems. But to say that the China’s environmental problems before Communism was a result of a failure in the Buddhist lifestyle is oversimplifying the problem.

And on the side, Communism has probably been the most unsuccessful system in its dealings with the environment, considering countries like Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and the rest of Eastern Europe.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Peace on Earth

I don't know if every one picked up on it, but in the one Bambi reading the writer mentioned that MGM released a video about the same time as Bambi called Peace on Earth. Well apparently you can watch it online, the website is:


Just to warn you it is a little on the creepy side. I would also like to point out the interesting fact that at the end of the movie the grandfather squirrel never quite gets around to finishing the song, skipping only the "to men" in “good will to men” part. This seems like an obvious device to show the futility, and needlessness of blessing men.

Also, I was a little surprised at how grim the scene is with the last two men on earth killing each other, especially when you consider how offended people were when there was a dead hunter in Bambi. I also can't get past the fact that the last two people on earth were men. Does this insinuate that all the women and children had been killed by the war, because during WWI and WWII there were not really many women on the battlefield?

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Bambi Syndrome: A Misconception By All

After concluding the class readings by Lutts and Cartmill concerning the so-called "Bambi Syndrome," an important point came to mind. Although the film Bambi is a form of popular American culture, and represents a piece of art geared for mass consumption tothe American public; it is strangely the case that the general public (in this case hunters, conservationists, the Walt Disney Co., etc.) relies on such media as an accountable form of education, and not just as a movie for entertainment purposes. While the hunter groups of the country complained it smeared the reputation of their sport, the conservations said it did so justifyingly, and then Walt Disney said he had no respoinsibility to disclaim the portrayal of hunters in the movie. So, on all sides we see validity being given to the film as a mild form of public education, but why? That is the rhetorical question that my post hopes to receive an answer too. However, I think I could suggest a solution to the problem between all of the stakeholders involved with the "Bambi Syndrome," becuase it is obviously an issue that is still alive today. My solution would be to offer a more inclusive curriculum for real public school teachers to utilize, that would balance the concepts of responsible recreation, envconservation/environmentalism, as business' role in American culture. Additionally, this would put educational responsibilties in the hands of those who are paid to do it, and leave the entertainment aspect to Bambi.


Several key historical sites are preserved at Nauvoo. Places such as the Joseph Smith Homestead, the Mansion House, and the Smith cemetery are preserved. A new temple was built almost exactly where the original temple was, and it was modeled from the original. The exterior and most of the interior are copied from the original temple.


Herman Melville published Moby-Dick in 1851

Friday, February 16, 2007

links about romanticism

Hi everyone,
as discussed in class, there are a number of helpful links to romanticism on the course web page. Just click on "links of interest" and scroll down to the romanticism section. (The handout today in class was from this site; here is another essay that is particularly helpful.)

Also, the first writing assignment was handed out today in class--here it is in case you missed lecture today.


Writing assignment 1 for Nat. Res. 232
Due Wednesday February 21, 2007
Please type your response, 1 page maximum
** Turn in two hard copies of your response**

Write a précis of William Cronon’s essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature” (in Uncommon Ground). A précis is an accurate summary of an author’s own argument(s) that retains the logic, development, and organization of the original source. Please note that in a précis you do not offer your own opinions or arguments but rather demonstrate your ability to “distill” the main points of an argument by another writer.

The process described at http://faculty.mc3.edu/RDGREENW/precis/presentation.html is a particularly helpful, step-by-step approach to the task, but do not add a “reaction.” You may also wish to consult the guidelines below and/or various other online or printed writing guides for advice on how to write a précis.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I would have to agree with you. I read the articles prior to viewing the movie, which I had seen before but was very fuzzy in my memory. After reading about how many people had strong reactions against the film--for it's scientifically inaccurate representation, it's anti-hunting sentiments, it's traumatic depiction of Bambi's mother's death--I expected to react more strongly to the film as well. But this was not the case. For example, I could not remember the exact details of the mother's death scene, but I did recall hearing time and time again from others that it was severely disturbing, and the only thing most people recall from the movie. But it turned out to be less disturbing than I expected. Yes, it's sad, but the movie doesn't show the actual death, and it quickly transitions to a more happy, springtime scene (if I recall correctly). The part of the movie which I think is more traumatic is the scary fire/hunt scene that comes later, where there are three birds hiding on the ground from hunters, and one is driven insane and flies out in clear view to be shot. The mother's death just seemed more inevitable and necessary to Bambi's subsequent development into the iconic stag figure we've been reading so much about. And in the end, everything comes full circle, with Faline assuming the mother's former place, just as the readings describe. I guess my point is, I expected to come away from the movie with strong anti-hunting sentiments, but to me the movie emphasizes nature's resilience against antagonistic external forces more than anything. After all, in the end, everything is exactly as it was before, and maybe even better, as we have two young deer! While the man was undoubtedly a scary and serious threat for the animals, so was winter, but in the end the forest rebounded from them both and the cycle repeated. The movie didn't come off nearly as anti-hunting as I expected, though I can see why it would prompt hunters to react negatively. After all, who can tolerate the thought of killing such unbearably cute animals!
I also thought that people who got so distraught over Disney's misrepresentation of nature needed to calm down. It's just a cartoon, with gimmicks and exaggerations intended to captivate a young audience. All Disney movies are guilty of stereotyping, exaggerating, or generalizing certain animals/groups of people/places/events. I highly doubt that any children were harmed by the realization later in life that an owl cannot, in fact, turn its head around two and a half times. No one ever said Bambi was supposed to be an ecological textbook.
Anyhow, I really enjoyed watching the movie! It's so cute and funny!
~Katie Hansen

A night at the movies...

Popcorn, widescreen, a Disney movie, and multiple in-depth, analytical critiques of a children's movie...what more does one have to want in life?? Well, that being said, I did enjoy watching Bambi, but I felt that I only gleaned a few memorable points from the papers on Bambi that I read beforehand. Aside from the difficulty of making Bambi's slow, smooth movements, and the knowledge of other possible endings, I found myself criticizing the authors more than commending them for their deep thoughts on animation. Does anyone else share this opinion or were you all enthralled by their thoughts? In any case, for those of you who have yet to see it, enjoy the show!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Trouble with Wilderness

On page 82 of "The Trouble With Wilderness", Cronon cites a book written by Bill McKibben. In this book, McKibben claims that earlier generations did not affect the environment with their actions and that all major environmental problems are present issues caused by the current population. I have major issues with that statement. There is evidence (we even read a book on it) that past civilizations as far back as ancient times caused environmental changes and problems. While these problems may not have been as advanced as ours currently are, they certainly existed. The Romans unknowingly did quite a bit of harm to their environment. Some of our current environmental problems are probably recent developments due to today's population, but we have not created all of them. We have built on some problems that already existed that we did not directly cause; we are not completely, by ourselves, to blame. I think McKibben is being unnecessarily pessimistic and is ignoring certain facts.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hunting as a Societal Benchmark

The more we discuss hunting in a historical context in lecture and the more I read about it, it is becoming clear that the concept of hunting is a great indicator for historians to utilize to study culture and class structure is century old societies. Similar to how ecologists use certain species (plant or animal) as bio-indicators to measure environmental degradation over periods of time; historians can use the concept of hunting to measure the status quo of social interaction over time. Cited as cultural expectation under King James I in Manning, is the desire for young men to prove their masculinity and martial valour. This is an important concept because it is one that would apply to the youth of all social classes. Manning then goes on to dicuss the continued appeal of the sport of hunting to popular tastes, which again would put it at the level of all social classes. Moreover, in Manning's section on "Popular Culture," he states that hunting and fishing rights were among the initial demands made in Germany's Peasent War of the early 16th-century; indicating that the idea of hunting rights were as basic as the right to food. This furthers the idea that hunting has evolved into something that the government can regulate, but cannot deny to the masses of any social structure. In conclusion, this evolution of hunting is remarkably linked to the aggregation of social rights over the last 300-400 years. As one can see in our own country today a culmination of those rights in Natural Resources Departments in every state int he Union that cater to their citizen's right to hunt and fish with minimal government intervention. Overall, I believe that connections between the idea of hunting and social rights over time go far deeper than I have discussed in this posting, but I think it is most important that people (those interested in the development of American social philosophy in particular) recognize the linkage that most certainly exists between the two concepts.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hunting and Robin Hood...(do I smell a Disney clip?)

I was completely unaware of how influential hunting was throughout Western history. I always thought that hunting was an unrestricted activity practiced by any who desired food throughout the ages. I had no idea that hunting also served to stratify the different classes in society and factored into political and economic life. Although much of the article was interesting, I was particularly intrigued by the sections on Robin Hood. I never realized this character's prestige and prominent role in popular culture. People apparently rallied around Robin Hood's story as a way to protest the injustice of descriminatory hunting laws: "The Robin Hood of legend was, in turn, a potent symbol of popular protest" (pg. 21). Indeed this is demonstrated by the true story of Thomas Bright who raided an off-limts deer park in protest. "He went by the name of 'Robin Hood'; his followers, who included yeomen and artisans, were known as Robin Hood's 'merry men'" (pg. 22). In light of these facts I came to thinking: "Did Disney's interpretation of Robin Hood corespond with the actual medieval ballads about him?" I think we better watch a clip in class and find out! Any one else? Finally, I found it intriguing that both the commoners and the gentry found the tale of Robin Hood appealing. I always thought this was a tale of poor vs. rich, but instead, I guess Robin Hood is truly a tale of the empowered vs. the unimpowered or supressed, as even the gentry could be limited on where and when they could hunt.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

"The Iconography of the Stag"-- Thiebaux

The diversity of connotations associated with the stag impressed me. There are the pagan influences -- the stag transpierced by an evil spirt, for example-- Christian allegories and allusions-- as in the Ten Commandments represented by the stag's ten horns-- and political overtones-- the nobility of the stag with his impressive set of horns tied to the glory of the king and his crown.
The incorporation of the imagery of a serpent seemed especially bizarre. Where did the bit about the stag devouring the venomous snake originate from? How strange that the snake has medicinal effects on the stag rather than the classic fatal consequences of encounters with serpents.

One last thought on Pan's Travail

I was reading through all the posts on Pan's Travail and started thinking about different parts of the book that stood out to me, and I realized that one of the things that really struck me when I was reading, but no one has really brought up yet, was how many patterns in nature people really picked up on during the Ancient Greek/Roman times. You often hear about all of the ways people destroy their environments, and I guess when it comes to historical periods I often considered a significant amount of the destruction to be a result of a lack of knowledge. Which, although in a lot of cases it is, I was surprised at how many different people Hughes was able to cite when discussing the causes and results of problems such as deforestation, erosion and water pollution.
In a course I took last semester, we spent every class in discussions about ecological theories and ideas that have revolutionized how we think about ecosystems and our surrounding environments. What I found interesting while reading this book though, was how close a lot of writers/philosophers, that Hughes cites, came to many of these "new" ideas. Just to name one example that I found while going back through my notes, on page 63, Hughes talks about Herodotus and how he considered the relationship between predator and prey: "timid animals that are eaten by others produce young in abundance, while predators bring forth only a few offspring"...while I was unable to go back to the exact source to see how Herodotus stated it originally, I couldn't help but think of how close this observation is to the basic idea behind R and K selection--which is obviously a little more complex, but I found it interesting that two other philosophers from his time period also acknowledged this pattern. Perhaps my argument is a bit of a stretch, but I thought I would just throw the idea out there...

Monday, February 5, 2007

A small note on Lead

We were talking about this in class, and I wanted to settle the issue of whether or not the Ancient Romans knew of the dangers of Lead and did anything to prevent poisoning. Flipping around in Hughes, I found the perfect passage, and Hughes claims that " Vitruvius knew that lead pipes could be dangerous"(p162). Because of these, Romans would apparently waterproof the inside of aqueducts with "maltha concrete, a pinkish mixture including lime, pork fat, and the milk of unripe figs" (p162). I searched on the web for the explanation of this, to say the least, interesting concoction and found nothing relevant. And as a closing note, to support the claim that Roman emperors may have had dementia due to lead poisoning, Wikipedia claims that Romans used lead acetate as a sweetener in their wines. So it seems to me that Romans did know of the dangers of lead and in some cases tried to counteract them, but ironically continued to directly ingest the substance. Natural selection at work?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Quick Comment on Hughes

Just a quick comment on something Professor Tantillo said...

"Even though he pointed out some environmental problems faced by these ancient societies, the overwhelming impression that Hughes left was that these people loved and respected nature and had a oneness unlike that experienced in later civilizations. I would have imagined that a group of people more exposed to the harshness of life without the comforts of civilizations would have had some contempt for the difficulties posed by nature intermingled with their love."

Not that I necessarily disagree with the comment above, I just want to expand on it. Whatever oneness and respect the people of the neolithic and paleolithic age had for nature was probably more of byproduct of the fact that they had to bend to nature's will rather than an innate feature of their civilization. They did not have the technology to control nature like we do today, and so they had to adapt themselves as best as possible to what nature gave them. In today's world we can ignore nature for the most part. We may complain about the cold in Ithaca, but by and large, weather, wild animals, whether or not we can find medicinal plants or food to eat, do not alter our daily routines as those things would have for the people of these time periods. Yes, they probably had a deeper respect for and oneness with nature, but I do not think their mentality was all that different from subsequent civilizations. It was out of necessity that they appear to have been highly integrated with nature. I'm probably being a bit presumptuous. I guess we have no way of knowing what they were really thinking.

Go Colts!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Thoughts on Hughes and Other Comments

First, it's great to see people relating the readings to each other. Integrating ideas from multiple authors is essential to thinking critically about the material we are covering. It also shows that you've been interacting with the ideas in the texts rather than simply taking them at face value.

In response to the comment about primitivism and hybrid cars, that's in interesting paradox. I don't think Marx intended that the three philosophies be mutually exclusive; one person may have to reconcile both progressive and primitivist desires (I know I do...). That said, on p. 462, Marx says that primitivists would view fewer "interventions of science-based technology" as better, so this may place hybrid cars and other more environmentally friendly technologies in the progressive category. Although, not neatly.

A while back, there was a question about the cover art. On the back cover, there's a little blurb about the figure on the front, which could be a launching point for some independent discovery.

With respect to Pan's Travail, I noticed a strong theme of balance throughout the book. Hughes attributes the longevity and prosperity of a society to its ability to stay in balance with nature. I originally thought that this would be like trying to find a root cause for the collapse of ancient civilizations (i.e. brought on by society falling out of balance with nature), but Hughes considers many factors in his notion of balance. It isn't only over-population, only pollution, deforestation, or erosion, but the combined effects of these phenomena that led to environmental degradation and the fall of ancient civilizations. Also, did anyone else detect some primitivist ideals in Hughes description of the Paleolithic and Neolithic people? Even though he pointed out some environmental problems faced by these ancient societies, the overwhelming impression that Hughes left was that these people loved and respected nature and had a oneness unlike that experienced in later civilizations. I would have imagined that a group of people more exposed to the harshness of life without the comforts of civilizations would have had some contempt for the difficulties posed by nature intermingled with their love.

Primitivism vs. Progressivism

During our discussion on the primitive vs the progressive in class, I kept thinking about a potenital anomaly. It seems to me that contemporary "environmentalists", hippies, and/or car lovers are being faced with an interesting contradiction to the myth that you're either A. progressive, working against, according to Marx, the "disorderly, barbarous, unredeemed wilderness"(457), or B. you're primitive, "conceptually opposed to progressivism" (461). It seems to me that today, primitivism is acheived in a sense, through progress. If you take Marx's words to mean simply that progress is good, and the environment necessarily takes a back seat under this discourse, and the primitive is simply taken to mean that environmental responsibilty and a desire to protect the environment and live more "in synch with nature", then a lot of modern technology falls into the anomaly that I'm discussing. For example, take hybrid cars. Most people buy hybrid cars (besides the desire to save money on gas) to be more "environmentally responsible". Would Marx then classify those people as "primitive"? I would find that difficult to believe, since hybrid cars only exist because of hybrid fuel technology (or whatever, I'm no engineer). That technology makes hybrid cars (and their owners) findamentally progressive. How can you be fundamentally primitive, and fundamentally progressive at the same time? The same argument goes for E-85 ethanol cars. The technology used to convert switchgrass into ethanol is both progressive (technology) and primitive (relying on a plant that comes originally from nature (granted, the switchgrass used for ethanol will be a cultivar). I wouldn't put the hybrid car drivers into the Pastoral category either. It seems that pastoralism is more a romanticized vision of what nature should be. There's a desire to have the best of both worlds. I don't think that hybrid owners want the best of both, I think many or most of them want a more primitive lifestyle, and are trying to acheive that via progress.

As for the comment about beans and vegetarianism, if you can't eat anything that comes from life, what DO you eat? Rocks? You can't even do that, because somewhere in that rock, a carbon atom may once been part of a dinosaur bone or something. Talk about being unnecesarily extreme.