Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rights of Communities

So, I haven't read the Sagoff article yet but I wanted to take issue with the premise that rights accrue only to individuals. Better I think to allow for this, obviously, but also to acknowledge that hierarchies exist and that there should be no logical fault in assigning rights to communities of individuals. To the extent that we as individuals rely on support of other individuals, then we should care about the rights of others as well as ourselves. Further, to the extent that communities of individuals rely on the support of other communities of individuals (and I don't think this is an unreasonable assumption), then we should also care about the rights of communities (access to markets, modes of education, etc.) because this will affect how our societies interact. Sure, there is a difficulty extending this to future generations. But if we care about the human traditions and cultural institutions currently in place and care about the human condition, assuming it is in some way affected by the environments we live in, then we should also care, I think, about making sure our actions in the present foster and preserve these things we find important, allowing for the right of later communities of individuals to extend and elaborate upon them. Every generation has an anguished group of soul searchers that think differently or are somehow uncomfortable with the status quo. We should at least care about those individuals in future generations and make sure they still have the option to work toward some resolution, if only for themselves. Anyway, ill formed thoughts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pertetti article, nativism in the garden

I think the Jonah Peretti article is making a pretty big logical leap when he argues that opposition to invasive species is motivated (or at least has historical roots in) racism and bigotry. The two examples given are people in Nazi Germany who planted gardens with only native plants, and the fact that there were a lot of conservation biologists from apartheid South Africa who published on the topic. I really don't think these two examples illustrate much, and you cannot extrapolate from them that any modern biologist who studies invasive species has nativist, nationalist, or racist leanings.

In related news, the hemlock wooly adelgid insect has arrived in Tompkins County, fully 8 years before anybody expected it to. Am I a eugenic nativist because this news disturbs me? Or because I've seen too many forests in Massachusetts and Connecticut harmed by HWA? I just don't think its fair or valid for Peretti to make this particular claim.

Monday, April 20, 2009

In response to the email about citations..
The Elements of Style by Strunk changed my life...
For the science people who don't like to write in a way that is informative AND entertaining this really helps..

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New high speed rail

Obama today introduced a plan for high-speed rail. Guess where the east-west hub will be located? You got it, Chicago. 

Here's the article: 

I wonder what a 21st century booster might say. New high speed rail, an Olympic bid... Chicago hasn't really gone anywhere. 

Friday, April 3, 2009


During class when we discussed "The Ledge" and tragedy, I was thinking a lot about untimely death being considered tragedy to humans, but when it happens in the animal world, although it is generally viewed as sad, it's "nature." In the plains episode of Planet Earth, a young caribou is stalked, killed, and eaten by 2 wolves. Now, although this scene evokes a lot of emotion, particularly because it is a cute young little animal being viciously torn apart, it is still nature. It's all a part of an ecological interaction. Also take into consideration natural selection. If you're not strong enough, you're dead. However brutal it may seem, it is a well accepted part of science, biology, and life in the animal kingdom. Animals may die when they are young or before "their time" when they are eaten or subject to some natural disaster that kills them. But again, this is all what we view as part of nature. When the tables are turned on humans, though, and a person dies young or in some sort of accident, we view it as tragedy, not nature. The fisherman and the young boys died an untimely death in part because of the harsh environment they were in, and their death was classified as a tragety. What then, makes that any different than something like an animal dying in a flash flood? The way we view "tragedy" and our "oh well, that's just nature" attitude towards the untimely deaths of people and animals just shows another way of how human society separates itself from nature.