The Cushman Clan’s Romp Across the Earth (Spring 2011)

This semester in the introductory, interdisciplinary environmental studies course I co-teach with Chris Brown and Johan Feddema (EVRN/HIST/GEOG 142), we examined the ecological foundations of human civilization over the long term—including our own industrial civilization. Whenever I could, I tried to place myself and my ancestors into this history. We encouraged the rest of the class to do so, as well, by writing a weekly journal focused on current events and participatory activities in the world surrounding us. This blog and the comments that follow is intended to provide a “public forum” for reflecting on our ecological history and our prospects as a species—and for sharing some modest suggestions about how we will “act” on this knowledge.

On my father’s side of my family, my forefathers and foremothers left a path of environmental destruction from sea to shining sea. After depleting the soils, pastures, and forests of Massachusetts, where they attended the mythic first Thanksgiving, the Cushman clan migrated west with swarms of Anglo colonists, causing drastic ecological changes wherever they tarried. Barnabas, his son Silas, and his son Elmer proceeded from the clear-cut forests of Vermont, to the once fertile shores of Lake Erie, to the lead mining district of Wisconsin, to a sod house in the heavily indigenous Dakota Territory, to a health-reform mission in central Chicago, to a chicken ranch on the U.S.-Mexico border, to a suburban house in smoggy Los Angeles—all in the course of three lives lasting from 1787-1927.  It is humbling to realize that they usually did so in the belief that they would improve the new lands where they settled.

The founder of the Cushman family in America, Robert Cushman, gave what is now considered a notorious sermon on the environmental ethics of colonialism before he set sail from England in 1621: “What right have I to go live in the heathen’s country?” he asked. “Their land is spacious and void, and there are few, and do but run over the grass, as do also the foxes and wild beasts. They are not industrious, neither have art, science, skill or faculty to use either the land or the commodities of it; but all spoils, rots, and is marred for want of manuring, gathering, ordering, &c.” He believed it was his God-given duty to take the land from Native Americans like Tisquantum in order to make the continent a better, more righteous place.

As nuclear radiation, tsunamis, and tornadoes troubles the citizens of Japan, Alabama, and elsewhere, I am again humbled by our capacity to disrupt the natural world, as well as by nature’s capacity to “bite back” and stand in the way of our aspirations. I am still living off the debts my ancestors borrowed from the land, sea, atmosphere, peoples, and creatures they pushed aside in accomplishing their dreams. It is tempting to simply throw up my hands and selfishly go about my business—until I stop to think that Camilo, Andrés, and Olivia Cushman Cabrera will inherit this world, as will the children of billions of human families just like mine and quadrillions of other creatures with families of their own.

My children will have to repay this national debt—first and foremost by watching one of our favorite places in the world, Everglades National Park, disappear beneath the rising sea, urban sprawl, and fertilizer run-off. Their children will probably see their great-grandmothers’ suburban home, right next door, follow the Everglades to watery oblivion. My parents and grandparents have already destroyed the glorious flocks of birds that once inhabited this fragile wilderness.

In my life, my family has chosen an area of emphasis to reduce our ecological impact. We bought a house close enough to walk to work, school, the supermarket, the liquor store, and other necessities of life, and we try (although not hard enough) to use the most natural form of transportation—our legs and feet. The President complains about the obesity epidemic in our country. But from living without an automobile in Hungary and Peru and eating much the same (even at McDonalds in those locales), we learned that walking largely determined whether we put pounds on, or took pounds off, whether our children bounced off the walls, or were ready to live within them once we returned home, whether we went to bed tired (and slept well), or tossed, turned, and ached from unused muscle energy. When we travel we use public transportation available to us—even when it slows down the journey to the conference hotel in Houston by an hour (leaving an extra $50 in my pocket). My divorce this semester forced me to sell our car—which on the bright side, leaves even more $ in my wallet and muscle on our legs, and less fat around my waste and carbon dioxide and other junk in the air.

It will take a lot more than this to change the world. These actions only make up infinitesimally for our kind’s contribution to the oiling of the ocean, to the soiling of the stratosphere, and to the changes of the land. But in the meantime, our lives are changed for the better, and there’s one less exhaust pipe firing at our lungs. We’d love to hear your comments.

Gregory T. Cushman
Lawrence, Kansas, 12 May 2011

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52 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ida Greenwell on May 12, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I too was one of those who ‘scoffed’ when I learned of the last essay assignment, and I still scoff a bit. Although I see the importance of looking back and seeing how the people that I am the result of have changed/ created the world I live in, I am not one to dwell on the past. Along with dwelling on the past, I feel as a generation, we are too focused on the future. This sounds absurd I know but hear me out. Yes, I think awareness of the future is the ultimate goal, but too often I feel people look to the future as a solution and therefor disconnect with the present. What I am saying is that if we spend all our time and energy focusing on what has happened and what might happen we lose connection to what is currently happening which can cause more problems. Ultimately I think the solution to ‘the futures’ problems is to stay focused on every day life and every day in-the-moment decision, so that eventually, we will gain a general habit of low impact living because it is something that we can do.

  2. Posted by Katy Evans on May 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I also think that since we can do nothing to change what our ancestors did in the past that we should be looking to do what we can do today. I think that we need to educate the generations that are here today and the generations to come on sustainability and conserving. I think that if everyone is thoroughly educated about what we can do to help make our lives better now and what we can do for even our own futures and those of our children. I think that it is important that we do not dwell on the past because there is nothing we can do to change what our ancestors did, but to think about what we can do to change the future. If everyone is educated we can make changes for our world.

  3. I have no universal solution, no right answers, and if there is one thing I am certain of it is that I know very little about myself and the places my family has created. My family resides in Wichita, KS in a quaint yet spacious three bedroom home fully equipped with a two car garage, a cozy fireplace, inviting couches, a well kept lawn, back patio, and a nine foot concrete wall that is twelve feet from my parents bedroom window and lines I-135 for about six miles. This highway was a new development and work in progress throughout my childhood. I remember my neighbors down the street and how we would spend our time perched on the concrete median of the frontage road counting the number of semis, school buses and blue Hondas that flew by at sixty-five. The city bought the last three properties of every block, one of which was my Jiddee’s (grandfather in Lebanese). No more bike rides to milkshakes was my only concern. Not until my interest in environmental studies did I come to associate such concepts as overpopulation, technological-lock-in, as well as our ‘need’ to obtain more and be more efficient as a human race. I am not angry, nor am I outraged at the thought of the seemingly uncontrollable materialism that has led to such dramatic ecological consequences, I am simply perplexed. I am curious as to how such a massive body of capable, intellectual individuals can make such decisions as to, for example, raise the speed limit in Kansas, increasing the amount of energy needed to run the car, in turn increasing the amount of carbon emissions. We think in the now, and I would have to disagree with the first post in response to this blog because I believe that, if I must speculate on a solution many of my ideals parallel those of Robert David Sack in that ‘we have the capacity to take in more responsibility.’ If we are to focus on the ‘moment’ how are we to better understand ourselves as a whole as well as our places we create. Robert Sack would say you have to be ‘aware’ to rebuild ‘understanding.’ There are many people who are aware of the current, pressing environmental and economical issues who are still making decisions that go against every bit of evidence that our current way of life (primarily in the US) will surly be our downfall. How do we encourage an entire population to thoroughly understand? And this is why I have no solution, but the second post brings up a valid point about education. An increase in environmental based academics would be a great step in rebuilding our understanding of the world.

  4. Posted by Aleesha Avila on May 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Thinking back to the beginning of this class where it was asked ‘Where is home?’ I can think of how much my thoughts have changed since then. I thank professor Cushman, Brown, and Feddema for their input as well as their insight on the environment and how much we as a people affect our environment. My answer to the question ‘Where is home?’ was, at first, in ‘Kansas and in Missouri’… however through this class I have now learned that Earth is my home. I think the ‘thinning’ of places allow most people to forget that we are all connected. In fact, technology as well as different cultures continue to separate us as a people. It is mostly only through ‘thick’ places where people share ideas and care more about each other and the effect they may have on their people because its right in ‘their face.’ They can see as a people how much caring and thinking of others can do for their environment and as they help other people, as a result, will end up helping themselves. Classes like this can add more meaning to the world and allow the ‘thickness’ to take place again in our society. Knowing about the history of our ancestors and where we come from adds more meaning to our environment in that we can see the mistakes or the solutions to the environment our ancestors made and we can either fix it or learn from it. I think Cushman, by telling the class of the destruction his ancestors have done to the environment was trying to show that just because your family did something doesn’t mean you have to follow in their footsteps. I am glad to have taken this class and am learning so much about my ancestors as well as the effect I have on the environment. I will definitely think more of my actions so that my future generations can hopefully do research on me one day and in the end… be proud.

  5. Posted by Reece Zwisler on May 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    In response to the past or present dilemma i believe that both are largely important. We need to look back at our history to learn not only what our ancestors did right, but also what they did wrong. The action to change the future obviously has to come in the present but i believe that action should be based on knowledge of the past. A lot of the things people are doing in present day that are ‘green’ are things that we have learned are bad because we have seen the reaction to us using them in the past. I agree though with whomever wrote that it appears that all the information is right in front of everyone screaming “hey your killing the planet” and people just go on as if they couldn’t hear their own home screaming for its life. i for one attempt to be consciously aware of my energy use and attempt to minimize it whenever possible. riding a bike to and from destinations, energy efficient appliances, cfl light bulbs, recycling, anything i can do on a daily basis to help reduce the negative human impact on thew world is worth it in my eyes. and i usually save a couple bucks in the long run by doing these things as well.

  6. Posted by Mugabi Byenkya on May 14, 2011 at 4:43 am

    I am from Uganda and as a former British colony Uganda has a strong Western influence. When the British were colonial powers they brought their practices with them which resulted in Western agricultural practices spreading and this resulted in my parents and grandparents learning these Western practices. Unfortunately, “European contact left the indigenous peoples intact but disrupted their established modes of production and threatened their traditional relations with nature (Roberts 218)”. Therefore, applying European practices to Western soil did not work. For example, chopping down an untouched fig tree for fuel (when the tree was previously untouched for spiritual reasons) leads to erosion because the fig tree had an extensive root system that held the soil together. Thus, the spiritual reasons attached to the tree were simply a way of masking its ecological importance.
    The relationships that my ancestors and I have with the environment do not bode well for my future or the future of my descendants. This dilemma is paralleled by the dilemma that is facing the developing world. Most countries in the developing world are struggling to achieve the level of development reached by the developed world. Here lies the problem; the developing nations are attempting to develop in the same way and to reach the same level of development as the Western world. If we continue to try and copy practices that were not designed for the developing world and are not the best practices to begin with which shall continue to harm our environment. As McNeill states “In environmental matters, as in so many respects, independence often proved no more than a change in flags. (McNeill 347)” Similarly, the environmental practices of myself and my ancestors have been influenced by colonialism and other outside influences and I believe that a returning to my roots and a developing of alternative environmental practices suitable for the African mentality shall aid in sustainably developing. Likewise, as Kohak stated “ ‘Ecology’…is no longer the hobby of nature lovers. It is the task of humankind and the meaning of our being.(Kohak 163)” Therefore, Kohak wants us to make ecology an everyday part of our lives instead of simply trying to fix the problem which is a more colonial perspective.

  7. Posted by Jacob A Katz on May 14, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Considering my own relatives, I am torn between thinking that they, as essentially a few individuals, had such a minimum impact on the overall environment that it scarcely warrants consideration, except as representing overall trends; and that it IS best to think of ones own relatives when considering environmental impacts, to give a greater sense to ones own life, and the importance that a single individual can have on the environment. I find it interesting that I do not feel more guilt over my relatives lifestyle choices as related to the environment, usually I am more than happy to pick up the blame for past generations. Perhaps it does have to do with my personal background: for generations most of my family were poor farmers, first in England and Scotland, then drifting over to Canada and the United States, where they farmed in Ohio and Michigan. Only in 1910s did family members start to move to the cities: this was less of a choice than an economic necessity. Only then (at least in my mind) did they start to have a major impact on the environments, working in factories that polluted the surrounding environments; some segments of my family are on their third or fourth generation of employment by General Motors, producing and selling cars. I suppose in my case, it is not the past generations, but the present ones, starting with great-grandparents who left the farms, who have had the most impact. It is perhaps because of this that I envy my ancestors, who farmed, and I am more concerned about what the future holds for my little cousins… and me. Clearly the trend in my family is not towards going green, but is becoming farther and farther separated from it. Perhaps this is my guilt- I feel guilty about what I may be doing. Which is, I think, more appropriate than feeling guilty about what my ancestors did. But the buck stops here, I like to think, I can live differently, and perhaps someday I can even return to the farm.

  8. Posted by Philip Gould on May 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    My family has always used this symbiotic relationship to benefit their lives and make a living. By raising animals, growing food and helping these organisms live, they have been a positive impact on the surrounding environment. The energy that they use in their work does contribute to the problem of climate change due to excessive amounts of CO₂ in the atmosphere, but they have been making efforts to reduce these emissions. The family farm has downsized, reducing the amount of vehicles and other equipment that is used and that runs on fossil fuels. My family is setting an example by not eating commercially processed meat like we saw in the Food Inc. film. The meat industry has become so flawed and the meat can be so tainted. By raising bison and cattle, we encourage eating grass fed meat that isn’t finished with corn and then processed in a large factory where the conditions are very unsanitary.
    I believe that it is our generations responsibility to teach others the ways in which they should go about protecting the environment by using cleaner energy and by reducing waste. Not everyone has the privelage of growing up around a farm where healthy meat and produce is usually available, but most people have access to it. By buying more organic products, the increase in demand will hopefully decrease the amount of garbage that is produced by today’s food industry. The food industry is concerned with quantity, not quality. If we all take our ancestor’s past mistakes and learn from them, we can work to be better at preserving our environment. Through a symbiotic relationship with the earth, we can both benefit instead of it only benefiting us while we destroy the planet with our careless lifestyles.

  9. Posted by Patrick LeSage on May 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    At a very young age I would take you all to the recycling center. We would recycle glass; paper; and you both would love throwing the glass bottles into the big bins. It would be on Saturday mornings when it was open 8 am to noon. We have recycled for years and now recycle curb side all paper; plastic; and take bottles to separate sites for recycling. In addition, we have always tried to turn lights off after use to save energy; use energy efficient techniques around the windows and doors in the winter to reduce gas consumption and the heating bill. Including the use of energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs that make a tremendous difference when dealing with the electricity bill. My Dad occasionally gardens; turning the garden over at the end of the year and returning the nutrients back to the soil. Currently, I will wash dishes when there is a small amount to avoid using the dishwasher and decreasing energy use. I now use a bike as an alternative mode of transportation to decrease polluting the air, mainly around campus and occasionally at home in Kansas City. I consider buying recycled materials or eco-friendly materials.

  10. Posted by Andrea Salazar on May 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    After taking this class I have realized that we have very strong impact on nature in a long-term which might affect our health in the future and it affects also the whole world. I have studied all the social and geopolitical conflicts that the impact of humans has on nature. This is why I started to try to be more sustainable; for instance, instead of driving everywhere now I try to take the bus, ride my bike, or walk. Also I try to carry my own bottle of coffee and water in order to avoid cardboard cups and plastic bottles. In a large scale, I believe that KU sustainability program has made a great usage of human energy at the Rec Center since whenever people use the cardiovascular machines like the treadmill, the stationary bicycle, and the elliptical machine are producing energy for later use. This has made me want to go more to the Rec and exercise. I believe that change has to be done in order to prevent further chaos in our lives.

  11. Posted by Angela Consolino on May 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    The way that I live in my environment is one that I learned from my ancestors and am comfortable with today. I am OK with it because it is what I have been doing my entire life. However, that does not mean that it should not change. Although it could continue to be an easy way of life, it will affect me negatively later on. Right now we are killing the environment with our dependence on fossil fuels. In the future we will probably experience many more health related illnesses due to a polluted environment. Although the world seems to be advancing with technology upgrades and all the technology advances that make life easier, the world is also suffering in regards to how much personal contact is loss, how isolated we are from others, along with the pollution aspect. This will continue for all of my descendants. I can start by attempting to use less fossil fuel in my life. This could include riding my bike places, or getting a car that is more fuel efficient and less harmful to the environment. I feel that it is in my best interest and theirs to make the environment better. I feel if more people started doing this and more laws were made to invest in cleaner sources of energy, it would be better. However, everyone needs to start, and this could include just turning off a light when it’s not really being used or buying efficient light bulbs.
    It is interesting to see that my ancestors really did travel less in cars and use less fossil fuel. To feel as though I personally know someone who was able to do it makes me want to try that much harder to be like them. I know we live in different worlds, but if they could do it so completely, I can at least try to be like them somewhat.

  12. Posted by Erik Wolf on May 16, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I have realized in this class, that we were dealt some tough cards, our lives are engulfed in these revolutions like the green, industrial, energy, population, transportation, techno-science revolutions. The only way to look for change is to adapt our lives to a cleaner movement and move forward. We can only look back in the past to understand the environmental situation we are faced with but it does us no good to blame our ancestors. We must look forward on how we can fix this revolution mess with possibly adding a revolution that will improve and even control these others. I propose the clean-up revolution.
    They say we are stuck in a technological and energy lock-in but it is up to us, as earth inhabitants, to change the way we live and go about with less technology and energy. We all envy the guy who bikes across America on a bicycle (using man power) and read about the girl who wind sails across the oceans (using clean wind) and enjoy their stories. Yet, we don’t do much in the terms of acting upon new ideas in our own life. We all need to strive to clean up our own lives. We need to act instead of react on decisions in life.
    It takes more action and less reaction to change. The idea of living a clean life is hard to understand in our fast paced world.
    I am now off to do my part, and hopefully teach and make sure everyone understands and guide everyone who surrounds my life to act and change for the good.

  13. Posted by Chris Storm on May 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Through this essay I was able to track how my mom’s side of the family has left their ecological mark on the planet over the generations. It turns out that I come from a long line of grocery store owners dating as far back as the Civil War. My mom’s dad was the last one to operate a grocery store in the family. He is Casper Horn V. Before him every other Casper Horn (one through four) had also run grocery stores in the Alton Illinois area. Through some of the research that I have done I realized that none of them had much of an idea as to what they were doing to the environment. I think this is one of the main reasons that we are facing some of the problems that we are today. People are just now starting to see the effects that we have had on our environment. I try to do some of my part by taking the bus to class instead of driving. I feel this helps but it still isn’t much. Another thing that I have come to realize is that everything I do that would potentially help to save the environment, also helps my bank account. It is merely cheaper to take a free bus or walk to school than it is to spend on gas. Maybe if we took some major steps to change our lifestyles we would not only change the way we treat out environment, but help to get out country out of the massive debt that we have accumulated over the years.

  14. Posted by Megan Sanor on May 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    My families history is a bit different. My mother’s side of the family has been a farming family for generations. During the depression, my grandmother lived on a farm and the only reason they survived that time was depending on the animals they raised for food as well as their crops to sustain them. They lived symbiontly with other organisms in mutual dependence. Nowadays, my grandmother no longer lives on a farm, and my family has never lived on a farm, but neither my grandmother or my mother let us slack on wastefullness. My grandmother is always conserving everthing, nothing can go to waste. My mother learned the same traits and now insists them on our household. I’ve grown up with recycling, we were always told to turn off the light if we weren’t in the room, to turn off the water when brushing our teeth and to take quick showers. We now compost, my mom drives a Prius and all our lightbulbs have been switched to CFL. Though I could do more; like walk more places, eat more organically and locally among many other things, looking to my families past inspires me to be more like them.

  15. Posted by Jonathan Chappas on May 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I think the message that Greg brings up is one that isn’t seldom talked about much in society, possibly due to guilt. The idea of generations, and the fact that one day our generation will have to burden the issues inherited to them by the previous generation. This process is cyclical, as this course has taught. How can we, the current generation, change what happened in the past? We can’t, but learning from what happened to them isn’t a bad idea. My parents drive everywhere, its a way of life in Kansas. I try and consider this when evaluating my travel plans, even if it means sacrificing a little bit of my comfort. The generation before us couldn’t right every wrong, and nor can our generation. But we can practice empathetic and prudent thinking, so as to hope that one day there will be a day where there won’t be a guilty tone struck when talking about previous generations.

  16. Posted by Katie Kelsh on May 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Through research, I traced one side of my family to Sicily. There they acted just as Mr. Cushman’s ancestor’s in America did by creating soil erosion, deforestation and mining. In my research on Sicily, I believe that the lessons learned, at least from deforestation and sulfur mining, have been recognized. Sicily is no longer a large exporter of sulfur so this problem has reduced greatly. The Sicilian government still has not addressed the issue of deforestation adequately as their economy and social policies are still somewhat backward. Even though Sicily is very far from Kansas, we are an global environment such that we are all susceptible to poor environmental choices even if they are made half a world away. I propose to make personal choices to try to live a better, more environmental friendly way in hopes to decrease my carbon footprint. By starting these habits now, hopefully I will pass them on to my future generations creating a large group of people that are conscious of their effect on the environment. To better not just my family to my country, I will support political candidates who value and understand environmental issues. The common phrase “it’s a small world” has become a reality not only with technology but also with the environmental changes seen globally. By the United States becoming environmentally aware, other countries will feel the effects and convert also. The Earth is everyone’s home, and everyone has to work to protect it for the inhabitants now and for future generations.

  17. Posted by Jeff Delaroy on May 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I was n the Army for five years and deployed twice to Iraq. Never have I seen so much wasted energy. The amount of fuel used in a modern war is mind boggling. There is no way to fully understand how much fuel is being wasted. Seeing this is what made me concerned for how we treat this earth. I know I cannot change the way the U.S. uses fuel in a war and I know I cannot change how every American views the world and their energy consumption. What I can do, and what everyone can do is make it a personal matter. I cannot tell others how they should live or how they should consume energy but I can control how I consume energy, and that is the first step. Any effort to change the world starts with individuals and personal choices. This is how I now make choose to live. Just because I cannot change everything doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to change anything. I am a strict recycler and I try to live in my apartment with as little energy as I can get by with. In my ceiling fan I use one light instead of three and I use 10 watt bulbs. It’s the little things like this that each individual can do to make a larger difference. It did not take me learning about my past to make these decisions; all it took was me observing the present condition.
    If there is one thing that I learned from my family history, it’s to always know what I am a part of. As far as my family goes there is no big environmental story except for my great grandfather. My dad is an electrician and my grandfather was a mechanic for United Airlines. My great grandfather however, worked construction and built buildings that would be used in the Manhattan project to develop the nuclear bombs used in World War II. The thing is that while he was working on buildings he had no idea what they would be used for. My great grandfather and thousands of others worked in this small town having no idea what they were working on. It was not until after the war that my great grandfather found out what he was contributing too. It baffles me that thousands of people took part in the development of something so destructive without ever knowing it. Whenever I am part of a new situation I always ask myself what is it that I am truly doing and what effect will it have later on.

    .

  18. Posted by Katie Fankhauser on May 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    However, an intense focus on the everyday decisions could lead people to forget why they are making sacrifices, and in effect lead them to stop making changes toward a better earth. There always has to be an ultimate goal that is feasible and carries with it hope. Furthermore, it carries the potential for people to get wrapped up in their own lives and stop caring about their surrounding people and environment. I think the answer to combating ecological degradation lies in a community approach. By engaging with others and the things around you, you gain a responsibility for their welfare. People should start with personal changes then begin to encourage those around them to also change, until it becomes a “green” movement.

  19. Posted by Alisha Shipley on May 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    When I started this class I felt like I was going in a direction that may was making a small change or leading me in a direction away from the total destruction we have done. Now I am not so sure that anything can or will help. I agree that education is a good place to start. Once people realize how they are contributing to global warming they are more likely to change, however, this is quite a process. Our children are more aware of the world around them and the effect we have on every living thing, hopefully a new way of thinking will catch on like wildfire. I also agree that just because we cannot change everything does not mean we should do nothing!

  20. Posted by Tess Grohmann on May 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    At this point, we have almost completely run out of the resources that were, at one time, extremely plentiful. The relationship we as humans have with the earth and these resources will greatly impact us now and our descendants in the future in many ways, some that we may not be aware of now. The air pollution is only one problem, with an increasing amount of children growing up with asthma and respiratory issues. The connection has been lost and the importance of our relationship with nature has been diminished so much that all we see is what we can get from the earth. It is important to have conversations about the ethical issues of this situation, and to understand the serious consequences that will come from this situation if we do not change now. Living an organic life, recycling, saving energy, and not succumbing to the world of consumerism are just a few ways that we can take to improve the life of not only humans, but the lives of all living creatures and the earth.

  21. Posted by Jeremy Cates on May 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I have taken classes before that are of a higher level than the one I took at KU when I transferred. I have taken a tour of the Sunset Building in Johnson County, Kansas. (Which I highly recommend) I think that I have learned that no matter our family blood line, in some way we all return to a part of the unfinished work almost as if a destiny not fulfilled. For me, I think to was through my research to learn how to take authority better and apply myself more to a better cause for the “greater good.” More importantly though, the most I would say that I could learn from my ancestors is that I need to take action more for the beliefs and ideals I believe in. Take risks, act on moral changes, but most importantly take action. Today the places that we define are already tainted beyond belief. We try so hard to make these places thick, but its really hard to accomplish this construction with materials that are already worn out. This class has taught me to recognize this, put my feet to the ground (more than I normally would), and do something about it. I have been guilty too many times of back seat driving, but looking at it now, I realize I allow myself to do some backseat living. We allow people to define our places, and most importantly ourselves. Sometimes actions do not need to come from places “above” our living, social class, or cognition level. I feel that the road or path not taken is harder, but to make our own path on a road less traveled is something great. I guess what I want to say is that I never really applied myself because I was afraid to try and fail, rather than not try and still fail but have an excuse waiting. Thanks to my ancestors, I personally am going to try harder to be more of a person that my ancestors were, but at the same time make smart decisions that will help more people instead of all those that my ancestors tried to hurt.

  22. Posted by Katie Hermes on May 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Even though the ecological impacts of my energy and food consumption are not as high as the national average, I still have many negative impacts. My household alone uses a lot of energy in the form of electricity. We are three college girls living together, which means we use a lot of hair dryers and flat irons, and constantly charge our cell phones and laptops. For safety reasons, we always have the lights on at night, which do not include LEDs. All of this consumes a lot of energy and adds to our overall carbon footprint. We do recycle the most common items, so most of our trash is usually wasted food. This wasted food is usually non-organic food that we buy from Wal-Mart and is not from the local area. It’s embarrassing to admit our household lifestyle, but it currently works for us. We don’t have extra money to be spending on local, organic food products when the same product is half the price at Wal-Mart. Also, the impact we are making by this decision is hard to calculate, since we don’t know where our food is coming from and how much energy it expended to get to our plates.
    When Professor Feddema lectured about the Climate Revolution, he mentioned it could take up to 100 years for the signs of climate change to start showing. The Earth needs time to readjust and start to heal itself before we can see any changes. This means it will be hard to know what the effects will have on our generation and especially the ones to follow. Even knowing the facts about climate change, we continue to live the way we do and use up Earth’s resources. But small changes in our everyday lives can make a difference. If I start to carpool to class, compost my leftovers, buy locally, and share this info with my roommates, I can start to be that small change and see it grow.

  23. Posted by Neal Fingerhut on May 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I am aware that my family has indirectly had a parasitic interaction on the environment thorough their occupation of being tailors but none of that really has had any effect on me or my future descendants. My uncle sponsoring the clear-cutting of a small forest might have damaged the lives of the forest creatures but does not significantly effect me. We are a small part in the massive consumerist culture that has made a dent in our environment. The best thing I can do is to be aware of my footprint on the environment and pass it on to my friends and family. I cant stop using electricity or heat completely and I require people to drive me around to get to places that are too far to walk or bike too. Yet, I can still try to make a positive impact to make up for the damage that our societal life causes. I make an effort to walk around as much as possible and try not to use transportation. I make an effort to recycle and attempt to reduce the amount of heat and electricity that I use. I stress that other people my age should try to follow my example and try to take small steps to better our environment.
    Although this is a good start for the average citizen to make a difference, we can only make big leaps in progress if the heads of corporations and government leaders change the way they conduct business towards the environment. I think the average American should be informed on what these leaders are doing and try to petition for things like a switch to all renewable energy, sanctions on deforestation and reduction in pollution. Me and my family alone don’t make make much of a difference but if our society collectively changes how we interact with our environment, our planet sustain life for a long time.

  24. Posted by John Zarr on May 17, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    To start out, what matters most is what the past has shown to teach us in creating a cleaner more sustainable future. We have come to a point in humanities chapter of history that will truly define the direction we take as a species and that of the planet. We have almost exhausted Earth’s natural resources to the point of collapse. Our oceans are not only rising due to pollution, but are also exploited by overfishing depleting ocean biodiversity. There really is no time to point fingers and play the blame game. Like professor Brown pointed out with the book the Parties Over, We must stop sulking in the problems of the past by denial of the present and take action. Earth can survive with or without us, but we are dependent on its generous supply of resources to survive. The future is not the issue of today, it is the lack of action and direction today that will create the problems for the future.

  25. Posted by Kristopher Shephard on May 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    I have done a few assignments that required me to look into my family’s past. Though my family might not have the pest records of our past generations, i still have learned a lot of what i have to expect, and what our family has done. Before this class, i did what i feel most people do; i looked at the ecological problems and i thought “what can i really do to help?” Wondering if what i did would do anything to contribute to better living in the future. At the end of this class, i now believe differently. Although i might not make a huge difference, i look at it differently by saying “every bit helps when there are so many problems at hand”.
    We are doing so many horrible things to our environment, and it does not look like it will be getting better. We are making it where in the future people after us will have to deal with these issues (even more than we are now). I feel that the problems of humans causing environmental damage in like any other debt; we are getting so far in debt, that in the future people will see no possible way to get out. Knowledge has brought me to rethink how i live, and i plan to pass on my knowledge in hopes that others will change how they do things on a daily basis.

  26. Posted by Kristopher Shephard on May 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I have done a few assignments that required me to look into my family’s past. Though my family might not have the best records of our past generations, i still have learned a lot of what i have to expect, and what our family has done. Before this class, i did what i feel most people do; i looked at the ecological problems and i thought “what can i really do to help?” I now wonder if what i do will do anything to contribute to better living in the future. At the end of this class, i now believe differently. Although i might not make a huge difference, i look at it differently by saying “every bit helps when there are so many problems at hand”.
    We are doing so many devastating things to our environment, and it does not look like it will be getting better. We are making it where in the future people after us will have to deal with these issues (even more than we are now). I feel that the problems of humans causing environmental damage in like any other debt; we are getting so far in debt, that in the future people will see no possible way to get out. Knowledge has brought me to rethink how i live, and i plan to pass on my knowledge in hopes that others will change how they do things on a daily basis.

  27. Posted by Trey Stafford on May 17, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    In reviewing my own genealogy, I have come to terms with the role my family has played in altering the environment. The energy and green revolutions were essential to the livelihoods of my great grandparents. In the process of laying the groundwork that would eventually bring me to where I am today, they contributed to the release of enormous amounts of greenhouse gases that are now altering the planet’s climate. Excessive fertilizer and pesticide use in their farms have helped to fuel eutrophication and the degradation of soils.
    The overwhelming nature of this issue does not deter me from looking for a solution. Instead, I have come to realize the role individuals can play in contributing to a problem – or solving one. Instead of heading blindly into the future I seek knowledge. Education is a primary concern in solving the problems the human species now faces. I therefore will continue to learn, and I will press the importance of education to my decedents. This is our way forward, and so I pursue it.

  28. Posted by Brian Vilcek on May 17, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I grew-up in a rural area just outside of St. Lois, according to my mother this rural living leads to a lack of services that are ecologically friendly thus most of my family, that is currently alive do little to help the planet and the livelihood of their descendants. My family, according to my research, has had little regard for the environment. From a great-great-grandfather who one the second car in Cannon City Colorado all the way up to my father who is a truck driver that transports radioactive medical supplies little regard has been given to the impact they make or the future of our planet.

    I suggest that this ethical and political problem must be dealt with through educating the youth, involving communities around the globe about the effect and impact we have on the environment. I think that in the past people did not realize just how bad things were for the environment, now that we know better we have to start doing better. I realize that it starts with me, I have to do everything in my power to help the environment and influence those around me to do the same. I think one huge hurdle we have to overcome is that many people make a living essentially destroying/damaging the environment. It is unrealistic to think that my father who’s main skill is trucking and who has had this job since he was 20 and is now 56 would give that job up to make less of an impact on the environment. His concern is not the environment it is rather taking care of the six other people that live in his house. We have to find a way to make being environmentally friendly more cost effective for everyone. Many communities don’t have public transportation or recycling services yet those people consume from the earth as a society we need to make it possible for them to live and do so in a way which is more environmentally conscious. In addition I think that there needs to be more regulations placed on companies to be eco-friendly, I don’t need my cereal bag in an additional box, or my tooth paste tube in a box. Cutbacks need to come and we have the power/voice to let our government know that is what we expect. Finally I think that technology is so important in this ever changing world and we have the technology to rely less on non-renewable resources and more on alternative energy resources, we need to kick big oil companies out of power and start saving our only planet.

  29. Posted by Mac Tamblyn on May 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Like every human being who is contributing a large amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, I do not wake up every day and make an effort to be as environmentally unfriendly as possible. On the contrary, I attempt to tread as lightly as I can, for I am aware of the problems that climate change and environmental degradation pose for me and my posterity, along with all other inhabitants of Earth. Although my ecological consciousness is much better than most citizens of the world, my carbon footprint is much worse, which is something of a paradox. For example, I possess greater knowledge of how the Earth operates and humans’ effects on it than the hunter-gatherer society fictionally depicted in “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” but those “uncivilized” humans tread infinitely more lightly than me. The same less knowledge/less impact contradiction applies to my ancestors. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that I live within the bounds of a society which is inherently more ecologically destructive than theirs. Our intentions hardly differ, but our lifeways do. So, is it my fault that I was born into an innately problematic system and I, like many others, continue to contribute to ecological troubles? Or is it the fault of those who built the system? Unlike me, they did not have the scientific knowledge that gives us the environmental awareness we possess today. I do not have an answer to either question, but that does not mean we should sport an “ignorance is bliss” type of outlook, disregarding environmental problems that appear less and less blissful every day.

  30. Posted by Tyler Wieland on May 17, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    This reliance on our tools creates a technological lock-in; increasing the detachment from nature. There is so much information in the world today that it would be impossible for our society to function without this specialization. Everything we need or do requires knowledge that few have. This knowledge gives us power in the world today, but with this dependency we place our own survival in the hands of others. This specialization has lead to some incredible innovations that has greatly added to the human lifespan, but I am left to wonder if our dependency on others will ultimately lead to the downfall of the human race.

    Placing the burden of our unsustainable mistakes on future generations of the world will ultimately destroy this species that has existed for millions of years. The time for changing the way we perceive the things we need and the lifestyles we lead is upon us. It is the judgment of our children that we must consider. The world we leave them will be a testament to the kind of people we were. Our lives of excess will lead to their lives of scarcity, if nothing is done to abruptly shift the pattern of ecological destruction and the mindset of human superiority over the natural world, it will be our children and their children that will lack the real basic necessities for life.

  31. Posted by Jacquelyn Pulsfus on May 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    First off, I would like to say thank you to all of the professors of this class. It is so refreshing to see teachers to live and breathe-not to mention love, their jobs. I can tell that you all have a passion for what you do, though sometimes it is a hassle to teach, it is very apparent that you do care a lot about what you are talking about, and you want to share it with anyone that will listen. So thank you, you don’t understand how rare it is to see that in the classroom. Your excitement made coming to class special, and made me much more excited about the the class in general.
    I enjoyed this semester more than the last because I felt like this class really hit home for me. It is one thing to be learning about the environment and how horrible we are to it- but it is another to look back and evaluate not only your life, but your ancestors lives, and to realize what you personally are doing to the environment. Learning that my carbon footprint was bigger than average was definitely eye-opening, and after this semester I defintely plan to make some changes in my life. Recently, from testimonies given in my discussion, i have become what I like to call “semi-vegetarian.” I have decided to experiment with only eating meat when it is local/organic or if my dad has hunted it. I am successful so far! Haven’t ate meat since May 5th, which isn’t a very long time but I feel it is pretty successful. I am enjoying learning about the subject while practicing it as well.

    Thank you so much for all of the life lasting lessons I have learned in this class. It will always be a favorite when looking back on my KU Career. So much so, that I am looking to minor in Environmental Studies. Thanks again! God Bless.

  32. Posted by Cameron Crane on May 18, 2011 at 12:34 am

    It is my feeling that my ancestors and I have maintained a symbiont ecological niche. We strive, I believe, to live in a mutually beneficial manner with nature and we continue to seek and learn new ways to help sustain our natural resources. We are not perfect, however, we have an open mind and heart and we seek to live interdependently with nature. My father’s field of work has made a huge impact on me regarding the fact that he has developed a passion the environment we reside in. By watching my father transition from different careers throughout his life, he was able to educate my brother and I about the world we live in and how important it is for us to appreciate and respect our planet. I am a strong believer in educating people all over the world about current and past problems we have had with the environment and how people approach the problems.
    Based upon the way I was raised and my ancestors history and involvement with the environment, I believe that I will have a positive attitude about the environment. I will have to change my lifestyle, because I am wasting energy and resources that I do not need. I want to associate with certain organizations such as ku sustainability ( measuring gas emissions etc.).

  33. Posted by Emily Hunt on May 18, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I have determined that my family seems to fit best within the colonizer/dominator niche. The early settlers in my family seemed to behave like many at the time did – quick to claim new lands and new resources as their own without respect to other inhabitants or the effects of their migration on the environment. While their personal lives certainly benefitted from new technologies like chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and the use of fossil fuel-powered cars and tractors, I doubt much thought was given to how utilizing these technologies impacted the world around them. My ancestors might not have realized the actions they were taking were potentially harmful, but if there’s anything I’ve learned through this assignment, it is that you just can’t know the impact of your actions and not try to change them. The decisions and lifestyles of my ancestors cannot be changed, but I have the power to lessen my impact and help my relatives and future descendants to be more conscious of how their choices impact the rest of the world. Easy steps I can take would be choosing to bike to work, carry reusable water bottles, and reduce the amount of energy I use in my home. Even if the footprint reduction is a small amount, I feel that with a world population nearing seven billion, any change for more sustainable living is positive. With so much information available to us about our effect on the environment and climate, ignorance is, quite frankly, no longer an option.

  34. Posted by Emily Wilcox on May 18, 2011 at 2:32 am

    When I was a kid in my grandparents backyard I met my first deer, a young doe we named Dottie. She and her mother would appear out of the backyard woods after sounding their names and we would feed the two over a fence with fruit peels and other natural food composts (they were still totally capable of fending for themselves, our scraps did not make them dependent). Within a few years, increased development crowded their home and they must have moved to a wonderful farm (…) because we did not see them again. What sounds like dramatic ramblings was actually my “green fire” moment, to reference Aldo Leopold. In all my romping across the Red Rocks of Utah as a kid I had failed to understand that this place was special, not just for its beauty but for its (relative) isolation from development. As an adult I find the same awe when looking across the Flint Hills and Konza Prairie. Leopold went on to elaborate in his land ethic that every individual death is not a tragedy, but I think he would agree that senseless “extinguished flames” are. The difficulty I run in to here is an attempt to define “senseless” in this respect. Other posts have done well to address the value of informed choices, and also that despite our knowledge, we can’t seem to stop ourselves. I wonder if “senseless” and “autopilot” run in the same vein. Let us imagine a(n overly simplified, for the sake of discussion) world in which we have only ever and totally “gone green.” All of our development runs on clean and sustainable energy, so it lacks the serious issues that we face today. So, in this world there is no stigma attached to development and people feel free to build what-, where-, and whenever they want. Our planet (remember? we are on a terrestrial mass in space!) is finite. To make my point, all I mean to address is just another problem of reductionist thinking. Instead of altering our perceptions, we alter our abilities. It is a question of “deep ecology.” If humanity wants to protect nature in a meaningful way, one to which our own future generations will also adhere, I think we need to shift our definition of home to encompass the whole planet. Not necessarily to take in the stray cat, but to attempt to keep cats from straying. It is an amazing ability we humans have to adapt to nature, but with all our efforts to “outsmart” and control it, we are turning our back on the spectacular journey that gave us life in the first place. It is admittedly quite the stretch, but Earth itself is our ancestor. None of us would be here without it. I didn’t offer any tangible solution, and those that know me best would expect that, however there are certainly real steps to be taken and they are more accessible than our actions suggest.

  35. Posted by Andrew Forbes on May 18, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Throughout history the way my family has interacted with the environment has changed greatly. The amount that we consume and the amount of pollution we add to the environment has massively shifted not only due to ways of living but technology as well. These effects do not only harm the environment but those living in it. By examining my genealogy I have come to discover that my ancestors have worked many different trades as well as lived in many different places all of which greatly differ from how and where I live today. The effects of how my family lives today will greatly add to the need for larger nutrition production as well as sources of energy that my descendants will use due to the large levels of consumption. Although it is sad to say, I really do not propose to do anything about this environmental dilemma as I greatly enjoy the way that my family and I live our lives. Although many will disagree with this choice, I won’t be around to see the consequences of my actions and will continue living the American dream.

  36. Posted by Takayuki Ito on May 18, 2011 at 3:33 am

    I just noticed that there are so many people who live in their own very small worlds. They do not think about what they do not see. They usually pursue their happiness in their worlds. Also, there are so many people who don’t have space to think about the environment even if they are not poor. What I want to say is that values totally depend on who they are and there are so many factors to affect the values. We talk about this issue because we are interested in this, which means we have a viewpoint in one sense which is different from one of people who do not pay attention to this issue at all. We can say what is right, what is wrong. We can think of decent environmental ethics. We can blame our societies. Those are absolutely good things and worth. However, it seems to me that we need to think about this issue more like psychologically to change people’s attitudes. Human-being is much more complicated than we think. Straightforward approach might not work. I think there might be totally different way to solve this biggest problem on the earth.

  37. Posted by Blaine Bengtson on May 18, 2011 at 3:43 am

    Education is key. The things we have learned in this class should be taught to everyone. Today, educating ourselves is often associated with flipping on the news and listening to “experts” address the world’s problems. The same news organizations that are searching for profits left and right. The transformation society could achieve by just getting the facts would be significant. That’s not to say that the democratic aspects that news and conflicting opinions foster are bad, because they are great for the health of the world in general, but all too often the facts can be lost in it all. Let’s start from a young age in our education of how precious resources are, as well as how toxic they can be if they are abused. If only the whole world could be educated about ecology the way we have had the opportunity to in this class, we wouldn’t need to have this debate any longer.

  38. Posted by Bridget Russell on May 18, 2011 at 4:06 am

    My Chinese grandparents, who lived in a small village in southern China near Guangzhou, had a modest livelihood close to that of symbionts. Their small, primitively built house had no utilities. They obtained their water from the village well. To use the bathroom, they used the smelly communal village toilet. The feces from the village toilet fertilized their garden. For food, they mostly ate white rice with many vegetables, with some meat or dried fish (there was no refrigeration) for flavoring. For transportation, they simply walked everywhere.

    Fast forward to over 80 years later, after my grandparents immigrated to the United States, my mother was born, and my mother fluently learned English and obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work from KU. All my life I’ve lived in a ranch-style house in Wichita, Kansas that has all the utilities for comfortable, modern living. Even though I garden, I only grow ornamental plants and I fail at growing anything that could be safely consumed. I obtain all of my food from supermarkets or restaurants. Until recently, I was omnivorous and shunned bland vegetables in favor of large chunks of juicy meat. I rely on my car to commute to school, work, or anywhere else too far to walk.

    This lifestyle would be sustainable if I were the only person on earth. Because I’m typing this response to communicate with Dr. Cushman and my classmates, clearly I am not. This lifestyle of mine produces many tons of carbon simply due to all of the consuming I do: water, fossil fuels, imported and processed foods, anything. Most commodities consumed nowadays contribute greatly to carbon emissions, whether it’s cars or computers. When my grandparents lived in China, they didn’t have any of these things yet were probably content nonetheless. This consumer society buys so much without thinking about whether items are actually necessary. In my case, stuff I purchase enthusiastically at first, whether it’s books, clothes, or interesting knickknacks, later end up ignored and cluttering up my room. If I consume less unnecessary things, perhaps I can live more symbiotically with the earth like my grandparents did, gradually producing less carbon emissions and being less parasitic to the earth.

  39. Posted by Peter Friedel on May 18, 2011 at 4:15 am

    As the technology increases, our relationship with the great outdoors diminishes. I believe it is important to in order to understand and witness the true affects industrialization and fossil fuel usage has on the environment. Hunting and fishing are passions of mine, not for the thrill or trophies (though they are a nice side-affect) but for the isolation from the busy lifestyle our society has evolved into. Education is a very important aspect, but you can only learn so much from lectures, books, exams etc… Witnessing the natural features of the landscape puts things into perspective and makes one realize how big the system really is and how easily it is upset by a well-choreographed interruption. It seems Dr. Suess’s “Lorax” leads the way for a solution to this problem, explaining, “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

  40. Posted by Dustan Boleski on May 18, 2011 at 5:29 am

    If we were to continue living as parasites, colonizers and, exterminators, continually taking advantage of other organisms and environments to better serve our own lives it would have a disastrous impact on future generations. We could hypothetically wipe out any chance they have at life. By ruthlessly eliminating prey and other competitors we could disrupt the balance of many ecosystems. If this were to continue until it reached a global scale, not just with space and food but also with natural resources, wars could break out and we could effectively destroy the integrity of the entire Earth. That along with industrialization and the burning of fossil fuels lead to ever increasing air and water pollution. The more Personal health effects from this could be certain kinds of diseases and cancers namely lung cancer from breathing in harmful particles from the air.
    The only way to fend off this dilemma would be to change our relationship with the Earth and to become more Symbiotic. Because we are aware of the impact we have on the planet we have a responsibility to preserve and protect the planet. We are in the first stages of doing this today by regulating CO2 emissions as well as environmental protections laws. I believe we are slowly getting onto the right track unfortunately it may be too late to correct our past mistakes.

  41. Posted by Ben Carlson on May 18, 2011 at 7:51 am

    There is very little we can do to slow the effects of our society on the environment, degradation, exhaustion and pollution are all side effects of over population and technological improvements. I can only hope that the era that we reside in is only a temporary period in which we pollute and exhaust our resources. Sadly, I believe this is not the case and much like many Americans I really see no point in changing my personal behaviors when in all reality the problem wont be solved until organizations like the UN and other international organizations impose new environmental standards that are actually adhered to.

  42. Posted by Andrew Michael on May 18, 2011 at 8:20 am

    The environmental actions my ancestors took did not necessarily influence my environmental consciousness by any means, but they did allow me to be in the position I am in now. Unlike my ancestors, who were in a constant struggle for survival, my family and I now live comfortably and that is a testament to their hard work. Because of what they did, I can now focus on my actions and my environmental impact in hopes of being able to improve the livelihood and the health of my descendents. Since I possess the means to be able to make my impact on the earth as small as it can be in this day in age, I have an ethical responsibility to do so.

    However, environmental responsibility does not just deal with ethics, it also deals with economics; and there lies the rub. If every human on earth were allotted the means to be able to live environmentally friendly everyone would. The only reason not to would be derived from spite. Unfortunately, in today’s world it is a luxury to live environmentally friendly and until that changes, our negative environmental impact will continue to increase. It is a cycle that started with our ancestors that we are perpetuating today. And while they might not have had a choice back then, we have a choice now and it is my responsibility, our responsibility, to change our behavior and pave a brighter way for our descendents.

  43. Posted by Apollonia Shreders on May 18, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Unfortunately, I know that I cannot change the history of my ancestors. I cannot get back the land that they destroyed or help the inhabitants they displaced. However, I find it important to make an impact now, in the world we currently live in. As global climate change worsens, it will become increasingly necessary for all individuals to lessen their personal consumption, and I find it very important that I do so for the health of my community. Many people are unaware of the direct negative effects they have on the environment, and one of the first steps in improving the health of our environment should be education. Educating others and myself on the matters of environmental health and policy is something very important to me, and I would like to continue this for the rest of my life.

    Teaching a form of Deep Ecology, such as explained in Erazim Kohak’s The Green Halo, would be an important first step in spreading knowledge of long-range sustainability. Spreading knowledge on the ways in which individuals can do their part to reduce their personal consumption is the best way in which I can utilize my own knowledge and point of view to improve the global environment. I hope that by persuading someone to switch to reusable grocery bags or to start recycling their plastic, I can make a bigger difference than I am able to on my own.

  44. Posted by Sarah Davis on May 18, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Educating our fellow humans (especially here in the US!) is the most important thing we can do at this point. Although we suffer from a multitude of environmental problems, our reliance on fossil fuels goes deeper than most people care to think about and is a primary cause (directly or indirectly) to all our environmental problems. Our transportation, the transportation of our food, the transportation of our clothing and EVERYTHING we use is dependent on fossil fuels. Another thing people don’t realize is that our government is keeping it this way. I have recently learned some of the things our government has been involved in as far as supporting our addiction to fossil fuels, and it is appalling. Many of us want to explore other resources and/or try to do our part to make an impact, but we are left with few alternatives. For example, I live in Topeka and have no other choice but to commute to Lawrence. Why not go to school in Topeka? Because they do not offer Environmental Studies as a major. Why not move to Lawrence? This would require me quitting both of my jobs which I am heavily reliant on to pay my bills. If I can’t pay my bills, I can’t go to class. Consider other forms of transportation? I have been unable to find a compatible person to car pool with. When it comes to reducing my fossil fuel use in Topeka I am also left with few options. I have attempted to use the bus system in Topeka but the routes do not coincide with my work and school schedules. It takes at least an hour to walk from either of my jobs to my house. It’s worth the time, but that leaves me literally no time to do homework, defeating the purpose of going to school. These are just a few examples of how someone who wants to be independent from fossil fuel reliance has tried and failed several times to make the change.
    Our only hope for stopping this is strength in numbers! But, until we are able to inform everyone about what is going on we cannot gain their help. Unfortunately, we are stuck trying to solve problems caused by our ancestors. They aren’t here to clean up after themselves so now it is up to us. One of our biggest opponents (oil companies) are not going to take this fight laying down. They have enough money to persuade anyone to do anything. That seems like a bold statement but I have learned enough this semester to back it up. If someone had said that to me a year ago my response would have been something like, “ok, whatever,” which is the same response most people have. So, along with trying to solve problems we are currently faced with, our best hope is in the future. We need EVERYONE to be educated on these matters, not just people enrolled in this class or Environmental Studies majors. We need start with elementary school aged children and teach them. We are going to need their help 20 years from now so the more they can learn, the better for us all!

  45. Posted by Taylor Hodges on May 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

    The relationships my ancestors and I have had with the environment and the animals associated with it have a huge impact on my long-term health. This exposure of my ancestors to the land and the animals shows that we can do whatever we need to have mutualistic relationships with organisms. We can’t change what our ancestors have done to the environment, but we can learn from them so we don’t make the same kind of mistakes. From being around plants and animals for centuries, my bloodline became strong with resistances to allergies and illnesses transferred from plant and animal hosts. This I believe will continue to improve my descendants’ livelihoods, because I have good genes which have been passed down to me. At some point in my life I will send those genes on to keep the Hodges-McLean genes alive. I would propose we live our lives to the fullest, we never know when it could end. Life’s too short to plan everything out, we need to just let life happen sometimes and just appreciate how mother nature has and will continue to provide for us if we take care of her.

  46. Posted by Sarah Myers on May 18, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Today, my house is filled with long-lasting fluorescent light bulbs, recycled everything, organic foods, etc. We believe in purchasing local produce and meat, willing to pay the extra dollars for a healthier and more efficient food supply. The cars we own are on the more energy-saving side, only used when biking or walking is not possible. The seemingly tiny subconscious decisions such as unplugging unused power cords, turning off lights as much as possible, etc. have proved to make a tremendous impact on my family’s ecological impact. My true awareness for the ethical and political dilemma of our future environments has grown over time from taking classes like Global Environment, following the ethics promoted by my grandparents and parents, and simply enjoying the liveliness of nature as I do. By exposing myself to different environments around the world and attaching the personal label of “home” as I moved around the country, I have gained a sense of consciousness that has shaped my actions and hopefully the actions of my descendants. I recently declared myself as an Environmental Studies major because my admiration for the natural world and fascination for human interaction with it is something I find worthwhile to study and be aware about. Spreading personal awareness to others that surround will enable more individuals to face the true crisis at hand and seek solution through positive change. By paying attention to environmental news, using minimal energy, and consciously purchasing food and supplies from local or eco-friendly vendors, I plan to continually minimize my own ecological impact. Leading more sustainable lives by making more efficient decisions in today’s society will ultimately alter the future livelihood of our planet and its inhabitants. For this reason, it is crucial that we all now work to promote the knowledge needed to make a positive difference in the way humans affect the planet in the future.

  47. Posted by Ida Greenwell on May 18, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Although I consider my self “environmental conscious’ in the grand scheme of things, I am the opposite. I sit here with shoes from China, pants from Taiwan, shirts from Mexico, have a BPA free water bottle from who knows where, typing on my laptop, I am contributing into the global problem. Just as the earth is delayed to exhibit the effects of human manipulation, humans are slower to react even when they know devastation is descending (Fedema). This is due to our dependence on our habitual lifestyles.
    The Environmental travesty that is rapidly condemning the human population is deeply intertwined in the world’s ethical, social, political and economic systems. There is a constant struggle between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ innovation. The Green Revolutions exhibits the tough-of-war, taking a massive toll on the environment through soil degradation and pesticide run-off but has also enabled humans to produce inexpensive food. Currently societies are so dependent on the factors that harm the earth the most like fossil fuels and large-scale mono crop agriculture that suddenly shutting down these systems would cause disaster. Yet, if we keep practicing our current habits the health and longevity of the population will be at stake. I propose a global shift that would require dedication on the individual level and strict global-laws. As a human race we need to slow down our over-all production and consumption. I believe the only way to succed as a species is to have more local, less consumer based lifestyles so that we see our personal impact each on of us has on the earth.

  48. Posted by Rebecca Jacobs on May 18, 2011 at 9:36 am

    My ancestors have had a colonizing/dominating relationship with the environment. Being farmers, they used the land for it’s soil and nutrients in order to produce crops. However, I do not believe that they had a dramatic effect upon the earth due to this. Nowadays, we are feeling the effects of everyone’s combined usage of fossil fuels and I believe that no matter what we try to do it will be extremely difficult in order to convince the whole population that we must make a change. This is because so many people have so many different opinions and therefore not everyone will side with what others have to say about lowering carbon emissions. I believe that perhaps the fastest and more efficient way to solve this dilemma is by doing what Arne Naess had suggested in Kohak and go completely cold turkey on fossil fuels by ceasing everything we do. However, this may be too extreme and in the end, since not everyone will be on the same side perhaps we must learn to make an effort through excessive recycling, saving water, and develop new ways to use energy without giving off such harmful emissions. In the end, we must deal live with what we have now and deal with what will come in the future, yet everyone should try and play a part in making the earth a little better.

  49. Posted by Matt Ptacek on May 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

    I think its going to be really hard to get people to make enough changes in their lives to start to make a change in terms of carbon emissions. In America we love our high standard of living and trying to convince the American population to make a change is a hard sale. People hate to be inconvenienced. Of course global warming isn’t only an American problem. It will be very tough to try to convince developing countries like India and China that they need to curb there carbon emissions, especially if that means a slow down in economic growth for them. Its a fair point, why should developed countries like America and the EU, who have in the past abused carbon emissions to get to the point where we are at now, be able to tell countries like China, who are trying to reach our level of prosperity, that they need to change there energy system. Global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed but I think with the way the geopolitical landscape is right now and the general apathetic view towards environmental problems that many people have, its going to be very hard to get that initial change to take place. I think once we start getting serious about changing the energy system things will start to happen, but its going to be really hard to get the people in Washington D.C. and the citizens of the world to make that initial change.

  50. Posted by Karen Lewis on May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    While I would like to say my ancestors and I have lived in a symbiotic relationship with the environment, we have used this planet without much regard. Although frugality led them to recycling of resources and they did not waste what they had for several generations, my family and I departed from that with our move to a more urban environment. Our choices there have led us to develop a much more parasitic relationship with the environment and the consumerist culture which we have lived in. So now, recognizing the relationship that I have employed with the world, I understand the need to make a change in my life and help educate others. While I cannot change the world situation by myself, I do have a voice and using the resources that get attention, my money and my vote, I can influence current trends, make informed decisions and do my best to minimize my own actions through the choices I make. While I know am anthropogenic and cannot help but impact the planet, I can adjust my decisions and help support research that will improve the future of our planet. It’s not a perfect solution but by expanding my reality of home and recognizing my place in the global community perhaps I can help promote a change for the better.

  51. Posted by Tara Daugherty on May 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    While our past is an extremely important part of who we are as people, I believe that it in no way defines who we are as individuals, and who we want to be in our futures. Looking to the past is crucial for moving forward with the future. Through mistakes and trails the world is able to make changes for the better, and isn’t that what it’s all about? For me, it was my Great Great Great Grandfather who changed his family’s lifestyle from agricultural practice in Sweden, to industrialization and shoemaking in Austin, Texas. From then on, my family (on my dad’s side) has relied on industrialization and technology for their livelihoods. I don’t think this defines me as a person, and I don’t really blame my Great(3) grandfather for changing the lifestyle of his family because it was what he needed to do to provide for them. In today’s society, there are actually a lot of people who want to make things right and make greener changes to our way of life. On the other hand, there is a large group of people who deny scientific evidence and refuse to open their minds to the possibilities of our future. It is these people who continue their lives in ignorance without seeking truth of the consequences of their actions, and it is these people that contribute to the extreme “thinness” we have in society. All it takes to make a small change is to search for truth behind our actions involving the food we eat and the amount of energy we use. All it takes is a little awareness.

  52. Posted by Jayne Shelton on May 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    My ancestors were all factory workers of some kind. From lead miners to saw mill owners, they all exploited the environment in favor of consumerism. This parasitic relationship with nature was passed down with each generation, each building upon the last. The realization of my family’s impact on the current state of the environment is paramount to the realization of my own impact. As humans, we must learn to accept that any environmental abuse that came before us, or surrounds us today, will have an intrinsic impact on the world tomorrow. Since the human population is growing exponentially, it follows that the human effects on the environment will grow by the same magnitude. Each generation magnifies the degrading effects of the one before it. In order to change the future of this abuse, it is necessary for one generation to start the change toward a more sustainable and reciprocal lifestyle so that their descendants may follow in their footsteps.

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