Exposure by Robert Bilott is an eye opening read. Chapter after chapter you get more information that fills you with a need for justice. It sheds light on how much power these big corporations have, and how corrupt they are. It shows many connections within the corruption, and it’s a tangled web of corruption and lies all in order to make money, no matter the cost of life. Braiding Sweetgrass shows connections in another way. It counteracts the anger Exposure makes you feel in many ways. Bringing the reader back to their own memories of nature, and how we are connected to the earth. It only furthered the feeling that we need to be conscious of the products we use and companies we support. Overall these books gave me a new view of almost everything I do and use on a day to day basis, and I can honestly say my habits have changed since reading these books.
Today’s world pushes us to look at the systems and traditions we see as normal and reevaluate their meaning. When I read Allegiance to Gratitude I couldn’t help but look at the pledge of allegiance from an outside point of view and while I appreciate the value in having pride in the country you live in, I also couldn’t help but think about what the world would be like if we took time to appreciate the Earth on a daily basis. In the US especially there tends to be a disconnect with people and the planet, and something as simple as teaching children to appreciate what the Earth provides instead of just seeing it as something we take from could be so beneficial. On an individual level but also for pushing a new generation of people that will create positive change.
When reading about the experiences RWK had as a child camping in the Adirondacks, and how she described a feeling of unity and home, I couldn’t help but smile as I too have had that experience in that area. I have camped in the Adirondacks my entire life, and as soon as we pull around the bend to the campground I feel all my worries lift off my shoulders. There’s one spot on the road that leads to the campground where the leaves connect above the road. When we drive through the lighting in the car changes, everything is suddenly tinted green, and the spots of sunlight that peak through the leaves dance around the car. My family and I call it the “Tunnel of Trees”. There is an overwhelming feeling of safety and belonging when I think about that place, and when we get to that point I know that for the next week I will feel that way… safe, happy, connected to the world around me.
Since I’ve gotten older, I have taken trips up there at different times of the year. The leaves change, and even when I go without my family, the feeling doesn’t change. I have had so many experiences there that shaped my relationship with nature and it will always be the place that I can go to and feel at home.
Until recently I had not thought much about where I got my clothes. Growing up money was tight so we bought the cheapest clothes or had hand me downs. As I get older and start buying my own clothes I have started to buy from sustainable brands when possible, and after Sophie’s presentation I am even more motivated to continue to do so. I was disgusted but not surprised to hear that 57% of clothes end up in landfills. I also found it interesting that as she interviewed people, there was a large lack of knowledge surrounding the subject.
I have never done any type website design before this class. I think what I noticed most was the different ways my classmates organized their websites, and I plan on altering mine to be more organized and professional looking. While I read about a range of interesting topics on my classmates’ websites, the posts I found most interesting were the ones that had personal connections. For example reading about Kim’s trip to West Virginia and seeing the picture she took herself was particularly captivating.
I grew up in a very small town, a farming town with the main attraction being the horse racing track. The nickname of the town is literally Slow Motion Goshen. There had been continuing development of the surrounding areas for as long as I can remember, but mainly with adding new housing, or shopping centers, nothing big or super controversial. Right around the time I moved away, development started in a town close to mine but no one really knew what was going to be built, just that it was going to be big. I remember hearing the rumors of a possible power plant being put in, but that’s what they were, rumors. People were mad they wanted answers, and I’m sure I missed a lot of what was going on seeing as at this point I was only visiting on weekends and was a freshman in high school, if they built a power plant or a fracking site it wouldn’t affect me much.
Eventually it was confirmed that CPV Valley Energy Center was being built and I remember hearing about and seeing pictures of protests and then reading this article in the local paper. The image associated with the article shows protestors wearing masks and holding signs in front of what is especially for a small town area, a very large, clunky, and foreboding building. Masks might be common now but the fact people were wearing them in that picture stuck with me. I remember reading these peoples’ accounts of having difficulty breathing and getting headaches after the plant started operating and thinking that in my small, tight knit area there wouldn’t be something like that, that would cause harm allowed to function, or at least I really hoped it wouldn’t be allowed.
More recently I have seen a lot of social media activity surrounding the harmful effects of the natural gas fracking that is going on. A few weeks ago, right around the start of this class I started doing some research once in a while. As we read Exposure I see a lot of similarities between what was going on in Earl’s town and in mine, and I’m sure what a lot of communities experience when something like this is built nearby. I have learned that there have been multiple lawsuits against the plant already, pretty much as soon as they started building and for a variety of reasons. There have been concerns raised about toxins (specifically Ethylene Glycol) being released into the water supply of surrounding areas, including an alarming amount of deaths in animals near the Wallkill River. I decided to look at CPV’s website to see if they had addressed any of the issues the public has been proposing. I was disappointed but not surprised to find a lot of blanket statements talking about sufficient testing, and precautionary measures but failed to find any actual documentation of those things. I felt the same frustration when reading about how Dupont was so easily able to cover up their wrong doings.
Frances Ruth Harris. (2018). ‘There was no place to go’. The Chronicle. 07, Feb.
Kids are like sponges. They soak up so much information so quickly, and they ask the most interesting and oftentimes thought provoking questions. This is why it is so important to expose kids at a young age to issues with the environment. When I listened to The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke I instantly wanted to show it to my 5 year old nephew. He is doing virtual school, and we have a large role in choosing material for him, so I have been trying to find ways to incorporate discussions from this class into his education. After showing him the audio of the book he did not have much to say, but throughout the day his questions kept coming. He asked about how the kids in the story made a bike like that, and even asked if he could get rid of his bike to build one like theirs. We talked about how the book said they lived in a house made of mud, and looked at pictures of what real world places like that looked like. He learned what the word indigenous meant and kept trying to use it in sentences (he’ll get there). The point is this story, although not directly about how one can help the environment, opened a conversation and a young mind to many new concepts. He made connections that can now be fostered with further discussion, and by adding additional information.
This story as well as Run Wild by David Covell does an excellent job of depicting nature in a relatable way for children. There is a specific connection to be made here the the 25th Bali Principle that states, “Climate Justice calls for the education of present and future generations, emphasizes climate, energy, social and environmental issues, while basing itself on real-life experiences and an appreciation of diverse cultural perspectives.” Every child can relate to the free feeling of riding a bike or playing outside on a beautiful day. These stories allow children to put themselves into that situation and think about concepts in relation to themselves.
Exposure by Bilott has definitely made me think more about environmental law. When I began to look into what other environmental lawyers were doing in the world I was intrigued after reading about Andrew Kimbrell. He was the attorney that took on the case that led the US Supreme Court to declare EPA regulations on greenhouse gases for the first time in US history. In addition to being an attorney he plays large roles in many important organizations, including being the co-Founder of Foundation Earth. The mission of this organization as described on their website is, “…to bring an earth-centered economy into reality through a major rethinking of society implemented via outreach campaigns” (http://www.fdnearth.org/our-mission/). In addition, he is the President on the Board of Humane Farm Animal Care, this is the organization that gives the Certified Humane label. The more I read about these organizations and the work they are doing the more I want to be involved. I think environmental law, as well as all the directions Kimbrell has taken his career are fascinating. Pushing for change in the way the environment is treated is so important, and I find it promising learning about people like Kimbrell who are pushing for that change in their communities through outreach, but also are able to voice the need for change at a political level.
I was fortunate to grow up in a school system where at least in the younger grades, I had teachers and adults in my life that made an active effort to use the environment around me to give myself and other children the opportunity to connect with and attempt to understand nature to a certain extent. As I read “Lessons from a Garden Spider” by Kate Lyman, I found myself smiling being able to relate to the excitement and fascination the children in that classroom felt by having a personal connection to a living thing and watching its life cycle. As a child in school I was able to watch caterpillars turn into butterflies in my classroom, and then outside of school I was in a program part of which involved hatching chicken eggs in an incubator, then feeding, caring for and raising them until they were old enough to be brought to a local farm. As a child the way watching creatures separate from oneself is an experience guaranteed to make a lasting impression. The child develops a sort of love for that creature. However, I have to agree with certain points made in “How My Schooling Taught Me Contempt for the Earth” by Bigelow. Especially when he talks about how “…harmful ecological messages were woven into the curriculum.” I was taught to appreciate and care for those individual creatures, but without being taught about how I could protect the environment around me. It was a central lesson based on that specific type of butterfly, which as I said was a great experience, but perhaps what would make a greater impact on students long term is learning how to love the environment as a whole. I felt an obligation to take care of those creatures I was watching grow and develop but I did not feeling the same way about the environment I was living in.
As I read “Stealing and Selling Nature” by Tim Swinehart, I immediately agreed with what Swinehart said is lacking in a school curriculum because as he addressed issues and topics I could remember having those experiences. Particularly when he mentioned how the Industrial Revolution is taught, I could not help but think about the first reading in the chapter, “Plastics and Poverty” by Van Jones. Jones explains how “…low income people often are the ones buying the products that have these dangerous chemicals in them.” His explanation of the vicious cycle lower income people face and how the pollution unequally affects them is so simple once it is laid out. However, throughout my school career prior to college, sustainability and environmental issues were brushed over in science classes, and human rights issues were discussed briefly when talking about colonization in history. However, these two issues were always very polarized from one another, and they were always discussed in past tense. I was never taught to question the ways in which not only the environment but people were affected by industrialization and mass production. Seeing these two articles side by side forced a present day look at issues I would not have as quickly thought of in regards to production of the disposable goods we take for granted.