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aphorisnt's blog

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Seeing the Forest for More than the Trees: The Social Dimension of Environmental Justice

    Small groups of people gather at the large coffee chain on the second floor of a Texas shopping center.1 Some are made up of teens and college students, some of older individuals, maybe groups of friends or coworkers, but no group seems to acknowledge the presence of any other. All of a sudden, twenty or so phones buzz or ring or chime and like clockwork, small groups of teens or students or coworkers all rise, make for the escalators, and walk quickly toward the corporate business interior of the complex. Someone gives a signal and the chanting begins: “No pipelines! No tar sands! No destruction of indigenous lands!” “Jobs at the [pipeline]? No lets can it! There are no jobs on a dead planet!” “What’s insane? This is insane! No eminent domain for private gain!” (Tar Sands Blockade). Within minutes protestors invade the offices of a corporate conglomerate working to construct a pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Houston, a project that could and most likely will have devastating effects upon the natural environment not to mention the exacerbation of global climate change from increased anthropogenic carbon production–yet none of the messaging focuses on protecting “nature.” Rather, all of the chants engage with social issues: ignoring the land rights of first nation peoples, placing profit margins and the bottom line above health and safety, forcibly taking the property of people whose only crimes were living in an area a corporation suddenly decided in needs to own.

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Crisis in the Chemical Valley: Teaching Sustainability and Action Through the West Virginia Water Crisis

    On January 9, 2014, several thousand gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) spilled from a ruptured tank a Freedom Industries’ storage facility into the Elk River just 1.5 miles upstream from West Virginia American Water’s regional intake which supplies water to nine counties in the Kanawha Valley area (Kloc). Just ten days later on January 19, government officials lifted the Do-Not-Use order on municipal water use that had been put into effect following the spill claiming the water was safe to use and effectively ending compensatory actions (i.e. supplying clean bottled water free of charge to communities in need). Needless to say the water was far from clean by this point. What, then, should the communities of southern West Virginia do? How did this spill happen and who bears the blame? What is it about this chemical that makes the water toxic and why was it neat the river in the first place? How can a disaster like this be prevented? Who needs to do something and what should they do? Environmental disasters like the contamination of West Virginia’s water often leave more questions than answers, but these questions are not without purpose. Rather, using this one particular disaster as a case study, one can examine the nature of environmental disasters and the subsequent actions and outcomes from a host of different perspectives: the political, the economic, the social, at the community level, at the state level.

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Broken Link Help

If the link for the Tim Burke speech is down for anyone else (I know I can't get to the site right now for some reason) I found a back-up here

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Can we have class outide?!?

Whenever the weather finally became warm enough to stay outdoors, when the winds died down and the rains more or less stopped for the year giving way to sun, someone always asked the question: "Can we have class outside?" Something about being free from the four walls of the classroom always felt better to me and those classes outside are the ones I remember most. Even when I truly enjoy what I'm learning, classrooms sometimes start to make me feel a little claustrophobic after spending several hours a day five days a week within their confines, so those classes outside give me a chance to breathe some fresh air and get some vitamin D (I actually had a Spanish teacher in 8th grade who would take our class outside on what she called "vitamin D breaks").

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Walking the Wiss

I've been to the Wiss twice before, though only in the summer, and both times during the cross country pre-season. The whole team–at least those who could run–piled into the BMC athletic vans for a morning run along the trails. I remember covering a good five-six miles, climbing up hillsides, jumping rocks, skirting tree branches and hurtling small streams, cursing the hills for being so steep only to feel the elation of finally cresting the top. Rain aside, the Wiss was just as gorgeous coming back in the spring as it was in the summer and I did enjoy my time there. At the same time, however, I could not help but feel my own limitations. I wanted to climb to the top if the rock formations, to run up the trails as they spiralled higher and higher till they reached the top of one slope, only to find another slope still left to summit. I wanted to run like I had so many months ago; to take in the fresh air, the dirt, the rocks, the trees, the river; to feel that same freeing happiness I remembered. Yet this time around, it felt like I was watching myself and my classmates enjoy the experience, like there was a wall separating me from everything else. Maybe it's just the concussion talking, and regardless I loved being outside and escaping the confines of my dorm room, but I couldn't help but feel that something was missing...

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Ok, so I know we're taking a break from All Over Creation, but I found this video the other day and thought it a little relevant to some of the topics in the novel. I think the Seeds of Resistance would approve.

See video
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Why is Camden "America's most desperate town?" And of they are so desperate just what are they desperate for? In his Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbi expounds much on the horrors of Camden–the crime, the violence, the drugs, the remaining half of the police force that cannot seem to manage a city that seems more like a war zone if Taibbi's article is to be taken at face value. However, in all the stories–of scars and injuries, of people scraping by and trying to their best make ends meet when jobs are few and far between and grocery stores non-existent, and the people who tried to fight tooth and nail against the cement factory and other sources of environmental pollution that seemed anxious to subjugate the city beneath a slew of toxic chemicals–I hear no desperation. The anecdotes of life in Camden reveal to me something far stronger and more powerful than desperation, I hear and see a fierce tenacity in the fighting spirit of each Camdenite, a powerful love for a town the rest of the world had all but written off years ago. My experiece with Camden must have been a fluke or special circumstance following the affirmations of Taibbi. Yes, I saw the dilapadated structures and pot-holes streets and the building of the water treatment facility on every horizon, but the people I met exuded far more hope than desperation. The folks from the Center for Environmental Transformation had so many positive things to say about the people and the city, and that positivity is reeflected in the work they do to better Camden's environment.

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Communal Exclusion: The Drawbacks to Communities of Sameness

                          Sometimes, when I think about all the people I know and consider friends and all the groups and activities with which I am involved, the places I have lived and the “homes” I have made, I realize I do not have anything I could definitively call my community. Community connotes a number of things-similarity, cohesion, belonging-and while I can easily identify the commonalities between myself and the others with whom I interact, I cannot help but be aware of the differences that exist and suggest difference. Here at Bryn Mawr, for example, I could consider myself a part of many communities: I live in Rockefeller Dorm, I run track and cross country, I am a sophomore student, I am part of this eco-literacy 360. The problem I encounter when I contemplate this, though, is the differences that not only persist between myself and the other individuals in the above communities, but also the fact that difference, separation, and exclusion, arguably the exact opposites of community, delineate and divide these groups to lend them existence in the first place. Scholars and the philosophically inclined have debated and continue to debate what makes an ideal community, but I feel that, before one can describe the ideal community, or community at all, they must first address the differences and divisions that separate one community from the other and how the inclusiveness of community exists alongside isolation and exclusion.

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Make Way for Proper Parenting

    Mr. And Mrs. Mallard live near the Boston area of Massachusetts. Mrs. Mallard is due to have children, a group of several young ducklings, quite soon, so she and Mr. Mallard undertake the task of finding the ideal spot to make a home and raise their young flock. While scouring the landscape for the perfect place, the Mallards–Mrs. Mallard in particular–take into account two key qualities they believe denote an acceptable place to raise children. First, they need to find an environment with all the factors a duck needs to survive: water for swimming, food to eat, and land on which to nest. Second, the duck’s home must be safe, protected from all threats the Mallards believe to be particularly dangerous and impossible to abide. In doing so, the Mallards undertake the sacred task of the (most often human) parent, that is, to protect children from all possible avoidable harm as a matter of parental duty and necessity and as the only way to ensure the survival and wellbeing of offspring and safeguard said offspring from the danger of uncontrolled forces. In the short term, this course of action does accomplish the goal of keeping young ones safe and avoiding unnecessary injury or loss of life, but in the long run can prove detrimental to child development and hinder a child’s, or duckling’s, ability to properly asses risk and analyze sources of danger. Therefore, one cannot help but question whether the Mallards of Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, in carefully selecting a site to nest, truly do what is “best” for their ducklings.

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