Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

A New Awareness

mpan1's picture

Upon reading “Human Cells Make Up Only Half Our Bodies. A New Book Explains Why” by Johnathon Weiner and “Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality” by Stacy Alaimo I have developed a closer relationship with the environment. When reading other works such as “As the World Burns” by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan and “The Collapse of Western Civilization” I have grown to understand that if powerful corporations along with people continue to be ignorant of the degrading environment, the Earth will continue to deteriorate until it is completely destroyed. All these authors stress that we must change our ways to avoid Earth from being demolished. Despite this, I unfortunately am part of the problem as I am ignorant of environmental issues and do not seek any ways to better it. Despite that, after reading “Human Cells Make Up Only Half Our Bodies. A New Book Explains Why” and “Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality” my view has begun to shift to view the Earth and my natural surroundings less distantly.

From reading the article “Human Cells Make Up Only Half Our Bodies. A New Book Explains Why” I have realized that people and the rest of the organisms in this world are a lot more connected than I initially thought. “Trillions of microbes and quadrillions of viruses are multiplying on [our] face[s], [our] hands and down there in the darkness of [our] gut[s]”(Weiner 1). These organisms are living in us and therefore there is no way to get rid of this intimate connection. Furthermore “with every gram of food [we] eat, [we] swallow about a million microbes more”(Weiner 1) which emphasizes how this cycle is never ending. There is no escape from these microbes much like people have no escape from Earth because of our heavy dependence on its resources. Because many people view bacteria as a negative thing our first instinct is to “[s]hoot to kill [and] [b]uild a wall”(Weiner 3). People want nothing to do with them. This attitude closely resembles my attitude with the environment. I depend on resources the Earth provides but other than using these resources to survive I want nothing else to do with the environment. If I am given the choice I avoid being outdoors as I am disgusted by dirt and bugs. Despite that Weiner concludes that “human cells and microbial cells are incredibly interdependent, because we have evolved together”(Weiner 4) just like the Earth and humans have evolved together although the Earth has evolved a lot longer than people have. Our bodies “are continuously built and reshaped by the bacteria inside us”(Weiner 4). Due to this symbiotic relationship between human bodies and microbes it would not be beneficial to get rid of them much like how it is not beneficial for people to turn a blind eye from environmental issues. From this article, I came away with a stronger idea of my connection with the Earth and how intimate that relationship actually is. I have learned that the components that make up Earth such as dirt and bugs play an essential part of aiding in our survival. Therefore, I have learned cannot be fearful of these parts of Earth because that creates even more distance. Instead I have learned I need to embrace the connection humans have with other organisms of the Earth.

From Alaimo’s article I realized that people are not naturally closed off. Our pores let material in and out. “Entities flow through each other, influencing and modifying each other in all sorts of ways”(Alaimo 2). This emphasizes how people cannot distance themselves from the rest of the world. People continue to be influenced by our surroundings and that relationship will never change. Therefore it does not make sense for people to be so closed off since our impact on our environment is so influential. “The material that passes through a body also transforms that body”(Alaimo 3). People are interdependent on our environment. We cannot be “defined by strict boundaries and are interfaces with a broader world”(3) because that idea causes us “to see ourselves as separate from the broader world and this fails to discern how we affect and are affected by this world”(Alaimo 4). This is what fuels our ignorance of environmental issues. We believe we don’t play a role in nature and therefore do not feel as if we need to take responsibility for actions that degrade the environment. It also “leads to a blindness of the fact that nature is right here”(Alaimo 4). People have separated ourselves so much that we have forgotten that nature is everywhere we go. We do not realize how connected we are with nature because of this isolation. The truth is that “there’s an entire network of interactions and events taking place that affect the entire planet”(Alaimo 5) whether we realize it or not. The relationship between humans and other organisms play a role in the status of our environment which is why we can no longer view ourselves as separate from the rest of the environment.

Although I felt more of a sense of connectedness to the environment after reading these articles unfortunately I do not feel as if I have a personal connection with the environment. I do not base my actions on how it will affect the environment. The most environmentally friendly activity I do is recycle but after gaining more knowledge I have learned that recycling is not a long-term solution to fix our environmental problems and still wastes energy. Despite my participation in the ignorance and refusal to change that will cause severe destruction to the environment I have gained a new awareness of my role in nature and have realized that as much as I want to distance myself from these problems I can’t escape them. I will always have a connection with nature because everything I do no matter how direct will affect the environment. People do not have a choice to just leave our problems behind. I understand now that the only options we have is to live in ignorance or try to find steps to alleviate the damage. After learning as much as I have about people’s impactful relations with the environment I no longer believe I have the choice to continue to remain ignorant. Therefore, even though I do not have a very intimate relationship with the environment I am more aware of my role in society in terms of environmental impacts and will try to strive to build a mutualistic relationship with Earth.

Growing up I have never learned to consider how my actions affect the environment. As I have learned the consequences of that I have begun to learn that it is people’s responsibility to learn about the consequences of our actions and act to alleviate the damage. From reading these two articles “Human Cells Make Up Only Half Our Bodies. A New Book Explains Why” and “Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality” I now realize that people’s relationship with the Earth is closer than I had imagined which emphasizes our responsibility to be aware of our actions. We must consider the consequences of the Earth in all our actions. Although I may not be intensely involved in environmental issues I now feel obligated to think about the consequences of my actions and rethink about the relationship I have with Earth.

Works Cited

Larval Subjects (Levi R. Bryant), "Stacy Alaimo: Porous Bodies and Trans-Corporeality" (May 24, 2012).

Jonathan Weineraug, "Human Cells Make Up Only Half Our Bodies. A New Book Explains Why." New York Times, August 15, 2016.



Anne Dalke's picture


You write a meticulous account here, of what you “now realize" about your own implicit engagement in environmental degradation. and then make a few general gestures towards what you “now feel obligated to think about…and rethink.” You stop curiously short, however, of action….especially since the main point of The Collapse of Western Civilization is that we have all the knowledge we need, and/but refuse to act on it….

How to move from knowledge to action is the question you leave me with here…would like to know more what you think about this!