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

You are here

How to Build a Home (Revised)

wwu2's picture

Marjorie Wu

Paper #12

December 7th, 2014

How to Build a Home


Over times, the cause of global warming has always been the biggest controversy around the world. One side states that the green house effect is caused by our human intervention. Nowadays the rapidly increasing amount of population needs more natural resources, and also increases demand on agriculture and livestock. In the meantime, farmers use chemical fertilizers to prevent insects from ruining plants; loggers cut down trees and other plants to increase acres for cultivation; white-collars drive their vehicles to work. Anthropocene is the word used to describe humans’ impact: people are so selfish that only think of their own convenience regardless of the fact that the rivers and soils are being contaminated, the biodiversity is reducing, the amount of CO2 is increasing. On the other hand, some critics argue the rising temperature is a normal phenomenon. The earth is in its climate cycle, and it just happen that humans are in the warm period. And compared to ancient times, the earth now is a lot cooler. Either side sounds reasonable, but which side should we believe in? I would like to explore and approach this topic from both literature and geologic aspects.

In Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene, Bruno Latour uses the Newton’s attraction theory to explain his idea of anthropomorphism. He illustrates that “the slightest movement of any one planet has immediate effects on all the others”; therefore, every human behavior have huge influence on other species which we are sharing the planet with (Latour 6). Human nowadays try to build things to gain convenience regardless of the surroundings; however, the construction did not give them much conveniency whereas leads a lot of troubles. When people build damps to control the water flow or pick up too many vegetables, those actions interrupt the environment balance, and cause soil erosion. Gradually, more sediments deposit on top of the river bed; the water bed continually rises; in the end, the rivers flood more frequently. And flooding destroy the nearby village and result in resident’s property loss. So when we are complaining why there are so many natural disasters, we should pause for a second and reflect what we have done to the earth. Maybe those frequent natural disaster we experienced recently, the earthquakes, the typhoons, and the hurricane are warnings from the earth? 

The idea of the earth warning us may sound unreasonable to you since I grant earth humanity. But what if it does “comprehend the point of the other bodies” and “reverberate with the events of the whole system” (6)? If we try to think the earth as a person, will we start to treat it as a person as well? That’s when Latour’s second idea comes into place: “taking into account the vast cultural background that allows scientists to first animate them, and then, but only later, to reanimate them.” People don’t need a lot of technical knowledge to fully understand their impacts. Yet, because everyone have senses, we, humans, can perceive how earth feels when we litter the ground with garbage, when we use private vehicles, and when we cut down sturdy trees.   That being so, we recognize the planet is in pain due to us; will we try to limit the harm? Some geologist, who disagree with global warming, may assert the fact that the earth was warmer 400 million years ago compared to now, so the current temperature is natural and human intervention don’t have effects on the nature. However, we need to realize, at that time, there was no humans, no living creatures alive. All the temperature fluctuation was due to volcanic activities and plate tectonics. However, now the temperature rising is because of humans, then this is unnatural. Therefore, the earth is unhealthy on the account of human’s behaviors. If we animate the earth, how can we bear to give him (or her) burden? Earth and human beings should be stay in a peaceful relationship.

If we comprehends Latour’s statement, then we should try to notice what the Earth needs and how the Earth “feel”. There is a mutual relationship between the earth and humans. Earth is our home, and organisms living on this planet are essential to us. Therefore, humans should care about each being’s needs, and each individual should show empathy to adapt and understand each other. That’s how we can think ecologically and eventually we will be able to create a better home. 


Work Cited:

 Latour, Bruno.  "Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene." New Literary History 45, 1 (Winter

2014): 1-18.