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Live in Anthropocene, Live in Emergency, What Can We Do?

paddington's picture

In two texts we read last week-Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and Oreskes & Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization, the ongoing environmental issues are referred and they alert us that they are not something distant from us. Although environment destruction has been a very common issue all over the world for a long time, it is still a big problem. In order to put a brake on this issue, we should keep on taking action for it.

Comparing these two environmental texts, the most apparent difference is the way to classify living beings in this planet. In both texts, human beings and other species are set separately. Human beings are wrongdoers of the environmental destruction and other creatures are victims. The sixth extinction has been proceeding rapidly, which is no match for other extinctions occurred on this planet so far. “No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy. (P269)” Kolbert insists that this human-centered ideology has made the destruction of environment worse and worse. Additionally, she uses pronouns “we”, “us” and “our” for human beings, who are the cause of the sixth extinction, and uses “you” to readers. It implies that she regards all of us as one group, which set off this rapid extinction.

The whole text is a description of the current environmental issue. Kolbert gives readers an instruction of the big five extinctions occurred on the earth so far before this era, which some scientists define “Anthropocene” and alerts that the sixth extinction is now going on by explaining several environmental issues. As it is obvious from the third quote, Kolbert sets human beings and other species separately. Additionally, she uses “we”, “us” for human beings, who are the cause of the sixth extinction, and uses “you” to readers. It implies that she regards all of us as one group, which set off this rapid extinction.

In contrast, Oreskes and Conway do not set human beings as ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ group but they divide into scientists, government, and experts in specific area while other people who are under the power are not mentioned apparently. Moreover, reading some excerpts from their text, it is written objectively.

l   “Even Scientists … felt it would be inappropriate for them to articulate it, because that would require them to speak beyond their expertise, and seem to be taking credit for other people’s work. (P15)”

l   “power did not reside in the hands of those who understood the climate system, but rather in political, economic, and social institutions that had a strong interest in maintaining the use of fossil fuels. (P36)”

These statements serve notice that there are various powers related to the movements of environmental issues. They tell that since those powers are occupied by limited people, what many other people can contribute to these issues are very small. It is almost impossible to give solution to the whole situation.

Being in hopeless situation, we can only do what we can do. That is, we can do what we can do. Unless I become an expert of these areas it is impossible to solve the issue in a large scale, but I can still refuse plastic bag at the store, take food I can afford to eat in the dining hall, turn off the lights when I do not need and there are more and more what I can do. Though it might be difficult to avert the rapid extinction without actions of people or institutions that possess power, I believe that each small action by individual person is still contributable to extend the life of this planet. Both of these texts are also contributable at the point that they give readers a trigger to consider environmental issues.


Works Cited

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt, 2014. Print.

Oreskes, Naomi and Erik Conway. The Collapse of Civilization: A View from the Future. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Print.


Anne Dalke's picture

this essay has the same shape as your first draft: it compares two environmental texts, one which describes "our" role in the sixth extinction, one which distinguishes among the different roles of different humans; and then it ends by refusing the claims of the latter that the issues are structural and institutional, rather than individual -- in order to claim that the only possible action is that made, on a small scale, by individuals in their daily actions.

So I'm not quite seeing where this revision has moved ...?