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The Significance of Porosity

Bdragon's picture

The Significance of Porosity


        What’s your relationship with nature? When I think of nature I think of trees and forests, but that’s just the first main image that comes to mind. We were asked in class, what is our relationship is plants? My partner and I both immediately thought that without plants the human species would go extinct. In our science classes, we were taught that plants are the building blocks of the food chain. Additionally, we were also taught that trees would take in the harmful carbon dioxide and release oxygen. We do not only need plants to make our salads, but it also that hamburger you ate the other day needed plants. I was struck by my other classmate’s responses to this question, but one particularly was that she had no relationship with plants at all. One cannot say they don’t have relationship with plants, if they didn’t they would not be sitting in that classroom. However, I do understand where she comes from because other students described how they have an emotional relationship with plant. If I viewed it in that perspective I also would say that I do not have a relationship with plants. Where I came from there’s a bad stigma towards having a spiritual relationship with nature, and are known as “tree huggers”. How can we get people to understand in this society that there is no difference between us and nature?

    First we should get to understand the biological background of how nature is in us. Stacy Alaimo write that “it is said that 90% of the cells that compose our bodies are not “ours” at all, but are in fact composed of microorganisms”. That means that we are technically never alone, because inside almost every part of our bodies there microorganisms that are living inside of us. Whether we want it or not these organisms will enter us through the air, water, and even our food. Moreover, “We could not live without this biological flora that composes us (each and every one of us is really a jungle ecosystem), but this is quite different than suggesting that these microorganisms dwell in us for our sake or share our aims”. These microorganisms are not here to cause us harm, but they are only helping us stay alive. When I first thought of microbes I automatically felt disgusted, and thought that I had germs all over me. I also found that some of my classmates felt the same, and that because society has created a wall between germs and humans. Products such as Lysol, rave over the fact that they can “kill 99% of viruses and bacteria”, although this is good from preventing diseases what about the good bacteria that it kills. We can’t keep this kind of relationship because “far from being impenetrable castles with well-defined boundaries defining what is inside and what is outside, bodies are permeable down to their most intimate recesses”.  No matter how much we try we cannot create that wall between us and nature, and instead we should accept the fact that we are the same.

       Now that we know that nature is part of us and it is evitable to create a boundary between the material world and us, how can we change our way of thinking? Stacy Alaimo states, “flows of matter-energy and information pass through these bodies, they are transformed by the machine of the body into parts composing the entity.” Everything that we encounter either the air or that powerful speech you heard influences you physically or mentally. Alaimo has “tried to argue, nature should be seen as a general term for being embodying all things, including the city.” Instead of viewing nature as the material world, we should view it as the concept that humans and the material world are interdependent on each other.  We should not have “ourselves as separate from the broader world and thus fail to discern how we affect and are affected by this world”. Since we are so interdependent on the material world, by separating ourselves from that we lose that crucial connection. This lack of connection reflects on how we are treating the planet, and why health on both sides is deteriorating.

  Global warming is the reason why we need to grow a better connection with nature, and not see ourselves as two different bodies. Stacy Alaimo provides an example how she “encountered how her body is trans-corporeal, how the very fabric of her body is, in an important sense, “the environment”, and how mercury levels are not simply an issue for fish but for us as well”. This is true because we automatically displace ourselves from the problems that are occurring in the environment, because we think that it does not affect us. If there are high mercury in fish that could mean the water that we are drinking is contaminated, and we also depend of them for food. If we continue to do this the human species will go extinct, because there will be a snowball effect of negative events.  Additionally, not only shouldn’t we displace from material world but it is “not simply issues of people who have a particular aesthetic appreciation of “nature”, but rather how they are issues of the very fabric of our bodies and minds or what we are.” I feel like there is a bad stigma towards people that are taking extreme measures to protect the environment. They have to take extreme measures to pick up the slack from the people who aren’t taking action. In order to fight against climate change every single person on this planet needs to do something about it.

     Not only should we be physically porous but mentally as well.  We must create contact zones where everyone is opened mind to hearing different perspectives to influence their way of thinking. We always quickly create in and out groups that we forget that we are all humans, and should treat everyone equally. Instead of going against each other we need to come together, because that will improve the quality of life for all. This will only happen by educating everyone on how porosity is the building blocks of life.  



Anne Dalke's picture

You write, as many of your classmates are writing this week, with a sense of conviction, a sort of awakening, even an epiphany, in which you testify to how much “we affect and are affected by this world,” to the “interdependence of humans and the material world.” I’d refine a couple of your claims—“ we should accept the fact that we are the same,” that “there is no difference between us and nature,” that “nature is part of us”—to say that we and the ‘natural world’ are all part of a great, complex system, not the same, but nonetheless “making up one another,” or (in Alaimo’s terms )“the very fabric of our bodies is the environment.”

My favorite line in your essay is the one claiming that “Not only should we be physically porous but mentally as well.” The concept of the open mind is very important to me! And I think the question you leave me with is generated by your final claim, that everyone needs to be educated on the fundamental porosity of life. The Collapse of Western Civilization was so sobering to me because it insisted that people have been adequately educated in these matters, but nonetheless refuse to act to stop climate change.

How far does education go? How to turn education into action? I look forward to hearing more from you, over the years ahead, about these ideas.

In glad anticipation,