Author Archives: lucasinthewild

Inside or Outside?

A few months ago, my dad built a nice patio in our front yard. It is outside and only 15 feet from the street, but trees offer privacy. There are shaded parts and sunny parts and there are always birds chirping and a nice breeze. When the sun was out, I would do all of my homework sitting there, and it was much more enjoyable than sitting inside.

I found a very interesting expose in the New York Times, on kids spending time outdoors. It featured an editorial by Nicholas Kristof, an article about kindergartners that spend three hours a day in the forest, and a chance for students to talk about what they think of nature.

Kristof mentions a book called Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. Louv’s thesis is that the baby boomers are most likley that last generation that will share an intimate connection with the land and water. What this means, is that our generation will be far less connected (face it we are) and further generations will be even less so. It’s almost inevitiable. I remember reading a book by Isaac Asimov, a reknowned science fiction writer, in which cities became enclosed metropolitan areas, completely distinct from nature. I think that is a entirely possible, however disgusting it may be. Granted, it will take hundreds of years to get there. But still, it could.

The most interesting thing I saw was something that Louv calls ‘nature defecit disorder.’ Essentially, not being in nature is linked to depression, obesity and ADD. It makes sense. There is an overwhelming sense of calm and serenity you can gain from reflecting in nature. At the same time, it encourages young kids to be active. When I was young, my friends and I didn’t need video games to keep us busy. Our imaginations took us everywhere in parks and backyards. And this activity fights obesity.

I think that a big problem is that nature often comes into conflict with efficiecy. If you put computer engineers on laptops on a park bench in Central park to work, they would not get work done. That is, unless they were already so lost to the world. And these days, its all about cramming as much into your day as you can. That leaves no room for some time for fun or relaxation in nature. Too many people would rather run on a treadmill than go run at a county park. Too many people would rather hurry home than stop and smell the roses.

I have been trying to understand how this relates to our heightened awareness of environmental problems and the trend to going green. It seems hypocritical to drive a prius and use cloth bags at the grocery store, but not spend time outdoors. If we are trying to save the world for later generations, why not enjoy it for ourselves in the meantime?

While it may not be the most productive thing to sit and watch a sunset from a hilltop, or the tide come in on the beach, it is certainly worth the time. Nature, like friendship and family, goes beyond having a monetary value and for that reason we should treasure and cherish it more than we do. It deserves our love, respect and attention.

the beach in half moon bay CA

Advertisements

Where Should We Be Wary?

Recently we have come to some great debates about visual media, tv shows and movies. Should we take them with a grain of salt, or a whole lot of salt? Was the work crafted with a superficial purpose such as entertainment or are they trying to strike a chord with everyone’s inner intellectualism?

In the beginning of our quest to find meaning on the Internet, Ms. Pugliese warned us to consider the source and look very closely into where the work we are studying came from. For example, if Jake’ s tv series on one hundred millions years later were to be created solely by graphic design students, we would take it differently than we did take a show with expert opinions by scientists at well-known universities.

I was pondering these questions alot as I revistited one of my favorites movies of all time, Ice Age. While it is extraordiarily funny and I still enjoyed that still, I watched the movie differently this time. There are many things that just do not seem right, and the reason they are there is for entertainment.

Here’s what I found that did not seem right:

  • Scrat survives: this saber-toothed squirrel gets trampled, pummeled and frozen. He also clings to an acorn which he will never eat.
  • All the animals migrate together: you see mammoths walking with turtles towards the South, away from the ice
  • The hippo-esque animals play ‘extinction’
  • The animals can all communicate (we will ignore this because it is a given in animal movies)
  • The animals have a sense of purpose, trying to bring back the human
  • A mammoth, sloth, saber-toothed tiger and a human baby form a conscious herd, and have each others backs
  • The mammoth and sloth give the baby back to the humans, face-to-face
  • The armored rhinos, although they are migrating south when they first attack Syd, are seen again in the ice
  • The Dodo birds are aware of the ice age and think they can survive on three melons
  • Diego the tiger betrays the other tigers to protect Manny

This is just a sampling. But Ice Age is a reminder to beware of your analysis. It is clear a humor and entertainment oriented film. The deepest meaning I could find is the idea of a very, very idealistic world in which animals can communicate and forge unbreakable friendships, have a sense of purpose and can interact with humans to a small degree. It is preposterous.

Carbon Footprint HW

Hey folks,

For my class next thursday, I want everyone to calculate their Carbon Footprint. You may ask,” Lucas, what is a carbon footprint?”

A carbon footprint is “the total set of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product” (UK Carbon Trust 2008). An individual, nation, or organization’s carbon footprint is measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment.

Your hw is to calculate your individual family’s  carbon footprint based on the GHC emissions assessment. You can do that here: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx. I also want everyone to look up the carbon footprint of  a product they use on a daily basis (make this something that may be unique to you so we get more diversity).

This can take some time and I know the great extent at which senioritis is creeping into our lives, so I am giving this to you a week early so you have ample time to prepare.

DO NOT discuss your carbon footprint with any classmates before class next thursday.

And make sure you have in your schedule that we are going hiking the following Saturday, which is the 11th I beleive.

Thanks

Cats that aren’t just Cats

One dreaded SAT test that I took had a passage about how cats are different than dogs. I’m not sure exactly what it said, but based on my life, it should have been about cats and humans.

Take my cat for example. He sits on our chairs at the dinner table, tries to eat off the table and loves people food much more than he loves people food. I find that weird. He should eat that processed junk that all other cats has to eat, and he’s not gonna say please and thank you and eat with a knife and fork, he should not get to eat at the table. But he tries, again and again.

Then there is my aunt and uncles cat. He was too fat so they put him on a diet. He has specific meal times, with a specific amount of food that he gets. But once you go fat you can never truly go back, so he always begs for a handout. But he is not aggressive like my cat. This cat keeps all four on the floor as if to say, I’m hungry but I’m going to stay within the realm of cathood. But then again, this is coming from a cat who is not allowed to go outside (he has kitty AIDS and is therefore a menace to cat society) and has mealtimes.

On the other side of my family, another set of aunt and uncles have two cats. This is a house that I have lived in for a week at a time, and still have only seen the cats when their food bowl is empty of when I pursue them. Like my cat, they have a bowl of food that is continually filled and can be nibbled at when they please. But these cats don’t go for anything further. Do they just love the cat food? Hate the people food. Or are cats supposed to realize their place, and my cat is just wack? I would like to say it comes back down to nature vs. nurture, but we’ve had other cats that don’t act like this and my aunt and uncle’s (the unseen cats) have had a fairly similar upbringing.

I think, that it is therefore inevitable that all cats will eventually be like mine. He was named ‘Big’ for his size, but now I find it more reflective of his dreams. To start the long journey towards human traditions. After all, isn’t that what domestication is all about? Now they are just doing it for us?

 

 

I’m not sure we give cats enough credit as a species.

Vin Rouge and Thanksgiving Turkey’s

Thanksgiving encourages everyone to think about what they are thankful for. Friends. Family. A house and a job. The Common App. Education. A wonderful thanksgiving meal. Millions of dead turkeys. Wait a minute, things don’t look so great from that perspective. Approximately 250 turkeys were raised for the sole purpose of eating them on Thanksgiving. How’s that for a guilt trip. Indeed, thanksgiving gives our friends at PETA just another chance to shake their heads at us. Lucky for us, they offer 10 reasons why we should save these turkeys

It is possible, to feel guilty about every single thing we do these days, or so it seems. How can we be thankful for so many things on thanksgiving when there is so much we are not thankful for and take for granted. Food for thought.

With this on my mind, I embarked with my family to lunch on the day after thanksgiving. We went to a winery owned by a friend of my uncle’s and therefore got a backstage look at the wine business.  You wouldn’t think it, but a lot of nature goes into one bottle of wine.The process looks somewhat like this:

1) Loads of lands must be cleared and stripped of its natural purpose in order to grow the grapes

2)In the meantime, loads of land-mostly in Portugal-are used to grow cork trees. We heard an interesting story to this. Because you can only take the cork off of a cork tree once every ten years or so, about two decades ago the Portugese tried to grow super cork trees that would grow in a third of the time. The cork from this trees was not resistant to all sorts of bacteria and other nasty stuff because of its short grow time and almost killed the wine industry. Interesting that in order to save land, they had to manipulate nature and its genetics. Whichever way you look at it though, they failed.

3)The grapes have to get transported, fermented and turned into wine. I won’t go into detail, but it takes lots of energy and air conditioning and transportation.

4)The grapes need to be in wooden barrels. These need wood grown in very cold temperatures, and trees are grown in cold parts of France, Minnesota, Oregon, Maine and more. The French ones are ideal. They also have the biggest toll in shipping them to wineries in California. Then there is the wood grown just so it can be cut down.

5)The bottles have to come from somewhere. I’m not exactly sure where, but for a winery that has over 12 million galloons of wine in the making at any given time, they need a lot of glass.

6)Shipping it. It goes everywhere. This particular winery sends about 10% of its wine to China. That’s far away, and big steam ships use a lot of gas. Pollution and use of fossil fuels, all at once. In the last couple of years, China has been importing more and more wine. Right now they don’t have the soil for grapes, its a hard industry to start (but not that hard as seen in California) and they are more focused on industrial advances. Nevertheless, their middle class, which is already huge and is growing at an even huger rate wants to drink wine. So its comes from far away California.

Here’s the thing. A knowledgable person can go through and do this for nearly everything. The results will often be depressing. Clearly, we can’t make everything perfect (the best step to completely reverse our dirty trend is for everyone to eat out of their own garden and never drive anywhere), but things need to be better. When simple pleasures like enjoying thanksgiving or a nice bottle of wine can make you guilty of conspiracy to harm to Earth to such a degree, things are a problem. Big time. And how do we clean it up? Do we say, “No, China may not have our wine,” or maybe limit the number of trees that can grow the grapes?

I like the latter solution. Everything has to be in excess these days. Big SUV’s, buy one get one free, and paper starbucks cups every morning, things really need to be scaled down. That will hold the forces of destruction at bay until we can get cleaner energy and fuel. But we are far from being in the clear. Just wait until Christmas.

The Right to Nature

I once heard a song, written by a man who had spent 25 years in jail. He claims he is innocent, but the system found otherwise. We may never never, but that is not important. What is important, is his song. It was about a little patch of grass that he could see if he craned his neck at just the right angle while looking out his barred window. The patch of grass was more alive than him, and it provided him hope. To this day, he owes his survival to that patch of grass, as it reminded him that there still was life in the world.

That really touched me. I know that I take for granted all the trees and parks and lawns and flowers that surround me, but I could not live without them. I like to see more green than gray and black. Because of our history, it seems to me that it should be a basic human right to be able to enjoy nature and the outdoors. In prison, inmates often get one hour a day outside. One hour of fresh air, in a prison complex that is not at all conducive to thriving nature. That is downright disgusting.

Is it a warranted punishment? When someone does something wrong to another person or to society, do they deserve to get nature stricken from them? I don’t think so. Being able to be outside and see trees and plants and dirt keeps us connected to the Earth and keeps us sane. And these people are already being punished enough, stricken from society, work, friends, family and all individual pleasures. They need something to live for, why not something natural.

Humans came from nature and it is in our blood to like it. It is deteriorating to our minds to be locked up in a concrete cell without fresh air, without seeing the sun, without feeling the grass. These are pleasures to all, and they should be rights.

 

The Presidency: Prime for Preaching

We all know how the federal system works. Although the president is not a tyrannical ruler with an overwhelming amount of power, he (thus far) has a whole lot of power, and a large degree of influence on the citizens of the United States, as well as some others around the world.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, I remember reading about how the Obama family bought a new Ford Escape Hybrid. He did this under pressure, a presidential candidate with an slight emphasis on environmental issues couldn’t drive something dirty. He had to lead to pack in fuel-efficient, low polluting technology. I have not seen the numbers, but I assume that sales went up for this car after Obama bought one. If he is buying it, it must be a good choice, and a smart one for the future.

The thing to note, is that this is a symbolic gesture. In a modern presidential campaign, a candidate travels effortlessly around the country with a huge staff. It a very mobile operation. That means jets, cars, trains to the max. If Obama drove his new Ford Escape Hybrid for the rest of his life instead of something less clean; it would not adverse effect on the pollution from his trips on a 747 in the span of two weeks. Nevertheless, by changing perspective and remembering that Obama is a leader and therefore trendsetter, everyone who follows him in buying a hybrid SUV may offset that. If not, they are on the right path.

In office, Obama has been making smart choices too. The first one hundred days of a presidency–the presidential honeymoon–are a time for a president to get a lot done without a lot of hassle. Obama got a lot done for the environment. For example: tax credits for clean vehicles and home energy usage, the symbolic (but trendsetting) planting of a vegatable garden; the declaration of greenhouse gases as dangerous and the reducation of pollution.

Good work. Obama is placing himself among the green ranks of Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Carter; while distinguishing himself from such dirty presidents as McKinley, Jackson and Hoover.
It is important to have a president that cares about the environment. Whether we like it or not, the president gets work done, legislation signed and put into effect. In addition, a president can broadcast a green message to the people. The president is someone to follow and learn from; if he goes green, we go green.

While environmental concerns may not be as in-our-faces as the economy of health care, it is in dire need of our attention. If Obama is lucky with those two problems, his next step would be a comprehensive energy program. Carter tried in ’77 and failed miserably. But I say, ‘Yes We Can.’