Author Archive

where isTerminator?

Posted in Climate Change on April 28, 2010 by briannichols


Rebecca solnit’s article “Judgment Days in Copenhagen” portrays how a summit on climate change includes only the polluters and not the people affected by the pollution.  For example, she states how “Danish police became increasingly brutal as activists from everywhere, representing the poor, developing, and most affected nations, the Arctic, small farmers, indigenous nations, and the environment demonstrated” (Solnit 5). While inside only government and big business went through negotiations. Whose voice is not heard here? Solnit answers this question by clearly showing that it is the same people who have always been marginalized as governments and corporations work together to increase their profits. Solnit asks where are the heroes like Miles Dyson, in the movie Terminator 2, who recognize that he engineered the death of humanity with his creation of intelligent machines and so attempts to get rid of them for the benefit of humanity (Solnit 3). She cites how  Arnold Schwarzenegger was sent to the conference by the “Climate Action Reserve [which] is backed by Chevron and Shell” and suggests that Schwarzenegger is cyborg like advocating for lower greenhouse gas emissions but not so much as to affect industry profit. Solnit, then, suggest that there can be no real solution to climate change without considering the voices of those who are affected by it.


Fear and Holocaust

Posted in Uncategorized on April 15, 2010 by briannichols

                We have touched on race and its relation to eco-collapse in reading Don Delillo’s novel White Noise. For example, Jack as a professor of Hitler studies is caught off guard when The Air-born Toxic Event happens in his small rural community of upper class citizens. This is due to his belief that such disasters only happen to the poor or people in underdeveloped countries. Delillo also comments on the media’s role in representing the toxic event, especially, in the case of television.  Mike Davies, in his book Ecology of Fear, explores the issue of race, eco-collapse, and media even further.

                In his book, Davies explains that, “Ironically, the richest and poorest landscapes in southern California are comparable in the frequency with which they experience incendiary disaster” (Davies 98). There are parallels between the two readings, especially in the manner how media generates fear.  In Delillo’s novel, for example, when the Gladney family fled from their homes because of The Air-Born Toxic Event, they  encountered a man carrying a TV set who was more concerned that their situation was not be televised then he was in fear of the disaster itself.  In a similar manner, Davies explains how Malibu, beach home of the stars, receives much media attention with its continual years of fire disasters while tenement fires in the downtown areas of Los Angeles receive little. Media then seems to determine public responses to disaster. If the characters in Delillo’s novel fear media representations of disaster then Davies’ book proclaims that media representations of disaster can have holocaust like affects. For example Davies often refers to tenement fires in downtown L.A as holocaust events in explaining that fire regulations and preventions are often ignored while massive rescue efforts carried out just a few miles away in Malibu.

                Furthermore, wealthy elites have used the media as a weapon against minorities, homeless, and environmental groups. In this manner, they are able to petition protected wild life habitat for the development while restricting access to others. If we have discussed the role of gated communities in novels such as Parable of the Sower we see here the beginning of such communities although like the holocaust minorities seem to be excluded from and targeted by the famous and wealthy.  

Here’s an interesting youtube clip on war and fear:

War: Bioregional and Political Boundaries

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 by briannichols

In exploring the connections between ecology and war, writers such as Thomas Homer-Dixon have argued that environmental changes could be a cause for acute conflict between first and third world nations. Other writers, such as, Alan Weisman, have argued that wars have created refuges for animals fleeing from an ever growing society. From these readings, some questions we might ask are: How do both writers cite human population growth to support their arguments. Does war have positive or negative environmental consequences? How is war related to human population growth and environmental destruction?
In the essay “War and Peace: Security at Stake,” it is explained that:
Historically, most wars have multiple causes, with the ecological pressure of overpopulation and resource scarcity often underscoring more proximate ideological, ethnic, personal, and political tensions. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars on the one hand, and the Russian Revolution on the other, correlated with demographic booms in the French and Russian country side. War fulfills some of the same functions of trade; it is a way of obtaining resources, both natural and human-produced. (Environment 213)
The root causes of war then seems to be hard to pin down. War seems to come about out of a combination of social, demographic, political, and environmental factors. For this writer, the interesting point of this passage is that nations use war as a mean to obtain natural resources. In other words, nations sometimes cross their political boundaries to meet their resource needs. Does this mean political boundaries are the part of the cause of war or that nations do not realize political boundaries overlap ecosystems. Gary Snyder argues that such conflict can be solved if nations could place themselves within bioregional boundaries.
Lakes, streams, mountains, flora and fauna do not fit easily into political boundaries. Dixon, for example, explains how, “current controversy over the Great Anatolia Project on the Euphrates River illustrates how simple scarcity conflicts can arise” (Dixon 107). He continues to explain that, “by early in the next century, Turkey plans to build a huge complex of twenty dams and irrigation systems along the upper reaches of the Euphrates” this in turn would reduce water flow to Syria. Furthermore, as [t]he water […] passes through Turkey’s irrigation systems and down to Syria [it] will be laden with fertilizers, pesticides, and salts” (Dixon 107-08). The conflict between Turkey and Syria arises because Syria is depended on “[much] of the water for its towns, industries, and farms” (Dixon 108). Although no war has come about between these two countries, we can see how environmental changes can become a cause of acute conflict.



The “War and Peace” essay explains how nations have destroyed the environment as a military strategy in war. For example, the English destroyed Irish crops in the hopes of that the Irish would starve. In a similar manner, the U.S. used Agent Orange as a “defoliant […] to strip away the natural cover of guerilla fighters” (Environment 213). Furthermore, the essay explains that such military actions have also had “unintended consequences.” The essay, as an example, cites, “U.S. nuclear testing once rendered the Marshall Islands virtually uninhabitable” (Environment 214). Ironically, warfare as also helped preserve ecological balance by creating ‘no-man’s lands’ such as the DMZ in Korea were wildlife has found a safe haven from the encroachment of society (Environment 214). Alan Weisman, in The World Without Us, suggests that such “no-man’s lands” could even help stop war by forcing clashing governments such as North and South Korea to recognize shared ecosystems.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2010 by briannichols

brian Nichols Says:
January 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Brian Nichols
English 418/Ray
First Blog Post
This week’s reading about the origins of Apocalyptic Rhetoric, made it clear that contemporary discussion about environmental owes much of its development from history. The Stephen O’Leary reading claimed that its purpose was “to provide a theoretical framework of understanding millennium and apocalyptic discourse” (O’Leary 1-2). In doing so he looks to the Greek definition of the word apocalypse and defines it as, “a discourse that reveals or makes manifest a vision of ultimate destiny, rendering immediate to human audiences the ultimate end of the cosmos in the last judgment” (O’Leary 5). He continues to argue that historically apocalyptic theory then, “has function[ed] as symbolic resource to define and address the problem of evil” (O’Leary 6). He elaborates on this line of reasoning by claiming that this rhetoric has become a form of storytelling that has traditional served to build communities, “in which human individuals and collectives constitute their identities through shared mythic narratives that confront the problem of evil in time and history (O’Leary 6).
Greg Garrard seems to agree with O’Leary as he quotes Lawrence Buell who claims that, “Apocalypse is the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal” (Garrard 93). Garrard continues to argue that, “several of the most influential books in the environmentalist cannon make extensive use of the trope, from Carson’s Silent Spring [to] Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance” (Garrard 93). He even explains that,” Apocalyptic rhetoric is deployed in the activist literature of Earth First” (Garrard 93).
Garrard further explains that Earth First! “combined revolutionary inhumanism, apocalyptic beliefs and direct action to protect wilderness areas” ( Garrard 103). He continues to explain that the organization eventually became fractured because some members considered humans as less important than other forms of life while others, “ saw people as differentiated in their responsibility for environmental problems according to gender, class, and ethnicity, and envisaged radical political change through negotiation as well as direct action” (Garrard 104). Garrard’s writing then becomes a good introduction to Martha F. Lee’s book Earth First!
Lee explained that Earth First! was created out of a discontent for the environmental politics of the time. The founders of Earth First! believed that older radical environmental organizations such as Green Peace had become had become too entrenched into government machinery. Earth First! believed that grass roots activism and direct action then was the only real solution to make changes in environmental policies. Earth First, however, did meet political opposition as right winged factions of government pursued campaigns to discredit them. Frederick Buell’ s book, From Apocalypse to Way of Life then goes into greater details on this subject following how radical environmental organizations fit into the conflict between preservationists and conservationists values from the 1980s into present.

Postmodern Repersentations of Eco-Collapse

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2010 by briannichols

Introduction: This outline is meant to be a starting point for class discussion on Don DeLillo’s novel, White Noise. In doing so it explains some characteristics of postmodern theory and fiction. It also explores how environmental disaster is represented in the novel. Finally, it will ask how the characters of the novel perceive risk.

  1. “Postmodernism has been the focus of many conflicting and complementary definitions, but the term is usually applied to certain social and cultural trends since 1945. Most theories and fictions about postmodernism include certain common assumptions” (Smith 134-35). Some of these found in Deillo’s novel  are:

A. The subject is not unified, but divided and multiple; we all have many different selves.

  • How does the character Babette seem to have different selves?
  • Although Jack is the authority of the world’s biggest mass murder (Hitler) he perceives himself different from his son who plays chess someone imprisoned for murder. Why is this?

B.  Postmodern fictions are not necessarily realist. Rather they use Allegory, fantasy and the construction of new worlds, to escape from-or enlarge on- realist writing and the straightjacket of representation. This is a way of opening new psychological and social dimensions.

  • Critics have claimed that DeLillo’s novel represents a hyper-reality world because events seemed trumped up and almost unreal. How so?
  • Is the novel speculative like science fiction?
  • How does Jack feel about being diagnosed by a computer?

C. Representation is somewhat illusory: language is not a transparent window on the world (even a very lifelike text is a construct of words).

  • Why does Murray only buy generic foods at the grocery store?
  • While in the shopping mall, Jack enjoys having a choice of stores of different names. Why does this empower him?
  •  When Jack confronts Mink we see how Dylar misses with ideas of language when it is supposed to stop the fear of death. How does this relate to the characters perceptions of risk?


D. Gender and race are social constructions rather than simply biological states. Human beings are caught up in social discourses, and power relationships: these constrain and dictate their actions, rather than allowing them to act entirely as free individuals.

  • How does Murray feel about gender? Why does he no longer want to live in the city?
  • Why do you suppose Babette cheats on Jack?
  1. DeLillo’s novel was published January 1985 a month after the toxic gas leak in Indian city of Bhopal. As readers, we must then ask if post-modern fictions are able to represent the significance environmental disasters have on our lives.
    1. In the novel, TV plays a major role in how the characters perceive themselves as well as current events. However, in the novel, The Air-Born Toxic Event is given no TV footage. Here are a few questions that might help us understand why DeLillo represents this environmental disaster in such a manner:
  • How is The Air-born Toxic Event in the novel similar to the toxic gas leak in the Indian city of Bhopal? How is it different?
  • When the Gladney family fled from their homes to Iron City, they encounter a man carrying a TV set and making a speech about how their situation was not being televised ( DeLillo 161). The man’s speech then asks readers why isn’t The Air born Toxic Event televised. What might be some reasons it is not? 
  1. Postmodern fictions do not necessarily have a plot, or they have a plot which do not resolve. It is through the subversion of plot that postmodern fictions play with, and questions, the notions of objective truth. To understand how DeLillo’s novel fits this definition we might ask:
  • How does the novel open? What elements of prose (exposition, character, setting, action) do we see as readers?  
  • How does The Air Born Toxic Event move the plot along? That’s if it does.
  • How does the novel end? Does the novel seem to have a point?
  • How does the form of the novel replicate the society it attempts to represent?
  1. Finally, the characters in Deillo’s novel seem to perceive risk according to what they are told by scientists, television, magazines and other media, even computers. We then might ask questions concerning the characters class, sex, and ethnicity.
    1. As head of the Hitler Studies department at College on the Hill, Jack lives in an upper class neighborhood. Because of his social class then: 
  • What is the significance of Jack as professor of Hitler studies?
  •  How then does he perceive his chance of being in an environmental disaster as compared to the poor?
  • To what degree of risk do the evacuees rate The Toxic Air Born Incident- high or low?  as opposed to how the government does?  The Air Born Incident
  1. Jack is under the impression that he has a good marriage. That is until he finds out otherwise. Why then:
  • Does Babette start popping pills?
  • Does she perceive risk differently from Jack?

Conclusion: This outline is meant to be a starting point for class discussion on Don DeLillo’s novel, White Noise. In doing so it explains some characteristics of postmodern theory and fiction. It also explores how environmental disaster is represented in the novel. Finally, it will ask how the characters of the novel perceive risk.

Stories, race, and the Dust Bowl

Posted in Climate Change, Popular Culture, Rhetoric on February 25, 2010 by briannichols

                The Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s plays an important and complicated role in the way Americans talk about the history of poverty and public policy in their country. For almost seventy years the story of white families from Oklahoma and neighboring states making their way to California in the midst of the Great Depression has been kept alive by journalists and filmmakers, college teachers and museum curators, songwriters and novelists, and of course historians. Although it was but one episode out of many struggles with poverty during the 1930s, the Dust Bowl migration became something of synecdoche, the single most common image that later generations would use to memorialize the hardships of that decade. The continuing fascination with the Dust Bowl saga also has something to do with the way race and poverty have interacted over the generations since the 1930s. Here is one of the last great stories depicting white Americans as victims of severe poverty and social prejudice. It is a story that many Americans have needed to tell, for many different reasons.

“The Dust Bowl Migration” Poverty Stories, Race Stories by James N. Gregory

In considering how stories shape our understanding of Eco-collapse as social Crisis, Timothy Egan’s non-fiction novel, The Worst Hard Time shows how past environmental problems has been a result of government and corporate forces working together to exploit race and landscape.  From the beginning of the novel, Egan tells his readers that the panhandle region consisting of the corner states of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska had once been occupied by native tribes. He explains that Bison had given native tribes such as the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache “everything they needed: clothes, shelter, tools, and of course of protein source.”  He continues to explain, how they would also “supplement their diets with wild plums, grapes, and currents growing in spring-fed creases of the flatland, and antelope, sage grouse, wild turkeys, and prairie chickens.” Furthermore, he highlights how native cultures have survived in a desert landscape even in times of dramatic climate change. He then explains that the native’s sustainable relationship with landscape was then destroyed with the coming of “Anglo hunters who killed the bison by the millions.”

 Egan informs his readers that the government and corporate business relations had used advertising and free train rides to pursued poverty stricken Europeans to settle and farm the panhandle region.  Advertising took the form of fictional stories as they suggested that the panhandle region was an ideal location to start a farm. As farmers began using new technology, such as, the tractor replacing horse-drawn plows vast amount of grasses were being ripped up in short amounts of times. As farmers destroyed the roots of grasses that had held the sod into place, a grassland ecosystem which had supported both the Bison and Indian for centuries had been destroyed. In this manner, government and corporate forces had promoted the eraser of former inhabitants while also creating the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl.     

                 Egan’s story, then, is different from the ones which James N. Gregory describes as “the last great stories depicting white Americans as victims of severe poverty and social prejudice.” Gregory’s argues that story tellers such as John Steinbeck and musicians such as Woody Guthrie have romanticized the ecological disaster of the Dust Bowl and its ensuing social crisis creating stories focused on people white in color while ignoring people of other races. Egan, rather, explains how government and corporate advertising for the settlement of Indian lands had encouraged Euro-Americans (escaping the poverty of Europe) to have racists attitudes towards no-whites.