Author Archive

“Here it comes!” “Global warming!” Ahhh!

Posted in Environmental Security, Natural Disasters, Popular Culture, Risk & Fear on April 28, 2010 by jessicabarranco

After talking about security, and questions about fear and power, I wanted to share this link with everyone.  This is how I feel about the environment sometimes, so I hope that this episode of South Park will help answer any lingering questions about global warming.

Please enjoy!

Click on: Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow

Episode 908 (Original Air Date: Oct 19, 2005)

A GLOBAL WARMING STATE OF EMERGENCY is declared in South Park. The world’s largest beaver dam breaks and floods the adjacent town of Beaverton. As the victims wait for help to arrive, everyone in South Park tackles priority number one: who is to blame? Only Stan and Cartman know who’s really at fault.


Rescue ME Blondie

Posted in Environmental Security, Popular Culture, War with tags , , on April 21, 2010 by jessicabarranco

Punk heroine to the rescue! Beware of blondes and lipgloss

Well, I can’t find the actual comic strip to post… but I did get a kick out of the movie!

Just wanted to pass it on.

Short Truth of War

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security, Uncategorized, War with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2010 by jessicabarranco

As nature triumphs over wilderness that has been devastated through war, society becomes enamored with the anthropocentric idea that through our actions, nature is given the means to survive.  People live in a constant state of war.  It challenges our assumptions that nature will succeed, regardless of how many people we kill, or how many are impoverished or living in degradation.  It seems that if humans can’t live there, it would be unexpected for any form of life to strive or even flourish.  Why is this the case?

War can be viewed as humanity’s natural state; poor, nasty, brutish and short (Hobbes quoted in Environment: An Interdisciplinary Anthology).  If the world’s greatest percentage of people fall under these categories of being poor, they must also entail the other qualities as well.  In the chapter on War and Peace, there are a number of civilizations that are in constant, militarized state of war.  In these areas, nature flourishes, even to the extent that in some places, tigers are remediating the clean-up of blood shed and death in combat zones.  “Tigers rapidly move toward gunfire and apparently consume large numbers of battle casualties.” (Environment, p. 230)  Naturally, wildlife is able to find a use for those we find disposable; the dead.  What nature has a hard time surviving is the constant pressure of incessant population growth.  Since we separate ourselves from nature in our mentality, we have this idea to digest: “The worst degradation is generally where the population is highest.  The population is generally highest where the soil is the best.  So we’re degrading earth’s best soil.” (Environment, p. 221)

What role does society play, if the idea of war is natural, and the thought that nature can survive this tension? Western society gives us the false notion that we are secure in our system of government, and that in times of need or chaos, it will step in to mediate the relationship between man and nature.  But at what point are we responsible for our individual role in this relationship?  It is wrong for us to assume that society is maturing in its knowledge of natural systems, and to instead, we should find the means for survival elsewhere.  I suggest an approach similar to Lauren’s ideas for survival from Parable of the Sower.

Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals.  It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation.

Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function.  When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces. (Butler, p. 101)

It is up to the individual to recognize his limits.  It cannot be guaranteed that those with the inability to succeed will be protected from the government.  It would be ignorant to wait for a superficial entity to have the answers in times of chaos, when this same structure struggles to unify its people under one system on a daily basis.  As Simon Dalby writes in Environmental Security, “the point is not simply that knowledge is power, but that knowledge and power are imbricated in each other in complex discursive formations…” (p. xxv).


Posted in Natural Disasters, Uncategorized, War with tags , , , , on March 31, 2010 by jessicabarranco

Societies are  programmed to self-destruct regardless of actual experience, historic accounts, or even coming to an understanding of the environmental issues are at stake in order to address the problem and find a solution to it.  If this history is true, then why not lay down and play dead?

Jared Diamond, addresses the possible reasons for society’s ignorance:

First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives.  Second, when the problem does arrive, the group may fail to perceive it.  Then after they perceive it, they may fail even to try to solve it.  Finally, they may try to solve it but may not succeed … Why, then, do some societies succeed and others fail, int he various ways discussed in this chapter?  Part of the reason, of course, involves differences among environments rather than among societies: some environments pose much more difficult problems than do others. (Diamond, 421 and 438)

As Diamond points out, it is the challenging aspect of the environment that is responsible for society’s demise.  In his chapter, Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?, he lists many examples of disastrous behavior of society given many different environments, under different types of governments.  The most interesting account, involves his fourth point, that societies may try to solve the problem, but a solutions may be beyond its capacity to solve it, due to lack of expenses or efforts.  He describes the cold climate of Greenland, and notes that for 5,000 years, “its limited, unpredictably variable resources have posed an insuperably difficult challenge to human efforts to establish a long-lasting sustainable economy” (p. 436).  If the answer to why societies are unsuccessful, lie in the fact that it does not have the capacity to solve it, this is my response:  If you have 5,000 years of history proving that life in a particular area is unsustainable, then there is absolutely no way that some measly little environmentalist or big bad government is going to magically take the earth by her horns, and force her to yield to this society that wants to live in that particular area.


Millenarian Revolutions on the other hand have a bone to pick with man-made disasters, and the corruption among governments that refuse the survival of the masses.  To counter Jeffrey Ellis’ argument for finding a comprehensive understanding to problems, I would argue that Mike Davis sets up a clear account of over-population.  If arguing through Paul Ehrlich’s perspective, it is only natural for governments to allow victims of natural disaster and catastrophe to fend for themselves.  These people are not going to be the next heroes for the next generation, and will not contribute to maximization of profits for anyone anywhere.  The victims of drought and famine are those that do not have power or worth, except through rebellion and mere survival.  Even as these catastrophes unfold, the governments in place use tactics that nature has demonstrated against those who are already devastated.  “It was impossible to disentangle the victims of drought from the casualties of warfare, or to the clearly distinguish famine from epidemic mortality” (Davis, p. 199).  In this description, it is the fate of the victims to perish under exploited environments.  And so, society dwindles.

Ellis argues that the problems that arise in nature are not consequences of only one problem, nor do they have any one solution.  Regardless of the perspective, he proposes, “Instead of arguing with one another about who is most right, radicals must begin to consider the insights each perspective has generated and work toward a more comprehensive rather than a confrontational understanding of problems that have multiple, complex, and interconnected causes” (Ellis, p. 267).  As he sets up his argument in On the Search for a Root Cause, it would not matter my own personal perspective on the effects of society or environmental collapse, or even the possible solutions to them.  The real matter is that people are placed in strategic settings in order to play a game of Climate Risk.  As Davis points out in The Origins of the Third World, “Climate risk is not given by nature but by ‘negotiated settlement’ since each society has institutional, social, and technical means for coping with risk.  Famines thus are social crises that represent the failures for particular economic and political systems” (Davis, p. 288).

Returning to my orignial argument, if society chooses to play the game, it is up to them to survive.  The given society has the means to survive, if it addresses the environment with keen instinct and a unified collective of understanding.  “There havebeen many such courageous, insightful, strong leaders who deserve our admiration … China’s leaders who mandated family planning long before overpopulation in China could reach Rwandan levels.” (Diamond, p. 440)

Isn’t Modernity Funny: Environmental Risk and Crisis

Posted in Nuclear Apocalypse, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by jessicabarranco

Have you noticed that you don’t really flinch or even notice the things people say these days?  Have you ever zoned out a discussion about the end of the environment, the end of the world as we know it?  Imagine going about your daily life knowing that you are part of the environmental problem, but not doing anything to stop it.  Sure you are “recycling” that radioactive soda can, and you safely “disposed” of your CFC infused Asthma Inhaler; but did you even notice that it was radioactive(Nuclear Scrap), or that the CFCs are depleting the Ozone layer?  These issues, among countless others we encounter everyday, are weighing down our response to potential risk.  How can we address each and every environmental problem, when there are so many to deal with?  It is only human to find the constant drone: “we’re killing the earth and we’re all going to die” environmental rhetoric pretty funny; wouldn’t you say?

So what’s going on here?  Society is becoming desensitized to the idea of risk and environmental crisis.  The availability of environmental information and awareness can be found in politics, daily life, academic study, and yet people are sucked into a game of beating the odds and surviving the apocalypse.  Environmental thinkers are no longer interested in finding the solution to the problems, and perversely gamble nature’s resources against capitalist systems.  Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon bet that as natural resources are used up, the price will go down due to the scarcity created as they are used up.  Well, as the Simon/Ehrlich Bet goes, the capitalist system does not reflect the availability of resources  in the environment.  But why has the environment become a mockery?  Consider Ulrich Beck’s, Politics of Risk Society:

In terms of social politics, the ecological crisis involves a systematic violation, or crisis, or basic rights, and the long-term impact of this weakening of society can scarcely be overestimated.  For dangers are being produced by industry, externalized by economics, individualized by the legal system, legitimized by the sciences and made to appear harmless by politics.  That this is breaking down the power and credibility of institutions only becomes clear when the system is put on the spot.

So basically, the environment is being researched, processed, and served on a daily news platter with a side of antienvironmental thought to go with it.  What else do you want on the menu, Environmental risk is found in almost every aspect of daily life.  From contaminants in drinking water to the chemicals found in the shirt you are wearing, you can’t exactly claim that you didn’t know the environment was a risky thing to interact with; now could you.  As much as we adapt to our environment, and learn to cope with the contaminants we encounter, are we just settling with current conditions?  Frederick Buell suggests that we should not only be aware of these risks, but that we should embrace the current environment as kin, “…to consider intimacy, nurturing, education, caring, embeddedness, embodiment, exposure, and vulnerability as crucial aspects of environmental as well as social-human, experience.” (207, From Apocalypse to Way of Life)  If we can embrace the earth and the biotic systems within it, maybe we can stop laughing, and address all of that built up ecological karma we’ve been hoarding. (Buell, 194)

Black Sunday Environment

Posted in Environmental Security, Natural Disasters with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by jessicabarranco

The Great Plains, the Panhandle, the Dust Bowl, a label for another environmental problem that is a natural part of Manifest Destiny, the American Dream.  Historically, the United States embraces progress, capitalism, and a disregard for anything that comes in the way of these goals.  The American way of life includes a land free for the taking, stripped from its native biotic species, and completely transformed to the riches of society.   To progress in society, one cannot simply allow nature to run free and wild; nature is to be dominated by any means possible, so that it can bear the valuable fruits of hard work and mastery of the elements at large.  The untouched land is a commodity that needs to be brought down by the horns, beaten to submission, and controlled by the will of Man.  But in reality, is the land not a live part of the biotic system?

The historical account of the environmental degradation and government mistakes in The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, illustrates the good intentions of the U.S. government to spread progress to every inch of American soil.  The government hoaxed people into believing that the Great Plains were fertile for commercial farming, encouraged people to maximize profits through technology, and no matter what happens, it is the duty of the people to master the land.

The wheat came in just as the government had predicted – a record, in excess of 250 million bushels nationwide.  The greatest agricultural accomplishment in the history of tilling the land, some called it.  The tractors had done what no hailstorm, no blizzard, no tornado, no drought, no epic siege of frost, no prairie fire, nothing in the natural history of the southern plains had ever done.  They had removed the native prairie grass, a web of perennial species evolved over twenty thousand years or more, so completely that by the end of 1931 it was a different land – thirty-three million acres stripped bare in the southern plains.  (Egan 101)

Technological advances separate people from the source of nature, and provides an advantage, a catalyst to the end goal.  Why do we need technology to achieve record output of the things nature provides?   Frederick Buell explains Hypermodernization in From Apocalypse to Way of Life, that modern development dominates nature, distances people from appreciation and experience of nature, reduces biodiversity, and dismantles nature’s barriers to human intervention, in which nature becomes products and property of individuals (Buell 153).  Using this model for the agricultural push to dominate the Great Plains, the only reasonable outcome was collapse.

The government projected technology and access to the farmers in the Great Plains, which impacted nature with stronger force.  They neglected to replenish the land and over-worked every inch until it was limp and useless.  “Farmers had taken their machines to the fields and produced the biggest wheat crops in history, transforming the great grasslands into a vast medium for turning out a global commodity.  And then they ditched it” (Egan 112).  What’s the next step?  The government needed people to accommodate to nature, and endure the storms of uplifted sand, dust pneumonia, and arid land, so that “…when new technologies seek social acceptance and adoption by promising to repair the excesses and damage wrought by the old” (Buell 161).  People are easily swayed to follow the government, when they have been so easily duped and are left “growling” on land that can no longer sustain itself, land that was never used sustainably.  So what does the government do?  It muddies its hands in nature yet again… and behold… plague!

Nature was out of whack.  In place of buffalo grass, prairie chickens, and mourning doves were black blizzards, black widows, cutworms, rabbits, and not this – a frenzied sky of grasshoppers.  They had come out of the dry Rocky Mountains, the government men said, locusts that laid eggs in the flatlands and multiplied during dry years without predators.  A wet year would usually produce a fungus that killed many of them.  Birds that used to populate the High Plains year round or descend on its stubble during the migrating season had disappeared.  Same with rattlesnakes.  A farmer used to fill a bucket in the spring with all the rattlers he shot on his half-section.  But no more.  For five years, people had rarely seen a rattler.  Snakes and birds ate grasshoppers.  When they were taken out of the prairie life cycle, the hoppers metastasized.  That much, people could see; it was obvious.  The early ecologists in Bennett’s soil service were only beginning to examine how much life had frayed below the surface, among the small world of insects and microorganisms.  (Egan 285)

So to whom or what do we owe the success of the Dust Bowl?  If the environment could talk, would it say something like, ‘I told ya so’?  or would it just snigger and wait for people to continue digging their own graves?  Nature has its carrying capacity, and it doesn’t discriminate against the plains or Washington’s highest seat.  When pressed to the limit, whose mouth will be fouled?  Maybe next time it won’t just be dust.

Do-It-Yourself! …Disaster?

Posted in Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Post-Apocalypse, Religious Roots with tags , , , , on February 10, 2010 by jessicabarranco

Will the environment call forth the power of evil and devastation against those who harm it?   Apocalyptic literature points to devastation of humanity as we know it, but is this the proper response to an environment that endures constant destruction and abuse from human activity?  We look for answers about what our future might bring in literature and religion, but maybe the most reasonable approach is to let nature take its course.  By becoming so infatuated with the future destruction of the environment, it seems that we are deliberately separating ourselves from the foundation of our existence.  It has become socially acceptable to destroy the environment in a world that only exists in the pages of numerous authors, but at what extreme are we actually writing the future history based on our actions today?

As a survival mechanism, we seek to endure and adapt to ever changing environments.  During plague and disease, we cope with the sick and dying, while also studying the causes of the problem.  During war, we devastate the environment of our enemies, but then lend a helping hand to the refugees that survived the turmoil,  forcing them to endure hardships  that we created.  If we are the cause of environmental change, we must then adapt to the possibilities that nature has in store for us.  Lauren, in Parable of the Sower approaches the subject:

Our adults haven’t been wiped out by a plague so they’re still anchored in the past, waiting for the good old days to come back.  But things have changed a lot, and they’ll change more.  Things are always changing.  This is just one of the big jumps instead of the little step-by-step changes that are easier to take.  People have changed the climate of the world.  Now they’re waiting for the good old days to come back… We can’t make the climate change back, no matter why it changed in the first place.  You and I can’t.  The neighborhood can’t.  We can’t do anything. (p. 57)

What are we looking for, that we believe is in apocalyptic literature?  We know the history of our decisions, yet we focus on problems that we do not want to take responsibility for.  We don’t want to do anything different than what we are used to doing.  We do not want to disrupt the modern system that tells us that we are in power.  Lauren is exposed to several of these aspects that we face today.  Drugs, that induce vandalism and pyro activities play a significant role in today’s society, yet we pretend that the outcomes and side-effects are beyond our understanding.  She is exposed to natural disasters.  She  encounters other characters that pretend that previous decisions and actions do not affect the outcomes of those “natural” disasters, but justify the daily tragedies as a daily means of endurance.  Today, we acknowledge the devastation occurring in our own backyard, but fail to remember the decisions made prior to the “disaster” (some examples include the removal of vegetation, which can create dust storms and floods; building infrastructure on active fault lines that can create economic destruction when earthquakes take charge;  ecosystems that have been destroyed by the “necessary” management of  those systems; among other disasters that have come about due to human involvement).  So if we victimize ourselves in futuristic literature, to what extent do we take responsibility for our own actions?

By all means, please, make it your duty to create your own version of the future of the environment you live in.  It is up to you to take part in the destruction of nature as the foundation for human existence; nature, as the foundation for all living things, including plants and animals.  Create your own disater using the Forces of Nature.  And by all means, take the risk, sit back, and let nature take its course!