Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ecology and Ecosystems: How Do You Engage?

There were several intriguing thoughts or principles from the pages outlined; my thoughts however focused on the following section, “The parts take on their specialized roles only within the context of the whole... it is misleading to think of parts as if they were independent. In natural systems, parts and whole interact with and influence each other continuously. What we call parts are in complex webs of relationships; that can never really be separated.” I am writing this on the complexity of the relationships woven not just in our communities, but throughout the world. We affect every person who has lived while we have been on the earth and who will ever live until the end of time.

As I pondered this thought my mind got carried away to those I have affected and the ways in which I affected them while moving through this mortal sojourn. I was born in Vallejo, California and my parents, and grandparents on my father’s side were in attendance, as well as 3 nurses and 2 doctors. I grew up and had 3 good friends in Vallejo, than my family moved to Independence, Missouri where I stayed until I graduated high school. At that point I moved to Provo, Utah where I lived with my brother and his friend. A year later I served a 2 year LDS mission for my church in Donetsk, Ukraine after living at the MTC for 3 months. On return of that mission I lived in Logan, UT where I attended Utah State, and followed that up with a few years in Spanish Fork, and 4 in Orem, UT. I also have visited 40 of the 50 states, and 14 different countries on 3 major trips to Europe.

Why does this matter? In every place we live, visit, or pass through we affect those around us either positively or negatively. I helped shape the personality of my best friends, and family growing up by the experiences we had together. In turn they have shaped their friends and extended family and so on. I have done the same for every other person I have come in contact with since before birth, because just as a leaf landing on a pond causes a tiny ripple so does every single interaction we have with everyone.

How is this possible? Let’s say I pass a girl in the hall and I smile at her, several things could happen with her. She could think I was attracted to her or just friendly, either way a smile brightens her day and changes her reactions to those in whom she comes in contact and so on. Adversely I could cut someone off on the freeway, and potentially negatively affect that person’s day. Even walking by someone and them having to adjust their course even slightly changes their entire life and when they will arrive where they will arrive. Now multiply that by all those I have ever met in every country, city, or place including the MTC and the thousands of missionaries going all over the world; I affected them and that ripple continued to who they came in contact with and so on. Everyone on the planet is affected by every other person on the planet.

Me being on the planet fills a hole of the collective human species that only I could fill, and that is the same for everyone. You have come in contact with me and therefore changed the rest of my life and everyone else I will ever come in contact with, which can easily span the world especially now that social media is around to link us more easily. Even those individuals who have never met are affected because that person fills a void, just like a plane full of passengers. If you have taken up that seat, you affected all the others who wanted the seat and they will fly on other planes and affect those around them. You fill that gap everywhere, from the food you eat, to where you live, sit, classes, jobs, vehicles, Internet pages, etc. Because you are taking those spots no one else can, and it fills that gap like no one else could. Only you will do everything you will ever do. Something has to fill that space, and if you choose not to, you have affected others because your choice made it possible them to fill that spot.

Not only does our influence span the time and space in which we live, but it will forevermore influence those on this planet. Your ripple continues just as water will never be the same after the leaf has touched it. Every atom or particle will forever be affected in its eternal path. We are rewriting history simply by existing. You and I have changed every living being forever, and it is impossible not to.

Every relationship we experience in this life whether small or great creates a footprint on that of all other organisms that we will never be able to take back. Ultimately our goal should be to make that footprint a positive one, one that improves the world around us both socially, physically.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is There An Ecological Unconscious?

University of Utah
I am currently enrolled in a class at the University of Utah entitled: Intro to Urban Ecology with Professor Stephen Goldsmith. In the course he asks us to turn in a journal entry for each class period. Over the next few weeks you will see my responses to the topics we discuss in the class.

Today's topic is on solastalgia, topophilia, or specifically Is there an ecological unconscious?

Glenn Albrecht
Solastalgia - "is a neologism coined by an Australian; The philosopher named Glenn Albrecht in 2003 with the first article published on this concept in 2005. It describes a form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change." In other words it's the feeling you have when your home is being changed negatively in front of you.

Topophilia - "(From Greek topos "place" and -philia, "love of") is a strong sense of place, which often becomes mixed with the sense of cultural identity among certain peoples and a love of certain aspects of such a place." It is the love of place.

Ecopsychology - "studies the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles."

Today's Journal:

Growing up in Independence, Missouri, in the family I did, helped to establish the solastalgia I feel today. I will have to build upon this Idea to help others really understand my thoughts on this subject.

BYU vs U of U
My parents both went to Brigham Young University. My older brother did as well, and my oldest brother despite going to UVU loves BYU just as much as the rest of my family if not more. In Missouri there are MU fans and KU fans, and the deal there is you either love MU, and hate KU or vice versa. Can you stay out of that battle? Yes, but it can be difficult with others trying to make you choose, or being so staunch in their own opinion and distaste for the other option that it bleeds over to you. (As if there are only two opinions.)

As I said before growing up in Independence, Missouri meant for me that the only influence I had in the battle between BYU and U of U was a love of BYU, and a distaste of U of U. In a neutral environment, meaning an environment where either an equal amount of U of U fans and BYU fans reside or where neither influence exists, it is easy to stay aloof or unbiased toward one or the other; however that wasn’t my background.

Logan Utah
In addition to that upbringing I have lived in Utah Valley for 4 years, and continue to receive the same message from the vast majority of BYU supporters. I went to Utah State University and loved it. USU is a school packed with outdoorsy people and nature. It allows one to relax and be close to mountains, rivers, lakes, fields, etc. I have lived in Utah for 8 years now, and this has adapted to be my environment. In other words no matter where I go in Utah, it feels like home.

Fast forward to today and how all of the above stated background applies. We have been challenged to answer the following question with this paper: “As our environment continues to change around us, the question Albrecht would like answered is, how deeply are our minds suffering in return?”, and base it on the ideas of Topophilia, Solastalgia, Ecopsychology, and I am adding a 4th term of Technological Nature.

Technological Nature
(Technological Nature - All things are nature, from the computer screen in front of me to my backpack and the building I am sitting inside. They might not be nature in its original state, but all the parts to make every thing we have came from nature. Technological Nature as I am coining it is nature + invention. In other words everything designed is technological nature. As everything is nature in one form or another.)

Everyone no matter who they are, are adaptable. Most feel, whether consciously or subconsciously, that the world changes around them, and that they are constant or not moved. I am one who feels that way consciously. I am still in the same city, and people and relationships surround me, nature, in its original state, is still almost everywhere with a backdrop of mountains. My local natural environment hasn’t changed. I live in Utah Valley still, and commute to the U.

As listed above we feel like things move around us and we are constant. Following this my environment is constant, yet due to my commute I have been feeling moderate to extreme solastalgia. Not in the sense that the mountains are being torn down and nature ripped from me, but my peers’ distaste for the U over the years has sunk in at least in part. No matter how good you are at staying aloof from a side, with years and years of anti-persuasion toward something it is hard not to feel it at least a little.

The crazy thing is I enjoy the U, and have nothing against it, but I find it difficult to fully immerse myself in the University and its activities because of all the years of negativity toward the school. I didn’t attend the game on Thursday, despite the love of football, because strangely in my mind I felt frowned upon, or rather felt I would be frowned upon for going to the Utes football game. I am a true blooded Aggie and my family was ok with that. They know I am attending the U of U, and getting a degree is great, but it just doesn’t seem as sweet as it would have been at a different school, any other school.

Utah State
My Solastalgia or “pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault” comes from the school I attend. It is ridiculous to feel this way and yet I feel I have little control over feeling a homesickness by going to the U. It isn’t USU where I fit in perfectly and people seemed to love being in the outdoors as much as I did. We avoided the BYU, U of U discussion altogether. We were Aggies and didn’t care. BYU could keep their “Zoobies”, and U of U their “Apostates”. That is what everyone else believed, but at USU it didn’t matter! We had animosity toward no one because we had nothing to prove. If we beat one of the schools it was an upset. If we lost it was normal. We loved USU and had a pride in it.

What adds to this solastalgia is USU’s main color is blue, as is my life long favorite color. Blue is motivation by intimacy or friends and closeness. Red is motivation by power. I always avoided the Red answers in personality tests because Red to me seemed that I would be prideful and power hungry, and I am not, or at least I don’t want to be.

This is where all of my thoughts and feelings come together. In High School I was a Fort Osage Indian, and our colors were Red, White, and Black. I should feel at home here, so why do I feel all this unease? I guess because my norms of the past 7 years are what are under attack, and it is a really odd feeling. I am still at a University, despite the colors being different, the people for the most part are the same or similar. Solastalgia is a real thing, and I am definitely going through it.

How do you experience solastalgia?

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.