Read the following quotations (pay attention to their dates as well, they are quite revealing!)
Which one(s) do you like the most? Why? Why do you think the dates (when mentioned) are revealing?
Man shapes himself through decision that shape his environment. – Rene Dubos
Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. – Henry David Thoreau
– Alan M. Eddison
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. – Native American Proverb
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried: "Look at this Godawful mess." – Art Buchwald, 1970
The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men's apples and head their cabbages. – Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, États et empires de la lune, 1656
When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves. – David Orr
Will urban sprawl spread so far that most people lose all touch with nature? Will the day come when the only bird a typical American child ever sees is a canary in a pet shop window? When the only wild animal he knows is a rat – glimpsed on a night drive through some city slum? When the only tree he touches is the cleverly fabricated plastic evergreen that shades his gifts on Christmas morning? – Frank N. Ikard, North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Houston, March 1968
How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and of oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life? – Charles A. Lindbergh, Reader's Digest, November 1939
Read the following excerpt and answer the following questions:
What are the lines that make you understand that the white man’s approach to nature is different from the native’s?
What are the lines that somehow anticipate the terrible climatic changes and natural disasters our era is witnessing?
What are the lines that make you understand how little man is compared to nature’s majesty and power?
What is the line that makes you understand that the white man has been blind as to the possible retaliation of nature?
Chief Seattle’s words become very melancholic at a certain point of the passage. When? Why?
His words are deprived of any hatred towards the white man, who deprived his people of their dignity and their living sap. Why? Where do you detect this absence of anger or hatred? What feeling(s) do you think ooze from Chief Seattle’s words?
Excerpts From Chief Seattle's Famous Speech to President Franklin Pierce
In 1854, the United States Government aggressively offered to buy 2 million acres of land occupied by native people in the Northwest. Below is a translation of excerpts from Chief Seattle's (Chief Sealth) reply to President Franklin Pierce in December of that year. His speech has been described as one of the most beautiful and prophetic statements on the environment ever made. Why?
"The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and sparkle of the water, how can you buy them ?Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man. So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us…"
"This we know: All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. But we will consider your offer to go to the reservation you have for my people. We will live apart, and in peace…."
"If we agree, it will be to secure the reservation you have promised. There, perhaps, we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last red man has vanished from the earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And preserve it for your children…"
This Eco Glossary may prove to be useful to you, should you want to investigate the environmental issue a bit further.
Now I would like you to learn a bit more about Severn Suzuki, an environmental activist, scientist and speaker. She was just a young adolescent when she started campaigning for the environment, this means young people can make a difference if they speak out and make the world hear their voices. This post gives you a voice too. Exploit it if you wish.
Environmental activist, scientist and speaker
She Severn Suzuki spoke to the UN at the age of 12. Watch the videoclip from Youtube. I am attaching the file of her speech, so that you can refer to it should you encounter any difficulties.
What are the most “moving” moments in her speech? What do you notice about the listeners’ facial expressions?
In what way do you think her state of mind and her approach to mankind have changed? Do you think her words reveal pessimism for our future? Do you think she has lost faith in the possibilities of a better future for mankind? Support your answers with evidence from the text.
She claims something terrible, that unfortunately I too see in some of my young students: “generation is becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world”. This explains why every year I try to sensitize my students (YOU!) to a more self-conscious approach to nature. Some of them (YOU) see me as a tedious freak: I am in favour of vegetarianism, I always recycle, I never litter, I use eco-friendly household detergents (they cost more, but they protect you and the environment), I cycle whenever I can, I walk and I recycle whatever I can, though I would love to get better at it, I avoid plastic bags, I am going to stop buying water in plastic bottles, I run my dishwasher and washing machine full load and at night time, I never leave the tap running when I brush my teeth and when I take a shower I save as much water as I can. Am I a freak for this? No, I just love nature and thus I try to respect it. But then at school I see students littering all the time. We have a wonderful park, but they litter Coke cans, water bottles, cigarette butts. The funny part is that there are dustbins everywhere, yet, some do not use them. Why? If you reprimand them, they rarely listen. If you oblige them to clean up, then some of their parents complain, because students should not be forced to clean, there are janitors meant for that. What’s happening to parents? Aren’t they able to parent any longer? Of course, this does not involve everybody, but I would like to read your comments about these observations of mine.
Severn Suzuki emphasises the fact that “real environmental change depends on us” and we must act straightaway. Postponing direct action to safeguard our environment is an act of irresponsibility we cannot afford any longer. I am childless and I feel worried more than friends who have three kids. Am I overreacting or are they blind? Isn’t there a way in between? In what way do you think you can reduce your carbon footprint (that is your impact on the environment)?
I hope this first post will help you become more responsible. As Gandhi said many years ago, "We must become the change we want to see."
Young people (YOU) are just incredible in their (YOUR) potentials. You can make a difference. Severn Suzuki decided to travel a long distance to deliver a speech before worldwide leaders. I am asking you to “rap your way” in support of the environment. The following rap uses foul language perhaps to reinforce the idea of anger or to echo most rappers who generally use “abusive” language. Looking forward to listening and watching you rap. (TASK ONE)
Now stretch your imagination and write through the “eyes” of a natural element. Be a wave, an eagle, a stone, a raindrop and let me/us hear your voice. It could be about your daily life, it could be about the changes you have experienced over years or even centuries, it could be about your anger for being neglected, exploited, it could be….. unleash your creativity, I’ve prodded you enough! Mine will follow shortly, do not worry. Your homework is my homework, so I will do this TASK TWO myself, as usual.
Some of you may have already watched the following video. I find the “poetic” journey of a plastic bag quite pertinent to TASK TWO. It may help you understand what giving voice to voiceless objects or elements mean.
This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world. In the end, the wayward plastic bag wafts its way to the ocean, into the tides, and out into the Pacific Ocean trash vortex — a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind and gradually let the memories of its maker slip away.