Reactions to “Braiding Sweetgrass” and “Exposure”

Both of these texts were surprising and riveting in different ways. Braiding Sweetgrass presented views of nature which I have never even considered. Not growing up as a Native American made me miss out on these really beautiful views of the world around us. Every flower, tree, animal… even celestial bodies were personified and given their own personality and role to play in the world. I think it’s really lovely how even tiny seeds are given as much importance as any other living being. Another interesting viewpoint that stuck with me is that Robin Wall Kimmerer struggled with her views of nature as a native and as a scientist. Both of these often clashed, and even her professor said that her views are not practical in the field. She was still able to find a blissful balance with the two, and this duality shows that while science is very important, so is your unique background and own views.

Exposure is a different story. I found it very intriguing but, moreso, very frustrating. Every chapter made my jaw drop at least once. I just cannot believe how people can be so complacent and/or neglectful when it comes to public. And for the sake of what? Money? Companies are so greedy and will do anything if it means they get to make a profit, even if it means jeopardizing others. I just don’t understand how hard it is to put health as sustainability as a first priority and why people are just so willing to be reckless with life. It just angers me and doesn’t make sense. I wasn’t aware of how bad it actually gets until I read Exposure and I’m glad I did. Although it baffles me, I’m happy I was still able to have my eyes opened to this reality so that one day I can hopefully change or prevent it from happening again in my own workplace.

Reaction to “Allegiance to Gratitude”

The chapter titled “Allegiance to Gratitude” in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer discusses the Thanksgiving Address, a series of paragraphs stating what people are thankful for. They talk about how they’re thankful for berries, fish, water, just about anything that nature provides for people. These paragraphs are very beautifully versed and poetic, and they really capture full appreciation for the natural world. I loved this because we live in a very fast-paced world now, and very rarely do we get the time to sit back and be appreciative of all the plants, animals, and stars that we share our daily lives with. I think it’s important to think about this every so often and just remember that Earth has given us so much, and we need to take care of it. I also like how the Thanksgiving Address personified a lot of celestial bodies. Even though the sun and moon are inanimate objects in space, giving them human qualities allows us to form a connection with them instead of feeling so distanced. While they are balls of gas and rock in space, they are still important and we should be grateful that they serve their purpose.

My Nature Encounter

When I was growing up, my favorite animals were dolphins. I loved them so much and I used to want to be a marine biologist or some sort of dolphin conservationalist. When I went to North Carolina, we took a ferry for a portion of the way down. I was sitting in the boat and all of a sudden I heard one of my siblings shouting at me: “There are dolphins outside!” I will never forget the excitement and joy when I went outside on the ferry and looked down and saw a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the boat. It truly made the trip so worth it.

Looking at Someone Else’s Website

In class we were asked to look at one of our classmate’s websites and critique it. I decided to look at Justine’s. Her website is a blog with her most recent post at the top. I really like the aesthetic of her blog, and reading through it, I can really tell that it is her voice. Instead of having her posts be super academic by only stating facts, she lets her personality speak through her writing. I think this is very refreshing and it makes reading her posts a lot easier and more fun. Great work, Justine! đŸ™‚

Making Art out of Toxins

With this chapter of the Bigelow and Swinehart textbook being all about oil spills, toxins in the environment, and dangerous carbon emissions, I tried to find a form of art that was less depressing. Something that takes something bleak and hopeless and turns it into something beautiful. While I was researching I stumbled across this article that explained how artists can turn toxic sludge into pigments. It’s no suprise that coal mining has disasterous effects on the environment. It poisons the water and harms the animals that live in those affected areas. Artist John Sabraw stated that the water contained iron oxide from abandoned and active mines. This material is used to create pigment in most paints, so Sabraw wanted to use this as an opportunity to create art, making something beautiful while simultaneously getting rid of the toxins in the environment. These toxins, if collected in large amounts, can theoretically be sold on the market and made into paint. I think that this is a great way to get rid of toxins and to use them for something else. Here are some examples of paintings done with the material:

Climate Justice and ‘Thank You Omu!’

Last class we read various children’s books and how they related to environmental sustainability, or more specifically, the Bali Principles of Climate Justice. I listened to ‘Thank you Omu!’ by Oge Mora. The story was about an old woman name Omu who made a huge pot of delicious red stew. Everyone in the neighborhood could smell ir from her window and, one by one, they came to her house to have some of it. First it was a little boy, then a police officer, and then everyone else. Since she was a very generous woman, Omu gave the people a small portion of her stew, but by the end of their visits, she had no more stew left. She was very upset because now she doesn’t have anything to eat for dinner. At the end of the story, everyone that took some stew came back to her house all at once and gave her food. They all fit into her small apartment and ate dinner happily together. This sweet story also poses as a metaphor of how we should treat the earth. Earth has so many resources that we can use, but if we keep taking them without replacing them, they’re eventually going to disappear. The Bali Principles of Climate Justice also stresses the importance of commuities coming together to make a difference, and this story is an example of how a group of people can come together to make a difference. I really liked this lesson. It was extremely refreshing to learn about sustainability through the lense of a children’s story. Even though I am a college student, it was still very sweet to learn about this topic with stories targeted towards children.

Environmental Artist – Naziha Mestaoui

When the scope of environmental leaders was broadened to include artists, I took full advantage of it. I have always found art that is used to speak out for important issues to be particularly fascinating. In my search for environmental artists I came across Naziha Mestaoui, a Belgian artist and architect with an interest in indigenous peoples’ connection to nature and the conservation of it. Growing up, she always had a love for nature. As a child, she would often have injured animals in her house that she would take care of. She also formed bonds with the Huni Kuin people as well as connecting with the cultures of other indigenous people, such as those in the Amazon. The Amazon people are mentioned on page 138 of Bigelow and Swinehart’s textbook. They talk about how forests are so important to Earth’s health and cutting them down contributes to global climate change just as much as greenhouse gas emissions do. Mestaoui recognized how important these forests are and, with her education in architecture and art, decided to start 1 Heart 1 Tree. In 2015 in Paris, she created something extraordinary. People were able to connect to an app that reads their heartbeat by pressing their finger on the screen. It then connects to a tree projected onto a building or monument that pulses with the person’s heartbeat, creating a beautiful metaphor of how we are all connected. This virtual forest spanned hundreds of kilometers. This was not only an aesthetic project, but because so many people participated and paid for these virtual trees, about 100,000 real trees were planted in places such as Brazil, Peru, and Kenya. Mestoui spent the rest of her life helping out communities of indigenous people. Unfortunately, she passed away in April of 2020 due to a rare health condition. I had never heard of this project until I started to research for this assignment and I’m so glad I found it. I just love how people were able to connect to a tree with their heartbeat. It must’ve been a life-changing feeling of seeing a virtual tree pulse with your own heart beat. In that moment, I probably would’ve felt really connected with nature, even if the tree was just a projection and not a real one.

I searched google for some pictures. Here are some examples of what Paris looked like:


My Environmental Education

While reading through chapter 2 of the Bigelow and Swinehart textbook, I was able to reflect on my own environmental education. In elementary school, we always had parties or fun activities to celebrate Earth Day where we enforced the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). I remember in first or second grade we had this project where we all raised caterpillars as a class and watched them grow into butterflies where we eventually released them. I was quite lucky to have an interest in the environment as a kid, and that was further encouraged by my older cousin who always wanted to be some sort of biologist even from a very young age. I wanted to be just like her when I got older so I spent a lot of time listening to her and joining her when she went on “bug hunts” in her backyard. The text emphasises that there are a lot of children that don’t get that sort of exposure and I was very lucky to. Although, as I got older, projects that had a focus on the environment turned into something arbitrary in the eyes of the education system and was no longer taught. As soon as middle school started it became a thing of the past and was “not suitable” to be taught at a higher level, implying that it no longer had a place in our education. I think this mindset is extremely flawed and is one of the contributing factors as to why people are rather complacent when it comes to Earth’s sustainability. On page 40 of the textbook, there are a list of objectives that instill an “ecologically responsible curriculum” and one of the objectives that resonated with me was “students need to develop an ecological literacy that alert’s them to life’s interconnectedness”. Since the idea of interconnectedness was stressed in the previous chapter, it is very important for people to realize that everything is connected, in some way, back to the environment and we all need to be very mindful of what we take and put back into it. If our education system was able to implement this effectively along with the other objectives, the improvement of our current global health (ex. global warming) would drastically improve.