Eminent Introductory Blog Post

          A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise

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Aldo Leopold. The name doesn’t conjure pictures of a billionaire entrepreneur, an Oscar winning actor, or an influential politician. In fact, to most people, Aldo Leopold simply doesn’t create a picture at all. For someone who pioneered and laid the foundation for the modern environmental movement, this seems ironic or perhaps a sad reflection of society’s values.

Aldo Leopold was the author of The Sand County Almanac and various other essays that advocated environmentalism.

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Through his Land Ethic and his eloquent writing, he was able to bring up the philosophy of environmentalism and tell millions about the moral duties humans had to the natural world. Despite passing away over seventy years ago, Leopold is still remembered today, which leads me to believe that his legacy will be remembered even a century from now. In the face of post WW2 American capitalism and emerging concepts, Leopold dared to say that land was an integrated, dynamic community of plant and animal life when nature was viewed as a mere commodity for making everyone richer. His want for wilderness areas to remain pristine, and his fear that in the face of human greed, nature would lose its footing and be used up until none was left for both humans and nature, drove him to poetically contest these ideas through his essays and novels. Leopold’s story is largely relevant today. Recently, the government and most people have taken a turn for environmentalism. From the introduction of Green Bins to straw bans, it is clear that efforts are being made to reduce the human impact on our beloved planet. Unfortunately, carbon emissions from industries and automobiles are still building up in our atmosphere leading to global warming. Despite there being evidence of climate change, such as the melting snow on Mount Kilimanjaro and receding glaciers, no affirmative action is being taken, just like how humanity ignored nature’s changes in the Midwest until the dust storms of 1937 during Leopold’s time.

Snow melt on Mount Kilimanjaro

Snow melt on Mount Kilimanjaro

The Dust Bowl, the cause of environmental indifference

The Dust Bowl, the cause of environmental indifference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leopold’s story teaches us about our moral obligation to nature and why listening to nature’s changes and recognizing our role in promoting the health of the land is crucial in the long run. Additionally, despite his diligence and effort, Leopold’s story is largely unknown. Perhaps it’s the fact the Leopold himself doesn’t look like someone who is “cool” to follow. Perhaps it is a reflection of society’s unwillingness to sacrifice comfort for the betterment of the environment. Nevertheless, Leopold has done a lot and his story deserves to be told. The story of environmentalism is not that long, with the modern environmental movement having only started sixty years ago, but is filled with struggles between environmentalists and industries. Leopold stands out among the myriad of environmentalists because he helped lay the foundation for the environmental movement and influenced many people in his field. Additionally, his story is complete; Leopold’s struggles and work are completed, which makes him preferable over a nascent figure. From Leopold, we can take away many things, but perhaps the greatest thing we can take away is what Leopold preached from the very beginning, to recognize our role in promoting the health of the land and caring for it.

Gila Wilderness, the world's first wilderness area thanks to Leopold.

Gila Wilderness, the world’s first wilderness area, created due to Leopold’s efforts.

Leopold draws me to him for the same reason my eminent last year drew me towards him. Aldo Leopold has done so much, yet compared to billionaire entrepreneurs and politicians, little is written about him online. Additionally, his writing simply captivates my attention. I picked up the Sand Count Almanac expecting to read a series of essays with quotations and piles of evidence, but what I found was so much more. In fact, the first part of the book didn’t even seem to be making a point. Instead, Leopold took me through a journey, a twelve month journey on Leopold’s Wisconsin farm. Leopold turned his surroundings into philosophical statements about nature, such as when he took a journey back in time as he cut into a tree, comparing the environmental and historical changes that occurred during the time each ring of the tree formed. His writing was not what I expected, but it was a pleasant surprise.

These are some of the ways I compare with Leopold.

Aldo Leopold Jerome Cho
Male Male
German-American Descent Korean Descent
German as first language, but gained fluency in English Korean as first language, but gained fluency in English
Spent entire life in North America Spent most of life in North America
Upper-middle class Middle class
Lived within close proximity to nature Lives within close proximity to nature
Did a lot of outdoor activities as a child Does a lot of outdoor activities
Lived through a time of environmental change (Capitalism and exploitation) Lives through a time of environmental change (global warming)
“Prophet” (explained below) Undecided

Leopold and I both have an appreciation for nature, which both us can ascribe to our time spent in North America. For Leopold, the undeveloped sections of the Midwestern United States instilled in him a sense of respect for nature while my immigration to Canada gave me an appreciation for nature, as the wilderness here starkly contrasted the gray skyscrapers and smog of metropolitan Korea. Both of us have determination. Leopold continued to fight for environmentalism while I continue to read books, finish hikes, and continue an assignment until it is finished. I wish to emulate Leopold’s creativity, selflessness, and his philosophy. Leopold doesn’t directly exemplify my own goals in TALONS, but I hope that by emulating him, a great writer, I can improve my own writing skills and write a speech that delivers the message I want to give to my audience. Some obvious barriers prevent me front connecting with Aldo Leopold. Leopold is white, I am Asian. Leopold was alive nearly a century ago where norms and values were much more different. Leopold is also an American who was born in North America. Being an immigrant, I cannot relate to someone who was born in the country they held citizenship in. Also, Leopold is a “Prophet” or someone who seeks to counter the problem of overpopulation and Earth’s diminishing resources by cutting back. Meanwhile, I am still undecided. While I believe in some of Leopold’s ideas, I still believe that the future’s conflicts can be solved through biotechnology that allows us to produce more per acre and use fuels more efficiently rather than making a complete switch by cutting back. Fortunately, I happen to have texts that Leopold wrote himself. By reading and emulating the books Leopold authored, I hope to understand his voic and present an accurate representation of Aldo Leopold on Night of the Notables.

Well, eminent’s here again, and it’s the last one. *DEEP BREATH* Let’s make this one good Jerome.

How might we begin “to reject the single stories” in our lives?

In the era of information we live in, it is easy to be inundated by stories. With so many stories, choosing just one story as our main source can be very tempting, but this leads to us accepting single stories and getting an incomplete picture. If we wish to reject these single stories, we must consider multiple sources before making any kind of conjecture. We start to accept single stories when they are the only stories we are exposed to. Chimamanda did not come to write about white children and British culture because she considered it to be superior, she simply “did not know people like [her] could exist in literature”(Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2009). Had she had access to only African literature as a child, she would have most likely only written about African children and African culture. Additionally, not giving into the stereotypes of the people and society around us can help us reject single stories. When Chimamanda was studying in the United States, she heard about the Mexican immigrants south of the border and quickly “bought into the story of Mexican abstract immigrants.”  Much to her surprise, when she visited Mexico, she found hardworking Mexicans, working and behaving just like any American would. This goes to show that accepting the stereotypes of the media and people around us prevents us from seeing the complete picture. It is true that there are some Mexicans who fit the stereotype of the “abstract immigrant”, but listening to a single story might make us assume that is the only kind of Mexican people you would meet; we would be generalizing the entire Mexican populace. Now, this doesn’t mean we should completely avoid single stories. While we can be “impressionable and vulnerable when we are in the face of a story”, remembering that the author of a story can only show what he/she wants to show and consulting multiple sources before making a conjecture can allow us to use single stories to our advantage.

Independent Novel Study: Response #1

Gustad Noble didn’t impress me when he lashed out at his son, Sohrab, for refusing to study at IIT, Gustad’s choice for his eldest son’s higher education. Despite Sohrab telling his father, “IIT does not interest me. It was never my idea, you made all the plans,” Gustad is unwilling to listen to his son(65).  This shows Gustad’s stubbornness and his “father knows best” attitude, but also shows his weaknesses, such as his quick temper. His fear of failure from his father’s bookstore going bankrupt has led him to be overprotective, as he fears his son throwing away his chances of success. Consequently, he wants his son to be successful but finds an external conflict with his son when they argue over Sohrab’s future. There also seems to be an internal conflict. Despite greatly valuing his friendship with Jimmy, Gustad explodes in infuriation when Sohrab brings up the topic of friends, even telling Sohrab that he “must be blind if [he] cannot see [Gustad’s] example and learn from it”(66). This shows how Gustad is constantly clashing with his emotions from Jimmy’s unannounced departure. Gustad’s development so far is exceptionally realistic,  not being drastic while also showing significant changes in his character, such as when he decides to pick up a parcel for Jimmy despite his feelings of betrayal. We should emulate some of Gustad’s traits, such as his diligence, devotion to his children, and his value of friendship, but his quick temper and his conservative views towards his children and wife shouldn’t be followed, as many of them clash with the morals and norms of today. Personally, I can relate to Gustad’s feeling of betrayal, as when I was in elementary, a friend of mine who was moving away made a promise to keep in contact. I eagerly waited for his response, but it never came and realization struck me that my “friend” was never going to contact me back. Personally, I would handle Gustad’s problems differently, as Gustad’s methods tend to ignore the wants of other people, while I try to understand others’ thoughts before enforcing my own.

“Emil” Blog Response

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t” (William Sanford Nye, 2017). We can see this in Stuart McLean’s Emil, where Morley, a privileged woman, learns from Emil, a homeless man, that assumptions can strongly influence the way we perceive people and prevent us from seeing the real person. One scene that corroborates this statement is when Emil “[gives] [money] to his regulars – people who gave him money,” after winning the lottery (118). This is the antithesis of what others, such as Dave, thought Emil would do if he ever got money. Previously in the story, Dave states that “if [Emil] gets money (..) he [would] buy cigarettes and lottery tickets” (114). When Emil hands out money to the people who helped him out, he contradicts what Dave thinks, showing that Dave’s assumptions of Emil prevented him from seeing Emil’s real self. Contrary to what most people think, Emil isn’t lazy, value-less and willing to easily live off other people’s donations. He tries to do what he thinks is right or tries to live according to his morals and values, which include giving back to others. Additionally, Morley response to Emil digging up her garden in the early morning sheds light on how throwing away assumptions can allow us to see people as they truly are. When Morley confronts Emil, she throws away all assumptions and genuinely asks him if he has a garden and whether he can show it to her. Her remarks show Emil “that she could see him – the real person” (113). Morley could have easily labeled Emil as a thief, a crook, or someone who the authorities needed to take away, but unlike Dave, she threw away her assumptions and tried to see Emil for who he truly was. By throwing away her assumptions and not letting others’ perceptions of Emil influence her, Morley saw another side of Emil; a hard-working person who was simply trying to share the beauty of her garden with everyone in the community, just in the only way he knew how to. Morley’s lesson shows us that sometimes we need to take a step back and throw away our assumptions, as they may be preventing us from seeing the real picture.

Theory Wars: Final Response

When viewing George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope, the gender lens is the most important lens for a comprehensive understanding of the film because of the portrayal of many gender norms, values, and stereotypes, especially those of women. This is continuously shown throughout the plot, such as when Princess Leia is captured and has to beg the male hero to save her. From this, we can see the film enforcing gender stereotypes, such as women being submissive and helpless, on its female characters. Taking this new lens, allowed me to see many things that I didn’t notice before. One significant observation was the extremely disproportionate female to male character ratio. Only two females, both supporting characters, were portrayed in the entirety of the movie, while a myriad of men made up the rest of the cast. Additionally, stereotypes about women were prevalent in this movie. While one could say that Princess Leia was breaking cultural norms by being rebellious and colloquially said, “bad”, she was still portrayed as submissive and helpless multiple times in the movie, begging Obi-Wan, a male, to help her, even calling him her “last hope”. Other characters only further reinforce this stereotype through their remarks about Leia, which are exclusively restricted to remarks about her appearance. I also noticed that female to female conversations were non-existent in this movie. While men talked to other men throughout the movie, women always conversed with men. To top it off, the women usually spoke only after the man had spoken and any unasked remarks were deemed to be annoying and clueless, such as when Princess Leia told Han of her plan but was only given a condescending response. All of this corroborates my theory that the film is a representation of women in 1977. While women were granted suffrage and the same legal rights as men like Princess Leia who entered politics despite being female, they were still constrained by social norms and values. As we saw in the movie, Leia’s main role in the movie was to be the “Princess Peach”, the woman who gets into trouble and has to wait for the male heroes, Obi-Wan and Luke in this case, to save the day. This relates to the women of 1977 who were still encouraged by social norms and values to be submissive and live up to their stereotype, which prioritizes what women look like externally. We can see this when Luke’s first reaction to seeing Princess Leia is to comment on how she is “a beautiful woman”. Additionally, people in positions of power are all men. This might serve as a representation of the power balance in 1977. Although there were many eminent women, people in positions of power, such as CEOS and presidents were predominantly men. Interestingly enough, one character seems to defy these cultural norms and values. Princess Leia, the renegade of social norms, is portrayed in a way that is progressive and defies some women stereotypes. We have to acknowledge that she isn’t a complete rebel of norms and values; she does have times where she fits the “Princess Peach” stereotype and succumbs to society’s values of a submissive and helpless woman. However, she is shown to be a rule-breaker with her shooting a trooper and stubbornly lying to the governor, traits that contradict the stereotype. Additionally, there are times, such as when Han, Luke, and Leia face a deluge of Stormtroopers that she is shown to be assertive and in control, even ordering Han around, much to his displeasure. Both the idea of women being restrained by 1977’s societal values and norms and the idea of a progressive start serve as a representation of women in 1977. To conclude, when watching a film through the gender lens, it’s important to consider how the different genders are portrayed and what roles they play in the film so that we can get a better understanding of gender roles and values from the film’s time period.