An End to Colloquium and a Start to Environmental Awareness

Colloquium was the first class I took in 6 years and I feel like it was a good class to get back into the school pattern. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a student and it has helped me have a new perspective at work. I found myself taking notes as I sit in the back of the new training class at work and I was then asked to take on the project as 1 of 3 in my department to lead the transition. I loved that my first class didn’t even take me to the campus. It was hard to find on multiple occasions and I still have a long way to go until I learn my way around campus.
I enjoyed Colloquium as my icebreaker. It is well rounded in the fact it uses different methods to teach students about important environmental issues. Most of all, I enjoyed the field trips. I felt each had a different perspective of Southwest Florida. I felt closer to nature through our canoeing and while we walked through the paths of the preserves I saw nature in a way in which I have been removed from. While it brought me close to nature in that way, the trip to downtown Fort Myers also made me fall in love with the city life again. It’s a small scale downtown area, but I just love that it is also right by the water. It’s different and beautiful to me that while you are walking around the buildings you can walk a few blocks west and be right by the water and feel the soft breeze. Since the trip, I’ve been back for pizza which is the closest thing to NY pizza I’ve found in Fort Myers. I’ve also hung out at different cafes for live music and open mics. I can see how the culture is evolving down there from how I knew it through my spring vacations and nights out after turning 21.

20120617-192843.jpg
The readings were all very different yet still interesting in their own ways. Some discussed politics and/or philosophy and were harder for me to get a hold of-while others were easier due to their poetic and descriptive views of nature. However, all of them opened my eyes to the environment and allowed me to be introduced to the very real environmental issues. I am able to apply them and use them to better understand articles or situations I find myself in that involve my environment.
I found that it was harder to pay attention to the longer videos during class due to the fact that I was running around all day at work and rushing over to class from Fort Myers. On the other hand, the documentaries were good because I enjoyed The Inconvenient Truth and by Food, Inc. The two visuals did a great job uncovering threats that students might not have been aware of before.
I think our field trip of the Western Everglades was the biggest push for class interaction. It was enjoyable being able to canoe around the area and I know there were students that never did that before.
Overall, Colloquium as a whole was a great experience and I feel more aware about the environment and what I can do as a member of the earth community. From now on, I will try to limit my carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. I know Greg and I plan on volunteering as much as we can and we enjoyed the service learning experience as well.

20120617-193255.jpg

Last Child in the Woods

20120606-204338.jpgWhen I was younger, I lived in the suburbs of Long Island. Our days were spent at school and our after school time was spent outside. I got involved in sports at the age of 4 when I started tee ball and soccer. After my first season of tee ball, I decided it wasn’t for me. I stuck with soccer and played all year round-the fall and spring on teams, winter in the indoor league, and then summer just for fun until it was time to start training for tryouts. If I wasn’t at school or at the park playing, I spent hours in front of my house training with my brothers. On hot days, I enjoyed resting under the maple tree that split up my yard with my next door neighbor. It was the only tree near our yard and it happened to be our first base for kickball. (Our mailbox was home plate, the telephone pole was second, and the edge of our driveway was third.) We spent plenty of summers playing kickball with either my parents, cousins, or the neighborhood kids. In the suburbs, finding friends to play with was extremely easy. Everyday in our three block radius we had at least 10 kids to play with and teams were made quickly for any sport. We all had pools so we took turns with whose house we were going to swim at. I also spent hours playing basketball with the hoop we had right in front of the house by the telephone pole. My neighbor across the street had four wheelers and dirt bikes for when they went to Upstate NY, but he would take me every now and again through the streets even though it was illegal.
I remember when my old next door neighbors moved and the new neighbors cut down the maple tree. I was surprised about how much that devastated me. It took away a lot of shade and it felt as though they took away something from my childhood. The only benefit was the fact that there was going to be a lot less leaves to rake during the fall.
As a kid, my favorite activity was riding my bike around the neighborhood. I wish I had never stopped. I would leave my house and I would ride around my neighborhood from early morning until after dark. In the summers, my parents hardly had to drive us anywhere. I could make it to my cousins’ house, my friends’ house, or any parks around town on my own. There were times I rode my bike to stores to buy CDs or clothes or supermarkets for lunch. It felt like I was on my own time throughout the summers- I just had to make sure I was back for dinner. Summer was my favorite time for dinner with the family because we tried to make sure we were outside on the deck almost every night. Summers were fun because at night the bats would fly out of the trees and we would run around catching lightning bugs.

Sometimes we would hang out at the park and go into the woods. It felt as though it was dangerous and unfamiliar. Come to think of it, we wouldn’t really tell our parents that we went into the woods. The trails were well treaded, but they led to bonfire sites and forts with tires, TVs, condoms, needles, baggies, etc.
My mom had me in girl scouts and it mainly consisted of crafts inside the school cafeteria. The one trip I remember taking was a trip to the local gardening store that had a petting zoo in the back. The petting zoo consisted of probably three animals at the most that I was able to hand feed. I never went camping in the four years I did girl scouts, but I went numerous times with my mom and brothers through the boy scouts.
What my town lacked in nature, my parents tried to make up for in vacations. We took an annual vacation to the Catskill Mountains for camping with 20 of our closest family members. It was fun hiking through the woods and exploring.

20120606-210702.jpgIt was completely different from anything we did on Long Island and it was exciting to see the different bears, birds, deer, fish, etc.

20120606-210441.jpg It provided us with a more expansive natural environment. However, when I moved to Florida it was a culture shock since my first friend was from Arcadia and lived on a farm. She showed me pictures of her family and I realized how different our family photo albums were. Not only were her pictures of bull riding and barrel racing, she had pictures of the family hunting and preparing deer to eat. I realized although I’ve gone camping, I’ve never hunted for my own food or even experienced anything like that before.

It’s funny to me that I’m very familiar with flat land like Long Island and Florida and if it wasn’t for traveling I wouldn’t have known anything else. It surprised me how excited I was recently to drive through the mountains and trees in the Fall while driving through upstate NY to get to Niagara Falls. It was equally exciting to experience the snow topped mountains in Colorado. Growing up in the suburbs, I feel as though I had a limited view of nature, but I was always outside. Not until moving to Florida, did I realize how secluded from wildlife I was. I think it’s the change of environment that made me see how nature comes to us in many different ways.

Silent Spring

When I was heading home from work today, I noticed a pest control truck at the traffic light. It had an animated picture of a “pest” on the side. Oddly, it made me laugh because it reminded me of a Pixar movie where they add vehicles in the midst of traffic or in the middle of town.

20120601-193526.jpg They include trucks in which kids can relate to like the pizza delivery,pest control or post office truck. I thought about how friendly and safe it made the pesticide control seem to be.

After reading Rachel Carson’s excerpt, I thought even more about the truck. I couldn’t help but to think about where it was going and what it was going to spray. I thought about the different chemicals that are sprayed and the numerous amounts of fertilizers the town puts throughout the city parks. I then thought about all the kids and people that go sometime after the spray and play in the area. I thought about the 500 new chemicals that are introduced a year into the United States from labs. It made me think of the Summer in New York where they would schedule pesticide sprays and we would be forewarned to stay off the streets at night. Furthermore, we were told to turn off the air conditioning and to close our windows. It seemed simple and harmless to do, but looking back it seems absurd that we almost seemingly go to war with the mosquitoes- like an air raid. I started questioning whether or not it was a good thing that they sprayed. Rachel Carson stated,

“disease carrying insects become important where human beings are crowded..then control of some sort becomes necessary.”

How necessary was the spraying in Long Island?
Rachel Carson discusses that it seems to do more harm than good to try to control the insect population. I looked online and found an article that discussed the negatives following those events in the Northeast during the West Nile Scare Coincidentally, the article happened to thank Rachel Carson’s book for the concept of the paper. It further exemplified the need for the term of “biocide” to replace the word pesticide. Who would’ve thought that the business of the lobsterman of the Long Island Sound would’ve been affected while we sat in our homes?

It’s crazy to think of the unforeseen long term affects of our actions. It’s like Albert Schweitzer said, “Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation.” The public looks for the government to solve problems. We hear on the news about a disease- carrying insect and go into a hysteria. We trust the government to take our safety in their hands, but are they just looking for an easy solution without thinking of the consequences? I’m seeing things differently and questioning everything.

Food, Inc

Life is all about choices. From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep at night we are constantly making decisions. One of the choices we have to make every day is what we are going to eat. In fact, we make that choice multiple times a day. The choices an individual has are when he/she will eat, what will he/she eat, and how much will he/she eat? Cultures have a strong affect on these decisions. For example, Europeans tend to have lunch as their main meal where as Americans tend to eat the most at dinner. Furthermore, Americans are used to three meals a day whereas dietitians suggest eating six small meals a day.
As much as the documentary Food, Inc frightened me, it also exemplified how important our decisions are of what we put in our body. To me, I live by the thought of “if it seems to good to be true, than it is.” I refuse to buy frozen vegetables and meals that are convenient due to the fact they tend to be high in sodium, I don’t buy fat free free for the same reason, and I don’t eat or drink products that are sugar-free due to the questioning of what the company is putting in replace of the sugar. My choices in the supermarkets used to be solely what’s buy one get one this week and now I’ve tried to balance it out with a good amount of vegetables and fruit then buy the snacks that are buy one get one. I’ve also made the choice to work full time twice a week-Saturday and Sunday. This decision helps me eat right and get enough daily exercise by having the luxury of five free days.

20120601-203101.jpg If my day becomes jam packed and I need to eat fast, I try to keep in mind healthier and organic fast food compared to the convenient McDonald’s or Burger King stops.To me, water is a must and soda is a never. However, I have my indulgences too. That’s when finding a balance comes into play.

I feel fortunate and happy with my decisions, but I know not everyone is as fortunate. I don’t have a family to feed and I make a good living for being single. In a chaotic world, it is easy to make the wrong choices. People feel obligated and forced into their decisions or they just don’t know any better. Growing up in an active family of five, I can see this. My parents worked late and often and my brothers and I were busy with school and sports. It was easy to pick something up at the end of the day or it was easy to turn to the processed meals that lasted forever in cabinets. Fresh wasn’t common when I think back on it. The family in the documentary solidified this to me. The fact the mother didn’t know that the food that she was feeding her family from Fast food chains was unhealthy is beyond me, but I can sympathize with her.

20120601-202910.jpgFast food means “quick and cheap.” However, their decision to live like that was bound to get back at them in the long run with the introduction of diabetes in both the father and the daughter. The money they “saved” was only going to get them in the end when it came to medical bills in the future. This will negatively affect them later in the future when they are running low on money because of what they have left after medical payments.

I think it’s crazy to think about how much of an affect on our decisions food companies have. Food production is driven on what makes the quickest buck in the least amount of time. It’s sickening to think of how much of an influence food industries have on the White House and popular culture. The fact that Oprah Winfrey was sued by the meat industry and consequently spent a million dollars for saying that she would never eat a burger again after Mad Cow Disease, is crazy. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? On a smaller less popularized level, its sad to think that the mother of a boy who died of E. Coli is scared to talk about how her eating choices have changed post death due to legal ramifications. I think the Kevin’s Law is a necessity and I think the public has a right to know what’s in their food. I also think there is false security in the FDA when their regulations on food production is dwindling. It’s almost as the FDA is looking the other way when there were 50,000 inspections in 1972 and in 2006 they conducted 9,164. The food industry should not be a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” industry.

ECHO

From the moment I checked out the website, I knew there was going to be a lot to see while walking around ECHO. One of the most interesting things to me was the fact that the basis of the nursery is to research methods for a self sustaining farm. It was cool to see the interns that lived on the farm working and to know that their newly taught methods would be utilized to help struggling

20120601-201000.jpgcountries. One of the first systems was the system in which they fed the ducks and the ducks’ waste fell through the cages to feed the tilapia underneath. This simple concept now provided a farmer duck meat, eggs, and fish to eat.
As we continued on through the nursery, it was amazing to see the different plants and trees that could help treat people medically and provide them food. This is important with the rising costs of medicine and the increase of malnourishment throughout the world. The three plants that interested me most were the Chaya plant, Moringa, and the Miracle Berries.
When I looked up Chaya, it was impressive to see that MexConnect.com listed three places where it could be found in the United States-ECHO in Fort Myers as one. The Chaya plant further illustrated why it is important to learn about the different plants in the area. When eaten raw, Chaya will turn into cyanide within the body- a mistake, no one would want to make. However, once cooked it can be eaten like spinach and it is full of nutrients and antioxidants.
Next, the Moringa plant, also known as the “Miracle Plant,” has multiple medical purposes and on Livestrong’s website, it mentioned specifically that the plant could be used to treat 300 different diseases. Also, the seeds of the plant can be used to purify water when left in the sun for several hours.

20120601-201306.jpgThe plant itself is given to pregnant woman and children that are malnourished. It’s sick to hear of stories where the kids are so hungry that their mothers feed them mud pies. Stories like that, truly make me grateful for what I have. Furthermore, to think that there are natural plants like the Moringa that are so full of nutrients it’s hard to justify the 500 new manmade chemicals Rachel Carson speaks of in the Silent Spring. Why are humans so quick to resort to unnatural synthesized medicines when there are plants that could do so much for both humans and the planet?

I was also impressed to see the Miracle berries planted because recently I read an article about how they were given to Cancer patients. My boyfriend and I decided to give them to his grandfather in hopes it would help his appetite.When a person is so sick, it is good to know there are natural remedies that can help them stand the taste of food enough so they can get nourishment to keep whatever strength they have.
As a side note, Bill McKibben states in Eaarth, “In North America, the center of the mechanized megafarm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that according to its census smaller farms produce far more food per acre, whether you measure that output in tons, calories, or dollars.” Between those type of statistics and all the scientific evidence that demonstrate how plants can benefit humans, I can’t see why we don’t start moving towards more farms like ECHO and move away from pesticides, herbicides, synthesized medications and large farms. It’s hard to imagine that it can’t be done since ECHO even demonstrated how someone can use boots and carpets to sustain a system to grow food. In all, ECHO showed me that small time farming with diversity gives hope to a more sustainable future.

20120601-202409.jpg