An Introduction

Hello and welcome to The Green Room, a show which is broadcast biweekly from WESU Middletown 88.1 FM, Wesleyan University's community radio project. The show is written and produced by me, Sam Bernhardt, a student at Wesleyan. The show's first season was based around a collaborative project between WESU and Professor Suzanne O'Connell, of the Wesleyan Earth and Environmental Science department, in which students of Professor O'Connell's Environmental Justice class created their own radio segments, which were aired as part of the show and which you can find on the show's iTune's U page.

However, this is only the start. For our next season, starting in September, I hope to expand this collaboration between WESU and Wesleyan's classes even further, giving the microphone to a whole range of classes in Wesleyan's newly created Environmental Studies department.

This blog is partly to provide another venue for listening to the show (in addition to itunes U and live streaming from and, of course, traditional listening on 88.1 FM if you are in the middle-northern connecticut area). More generally, it acts as another medium for communicating information, especially as a way to keep up with the environmental newsing while I am away from WESU for the summer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Environment?

What is the environment? This is a really important question in defining the environmental movement. How we view the environment dictates what we want to do with it.

Richard Lewontin, a biologist at Harvard, writes about the dialectical relationship between organism and environment. The distinction between these two is imaginary. In many ways, organisms make their environment, and the environment makes the organisms in it.

Phenotypic plasticity is the interaction of genes and the environment in the development of an organism. This phenomenon is most blatant in plants. A plant will adjust its body based on environmental conditions. For example, if there is a drought, a plant can grow a more developed root system. This reflexivity of the organism to its surrounding conditions can be seen across almost the entire tree of life, a situation which refutes ideas that an organisms fate lies in its genes. Genes are important, but so is the environment that the organism develops in.

Similarly, an organism creates its environment. Some organisms choose to utilize different aspects of their surroundings in different ways. Two species of caterpillar may live extremely close to each other, but if they spend their entire life cycles on different plants, they are effectively in different environments. We create our own environment without even doing anything- all animals develop a layer of warm air around their bodies, effectively shielding them from harsh external conditions.

What this means is that humans aren't alone in altering our environment, we only stand out in the extent to which we alter it. Furthermore, we are wrong when we say that we are protecting the environment. Which environment? The environment never existed, it was a figment of our imagination.

What are we protecting when we fight for the environment? Many climate change models take into account the drastic effects that temperature increases will have on life. Its true: if we continue at this pace, we will lose an enormous component of the world's biodiversity, putting what we term historic "mass extinctions" to shame.

However, we are not fighting for life. Humanity could not destroy life on earth if we tried. Life is more powerful than any human forces. Rather, what we are fighting for is life as we know it. As living creatures ourselves, humans depend on the world's ecosystems. If climate change continues uninterrupted, most of these ecosystems will collapse.

What we fight for is not life or the environment, its this life and this environment. Does this take away from our mission? I don't think so. This puts the fight on terms that implicate us as among the affected by climate change. If the rest of Earth's biodiversity disappears, we disappear to. Lief will go on without the human species. So, lets do it. Lets conserve our environment. Our future depends on it.

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