Tag Archives: Nature

Eco-Angst vs. Eco-Pleasure

Today in a New York Times blog, Daniel Goleman wrote a post called, “The Age of Eco-Angst

He defines it as:

“The moment a new bit of unpleasant ecological information about some product or other plunges us into a moment (or more) of despair at the planet’s condition and the fragility of our place on it.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have felt this Eco-Angst of which Goleman speaks. It seems like the more I learn about the incredible, vast, diverse awesomeness of the earth, I simultaneously learn exponentially more reasons humans are destroying that very “awesomeness” in some way. Educationally speaking, it makes it hard to go about college, “business as usual” when daily I’m faced with ideas of extinction, disrepair, and the literal demise of the earth. It’s hard to enjoy your dinner when you’ve been considering the malnourishment of millions of people all morning.

Anyway, today I gained some insight on how to deal with this dissonance. Allow me to elaborate.

  • First, I think it is important, even though it is hard, to be educated, aware, and prepared. This takes time and often a bit more money, but in the end, I think it’s worth it.
  • Second, I realized how important it is to specialize our efforts and knowledge. While I would love to solve (or simply contribute my help to) all the problems I am presented, that is obviously impossible and my time and mental energy would be wasted in trying. In ecology lab today, our conversation, while stimulating, bounced around from prairie grasses, to recycling, to ocean biodiversity loss… it showed me that the best I can do right now is to become inspired by all these things, but also focus my efforts to becoming an expert in one area and dedicate my time to that. Then, I can try my very best to live sustainably in other areas of my life. (This has been a hard lesson for me since I started learning more about the state of our environment.) The other day I read something that I liked pertaining to this (I wish I knew who said it):

    “Let each mend one, and the world is mended.”

  • Finally, I have found that in order to ward off depression and to be able to get out of bed in the morning, we must learn to fully and daily, enjoy a sense of eco-pleasure. That is, to appreciate the natural environments we’re surrounded by and value the assets the earth has given us. Whether a sunset, shady tree, breeze off the lake, or blue sky, I know even people unconcerned with the environment can have much to say about how great the outdoors is. Today in lab, our group went to the Pheasant Branch Creek Conservatory to learn about natural systems. Although it was a windy, cold, and misty day, I thoroughly enjoyed being in nature and witnessing our grad students, Samuel and Lisa, share their knowledge about the history and environmental importance of the area where we stood. I sometimes find it so hard to sit still in a padded lecture-hall chair in a well-heated building, but I would have stayed out there standing in the cold for hours listening to them. I’m rambling now, but today made me realize that even though there is so much to be scared about pertaining to climate change, it is only through gaining a deeper appreciation and taking the time to notice that I will be motivated to act.

Anyway, on the topic of doing as best as we can in all other aspects of our lives, Goleman focuses on our purchases (which is a fairly encompassing topic). He (and I!) suggests www.goodguide.com to find the most eco-friendly (but also beneficial pertaining to employee treatment, product testing, waste disposal, etc.) products. This is another way to be more aware and make better choices if you have the means to do so. In the article he says:

“It’s not that no one cared — no one really knew. Industrial ecology has only come of age in the last decade or two, and has yet to make its findings widely known. But as ecological transparency comes to the aisles of stores near you and me, it opens an opportunity for us to vote with our dollars with unprecedented precision for better ecological impacts.”

So, here’s to:

-Combating ignorance

-Taking time to take pleasure


-Learning, learning, learning in order to specialize and really do our part (no matter how big or small).

I’m excited.


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Peat on my Feet

After spending last semester in DC, I wrote off the potential of enjoying learning while in Madison.

I’m glad to say, however, today proved that judgment incorrect.

I actually can’t believe all the things that happened today fit into one day!

8:00 am- I woke up to go for a run. In preparation for my sister’s wedding in June, she and I have dedicated ourselves to doing wonderful things for our bodies to instill greater energy, self confidence, health and… sexiness? Anyway, we set a tentative goal to run a half marathon together sometime in the future (maybe this summer?). So, this morning was the official kickoff to my official training. It was a beautiful morning, so… so far, so good! (Hopefully I’ll be able to say the same for a few more days at least!)

11 am- Had Food, Culture and Society class. Today we discussed the difference between being on a diet, being skinny, and being healthy. We pondered what pleasure means when it pertains to food and if it can be applied to “bad” things such as fast food and gummy worms. Pollan mentions the French Paradox- the fact that the French are much healthier (live longer, less heart disease, less obesity), but eat foods higher in fat and cholesterol and drink more than we. We discussed how this may be and what ways the US may need to rethink eating in order to accomplish a similar environment. (Or healthier, whether alike their eating habits or not.)

1:20 pm- Met in Science Hall to leave for my first Environmental Ecology lab. It was so great! We drove a trusty UW Biodiesel bus to our professor Cal DeWitt‘s house which is stationed on the edge of a huge wetland. We learned about the land, the town, noted various species, enjoyed the BEAUTIFUL day, got our toes and hands dirty, and learned about peat!

Peat is found under wetlands and is carbon-dense, lacks oxygen, and absorbs water. We dug some up (it goes down 100 feet in this location) and the texture reminded me of Play-Dough. I tried to press it into a diamond, but no luck so far.

Anyway, I had a great time on our “field trip” and I’m looking forward to learning a lot in that class. It was nice to take a break from academia and walk through the wetlands barefoot, enjoy some fresh tomatoes and apples from Cal’s yard (and even eat some of his wife’s delicious banana bread), all while being “in class.” Our TA, Samuel, made a very interesting point about calling things Natural or not. He asked if the mowed, straight drumlin we were standing on (which facilitated the functioning of the telephone poles) was natural. We said no since it had to be created and maintained by humans to exist. Then he asked, if we were to see a beaver dam, if that would be considered natural, and we said yes.

He warned about being so quick to judge. He reasoned that humans must consider ourselves merely a species on the earth just as are beavers who create dams. This means the artificial drumlin housing the telephone poles must be considered natural, since it was created by just another species inhabiting the earth. He explained the danger in automatically assuming that humans are an exception to the rule and can somehow be considered “above” other species. He stated his belief that we’re all living together on this planet, so although humans have learned how to use science and tools, we still own the earth in the same way other animals do and have the same ability to affect the land.


4:30 pm- quick stop at home before another class.

6-9 pm- First session of, “Freedom and Belonging: A rhetorical overview of American historical events from the Civil War through WWI.”

One word: INTIMIDATING. Lots of grad students, big words, readings, papers, more readings, and more papers. As I read through the syllabus I bid adieu to the Badger Herald Staff-Writing idea. Sad.

10-11 pm: Made mom’s veggie enchiladas and Spanish rice while the ingredients were still fresh from the farmers’ market!

11:30 pm- Visited with friends and ate enchiladas.  (Way late dinnertime)

and… now I’m exhausted.

Anyway, I’m both excited and overwhelmed by what I’m sure to learn this semester. Should have my work cut out for me though!



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