Posted by: BRiTTNEY MaTT | December 8, 2011

Brittney matt blog 4

Japan is notorious for its whaling industry, which not only nourishes the Japanese, but also sustains their economy and fuels the global success of the marine park entertainment industry. “During the meeting of the International Whaling Commission each year, considerable outrage is directed towards Japan by anti-whaling countries and environmental non-governmental organizations for its desire to hunt and eat whales” (Catalinac & Chan, 1). Opponents of whaling argue that the Japanese engage in an unethical, inhumane practice, but there is little attention given to the sacred cultural traditions that influence whale hunting in Japan.
In the Japanese culture, the value of fish dates back to the worship of Ebisu – one of the seven deities of good fortune that sometimes takes the shape of a whale. There is a ceremony that celebrates the revival of a killed animal. The whales are praised for their suffering and are then “sent home,” where they will be able to return to their ancestors, only to be revived later. According to Japanese folklorist Nelly Naumann, the ceremony of the First Fish consists of consuming the caught animal with company and gathering the remaining bones to throw them back into the water. “The entire ritual is designed to honor the [immortal] fish” (Naumann, 10).
The whale is a deity in the Japanese culture, which is sacrificed, worshipped and celebrated. I argue that Japan should have the right to whale, because whaling has roots in the Japanese cultural traditions, which is integrated into their values and identity. Additionally, Japan should receive respect for their differences in customs and cuisine.
We must analyze the Japanese mythology to gain insight on the cultural beliefs attached to whaling and the god Ebisu. The Britannica encyclopedia provides extensive information on the Japanese god Ebisu:

Ebisu, in Japanese mythology, is one of the Shichi-fuku-jin (“Seven Gods of Luck”), the patron of fishermen and tradesmen. He is depicted as a fat, bearded, smiling fisherman often carrying a rod in one hand and a tai (sea bream—i.e., a red snapper—symbolic of good luck) in the other. He is a popular Shintō deity, and his image is frequently seen in shops and places of commerce

If Ebisu represents good fortune, and he is the patron of fishermen, it makes sense that the Japanese will value this god and certainly hold onto particular beliefs to justify their rituals of killing and releasing of the spirit to be reborn. However, what about today’s whale hunting practice? Why might the Japanese have a whale cult, but kill the very being they worship?

In some Shintō shrines Ebisu is identified with Hiru-ko (usually translated “Leech Child”), the misconceived firstborn son of the creator couple Izanami and Izanagi, who considered him inadequate and set him adrift in a reed boat. Ebisu is also sometimes associated with Koto-shiro-nushi (“Sign-Master”), a son of the mythological hero Ōkuninushi and associated with happiness because of the role he once played as a pacifier in a conflict between earthly and heavenly deities. (Britannica)

It is evident that in some Japanese cultures, the god Ebisu is linked to inadequacy, which may explain some of the desire to release the whale bones into the sea, and perhaps this is done to satisfy the mythological story where Hiru-ko is set adrift in the reed boat. I think that being reborn in a different form in the next life is central to the belief of reincarnation, and perhaps the Japanese hope to give a new, better life to the whales they kill. Maybe this is all optimism…


Philip Hoare speaks of whaling as America’s initial  industry, referring to whaling vessels as “nineteenth-century oil [tankers],” in The Whale (132). He asserts that “[the] industrial fortunes of America were built on the whale fishery” (124). I sought to discover to what extent this industry impacted our North Florida shores.

I couldn’t find any information on our Jacksonville’s Mayport fisheries regarding whaling, as they bring in mostly shrimp, but I did come across an interesting NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) article entitled “History of Whaling In and Near North Carolina.” The article has a section regarding whaling in adjacent and nearby states, including Florida. The NOAA “found no evidence of an organized whale fishery on the Florida coast,” though they did note how “pelagic whalers […] occasionally killed right whales near [Fernandina] in the late 19th century” (22). This came as a relief to me, in part because I have seen right whales off the coast of Crescent Beach and they are the most majestic, peaceful creatures that I have ever seen. North Carolina and other Eastern states have a particularly rich history in whaling though.

The article talks about how “Florida is the only southeastern state with evidence of an aboriginal ( whale fishery” but informs us that “North Carolina is the only state south of New Jersey known to have had a long and well established shore whaling industry” (1). It is indeed unsettling to know that to know that whaling went on so close to where I call home. NOAA found little evidence of whaling in these areas after 1916.

According to the article, oil from the whales caught was sold anywhere from $0.25 to $1.05 per gallon in the late 19th to early 20th century (20). This made me think of Hoare and his assertion that whaling was America’s first oil industry. The whalers in the these areas were motivated by money, just as the early New England whalers were. This is where whaling took a turn for the worst, in my opinion. Pelagic whalers hunted whales for resources and food to help them survive, not for a profit.

Hoare makes a compelling argument about our nation and modern society as a whole. Our focus, perhaps since the onset of whaling, is inescapably monetary and material. We see a profitable venture and run it into the ground. It is a polarizing canon when these ventures destroy living organisms. Where will we stop? We can breed more cows and chickens, but not whales, the most mystic of all creatures; sentient and social. Current whaling efforts operate under the veil of tradition and assert how they use the whales as a food source, but killing these creatures to sell their meat as a delicacy doesn’t cut it.

Our current principle resource is fossil fuel. Oil companies will do whatever it takes, drill wherever they please to tap it. It is a different venture than whaling, in that we are not killing live, intelligent creatures, but we are still destroying a living thing: our planet.

Perhaps early whaling efforts did lead to, or at least influence our current oil industry. Both show our uniquely human desire for wealth though. We will kill and destroy our planet and its inhabitants for profit.


*NOAA Technical Report NMFS 65, History of Whaling In and Near North Carolina, Randall R. Reeves, Edward Mitchell. March 1988.

Posted by: lovinguninhibited | November 27, 2011

Blogs 3 and 4

This summer, while my dad and I were waiting for food we had ordered from Ronnie’s Wings, we noticed a pier within walking distance. My dad was visiting from Washington and we did not have the chance to go to the beach yet, and he wanted to explore some of Florida’s more natural settings. I dare to call this area natural mainly because his Florida experience, up to this point, involved spending time inside my sister’s house playing with my niece. I will also admit that at that point in time, I did consider that to be somewhat of a “venture”in to nature, after all, when my mom would tell my sister and me to “go play outside” we were stuck within the constraints of our backyard. In the summertime, we would “play pretend,” in our yard and imagine that we were at ‘Camp Crystal Caverns,’ but it was not until my dad’s girlfriend took us camping in the Appalachian mountains when we were in middle school that we began to have any real insight about nature. Even then, however, our “venture” out into the “wild” was significantly tamer than camping in a forest uninhabited with other people and commercialism would have been.  Building our own fire and cooking Jiffy Pop over it, seems like a bold and exciting way of reinforcing our desire to be able to survive in nature without technology and luxuries. In reality, though, even Jiffy Pop is quite the luxury, and I think it to be highly improbable that any of us that stayed in that campsite that weekend would even remotely have the skills to survive in nature for very long without any of these domestic amenities. This goes back to what Gaddard was talking about when he quoted Thoreau (who had just finished climbing Mount Ktaadn), It is difficult to conceive of a region uninhabited by man. We habitually presume his presence and influence everywhere. And yet we have not seen pure Nature, unless we have seen her vast, and drear, and inhuman… Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful. This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night” (66). I think that humanity’s disrespect for nature is certainly related to ego, as this quote points to, but also prevalent because we don’t fully know or understand REAL, true nature.

At that dock with my dad, we ran into a family and talked with the father. He was there teaching his younger son to fish, and while we were there his son caught a smaller fish and was incredibly excited. At first, I was caught up in the sweetness of this bonding father/son moment, and the adorableness of this young boy who was so proud of himself for finally catching a fish. However, his dad then had him toss the fish back and a few minutes later the fish was floating at the top of the water. After seeing that, I only felt sad that this creature was killed for such a frivolous purpose.

When I got home I decided to research proper ways to ‘catch and release’ a fish, and I strongly believe that this is something everyone should be required to learn if they are going to fish for sport. According to William D. Anderson, you must be careful with the angle you remove the hook, and you should also use pliers. Additionally, if the hook is in the gut of the fish it is best to cut off as much of the hook as you can, and release the fish with some of the hook left into its body. This entire article talks about how to ‘catch and release’ properly in order to preserve the sport of fishing, but it did not leave me convinced that the sport of fishing should even be allowed. I’ve talk a lot of about the wrongness and immorality of treating animals poorly for human amusement, in previous blogs and at this point I think I have made my views clear on the issue. I think it is completely wrong to fish for sport. It is one thing if it is for survival, but as Earle points out in her TED talk from The World is Blue, even fish caught for “survival,” or I suppose it might be more accurate to say, the fish caught for the purpose of consumption, are largely wasted. She specifically states that, “The next time you dine on sushi or sashimi or a swordfish steak or shrimp cocktail, or whatever wildlife from the ocean you happen to enjoy, think of the real cost. For every pound that goes to the market, more than 10 pounds– even 100 pounds– may be thrown away as bycatch. This is the consequence of not knowing what we can take out of the sea” (268). It seems as though if mainstream views on catching fish are so warped, even in regard to consumption, it would be unlikely that this father-son duo would’ve handled their fishing day any differently. Actions of society, overall, are exactly why we are at the point where we are looking for alternatives for harvesting fish.

More than ever, I am understanding the desperate need for Aquaculture, which is something I learned a lot more about when I went to Dr. Ahearn’s lecture. He made a lot of good points about the benefits and necessities of aquaculture in the future. For instance, he explained that our human population is rapidly expanding and because of this we need to be thinking about how we are going to feed everyone and avoid running out of resources. He noted that Aquaculture would also help to prevent extinction of certain species of fish, however, fish that are harvested by way of Aquaculture are done so in tanks, or large blocked off areas where they swim around in circles and then are eventually harvested to eat. Much like the animals at the zoo, I wonder, if this is truly a better alternative to their extinction. It is certainly not much of a life, and Dr. Ahearn did point out that there is a different taste to fish that are harvested this way, in comparison to the ones that develop in the wild. This also brings up issues to me about what else is genetically different about them. In reality, we are not truly preserving a species, if already their TASTE is different, THEY are DIFFERENT overall. In reality, we are a long way from correcting our astonishing disregard for all of the aspects of nature. But aside from the efforts of Aquaculture, it seems like a pretty clear way to work toward the goal of preserving all species of fish, would be to banish fishing as a sport. At least then, the lives of many fish would not be cut short for frivolous purposes, and after that we can examine how to improve further. Maybe even someday it will be more common for people to be vegetarians or vegans, although I suspect that will only happen once we foolishly run out of our meaty resources.


Posted by: jasminestanley | November 27, 2011

“Are you from Jacksonville?”

“Are you from Jacksonville?”

It’s such a simple question, yet almost every single person from the ages of 18 to 25 seem to automatically cringe when we are asked it.

For some of us the answer is a simple yes. Yes, we were born here and yes, we are still here for college.

For others it’s a bit more complicated and emotionally heavy.Yes, we were born here and yes, we are still here for college BUT WE DIDN’T WANT TO BE/ will move as soon as we graduate.

Then there’s those who like me have an even more complicated answer. No, I was not born here. Yes, I started school here. Then I left. Then I had to come back. No, I did not want to come back. Yes, I graduated from high school here. Yes, I decided to stay for college. No, I plan to move after graduation.

That has been my answer for a few years now, said rather automatically and as monotone as possible.

It wasn’t until I was a student in Dr. Closmann’s Environmental Oral History class that I really started to think about how beginning my life in Jacksonville and out of serendipity coming back to and staying here for college shaped who I was and what identities I was proud of. We learned about Southern environmental history, taking into account the diversity of the South’s population: Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans. We examined how these cultural ideas about land use shaped environmental policy in the South.

But the topic of having pride of being a Southerner wasn’t raised until I participated in an oral history interview with Ron Littlepage, an editorial columnist of the Florida Times-Union who is also an advocate for the environment. He asked me that question and made me really break down and analyze my knee-jerk reactions to it.

How exactly does one qualify themselves as a Southerner, if they weren’t born here, but one of their parents was raised in the South? Do you count as a Southerner through blood, language, food customs, or the years that you have actually lived in a place? Especially if you were born/also lived in the North, are you still considered “too Yankee”?

For people who grew up here, what is behind your knee jerk? Do you equivalent Jacksonville or the South with the idea of “the redneck”, the unsophisticated/racist/ economically poor stereotype? Are you reluctance to be placed into the same Southerner category as those so called Sons of the Confederacy or the Southern Belles?

Jacksonville as a physical and cultural place is a contradiction. On one hand, it is the largest metro area in the country, yet it operates as a small town. We just voted in an African-American mayor, yet in certain areas racial politics still feel the same. We are known for our environment to outside tourists, yet locals are ignorant of their own natural riches.We know the dangers that face our city, but we don’t try to change our habits.

What can we do to make the knee jerk less and the heart beat proud enough to proclaim ourselves as Southerners from Jacksonville, FL? What can we do to feel pride for where we live and where we come from?

Posted by: coyotefeets | November 22, 2011

Frozen Planet

Frozen Planet

Just wanted to share this!

“Lying belly-down on Antarctic sea-ice at the edge of a small hole, a cameraman gets a shock when a killer whale mother and calf explode out of the water in front of his face. The only way to get underwater images was to hand-hold a camera on a pole in the icy water, wait and hope. As the orcas came up to breathe they would eye-ball us with curiosity and spray oily breath all over our faces. To be on your stomach precariously perched on the edge of the ice with a killer whale staring down at you was simultaneously terrifying and awe-inspiring. Ross Sea, Antarctica.”

Picture: BBC/Chadden Hunter

Posted by: coyotefeets | November 22, 2011

Earth Medicine: Research into the Therapeutic Use of Psilocybin

Since the psychedelic raging of the 1960’s, psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” and other drugs like it have been largely demonized or, at best, ignored.  Promoted by people like Timothy Leary, who coined the slogan “turn on, tune in, drop out,” Huston Smith, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), and even Allen Ginsberg, hallucinogenic drugs have earned themselves a bad rap as nothing but scary, dangerous toys and ultimately fast track tools for total burnout.  Today psilocybin mushrooms are illegal under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that, among other things, it has a high potential for abuse and currently no accepted medical use in the United States.  However, recently scientists have begun to challenge that second assertion, and as a result have won permission to resume studying psilocybin’s potential for treating mental illnesses like depression (a John Hopkins medical school study looks specifically at treating depression in terminally ill patients), obsessive compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety (again in cancer patients), post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction to drugs and alcohol, an area in which another, similar psychoactive drug called ibogaine has also proven successful.

A recent study by Dr. Roland Griffiths at John Hopkins medical school has shown that psilocybin use may have “lasting medical and spiritual benefits.”  In the study, researchers were able to pin down the “sweet spot” where they are able to “optimize the positive persistent effects,” as well as eliminate the possibility of a traumatic trip by avoiding some of the fear and anxiety.  Eighteen healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 70 participated in five eight-hour long trip sessions, and were given either varying doses of psilocybin or a placebo.  Almost all of the volunteers were college graduates, 78% regularly attended religious activities, and all were interested in coming away with a spiritual experience.

The participants were placed in a “living room-like setting” that had been designed to be “calm, comfortable, and attractive.”  As any experienced psychonaut is aware, set and setting are an extremely important part of tripping.  Experimenters and review boards have developed standard guidelines for this reason, setting up comfortable environments with expert monitors who are equipped to handle adverse reactions to the drug.  In Dr. Griffiths’ most recent study, volunteers listened to classical music through headphones, wore eyeshades, and were directed to “direct their attention inward” for the duration of their trip.  Each person was also accompanied by a “monitor” and “assistant monitor,” both of whom were familiar with people under the psychoactive influence and were able to be empathetic and supportive.  Before being dosed, the participants were all made familiar with their monitors.

Afterwards, the participants reported leaving with “the sense that they understood themselves and others better,” and “therefore had greater compassion and patience.”  “There is more empathy,” one volunteer said, “a greater understanding of people and understanding their difficulties and less judgment.  Less judging of myself too.”  Another claimed to have developed a “better interaction with close friends and family and with acquaintances and strangers.”  The same participant also reported a dramatic drop in their alcohol usage.  Lasting change was observed in the facet of the personality we refer to as “openness,” which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas, and general broad- or open-mindedness.  These changes, measured on a “widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory,” where greater than changes seen in healthy adults over years of life experiences.

In a previous study – one of his first – Dr. Griffith gave psilocybin to 36 people with no serious physical or emotional issues, and found that the drug could induce what his subjects described as “a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects.”  In that study, none of the volunteers had had any previous experience with hallucinogens, and were even unsure of the identity of the administered drug (the subjects were given either a placebo, psilocybin, or another drug like Ritalin, nicotine, caffeine, or an amphetamine, and were not informed beforehand which one it would be).  Although some of the participants did experience anxiety during their respective trips, it was typically short-lived, and no one reported any serious negative effects.  Two months later, the psilocybin group reported “significantly more improvements in their general feelings and behavior,” as opposed to the other groups.  Fourteen months later, the psilocybin patients once again expressed more general satisfaction with their lives, and 94% rated the experience as one of the five most meaningful events of their lives.  39% of the participants claimed it as the most meaningful event of their lives.

Clark Martin, a retired clinical psychologist, was one of the participants in one of Dr. Griffiths’ studies: at 65, diagnosed with kidney cancer, he was suffering through chemotherapy, failing in counseling, and receiving zero relief from the antidepressants he was prescribed for his depression.  Dr. Griffiths’ study was his first psychedelic experience, and he now credits it with helping him overcome his depression, as well as “profoundly transforming his relationships.”  Like the above-mentioned subjects, Martin ranks the experiment among the most meaningful events of his life.  “It was a whole personality shift for me,” Martin says.  “I wasn’t any longer attached to my performance and trying to control things.  I could see that the really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share your natural enthusiasms with people.”  His reaction is pretty standard, according to Dr. Griffiths: “an improved outlook on life after an experience in which the boundaries between the self and others disappear.”  In interviews, Martin and other subjects have described scenarios in which their egos and bodies vanished as they “felt part of some larger state of consciousness.”

These reports so closely mirrored the accounts of various religious mystical experiences, that Dr. Griffiths believes it likely that the human brain is “wired to undergo these ‘unitive’ experiences.”  These similarities between psychedelic and mystically induced “life-changing revelations” are especially intriguing to scientists.  “There’s this coming together of science and spirituality,” says Rick Doblin, the executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), one of the nonprofit organizations supporting the work of Dr. Griffiths’ and others like him.  He mentions the fairly recent social acceptance of the hospice movement, yoga, and meditation.  “Our culture is much more receptive now, and we’re showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can’t.”

Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist involved in psilocybin research at UCLA, describes it as “existential medicine.”  He writes, “Under the influence of hallucinogens, individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change.”

Psilocybin research is currently receiving support from nonprofit organizations such as MAPS and the Heffter Research Institute.  Federal regulators are granting approval for controlled psychedelic experiments, but so far little public money has been granted for the research.  The University of Arizona, Harvard, New York University, and the University of California, Los Angeles are among the institutions looking more closely a therapeutic usage of psilocybin.  Their findings so far are highly encouraging, but also preliminary, and the participating researchers warn against reading too much into what are relatively small-scale studies.

Word Count: 1200


Tierney, John. “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again.” New York Times. (2010): n. page. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <;.

Szalavitz, Maia. “‘Magic Mushrooms’ Can Improve Psychological Health Long Term.” TIME Healthland. (2011): n. page. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <;.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. “Single dose of ‘magic mushrooms’ hallucinogen may create lasting personality change, study suggests.” ScienceDaily, 29 Sep. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <;.

Other Links

John Hopkins study:

Psychopharmacology papers:

St. Vincent's Hospital, picture taken from

“Consider the subtleness [and] universal cannibalism [of the sea]; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began. Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick).

In my previous blogs, I explored some of my past and present experiences with the St. John’s River and the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve also discussed sustainability efforts, such as coastal beach clean-up events, aquaculture, and aquaphonics. For my final blog, I want to steer away from this emphasis on our relationship with water’s health and instead turn to water’s relationship with the land and our relationship with both.

I took a walk at night from Memorial Park through Riverside’s neighborhoods until I hit St. Vincent’s Hospital. I stepped off the concrete sidewalk onto the road, headed toward the river, which widened as I walked toward it on my own wide asphalt path. Eventually I got to the edge of the river and walked along it behind St. Vincent’s community gardens and outdoor eateries.

I was on the divide, so to speak—the liminal concrete block between sidewalk and dark river water. I began to wonder what importance this divide may have in terms of Ecocriticism. I sat down on it with my legs dangling off the side, looking out to the river with sounds of the wind in the trees and traveling cars behind me. Does ecocritical thought start at this divide? Certainly in terms of clean-up, the divide is the easiest place for us to start and stop our efforts at sustainability. Indeed, when I saw plastic utensils sitting precariously on the edge of this concrete block, I moved them into a trash bin. But what did I truly do in this action? I preserved the sacred nature of the divide; it certainly felt like I was being sustainable. But, as Sylvia Earle wrote, who knows where that trash bag will end up; there is no “away”. Maybe it will end up in the river anyways, in some less publicly identifiable way.

Sustainable and ecocritical thought does not start at the divide. It ends there. The divide is simply a phantom ideal humans constructed as a means to separate land and water, which are truly inseparable constructs. Before St. Vincent’s built a concrete barrier between its patients and the river, the land probably blended into the water as seamlessly as any other coastal beach area. The dirt became sand, became wet sand, became water. Where does land start and stop in this scenario? At the tide’s break? The tide shifts constantly, so are certain areas of the beach sometimes land and sometimes water? The point being, it’s silly to place boundaries where boundaries consistently shift.

Overall, I realized during my walk that humans desire the separation of water and land, when in reality, nature consists of a natural admixture of both. I included the prior mentioned Herman Melville quote because it explores this admixture as it manifests itself in our own psyches. We are natural beings, made of a similar admixture of liquid and solid. I believe we need the land just as much as we need water, and I believe the act of dividing them simply divides ourselves in the process.

Posted by: Sara | November 7, 2011

Blog 4 Water as Open Space

Since we spoke in class last week about pride and the St. Johns (or rather a lack there of), I made an effort to spend time overlooking the River this week. I went out a number of times and each time had a different experience. The first was to read for a class at Memorial Park on the water in Riverside. I immediately noticed an easier ability to focus. Something about the quiet calm allowed my mind to fully absorb the text. I had to wonder what it was about this space that allowed for my mind to open up, not unlike the space in front of me.  Another time  I went out when the last light had fallen, I peered over the edge of the stone pillared edging; what I saw sent a completely different sense through me. I saw the water as thick molasses—like a malaise, something that almost seemed terrifying. As though, if I were to fall in it would swallow me. Something about the smooth, bobbing flow sparked imagination in me though. Sure, I thought about what it would be like to fall in and swim the open darkness of the water, but I also began to think of images, stories and plots. I began cataloging all the senses I was feeling, how to describe all the images around the moonlight. It was strange how instantly once again it was if my mind had been opened by sense and sight of the open space.

Other occasions I went out to Stinson Park to let me children play on the playground by the harbor, went to watch the Blue Angels fly over of the river in front of Bettes Park  and even parked on a waterside street in Avondale to just stare out over it; I suppose in some way trying to understand it better. It’s funny how a river so large can just be overlooked. I found that the simplicity of the sun’s rays glittering atop the water or the stark call of a seagull coasting on the wind could be so peaceful. Still I was unable to place specifically what I was feeling. I had to wonder, what if more people just went and sat and looked at the St. Johns more like a character? Or as a thing that could speak to us? After all, wasn’t that what it was doing? In my own way it was speaking to me.

My Photo. In Riverside, Jackosnville FL. St. Johns River

One thing that remained true across all the visits to the River was how I felt uncluttered, not only just in my mind but also by what was physically around me. There’s a “space” across water that we don’t get in most places; even small ponds, or wetlands allow for the sky to become taller, to open up. And it allows for us to see a big picture, not just what is in front of us, like houses or trees. There may be many beautiful nature scenes but physically there is not much like the uncluttered panorama’s overlooking outstretched water.

There is something about open space that gives some sort of mental “time-out” and allows for our minds to escape distraction that forms all around us in all other landscapes or urban areas. According to Nora J. Rubinstein, Ph.D. in her paper The Psychological Value of Open Space, she states that “Perhaps the dominant expressed rationale for using open space is the need for a place of contemplation and solitude. Many say they seek places set apart physically, or separated from other people, while others seek to simply remove themselves from their daily rituals and need no physical or social separation.”  Water certainly is one of the most open areas we as humans can go to. A place that is nearly impossible to overpopulate by man-made structures. Therefore it acts as a sort of haven away from “structure” itself and perhaps even allows the mind to break away from the ‘pressure’ of those structures and all that comes attached psychologically.

Open space  tends to “suggests that nature serves to reduce our stress by reducing physiological arousal (Barnes 1994), and the alternate perspective suggests that stress results from our efforts to deal with “information overload” (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989). Nature is seen as an effective stress reducer because it provides a kind of “cognitive quiet,” necessitating fewer decisions based on external demands.”

I took photos from a few places to hopefully demonstrate some of what a simple viewing of the river can show a contrast to a landscape that is normally overpopulated with things. In Stinson Park,  I not only took photos in front of me overlooking the water, but also behind and beside me to show the contrast of open space, compared to obstructed space (even in a park) .

Open space compared to...

limited viewing of landscape

Barnes, M. A. (1994). A Study of the process of emotional healing in outdoor spaces and the concomitant landscape design implications [Unpublished Master’s Thesis] (Clare Cooper Marcus, Chair)

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The Experience of nature: A Psychological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Robunstein, Nora J. Ph.D. The Psychological Value of Open Space. Chapter 4 Viewed: November 6, 2011

Posted by: arminlav1 | November 5, 2011

The impact of oil and whaling


After considerable research, I could not find any evidence of whaling done in Florida. But I am sure at some time in the past since ships have landed on the Florida coast, someone must have hunted for whales. The population of whales is decreasing. According to FWC, there are less than 400 hundred right whales left in our existence. Although we have laws now to protect the species, in the past, especially during the 19th century, whales were slaughtered by the thousands for their oil, flexible baleen and blubber. Whale oil was used for heating oil and industrial lubricant. In Moby Dick, Stubb ironically is eating whale meat while oil lamp that is burning also came from the whale.

Today, business of whaling has changed since the times of Moby Dick. Since whale oil is rarely used, whaling is now primarily for meat and “scientific research.” Now, modern ships are equipped with sonar to find and track the whales. How does this impact us? For one, human has evolved into a more efficient killing machine. Our impact means diminished natural environment and extinct species. According to Japan Whaling Association, “over-exploitation could not happen again because of the stronger regulations and checks and balances that would accompany any reintroduction. The International Whaling Commission would control whaling if it were allowed again, just as it controls the bans now. Illegal catches or trade are unlikely sources since the Government of Japan has strict regulations that prohibits whaling for species regulated by the IWC in compliance with the moratorium on commercial whaling and because the import of whale meat from non-IWC member countries is prohibited by regulation.” However, the film that we discussed in class-Cove is worthy mention. Japan is the leader in hunting whales on a large scale. It is all done for consumption. Just because something is banned, it does not mean someone will obey it. The hunting culture we created is due to inept fishing practices. Ironically, The Japan Whaling Association states on its website that the purpose of the Japanese scientific research in whale stocks and health is to “gather evidence that will lift the moratorium so that commercial whaling can resume.” Question arises how much environmental damage are we willing to do—in the name of “science”? Is it not done for culture? The whales do not have a voice and all they will have if we continue to hunt them is money hungry industry and barren sea. The business of whaling industry and the hunt for oil led to petroleum and lighting we use today.

Besides the obvious dependency on foreign oil, humans have to deal with current problems at hand. The problems with petroleum that result from its use are many. In transporting oil, accidents do happen. Oil spills can kill plants and animals and soil beaches. The recent Gulf Oil spill disaster is a perfect example. The impact? The environment suffers. Animals had to be saved, transported and cleaned. Their natural habitat was not so natural after the oil spill.

Because we are so dependent, what would we do without oil? Petroleum generates electricity and all plastic is made from petroleum. From fertilizer, detergents, furniture, packaging material, the list goes on. Can we prevent the pollution that the use of petroleum products can cause by eliminating petroleum altogether? Can we be less dependent on oil? Is there another alternative source? What would it be like to live in a world without petroleum? According to British Petroleum website, we have between 25 and 45 years’ worth of oil left. What happens after this time passes?

 -Armin Stojadinovic-

I attended the extra credit John A. Delaney Presidential Professorship Lecture on October 10 at 6 p.m. in the Student Union. Dr. Gregory A. Ahearn gave this lecture on aquaculture, which he called “protein for an expanding human population.” I was impressed by the vast amount of knowledge this man possessed on the subject of aquaculture, but by the end of the evening, it became clear that a few biases did exist within his research and viewpoint. This doesn’t discredit his intelligence or the leaps and bounds his research has made for the success of the aquaculture industry, which he defined as “the growth of freshwater marine animals for human use and consumption.”

His research specifically looks at how to improve this process by reducing the larvae mortality rate and increasing growth patterns. I thought it was curious how he viewed aquaculture as the answer to what he called a “growing world population.” He provided United Nations charts of future population numbers, estimated from our current increasing yearly percentage rate. According to the UN, the population will either continue to rise dramatically, experience a slight drop, or remain the same. It was at this point in the lecture that I raised my eyebrow at him; for being the main foundation of his argument behind the necessity of the growth and improvement of the aquaculture industry, these population graphs seemed a bit obvious and not exactly specific. I thought, “So, the population will increase, decrease, or remain the same. A toddler could gather that much.”

I began scribbling down notes from what I remembered from our readings of “The World is Blue.” This much is certain: the wild fish population is decreasing, and Dr. Ahearn agreed with this sentiment. He seemed certain that aquaculture would answer the market’s call for fish but alluded to the fact that fishermen don’t necessarily consider this move good for their livelihoods. He called the relationship between fishers and farmers one of “animosity” and quickly moved onto facts about aquaculture’s current impact on the market. He said that China leads the aquaculture industry, with 56 percent of its products farmed. Interestingly, the number one aquaculture product in demand is not one for consumption but one for entertainment; ornamental fish take up 57 percent of the farmer’s efforts. But all sorts of water animals become the fruit of aquaculture—from fish to mollusks to crustaceans to algae to alligators to clams. In Dr. Ahearn’s words, “What’s for dinner?”

I pondered this thought as too many questions ran through my brain. Humans, especially Americans, are animals of high consumption. We grow up in a culture that teaches us how to buy happy, and in America, how to eat happy. Our family gatherings meet around the dinner table and holidays like Thanksgiving become un-holiday-like without specific dietary and consumption needs met. Certainly, “What’s for dinner?” may be an apt question to consider. Why, as humans, do we feel the need for an unnatural variety in our consumption? Certainly we don’t need to kill whole whales or alligators to survive; we only eat them because we crave very small portions of their body. And why do we crave these portions? Is it based only on taste, or is it instead based on the egocentric need to dominate a species that is arguably larger and more wildly dangerous than us? This sent my thoughts to Moby Dick and Ishmael’s own egocentric desire for dominance over the whale. These are the questions I considered when Dr. Ahearn asked his overly simple question and listed in exceedingly long length the sea animals available for consumption through aquaculture.

The question I have is this: Do we need aquaculture? Dr. Ahearn would answer a resounding yes, but I’m not so sure. He used unspecific population data as unequivocal proof of aquaculture’s importance but failed to mention that the population can meet its dietary requirements in countless other ways. One classmate raised a question about the growing field of aquaphonics, which doesn’t use wild catch bycatch to feed its cultivated fish like aquaculture does but instead creates a looping environmental system that is completely self-sustainable. He smiled slyly and didn’t have much of a response to this field. Obviously, his background and current and future research is in aquaculture, and that’s where he sees the direction of fish farming heading in the future. “Each stage [of aquaculture] costs money,” he’d said earlier. “Can you grow for less than you sell it for?” With this in mind, clearly growing food for a growing population (a term his pamphlet coined) is not a game of environmental ethics and restoration; it is a game of economics based on cost/value analyses—and this is the strength aquaculture has that aquaphonics necessarily doesn’t.

It is unfortunate that Dr. Ahearn is not completely honest with his audiences (and perhaps even himself) about this fact. He talked for awhile about aquaculture’s positive effects on the environment, specifically on restoring the wild population of blue fin tuna. He lovingly called blue fin tuna the “tiger and cheetah of the ocean.” But farming these fish through aquaculture raises serious ethical questions about the lives of cultivated tuna, swimming circles in a gigantic tank until they are slaughtered for sushi. When asked about this, Dr. Ahearn said he “would rather the fish swim around in circles than become extinct.”

But this answer for me goes back to the first question I asked myself (and later him) during his presentation: “How are we going to stop the fishermen from driving the wild fish population extinct when farmers’ relationships with fishermen are competitive rather than cooperative?” Aquaculture will not save the wild fish population when the people who are decreasing the wild fish population (the fishermen) are not decreasing their behavior but rather increasing it in response to a competitive market. Indeed, everything does come down to economics in the end, and within our capitalist system, “animosity” certainly is fueling the market, but it is not saving wild fish. Dr. Ahearn told me and the rest of the audience that the fishermen needed to abide by stricter regulations and they needed to realize their role in the problem to both retain their jobs and sustain the human population.

But how do the fishermen realize these things? They certainly don’t realize them on their own, and the aquaculture farmers certainly don’t help them realize anything within a relationship of animosity. So the central issue behind the decreasing wild fish population remains unsolved despite the growing field of aquaculture.

More aquaculture products in the market drive prices down, but they do not stop the efforts of legal and illegal fishermen. Period. If the researchers and owners of aquaculture facilities truly cared about environmental restoration, they would be trying to better facilitate their relationship with the fishermen and they would be pushing for government regulation. But they’re not. In our culture of consumption, this is an issue of economics, not environmental protection and restoration. I do not worry about food for our growing human population. I worry about the survival of our oceans and wild aquatic populations. I’m not sure I can say the same for supporters of the aquaculture industry.

(Blogs 3 + 4 combined [1,200 words] for Rebecca McKinnon)

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