Barbara's blog

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Don't overestimate the amount of food you need, guests!

I am very very upset after two lunch shifts at Wyndham this week...Not just that I have to work in the middle of the day during final week, but to see how much food are wasted in only two hours. Now I totally understand the green project a couple of weeks ago that demonstrated how much food we just throw away on a daily basis. When I have meals at dining halls, I also have this habit to take whatever looks attractive and may or may not finish it at all. Sometimes, I have to waste food because the food doesn't taste what I have imagined. But seriously, people are taking too much some time...And it is hard to see that only looking at your own plate. But the kitchen is clearing the plates like crazy and nearly 20% of them are full when people are done with the meal (roughly estimated by me, could be very misleading but indeed there are lots of such cases). We will be having meals at the dining halls for most of the time at Bryn Mawr, maybe take some time to note how much you exactly need for each meal? Also in response to the budget cut these days...Everyone should experience working at a dining hall some time... Really, this is the most direct way to see how much we waste EVERY MEAL! (May be a suggestion for the field work for the course.)

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An Ecological Transition (Self-Evaluation)

Randomly assigned from my three picks of ESem, this ecological journey is like a gift to me in the first semester at Bryn Mawr. I am satisfied that I have enjoyed a college English course – a department I probably would not attempt otherwise. (My option definitely opens up at this point though.)

Reviewing the reading list, I am very impressed by what I have read in this course. Most of the readings were completely new to me, with regard to both genre (I did not have much experience reading academic works that are represented in this course, such as writings of Waring and Merchant) and content. I occasionally had to spend more than four hours (the recommended time on syllabus) for assigned readings of a week. My ability to quickly grab the gist of an article fluctuated and I haven’t found out a clear pattern yet. I think this relates to how similar or different my own language and the writers’ language are; how much background information I had; how close I was to the intended audience. In reading Thomas Berry’s essays, for example, I had a hard time relating to the religious content. After several try and not getting much, I chose to skip the content that I essentially lack a background. Is this the correct strategy in academics? This is one question arisen in my reading process. I enjoyed more and had more to say about narrative than analysis articles. On the other hand, I have started to appreciate analysis articles more over the semester, especially their structure, which I consider to be useful in my future academic papers.

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An ecological journey from campus to the world led by Shengjia, Wanhong & Barbara

So it was really an amazing process of how we decided on the theme. We came up with two ideas (campus site revisit and the sky burial) and did not want to give up either of them. As we worked on the project, we found these two themes could well be connected (not just the hawk!). Over the semester, we have been having a journey. In much of the texts we have discussed, the horizon is limited by who the author are; yet not few of them indicated applying their theory to all other people. Personally, I believe that getting to know different cultures is crucial in an academic discussion of ecology. From campus (our culture) to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Tibet (an unfamiliar culture) is a major move that we should take after the course. That is why we named the project "Ecological Imaginings from Campus to the World".

 I really enjoyed the pictures and words collected for us to review. Sometimes rediscovering is even more delightful than seeing it for the first time. I myself actually regret that I did not take enough pictures of my site, so I sort of tried to make it up last Sunday. But...too late to record changes. I could tell those materials engaged the class a lot. (Yeah! Thanks to Shengjia for her sensibility, class!)

 Sky burial came up to my mind during the brainstorming, because when I first heard of it I found it striking and venerable. I wanted to present something that may provoke people to think.

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Watch out and Enjoy

I did not expect such a dramatic, unpleasant yet amusing experience for the last site sit for our ESem. I planned on taking pictures from faraway and close up since most of the time I stayed just at the Labyrinth, which is a rather confined space. I wanted to step back and look at the Labyrinth, in hopes to see something new. I started from the Campus Center and then crossed the Senior Row and reached the Labyrinth. I have always had hard time to orient myself in the area around the Labyrinth. From looking far away, I realized actually it was a very small space. It was the trees and slopes disguised the Labyrinth, making it seem to be sophisticated and unapproachable. I was so absorbed in the walk. Even winter is the season for lives, I could perce the activities going on of the creatures around me.
Maybe I was not outdoorsy enough to manage taking photo and walking on the muddy ground at the same time in a rainy day. Yes I slipped over and fell to the ground when I walked downhill...Obviously I did not feel so well. But I was not frustrated by this little accident - that must be my closest moment to the nature during this semester's site sit! I sat on the ground, looked up to the trees and the sky ,and thought there must be no way to escape from the control of nature and my unpredictable life...

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To Bryn Mawr Women: a Report on EcoLit ESem

For Bryn Mawr women who want to have an impact on shaping what BMC is like, ecological thinking is a relevant field to explore. Ecology is literally “the study of home”. Do we really know much about our home? What elements did we miss out in our home? How could we make sustainable decisions for our home? These are all about ecological thinking, which essentially brings a difference when we approach to a problem.

Our Emily Balch Seminar, Ecological Imaginings, is an ongoing experiment about the development of ecological literacy. Here I am eager to share with other Bryn Mawr women about what our tight group has experienced so far and invite more people to think ecologically and give a hand to spread this awareness. Ecological literacy is not confined to academic discussion, but can be applied to bring about significant changes on the campus. How we shape Bryn Mawr College is up to each one of us.

Ecological literacy is the ability to understand the world from a holistic perspective. Consider the fluidity of the world when you see, feel and think. Recognizing the interaction process of each component of an action is essential to holism. I want to share some class experience, in hopes that it will be helpful for my fellow Bryn Mawr women to implement this ideology.

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An unnatural way to do good to other nature components?

I just had this random thought that being an vegetarian is against the natural design in some way... Some vital amino acids are almost only accessible to us by meat or diaries before supplements were available. Native Americans once had a diet relied completely on maize and their life span suffered from that. That was vegetarian in practice but they were forced to be.

I looked up the history of vegetarianism. Vegetarianism was initially almost always religion or philosophy related. It did not only serve as an attitude but a discipline among a specific community.  Since about late eighteenth century vegetarian population started to grow and became more common without institutional restriction. I see this of as a mark of the civilization of human society because we are only to think about being nice to other beings when survival is not the main concern. I want to say that it seems to me that we have evolved to be able to even think about being a vegetarian. If we are able to choose a diet regardless of our natural biological premise, it indicates a privilege. So even though we are using a non-violence policy to other animals, what exactly is the philosophy behind - Mercy? Love? A repulse to eat the juicy flesh? I know that a lot of times different philosophies yeild the same outcome, but I wanted to bring up this to discussion...

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Geological and botanical features on BM campus

We met with the 313 last Wednesday afternoon. It was a very nice sunny day for the exploration.  ESEMers first led the geological exploration. Our route was from Pembroke Arch down to Mill Creek. (Neither botanical nor geological exploration covered the other side of the campus.) I found the geological exploration was not a redundant experience at all. I learned a lot by hearing what other ESEMers said and feedbacks from 313ers. We looked at the rocks in the architecture and observed the geological conformation of the campus. We talked about the fall line and discussed that the geological foundations influenced how human constructed habitats. The anecdote about parking lots and the Rhoads pond was very revealing. We wrapped up when we reached the Mill Creek. The hidden place changed a lot from the last visit about three weeks ago. The thick layers of leaves made our steps clumsy and noisy. To some extent, I felt Bryn Mawr would not have been the same place without this periodically flooding creek.

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"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

I was warmed by the golden trees and mild sunlight. Sitting under a huge tree, I looked up. I could not see the sky thanks to the layers and layers of twigs and leaves. I did the same thing when the tree was still lively green, however, I felt opressed by the huge crown above me because the green shedded a darkness on me. The golden color, in contrast, reflected the sunshine. I was delighted by the scene. I felt that the crown isolated me from the world physically, but I was still free. A leaf slowly swirled and fell down on the ground. It was serene and peaceful. But I could not forget the fact that this was a sign of death. And I thought of - "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

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About "vital need"

Carolyn Merchant’s ideas made me optimistic about the global ecological revolution needed for sustainability. Even though the notion was to be radical, it was not extreme at all, which I found really convincing and feasible. Merchant was fairly considerate about the normal living need of human’s. She did not proposed that people should stop using natural resources, but suggested that we should raise ecological consciousness and moderately fulfill our needs. “Vital need” is my term of the week. I love this term for a lot of reasons. With this term, I can feel that human-beings are not isolated from the non-human parts of the world. We depend on those other parts to survive. The term also set a standard for justified utilization of resources. However, how do people define “vital” differs.  For ancient mankind, “vital” purely meant survival of the species. Nowadays, people have developed need other than material resources. If traveling is one most important parts of life for someone, is the consumption fossil fuel justified as “vital”? The need for survival is met in a majority of the human population. How do we define “vital needs” in such circumstances? This is something perplexing to me when I was reading the article. But I did find some clues to this question in the article. Merchant mentioned we need to let nature reverse ecological damage. This may be a standard we could use when setting up the limit of exploitation of nature. However, human have to be able to think holistically when calculating the outcome of our actions. This requires ecological thinking.

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What If the Route You See is Not the Route You (Could) Take

I walked along the Labyrinth and enjoyed the mild, delightful sunny day. The yellow leaves glowed in the sun. What a serene Sunday morning! Students walked around the campus; field hockey players were in a game; squirrels happily enjoyed the breakfast. The Bryn Mawr bubble created such a peaceful environment for each community member to thrive happily. The Labyrinth did have a complicated structure. The end looked so near at one point, but after I took a turn, the route led me to an outermost ring. Turn around and around, the sense of back and forth, close and far repeated again and again. I felt I was almost there, however, this was an illusion. Because the route I saw was not the route I walked on.

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