Shaping Our Way to Disaster

Rochelle W.'s picture

Last Thursday we discussed hurricane Sandy. We talked about the tendency humans have developed to rebuild in the path of destruction rather than to relocate to a safer and more stable environment. We tried to answer the question of whether or not that is the rational or correct action to take in a post-disaster situation (I still am not completely sure about this). I think this tendency to rebuild kind of relates to one point that Jamaica Kincaid made in her article “Alien Soil”. The point was English people have a tendency to “obsessively order and shape their landscape”. Kincaid says the Europeans did that so much so on the island of Antigua that the island is now prone to drought. The Europeans did not work with what was already on the island when they got there, rather they tore it apart and attempted to put it back together with pieces from all around to world. They worked against the island instead of with it, which is essentially what the residence of New York and New Jersey are doing now as they attempt to rebuild their cities. Similar to how Antigua is prone to drought because of how it has been altered and built upon, the cities along the East Coast of the United States are prone to destruction because of where they have been built. We are not paying attention to the way the Earth is shaped and to the way it moves, and living accordingly. Instead we are attempting to shape it to our liking and ignoring the way it moves, seemingly to our detriment.

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CMJ's picture

Night Thoughts.

I think you are right--that we are altering our environments in such a way that is destructive. But is this because we are ignorant, or just don't care? I think the ways in which we (americans, people of the world) have been brought up in society is the problem--we are taught to focus on ourselves and on our own success, not the world around us. I believe many of us are fully aware of the personal destruction we happen to incur upon the planet, yet the key needed to take that step to stop it is not there. I think what we are lacking is deep altruism. This is something we are not taught, but need to be. We all have the makings of a solid foundation: our conscience, knowing the difference and the various shades of right and wrong. But as students, as people, we do not exercise our conscience or our altruistic side enough. Perhaps an effective exercise in conditioning one's altruism habits in  the classroom setting would be to assign a paper to each student, but instead of assigning the final grades to the correct students' work, grades were randomly selected from the body of papers and given back as a final assesment. In effect, this could cause an increase in altruism merely by the fact that you may think you are helping yourself by turning in a good paper. The grade you get could in fact be your actual grade, or someone else's. But you would not know. Essentially, by putting effort and smarts into something you created, you are lifting the success of the whole, or at least of another person, in hope that you will get that in return. Make sense? I suppose on to average all the grades from all papers and assign everybody the average number. Food for touhgt. 

Barbara's picture

Ad by a billionaire! Altruism c.f. Communism/Socialism

YouTube hot pick!

CMJ's excercise for conditioning altruism habits made me think of this ad. It's short, so please take a look!

My question is: why is the practice of socialism/communism unsuccessful (in the sense that it is not a dominant consititutional form in current world)? How is it related to deep altruism? The problem I see in this system is that it is not complete equalitarian because there are people who decide on how to allocate resources. It is sort of like the professor who gives grades in CMJ's exercise. The second is what we discussed in class - how to motivate people to be altruistic?

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