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I had managed to delude myself into thinking that perfection was something real, something that was actually attainable. And in doing so I strived for it. The whole reach for the sky and land among the stars thing is crap by the way. A lie of epic proportions, words dressed up to put a positive spin on reality. We try and fail and we try again in a never-ending cycle of falling short of impossible goals. It’s poetically masochistic, we like the failure because we spin it into success and we know we can do better next time. If we reached perfection where would we go? If we did on the first try, where is the sense of accomplishment? That feeling you can only get after a multitude of mistakes. Hard work yields a greater reward, when you finally get as close to perfection as you can and you not only accept, but also embrace it. The problem develops when perfection is the only measure of success. When simply failing better isn’t good enough, when making the fewest mistakes isn’t a signal that you’ve succeeded and is instead proof of continued failure, proof that you’re still a ‘fuck up.’ That was my tripping point. Good and great weren’t enough, excellent was a meaningless compliment, the adjective beautiful was patronizing when it was applied to my work. Any of those assessments applied to other’s work were accurate compliments. ‘Could’ve done better,’ was recurring thought in various permutations for twelve years, a constant in a world of variables and x factors.  

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ImageWe were brilliant in our delusions. Lost in our daydreams, futures beyond our reach, but driving us forwards anyways. Focusing our thoughts, demanding perfection. Rebellion manifested itself in procrastination; a silent, non-violent protest that inevitably ended in a manic attempt to learn everything at once in the 11th hour.

We liked to pretend we were in control. Sometimes we were right and sometimes our lives were one catastrophe after another. Some of us fed off the chaos, growing strong amongst the disorder; others caved under the pressure, drowning in the deluge of books and information. Failure was pushed to the corner, ignored, while the successes were placed on pedestals. Egos were built up and taken down, reinforced and toppled by battering rams. Making monsters out of innocents and mice out of roaring lions. They destroyed us, the created us, and in turn we sometimes destroyed them. Breaking them through sheer stubbornness. We gave as much as we got. That’s what made us strong.

We continued to dream despite the barriers and in spite of our doubters. We fell and we got up again, and again. Success was followed by failure, and failure was followed by success, not necessarily in that order. Sometimes we were arrogant, believed too strongly in ourselves; and sometimes we were uncertain, second guessing thoughts, ideas, and actions. We persevered. We continued to dream impossible dreams, and despite our better judgment would jump to action because we believe, and still do, that we could change the world. 

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Yesterday in one of my classes we ended with a discussion about whether technology is contributing to a decline in human civilizations or is beneficial. The loudest in the class, predictably, had the strongest opinions, coming down on either side of the argument: technology is destroying us and technology is mostly beneficial. I think it’s more about how we use it than if we use it.

There is now denying that technology can be incredibly beneficial. Not only life changing but also life saving, just look at the advancement of medical technology over the last fifty years. It makes our lives easier; GPS, cell phones, smart phones, Google. It makes our lives more entertaining; iPods, iPads, Kindles, TV, Netflix, Wii, etc.  Technology is great. I, personally, love my computer, my car, and the ability to text people in another state.

Let’s take a few examples starting with communication technology. Phones are, frankly, a wonderful invention. Being able to talk to someone across town, across the country, or across the world, what’s not to love? Now people living thousands of miles away from friends and families can keep in regular contact with them. And now there’s texting, not to mention all the other stuff, non-communication related, that you can do with a smart phone; check the weather, check Webster.com, see the latest news, play Angry Birds (or whatever is popular these days, I don’t have a smartphone unfortunately); it’s like something out of StarTrek. So, where’s the problem you might ask? Some would argue that we rely too much on our cell phones, rely too much on texting and that in doing so we are losing the ability to hold a normal conversation with people, or write a full sentence with proper spelling. I would say that they have a point, a very generalized point. There are some people that write school papers in text speak, though, I’m inclined to believe that these people are probably idiots anyways and that has little to do with their overuse of texting. On the conversation aspect of the argument I feel that with time it has only gotten worse. I have, on an increasingly regular basis, observed groups of friends at the mall, at restaurants and coffee houses, at school, and at the zoo, spending more time staring at their phones than talking to the person standing or sitting next to them. Now, I personally don’t believe that there is anything wrong with texting your friends, playing games, or looking something up on your phone, it’s when it comes to the exclusion of the real world that it becomes a problem. This is where the how you use technology comes into play. Or in this case, I guess, how much.

Now we come to computers and the Internet (Facebook in particular), iPads, TV, gaming systems (any of them). It’s great that we have near limitless entertainment and information literally at our fingertips. We have the potential to be more informed than ever before, however, few people are more informed. The Internet is full of crap (sorry but it’s true, weird, slightly disturbing crap. And celebrity gossip), for every good news article there is probably some idiot Tweeting their every move or posting a picture of their lunch. The issue here is how you use the potential information out their, what you type into the search engine and what you chose to look at, and how much time you spend staring at your computer screen in substitute for human interaction and time outside.

We live in a technological world. We are more connected than ever before, through various mediums (TV, movies, facebook, texting, Skype, newspapers (or more likely news websites), Twitter, e-mail, Google). The world, consequently, has become smaller. Distance doesn’t matter as much if all you have to do is hit ‘send’ to say hello or ask a question; not to mention the transportation technology: trains, planes, and automobiles. We can get from point A to point B faster and, theoretically (other than the security lines at airports, or congested highways into cities), easier than during any other era of human history.

All these things are good right? However, there are some definite drawbacks to all of this technology. Pollution from cars, greenhouse gases, smog, noise, and dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels, have become of increasing concern in the last several decades. Then there is the question: are communication technologies making us more or less social? Are people spending too much time texting and not enough time actually talking; and in doing so are we missing something, missing cues, miscommunicating altogether? Have we started to lose social skills and forget polite interaction? Or is this just the next step in societal evolution? Are we too dependent on our computers, TVs, iPhones?

There are times I think we are; that if anything every happened to our cell towers or the Internet ever went down that we would be completely lost, unable to function. There are some people I’ve met that I’m not sure can have a real, intelligent conversation with someone without checking their phone every five minutes, and, God forbid, the battery dies.

I believe that it’s not a matter of whether technology is good or bad, I don’t think that things are that black and white. It’s not about if you use it or if you have it. It’s how you use.

ImageThis post started as a stream of consciousness sort of thing. An idea started to form in my head and I started typing. This is what came out. Warning: I haven’t edited or re-read it, so I’m hoping that it makes some kind of sense. 

We are the dreamers. We want to make the impossible probable and the unknown common knowledge. America was founded on unknown land, on exploration and discovery, on challenges and overcoming obstacles. Or, at least that’s how we paint it, the romanticized version of history written by the victors, because that’s how it always is. We are experts at making heroes out of villains.

History is filled with countries and empires founded on the oppression and hard work of others, the ‘us’ and the ‘them,’ determining who is in power and who is powerless. It is the backbone of civilization, and America is no different. Underneath the great accomplishments are great depravities that shouldn’t be ignored simply because talk of them makes us uncomfortable.

We must face our past to learn from our past. See and acknowledge our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them or perpetuate them. There is no denying that we have come a long way in the last 200 odd years, and there is no denying that the human species as a whole as advance incredibly since the dark ages, but we are not yet perfect. There are still inequalities that need to be addressed. There are large and growing disparities between the rich and the poor, in their quality of life and their access to advancement potential. In some case these inequalities are the product of our past, perpetuated through attitudes and subsequent actions well after the supposed fight for equality has been won. We are not perfect, but maybe we shouldn’t be. We are after all, human beings. We are flawed; all things are flawed in some small way, because perfection is an ideal not a reality. It is something we strive for and never really reach, but that’s okay. It gives us a goal, a reason to keep trying, keep improving.

The danger comes in falling into a trap, in thinking we are perfect, or at the very least, the best and then settling. The trap is stagnation; the trap is complicity. The trap is thinking we’ve reached our pinnacle, that we are the epitome of civilization. It’s the same as rolling over, it’s practically inviting people to walk right over us.

We are the designers of our lives, the makers of our own futures. We need to take initiative as individuals, and we need to work together. Collaboration combined with individual ideas and innovations. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong, it happens to all of us, and fight for what’s right, meaning trust in your self. Working together, not against each other is the only way to change the world.

Habitat Destruction

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A simple concept with big consequences, habitat destruction/degradation is what it sounds like, destruction or degradation of a habitat or ecosystem so that it is no longer habitable by the species that rely on it for survival. The result is a loss of biodiversity in the area, which may not seem like a big deal to some people, but when there is no where else for those animals to go, nowhere that is suitable for them to live, then what happens? Species loss occurs, populations decrease because animals that are displaced from their natural habitat tend to not live for very long, either because of competition or simply because they can no longer get their needs met by whatever has replaced their habitat or wherever they were displaced to.

How does it happen? Urban development and infrastructure are obvious and visible causes, we can literally see it happening right in front of our eyes. Expanding metropolitan areas, most notable sprawling suburbs, have taken over much of what was once dense forests in the Eastern United States, and desert in the west. Just think of the areas around LA or Las Vegas. In addition to urban development there is agricultural development. Land cleared for conversion into agricultural land, big industrial farms popping up in an effort to feed the growing number of people that inhabit this planet and live in those urban areas and can’t grow their own food. Deforestation is another big cause of habitat destruction. It can be the first step in urban development or agricultural land conversion, or it could be for logging or other industry. Pollution, air and water pollution and even acid rain can render a habitat unfit for a species survival, and the leading causes of pollution come from some of our use of pesticides and herbicides especially in the agricultural industry. A lesser known cause of habitat destruction is the introduction of alien species, also known as invasive species, which can alter their new habitat or out compete a native species, which ultimately results in species loss and alteration of the habitat.

In the natural world everything is interlinked. Ecosystems and species do not exist independently of each other. They interact with and depend on each other in extremely complex ways that not even scientists completely understand. The uncertainty is the scary part. We don’t know exactly how the loss of one organism, plant or animal or fungus or whatever, will effect other organisms or to what extent. Hell, we haven’t even identified all of the species that live on this beautiful sphere.

Unrelated to biodiversity and the ecological consequences of habitat destruction and degradation, there are also cultural, spiritual, recreational, and aesthetic affects. The most basic statement I can think of making is that nature, untouched and pristine nature, is beautiful. Much nicer to look at than concrete. Humans use the natural world for a variety of reasons; sports (skiing, hiking, water-skiing, mountain climbing, mountain biking, boating, running, etc.), spiritual practices, and some cultures are intimately connected with nature (people of the Amazon, Native American tribes, etc.). So, in a purely selfish, human interest point of view we should conserve nature because of our own interests. (I will probably expand on any or all of these topics in other, individual posts depending on my mood, current interests, or how pissed I am about something related to them).

There’s also a human health and well-being aspect to biodiversity preservation, which is dependent on habitat preservation because the biodiversity has to live somewhere, but that will be a different post.

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There is no denying that there are A LOT of people on this sphere we call Earth. And the number keeps growing. There are now over 7.1billion people living on this planet (there is at least one website that is dedicated to keep a running count of the world population).

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

The problem is we only have one planet. One planet that is suppose to supply our food, water, shelter, and whatever else we need; because, believe it or not, the milk and eggs don’t just appear magically on the shelves of Wal-Mart. 7 billion plus people are a lot of mouths to feed, not to mention housing, drinking water, clothing, etc.

The Earth is made up of complex, interconnected ecosystems, forming the biosphere. Ecosystems provide services to the organisms that call them home; providing food and water, regulating floods and other natural disasters, maintaining soil stability and fertility, nutrient cycling, climate regulation, and cultural services such as recreation and spiritual benefits. Many factors contribute to the degradation of ecosystems and there failure to provide the services that we, as organisms that interact with various ecosystems, rely on. Being human, and therefor being in the “dominant” position of life on earth, are not above nature, no matter what we’ve done to try and make it so. All of our efforts to make nature our bitch (sorry for my French) it could only last for so long before it came back to bite us in the ass; which it is doing, by the way.

The other thing about ecosystems, they have a carrying capacity. This means that they can only support the lives of so many organisms before things start to fall apart (usually involving mass die-offs because of a loss of resources until the ecosystem recovers enough to allow the population to grow again).

So, the question for everyone, especially policy makers, scientists, environmentalists, etc., is: what’s Earth’s carrying capacity? How many people can Earth support? And since humans aren’t the only organisms that call Earth home, how many animals in general?

Are we approaching carrying capacity? Or have we already surpassed it? Some say we’re past it, living on borrowed time thanks to modern technology that allows us to pull far more from the earth than we should be able to. Whether they are right or not, we are certainly approaching a critical point. Besides a population explosion, or perhaps in part because of it, we are facing additional damage to the systems we rely on for life. Habitat destruction and degradation, pollution of our air and water, climate change, food and water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity all directly affect human health and well-being.

So, what do we do? How can we create a world that can support the population?

Education is always important, really in any issue not just the environment. Knowledge really is power. Know the issues, know the problems, and know the challenges and the ability to work through them and come up with potential viable solutions become yours. Share your knowledge, teach others, be a rolling stone and gather some followers. There really is strength in numbers, a group can speak louder and do more than just one person, and besides, movements don’t gain followers on their own. Be passionate, be curious, be active in your cause, and do the research (Google is a wonderful invention). Live what you preach. Change how you do things, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” No, seriously, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 

Took a bit of hiatus, it was definitely not a vacation. A lot has happened. I stopped writing because I felt I had nothing to write about…and, frankly, I forgot about this entirely for a period. Life, got boring, then it got just a little depressing (and depressing, angsty posts would be rather annoying to read), and then life got crazy and shit hit the fan.

I moved to St. Louis in January. I have a lot of opinions about St. Louis, and few of them are favorable. Don’t take it personally if you’re from St. Louis or love St. Louis, it’s just me and my experiences here that have shaped my opinion. Some people just don’t mesh well with some towns, and apparently St. Louis and I don’t really mesh.

In the beginning I lived with two friends, who will remain nameless, and, while I knew that STL was not going to be a permanent home (I was 21 after all, and no one should decided where they will spend the rest of their life when they’re 21), I was okay with staying for the next 2-3 years. For a few months things were looking good, and I was satisfied with my life trajectory. Then, in May, it all went to hell. A roommate meeting, late at night, (because who wants to deal with that shit at a reasonable hour?) made it clear that I was no longer welcome in the apartment. An apartment, by the way, that I had qualified all three of us for by means of a co-signer. I was out, no second chance, no negotiating, and I had a week to find a new place to live. The last part pissed me off. I found an apartment but because I needed a co-signer I had to be off the old lease to sign a new lease and my ex-roommates refused to sign the paper that would let my co-signer off the hook. A war began, over texts, it was ugly and unnecessary, all they had to do was prove they could afford the apartment on their own or move to a two bedroom in the same complex.

The angry texts were followed by one or the other ex-roommate lying to me about signing the document, resulting in several trips back and forth from Chicago’s suburbs (where I was staying at my parents house) and St. Louis, lasted for nearly three weeks. I almost lost the apartment that I’d applied for when the hold date started rapidly approaching. There was also an incident where one of my ex-roommates went into the room that was still technically mine and removed all of my belongings without my permission (more angry texts). In the end I got the apartment and lost the only two friends I had in St. Louis. Not a great start to, well anything.

Moral to the story: never sign a lease with three twenty-something girls who all think they are far more mature than they actually are. In fact don’t sign a lease with anyone unless you know for a fact you can get out of it, and fast.

So, maybe my opinion of St. Louis is colored by my experience here.

I grew up in an urban area. I knew that the sky was full of stars, but only in stories. At night I was lucky to see a handful of stars, thank you light pollution. I saw the big dipper, Orion, the moon, the occasional Jupiter, Mars, or Venus, and a vast assortment of airplane lights. For a while I thought that was all there was out there, despite what I learned from Magic School Bus. I’d heard stories that alluded to the wonders of the night sky. I’d had trouble reconciling the mostly black canvas, tinged with a yellowish haze near the horizon, with the descriptions of thousands of bright lights that I heard.

I’d seen star filled skies on trips to national parks, but it was always partly cloudy, or I was too tired to really notice and take it in. It wasn’t until the summer of 2011 when I participated in an eight week long field school in northern Idaho that I truly learned to appreciate the wonders of the night sky, the beauty of the stars and the brightness of the moon. I saw the Milky Way for the first time, it was as wonderfully beautiful as I’d heard people describe. I saw more stars than I’d ever seen in my life, and that was only looking at a small part of it. I saw the stars rotate around the sky as the summer wore on. I saw a moon so bright it blocked out a meteor shower. Stars that could light up the path between my tent and the port-a-potties (poetic isn’t it?).

The stars are what I missed first and most strongly. People I could keep in touch with, stars were simply missing. They were there one night, reminding me that the universe is not just blackness. They were comforting in a way. Beautiful and awe inspiring. They are something that is seen by only a small percent of the modern world’s population, and even fewer Americans. Most of us spend our nights in well lit cities and suburbs. Places that never sleep, where the lights don’t go out. We live in places that have effectively blocked out the night sky. It’s unfortunate really. You don’t realize what you’ve been missing until you experience. You can read about some things as much as you want, see pictures, hear stories. But nothing compares to the experience of looking up at a sky filled with stars, at the milky way, and seeing that planet Earth is just floating in blackness.

Tonight is election night. The night that defines how the next four years are going to go. The night that gives us an idea which direction this country is headed. It is the subject of many heated and passionate debates. Friends arguing with friends over who is better qualified to run the most powerful (at least in our eyes still) country in the world. It’s Obama vs. Romney 2012.

I would just like to say that, while I am not very active in politics, mostly because I find it hard to trust anyone that spends that much time and resources to make that many negative commercials sort of challenging, I do have some fairly strong beliefs on how this country should be governed. Let’s just say I fall on the Liberal side of the political line. I hope one day to actually be active, but at the moment I have enough troubles of my own without trying to take on all of the baggage this country tries to check at the gate.

That being said, I have already made plans to move to Canada if a Republican, especially the one currently running for office, is elected. The vague plans are basically go for the border and don’t look back. Where I will live is still a question as is citizenship. I have talked of this before, in 2008, when I made similar plans if McCain was elected. This time at least I’m out of high school, as are the friends I have made these very generalized plans with. My fingers, and several other sets, are crossed that my plans do not have to be put into effect and I can finish out my education in the USA

If not….I’m thinking Quebec or Montreal, maybe Vancouver…..

 

 

The road less traveled may seem scary and intimidating. It is unknown, or less known. It is not as well marked and not as well mapped. There are mysteries and darkness. It is an adventure waiting to happen. Everything that makes it scary makes it exciting. Knowing that your treading a path that few before you have traveled has it’s own special allure. You are seeing things that few have or will see. At the end your perspective will be different, your view of the world will have changed. By taking this chance and walking that road you will have become a more interesting person. You will have something to offer that those who take the heavily traveled route do not because you have experienced something outside the norm. And for that you are unique. Unique is not bad, it is simply unique.

So if you have a chance to change directions and try something that other people have turned down. If you have a chance and can afford to deviate from your well paved road then I suggest you at least stop and think about it. If you meet someone who has taken such a road then listen to their story and what they have to say, chances are that you will learn something. A different experience in life does not make a person flawed or less than someone who has taken the “traditional” route through life. If anything, it makes them more interesting for having been through what they have been through, for having seen what they have seen.