Monday, December 17, 2007

"Creation is groaning for the revealing of the Sons of God"

I just read this article by Michael Pollan in the New York Times magazine. He talks about two seemingly unrelated issues that cropped up in the last year and ties them together under the topic of industrialized agriculture, and the effects of the process of industrialization on the living/natural things involved, pigs for food production in the first case, and bees for almond production in the second. More broadly his argument is about sustainability/unsustainability. He says that what unsustainable "is that the practice or process can’t go on indefinitely because it is destroying the very conditions on which it depends." The mass production of meat involving "raising vast numbers of pigs or chickens or cattle in close and filthy confinement" leads to using an enormous amount of antibiotics on these animals (some say 70% of antibiotics consumed in the US), which possibly leads to the development/evolution of lethal, antibiotic-resistant, viruses etc. And the mass production of almonds in California leads to shipping in foreign bees from all over the country and world who are not at a place in their life-cycle to work hard, which could lead to mass sickness among the bees (and therefore less almond crop) every so often... Read the article to get the full stories...

Pollan is not asserting direct cause and effect situations here, he's careful about that. And even if we don't believe the connections he points to, I at least agree with his overall point. He says at the end of his article, "[this] seems to be a hallmark of industrial agriculture: to maximize production and keep food as cheap as possible, it pushes natural systems and organisms to their limit, asking them to function as efficiently as machines," and points out that this is dangerous. If we keep doing this, and continue trying to solve the problems that inevitably arise in ways that continue to treat them as machines, we are just making more problems. I am all for progress in agriculture, and in production in general, all for innovation. But I believe that we, as sons and daughters of God (creator of all), made in his image and likeness and given dominion over creation, would do well to have a greater respect for all of God's creation, to work with God and with the order within creation to innovate/create systems of agriculture, and society in general. This belief applies to the way we as humans treat humans as well, not just animals/organisms (think the stem-cell issue: embryos mass-produced for the sake of solving certain problems--scary! and probably not fully solving a problem that is actually much deeper than we think!). Pollan's argument and my endorsing it is not solely for the sake of pigs and bees. Ultimately even these agricultural problems have bad effects on us.

One more separate, random thought: there's a line in the article,"the lifestyle of the modern honeybee leaves the insects so stressed out and their immune systems so compromised that, much like livestock on factory farms, they've become vulnerable to whatever new infectious agent happens to come along..." When I read that I immediately thought of myself (and Gina) and UofC as an analogous situation and laughed... UofC has killed my immune system (think sudden onslaught then steady increase of allergies)... Really makes me wonder what is so unnatural about studying so hard...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Studying at Aster with Anne

Originally uploaded by marg.decelles
In the afternoon, Anne and I needed a change of scenery, so we headed to Aster cafe for more BA studying/reading. I love this place, and it gave me an opportunity to take cool pictures :)

Video of Dinkytown study day 1027

Anne and I are in the town of Dink for a little bit... Yesterday we got to study (work on our BA's) with the masses of Dinkytown Campus Division students studying for finals; it was their study day break between classes and tests. Also, yesterday the piano was tuned, which was quite exciting... Anyways at one point it was so crazy in the dining room I had to capture it on video.

Check it out :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Recommended Reading

The focus of my BA thesis will be the Jefferson Davis Monument in Fairview, KY and how it fit into the Confederate monument building boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In trying to nail down a thesis, I have read some pretty fascinating books that I think are worth recommending.

Lies Across America by James Loewen
Race and Reunion by David Blight
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Done with Finals!

Margaret, Anne and I are done with Autumn quarter finals! Personally, I think it was my toughest finals week yet. However, I have found that painful academic experiences are easily forgotten; I will catch up on sleep and I don't have to read or think about poorly written papers again. While the pain doesn't last, I have faith that it was not pointless and that the learning that came through the pain was helpful--I may not remember many of the historical details from my classes, but the practice of analysis and synthesis of material is something that will stay with me and continue to grow once I'm out of school. That said, I can't wait to be done! :)

To celebrate being done, we went out to the Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago. We had spiced wine and sugared macadamia nuts. Tonight we are celebrating Margaret's birthday--we're going to try and make our own spiced wine and roasted chestnuts. God be Praised!

(Anne and I with our warm drinks)