Freshman Seminar: Writing Ecology

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Filed under: Uncategorized April 26, 2008 @ 8:50 am

Imagine a world where you wake and sleep with the sun, where telephones and televisions haven’t been invented, and people struggle to farm their own food to survive. This world may sound like a nightmare, but it was the reality of the 19th century. In this world people didn’t waste their food, they didn’t have gasoline to contaminate the water, and they had not expanded and utilized the earth as we have today. Yet one man living during this time period foresaw where the non-human world would end up if left in mans hands. Walt Whitman is a man who knew of the beauty of the world; and even with all of today’s advances, his ideas are still relevant. Yet Whitman didn’t live in the wonderful smoggy dirty place Cherrie Moraga calls home. Perhaps Whitman’s polar opposite in upbringing, views, and writing style, Cherrie Moraga brings a different outlook of the environment to the table.

For the rest of my paper I will focus on the differeces between Whitmans and Moraga’s background. I will mainly focus on the similarities in their writing however, saying that despite their different backgrounds, and the fact that they lived during different time periods they are still very similar in their thought process.

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Filed under: Uncategorized April 26, 2008 @ 8:45 am

When Gonzalez first comes back to the U.S. Southwest and sees how much things have changed he becomes nostalgic. He looks at the new housing developments, the bars on house windows, and the decreasing desert and decides to put together this book to capture the picture of his childhood. He refers to his first twenty-seven years in El Paso as a time of wonder and mystery. I believe he misses his childhood and the close relationship he had to the land, but does not feel a sense of belonging there anymore.

Although Gonzalez has fond memories of his childhood, his memories still haunt his dreams. He has the fear of rattle snakes. Then there is also the lizard with the third eye. When Gonzalez writes of how he killed lizards I was not sure what to think. It was kind of disgusting and inhumane but then again I am not a boy in the desert. I definitely can’t imagine killing lizards like they are insects. I find it really interesting that after he killed the lizard with the third eye he didn’t see any lizards any more.

You can tell that he doesn’t feel a sense of belonging anymore because everything has changed. The adobe house he lived in during college was torn down and hardly anything from his childhood remains. His main themes in the book are fear as indicated in his writing of snakes and the lizard with the third eye. I also see a kind of mystical theme because of they way he described the lizard watching him and his dreams. Also the adobe house with the ghosts definitely has a mystical sense about it.

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Filed under: Uncategorized April 24, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

In general Moraga has a negative view of the earth as she knows it. She looks around the U.S. Southwest and sees AIDS, drugs, murder, poverty, and environmental contamination. She sees her people being ignored and dumped on and used. She sees the forest disappearing, kids getting high to escape their lives, a mothers breast milk contaminated by poisoned water, and the destruction of her Indigenous and mestizo peoples. Because of all the suffering she sees everyday and all of the hurt done to her people in the past, she does not have a very good view of America. Moraga believes that the U.S. believes in profit over people, exploiting cheap labor and natural resources and not contributing to the betterment of the environment. She even goes as far to say, “If the Soviet Union could dissolve, why can’t the U.S.” This was a very shocking statement for me to read since a United America has been so instilled into me. Then again in today’s history classes the chicano culture is rarely ever studied


One connection made between gender and the environment is when Moraga says that the earth is female. She says that the earth has been raped and exploited for her resources, rendered inert, passive, and speechless. Being that Moraga and Anzaldua were both Chicana women, they could identify with the submissive oppression that they compare Madre Tierra to. In their culture men were always in charge and women were treated more like slaves.


Moraga also compares land to everything in everyday life. As Cronon would say, she found nature in the city. To her land was the factories, water, housing, and “for women, lesbians, ,and gay men, land is that physical mass called our bodies.” This last comparison really strikes me as interesting because I would not normally think of my very body as being “land.”  However, Ybarra goes on to explain that someone who describes land as being all of these necessities of life is often a person who has been deprived those very same necessities. It makes sense that Moraga would say that only women, lesbians, and gay men’s bodies were land because she believes they are the people that are deprived of a sense of self.

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My Sense of Place

Filed under: Uncategorized April 21, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

The playground at Silver Ridge Elementary school had become boring for my fifth grade friends so during recess they took me past the purple slide and swing set, past the soccer field and into an overgrown grassland. The grassland went on for what felt like a mile and when you got to the other side, where the grasses met the border of the woods, was a boulder. It was at least three times as tall as me and could fit five of us girls comfortably side by side. I was so nervous about climbing that rock. It started out as a step above my ankles and then sloped up to the sky. I pressed myself onto the hard cold surface clawing at every uneven edge. Not to be out done by my friends I climbed, sweaty palmed, to the very tip and sat heart beating rapidly on the precarious slide. I looked out at the field, mystery looming in the tangle of grass, danger in every shadow, inviting earth and loving dandelions blooming proudly everywhere you looked. Looming over me behind the forest were breathtaking snowcapped mountains, humbling the mere pebble I sat upon. My favorite part though was the city in the sky. Right over my school, on a beautiful cloudless day, the fabulous city of Seattle could be seen in the distance. Many a times I sat and made up stories about the castle in the sky and pretended I was a princess there. Whenever I felt particularly daring and sneaky or mischievous and thoughtful I went to that boulder in between forest and field and there I would sit for hours. In the land of make believe and possibilities, I lost myself.

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Luis Rodriguez: Trouble in the Barrio

Filed under: Uncategorized April 21, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

Rodriguez represents the non human in his poetry by incorporating cities and humans with nature. One poem that I feel portrays this well is “This Tree, This Poem.” In the poem Rodriguez recognizes the necessity to utilize nature when he sees a tree as fossil fuel, paper, a fence, and rail ties; but he also sees the personality in the tree. He sees a breathing growing creature fighting through the concrete cities for survival. He sees a mother, a bother, a sister, and a father. He ends the poem with “We make of trees what we make of ourselves.” I think this is a very powerful line that shows a great deal of respect for nature and it is this view that is different than many of the authors we have read. Authors like Whitman and Thoreau idealize nature so much that it is almost extreme. Other authors like Sarmiento and Bello have a very realistic view of nature seeing the harm it can cause and knowing we need to utilize it but Rodriguez is the only one that treats trees and nature as equals. They compete with humans for land just as humans compete with each other for land and I really like that outlook.
Rodriguez has an interesting representation of the “concrete river” In his poem “The Concrete River” the river is completely dry, it represents his hatred for his home and “Becomes a steaming bubbling Snake of water, pouring over Nightmares of wakefulness.” These are very descriptive powerful words and portray the river in a negative way. This negativity coincides with the negativity in his life that drives him to get high off of the paint cans. Once he loses himself the river becomes alive, sun dancing off of its surface. In this poem it is obvious that he craves motherly affection and gets it from the high he gets from the paint. He “suckles” on the bag and the dew from the tree represents breast milk. The ending of the poem is very sad, he would rather be dead than back in that dry concrete river.
In the poem “Always Running” Rodriguez can still identify with the river although it is still dry and polluted. He ends the poem powerfully saying that “When all was gone, the concrete river was always there and me, always running.” He takes comfort in the river and its presence ad the fact that it will always be there when so many things in his life weren’t such as his wife and children. It is through this passage that I realized he feels a sense of belonging in this formidable place. He belongs there with the river.

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Poem – Looking Back

Filed under: Uncategorized April 7, 2008 @ 10:01 am


From outer space

Through the smog

Our world sits

In all its glory

The color of a bomb


This is a world

With a black sea

And a sky turned gray.

Where the sun has been reduced

To a feeble lamps glow.


This is a world

Where Crayola colors

Sky blue

Sea green

And carnation pink

Are a wisp of a memory

Of a time long ago.


This is a world

Where lush turf grass,

Odorless silk flowers,

And the pine scent

From car fresheners

Delight our senses


This is a world

Where no more pesky birds

Wake us up with there incessant twittering.

Where no more creepy bugs

Invade our air-conditioned homes.


Our lungs covered in debris

Hooked up to machines just to breathe

We knew our world wouldn’t last

And only now we stop to ask

Wait. Why didn’t we do something?

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Split the Rock

Filed under: Uncategorized March 24, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

Going and listening to poetry readings was a really unique experience for me and completely unlike what I had anticipated. In my mind I had envisioned a little coffee house with a man in the background beating a drum as a poet dramatically pauses after every stanza. What I got was some trilling, dancing, screaming, singing, and yelping. It was fantastic!

After listening to the poetic readings I realized why many of them have to be read aloud to really captivate their meaning. When I read poems in my head I do my best to mimic the meaning behind them, but in Espada’s case I had not even come close. When he read his voice was so deep and lyrical, yet frightful and powerful at the same time. He rocked behind the podium as he read and his voice brought out a new meaning to the poems that I had already read.

I think that the other poets were great as well. The poet that spoke in Busboys and Poets really surprised me with all of the singing and yelping she did. That definitely wouldn’t have come across in a poem!

Seeing these poets made me realize how influential the spoken word is. They practically had me eating out of the palm of their hand by the end; I would have gone with just about anything they said! The poets were certainly successful in getting their message across and advocating for their cause. The approach I liked best was that of Naomi Shihab Nye. Her last statement was absolutely beautiful and she ended on a positive note that makes me want to just go out and be a good person. The last woman was a bit forceful but I believe she got her message across really well too. She was loud and proud and made me realize just how ridiculous some ideas are.

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Filed under: Uncategorized March 17, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

            The main theme in Martin Espada’s poems is struggle. He shows the emotional, physical, and mental struggles he went through all the way from a boy to an adult. Espada started out in a poor school in Brooklyn when foreigners weren’t accepted. His father couldn’t get a job and those in power looked down upon him and his family. He then goes on to fight through the struggle becoming a lawyer, able to help others not so lucky as him. It is through these experiences that Espada relays to us his struggle and the struggle of his people.

            People in power looked down on Espada and his family. Not only could his father not get a job because they “did not hire Blacks or Puerto Ricans” but the police “brandished night sticks and handcuffs to protect the beer (pg 26).” I find this completely disgusting. The beer factory won’t give him a job and the police are cruel enough to arrest him and wish him dead. The land lord too is an object of evil. He kills cats and tries to kidnap an owl. When Espada grows up and becomes a lawyer he fights for a woman who did not have a proper living space and was not paying rent. The land lord evicted her and although she had rights the judge, the one person who is supposed to stand for the law above all else, sent her out of his court evicted.

            Espada had a variety of jobs, his first job as a gas pumper. One thing I found to be very interesting was that Espada and his fellow coworkers at the gas station had certain stereotypes against other people, in this case “rednecks.” It just goes to show that even people who have struggled against stereotypes their whole lives will still have stereotypes of other people.  Another one of his jobs was with a lab that held monkeys prisoner resulting in many of their deaths. When Espada understands why the monkeys’ bite him and shriek it is because he can relate to it in a way. He too has been behind bars and seen those that have been harassed and looked at as less than human. One of his jobs is as a grave digger and he says, “I work for nothing and for everything (pg 54).” This made me take a step back and look at his life as he saw it where he has so very little that it is almost nothing but to him it was everything. With this perspective on life it just goes to show that you should treasure what you do have even when it is not much.

 All of these poems that he wrote can be related back to the first poem Imagine the Angels of Bread. Hopefully there will be a day where the law system is completely fair and no one goes hungry or cold or becomes ill. This will never happen, but Espada’s poems are humbling, and that is the important message. The world will never be perfect but we should do what we can for others and live selflessly.

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Pacheco’s Poems

Filed under: Uncategorized March 11, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

         In many of Pacheco’s poems he seems to take a negative outlook on human interaction with the nonhuman world.  Sometimes he glamorizes the non human world but he also shows the danger of the nonhuman world and the dangers of humans interacting with it.  This is similar to Facundo and Sarmiento in that they too were aware of the dangers in relating to the non human world but they also loved it. The three poems I’ve chosen that I believe best describe this view of the nonhuman world are “Scorpions”, “To a Girl who Died in the Sea”, and “Fish.”             Pacheco’s poem “Scorpion” subtly relates the nonhuman world to the human world by personifying the scorpions. In the poem the scorpions are in love, a very human characteristic. The scorpions gaze at one another making the feeling of love more intense. As Milton would say, through this personification of the scorpions we want to save them and treat them as equals.  However, at the end of the poem Pacheco shows how dangerous the non human world is when the female eats the male. This we cannot relate to, thus taking us out of the security of animals in love and showing us the true dangers of the non human world.            “To a Girl who Died in the Sea” shows the side of Pacheco that glorifies the nonhuman world. He says that time ruins all things except it seems the nonhuman world. He also incorporates the dangerous beauty of nature when he talks of the girl dying in the sea yet he glorifies it in that she turns into the “waves that brighten the world.”            The last poem has a lot of meaning behind it. “Fish” is all about conservation and the balance needed between humans utilizing the nonhuman world and preserving it. It is from the fish’s point of view, once again personifying the fish and making them relatable to humans. The fish says that all the humans have ever done is make a profit off of the fish and all they get for return is us polluting their water. We need to be conscious of the nonhuman world and utilize it equally.            Pacheco writes a lot of powerful short poems and I think it’s great that he can put so much meaning in so few words. From the three poems “Scorpions”, “To a Girl who Died in the Sea”, and “Fish” we get a sense that Pacheco was for the preservation of the nonhuman world.  He knew of the beauty and dangers of the nonhuman world.

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Muir and Milton

Filed under: Uncategorized February 12, 2008 @ 9:22 am

Kay Milton makes a long and confusing argument about how humans perceive the environment. She focuses more on how people perceive nature rather than nature itself. Milton believes that people first have anticipations from nature, which they then perceive and modify through our thoughts. She argues against the constructionist model of nature that says humans cannot understand our environment without social experience amongst other people. Although she admittedly believes that some of our perception of nature comes from social interactions with other humans, but she further believes our perception of personhood in the environment isn’t solely based on these interactions with other people, but on our experience with the total environment.

            Milton focuses a lot on personification of nature. She believes that for us to care about nature we must personify it in our minds. She uses an example of people wanting to protect whales because in their minds the whale has human characteristics and thus should be cared for. The environment too can have personified traits since we see so much of it and interact with it so often. Everyone’s perception of nature is unique so the personification of nature can only be found through ones own experiences.

            Muir’s view of nature is similar to Cronan’s in that he sees nature with a grand spiritual glow, however differs in that he is not frightened by it. Muir has a very appreciative outlook on nature. Like Cooper, Muir too was writing in a diary, although I believe he was writing for his own pleasure rather than trying to convey a larger message to the public. Muir’s view of nature proves Milton’s point about personifying nature and that that is important to us. He goes on about the talkative rock. How he loves them and they are lovable with “warm blood gushing through their granite flesh.”