Archive for October, 2007

painting our exploitation of species

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Here’s a wonderful series of painting done by artist Isabelle Kirkland. In what first appears to be a traditional discovery-of-the-new-world approach to taxonomically detailing species, Ms Kirkland has instead subverted the tradition to show how we maintain our authority over wildlife. Each painting is set in an easy to use interface. Visitors to the site can zoom into a canvas; this zoom in function allows for quick movement across the extent while retaining the incredible detail of the image. Indeed, one needs the zoom to find some of the individual species. A scrollable species key is provided to the right of the canvas.

Gone illustrates species that we have driven extinct. When you’ve become sufficiently depressed (and after you’ve read the evocative and poignant annotations on some of the eggs), you can scroll through the more uplifting Back.

prof replaces term papers with Wikipedia contributions

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Professor Martha Groom at University of Washington – Bothell has shifted the evaluation scheme from the term paper to Wikipedia in her environment courses (Environmental History and Globalization; Conservation and Sustainable Development). As the article reports, “Instead of letting her students rely on Wikipedia as a source, however, Groom has turned it into a destination for their classwork: in place of a term paper, her students were required to create Wikipedia entries.”

Students, apparently, loved it and became more invested in the course.

“This assignment felt so Real! I had not thought that anything I wrote was worth others reading before, but now I think what I contributed was useful, and I’m glad other people can gain from my research.”

Wikipedia? Not so much.

One article didn’t survive for 24 hours following its introduction, and four additional ones were ultimately deleted following extensive discussion, their contents merged into existing entries. Groom also noted that some of the comments in the ensuing discussions “were delivered rudely.”

In addition to learning the Wikipedia culture, there were technical hurdles of learning the wiki markup language. And the students had to do a lot more work to ensure that entries had a high encyclopedia standard.

Me? I think we’ll stick with blog posts for the near term.

(h/t Peter J)

The political and economic barriers to species protection

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

On October 15th Marco Festa-Bianchet, from the Université De Sherbrooke and a member of COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), gave a talk entitled ‘Scientific assessment and political listing: the conservation of endangered species in Canada’. Previous posts by Merle and Culture Kid have succinctly described the main themes of Dr. Festa-Bianchet’s talk. There are two points, however, that I’d like to discuss.
First, Dr. Festa-Bianchet noted that the greatest threat to most species is habitat loss. He also noted that when a species is listed under COSEWIC and protected under SARA (Species at Risk Act) the habitat upon which that species depends is often not legally protected. Though SARA recovery plans have increasingly been taking a multi-species approach, Festa-Bianchet claimed more emphasis must be put on habitat protection. This call for a Leopoldian approach to species protection and recovery, where the ecosystem as a whole must be healthy for its component species to be healthy, seems commonsensical in theory, but may prove futile in practice. A number of issues immediately come to mind: for the numerous migratory bird species listed under COSEWIC, where important habitat is located across national borders, it is highly unlikely that the necessary habitat would be, or could be, protected, because any legislation implemented under SARA applies to Canada only; many threatened species have ranges outside protected areas such as national parks, where legal protection of their habitats would likely conflict with the rights of private landowners and with corporate or public interests. These examples illustrate how difficult it can be for politicians and policy-makers, who represent the interests of numerous stakeholders, to implement necessary measures aimed at a species’ protection.
Second, I’d like to add to the comment by Merle about the economic barriers to species protection, especially if that species happens to be an economically valuable marine species. The idea of discounting, as Merle suggests, is a probable explanation for continued exploitation of already over-exploited species. It is, however, only half of the explanation. Neo-classical economics presents another ‘rationale’ for over-exploitation and eventual stock extinction: infinite substitutability. Namely, it does not matter if a species is fished to economic, or biological extinction (though this form of extinction is rarely considered by economists), because another form of capital will replace the exhausted capital. If one fish species is fished to extinction, then another species will take its place. Herman Daly, in his book ‘Beyond Growth’, clearly demonstrates how ludicrous and irrational this position really is. As the easiest-to-fish and tastiest fish are fished first, more human-made capital (fishing boats, nets etc.) will have to be created to maintain catch yields when fish populations are exhausted, and when harder-to-fish species replace those exhausted populations. The inevitable outcome will be an ocean full of boats, but empty of fish. In an ‘empty’ world (a world with a small human population), the idea of substitutability seems coherent, but in a world full of people infinite substitutability is an impossibility. Thus discounting and substitutability create a thick wall of economic resistance to the legal protection of commercially valuable species, because not only is it more valuable to exploit the last remnants of a population today, some other species will take the place of the exhausted stock, so protection, from the economic perspective, is really a waste of effort.

Extinctions: between economics and psychology

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

I also went to Dr. Festa-Bianchet talk titled Scientific Assessment and Political Listing: the conservation of endangered species of Canada. As Culture Kid explained in a previous post, the talk was mainly about the functioning of the COSEWIC and the political decision of putting the species it lists on the official list of endangered species ‘deserving’ protection under the SARA. In this post, I want to focus on two points Dr. Festa-Bianchet made: 1) Most species which are harvested by humans have a very low change of making it to the official list; 2) Since the creation of the SARA, when 233 species were included as a package under its protection, no marine species made it to the list despite being recommended by the COSEWIC.
1) Not making to the list means not being protected by the SARA, which implies increasing chances of extinction. That we do not strive to protect what we directly rely upon for food, revenues, etc. is strange, especially if we consider that we seem to find it easier to ‘mobilize’ in order to protect species we do not directly rely upon. What can explain such a paradox? Discounting is surely one reason: according to main stream economists, we value less the consumption of something in the future than the consumption of something today. Moreover, it might be worth it economically, in the short run, to sell all our natural capital, transforming it to ‘virtual’ money that grows at compound interest rates if its monetary value will increase faster this way (roughly, on average, doubling every 7 to 10 years) then by letting the species multiply while harvesting only the ‘income’ it produces, not the ‘capital’. Even if one could argue that within a very narrow view of value it does make sense to think and act this way, one can wonder what would happen if we all acted according to this framework? What will we be able to buy with our abundant money if there is no natural capital left? What good is a lot of money if the only thing left to buy is money? “Money”, as complex and elusive a concept it may be, can minimally be defined as a virtual currency used, in the end, to exchange material goods. We should not forget that the economy is not, despite the abstraction level of financial markets, independent of these material goods and the ecosystems that provide them in the first instance. Remembering this might help us finding a new path to avoid the above mentioned paradox.
2) Why marine species do not make it to the lists? What is so special about them that make them unworthy of being preserved? Dr. Festa-Bianchet did not say much about this. One reason could be that they are being harvested by humans and that there is hence a paradoxically good economical reason not to protect them. This could be a good hypothesis since Dr. Festa-Bianchet did not say if all endangered marine species were harvested species or not. However, he did imply that there was something else at stake: we, the majority, simply do not seem to care about a species (or ecosystem) when it is bellow water. For example, we care about clear cutting when it happens to forests, but not when it happens to ocean floors through bottom trawling. If this is true, then why is it the case? Is it because we, the public, are less aware of it, since we don’t get to see it? Is it because marine species appear to be less like us than a mammal on the land? Are we, consciously or not, afraid of what lives in deep water so that their extinctions could be wrongly perceived, consciously or not, as a step toward mastery of nature, a step toward making earth safer for humans?

reminder post

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Hi All,

I now realize the folly of posting my thoughts about The Muddled Middle too early: it is not with this section of posts and may be forgotten! If you haven’t seen it yet, it is further down the page. Cheers!

Bureaucracy and Conservation Don’t Mix?

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

COSEWIC, or the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, determines annually the status of animals at risk, and provides the federal government with information about how to enact consequent conservation policies. Part of this entails the compilation of a list of animals strongly in need of the protection measures provided by SARA, or the Species at Risk Act (the Canadian version of the Endangered Species Act).

Dr. Festa-Bianchet is a biologist at the Université de Sherbrooke and a chair of COSEWIC. During his most recent seminar at McGill, he was wearing his professor hat rather than his more diplomatic COSEWIC hat, and thus he was able to be a bit more honest with his opinions. Festa-Bianchet briefly described COSEWIC’s mandate and composition before charting a critique of the ways in which the federal government makes decisions about which animals get on and which ones are left off “the list.”

Of the frustrations Festa-Bianchet described, I saw two central hurdles: bureaucracy and economics. He outlined three conspicuous hypocrisies or negligence(s) on the part of the federal government. One: all marine fish are left off the list; despite severe declines in population, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not sponsor the conservation of any species upon which people depend for economic livelihood. Second: any animal which Nunavut posits as endangered does not make the grade for conservation; this is because of sovereignty issues between the territory and the nation-state. This has strong implications for species such as polar bears. Third: once COSEWIC’s annual suggestion list is given to the federal government, there is no time-frame in which the government must act upon the information. If the government then waits ten years, their inevitable argument is that information from COSEWIC needs updating before anything can be done. And the cycle continues.

Sociologist Max Weber saw bureaucracy as inseparable from rationality. He emphasized that bureaucratic organizations were an attempt to address problems of size (or population) with rational solutions, to make it possible to conduct the business of the organization “according to calculable rules.” It seems the logistics of government conservation policies still operate in this vein. Festa-Bianchet’s exasperation with this bureaucracy was evident throughout his seminar, despite attempts to mute it. Obviously, the rationality behind COSEWIC does not match that of the federal government’s.

This seminar and subsequent discussions generated several questions about science methodology and objectivity. Publications on the decline of marine fish populations, for example, vary from one extreme to the other, depending on who the authors are, and for whom they are writing. People working for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans likely have different professional opinions from more independent ichthyologists who are part of COSEWIC. This reiterates the entrenched notion that, despite best intentions, science can be political and biased; individual worldviews inevitably enter the picture at some point.

taking care of e-waste

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Thanks to Caroline, a student in ENVR 201.

Bureau En Gros in Quebec has opened a new program together with Le Réseau québécois des CFER (Centre de formation en entreprise et récupération) and and the Quebec governmental agency RECYC-QUEBEC to properly recycle e-waste. They accept pretty much everything, from screens, to laptops, to walkmans, to cell phones. The participating stores–a list is provided-have a special counter where you come and give away your e-stuff. They take it and put it in a special bin where a CFER truck will come once a week (can be more, depending on load) and will deliver it to a place where workers in a youth training program will ‘decompose’ each item to its little pieces to be later reused or simply recycled.

Apparently, for a small cost to the consumer, Bureau en Gros also will download the contents of the computers onto CD or DVD. [Hopefully, this will reduce the 70-80% of stockpiling of computers.]

As Caroline reminds us, it surely doesn’t solve the problem of consumption, but at least the stuff that we already have can be disposed and taken care of more carefully.

aesop’s fables for a modern age

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

I had missed this from the May issue of the New Scientist on the 26 myths (or rather misconceptions) of climate change.

I was particularly attracted to the myth about computer models and whether or not we should put our faith in them.

Climate modellers may occasionally be seduced by the beauty of their constructions and put too much faith in them. Where the critics of the models are both wrong and illogical, however, is in assuming that the models must be biased towards alarmism – that is, greater climate change. It is just as likely that these models err on the side of caution.

And I like the following retort to those who see no value in modeling:

Finally, the claim is sometimes made that if computer models were any good, people would be using them to predict the stock market. Well, they are!

I wonder what our fables will be in 100 years time. Will we be telling stories of the little boy or girl who didn’t heed the broad trends shown in the climate change models and that’s why we’re experienced bad weather today? Or perhaps the little girl who was seduced by the beautiful computer model, which explained all the bad (stingy?) choices she subsequently made in her life.

A new place to recycle batteries, cell phones and more

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation has just launched its website, along with thousands of places to recycle batteries, cell phones, and (in some places) laptops. And it’s available in Canada and Montreal!

Here’s the call to recycle from Guy Lafeur:

how green is your iPhone?

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Apparently not so much.

Landscape analysis: a call for conciliating idealism and materialism

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

On September 21, I went to an interesting talk given by Ismael Vaccaro, a professor from the department of Anthropology and the MSE, on “Environmental Anthropology and Landscape Analysis”. The main objective of the talk was to present a methodology for doing landscape analysis, which he exemplified by some earlier field research he did in the Valley of Lillet, situated in the Catalan Pyrenees. Briefly summarized, the methodology identifies six social variables to be used as guidelines to read the different layers of meaning a landscape can contain: 1) demography, 2) property regime, 3) managerial institutions, 4) productive practices, 5) cultures of nature, 6) anthropogenesis and ecological changes.
A lot could be said on any of these variables, but one aspect of the talk that struck me as especially interesting has to do mainly with the last two: cultures of nature and anthropogenesis and ecological changes. The first one consists in the perception different groups of people inhabiting a land have (or had) of nature. Said otherwise, this variable tries to grasp how different group socially construct something like “nature” and hence what meaning they attribute to it. And since “nature” is such a broad and basic concept, we can suppose that this variable is meant to grasp something like the basic metaphysical conception a group of people has, implicitly of explicitly, of itself. It is meant to grasp their answers to such questions as: What is nature? What is their place in it? How should they behave toward it? And so forth. Any explicit or implicit ethical relation toward something like “nature” would hence be captured by this variable.
As for the second variable, “anthropogenesis and ecological changes”, it is meant to capture the material transformations of the landscape done by those groups of humans, over time. According to professor Vaccaro, a ‘purely’ natural landscape, in the sense of a landscape that hasn’t been modified by humans at some point or another, is something that does not exist. This statement entails, for instance, that restoration ecologists have to make a decision as to which previous state of the landscape they want to bring it back, since there is no ‘natural’ or ‘original’ state to which it could be restored.
The interesting aspect to which I alluded to above is that professor Vaccaro’s research led him to conclude that both variables where incomplete without the other and that it were both necessary to refer to cultures to understand the ecological changes of a landscape and to refer to the latter in order to understand the former. If this is true, then it means that both an idealist analysis of a culture made in order to understand the impact of a given people on its environment and a material analysis of the changes in this environment (and hence of the impact this people has) would be insufficient. The study of landscape would therefore call for a conciliation of the materialist and idealist traditions, since, according to professor Vaccaro’s framework, material conditions transform cultural frameworks, but cultural frameworks also transform the material conditions in a way that cannot be properly understood if one takes only the material conditions into account (and vice versa). This process, wherein world-views are modified as a result of material conditions and material conditions are modified as a result of evolving world-views, is, I think poorly understood. So it could be thought of as setting up interesting research projects.

XO comes of age

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

NYTimes reviews the $100 ($200, $400) XO laptop.

What’s really amazing is the way that a laptop, designed for poor kids in the third world, is propelling innovation in the first world. Consider the use of mesh networks and the new battery, which I can only hope will soon appear in laptops I can buy.

The limits of environmental activism

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

A nice multimedia display on the challenges facing environmental activists in China.

The importance of integrating different spheres of knowledge: thoughts on the round-table discussion, September 24th

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

On September 24th, I attended a round-table discussion with guest speakers from Evergreen and the Quebec-Labrador Foundation. An earlier post by ‘crocus’ addressed the former organization, so I will focus primarily on the latter.
The Quebec-Labrador Foundation (QLF) is a non-profit organization aimed at bringing human resources to small, often highly remote communities in eastern Canada and the New England States. In the early days of the organization, Ivy League students from the United States would disperse to remote communities to help develop educational programs there. Now, QLF is a much larger organization, offering internships to people from all over North America. Similarly, the vision of QLF has broadened from primarily focusing on building leadership skills in young people from remote villages, to a focus on developing conservation and stewardship skills in individuals and families, young and old. Indeed, with concerns about the environment increasing during the last quarter of the 20th century, issues such as sustainability, conservation and stewardship are integral pieces of QLF initiatives. For a more detailed history of QLF and their current projects, check out their website here.
One quality that QLF tries to incorporate and build upon in its programs is local, community-based knowledge. I learned quickly from my political ecology studies that many initiatives do not succeed if local interests and knowledge are ignored. Too often state-sponsored conservation initiatives are insensitive at the local-scale, leading to more harm than good. Thus, intelligently I think, QLF develops conservation awareness and skills by working at a local scale, with local knowledge and interests, to foster developments that, in turn, have implications at the national- and global-scales. For example, community-based marine conservation initiatives empower the local people with the knowledge and ability to manage the waters that they often depend upon for survival. Since fisheries around the world are collapsing, and marine fish species are increasingly threatened by extinction, the local-scale initiatives of QLF have global significance.
However, the appeal to bottom-up initiatives has often led to a glorification of the local-scale. Creating initiatives based solely on the knowledge and cultures of local peoples has its risks. For example, one of the guest speakers, an intern for QLF, noted that a local fisherman thought the porpoise fin he was holding in his hand was in fact a shark fin. Consequently, when locals comment on the species of fish in their waters, and give estimates of numbers of sightings for each species, one should be wary of the validity of this data. It would be unwise to create initiatives and base decisions on local knowledge alone.
The QLF brings expertise in the form of trained biologists, conservationists and other educators into communities and helps integrate it with traditional knowledge. I think this synergism between different spheres of knowledge (i.e. the academic, the professional, and the traditional) is an important component of any initiative to succeed on the ground in any community. For this effort, the QLF should be commended.
I do have one primary concern regarding the initiatives of non-profit organizations like Evergreen and the QFL: primarily, their sources of funding. Big corporations fund many of the organizations’ initiatives in part, or entirely. Considering that corporations have traditionally operated to promote their own interests and improve the bottom-line, how assured can one be that corporate funding for ‘green’ initiatives is not a façade to further promote corporate interests? For every hybrid that Toyota sells (they are the main source of funds for Evergreen), how many SUVs are sold with their logo? Should corporations stand above the moral standards that we set for other people and parties? It seems to me that corporations are tapping into the ‘green’ market purely because there is a market there. While they tap into this market, however, they maintain a foot in the older, more environmentally damaging market. With a foot in more than one market, corporations can make much more profit. My moral hackles rise when I consider corporations promoting environmentally-friendly goods and services one day, and environmentally-damaging ones the other; and sometimes on the same day on the same channel.

More Questions

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Following several discussions about how to enact environmental policy, this post is a negotiation of my comprehension. But before I begin, I must admit one crucial realization: the arena of environmental policy is one with which I am unfamiliar. I understand the motivating force(s) behind its construction and implementation (or lack thereof), but I am heretofore naïve about the real ways and reasons it all unfolds. Posts and comments on this blog have thus far dealt mainly with different ideas for bridging the gap between perceived dualisms, like science and policy. But how does such discussion act as a springboard for more concrete understandings and, most significantly, applications of this knowledge?

I do recognize that environmental policy is intricately linked with the predominant global economic system – namely, capitalism. Concepts such as “social capital” come into fruition because we understand that this culture’s ultimate ideals revolve around economic profit or benefit, despite simultaneous ties to conservation and preservation. Thomas Homer-Dixon, aforementioned on this blog, proposes a “no-growth economy” because he, like his predecessors, recognizes that change is not likely to be effected unless the worlds of money and nature are somehow separated. But this is not a realistic endeavour.

Curious how the Internet – our dominant medium for communication – would respond, and I what its input would bring, I Googled the term “environmental policy.” It brought me 293,000,000 results. I clicked on the first, titled, “How to Write an Environmental Policy.” The resulting web-page provides methodical instructions for non-governmental organizations and companies to create and implement basic environmental protocols. Outlining seven easy steps, the web-page makes the process seem linear, efficient, and effective. The web-page suggests using the Internet as a means of effecting these policies. But the ease with which this is supposed to occur is obviously not the reality at larger scales of national and international authority. Because it costs too much?

“The environment” is an ambiguous, arbitrary term, dependent on cultural values and perceptions, and thus “environmental policy” is a blanket concept, which fails to convey specific meaning. How, then, can one enter into comprehension? How is it translated from subjectivity to applicability, or is it? Can it be? Vaccaro and Norman’s in-press article, “Social Sciences and Landscape Analysis,” provides an example of a more systematic approach to providing a necessary back-drop for conservation policy, incorporating the worlds of quantitative data collection with historical texts, spanning temporal and spatial layers. And this seems a more appropriate entryway for understanding and creating cultural-specific protocol, a more pragmatic combination of “soft” and “hard” sciences.

It must be additionally noted, however, that the social sciences seem to possess an over-generalized understanding of ecology, and that non-anthropocentric ecological studies must be incorporated into the aforementioned historical and geographical layers. Environmental policy is not – or in my mind should not be – strictly centred on ensuring sustainability and derived pleasure for future generations of people.

The Muddled Middle

Monday, October 8th, 2007

In terms of scale, the discipline of science can be thought of as having two extremes. The very large scale includes studies of matter, energy, and planetary systems while the very small scale studies microscopic processes, protein formation, and bacterial physiology. What lies between these poles David Waltner-Toews refers to as the “muddled middle”. Waltner-Toews is a veterinarian and epidemiologist by trade but has come to understand the importance of letting larger issues (social, economic) inform the work that he does (traditionally small in scale). To show this, in his lecture he detailed a case study of trying to prevent Hydatid disease in Nepal. Previous solutions proposed moving animal slaughter from its previous location on the riverbank to enclosed slaughterhouses, thus preventing street dogs from eating the discarded animal Hydatid cysts and subsequently passing the infection onto humans. In theory this plan should work as it eliminates the path of transmission from meat to dog to human. The plan also included improving street sanitation (normally done by young women), and killing stray dogs and treating those with homes; but the problem of infection persisted.

While the ideas stand to work in a vacuum, they cannot simply be implemented without other costs (social and cultural) and therefore may not be accepted by the people at risk. By creating slaughterhouses, the tradition of butchering animals with family and passing the trade through the generations is lost; by killing street dogs, a source of protection for residents and businesses is lost; by increasing the number of young women working as street cleaners it keeps them from attending school or caring for their children.

Waltner-Toews pointed out that consultation with the community and stakeholders identified larger problems to be addressed. People were concerned about water and food quality, garbage removal, childcare, and housing not Hydatid infection. After much hard work the community came upon an action plan: there were enclosed slaughter areas (but not slaughterhouses), homes were created for people originally squatting along the river, public toilets were created, and community gardens were planted in previously degraded areas. Many of the community’s problems were addressed in ways that complimented the way of life and the social constructs of the region by identifying the connections between them (i.e. by having childcare, women are able to remove more garbage from the streets, which reduces the number of street dogs that may carry Hydatid disease).

This seems like a great story – my one beef with it was that there has not been follow up to see if the infection rates of Hydatid disease have indeed dropped. It has been unfeasible for Waltner-Toews to continue a study originally focused on identifying methods of transmission and coming up with possible solutions. Instead, what started out as a study about disease transmission became one about how simple “logical” solutions are complicated by reality. Further, he stressed that one should not reduce a problem to the scale of their methods, but find new (perhaps non-scientific) ways of looking at the problem.

Aside from the lack of follow-up, I think this case study highlights a problem that permeates science: it exists in a bubble. While doing controlled, focused studies with few variables helps us understand very specific questions about an organism or ecosystem, we sometimes forget to see how the small pieces fit back together. We need to question if the answers we have found are feasible and how they interact with the social, cultural and economic spheres in which they will be implemented. Does this mean the scientific method needs to be restructured? No. After all, controlling for certain variables can yield valuable information for future study, or in the case of epidemiology for creating vaccines, etc. But there must be better understanding and flexibility when it comes to how the findings actually function in an uncontrolled setting. Vaccines and treatments, for example, cannot be provided blindly without considering what causes the prevalence of a disease in the first place, which may often be related to economic or cultural norms.

Sustainable Communities in a Sea of Apathy?

Monday, October 8th, 2007

At a round table discussion/employment pitch about building sustainable communities, two non-profit organizations came to speak about the objectives of their programs. Here I will focus on the organization Evergreen. The spokesperson talked about schoolyard greening initiatives that they help to fund and organize mostly in urban centers. There is a need for school children to have more than just concrete, gravel and grass around them when they spend a lot of time in the schoolyard and more importantly out in the sun. Evergreen aims to add tree cover as well as spots of interest and discovery, that teachers can use to incorporate lessons about science and the environment.

As part of its mandate, Evergreen does not do the schoolyard greening them selves. They provide the funding, workshops for the community and experts to help design the final plan and work with stakeholders to make sure the plan will be feasible. The residents provide the physical momentum and are expected to implement the plan, and provide the maintenance and support needed down the road. One thing that wasn’t surprising, but disappointing none-the-less was that the organization comes up against much resistance from the communities they work in. Residents would rather Evergreen do the greening projects, instead of being active participants themselves. When the project is complete the community supports it and has more of a vested interest in what they have created, but this does not change the fact that it is hard to get the public support to begin with.

This made me question why this is the case, as it is not an uncommon occurrence. Why to we resist responsibility even when given the tools and a fail-proof environment? Why to we not take accountability and action? Are we so used to our social and governmental systems doing everything for us that we don’t remember how to self motivate and self organize? Is this lack of motivation inherent in us? Is the “capital vice” of sloth so widespread? Perhaps it is simpler than that. Perhaps people are afraid of what they do not know. Perhaps in this case, the community feels that they do not know enough about science or plant care to help in a productive way (the same way I feel when I get a plant that I don’t know how to care for).

Regardless, for sustainable communities to really work contributors, players, and advocates are all needed. How do we achieve participation and support with all people (not just the same old converts) when it seems like this desire or commitment has been lost from our collective memory?