Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rel. & Env. Ethics: My Family Tree Assignment

My Initial Experiences with Nature:

 As I was growing up, my maternal grandparents’ farm was still fairly active.  I remember my Grandpa Joe had cattle, chickens, partridges, and pigs.  They had—and still have—all types of crops, trees, vines, and bushes to grow various vegetables and fruits.  He also had hunting dogs he would take with him whenever he and his friends or sons would go hunting.  He would not be very happy when I tried to make pets out of his hunting dogs.  I would also get up way before the crack of dawn to fishing with my grandpa.  He taught me how to bait my hook and cast the line.  Thanks to my grandparents, I was always spoiled with fresh food.  To this day I hate canned vegetables and fruits.  I also remember these random cats that used to wonder around his mother’s yard—while she was still living. I would love to visit my grandparents’ home because I was free to roam around the yard and go down the dirt road with my sister and cousins.  We would also play with my grandma’s best friend’s grandkids, and most of the time all we would be doing was roam around outside.  The natural world was just this infinite playground in which I could play.  There was no scenario or no game that we could not make up—anything was possible!  At home, my sister and I were allowed to play outside with our neighbors until the street lights came on.  My neighborhood has a trail and we would always ride our bikes down the dirt path to the creek and skip rocks.  My parents always taught my sister and I to be environmentally conscious. I remember the one time I decided to litter a gum wrapper because I thought it was so small, but my dad scolded me and said being wrong starts out small and then it escalates.  My mom and dad always taught my sister and I that we need to be good stewards of the earth and take care of the land we have.

My Grandma and Mom’s Views of Nature and Land:

Grandma Marie’s Views of Nature & Land:
Me: How do you view the land in terms of property?
Grandma Marie: It’s nice to own property, but there are a lot of people who put too much emphasis on the property and not on the family. Belief in being well rounded and even thought on whatever comes in life.  It’s like a menu of making a good meal, it takes more than one thing to make a good life. You have to be smart enough to separate good from the bad.

Me: What are your attitudes towards the land, did you have respect for it?
Grandma Marie: Of course you respect the land. I enjoy farming. You are free, you don’t have a supervisor standing over you. You work at your own pace. I love farming. That’s why I enjoy gardening so much. My body can’t keep up like it used to, but I love gardening. Gardening is like farming. You like all those good tomatoes and ears of corn.

Me: Do you feel you have an attachment to the land?
Grandma Marie: I have an attachment to the land because this is where we live and I love country. I wouldn’t mind living a little closer to town, but I love the open land. I feel free living like we live.

Me: Were you taught any religious values about nature?
Grandma Marie: We were taught the value of the church and the respect of the church, but nothing specifically to nature.

Mommy’s Views of Nature & Land:
Me: What are your views of land in terms of property?
Mommy: I basically think if you can afford it or inherit it belongs to you.

Me: What were your attitudes towards the land? I know you grew up farming, so did you view as just a job or did you respect it as well?
Mommy: I considered farming to be a job where you had to work the land. You had to get up early and the whole process of farming. However I respect the land because I have access to it.  We had parts to run around and space to stretch out.

Me: Oh, I forgot to ask Grandma a question. How did grandma and grandpa view animals?
Mommy: They named the animals. They were property, but they were also important to the whole process of farming.

Me: How do you view animals?
Mommy: To me they are a part of the farm.

Me: Were you taught any religious values about nature?
Mommy: They did, but it never came out in a sermon. Cultural values, I was taught, I grew up with people who really valued land. Their ideology was if you didn’t have any property and land you didn’t have anything. For a while blacks weren’t allowed to own land. Only a handful had some during slavery.  I grew up with two generations removed from slavery that put great pride in their land.

Me: Do you feel you have an attachment to the land?
Mommy: I have an attachment where I grew up at, and I think you understand that…it’s just the fact that I recognize the heritage of my great grandfather and great grandmother’s sacrificing and keeping up with the land. I would like to see it productive and not just sit there, but, yeah, I do have an attachment to the land.  Sometimes I think the attachment to the land comes with your attachment to memories.

My Current Attitudes Toward the Natural Environment:

I love to be outside when it is warm outside.  During the summer, I associate being outside with social festivities such as cookouts or looking at fireworks for the 4th of July.  Most of the time when I am outside it is because of a family/friends cookout or a church picnic.  My home church as well as my grandma’s church has always had outdoor picnics just as a social activity for its members.  In addition to eating, there are always other activities to do, whether it was some sort of sport or just a general outside activity.  My family reunions always have some sort of outdoor cookout incorporated into it.  I have a lot of good memories with being outside.  I agree with my mom that my attachment to land is mainly through my memories.
Even now, the outdoors to me is very open to a wide range of things.  Recently, since I have been older, my grandpa and uncle will let me practice shooting targets with them.  In Raleigh, I would have to go find a shooting range, but I was able to shoot right out on my grandpa’s land.  As far as animals, I feel like I have a fascination with them.  I don’t know what this will say about me as a person, but every time either I or my cousins finds a snake, I enjoy yelling out snake and us pursuing it to kill it. I just like the rush of it.  Sometimes the stuff I grab won’t even be a traditional weapon, but it could be a shovel and I will go after it.  Most of the time, I’m too slow to catch the snake, so I have never really killed a snake.  The only time I killed an animal is when I accidentally ran over a squirrel.

I think the environment is really cool because there are so many different processes and systems that happen within nature.  Right now, my appreciation towards nature is mostly for the aesthetic appeal—or for things that are not of typical beauty—things that can catch my attention.  I try to make sure I do “my part” and recycle—and whatever else I can—as my parents have taught me.  I cannot afford to shop environmentally though.  I do have concern for the disparate proportions of minorities and poor people in the United States who live in areas with higher concentrations of pollution.  At this point in my life, I don’t know what I can do to help this problem beyond writing senators and congressmen.

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