questions from lectures and readings

Answer each question in its entirety and get every point.

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1. A report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), out this year, warns that devastating consequences of climate change may arrive earlier than previously thought –by 2040– and argues that avoiding disasterrequires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.” Comment on how this statement aligns with our discussions in class on the importance of fossil fuel extraction to our global capitalist economy?

2. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig (and 87-day release of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico from the exposed Macondo Well) has been called “America’s Chernobyl”. Based on our discussions in class, why is this comparison justified? List at least 4 reasons with supporting evidence.

3. Let’s think for a moment about nuclear energy:

A) Briefly discuss how nuclear reactors can “turn atoms into energy.” Be sure to include important terms, chemical reactions, etc.

B) Comment on the history of nuclear power; when was it discovered?, what is the trajectory of nuclear power use and nuclear reactor construction, and what is the current state of global nuclear power? What important factors have contributed to the expansion and/or contraction of new nuclear reactor construction over the past 75 years?

4. The disaster at Chernobyl:

(A) What happened at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine SSR in April of 1986? Briefly describe the explosion, subsequent meltdown, and the events that transpired in the 10 or so days after the explosion. Pay particular attention to the human lives that were impacted both during, and following, the disaster.

(B) What was the Soviet government’s response to the disaster? What was the international response? How did the international response influence the Soviet response?

(C) What are some lasting environmental effects of the disaster at Chernobyl?

(D) And finally, why is Chernobyl considered by many to be the worst environmental disaster ever?

5. Thinking for a moment about the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon ocean oil spills, what are some of the lasting environmental impacts of these spills? (Describe at least 3 for each). What were some of the human impacts of these disasters? After both the Exxon Valdez and after the Deepwater Horizon disasters, the US government took some measures to prevent such spills in the future and. In your opinion, did these measures work, and have “we learned our lesson?”

6. In his essay, “Human Views of Nature”, James Sherry asks:

“Does nature include humanity or is humanity irrevocably opposed to nature by virtue of self-interest and special capabilities (reasoning and reflection) that allow us to “rise above” it in special and important ways?”

Both our class discussions and the McKibben reading discussed the human relationship is with nature. Using the Sherry quote above, the reading, and our discussions from class, discuss the ways in which humans likely experience “cognitive dissonance” surrounding our relationship to nature. What conclusions can be drawn–from both the reading and our discussions–on “the end of nature”?

7. In the first Chapter of “The Mushroom at the End of the World”, by Anna Tsing, she writes:

This is a story we need to know. Industrial transformation turned out to be a bubble of promise followed by lost livelihoods and damaged landscapes. And yet: such documents are not enough. If we end the story with decay, we abandon all hope––or turn our attention to other sites of promise and ruin, promise and ruin. […] What emerges in damaged landscapes, beyond the call of industrial promise and ruin?”

A)What does Tsing mean when she talks of “damaged landscapes” and “industrial promise and ruin”?

B)Tsing asks us to not abandon hope in the face of industrial promise and ruin; how does she illustrate this using the case of the matsutake mushroom?

C)In your own words, draw parallels between Tsing’s proclamation of hope in the face of industrial promise and ruin and the aftermath of the two calamitous environmental disasters we discussed in class.

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