Self-Evaluation

In my opinion, the strongest journal entry is the last one. The prose is my best and is a product of the growth of my writing throughout the quarter. It also contains pictures that reflect exactly what I was writing, something I learned from reading Alex and Grant’s blogs. I also decided to space the pictures out after paragraphs instead of just putting them at the end like in previous journals.

I enjoyed this assignment because it was so individualized and gave me the opportunity to write about a number of themes as well as connect it course readings and course motifs. Although other people in the class also chose to visit Commons Park, our site journals are extremely different and demonstrate the different ways we went about the site journal.

I thought writing about the change in seasons was definitely hard to do. Commons Park doesn’t have a lot of trees or wildlife, so it was hard to talk about it when I couldn’t really tell if anything was truly changing. The main change I noticed was the homeless people started to dress warmer as it got colder. The climate from the beginning of the quarter to now hasn’t changed much, and although it’s colder now at night, it has not been a big enough difference for me to deem significant. It was difficult to visit the park at night because I feared for my safety, so it was hard to get pictures of Commons at night.

It was decently hard to synthesize the essays into one. I had a main theme which made it easier, but all journals had been about different things so that was difficult.

I took a few risks throughout the process of making this blog site and site journal. One of the main risks was taking pictures of dead animals for my 3rd journal. I felt so uncomfortable that I almost didn’t include them, but in the end felt that it was more important for me to show the truth than care about how others viewed me

Throughout the creation of the blog and visiting my site, I learned a lot about writing and how it’s more appealing to write less professionally for certain audiences. Nature writing is included in this because the writing needs to be perceived as natural and unstructured. I found that writing in this manner was fun and didn’t feel like I was writing a typical essay for class. Overall this project was fun, mind-opening, and taught me a lot about nature and its treatment throughout the worlds history

Site Journal 4

As I think about the interconnectedness and sustainability of Commons Park, I contemplate and reflect on its history. The location was originally a historic gathering place for Native Americans tribes. Tribes like the Utes, Arapaho, and Cheyenne played, bathed, and fished on the banks of the South Platte river, which snakes through Commons Park. They respected and cherished it, just as they did with the rest of the natural world. If these tribes had not been banished from their own homelands, Commons Park would not exist, and the world would be better for it. The native people knew how to treat the earth, and the banks would never be lined with trash or turn a dirty color because of pollution; it would be pristine water, the color of ice, that had run down from the mountains nearby.

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On October 29, 1858, the first store was opened in Denver. Settlers moved to Denver and stayed for its immense beauty, great location, and picture-perfect weather. It was not until June of that year that gold was discovered and a stampede of 100,000 people began to mine in the South Platte river, trespassing on native land to do so. These invading whites were not sustainable in any way. The had one mission, to clean out the South Platte of gold and move on to the next gold rush location. They were motivated by money and were industrialists, not caring about the history of the land or its resources which were essential to the natives. Natives grew tired of miners using resources on their land illegally and a war ensued, just 5 years after Denver was incorporated. In 1864, the natives were forced out of Colorado in the Sand Creek Massacre, where 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne natives were brutally murdered and mutilated.

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After this the settlers became the new owners of the South Platte River and the land around it. They were abusive to the new land and d no respect for the natural world. They used the land for industrial projects which undoubtedly poisoned the river and ecosystem. The area that is currently Commons Park turned into a brownfield for over a century; maybe the reason why the river is a red-orange color instead of the pure light blue that it should be. In 1991, the city of Denver purchased this land to turn into a park. The planted luscious, green grass and flowers as well as other native plants over the previously toxic land. Sustainability had become more important to Americans at this time, but it was far too late; Commons Park was destined to become what it is today.site-journal-4-d

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The future of Commons park in regards to sustainability is not looking prosperous. The park has been closed previously due to crime and the intrusion of homeless people that live on the land. As I compare them to the natives, they are polar opposites. They throw trash on the ground of the park, which makes its ways to the banks of the South Platte, forever stained with native blood. Natives treated the same land with respect where people now go to smoke marijuana. As Commons Park continues to decline, I hope that the city decides to invest more time and money into the park and getting rid of its problems. The future does not look bright, but if efforts are made into its sustainability, improvements can certainly be made.

 

Fracking: Writing Exercise

As American energy needs continue to skyrocket, the go-to producer of that energy, fossil fuel, continues to be fracked at an unbelievable rate. Although US EIA data suggests that carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing, fracking needs to be stopped in its tracks because of the other environmental and health damage it’s doing to our society.

Water supplies across the country have been contaminated due to fracking, either by natural gas, or the toxic chemicals used in  the process of fracking. When these chemicals get into the water wells that people rely on to use in everyday activities (showering, drinking, cooking), they cause cancer, birth defects, and even nervous system disorders. To make things worse, fracking companies were made exempt by the 2005  Safe Water Drinking Act which allows drilling and fracking industries to  inject unknown and toxic chemicals into or near underground sources of drinking water without disclosing what the chemicals are to the government or public.

Besides the possibility of major health problems, fracking also is slowly destroying the climate and environment we live in. Methane leaks at every stage of the fracking process. There is also no technology to make the process of fracking safe or more efficient in not releasing methane into the atmosphere. 5% of oil and gas wells leak immediately and 60% fail over a 30-year time period. Currently, 35% of oil and gas wells are leaking right now, as I write this. If this isn’t cause for concern, I don’t know what would be.

Some claim that the current use of natural gas is just a bridge to the future use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy. This is simply not true. The flood of cheap natural gas is slowly pushing the option of renewable energy away, because no one wants to invest in renewable energy while natural gas is already so cheap. Until fossil fuels have prices that adequately reflect their carbon emissions and damage to ecosystems, then it is not probable that renewable energy sources will be used in the near future.

Site Journal #3

As I began to connect the features of Commons park to our curriculum, I thought about some of the stories we’ve been reading in class that focus more on the corruption of humanity and nature than of the beauty of it. Commons park was in my eyes more of an urban playground than a park. Two police cars, stationed in the middle of the park that overlooked “stoner hill”, sat and chatted while eating donuts as about one hundred yards ahead, twenty homeless people bought and sold drugs. Trash blew all around the park, settling itself on the banks of the South Platte river. If you walked the road where the park met the streets, dead squirrels and birds could be seen. Although at first I resented choosing Commons park at my site location, I came to terms with it and realized there was potential to create literature that exposed the immoral acts of humanity towards nature instead of writing about its’ beauty.

Walking the streets adjacent to Commons park, I was sad to see dead squirrels and birds lining the sidewalk. It immediately reminded me of the short story “Apologia” by Barry Lopez, where Lopez recounts his experiences picking up dead animals on the side of highways and escorting them to a more peaceful resting place. Although I would never have the courage of picking up any dead animal unless it was a pet of mine, I respected Lopez for the peace he brought to both humans and the souls of the animals who had been hit by cars. These animals deserved better than to just be left on the street after death, waiting for some garbage man to eventually pick up the carcass. Truly, animals should be able to “rest in peace” the same way as humans do, which includes proper burial. Also, in the eyes of humans, dead animals are a eye-sore, just like dead humans on the streets are.

I thought about how Lopez wrote that he “[did] not wish to meet anyone’s eyes”. He was doing the world, natural and human, a service, and yet he could not bear to be judged by the society that he was helping. As I examined these dead animals on the ground, I felt the same way: I made sure that no passersby’s saw me looking. I felt so odd even though what I was doing was introspectively thinking about the treatment of non-human animals at their death.

The thing that bothered me the most about commons park was the trash that filled it. Thinking more about Lopez’ story, did trash not deserve the same fate as animals should and humans already do? Trash left out all over the park was the same to me as animals lining the sidewalks.  Trash left out degrades into the soil and poisons it, while the bodies of animals are natural and degrade naturally. It is actually more ecologically important to clean up the trash because of the toxins they pour into the environment, but at the same time, animals should be regarded higher than trash. Either way, the same sentiment of proper “burial” should be carried in all life forms, living and dead. Trash may not be alive, but when it is left “dead” on the ground, the earth becomes worse to look at and to live in.

Eco-Feminism

In modern society, the mind and the body are not equal as they should be. The mind far outweighs the body for reasons that have been implanted in the brains of children for generations now. The theory is that with a strong mind, more knowledge will be implemented and therefore more possibilities will be made. The possibility of money, power, new information, anything. The body has been limited by this. It has been objectified by our culture. Good looking girls and boys are seen for how they look, not how they think. Looking at this from an ecofeminist perspective, the reason why is clear. The mind has always been associated with men. The great philosophers, kings, champions, leaders  of our history have all been men with great power and wealth; and they got to these positions through the power of mind. The western philosophy of making the mind greater than the body has played a great role in the mind set of people today. People are much more likely to go to school and get good grades than try to create the perfect physique, which in all honesty would help them to live longer in the grand scheme of things. This ties in perfectly to ecofeminism because the body has always been associated with females. Females in our society are looked at for their bodies, not their minds. Think about the adult actresses in the world and the millions of men who watch them every single day. Their power lies in their bodies, in which men can see. They don’t have the same respect for their minds, which are just as great. Body and mind should be treated equally, but ancient philosophy has led us to believe that the mind has power over the body, and not vice versa. Body and mind should live equally, but that will never happen unless these terrible and masculinized stigmas disappear from our society.

In Class Writing

Although I have not read Moby Dick, this allegory stands out to me as a message of color and race. Captain Ahab is searching for Moby Dick, a massive white whale which he attempts to hunt and kill. The color white is perceived to be and has a strong connotation of purity and hope. Captain Ahab is on a search for this purity but realizes that when he catches it that it was futile; the color white is a lack of all colors existing; the lack of substance in life. At the top of the mountain, Kerouac sees the factories in Seattle and realizes that humans are degrading the earth for their own benefit. This whiteness that Captain Ahab is chasing is what we’re all chasing in life. The “factory smoke” is a life that furthers itself from nature.

Teachers and professors put students into groups because in a large group setting, students may feel apprehensive to speak but in smaller groups, the same students feel comfortable and will share their ideas. The students gain insights that they would not have heard in a large group setting due to the comfort of small groups. The teachers gain the same thing; insights from a small group of minds that have come together to create new ideas which benefits the class as a whole. One of the problems that can arise in small group settings is bias because you’re not hearing everyone in the class’ ideas; just a few of them. The best way of going about it is getting into small groups and getting comfortable, then expanding out into a full class discussion where kids will be more prepared and comfortable sharing their developed ideas.

Site Journal #2

On the edge of the South Platte River trail, a stretch of Blue Grama grass about 10 feet wide was planted to protect citizens from walking directly to the river. Blue Grama is the Colorado state grass; it’s tall and thin and its ends contain seeds identical to eyelashes. These seeds are a great source of protein for animals in the winter when food is scarce. As I walked the trail from the East end of the park to the West, several off-course trails appeared that cut right through this grass. As I followed one down to the river to get a better glimpse of it, I was appalled by the amount of trash that had been left there by visitors before me. I began to realize that the locals were right in the fact that this park had some major issues to fix.

The park hosts 20 acres of green space that is to be avoided by walking on the circuitous cement trails. As I approached the main loop of the park, I saw another human made trail that cut right through the loop. I assume that people use this path because it’s a quicker route from Lower Downtown to Lower Highlands, and it’s clear that people have been doing this for a long time. One of the main attractions of Commons Park is that 40 percent of the terrain is made of grass and plants native to Colorado. The other 60 percent is a more formal and urban landscape. Sagebrush, a fragrant shrub plant native to Colorado is widespread throughout the park, giving the park and spicy and bitter aroma. Pine trees can also be found in Commons Park, mostly concentrated in the center of it, where squirrels can be seen running up and down its bark and darting to the closest pine.

The urban landscape makes it hard for true fauna to survive, but some species that have learned to adapt in urban areas seem to flourish in the parks greens. The squirrels are abundant, and birds can be seen and heard in most of the parks trees. The river, although dirty, is home to an abundance of trout. I only saw small trout swimming along the basin of the river, and think that as they grow they move downstream to where the river opens up and predators would be more likely to attack.

The flora and fauna of Commons Park, both of the native and non-natural descent, define the park as what it is; an urban park attempting to encapture the natural beauty of Colorado in the developing metropolitan city of Denver. Human-made trails kill the planted grass despite the “do not walk on grass” signs. It’s a sad sight to see such a good idea for a park be deteriorated by people who don’t care about the environment. Before Commons park was built, it was a railroad yard unpleasant and unaesthetic to the many eyes who passed it. The parks creators had great intentions, but are failing to protect the natural environment they coveted dearly and hold near to their hearts. Many homeless people in the area band together in small communities and help each other to survive. The homeless community are also the ones carrying most of the blame for the trash on the ground of the park; locals claim they have no respect for the environment and leave behind waste as they please. Whether or not this claim is true will be tested in my next few visits to the park. I will attempt to focus on the main problems of the park, as well as the cause and possible solutions.

Site Journal #1

When you look up the general information about Commons Park, Wikipedia will tell you that it is a “urban park offering jogging paths, a riverfront trail, benches, and shady spots to relax.” But the park, which has called lower downtown Denver its home since it was built in 2000, boasts so much more than that. The east side of the park is the sites urban connection. The east-side end is right across the street from the skateboard park and the closer of the two into downtown Denver. The west side emphasizes nature; the South Platte river snakes through the west side of Commons Park. The grass is greener, taking the color of the native plants and grass they let grow there. But the west side is also plagued with “stoner hill”, a place where homeless people have been living for years. The hill is raised, which makes it hard for anyone to see what goes on unless you climb up it, and thus a great place to call home if you don’t have one. But “stoner hill” definitely doesn’t just get its name from homeless people. Many homeless teenagers, referred to as “transients” in the local community, go there to sell and smoke marijuana to the neighboring homeless community.

In my first trip to the Commons, I only really explored the east side. I was let down and underwhelmed by the urban feeling the whole park gave me. I made my way down a long pathway, which must loop the whole park. In the middle of the east side, there is a small dog park, yet no dogs where there on that beautiful sunny day. I walked down to the river and the red-brown color it gave off made me realize it was somehow polluted. I walked upstream, closer to the skate park; the trail was lined with trash. I stumbled upon a drainage pipe which poured water into the river near the Millennial Bridge, which crosses over the South Platte river. I had found the site of the pollution. It was saddening to see what was described to me as a beautiful park looking so torn up and abused. It made me question how parks in urban areas and parks in natural settings are treated so differently. After being there for about 30 minutes, I left back to the University.

I was re-considering my choice of Commons park as my nature destination when I decided to pull up a map of the park. It turned out I had been missing a huge section of it, the west side. I knew I had to stick with my choice and explore what the rest of the park had to offer. And although it was urban, it was definitely a great place to relax and walk around. The water may have been a little murky, but I saw fish swimming around. I also saw a baby squirrel, shaded dark brown with a white belly. I’m excited to see what the west side of Commons park has to offer; I’m also very intrigued by the homeless people who inhabit this park and their history with the land.