21st Century Land Ethics

We live in a very different world than what Leopold had experienced. The development of technology has made the world much more connected and now with the internet, people are able to search and find anything. This sort of reshapes how we see nature. Nowadays people are able to take out their phone and take a picture of the beautiful landscape and share it to their friends across the global in a matter of seconds. This easiness of sharing beautiful nature pictures pushes Leopold’s idea that nature should be conserved and not just taken for granted for its beauty.

The use of social media would be the new way to campaign and get attention to certain issues. Websites such as Avaaz is using this interconnectedness of people to start movement against various issues. This idea can be applied to land ethics. The official Instagram account of Leonardo DiCaprio is full of environmentally driven pictures that relate to climate change. He captions the picture with an explanation of what is happening in the picture, drawing attention to the cause due to his 6.5 million followers. Through these posts, DiCaprio teaches how people should interact with the biotic and abiotic factors of our land, and how our actions can affect these fragile systems.

Now in the 21st century, land ethics should now be adapted to the change in technology that occurs and utilize this great tool in favor of conservation. The land ethic idea can be pushed outwards through this tool, making people more aware of how they should interact with the land increasing overall conservation efforts. It is definitely a great tool to have.

Music in “Land” Ethics

Today is May 1st, which is international labor day. But instead of having a relaxing day, I have been laboring it out in orchestra all day. I am part of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra had we had our last concert of the season today. We had an amazing program lined up which included Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Although there were some sections that almost fell apart, overall the concert was a great success. At the end, we received a standing ovation from the audience. It was a great feeling and a very nice way to end my freshman year in orchestra.

But after this concert, it got me thinking about the land ethics. Leopold argued for the inclusion on the natural world into our idea of community. Including it would allow humans to be able to care for it and feel responsible for it. I was thinking if this same idea could be placed on music. Put music as a non-biotic feature of nature and protect it under this “land” ethics framework.

Sounds occur naturally in nature, such as the cry of the bird or the howling of the wind. But sound can also be created bioticly. With the help of human ingenuity, the development of instruments that allow us to create sound on paper and music notation that allows these sounds to be passed on. Although music could be considered a human construct, it can also be part of the natural environment. We can imagine the music as a wheat crop. It has been around for centuries and been apart of human life. The improvement of agriculture technology could be seen as the development in instruments and notation. I think what I am trying to get at is that there is essentially no much difference between a wheat crop and a music piece of work (except for the fact that one is tangible and the other is not).

As music is a human construct (just like nature – in some people’s view at least), it should be protected as well. I am speaking from a very classical music point of view. With the decrease in interest in classical music, it is currently a dying art form. So by placing it in this protective state, it could potentially be able to be saved. What I am trying to get at is that I personally would add classical music and natural sounds into my land ethic. To make it apart of what I would see and protect. We should interact with this new portion of the “land” like any other type of land. It needs to be treated with respect and people need to learn to appreciate the beauty of this music, rather than just wave it aside and underappreciate the genius of these wonderful composers. It is essentially like discovering a whole new clade of organisms or finding a cure to a disease. Appreciation and learn.

I could be totally crazy by saying this, or this could potentially be a very innovative idea. I really do wonder which one I am.

Spring Fest and Earth Day

April 22nd is Earth Day and for Cornell it is also Spring Fest. Spring Fest is where all of the environmental groups on campus come together and have a big fair on Ho Plaza. It is a time where we can demonstrate to the community everything we have done all year and also educate the community about these various environmental issues. For the environmental committee of the Student Assembly, we had to chose one of the many projects that we had on going on and present it at our booth. The one we chose was the CU Recycle idea where we have been working with Cornell Dining to implement a new system using reusable containers for to-go food instead of the regular throw away ones that are currently used in dining halls such as Trilium and Ivy room.

The idea is that a recycling system is set up. There are many points on campus where the trays can be collected then they would be washed and people are then able to rent them out again for their food. It seems to be a very easy system, but in practice it is quite hard to implement as it is a trust based system. But telling people about this idea, everyone is interested in it. They are all very much aware of what is happening in terms of plastic waste at these dinning spots. So everyone is glad that we are able to do something and work to push all of this in the right direction.



Spring has finally come to campus and it feels like campus is slowly coming back to life. When the sun is out and shining, the arts quad is filled with people lying on the grass, enjoying some of this much needed sun that has been hiding for a long time. Spring is also a time of weird weather. One day it might be sunny and warm, but the next day it could suddenly get so cloudy and cold. This sharp contrast is what is truly unique about spring.

With spring comes new life to the natural world. Flowers starts blooming, tree leaves start growing back. It is a time of regeneration. This is also a great time for us to think about land ethics. Nature is a big part of a Cornell student’s life. A prime reason that most people come to Cornell is for the natural beauty of Ithaca and appreciate all that Ithaca has to offer. But another idea that we buy into is the Big Red spirit and culture that is present. Although the culture and school pride spirit isn’t a tangible thing that can be seen but it is always there in spirit and it is one thing that unites everyone on campus together.

This sense of culture is an important aspect or idea if we are going to talk about “land” ethics. How people treat a certain place or area can be reflective on how much respect that the person has for that certain place or area. This is why I think it is important to add the idea of culture into the land ethics. It is a non-biotic feature that has the potentiality to affect nature in an indirect way.

Culture is a way of life of a group of people, shaping their beliefs, values and often shape behavior as well. I feel like with the inclusion of culture into land ethics will help develop a new set of cultural values. Essentially it would be sort of adding new values into existing values that people already have. These values would be related to helping the environment and protecting our natural resource.

Softball and Land Ethics

Spring has finally arrived! I hope. I mean it is Ithaca after all and the weather machine can do some amazing things. It might just start snowing next week and we will all get caught by surprise. But because it is a beautiful sunny day today, I shall enjoy it while I can.

Today I finally got to do some exercise as I played intermural softball with a group of friends. While fielding in outfield, I started to day dream and the question of land ethics came up. I know this might sound weird, but fielding in outfield is not the most exciting thing so it is actually quite normal for these wild topics to come up.

There are a variety of land ethic ideas with roots in various fields. Standing on a green grass field, it made me think of how the land ethic applied to where I currently was. The economic based land ethic would say that as the green grass field does not really have an economic value then it should be eliminated and ignored. But in his essay, Leopold argued against this idea as often times things with no economic value has a secondary value to us in terms of health and other social factors.

This economic based ethic is closely tied with the utilitarian based ethic who states that how we should use the land should be based on what is best for the people. I think my personal land ethic values would fall heavily within this category. The only thing that my I would change for my personal land ethic would be that the land should be used that would benefit the most people but it must be used in a sustainable way. It has some ideas of ecological based land ethics and some deep ecology thinking. But my way of seeing things has a higher stress on the sustainability aspect of land usage. I think sustainability based land ethic would be a great name for my land ethic.

My chain of thought was disrupted when my team mates started to yell at me as I haven’t realized the ball had landed past my head. Maybe day dreaming in softball isn’t such a great idea after all. But to summarize, my land ethic, sustainability based land ethic, would have the underlying idea that all interactions with the land has to ensure that the needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations. The resources should be used to benefit the greatest amount of people, but still understand that society is built on nature and humans are just a single seed in this whole system.


Fossil Hunting

The whole point of writing these place journals is Professor Stedman’s way for us to engage with the natural environment and surrounding, biotic and abiotic alike. But in order to truly engage with the physical landscape of the surrounding environment, one has to understand the natural history of the area. Ithaca has quite a fascinating natural history and by understanding this history, I am able to understand why the hills at Cornell are so steep and deadly and how the whole campus is built on a huge pile of fossils.

The story starts around 480 million years ago when the surrounding mountains around Ithaca was created through the multiple continental collisions that also formed the supercontinent Pangaea. By 290 million years ago, the mountain height around these regions rivaled the height of the Himalayas. At the start of the Devonian period, Ithaca was actually at the equator and had very warm climate (sadly this isn’t true anymore). The surrounding area had shallow saltwater sea that had a diverse marine life. As time pass, the skeletal remains of these marine organisms starts to pile up which eventually forms the limestone deposits of Ithaca. The sea started to erode the landscape, which formed the shale and sandstone that is formed around the finger lakes. The water eventually evaporated which formed the thick salt deposits that are currently being mined beneath Cayuga and Seneca Lakes.

But 2 million years ago, the planet started to cool and Earth entered a period of glaciation. The finger lakes were all carved out of the valleys by northward flowing rivers by multiple periods of glacial advances and retreats. Because these glaciers are not capable of preserving fossils, the fossils that are present in Ithaca are from the late Devonian period, roughly around 370 million years ago. There are a 4 major fossil groups, brachiopods, clams, crinoids and trilobites. Each is quite distinctive and all could be found on the Cornell campus!

For my biology class, we are currently learning about evolution and how through fossils we are able to find evidence of that. This is why we went fossil hunting in the Cornell gorges. Walking down 40 meters, I was fully surrounded by shale rocks around me. It is quite an impressive sight. Picking up pieces of shale, I tried to look for signs of fossil and after a few failed attempts, I started to find small brachiopods on the rocks. This was really really cool. I felt like I was going back 370 million years ago. But to be honest I cannot even imagine how long 370 years ago and how tropical and different this area was. It would be very cool to go back and witness this event for myself.

This overall allowed me to realize that it is important to not in a sense “judge a book by its cover”. Understanding the natural history of Ithaca allowed me to appreciate the gorges even more allowing me to better immerse myself into this natural surrounding.

Edible Cutlery

We have some good process with the environmental committee today. The next big thing on the table is SpringFest. SpringFest is basically a large event that is hosted on Ho Plaza every year where environmental groups of Cornell present what they are doing and try to get the community more engaged with environmental issues. Our plan for SpringFest as the plastics committee is to educate people and get people to reduce the amount of plastic bottles they use. We would coordinate with Take Back The Tap as their efforts are similar to ours and it would be redundant if we were doing similar things. We would also have a water bottle trivia and hand out free prizes and have a raffle for a really nice reusable water bottle. Of course this would also be a great time for more people to sign our petition on banning water bottles on campus. There is a lot more planning that is needed for this to be a success and with SpringFest right around the corner, we will need to get on it fast.

Another thing that we talked about in the meting was the idea of edible cutlery. There is this company in India that makes spoons, forks and knives. It is actually a very cool idea as once you are done with your food, you are able to just eat the spoon and fork as it if was a snack. This would generate no waste at all. These cutlery themselves are made from a combination of flours. They could also have extra flavoring such as spicy, onion and tomato, garlic, ginger and sweet. Here is a video:

We were discussing all of the possibilities with this cutlery and if Cornell Dining was to use this. It would not only support a small business in a developing country, but also give job security to the majority female workforce that currently work at this factory. I personally think that it is a great idea.

This got me thinking about environmental problems as a whole and environmental justice. Although the environment knows no boundary, it always seems to affect people who receive a lower income. But as it is not possible to solve environmental problems just through education, it is important to include the private sector into this fight. Not only does the private sectors have the resources, they most importantly have the influences in making a change and fight for the environment. This is why I am trying to apply to double major in Applied Economics and Management. I believe this business background, and understanding resource and energy usage from a business and economic point of view would provide me with the skills necessary for me to better adapt to various situations in the future.

Climate Action Plan

There has been great success with our on going battle with the University’s administration regarding Cornell’s Climate Action Plan. Cornell has had a superb history in investing into sustainability, and when former President Garrett stated that the 2035 carbon neutrality goal was not a priority, it created ripples of concerns about the faith of the Climate Action Plan across various student bodies on campus.

After months of activism and some great student leadership (from people such as Elizabeth Chi), there has been great improvement and more clarity on the faith of the Climate Action Plan. The Senior Leaders Climate Action Group (SLCAG), is a group of student, faculty and staff charged with Cornell’s carbon neutrality goal. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, “Provost and Acting President Kotlikoff has asked the SLCAG to report back to him by September 1st with a menu of options and associated costs for achieving carbon neutrality by 2035.” This is giant step forward in the correct direction. The information gather would enable the University leadership to provide all of us with the confidence that we will be able to achieve carbon neutrality target by 2035.

I believe that this is a huge step towards the right direction for the university. One of the reasons I chose to come to Cornell was actually for its great track record for sustainability.
I truly believe if it is any of the universities, it would be Cornell who would actually be able to become Carbon neutral by 2035. Although it is a very ambitious goal, it would set president to other universities and future generations to come.

Link to the Cornell Daily Sun Article:

SA Environmental Update

It is quite weird to think that half of my Freshman spring semester had already passed. It has been really fast, just felt like yesterday that I got on a bus and came back to Ithaca. With half the semester left, it means that the Environmental Committee has to step up its game in order to move forward and actually accomplish something meaningful by the end of the semester.

Today, the environmental committee plastics subcommittee discussed various ideas on how we can push forward with our efforts. We have been quiet productive for the past weeks, meeting with various mangers from different cafes, asking them about the plastic waste. We have had success with Temple of Zeus, whose manager said that they are 100% for stopping the sale of water bottles at their café. But the other independent cafes such as Mandibles and Forks and Gravels did not want to stop selling plastic water bottles because they say that these water bottles are actually a huge part of their profits. This came to a surprise for us as we did not expect water bottles to still be make such a huge profit on campus.

What we plan to finish this semester is to strike some sort of deal with Cornell Dining. Previously the Environmental Committee haven’t had a great relationship with Cornell Dining, but through working with them this semester, I believe that our relationship has gotten better. Also Cornell Dining has increased its awareness on sustainability. What Cornell Dining wants to do right now is to sell reusable water bottles at all of their checkout areas on campus. They know that these bottles sell well, but because there isn’t enough in stock, not a lot gets sold.

Overall, we are making good progress and this momentum needs to continue. Hopefully Spring Break wouldn’t slow us down!

The 3 Phases

Having lived in a huge metropolis for most of my life I have been use to the loud lifestyle of the city. Buses, cars, motorbikes zoom around on the road, trying to find the fastest route to their destination. In the sky, huge jumbo jets and helicopters fly over head, always leaving a trail of noise behind them. Before coming to Cornell, I thought that Ithaca would be a much quieter because it is a small town with a great natural surrounding environment. But after coming here and getting use to the Ithaca lifestyle, I realized that I was only partially right.

I have concluded that there are three different phases in a given 24-hour period. The “class rush” which is from 7am till 4:30pm. Then the “after class” phase from 4:30pm till 12:00am and finally the “no man” phase from 12:00am till 7am. In each of these 3 different phases, campus life changes dramatically (and I am only referring to the week day here). I shall describe each in greater detail.

The “class rush” is the loudest time of the day, especially during those 15 minutes in between classes, when thousands of students storm the streets, each with a specific destination in mind. Some are going to lunch or home, while others are rushing to the bus stop to catch the next bus home. It is a very hectic time of the day and it would be very interesting to track everyone’s movements and plot them on a map. The spatial and temporal distribution would generate some interesting statistics.

The “after class” phase is slightly calmer than the normal class rush. Most people are heading home and the dorms and college town start to regain life. Others flood into the libraries, hoping that nobody would take the seat in their favorite spot. Okenshields starts to get crowded during dinner time while everyone on central tries to grab a bite to eat before heading back to the library or home to study.

The last phase, and my favorite phase, is the “no man” phase. This is when campus is empty. Everyone has basically gone home. There is just a slight rush of people at 2am, when the libraries close, trying to get home to get some much needed sleep. The air is quiet and cold with the wind often howling strongly.

I find it weird how I am able to distinguish these different time zones, but one thing that they all had in common was the fact that whenever the buses drove past, it would be one of the loudest things ever. It was due to the sound of the buses that I decided I would reflect on the noise pollution in Ithaca. Everything seems to be quite nice and quiet until one of the TCAT buses comes along. Many people don’t see it as a problem, but the TCAT could be quite disturbing.

I think what I am trying to get at is the fact that people need to listen to the environment around them much more. Most people don’t see it but noise pollution is actually a big issue. Imagine living next to a busy international airport and how it can affect a person’s life. But often we are too focused on our own lives to realize the sounds around us. This relates to the bird idea that I had written before. As now is the time of spring, more and more birds would come out and sing. If we just open our ears to this natural world, we would be able to hear things we never once thought existed.