Why We Fail Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Americans: Environmental Collapse and the End of Civilization" by Jared Diamond.

With a BA from Harvard University and PhD from Cambridge University, as well as a vast amount of works published, professor Diamond uses his extensive knowledge as well as his equally extensive field work and research to put on the table what he found disturbing about the fall by self-destruction of ancient civilizations, among which, he focuses on that of the Mayas.

The author opens his essay with Percy Shelly's poem, Ozymandias, using poetry to appeal to the reader's sensibilities. By creating a sad, hopeless atmosphere, he is setting the tone in anticipation of the rest of the essay. His choice for the poem of an incurable romantic as Shelley, may seem odd for the opening of an essay about the environment. However, it strikes several cords and thus opens the reader's heart instead of just one's mind. This approach is also suggesting that he is strongly attached to this topic, instead of keeping the calm, cold uninvolved attitude of the scientist. He is a scientist, but he will use hos knowledge only to provide support for his ideas and conclusions. He is further showing his strong involvement to the subject by using the first person pronoun: "our politicians." By using the plural, he is also making any reader an accomplice to his endeavors.

Diamond unequivocally blames the decline of great ancient civilizations such as: the Anasazi, the Kahokia, the Greenland Norse, the statue builders from Eastern Island, the Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a few others to the depletion of their resources. He places the moment of greatness of such civilizations very close to the moment when their fall begins. His tone d dismissive, he does not let any space for interpretation. In order to make sure the reader got the message correctly, he immediately jumps to our contemporary society, pointing to the fact that his exploration of history aims at drawing the alarm for the way the world evolves today. In a way, he is going against the stream of voices that repeat endlessly and hopelessly: History is doomed to repeat itself.

2nd Article: Children in the Woods, by Barry Lopez

An academic and full time writer, berry Lopez wrote extensively for audiences who are dedicated to nature, or just seek to expand their knowledge about the natural world that surrounds them. This essay's title is both metaphorical as well as practical. The author will talk about his actual experience going exploring with children in the woods, but this is rather the pretext for his approach. This leads to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his "Discourse on Inequality": "he first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody" (Rousseau, 1754)

The first thing that strikes between the Lopez' and Diamond's essays, although they appear to be speaking of quite different things, is their similarity in thinking: the message is loud and clear. Diamond just uses different ways over and over again to say in many words that the world is ours to take care of, protect, share and pass on to our future generations. His method of saying this is by example. As mentioned above, he chooses alarm system, the history that we know.

While Diamond is using logical deductions, evidence from scientific theories, studies and researches to prove his point, Lopez is apparently keeping away from such methods, emphasizing a different kind of communication. On the other side, he, too, uses the force of a powerful example: that of children walking in the woods. He is also a scientist, but one that is just the opposite to what Diamond describes in his essay as "the ivory-tower academic ecologist who knows a lot about the environment but never reads a newspaper"(Diamond). From time to time, Diamond leaves his scientific composure to use such strong expressions to harmonize with his introduction, with his full participation, involvement. Although he uses the tools of a scientist who is anchoring hos theories in the solid ground of science, he is also careful to detach himself from the "scientific objectivity" that is often the absolute requirement in the field of science. Precisely because of his humanity, he is keen to emphasize his human nature. His essay, although large in size and well documented, does not apparently offer solutions, while Lopez is putting the solution on the table: "look at children and learn," "go back to your own childhood, see what you remember and wonder about its meaning." He takes himself as an example and shows, like Diamond, that history should be useful to human beings; including their own history, too. Learning from one's experiences is as important as learning from humanity's experiences, the two authors seem to convey.

Both authors are able to convince through their extensive knowledge of the topics they tackle, but the success of their stories lie in the way they express their personal attachment to their topics. They write about the environment, they intend to make their readers aware of the earnestness of their subject, but they use metaphors as some of the most effective ways to convey their messages. Harsh reality takes a great deal of symbolism once people start pondering. Lopez uses his example of how science he used to analyze the jaw of an animal he found in the woods continues to work in people's minds and summons up their imagination long after they left their actual object of study behind. The appeal to consciousness is efficient this way.

Diamond reveals the decline of an ancient civilization as the Mayas as a potent small universe example that can be extrapolated to our globalized world. Hre is another similarity between the two authors: they both appeal to "small worlds"(small, by comparison to what we perceive as much bigger in proportion, like the planet as a whole). The small world of the Mayas as well as the micro universe of a forest can be replicated at a larger scale, they both emphasize.

Unlike Lopez, who adopts the tender caring tone of a loving grandfather, Diamond uses harsh tones, not sparing anyone of his accusations. He accuses politicians for not caring, he points a finger to ecology scientists for isolating themselves from the rest of the world, he accuses all the rest for putting to much hope in technology's power to save the humanity from self-destruction. He like to surprise and make bold statements, but he is always backing them up with sound arguments. Precisely because he knows ecologists are failing to make the public start acting instead of just hoping for the best, he takes a different path. He takes the example of an ancient civilization like the Mayas, one that people generally think of as those native American populations who could teach the modern world about being close to nature and reveals exactly the contrary: their decline and fall did not come as a result of the European "discovery" of the Americas and the subsequent colonization, but it came mush earlier. He likes to surprise and intrigue in order to get things started.

Lopez concludes his essay with another comparison. He compares the entrance into the woods with that in a cathedral. He emphasizes the importance of listening. Active listening means using all one's senses, not just the hearing. Children,…

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