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Mike Tarpey

Phil 287
December 11, 2016
Engaged Learning Reflection
Part of Loyola University of Chicagos mission statement is to expand our
knowledge in the service of humanity thorough learning justice, and faith. As such, we
must seek justice in all of our dealings. These dealing also include the good of all living
things, and not just humanity. We must be just in how we treat the natural world as well,
for it is the natural world that facilitates our very beings. Through work for both in and
outside the classroom, I have explored the connections we have to the environment and
the ethical duties and responsibilities we have as members of the biotic community.
In order to understand how to interact with our greater ecosystem in a more just
way, we must first understand our relationship to it. As we have noted through readings
such as Leopolds A Land Ethic, as well as the works of Guha and Mies, we learn that
humanity as a whole (however the Western societies seem especially guilty) seems to
have divorced ourselves from nature. We now view nature and human society as
separate entities, one far removed from the other.
With nature now firmly set apart, we are able to ignore it at our convince.
However, we are not separate from our environment. Biotic and abiotic interactions that
we participate in every day shape the world around us, weather we are consciously aware
of it or not. Work I have done with the Chicago park district planting dune grass is a
fantastic example. When people began living here, we cut all the native dune grass away

from the prairie in order to have open beaches on the waterfront. However this practice
had unintended side effects.
As a result, the insects that would nest in the grass had no habitat to call their
own. And without the insects living on the beaches, many migrating birds had nothing to
eat on there long flights along the cost of Lake Michigan. Not only that, but the grass
also served to halt the desertification of the healthy soil inland of the beaches. By simply
thinking of our environment in terms of human use, we have disturb the migration
patterns of countless bird species, as well as degraded a section of perfectly useable soil.
However, many seemingly unrelated things in nature have a deep connection with one
another.
Many of these disturbances happen when humans drastically alter an ecosystem.
The native inhabitants are typically highly adapted to existing under certain conditions,
and by radically altering those conditions we endanger those native existences. And few
forces are as constant as oak trees. These trees live exceedingly long lives and have
major impacts on local biota. Work with the Cook county Forest Preserve showed that
these titans of community were unable to grow in there local ecosystem due to invasive
species. Human brought invasive the Sugar Maple grew faster then the oak saplings, and
out competed them for light. Humans had brought them to the area because they grew
fast and were able to replace trees lost to deforestation. So we had to burn them.
And burn them we did. Cutting invasive, and either burning or treating the
stumps so they dont grow back is a very typically part of restoration ecology. The
maples were preventing the ecosystem from reaching its climax state, and disrupted

countless environmental interactions between the dominant tree species and the rest of
the flora and fauna in the area.
It all comes down to seeing nature in the context that it must be. Nature has a
huge role in how humans live our lives and as such it must be treated in a morally and
ethically just manner. Certain rights have to be given to nature for the greater good of all
living things, so that we all might exist as neighbors in the greater biotic community. It
just takes a little extra thought and common sense.