Are We Finally Ready to Acknowledge Global Warming?

Grace Murtha
How many times have you heard the term ‘global warming’? What do you usually hear following those terms? Instead of debating the legitimacy of global warming, we should be considering our next step in preventing major destructive impacts to our health and environment. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are one of the biggest causes of climate change1. Although there are many ways to reduce these emissions, they are not feasible because they take too much, time, money, and physical space. Scientists are now using photo-electrochemical machines to mimic the natural process of photosynthesis1. Carbon dioxide can be both captured and converted into something advantageous and helpful, but a photocatalyst is needed to begin the conversion2. The photocatalyst technique ensures the reduction of not only carbon dioxide, but also other harmful substances like methane3. Direct air capture techniques have the potential to be much cheaper than other methods4. However, it is very important to be patient in choosing negative emission technologies3. Although they are almost always successful in removing CO2, scientists’ question whether or not these technologies are sustainable and cost efficient. For example, Bioenergy for carbon capture and storage is very costly4. Although there are definitely some issues regarding specific technologies, negative emission4 technologies as a whole have proven to be extremely successful in doing what they are meant to do4. Of course, on top of these technologies, we need to be working towards green, sustainable energy. We need to take action now. We have the information to begin. There should be no more debating, because climate change is happening, and it happens to pose an extremely significant risk on humans and our environment.

1. May MM, Rehfeld K. ESD Ideas: Photoelectrochemical carbon removal as negative emission technology. Earth System Dynamics. 2019;10(1):1–7. doi:
2. Simultaneous SO2 removal and CO2 reduction in a nano-BiVO4|Cu-In nanoalloy photoelectrochemical cell. [accessed 2019 Jan 23]. doi:10.1016/j.cej.2018.08.093
3. de_Richter RK, Ming T, Caillol S. Fighting global warming by photocatalytic reduction of CO2 using giant photocatalytic reactors. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 2013;19:82–106. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2012.10.026
4. Smith P, Davis SJ, Creutzig F, Fuss S, Minx J, Gabrielle B, Kato E, Jackson RB, Cowie A, Kriegler E, et al. Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions. Nature Climate Change. 2016;6(1):42–50. doi:10.1038/nclimate2870

Visit to the Ackland

I have visited the Ackland for three classes now, but I enjoyed the pieces we looked at for this class the most.  I love interpreting art, and I loved even more that the art we analyzed tied into the themes and ideas of the books we have read this semester.  My group was also fantastic and getting to hear their ideas made the experience that much better. We first began by looking at different physical adaptations of the Adam and Eve Biblical story.  We looked at two interpretations, one more literal than the other, but both conveyed the same idea. In my opinion, the second piece was much more interesting because it was more interpretive. Only Eve was pictured, and she was black rather than the traditional white.  She was also surrounded by dozens of different kinds of animals. It had bits of intertextuality as the animals seemed like a reference to Noah’s Ark. We then looked at a painting of fisherman on their boat while a storm rolled in. We felt that this piece was very similar to a scene in Robinson Crusoe where he is stuck out at sea during a storm.  This discussion was interesting because although the storm seemed to at first be a negative thing, we soon came to realize that the sailboats in the background needed this wind to move, therefore making it helpful and uplifting, which isn’t usually something a storm is associated with. We then moved on to a really unique piece. It was actually a moving video of what seemed to be a port with a man fishing in the foreground.  When we discussed it, nobody in my group seemed to be interested in it at all but for me it felt like home. I was raised in a port city and this piece gave me such nostalgic and warm feelings, and I think it was definitely my favorite for that reason. The sounds were so familiar and I felt like I could smell the sea and feel the water. The last painting we looked at was VERY abstract. At first we were told nothing about it so honestly I didn’t really see or interpret much at all.  We were later told that it was a representation of the ocean. I can definitely see where the artist is coming from, but I prefer looking at works that are just a little more structured so I don’t feel like I am completely off-base in my interpretation. I know that with art there isn’t a right answer but I like to know that I am not getting something completely crazy and unintended from a piece.

A Letter to Mary Shelley


Mary Shelley/Mrs. Percy Shelley (will we ever know?),

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on creating such a successful piece of literature!  What an accomplishment!  Frankenstein is an incredibly interesting story that poses many important questions about society and life in general.  The way you came up with the book is an entertaining story as well.  However, with all great (interpretive) literature comes many questions.  I love the plot of the story and the intricacy of the characters, I just feel as if I was left wanting to know much more about them.

My first question would have to be, if the monster wasn’t actually that physically grotesque and homely, why was Victor so disgusted by him?  Why did he immediately abandon him without, either thinking of the consequences OR at least attempting to communicate with him?  What immediately turned him away from the monster?  I guess that was more than one question.  I feel like all of the physical adaptations of Frankenstein recreate the monster’s image to make it make more sense, so I don’t understand why Frankenstein was so extremely disgusted by his creature in the first place.  If anything, you would think that he would be proud of what he made.  He spent his whole life consumed by the idea of creating sentient life, and when he finally did, he wasn’t even proud of what he had done.  If I had created life from nothing I know I would be extremely proud of myself.

Another part of the plot that I felt was left unresolved was Justine’s character as a whole.  If she knew the consequences of admitting to the crime, why did she give up and admit to something she didn’t do?  It seems as if she either convinced herself that she actually did murder William, or she just gave up in defending herself.  Either way, I don’t really understand why she did what she did.  If my life was on the line I would never plead guilty. This part of the plot always confuses me when I read and re-read it.  One the other hand, I love the connection between Justine’s name and the word ‘justice’.  Very ironic!

Another thing I think about a lot is the fact that Victor destroyed the female monster.  What would have changed if he hadn’t?  Would the monster still have murdered numerous people, and would an additional monster mean additional deaths?  Or, would they be content together and avoid all of the killings?  I feel as though changing this small detail would have changed the story completely, or at least certain aspects of the monster’s character.

One final plot point that I found to be left ambiguously unanswered is the monster’s moral dilemma at the end.  In class we discussed whether or not his feelings of remorse and self-hatred were genuine, but when I read it myself I had no doubts that they were.  I was strong in my opinion until I heard other students debate whether or not he actually felt remorse and grief.  Did you intend for this to be a genuine interaction between the monster and Waldon?  How are we supposed to feel at the end of the story?  I understand that there is no real right response to a book, but how did you intend the audience to perceive the monster at the end of the novel?

This book fosters fantastic conversations.  It’s easy to debate the motives, the personalities and the validity of each and every character.  There are many ambiguous aspects of the story, which, in my opinion, make it a good and interesting read.

Susan Barton

J.M. Coetzee introduces us to the dynamic character of Susan Barton.  Susan Barton’s growing sense of independence and willpower is one unprecedented at the time, and adds a new perspective to the story of Robinson Crusoe.  Defoe published Robinson Crusoe in 1719, whereas Coetzee published foe in 1986.  Coetzee brings elements of the 80’s into this story placed in the mid 1600’s, like female independence, gender discussion and period political references.

Throughout Foe, Barton is constantly analyzing and criticizing Robinson Crusoe’s actions, ideas and beliefs.  Instead of seeing Crusoe as some man who victoriously survived on an island for however-many years, we get to hear an account of another person, in particular, a woman’s, perspective on his character.  He is no longer some martyr.  His flaws are evident, because our flaws are honestly hard to detect if there is nobody around to challenge them.  As soon as Barton came to the island, she questioned Crusoe and his choices.  After exhausting all of her questions and continuing to get dodgy and tired responses from Crusoe, she thinks “the simple truth was, Crusoe would brook no change on his island” showing his stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to others (Coetzee 27).

Barton’s presence is the novel is one that is representative of a strong, independent and aware woman.  For starters, the fact that she has the confidence and ability to question Crusoe’s motives and believes shows her independence and strong-willed nature.  Barton is also more than aware of her surroundings.  When Crusoe describes his plan for building, she retorts “is it your plan to clear the whole island of growth and turn it into terraces?” (Coetzee33).  Susan is condescending to Crusoe because she can’t believe he would be willing to clear out all of the natural land and add human-made infrastructures.  This is a problem we are still dealing with today and the fact that Barton is aware of it (on a much smaller scale) shows her keen interest and insight in regards to her environment.  She is dedicated in her opinions and she is not afraid to call Crusoe out when she feels he isn’t doing what he should be.  Something I asked myself when I was reading was if her independence was undermined when she let Crusoe do what he wanted with her body, even though it wasn’t exactly what she wanted.  I reread the passage and she said that she tried to stop him and eventually stopped resisting because she felt guilty for the fact that he had not had a woman for fifteen years.  Nothing about this situation was her fault therefore none of her independence was undermined.  She couldn’t have helped what had happened.

It’s interesting that the author brought aspects of the 80’s into the early 1700’s story.  Throughout the 1980’s many women’s rights were being debated, like Planned Parenthood and the right to choose what to do with your body.  This ideal of women independence is clearly reflected in Foe, but because Foe is set in the same time as Robinson Crusoe, it is EXTREMELY progressive for the time period.  Women had almost no rights in the 1700’s, therefore Barton’s independence is a completely new concept.  Meshing these two time periods adds a whole new dynamic to the story.

Barton’s role in the story also highlights the political climate during the publication of Foe.  Friday, one of the most significant characters in both Robinson Crusoe and Foe, is a black slave to Crusoe.  In Foe, he is left without a tongue and therefore without a form of verbal communication.  I think that this was a commentary by Coetzee on the treatment of African Americans and all colored people in general at this time.  Friday had no voice and simply had to do everything Crusoe asked of him.  Although segregation had been abolished in the 80’s, African Americans and Native Americans were still silenced.  Friday’s inability to speak for himself represents this idea of inhibition and repression.

Without even knowing it, Susan Barton completely changed my perspective of every character and plot point in Robinson Crusoe.  Her character added a new dynamic and an elevated sense of importance to what each of the characters represents.  Things suddenly become important.  It’s not just about a man on an island devouring weird sausage candy things.