So, I’ll be the first to admit it. This blog is dead. I’ve noticed it happening to a number of sites I used to read on a regular basis, as the authors found themselves overwhelmed and occupied with many other things–school, work, life–chaos. Yet, what I’m facing is a little different. This blog was always about chaos. And now, my trouble isn’t being overwhelmed with many things, but the exact opposite. I’ve been struck with focus. It was inevitable that my blog would follow.
It has been a strange road. When I first started writing in earnest, developing my ideas and going back to school to refine them, I didn’t have much focus. Sure, everything revolved around chaos theory and fractals, but that was the rub–my focus was everything. Plus, they don’t generally offer undergraduate degrees in chaos theory at the local university. That didn’t stop me, of course. I just looked for the most all-inclusive, interdisciplinary degree I could find. If anyone asked me why, I’d sort of make something up on the spot. I might as well have majored in magic.
Partially Clips by Rob Balder
Ok, so, I didn’t go for a major in humanities or English (like the author of that comic, or a good number of my friends) but I did choose a fairly ambiguous program, and one that seems to be the current popular choice for the undecided: environmental studies. That isn’t to say environmental scientists lack focus–on the other hand, those who work in the field generally have a very specific and important focus, like cleaning up abandoned mines or monitoring the effects of climate change on a certain species of tree. Those undecided kids in the environmental studies program end up choosing one of those specific careers, sooner or later. But that wasn’t me, either. I had a lot of trouble choosing a single aspect.
It snuck up on me.
I could blame my advisor… I told her my vague goals, what I’d done so far, and what I thought I should do next. Originally, I panned to focus my degree on fluvial geomorphology–a scientific study of water and the way it shapes the landscape. Without even blinking, she recommended I change to a focus on planning and policy. What!? Not a science focus?! I balked. But what about calculus? I wanted to take that, I said. She shook her head and suggested that statistics, for the time being, would be more useful. I could take calculus when I went to grad school. Reluctantly, I agreed, and let her sign me up for a few classes that focused more on social issues than on science. I felt like I was betraying my kin.
(insert foot in mouth here)
The schedule we came up with was interesting, to say the least:
- Water Policy and Science: a small (less than 20 students) course, focusing on the Clean Water Act
- Don’t Fence Me In: This was my choice for my upper-division writing credit. Later, I found out it would work for credit towards a certificate that I’ll describe later.
- Microeconomics: I dreaded this one. Now, I’m not sure why. It’s useful stuff!
- Critical Thinking: Property and Protest: another small class, combining philosophy (ethics) and environmental issues
No labs, only a hint of science, and a whole bunch of policy/law/economics type stuff. I was pretty skeptical, to say the least. But, as it turned out, it was the perfect track. In a way, I was studying the "everything" I had in mind. Even better, I remembered why I wanted to get my degree in the first place. I wasn’t just there to refine my ideas, but to learn how to apply them, to put them into practice in the real world. And, well, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t learning how to do that!
This semester, I was introduced to the Center of the American West and CU Boulder. Boy, was that overdue! I entered their writing contest last year, but that never added up to anything, like any other writing contest. The center takes an interdisciplinary approach to it’s title, encompassing many different issues, like history, environmental science, Native American studies, and more. When I approached them with my research on Church Ranch, they were very excited. There’s plenty of knowledge to be exchanged there! They offer a certificate at CU; I’ve signed on to get it. That will allow me to get credit, through independent study, for writing my book about the development of Church Ranch, which seems more important than ever.
My focus emerged from two major aspects of my studies–adapting to complexity and the development of the American West. When I put it that way, it seems so clear. I was going to study the way water shaped our landscape–but it wasn’t in terms of fluvial geomorphology (although I still want to take that particular class!) Instead, it would be in terms of people–in our individual and collective choices. Sustainable development. Now that’s a focus. It isn’t about being overwhelmed by the complexity of our world, but making simple choices that benefit all of us.
In other words, Chaotic Utopia is dead. Long live a Chaotic Utopia!
That’s right… I’m going to change the focus of this blog to reflect my change in focus, but much should remain the same. Here’s what will change:
- Rather than focusing on chaos theory and fractals, this blog will mainly be concerned with the use of natural resources, specifically water, in the American West. In other words:
- Less fractals, and more about:
- –Water as a natural resource
- –History of the American West
- –Sustainable solutions
- The banner, categories, and sidebar… in other words, most of the layout that isn’t specific to ScienceBlogs.
- My posting rate: I’m going to try to develop some more regular features, and get to a huge backlog of research and essays that I’ve been saving, nearly all of which are concerned with either water quality or develoment. Expect to see more life here, not less!
- My "about" blurb. At some point, I hope it will say: "Sustainable Solutions Consultant"
Here’s what will stay the same:
- The title of the blog. I think it still fits pretty well.
- Visual appeal. Even though art and graphics do not directly relate to the issues we’ll be discussing, I think they’re highly important when it comes to communicating difficult or complex issues to the general public. I will always consider myself a writer and an artist, even if it isn’t obvious.
- Lillybridge! I know, it’s been a while since I’ve shared these wonderful historic photos from the early 20th century on a regular basis. I have no excuse for that. Expect to see more pictures from Charles Lillybridge and other photographs from Colorado or Western history.
- Style of writitng. I don’t think I could change that if I wanted to.
- Science! Even when we’re looking at history, or the future of development, scientific studies are relevant and important. We can’t make rational choices if those choices aren’t based on rational research.
- Fractals. Even though I can’t promise them as a regular feature any more, I still see them everywhere. I don’t want my fractal-generating software to just gather dust.
I expect it will take me a week or two to make all of the changes that I’d like, but after that, this blog will have a new life. While I’ll be trying to organize most of my work to publish later on, I’ll try to dig out some goodies to post during the construction process.
Thanks to all my readers out there, who have been waiting patiently for this blog to return to normal. I apologize for all of the delays over the past few months… I knew I was ready for a change, I just didn’t know what it would mean. I hope you will stick around and see where this leads!