Saturday, August 25, 2007

Messages 8, 9 and 10: Using Google Earth to Explore Your Environment

Message no. 8

Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Monday, January 22, 2007 12:15am

Subject: The Discussion Area

Well here we are -- in the land of virtual discussions. In this environment the psychology of our behavior will be to act as though we are all more or less in the same room, having a cup of tea and talking about what we have been reading and thinking about in the realm of Environmental Psychology. So start writing and posting!

Message no. 9 Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 22, 2007 12:19am Subject: A place to keep your notes as you read!

In the world of cutting and pasting, it makes alot of sense to take notes on your computer. But often it is hard to keep all those notes organized.

And wouldn't it be nice if you could retrieve those notes from any computer, anywhere on earth, even from an email cafe in Botswana? Then you could really use the on-line class to advantage, and travel all over the world without missing a thing! What a life!

And wouldn't it be even nicer if all your friends, colleagues and peers could benefit from the notes you took, and you could benefit from theirs? Well here is a chance to make that a reality. Use this thread to take notes and post them for everybody's advantage. No sense in ever re-inventing the wheel, eh?

In this way we can all grow smarter and more efficient together.

Message no. 10 Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Monday, January 22, 2007 2:09am Subject: Google Mapping your environment - how the landscape surrounding us affects our lives.

This is the email I sent out to all of you Sunday night before the course began. It begins our first discussion of how our personal environment affects our behavior. Please join the discussion by answering the questions I have posed below as part of this thread, and add your own questions for each other. Once you have all shared your google maps (bird's eye view) and your "forward up equivalence" (ego point of view) photographs , you can ask even more meaningful questions about each other's environments.

First, here are my questions for you, again:

Esteemed student explorers of the ever more rapidly changing environment,

It is Sunday night and the course content area for our program is rapidly taking shape. If you have been visiting before tonight, please note that there have been major revisions, so you will definitely want to revisit any pages you may have stumbled upon while I was writing and editing them.

On the eve of the commencement of our course (the launch of our ship of discovery, if you will!) I would like to offer you some suggestions for how to make the most of you first assignments this week, which, in addition to reading chapter one of the text, and joining the discussion of "how your environment shaped you" (see discussion area) are to prepare a few cognitive maps of your environments (real and virtual) so we can get to know where you live and how you interact with and feel about your environment(s). (Note that in this course the term "The Environment" is rather meaningless. We speak of "environments" -- plural -- and more specifically of "my environment", "your environment" , "his environment", "her environment", "their environment" etc. The idea of "saving THE environment makes no sense... one must always specify...).

Since this course is about the psychology of behavior insofar as it relates to our environments, here are some very specific and personal ideas of how you might go about describing YOUR environment:

Adrienne: It would be fascinating to know what relationship you have with the riparian forest environment of Sandy Run Regional park and Lake Ridge Park. How does it feel to live on a meandering stream? Have you experience with flooding? Does living near wilderness give you a utilitarian or romantic approach to your environment? Does your ancestry influence your attitude toward the landscape? Those sort of questions would be interesting for us to know.

Angelina: Which areas have more of an effect on your psyche -- the forests around Tibbett's Lake or the baseball fields? The Yonker's Raceway or the Hillview Reservoir? Which do you think provide better environments for children growing up and why? Do you have memories of those specific environments you would like to share?

Daniela: Do the marine resources of Eastchester Bay have any significance for you? Have you ever gone boating, swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving there? What kind of wildlife can you see from City Island or Hart island – giant horseshoe crabs, dolphins, whales, seabirds? Are the island communities and beaches world’s unto themselves, places where only privileged rich folk with yachts and sailboats have access to the natural environment, or are they open to the public? Is the Bronx zoo and the forests along the Bronx River Parkway the best way to “get away from it all” in your neighborhood? Is there adequate public transit to get from the Morris Park/Westchester residential areas to places like the Botanical Gardens or is it too much of a hassle?

Dana: Do you consider the Bronx Zoo to be within walking distance? Is the route pedestrian friendly? Are there bike paths? Is it easy to cross the railroad tracks and the Bronx River Parkway, or do they act as “impenetrable rivers of iron and concrete” separating residents from recreational opportunities? Can you hear the sounds of exotic animals calling from “Jungle World road” in the twilight and at dawn? If so, how does that make you feel? If “animal rights” activists forced the zoo to close down, do you think this would take away a major source of enjoyment or pleasure for the kids you know? If the avian flu were to mutate to be passed from human to human and an epidemic hit the East Coast and most people were too weak to care for or feed the animals at the zoo but you were immune, would you free the animals so they could roam the city and survive (like in the movie 12 monkeys with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt?) Do you think there is enough green space in New York for large animals to survive without our help?

Dawn: Do you ever hike around Lyonsville pond, or is that considered too far out of the way or too trivial a landscape feature? How did all the construction around Hurley Mountain road affect you, if at all? Was wandering around the river near High Falls ever a part of your behavioral repertoire, or did you prefer to go further east to the mighty Hudson itself? Do you consider the reservoir out by Olivebridge to be a romantic or recreational location, or just a utility to get water to the municipalities?

Janita: What does the Woodlawn Cemetery mean to you? Is it a place of reverence or recreation? Or does it conjure up Halloween images of vampires and zombies? Does the Moshulu Golf Course make you smile with thoughts of placid mornings socializing with your peers and improving your par, or does it represent an exclusionary zone open only to the leisure class? Is Van Cortlandt park a place of picnics and sports and a landscape of mystery and imagination, an urban wilderness near the Big Apple? Did you ever play softball between E233rd street and the Major Deegan Expressway, and did the noise of the traffic disturb you?

Kathleen: Do you consider Lake Tonetta a real lake worth preserving for its recreational opportunities? Have you ever gone boating there? Is it a place you would run to after school? Or would you prefer to go to the beach-like shoreline of the Bog Brook Reservoir? Were you allowed to go swimming or walk a dog around the reservoir, or do the police chase you away since it is meant to provide water for municipal utility companies? Do you consider the shopping mall by the Clocktower Commons an eyesore and blight on the landscape, or a convenience that you are glad to have close by?

Kenisha: How much time do you spend by the Hudson River? Do you consider the waterfront by Water Grant Street and River St. to be adequately developed for the enjoyment of Yonkers residents, or do folks in Hastings or Dobbs Ferry or Irvington get a better deal? Do Sullivan Oval Park and Fleming Park provide adequate recreational and relaxation facilities within walking distance of your home, or do you feel the built environment around Nepperhan Ave and Yonkers Ave to be too congested and access to the parks difficult? Does Cerrator park offer anything of value to you? How would you rate Yonkers as an urban setting – does it offer vibrancy and opportunities, or is it do you prefer Manhattan or White Plains?

Michelle: What does the Litchfield Golf and Country Club represent to you? Is it an oasis of managed green tranquility or a sterile manicured abstraction? Do you prefer exploring the wildness of the muddy river and its marshland streams to the West, or do you prefer to lounge on the white sands of Litchfield Beach? Do you find your home to be pleasantly away from it all, and want to defend it from further development or do you experience it as too remote, and welcome developers?

Patricia: In a world of suburban tracts and cul-de-sacs, do you find the Leonard Johns Community Park to provide adequate green space to offset the housing sprawl in the region? How do you feel about the size of the parking lot there, given that it is as large as the lawn by the pond and half the size of the pond itself? If the regional planning authority decided that the open land West of you betweenMorriss Road and Long Prairie Road should be sold to a housing tract developer and turned into the same sort of environment as you find up by Prescott Circle or Spring Meadow Lane, would you be for it or against it? How would it affect the real estate value and aesthetic opportunities of your own home? Do you think the forest fragment at the end of Dendron Drive has any impact of wildlife survival? If it were severely diminished in size would that make a difference? Are deer ever killed trying to get across Morriss road?

Tanya: What role, if any, does Lake Mohegan play in your life? Do you spend more time at the park off of Stoney St. and Line Ave, or the one down past Amelia Drive? Does the forest buffer around the parks shield you adequately from the sound of traffic from the Taconic? Does all the free parking space at the Cortlandt Town Center create traffic jams on Main street? Does the convenience of having a big shopping mall so close to home justify its proximity to the lake? Where does the sewage from such a big facility go? What about oil-laden surface runoff during a big rainstorm? Does anybody talk about these issues in your community?

Note that these questions could be asked of and apply to each and every one of us, but the point of this course is to personalize our experience with our environments. I hope that you will take this questions as a kind of launch pad into deeper and deeper discussions about our environmental behavior. As you work on assignment 1, see if you can provide us all with pictures of the environments around where we live, along with stories and anecdotes.

And please remember – by “environment” I do NOT mean just places with trees and greenery and cuddly animals. Parking lots, buildings, offices, cars and homes are all environments. The issue is “which environments make you feel most at home; which environments bring out the behaviors you value most about yourself. Which environments mean the most to you!”

Hope that helps get you started thinking about Environment and the Psychology of your behavior!

Now, go to Google Maps and start taking a bird’s eye view of where YOU live, and share with the rest of us!



PS: You can look at the attached pictures of my home environment in Egypt and ask me similar questions!

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