Anthony Giddens’ book, Consequences of Modernity, explores several important points of transition between the past, modern, and post-modern worlds. His writing includes discussions of time-space separation, symbols, and expert systems related to trust, confidence, risk, and danger.
After traveling for around 20 hours yesterday, I was struck by how many concrete examples of these topics are visible in an airport or travel environment. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising since international travel is becoming more and more normal in our post-modern society compared to the past, so it would be natural that these topics appear.
In terms of Giddens’ discussion on the separation of time-space, the 16-hour time difference between San Francisco and Tokyo has had a very real effect on my life. It’s so interesting to think about how the world is zoned – this couldn’t have even been an issue until modern airplane travel was developed. When people would travel by boat, they would move slowly enough that the days would gradually change and their sleep cycles would slowly adapt to wherever they were going. With planes that now cross the Pacific in 11 hours, we are dependent on the system of time that has been put in place and we have to trust the numbers that we are told.
On a recent trip to Germany, I visited a monastery and noticed a sundial on the wall. It wasn’t working properly since it was cloudy that day, which made me realize how closely intertwined time and space used to be. Time was a lot more variable back then, and it would be impossible to have all of the plane, train, and bus schedules that we have these days. This is even more prevalent in Japan, since it seems like the Japanese society is very time-based, with busses and trains that leave on the exact minute they are scheduled to.
Another interesting connection was the use of symbols in society, specifically money. Giddens writes about the relationship between these “disembedded” symbols and trust. People have to trust that money means payment, and most of the time they do. It was interesting to come to Japan and use an entirely different currency – if money is a symbol that doesn’t really have actualized value, why isn’t it standardized throughout the world? Perhaps it is related to tradition, and people trust that their own country will be more faithful to their promise than other countries.
Questions to ponder: In light of the Fukushima disaster, has the National Parks system considered using National Parks land for energy production purposes? How would that work between all of the different stakeholders, especially private property owners?
Since the National Parks are owned by so many different organizations, who is in charge of maintenance or other duties that would be required for the land as a whole?