Monday morning earlier this week I stepped outside my door ready to start the week, and the first thing I was hit with as I opened the door was a barrage of sneezes. Not the greatest start, but I figured it was perhaps just a little cold that I had picked up sometime on the weekend, nothing to be too concerned about, I will just look out for further symptoms and act accordingly with medication. As the day went on the sneezes persisted, but still nothing else; it wasn’t until Wednesday that I realized something was ‘weird’, how could I still be sneezing but no further sickness? After some amount of deliberation, I figured it must be allergies since it is spring and pollen is in the air, but I have never had allergies in my life so why now all of a sudden would I be susceptible to something that for my entire life has not been an issue.
It didn’t take long to reason out that because I grew up in a different country and have only been in Tampa for a little over a year that I would not have been exposed to the same kind of pollen than I was back home. Things would have just stopped there but this class is all about seeing the weirdness in everyday things that one would normally overlook, so using the vast number of guides discussed throughout the semester I sat down and thought about what some of them might say had I told them this little anecdote about pollen.
The first guide that came to mind was Robert Esposito and his work on Immunity. In class, we discussed what it meant to be immune to something, and it boiled down to not being affected by a particular substance or disease, but more importantly what we really delved into was how one becomes immune to something. I remember this week of discussion was also the week that we spoke about dirt and purity, and at first it seemed that immunity and being pure might have been synonymous but this idea was quickly disregarded as it was brought up that medically our vaccines for diseases are actually small amounts of the disease itself and that the further away in terms of genes you are from someone you have a child with the more likely the child will have a stronger immune system. Eventually after tying back in with Esposito it was agreed that the more exposure there is, the more immune one would be; using the idea of Esposito that the immune system is a military system and attacks anything that is not belonging to itself and therefore the other must be fended off and destroyed.
Bringing this back to my situation I thought it was interesting how my immunity to a different pollen which has stood strong in defense of my body for so many years was so immediately triggered to fend off a different kind of pollen. It begs the question does our immune system fight constantly against every impurity in our environment that our bodies come into contact with, does it ever stop? Surely there must be a point of bodily and environmental equilibrium. At this point another guide came to mind, Alaimo’s ecological body seemed to go so obviously hand in hand with this situation.
On the first page of the Alaimo reading from earlier this semester she describes her ecological body as “This body is characterized by its “permeability,” “a constant exchange between inside and outside, by fluxes and flows, and by its close dependence on the surrounding environment””. This is exact idea I had started to formulate about my expected immunity to pollen, the only factor that had changed was that my environment had changed. And according to Alaimo if my environment has changed then the immunities that had been built up before are no longer needed, new immunities must be forged by my immune system since from its point of view everything that had become part of it (my ecological body) is now gone and the new outside stimuli must be fought off until there is enough in my body for me to be immune.
This I thought was a simple way of seeing and experiencing what Alaimo speaks about when she says ecological bodies are the interaction between one’s body and the environment. This is something that may not be noticeable if you are in the same environment for the entirety of your life but this switch allowed me to, through the active adjusting of my immune system to the new environment that I now exist in.