April 27, 2013
There’s no doubt that this class has been eye-opening for most of us, and for that I am really glad that I have learned so much! I’d have to say though that the effects of deforestation, both in the past and present, has really resonated with me and has made me much more aware of my surroundings. Here’s a clip from the 11th Hour.
Deforestation has played a major role in societal collapses throughout history and if we are not careful, it will continue to devastate the developing nations that are dependent on trees for environmental and economic survival.Haiti in particular is a special case of how damaging nearly complete deforestation can be on a civilization. Diamond wrote that once Haiti became independent, a long line of corruption, government structure, and seclusion from the rest of the world, along with environmental degradation caused Haiti to become very impoverished (Diamond 2005).
This picture shows the borderline between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2009. The destruction from a mass logging economy in Haiti’s past has resulted in desertification to the point that the trees will probably never grow back. The people of this deprived nation are constantly struggling to provide for themselves with the poor climate conditions, degraded soil, and lack of resources. Haiti is evidence that saving trees is a much bigger issue than simply appeasing “tree-huggers”.
By taking Global Environmental Issues and Solutions, I have become even more aware and respectful for the protection o this Earth to which we all rely. I have to admit there were some days that I felt like we were doomed as a civiliation. It’s hard to hear about all the damage we have caused in attempt to manage these luxurious lifestyles while people in developing countries around the world struggle to survive. Is it really that difficult to unplug electronics or reduce how much water we use in a day?! I don’t think so, especially since there are placed like Haiti where the people are so impoverished. But there is hope that we, as a nation of people, can stand up and reduce our impact on this Earth. By following a green lifestyle and being conscious of the fact that WE are determining the future of this planet for generations to come will help reverse the impacts that have already happened. By taking this class I feel more than ever that I can make a difference in the health of the environment, and I know I’ll carry this knowledge from now on.
April 27, 2013
For my extracurricular activity this semester, I went to the talk and discussion by Tom Jackman, a reporter are the Washington Post, about Dr. Michael Mann and the investigation on his climate research that is ongoing. Jackman started by claiming that he believes in open government agencies, but that he was strictly displaying facts and not opinions…but we’ll get back to that in a bit. Dr. Michael Mann is a climate scientist at Penn State, but from 1999 to 2005 was doing research that the University of Virginia. Since then the research project has been closed, but the American Tradition Institute (ATI) has requested that Dr. Mann releases the nearly 12.000 emails that were made during his research to the public. The former EPA lawyer now representing ATI David Schnare said that “while research was in process, the creative process should be protected. But once the research is published, the public should be entitled to see the process and data behind it” (Jackman 2012). This is a pretty legitimate point to make being that tax payers were technically funding his research and therefore have a right to know all aspects of the project now that is has concluded.
Dr. Michael Mann
This proposes a problem however because the protection of academic freedom is at risk. Dr. Mann states that his emails were not made with the intention to be public but were strictly conversations between scientists and therefore should remain private. If what seemed to be private conversation was forced to be displayed to the public then a climate of fear among all scientists conducting research will be put in place and far less scientific risks for the sack of bettering society will happen. Tom Jackman stated during the talk that the ultimate goal of ATI in investigating these emails is to be able to find errors in his logs and emails that could eventually disprove his work as a scientist and eventually disprove global warming all together.
I found this case to be very interesting because I can understand both sides of the case. On one hand, the public deserves to know what their tax dollars are being used for, but on the other scientists need to feel free to take risks and possibly make mistakes without fear of being disproven. Because these emails were created under the notion that they were private, I believe the Supreme Court should rule that Dr. Mann should not have to give then to ATI and the freedom of the academic process should be upheld. Here is Tom Jackman’s article about the lawsuit. Hopefully the Supreme Court stays in favor with Dr. Mann and the academic process remains protected.
April 14, 2013
The past few weeks of class we have touched on how fragile the coral reefs of the world are and how necessary it is to protect them before it is too late. These ecosystems cover about one percent of the world but are a habitat for a vast amount of different aquatic species. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Experts predict that if current pressures are allowed to continue unabated, 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs may die completely by 2050” (NOAA 2012). This coral destruction is due to many factors, natural and human-oriented, but this blog is going to specifically talk about destructive fishing techniques that are harming the coral reefs.
Blast-fishing is a fishing technique used mostly in developing nations because it is effective in stunning the fish via dynamite explosives for easier capture. The stress brought on by this type of fishing leads the coral to expel the symbiotic algae, a process called bleaching, and could possibly die. Another illegal fishing practice that is still used in these nations is cyanide fishing, which also stuns the fish allowing them to be caught alive more easily. Both of these practices are illegal, but it is obvious that more enforcement should be put into place to prevent these fishermen from destroying the coral reefs. You can see an example of blast-fishing in this video, as well as cyanide fishing here. The last fishing technique that is hurting the coral reefs is deep-water trawling. This is especially concerning because the huge nets that are used to catch a massive quality of fish end up disturbing the reefs by leaving debris and ripping out the coral (NOAA 2012). Here’s a picture of a coral that has been exposed to bleaching.
The reason why I wanted to bring up these specific coral reef hazards is because I think that they should be and potentially could be the fastest ones to be stopped, along with preventing tourism issues, in order to preserve this ecosystem. If we don’t protect the environment from which we depend on, then how are we going to manage once they’re gone?
Pictures found –> Here!
March 31, 2013
As some of you may already know, I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a vegan for quite some time now. Partially because I am concerned for the environmental impacts of large-scale livestock production, partially to become healthier, absolutely because of the harm put onto innocent animals, etc. All of these factors that have made me want to follow this path of vegetables mainly came about from Netflix documentaries, books, and my recent environmental sustainability minor declaration. A couple of weeks ago in Global Environmental Problems we watched the film Food Inc. I have probably seen this movie five times, but every time I watch it I feel like I learn something new. One of the contributors to the film and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan believes that when it comes to our food choices “the best choice for your pleasure, the best choice for your health, the best choice for the environment are all the same. I think that’s a very positive thing” (Website Here). Here are some statistics for the environmental impact a meat-eating diet has on the environment.
These charts indicate that the energy needed and greenhouse gases that are emitted to produce food for a person on a vegan diet is far better for the environment than that of a meat-eaters. You can learn more about the facts on this website. Although the choice to forgo meat from one’s diet is pretty obvious, there are some major set backs tot his lifestyle change. The one that has been the most frustrating for me to deal also happens to be brought up in Food Inc.
It’s safe to say that Monsanto basically controls the soybean industry in the U.S. In a nutshell, “Monsanto’s actions are designed to maximize its corporate profits, not to serve the people. Its entire seed-and-herbicide business model is designed to trap farmers in a system of economic dependence… to turn farmers into indentured servants who can never return to traditional farming after their soil has been destroyed with Roundup” (Learn more here). In my previous attempts at “veganism” I have relied a bit on protein sources like tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based products…we have a moral dilemma on our hands! Do I put the suffering of innocent animals in front of the fact that farmers around the country are being controlled by major corporations? Or I could buy strictly plant based, organic, GMO free, whole foods, but let’s be honest, I don’t have the means for that yet. While Food Inc. and other media like it make me want to change the modern food system as we know it, I know it’ll take a lot of efforts by me and others to really make a change in how Americans eat. As for now, my plan is to eat vegan within my means and hopefully be able to stick with it as a lifestyle that will not only benefit my health, the well being of others, including animals, but also the environment!
March 2, 2013
Happy spring break everybody!! I hope you all have some time to relax and process all the problems/possible solutions we’ve been discussing in class these past couple of weeks. Now I’ll admit, I’m not perfect when it comes to living a sustainable life (yet). But generally speaking, I’d like to think that I have at least a broad idea of our current global environmental problems and the solutions thus far. It was surprising to me that I’ve never ever heard of Hydrogen electricity… until last class at least. Living on the East Coast my whole life has lead me to be mostly pushing for the idea of offshore wind energy options where they’re possible because it’s a relatively inexpensive operation (unlike many other sustainable energy practices ideas) and wind energy would eventually pay for itself! One of the problems with this method though is that not everyone would have access to the offshore/constant wind supply, so what else can we do?
Naturally, I decided to look further into the idea of Hydrogen energy and I found this interesting example of its current use, “NASA has used liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit. Hydrogen fuel cells power the shuttle’s electrical systems, producing a clean byproduct – pure water, which the crew drinks” (website here). Isn’t that crazy! They can actually drink the energy byproduct because it’s pure water. This process would provide electricity and heating in buildings as well as an electrical energy source for electric cars and other vehicles. Also, alternative fuels, both renewable and non-renewable would be able to produce hydrogen to be stored and transported when needed. This is important because in the transition to renewable energy, we can still produce this hydrogen energy from the fossil fuels as well as supplement the hydrogen when solar and wind are not possible because they are fairly unpredictable. On top of all of that, the only byproducts from this energy source are pure H2O…that’s pretty remarkable. Here’s a chart that compares Hydrogen energy in comparison to other energy sources:
As you can see, its amount of CO2 released is 0 unlike the other fuels mentioned. Obviously, there are still economic, practicality, and other setbacks in starting this transition to Hydrogen fuels, like most renewable energy source options. I still think that this is an energy source worth exploring further and eventually implicating in the near future to break our dependency on foreign oil.
February 16, 2013
I found the drilling conflict in Yasuni National Park in Ecuador to be particularly interesting and worth discussing further. The preservation of the park is an essential goal not only for those at the forefront of global environmental awareness, but also for people who appreciate and admire the true beauty of that area. The dilemma remains to be whether to choose to drill the forest to seek temporary gains and possibly a better way of living for many in the nation, or to preserve the park and have the fear of national economic deprivation. This conflict is not one that has been answered, nor will it be easy to answer in the future, but a decision must be made.
My good friend Ivan is studying abroad in Ecuador this semester and he gave me some pictures to show everyone. There is a possibility that I am exceptionally interested in this country’s issues because my friend is learning about them too, but nonetheless I find this conflict in particular very important. Here are some nature shots that he took.
Using the emotional side of my brain, it’s insane to me that there are people in the world that seek to destroy the forest and the species that depend on it to survive. On the other hand, it is clear that the possible profit Ecuador would receive, roughly $7 billion, would obviously be very helpful for them. Here’s the big question: How do you help the people of your country without destroying the environment around them? As of now, Rafael Correa has asked the wealthy nations of the world to contribute. Essentially, he has put the park up for ransom set at around $3.6 billion in order to help stabilize the economy without touching the park. Moral judgments aside, this is the most productive attempt Ecuador has made to fix this problem. So far the U.S. has not contributed to this cause.
If it were up to me, I would give aid to Ecuador and other countries with this issue because frankly I just think it’s the right thing to do. There’s no possible way to know if Correa has alternative motives behind this ask for funds, and personally I would rather be known as someone who helped another in need rather than turning them away for fear of disloyalty. As a nation, the U.S. has thrived off of the exploitation of less developed countries throughout history; why not give back a little while we still hold a majority of the world’s power? Perhaps I’m being I’m being unrealistic in my opinions, but I think it’s just plain good karma.
In the future I hope for economic and civil stability in Ecuador without the expense of the rain forests. Let’s not make the same mistakes as those who collapsed before us, and preserve the earth that gives us so much, even if it means letting go of our materialized thoughts and motives.
February 2, 2013
The past weeks of class we’ve dived into the major problems that have caused the collapse of early civilizations. The first case study we learned about was the fall of the pioneer society on Easter Island. In this example, and like most other lost civilizations, beginning success and a huge growth in production led to overpopulation. Resources, such as trees, fertile soil, and fresh water, were depleted because more and more people needed to be fed. The people believed that the solution to this was to create more and more giant stone statues for the Gods. Before they knew it, all of the resources were completely gone and social upheaval caused a more exacerbated collapse.
We then learned about the five major causes of environmental problems. They are population growth, unsustainable resource use, poverty, excluding environmental costs from market prices, and trying to manage nature without knowing enough about it. I can’t help but imagine if this sort of collapse of our modern societies is inevitable because of the giant spike in population we’ve seen within the last century. I would like to think we have advanced enough to prevent this from happening, but with global climate change and natural resource depletion upon us, it’s not completely ludicrous to see collapse coming our way. Hopefully, we come together and prevent this from happening before it’s too late and eventually prevent the same fate of the Easter Islanders from happening to us.
January 21, 2013
I am taking Global Environmental Issues because I have always been concerned with the health and conservation of the Earth and all those who call it home! I’m also doing the environmental sustainability minor and this course is required:)
Also, I love this picture of my twin sister, Jackie (on the left), and me:
This was taken in beautiful Costa Rica during spring break of my senior year in high school. This waterfall was the result of a wonderful hike in central Costa Rica and I had such a blast on this trip!! I chose this picture mainly because while I was there I couldn’t help but notice how sustainable this country is. Everywhere you turn there are recycling bins and signs demonstrating proper sustainable practices that should be followed. Very cool.
We stayed in a resort that was next to a ranch named Rancho Margot. When we went to visit, one of the interns told us that the resort was completely off the grid. Basically, the entire ranch was powered from the heat that came off of their huge compost pile. Isn’t that amazing?! Such a gorgeous location too. I would love to spend a summer there hopefully after graduation. Crossing my fingers!