Final Reflection Blog

April 27th, 2012

While I knew there were many problems facing the environment globally, the scope of the problems we have to face was not very encouraging based on the what we learned in class. It’s very disheartening to see that we as a species haven’t really learned from past mistakes: as Ponting states in A New Green History of the World, “all human interventions tend to degrade ecosystems and [show] how easy it is to ip the balance towards destruction. It also suggests that it is very difficult to redress the balance or reverse the process once it has started”(71). To me, this seems self-evident; I find it very hard to understand the thinking of previous eras that did not get this concept. While I know this makes me a product of my time, just as this previous thinking made people products of theirs, it just seems to obvious to me that I really can’t wrap my head around not seeing such an obvious link between humanity and the natural world.

One thing I felt about this class was that it highlighted the problems the United States faced as well as global problems (it is, after all, a global issues class). Part of this that struck me is that I know that I am part of the problem: my lifestyle is part of a culture that relies on lots of energy, which also causes environmental issues. I think it’s unfair of countries such as the US have most of the responsibility for carbon dioxide emissions (Ponting 401), but we refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and we have yet to really make a concerted effort as a country to fix or moderate our part of the pollution and carbon dioxide use. We have “5 per cet of the world’s population but [we are] responsible for just under a quarter of the world’s output of carbon dioxide”(Ponting 401): this is unacceptable. It is irresponsible for us to use this much when other countries must go without or are working to use less.

I think what I took most from this class is that there is a lot we still need to work on and fix, but that there is hope. The fact that plans are being made to combat the degredation of the Chesapeake Bay, that movies such as Food, Inc. are released, and more and more famous personages are taking action to raise awareness of these issues says to me that our world (and our country) can change. It will be difficult, and I know lifestyles will have to drastically change, something that is hard for many Americans (including myself, although I accept and understand it needs to happen unlike some) to realize and implement. The greatest way, in my mind, is to make it so economically unfeasible to pollute or take the easy way out that environmentally friendly policies and products become the new social norm. This would work well in our country, as we are driven by the need for profits in business and personal wealth. Getting into people’s pockets, making the external costs of things such as pesticides and soil degredation part of the cost of food, is really the only way to effect lasting change.

New Crab Discovered–It’s Fabulous!

April 23rd, 2012

Purple crab discovered in the Philippines!

purple crab

Manatees: It’s not overfishing that’s the problem

April 13th, 2012

Since we were talking about fish related harvesting, I thought I would stick to the ocean theme for this post.

Manatees are not fish, but whales and dolphins as as affected by overfishing as we are. The problem for manatees, however, isn’t food: it’s collisions.

Manatees are frequently killed by collisions with human vessels. With their bad eyesight, they frequently do not see the fast moving boats until it is too late. This article from the Huffington Post says that while the eyesight is a problem, their hearing is perfectly sound, and they can distinguis motorboat noises from other ambient sound in the ocean. This is something different than the sonar related issues that pertain to dolphins; it’s not indirect activities that affect the manatees.

Save the Manatee Club has a great run down on the facts about manatees. Their aim is to protect manatee habitats, and they try to enact measures such as speed limits for motor boats and sanctuaries that don’t allow boats at all.

Manatees, in my opinion, are adorable. They have been called sea cows, and they really do look similar to them. It’s a shame that something so harmless is so greatly harmed by us.

This Space Available (In the landfill) *Activity Blog*

April 8th, 2012

After watching This Space Available last week, it got me thinking about not only the visual pollution and energy waste created by the billboards, but also the physical waste.

Billboards (non-digital ones) are made with vinyl, something that does not biodegrade. Almost 10,000 tons are thrown away every year, according to this site. All of that vinyl takes up space in landfills, and never goes away; it just sits there. What I liked about the site I found that discussed it is that they turn the vinyl into backpacks, recycling it for a better purpose. What was really interesting to me was that I couldn’t find a definite number on google on the amount wasted every year except for on the site that was marketing the re-used vinyl; I thought that was really strange, and wondered if people haven’t looked into this issue.

This Space Available was a thought-provoking documentary on visual pollution. It certainly was never something I thought about before. The fact that the visual pollution extends to energy and solid waste pollution as well just goes to show how interconnected everything in the world is today. I, for one, would welcome getting rid of billboards, as they are very distracting on the road, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon here in the US.

This is Annika, signing off her activity blog.

Wind power!

March 31st, 2012

This is so cool–I just found this using stumble upon, and it maps surface wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database. I thought it was really cool to see the wind patterns.


Conserving Biodiversity

March 31st, 2012

Since we were talking about biodiversity, and I think seed banks came up, I decided to look up the one and Norway and check it out.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is built underground, preserving thousands of seeds in case of global or regional crises. It gives priority to seeds that are used for crops, but tries to have a big diversity in the crops it has. Out of the 1400 (approx) gene banks, there are around 6.5 million seeds stored, but only 1-2 million of those are distinct breeds.
The Svalbard Bank

I think that places such as these are extremely important, especially for agriculture, but I wonder if this might be done for animal dna, as well. If we want to protect the plants, we also need to take into account the species that help them grow, such as bees or other pollinators. I think that, even though this would be an extremely expensive undertaking, it might be worthwhile in the long run.


For those of us who can’t make it to the film festival:

March 19th, 2012

They have a link to past films on the main website for the Environmental film festival. I’m not sure if this counts as an extra activity or not, I can ask, but I thought you might be interested.

The hidden costs to Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and those gorgeous bouquets

March 14th, 2012

I listen religiously to How Stuff Works “Stuff Mom Never Told You” podcast, and there was one recently that was extremely interesting, on both a social and environmental side. The “Are there hidden costs to that Valentine’s bouquet” podcast raised some really interesting points about the flower growing practices used, as well as the working conditions of the women who harvest them. I highly recommend listening to the podcast to get the full idea.

This site also goes into detail, and there’s a pdf with the full article for you to download and read.

If you don’t have time to read or listen, here’s a basic summary:

* The chemicals used to keep the flowers fresh run off and cause eutrophication in the lakes nearby
* These same chemicals cause health issues for the women who harvest the flowers
* Because of the massive demand for the flowers before major holidays, these women have to work some 60 hours or more a week in the month leading up to them
* Since many of the flowers are grown in Africa or Brazil, the transportation to the US and the EU gives off massive amounts of pollution (airplanes, trucks, etc)
* There is deforestation to gain more land for the flower farming

Because we are such a consumer society, we aren’t very likely to change our habits any time soon. Unfortunately, this means that these flower farms will continue to be used, using power, water, and chemicals to grow as many as possible to meet the demand for bouquets over holidays. The chemicals aren’t only harmful to the environment, but also to the people, and as the article mention, the use of that much water, especially in a place like Africa where water is scarce, is a great misuse of that natural resource.

Money, money, everywhere, and not a drop to save the environment

February 17th, 2012

I was looking online for the premise of my newest post, and I came across an interesting article that listed the 10 worst countries’ proportional environmental impact (based on their resource availability) and the 10 countries that had the most absolute impact.

While the 10 worst proportion-wise made sense to me, being countries such as Singapore (#1) to the Phillipines (#9), the ones with the worst absolute impact were a little frustrating. Included among these countries are the USA, China, Japan, Russia, and Australia, which are more or less considered 1st world countries. Brazil topped the list at #1.

What was really interesting to me was this:

The study, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore and Princeton University, found that the total wealth of a country (measured by gross national income) was the most important driver of environmental impact.

“We correlated rankings against three socio-economic variables (human population size, gross national income and governance quality) and found that total wealth was the most important explanatory variable – the richer a country, the greater its average environmental impact,” Professor Bradshaw said.

There was no evidence to support the popular idea that environmental degradation plateaus or declines past a certain threshold of per capital wealth (known as the Kuznets curve hypothesis).

“There is a theory that as wealth increases, nations have more access to clean technology and become more environmentally aware so that the environmental impact starts to decline. This wasn’t supported,” he said.

The countries that make a large gross national income, countries that are the best equipped (economic-wise) to take care of their environments, are the ones that have a greater average impact. For all the study and research that we do to find new environmentally friendly ways to live and react with our environment, we still, as a richer societies, have the tendency to impact the environment far worse than lower developed countries. I find this very disheartening; the only way that I can see to make saving the environment a reality in richer countries is to tax and charge businesses and companies until it’s more economically feasible to reduce their impact than to get around it.


Best World Population Visual Ever

February 8th, 2012

It’s not my week to post, but I found this ages back and thought it would be interesting for others to see. I really like the visual, it makes it a whole lot easier to picture the population growth of the world.