Chernobyl Still Radioactive…well, duh.

April 20, 2011

25 years after the meltdown of a reactor in Pripyat, Ukraine, the effects are still being felt.  Pripyat is a ghost town, and if scientists’ logic is sound, it will remain so for many generations.  The meltdown remains as the worst in human history and has killed more than 140,000 people (although the article makes it clear that it is unknown whether or not they all died as a result of the radiation).  The article also talks about the political implications of the meltdown: Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of the U.S.S.R. at the time and did not find the disaster dangerous enough to have the nearby town of Pripyat, Ukraine, evacuated until 36 hours after the meltdown.  By this time, the town had been bathed in plenty of radiation and people left their homes, not knowing they would never (safely) be able to return.  Gorbachev was heavily criticized for his poor leadership.

Read the full article here.


April 20, 2011

Microsoft, one of the largest corporations in the United States, has recently declared that it will be edging closer to a future paperless workspace. Microsoft recently announced that they will only be purchasing post-consumer paper that “will annually conserve 2.5 million BTUs of energy, reduce 750 million pounds of carbon dioxide from spewing into the atmosphere, and preserve approximately 8000 trees”. Hopefully other corporations may try to do the same and the idea of post-consumer paper use in office space as well as other work areas will begin moving in this direction.

Full Article


April 20, 2011

A5T1ED a zinc based metal fuel cell

This is an interesting piece of information I found on the national Geographic website about an interesting future option for sustainable energy. This is about the use of fuel cells in the generation of electricity and in the future possibly powering industrial factories as well as cars. A fuel cell is a device that uses a source of fuel, such as hydrogen, and an oxidant to create electricity from an electrochemical process.

A fuel cell converts chemical energy to electrical energy and all fuel cells have the same basic configuration; an electrolyte and two electrodes. But there are different types of fuel cells, based mainly on what kind of electrolyte they use.

This reminds me of an interesting presentation I saw on about the future of these fuel cells and how they are definitely the future. As of now it is very difficult to get readily available hydrogen and the technology currently is very expensive. Through large amounts of research this model can be made cost effective and help us stop burdening the natural resources we consume without a care in the world. Stationary fuel cells are the largest, most powerful fuel cells. They are designed to provide a clean, reliable source of on-site power to hospitals, banks, airports, military bases, schools, and homes.

This is the future of sustainability!


April 20, 2011


This for me wasn’t a very good read but was a topic that was new to me. It made me realize that a lot of people in the US are very involved with taking care of their lawns. To me the lawn was a large or small patch of grass with various plants, where children would be playing various outdoor games and adults would have the occasional tea or snacks. It is where parties are thrown and where the occasional enthusiast would water the lawn. However, very few people in Asia take as much of interest in their lawns as Americans.

The author makes an interesting case for how people in trying to have an aesthetically pleasing lawn never consider the harm they are doing by using the amount of chemicals they use in order to keep it green. I recently noticed how different chemicals can be used when I saw the new grass planted around the jay walk in August and natural grass growing between the library and Corns. After the snow melted it was strange to see that after months of being abused by the weather the “new” grass surprisingly looked healthy whereas the patch where natural grass grows bore the brunt of the winter months and slowly saw grass re-growing on it. The new grass planted clearly cannot be entirely natural as it is important for nature to run its course, for grass to grow naturally just as the flowers and leaves blossom on trees.

Too many chemicals and synthetic products have infiltrated our culture and the author stresses the need for us to realize the importance of letting our lawns grow naturally. These chemicals aren’t only affecting the plants, but the environment and animals and insects that thrive in these environments. In a country like America where lawn culture is so integrated to society this may be the first and most immediate step towards successful environmentalism. When discussing this in class it was interesting to note that almost every American student had some sort of an affiliation with taking care of their lawns, be it with their parents or as a job.

How to be Idle!

April 20, 2011

This was probably my favorite book so far as it is firmly in-line what I believe. The manner in which the author has conveyed the importance of idleness is fantastic and something I will definitely give to my dad the next time he tells me to stop being idle.

It was great to look at laziness in a positive light and not just as time that we are wasting but constructive time in defining who we are and what we will do. The idea of purely being constructive with your time could be looked upon in a very subjective way. Constantly being busy isn’t necessarily good for us as we need some time to reflect over our actions and what is going on around us. It reminds me of quite a few occasions where I have driven through villages and on a number of occasions seen people just sitting on their haunches staring into nothingness for hours on end.

Another interesting fact and one I put to practice is the importance of sleep and a rested mind going into the day ahead. Furthermore, the point made by the author about intoxicating oneself for better spiritual understanding is one that made me think of an interesting fact. I noticed that in many dominant societies of the world like the USA, UK, Japan, India one often sees a culture where after a long day of work people will head to the bar for a drink or two before heading home or have a drink as soon as they get home. This is an interesting phenomenon and probably just as the author stated, helps them get through to the next day in a fresh mindset.

Eating Animals….Yum!

April 20, 2011

Initially I thought this was going to be one of those typical pro-vegetarian books but upon reading I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case entirely and that I could make it through it.

The most interesting thing for me was the discussion of the industrial meat farms that are the main source of food today in the US. It reminded me of a lecture I had in one of my classes as well as the film “Food Inc” where the health risks associated with the handling of meat were strongly highlighted. Furthermore, if health concerns weren’t enough, the state of the animals is also completely ignored. The animals are stuffed in tiny cages which they can barely move in and chickens for example have their beaks cut off. Animal rights are thrown straight out of the window. Though I do see the sense in trying to keep the cost of food low so that “everybody” can afford to eat, it remains a fact that approximately 27 million tons of food is wasted in the US every year.  Where is the sense in that?

I have and continue to be an avid meat lover. It’s a part of who I am and the culture that I come from. As a result it must be said that in Pakistan all the food that we eat is organically grown and that when I came to America I could taste the difference in the meat. The Chicken was meatier, sure, but it didn’t taste as good for some reason. The food wouldn’t taste half as good when cold and there was corn in everything! With so much food being wasted year round something has to be done and practices must be improved.

Breakfast of Biodiversity

April 6, 2011

In reading this book there were many parts that seemed dull to the author’s style of writing in more of a textbook format, however there were some key interesting points that were brought up.  In the second half of the book the author stresses the point that globalization has had a huge impact on the rain forest and also other natural resources in which people take for granted.

pg 104 Currently the developed world contains 17% of the world’s population and just looking at one measurement “energy” illustrates the inequality between developed and developing nations:  17% of the people now use 70% of the energy resources of the world which leaves only 30% of the remaining energy resources for the other 83% of the world’s population.  When I read this it was very shocking to think that such a small amount could use so much of the energy resources available.

Another interesting thing the author mentions is that tropical rain forests cover only about 7% of the earth’s surface but are home to more than half of all the plant and animal species of the world.  They are also home to a large percentage of the plants used to make medicine.

The author stresses that this struggle has led to many revolutions because people feel they should be entitled to the same amount of resources as everyone else.  For example the Vietnamese believed that there people should have the right to their own resources and that the Americans and Russians shouldn’t and they were willing to fight for it.

Another interesting part of this book was where the author talks about that cutting down of rain forests does not entirely mean that all biodiversity is lost within the area because the forest will often grow back and animals and plants will come back to the area. However, the idea of logging an area of forest and then building a parking lot however will definitely decrease the biodiversity in the area.

Costa Rica which is none for some of the largest areas of preserved rain forests and biodiversity and yet the book states that even within these areas there is large amounts of cutting down forests and the overall reducing of biodiversity within the area as people move in to claim areas of land to build houses and farms.  Since there are limited jobs (Banana companies) within these areas people often cut down the forests on their lands to make money and feed their families.  This was interesting because most people would think that the forests are cut down by large companies from other countries trying to make a quick buck but in many cases it is the locals who are cutting parts of the remaining rain forests down.

Another idea I found interesting in second part of the book is the idea of using the forest not only for ecotourism and “bird watching” is the fact that these forests have a large role in medicine and the research for cures to diseases and other illnesses.  So not only does cutting down the forest possibly give rise to new developments but it also creates a risk to the overall chances of new researches being done to help find new medicines for the rest of the world.

In the last chapter the author mentions a boy who his team meets there who becomes very fascinated with the forest over the five years following them and wants to eventually learn about how to preserve rain forests.  The idea of this is good however is highly unlikely for him since his family is very poor with small plot of land and the only jobs within the area are banana plantations.  Even his brother works there and it does seem that this kid even though he wants to go out and learn about the world he will probably end up like the farmers who are resorting to cutting down the forest for money rather than preserving them.

Overall the book was somewhat hard to get through due to the writing style and it leads me to think that if the people within these areas who see the rain forests every day are being forced to cut them down to save their families from starving then how are people in other countries going to manage the biodiversity within these areas unless there is extremely strict political regulation that puts and end to the destruction of the rain forests.  It seems like an idea that will never be attained.

Another Blow to Japan

April 6, 2011

Radiation found in bodies

What sides like the beginnings of a science fiction story is actually a cultural blow to the Japanese families who have lost a loved one. Bodies are now being found with significant radiation readings which means those respective families may not get their loved ones back. Apparently a ceremonial cremation is typical for cultural reasons, a cremation of a body contaminated with radiation would be a poor decision so according to US law for dealing with a contaminated body is “deep burial in a sealed container marked by radiation warning symbols”.

Problems with Bananas

April 6, 2011

I havnt done too much reading or study of rainforests besides what I was taught throughout school which was the pretty basic method that rainforests are good and bulldozers are bad. I also recall the rediculous pictures of cleared forest spaces and the aftermath on the species within that area, it was really difficult to understand why we contiune to destroy something that provides so much.

Looking at the cycle that was illsutrated in the book where there is a product boom and how land is cleared and then as the product demand dies down workers are lied off and they go clear more forest so they could produce for themselves. It seems like a broken system that needs refinement immedietly before all the majority of the rainforest is depleted, and while it can recover, that takes years. It was also alarming to read how the majority of the Costa Rica forests are being destroyed for the benefit of one product. Seems a bit ridculous and surley there are other ways to mass produce bananas and any other food product that accually requires a nutrient rich soil to grow.

Of the 7% of rainforest on the planet it was also disaapointing to learn that the majority of it is being peppered with chemicals to better produce banana’s. And what about the workers? If you buy Dole are you also supporting rainforest destruction and the sterilization of the workers? While Im assuming the industry has stopped using DBCP the other chemicals will most likly cause another chemical effect on humans.

And the tie ins to the other books covered in the class, like Environment and Society, growing population demands more products, more rain forest cleared. So do you support meat eating where animals are essentially deprived of any life or try the other route where the farming of those products are depleted the natural abundance of rain forest and other naturally occurring ecosystems? Vandermeer’s discussion on the political ramifications, that instead of trying to completely choose one or the other a happy medium needs to be found. The biggest argument being that preservations need to stop being isolated and start being integrated in the same way so we dont end up with pockets of protected forest surrounded by plantations that are shooting chemicals everywhere. And depending on the chemical makeups of the pesticides, the acidity of the soil could change, effectively destroying any evolutionary changes the plants have made to adapt to acidic nature of the soil.

While the rain forest problem always comes off as a dire situation, society again has the opportunity to change the current situation and hopefully this can result in better rain forest protection because ultimately this is directly linked to our own lives, our O2 supplies.

Extremophiles? Sounds hot.

April 6, 2011

Scientists have uncovered approximately 300 microorganisms in the Antarctic, 70% of which are new species. These microorganisms are adapted to live in extremely cold, hot, salty or otherwise unsavory (for human) environments. All of these organisms were found in the Antarctic reaches of Chile, and (astoundingly) spend the majority of their lives encased in ice. One such organism can withstand gamma-radiation concentrations 5000 times higher than any other known organism. Scientists are looking for “potential applications” for these microorganisms, so watch out, soon we may have anti-radiation suits made of some bacteria!

Article HERE