Environment and Society Part I

Chapter 2 was pretty interesting. There was nothing that shocked me too much. I know and believe that exponential growth of the human population is an issue that causes infinite other issues. I think the growth rate can be a confusing topic. I was already aware that the birth rate has declined in recent years; however, still more and more people are being born each year since the birth rate is in fact a rate and is relative to the current population. I think the expanding population is a sad topic personally because it makes me want fewer people and then I just feel like a pathetic person…

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Something I did not think about before is that the more people we have causing problems, the more people we have to help fix the problems. The thing is, not enough people are involved in fixing the problems but excel in creating problems. Everybody has got waste whether it big or small.

On the topic of food, there are tons of articles out there that suggest we already grow enough food in the United States to feed 10 billion people. This statistic does not mean too much; it just proves that one area may be more well off than another. We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People… and Still Can’t End Hunger

I am not much of an economics person, so chapter 3 was a little difficult to grasp, but I made sense of some of it. It seems like we as people are very good at making excuses for problems or recognizing a problem and not solving it entirely. The Coase Theorem suggests that problems can be solved through contracts. The only issue with this is that contracts do not just magically appear and are not always in the environment’s best interest.

Table 3.1 shows some options that are supposed to limit pollution: green taxes, cap and trade, and green consumption. These options could be more strict than they are currently. That would probably make some people mad. Nobody ever wants to pay higher taxes. Anytime there is a proposal to limit pollution or harmful emissions from certain facilities, it rarely passes. Obama moves to limit power-plant carbon pollution

The concept of green consumption to me was appealing because I know that often certain products are advertised in a way that presents them as greener than they actually are. By having a “seal” that certifies products would reduce confusion.

The Tragedy of the Commons was the most important thing I read in chapter 4. I already had a basic understanding of the concept as it relates to the environment and our resources. I think it is very closely related to the population problem. If everyone wants a certain resource, but there is not enough for everyone to have the amount they desire, who decides who gets what? There is no communication among the groups so a lot of times the people may not realize they are depleting a certain resource as fast as they are. Also, sometimes it can be  a smaller group of people that ruins the resources for others, but then those others do not care and they want their share so they go ahead and deplete the resource even more because they think it would be unfair if they were not allowed to use that resource just because someone else used it.

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Chapter 5 brings up some issues that are very important to me. The first thing the chapter mentions is factory farms. Personally my biggest issue with farming and farming animals in particular is the amount of pollution it creates and the amount of resources it requires. I am less concerned but still concerned with the environmental ethics discussed. To be honest I see these animals as lab rats… what it comes down to is that they are being raised only to be killed. They are not pets. That does not mean I think that the extensive farming methods we use in the United States are okay. In fact I am so against them that I do not even eat animal products that come from farms.

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The second part of the chapter was something I enjoyed reading. Being a zoology major, obviously I care a lot about animals. I think a lot of people lack the moral extensionism that is mentioned in this chapter. I have seen it with pets, and I have heard people talk about wild animals in an awful way. For someone who understands the importance of animals and has a deep respect for them, it is hard to hear people say stuff like “oh it’s just an animal” or “they do not matter.” People like this just sound like ignorant immoral people. I am not sure where I stand on the liberation of animals concept. I think it is somewhat of a lost cause. Telling someone they cannot have a pet cat is a bit ridiculous. Maybe if when cats were domesticated someone said “no, they are meant to be wild animal” then that is a different story. But, these animals are already here, and the only thing we would accomplish by setting them free is creating more of them! Having wild animals in captivity is different especially when they are abused. This reminds me of the documentary Blackfish which uncovers all of the lies Seaworld uses to cover up the fact that they are abusing animals.

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The first part of chapter 6 about the flood of 1993 which I remember learning about in Physical Geography as a freshman. This flood provides evidence that if we keep trying to alter nature, nature will “explode” back at us. By innovating and using our resources to the maximum potential we may actually be making this worse. I believe the flood occurred in the intensity that it did was because we altered the natural course of the river. Could this flood have been avoided? How far do we have to go to ensure our innovations are safe for the present and safe for the future? I think we often do not look at the future. And I am skeptical of psychics and predictions, so I think anything can happen. Though there may be patterns, nothing is ever a guarantee.

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Externalities are mentioned again. Someone has to pay for the damage at some point… Hazards and risks are not something I usually think about when I think about environmental issues. Sometimes I forget that if people are harming their environments then they are also harming themselves in what can be very serious ways.

Chapter 7 did not interest me much at all. I am kind of tired of the socialism/capitalism debate. We will never be extremely one or the other. I think you can be socialist or capitalist and still be able to respect the environment.

Chapter 8 seemed to be more of the same of what we have been reading in other books over the past few weeks. Everything we do has at least an indirect cause on everything else. The more we construct the more we affect nature. Nature does not mean what it used to.

Overall, I think I can relate to several of these together. I know I am somewhat of an eco-freak, so I try to look at issues from different point of views. I think a lot of issues can be solved that way. But, if I had to pick a prospective to go with, it would be the population growth combined with the tragedy of the commons idea. We have too many people that are not cooperating enough.

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