Environment and Society, Part 2

February 25, 2014

Ch. 9  Carbon Dioxide

  • The Kyoto Protocol:  I believe that limitations and reductions in a country’s emission of greenhouse gases are very important  ideas.  As time goes on, the amount of greenhouses gases increases, and it is up to us (humans) to do something about it.  I think that all countries should have some sort of climate change control, whether they are very developed, less developed, have large or small populations,  wealthy or poor. If you have the resources to create new technologies or the power to create national limits, it should be done…..emissions should NOT be “traded”…that is lazy!
  • Personally, in the U.S., I believe that people should be taxed a certain amount of money (a flat, annual fee…nothing major) for every car that they own. The money from these taxes should then go to companies that can use it create new technologies to decrease greenhouse gases an organizations that go out and plant trees…or something similar.

Ch. 10  Trees

  • I think it is interesting how people in some countries utilize trees in their crop fields (instead of just cutting them all down), like in “shade grown” coffee (pg 168).  The trees allow for a wide range of ecosystem services and sustain a large biodiversity.
  • In a political economy view, the idea of deforestation is understood as capitalist agriculture, where the decline in trees is caused by the problem of expansion or development.
  • In the history of resisting deforestation, women have played a large role…the book lists several examples where women have actually tied themselves to trees in order to stop others from cutting them down.

Ch. 11  Wolves

  •   Wolves: the Gray Wolf, the Red Wolf, the Mexican Wolf, the Iranian Wolf, and the Arctic Wolf (because it is my favorite)grey-wolf_565_600x450 image1369850985 Mexican Gray iranian_wolf03 Arctic_wolf_by_Arctic_Wolf_Alpine
  • Why in the world would you want to kill these beautiful creatures???
  • I thought it was very interesting how influential one species (such as the wolf) can be on the ecosystem/environment.  On page 186-187, the authors describe how reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park influenced the biodiversity. Because there are more wolves, there are less elk (they are either eaten or move somewhere else)…because there are less elk, the willows are able to grow more prominently…because there are more willows, there are more beavers (because they use the willows to build their houses)…because there are more beavers, there are more dams…and because there are more dams, there are more reptile and amphibians.
  • The idea that men are “righteous” hunters and that wolves are “evil” hunters makes me die a little on the inside…… I think that humans can be more evil that anything else in this world.

Ch. 12  Tuna

  • When looking at tuna from a Markets and Commodities point of view, the authors state that the only way that society can really create sustainable ocean resources is that we must buy the right things.  I really agree with this idea, I feel that in the end, the buyers have the upper hand.  For example, if they want to stop dolphin bycatch, they must buy “dolphin safe” tuna….if people want to end the cruelty of factory farms, then they have to give up the cheaper prices and buy free-range animals.
  • This chapter goes into the idea of animal rights.  Although I believe and support that humans need to make a lot of anthropomorphic decisions, I also believe that we need to take the rights of animals (and even the environment) into consideration.  Even though factory farms are cheaper, I think that animals are aware of what is happening to them and that they deserve better.

Ch. 13  Bottled Water

  • I thought it was interesting that most bottled water is just tap water put in a bottle and that a lot of the things companies advertise about (e.g., “natural spring water”) is usually just made up to sell the product…..I also found it interesting that tap water (in well developed countries such as the U.S.) can be healthier than bottled water.  Not only does that plastic from the bottles (PET) contaminate the water, but water quality regulations are less strict for bottled water than it is for tap water (who would have thought??)….ALSO, that more water is used in producing the bottle than the actual amount that fills up the bottle for consumption.
  • To help the environment out a little, my roommate and I use Brita water bottles instead of buying bottled water all the time! brita-bottle-aqua


Ch. 14  French Fries

  • While on the topic of McDonald’s…Did you know that their hamburger meat is ammonium-hydroxide treated? Or that only about 15% of their burgers are REAL meat, the other 85% is the ammonium-hydroxide treated meat fillers…that can cause stomach cancer.
  • Also, only about 50% of their chicken nuggets are actually real chicken!…the other 50% includes corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents, and completely synthetic ingredients, such as Dimethyl polysiloxane (a type of silicone used in cosmetics and a variety of other goods like BREAST IMPLANTS) and Tertiary butylhydroquinone (a petroleum-based product with antioxidant-like properties that can have side effects like vomiting and delirium!) Way to go, McDonald’s…
  • Other than these interesting facts, I was very intrigued that potatoes didn’t become popular out of Ireland for some time because of the suspicions people had of them…people literally wouldn’t eat them because they were not mentioned in the Bible. People were also racist against potatoes…well, not really against potatoes, but they did have racist associations with them. AND, people didn’t want to eat them because they grew underground…therefore, they cannot be trusted!
  • YSpkTOOCY1-10  Evil underground vampire potato!



Crude Oil Testing

February 25, 2014

Today the federal government issued stricter regulations for shipping crude oil, specifically oil from the Bakken Shale region in North Dakota. There are new mandates that demand that the crude oil must be tested to see how flammable it is, and it also must be shipped at a higher level of standards. These changes were prompted by the disastrous spill and explosion in Quebec last year. To read more, see the article here.

Environment and Society Part II

February 25, 2014


The first part of chapter 9 was very relatable because I am from Pittsburgh and have travelled through the Liberty Tunnels as well as many of the other tunnels around the city. I have never breathed the air of these tunnels because my parents would always make me close the windows while going through a tunnel even when we had no air conditioning. I have walked through a shorter tunnel near Duquesne’s campus, and even though it was shorter so the air pollution content was not as extreme, it was still somewhat uncomfortable. Pittsburgh is not known for its pleasant smells…

carbon graph

The topic of carbon content in our atmosphere has been heavily discussed in recent years. Everyone is familiar with this issue. We know the causes of the rising content, but whether or not we can reduce the content is indeterminable. Probably the best way to have avoided the situation we are currently in would have been to solve the problem before it occurred. But, how were we supposed to know that the burning of fossil fuels would slowly destroy the entire planet? And time travel has still not been invented, so we can only move forward with what we know. It is probable that many have already given up and assumed reducing the carbon content is a lost cause.

greenhouse effect

I was familiar with most of what was written about in chapter 9, and I think a lot of people are familiar with the issues, but that is not good enough. They have to be familiar and care about the issues for anything to be done about them. I think the Cap and Trade system would dramatically help our situation, but it would have to occur on a global basis and it would actually have to happen. Business owners are reluctant to accept systems like this because they could likely put a limit on their profit potential. Speaking of maximizing profit, the greenwashing technique needs to be eliminated. It is only causing larger problems.


I remember going into a great deal of detail about our forests in another geography course. I love trees; maybe it’s because I grew up with forests all around me. They are extremely important to the biodiversity of the world, but they are also important to human needs such as fuel and construction. It is not bad that we use wood as a resource, but balance is key. Table 10.1 provides % changes in forest cover since 2005.

photo (1)

All areas except Europe have decreased forest cover since 1995. Europe is extremely deforested so I guess it makes sense that they can only go up. The United States now has more trees than it did in 1920, but not more than it originally had before it was colonized. But, overall the entire continent of North and Central America has still declined. And, even though we have more trees, they are not the same type of trees we once had. Trees are replanted like crops in a field. This dramatically reduces biodiversity. Natural reforestation is occurring and hopefully will continue.

Countries with high rates of deforestation 

Countries with the most forest cover (just because they have a high cover percent… doesn’t mean they don’t have a high deforestation rate)

Every living thing contributes to biodiversity. Like the trees, wolves play an important role in biodiversity. Biodiversity is like a house of cards: take one part away and most likely the entire structure will fall apart. Different species in the trophic levels mentioned need to maintained so that the house of cards, biodiversity, remains successful. Because much of the wolf population has been eradicated, extensive conservation measures need to be taken to restore something that should have never left. Balance is key. Once we offset that balance regaining that balance is much more difficult.

trophic levels


Overuse of any resources is never a good thing. I very rarely eat any animal products; however, I will consume certain fishes. When I want to eat fish, I first spend a good bit of time looking at which specific types are sustainable, which are threatened, and which have high bycatch risks. NOAA’s website on fisheries is very helpful. I think that if  more people did this before consuming seafood, overfishing would not be as big of a problem. But, trends occur in food consumption like the maguro sushi, and then environmental concerns are not cared about as much. Trends contribute greatly to a lot of problems: once one person has something everyone else has to have it which puts strains on certain resources.



I thought it was interesting in the chapter of water that  suggested that bottled water might be the solution to water scarcity problems. It is interesting because I live in a water abundant location with plenty of clean water available, yet people still drink water mainly from a bottle. The bottle is unnecessary. And, reusable bottles are still better than recyclable bottles. Some people make the excuse that it is okay to drink bottled water because they are going to recycle the bottle.  Recycling requires energy just like any other manufacturing. Drinking the water directly is much better.

I thought the chapter about french fries was a bit odd, but still different. It does make sense that we should treat our bodies like we treat the environment. We need to take care of both. And, it is easy to forget we are part of the environment. Also, the french fry market reminded me of the forestry industry. Only certain potatoes are used to produce french fries which limits our nutritional diversity.



February 25, 2014

Greener aerogel technology holds potential for oil and chemical clean-up


Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been studying alternate materials that can be used to clean up oil and chemicals without absorbing water.  They have recently patented a new aerogel technology that has special water-repelling and oil-absorbing properties.  For example, if there is an oil spill on the surface of water, a sheet of this special aerogel can be thrown over it to quickly and efficiently absorb the oil while leaving the water in place.

view article here

Environment and Society. prt2

February 25, 2014

Chapter 9

  • The carbon prisoner’s dilemma– basically the same as the Prison Dilemma but with the CO2
  • Kyoto Protocol- Binding document of international law, which addresses and seeks to overcome the barriers and impose emission reduction on signatory countries. (pg146)  There was an article published Monday about a new view on this protocol.Read more:

“Agreeing to the sum of the parts without agreeing to the parts themselves would be like agreeing to let other nations do all the work.”

  • Emmissions Trading ….???(pg 147)
  • Who killed the Atmosphere?  Basically people who don’t really see the effect. (pg155)

Chapter 10: Trees

  • California university cut down an oak grove just for construction. even though there was a law in the city saying trees larger than 6 inches were not allowed to be cut down.


  • Deforestation: We are increasing carbon loads, and destroying habitats for the “natural” world.

the Rights of trees?


Chapter 11:Wolves

 Howling wolves

“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” that is what Yellowstone was made for.


  • Hopefully everyone knows the purpose of predators in an ecosystem but if not; organisms such as the wolves or apex predators  have a special role in keeping the populations of other animals in check. The predators weed out the weak and in turn that doesn’t allow for those genes to be passed on to the next generation of prey.  The wolves are not doing this because they want the elk or deer to become stronger it is just the easiest way for the wolves to get food. If you calculate how much energy it takes for a wolf pack to track down, capture and kill a healthy strong elk in comparison to an unhealthy elk you will see a dramatic difference in the cost in relation to the reward.


Now humans on the other hand, are doing the opposite… we take the healthy organisms and leave the weak!  We are making the populations of those species more likely to have disease and bad genes.

Chapter 12: Tuna:

“Sorry Charlie, on the best tasting tuna can be a Star-kist” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvgEqlFIn2o

  • Dolphins are being killed as a result of netting. I mean who cares we eat tuna why not dolphin? thoughts?
  • Change in Tuna cost.

    Chapter 13: Bottled Water:

  • Is it helping the environment? No not really, factories have to make filter and bottle this water the ship it to where it needs to go, meaning lots of emissions and energy consumption.
  • Are other sources of water safe to drink? pollutants? parasites? and what else do people drink?
  • are we making the human race more likely to succumb to disease?

Chapter 14: French fries:

How can this be bad for the environment?

Current Enviro Event

February 25, 2014

Paying with Plastic

In 2012, Beijing started a reverse vending machine recycling program in which citizens could exchange recyclable materials (such as plastic bottles) for subway tickets so citizens were essentially paying for transportation with used plastic!

This article talks about progress on this program since its start in 2012.


Environmental News

February 24, 2014

In lieu of the topics discussed in the second part of the readings, this article is about new fuel economy regulations and the reductions of emissions from heavy-vehicle emissions. According to the article, heavy-duty vehicles (garbage trucks, school buses) only account for 4% of vehicles on the road but account for 1/4 of transportation’s carbon footprint. The regulations, originally proposed in 2011 from Obama’s camp, require auto makers to, “increase fuel economy levels from 6 to 8 mpg,” which has reduced emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons.

Read more here.