Environment and Society

October 29, 2014

Of the approaches and perspectives I’d say my perspective on the environment is probably with the Environmental Ethics chapter. I want to be more critically thinking and say that choosing just one or a few perspectives narrows thought too much, but I will choose one for the purposes of making a post. I will say that I often think in terms of what is ok to do and what is not ok to do to the environment. I’m not a fan of factory farms and I’m a big fan of the rewilding movement. I’ve read and written a lot on the subjects. I am a student of the biological sciences and can see where scientism make infect my world view. I also try not to be too anthro- or eco-centric.

wolves

Chapter 11: Wolves

As I’ve said in some of my older posts, wolves pose an interesting look into human’s interactions with nature. Our culture links the wolf directly with the wilderness, and depending on who you talk to that can make the wolf something beautiful or something savage.

Our violent history with the wolf has lead to eradication of the wolf from much of it’s historic range. Only a few decades ago did they start to be reintroduced to the United States at places like Yellowstone. Even still local farmers fear for their livelihoods. However, in those reintroduced areas wolves made a comeback and they were taken off the federal endangered species list, leaving the states to say what people can do to wolves. Too often wolves are killed by farmers as a result.

Trophic cascades are “the effects on subsequent (higher or lower) trophic levels after the elimination or reduction in numbers of individuals in one trophic level” (pg. 188) For a better description of trophic cascades, watch this video. In much of the United States the absence of wolves has allowed the deer population to skyrocket. The deer cause many car crashes that injure or kill humans and spread lime disease. Not only that, but the deer overgraze and keep sapling from growing up in many places. We try to cull the deer with hunting, but that proves to be ineffective. Often the best solution is to reintroduce wolves to control the deer population and that gives opportunities to many other animals to survive.

In recent years some environmentalists have started the rewilding movement, which is a movement to restore ecosystems all over the world to the way they were without human interference. One of the most important parts of this is to reintroduce apex predators to their natural habitats. This puts many at odds with local ranchers, who fear for their livelihoods. In many cases ranchers prefer to shoot on sight.

There are many cases in which ranchers work with environmentalist (among others) to manage wolves. This is called Stakeholder Management, in which groups with a stake in the matter work to a compromise on what should be done. This is what is seen in Minnesota, and is an example of what can be done in Yellowstone.

Why do you think the stigma on wolves exists?

What do you think is the best way to reintroduce wolves to environments populated by people?

Do you think we should reintroduce wolves to their old habitats?


Environment and Society

October 29, 2014

Chapter 15: Bottled Water

  • average person can spend hundreds of dollars in bottled water when they already pay for tap water (significantly less expensive) through taxes
  • turned from a common property of communities to a marketed commodity for the elite
  • bottled water has a mentality surrounding that it is safer than tap or has has added health benefits, but this is not true
  • consumption of bottled water continues to rise globally, with the leading consumer as the United Arab Emirates, then Mexico, some European countries, and then the United States
  • Packaging and transporting is environmentally damaging: bottled water requires additional water as well as petroleum and carbon dioxide
  • Water bottles typically end up at landfills
  • In a report in 1999 by the NRDC, they discovered about 1/3 of bottled waters were simply packaged tap water
  • Bottled water in some cases is less safe than tap water: Tap water must meet the strict regulations of the EPA, where bottled water is regulated by the FDA, which can provide loopholes for bottled water

I really enjoyed the chapter on environmental ethics. I believe ecocentricism makes sense, personally and logically. Humans rely on the health of the planet to survive in the long term, so I think putting emphasis on that interdependence we share should simply be logical. Looking past the short term acquisition of material goods in place for the longevity of the planet can ensure a better quality of life for everything, and I think society needs to start moving past the “growth for the sake of growth” phase. I also agree with the equal consideration of animals, and that minimizing suffering should be an ethical decision.


Environment and Society

October 29, 2014

This book brought up a good number of interesting topics to talk about. Because this book brought up so many things I will just bring up a couple of interesting points form the different chapters. In chapter two they are talking a lot about population growth over time which is interesting. I also found the segment that was talking about finding the ecological footprint and how it could be done on a small scale, such as an individual calculating it, or on the larger scale, which could be calculating it for an entire country. Chapter three talks about green products and markets. It was interesting to read about different “Cap and Trade” methods that could be used to offset the negative impacts of environmental impacts. Personally my favorite chapter was chapter 4. I really find the tragedy of commons concept very interesting. It was interesting to see the concept applied to the “prisoner’s dilemma.” I had never heard of it described like that before but that analogy does a good job describing the relation. The question brought up at the end of this chapter was interesting to me. “Can we ‘scale up’ from the local commons to the global commons?” It nicely brought together the ideas discussed early on in the chapter to the ideas about the scale of environmental regulation brought up at the end of the chapter. Chapter five was also interesting to read. It was cool to see the environmental side tied to the ethical side. It was interesting when it talked about deep ecology which considered the deep ecological questions. This chapter did a good job talking about the different environmental ethical view points. Chapter six talked about risk and how that is gauged in perceived. It was also interesting to see how culture plays into the ways of thinking about risk, which is not universal across different cultures! Chapter seven talked about the political history and how that is connected to economic trends. It was interesting to see how many of the environmental justice movements are led by women. Chapter eight was also highly interesting. It talked about how many parts of the environment that we deem natural have had human intervention and may not actually be natural. I liked the examples the book used that represented this happening. The ones brought about North Africa, Australia, and even parts of the united states were interesting.

Uranium

Chapter 12- Uranium.

This chapter like the rest covered a large amount of material. It started by giving an introduction to the history of Uranium and the use of it. An interesting question was brought up in this portion of the chapter too which was,”whether [radioactivity] will benefit mankind, or whether the knowledge will be helpful”-Zoellner. This question brings in the ethical question of using uranium due to the health risks of working or being exposed to it. This chapter brought up a lot about the different uses of uranium over time and how some uses such as nuclear power plants is not too bad, things like nuclear bombs can have a very extensive impact. The chapter goes on to talk about the risks associated with the mining and dumping of the radioactive waste. The idea of calculating the risk assessment with working in the mines and actually using uranium is a commonly debated issue. Specific areas that have had issues relating to the mining of uranium disposal were discussed in great detail to emphasize the conventionality of this topic.


Ocean Health Gets “D” Grade

October 29, 2014

This study graded each ocean and then a global average was calculated out of 100. This year the oceans got a 67, which is 7 points higher than last year. The researches said this was mainly due to more conservation efforts and protected marine areas. The western Pacific is heavily overfished and got one of the lowest scores. This is because outside of territorial waters (close to the shoreline), there aren’t nearly as many regulations or protected areas, so overfishing common. This report uses only 10 “human goals” to judge the health of the oceans, including tourism and sense of place. So take it with a grain of salt. At least it has been improving over the last 3 years however.


Galapagos Tortoise

October 29, 2014

The Galapagos Tortoise is found on the island Espanola which is in the southeaster Galapagos Islands. In the 1960’s there were only 15 of these tortoise’s left in the wild. For a while many people believed that these tortoise’s would go extinct. Due to breeding programs which were able to help raise and release 1,500 tortoise’s the population has greatly increased! The breeding programs are no longer needed because the tortoise’s are now successfully mating in the wild again.

Adult Galápagos tortoise

The Galapagos Tortoise has a life span of roughly 170 years, making them incredibly important to the ecosystem. The tortoise’s are incredibly important in spreading the seed of many plants. This helps spread the plants and the plants also are food for other animals. They are very important to this ecosystem and have been very resilient in having its population rebound.

http://www.newsweek.com/galapagos-giant-tortoise-brought-back-brink-extinction-280593


Wildlife Shelters Project

October 29, 2014

Since the last posting we have met with Dick Tuttle to look over campus for good spots to put some wildlife shelters. Bat houses can go on the east side of any building on campus with at least 2 stories, preferably on the academic side of campus. We were thinking Edwards gym, the parking lot side of the library or of the drama center. Dick Tuttle want to mount Carolina wren houses at the sorority houses, they have to be under a patio, and preferably with little traffic. Dick Tuttle also thought it would be a good idea to put squirrel houses on the trees outside Phillips hall, on the side closer to Edgar hall. Bee hotels, need plenty of sunshine and we were thinking they could go somewhere near the bike paths across the street from the science center.

We have contacted Dr. Gatz about the bat houses already in the Science Center. He doesn’t know who put them up and assumes they’ve been there a long time. His best guess was that they were put up as part of the class we had on bats a long time ago. We’ve also sent an email to Dr. Carreno asking for some more information on bee hotels, and where they would best be placed.

After we contact B&G, we would want to contact people at the sorority houses asking if we could put up bird houses. We would also want to contact someone at the transcript about writing an article to get the word out about the project, and someone at the Delaware county bird club that would want to preform general maintenance on the bird houses. I would also contact my boss, about getting an event planned to get students involved with the project.

If we can get vested interest from any of the staff or underclassmen or citizens of Delaware, then maintenance of the project would be covered. To my knowledge the bat houses do not require much maintenance, mainly someone to keep an eye out for bees, wasps, or hornets nests, and for major damage. General wear and tear will happen over time, but that will take a while. In the case of that happening someone would probably have to replace the shelter after so many years. The bee houses can generally be ignored as far as I know, but they are flimsy, so I doubt they’d stay as they are for more that a couple years.

We can get better plans later, but for the purposes of making a post I have some stuff I found after a few Google searches on how to construct the shelters.

Bee Hotels

Carolina Wren Houses

Bat Houses

Here’s an interesting video on bat conservation that Warner Bros. just put out as part of their promotion for Batman v Superman:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Help Save the Bats


Michigan voting on wolf hunting

October 29, 2014

The reading for this week got me thinking a lot about wolves. One thing that is happening right now involving wolves is being settled when Michigan votes on Nov. 4th.

wolves3

(Photo: Dave Kenyon, AP)

Ballot issues target wolf hunting

The voters of Michigan are deciding on two pieces of legislation that would classify wolves as a game species and allow them to be hunted. The Legislative passed laws were put onto the ballot by special interest groups looking for a chance to change public opinion on the matter. Scientists question the need to hunt wolves because there is only an estimated 650 wolves living in Michigan’s upper peninsula and there have been no attacks on humans (there have however been 8 deaths and 1,300 injuries in vehicle crashes involving deer).

The main problem seems to be protecting domestic animals, which in my opinion isn’t enough justification. As I read in Environment and Society, some farms have non-lethal strategies for protecting their livestock, and as the article says, the number of cases of wolf predation of livestock in Michigan fall below the norm of most places that have wolves. Hopefully, Michigan votes no.


Environment and Society

October 29, 2014

I think the most relevant discussion of the environment is how humans are impacting it. We are now in the anthropocene, where human activity is the dominant force upon the environment. This is primarily because of humanity’s large population and modern technologies. This is a core idea of Chapter 2, where Malthus and others argue population growth is the most important contributor to resource scarcity and human impact. Although it is shown later in the chapter that a larger population can actually increase Earth’s carrying capacity, the overall environmental impact (whether good or bad) still increases. Also while other factors like greater women’s education and autonomy reduce humanity’s impact, they are directly related to reducing population growth.  There are other ways to lessen our impact, but population growth has the most tangible, direct impact on the environment.

Chapter 5 is also important when discussing the scale of modern human impact on the environment. Ethical debates about animals used for agriculture and cosmetics, conservation vs. preservation, and the idea of intrinsic value of nature are more relevant today than any time in the past. This is because humans now have tremendous ability to influence the environment, through technology, population size, and desiring comfortable living. Humanity now has to moderate its activity upon the environment because of these new capabilities. But moderating our impact can be achieved in many ways, such as better understanding markets (Ch. 3) or developing different political economies (Ch 7).  Above all, I think an individual’s or a society’s ethical values will ultimately decide which solution is best. For example a deep ecologist would argue no amount of political or economic restructuring would ever get at the heart of the issue about modern society’s relationship with nature. At the same time, a utilitarian like Locke would be in favor of open markets and decry any notion of an intrinsic value of nature.

 

Ch. 14 – Lawns:

 

Even conservatively,” Milesi says, “I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn” – Source

  • Do lawns represent our urge to live within nature or to expel wild nature?
  • Turfgrass was brought over from the Old World in early days of settlement
  • Cultivated lawns existed in Europe, but modern manicured lawns are very recent
  • Lawns began after WWII
    • Automobiles lead to development of suburbs, where extra land was plenty, and lawns were a perfect way to cover the land
    • New chemicals (like DDT) and machinery allowed lawns to be aesthetically pleasing
  • Lawns are now the largest single irrigated crop in America
  • Negatives:
    • Chemical runoff
    • Most insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides are still harmful
    • Reduced biodiversity
    • Use lots of water
  • Positives:
    • Reduce urban heat island effect
  • If lawns are so harmful, why do we still have them?
    • Raise property value
    • Lawns have an agreed upon meaning of pride, respect, and responsibility
    • They provide solidarity among neighbors
    • Others do it so we should too
    • You’re more likely to have a lawn if others do
    • Huge power of turfgrass industry and pull marketing – telling you you have a problem you might not even realize (unkempt lawn)

 


Current Event- Green Sites.

October 28, 2014

The first green sites have been revealed to the public. An amazing 3 billion dollars has been spent on green sites to keep sewage out of lake erie. More here.


Environment and Society ch. 7-8

October 28, 2014

A common theme throughout these chapters seemed to be greed. Everything that was happening in these ideas and examples revolved and were consequences of the desire for personal gain and disregard for anything else. This theme is evident throughout chapters 2-8, however I think it is the most intense in chapter 7. Here are a few points and pieces of information I found interesting.

In the beginning of the chapter it talks about a leaked memo written by Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s economic advisor. In this memo, he states many disturbing ideas about waste and pollution. He explains how he thinks industries should export their pollution. This idea doesn’t sound bad at first but then he continues on by saying they should export it into lesser developed countries because they are “under-polluted” and they need to absorb their fair share of the global pollution. Furthermore, if the people in the area where the pollution is being exported to get sick or even die, it will be of less impact and these people are expendable. Also, he explains that they can get away with this because in lesser developed countries, there is less of a demand for a clean environment. As you can imagine, this would enrage people. He commented to the public that this was just a sarcastic reply to a coworker. Who knows if this was actually true but things like this have happened before around the world.

Carbon trading id a common practice amongst different industries in different regions. In the global exchange of pollution, industries can sell and buy “carbon credits” that allow them to emit an allotted amount carbon into the atmosphere. Industries that have not emitted their full allotted amount can sell their carbon credits to other industries to allow them to go over their allotted amount and also to “offset” the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere.

There is also a market for the import and export of solid waste nationally and internationally. Cities, states, and countries alike will pay a lot of money to export solid waste out of their area. Incentively, areas will charge a lot of money to import waste from other areas. usually, solid waste will be exported from higher developed areas into lower developed areas.

Karl Marx explains the relationship between Political, Economical, and social systems with 4 relevant concepts: labor, accumulation, contradiction, and crisis.

  • Peoples labor is sold on a market
  • This allows for accumulation of capital by a small number of individuals
  • which creates contradictions since capital becomes over concentrated
  • This then causes disruptive financial and ecological cries.

The author described Labor in a way that I hadn’t really thought about before. The texts states, “Labor is the act of altering nature and bringing it into the process of making the human world.” This is very true if you think about it. Mostly everything we use in the human world is a product of labor. We have to bring things from nature and process them and then put them together to form, lets say, a chair. We take the lumber and cut it to the desired length, then the screws, made originally from iron, and put them together with labor. There is no such thing as a naturally grown chair, it must be made by us. this leads me to the next point. because things have to be taken from nature, and labor has to be bought to do it, big businesses try to get the most out of their money to make more capital. That is why they are called capitalists. Capitalists have to “underpay” labor and or nature or there can be no capitalism. They take more from nature than they give back, and they take more from the economy than they give back. This is why there are issues with environmental and ecological sustainability of capitalism.

The first idea of capitalism started with the Enclosure Laws in England. These laws privatized communal areas and forests and therefore pushed many independent “small-holds” off the land. This gave complete control of the means of production to a small group and took away independence everyone else. They now were forced to sell their labor to this small group in order to survive rather than reaping the benefits of their own labor. It is argued that capitalists threaten the health of the earth and those who live on it. this is mostly drawn from the idea of undercutting.

People nowadays treat nature as a commodity. The nature company started selling petrified wood, butterfly nets, and animal books and people were eating it up thinking they were buying “green” products. however, it was later discovered that they were only supporting and enabling a company that was cited as a party responsible for pollution at a superfund site and further hazardous waste violations. This company was just taking advantage of the supply and demand.

Chapter 8 focuses on the ideas and perspectives of wilderness and nature. whether these two things are socially constructed for personal gain or if they are actually factual.

The author gives an interesting definition of wilderness; a natural parcel of land, more or less unaffected by human forces, increasingly, wilderness is viewed as a social construction. This definition contradicts with the idea that America (the new world) was a wilderness when columbus “discovered” it. It was already inhabited by indigenous people who altered the land for hunting and other activities and ways of life.

The use of the word “nature” is also very controversial because it has a lot of different applications. For example:

  • The essential quality and character of something
  • The inherent force which directs either the world or human beings or both.
  • The material world itself, taken as including or not including human beings.

Coming back to the idea of social construction, a lot of things in history were considered scientific fact but were actually a product of social construction. The idea behind legal slavery for example. Black African slaves were believed to be lower on the evolutionary chain, closer to apes than Caucasians were. They were seen as animals. nothing different than the donkeys they use to pull their plows. That is why they were legally enslaved. It is later enforced that they are the same and should be treated as such. but it went on for so long because of greed and the desire for self gains. Why pay for labor when you can capitalize on free slave labor. Many many companies utilized this idea before slavery was outlawed even if they knew the slaves were human just like them. They were making a lot of capital so they overlooked that.

In order to determine whether something is natural, or non- social, a few questions need to be asked;

  • Is this claim or concept natural, inevitable, timeless, and universal?
  • If not, at what point was it invented? under what conditions?
  • What are the social, political, or environmental effects of believing that this claim or concept is true, natural, or inevitable?
  • Would we be better off doing away with the concept all together, or rethinking it in a fundamental way?

these questions can be answered with the issue of slavery and every answer to every question points against it.

These companies and ideas were great examples of greed and disregard for everything else in order to achieve personal gain. Everything in this society we live in is fueled by money and capital. we need money to survive so we gather and save as much of it as we can.