Environment and Society Part 2: Olivia Lease and Michael Hale

Ch. 9 Carbon Dioxide

It’s strange to think that CO2, with it’s bad reputation and all, is simply carbon and oxygen. Both of which are everywhere, including in all of us. Ever since the advent of fire (roughly 400,000 years ago) our relationship with Carbon has intensified profoundly.

co2 molecule

In simpler societies much of the energy is provided by manual labor for energy. As several societies have become larger and more complex, they have begun to depend on supplemental fuels. Hence, most modern societies dependency on fossil fuels.

CO2 is one of several “greenhouse gases” and is most often associated with fuel emissions. For the average American driver: for every 2 molecules of fuel that goes into the process, 16 molecules of waste CO2 are emitted. Per kilometer traveled (1.6 kilometers = 1 mile), the average car emits 150 grams of CO2.

The Kyoto protocol (late 1980’s) agreement to seek and overcome the climate change and impose emission reductions, specifically  carbon among other greenhouse gases.

Cap and trade System- market based system designed to manage environmental pollutants where a total limit is placed on all emissions in a specific area or jurisdiction

Ch. 10 Trees

Trees are defined as a perennial plant with a woody structure. This vague definition is one of the reasons that there are more than 100,000 species of trees worldwide.

According to Science Daily: “The world’s oldest recorded tree is a 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden. The spruce tree has shown to be a tenacious survivor that has endured by growing between erect trees and smaller bushes in pace with the dramatic climate changes over time.”

Culturally forests (originating from the Old French word forêt) forests were a place outside of culture. Almost seen as an escape from culture

In different faith and cultural traditions, trees have been highly revered. It was under a Bodhi tree that Buddha found enlightenment and Yggdrasil is the tree upon which the world sits in Norse Mythology.

The Puzzle of Trees

Universal symbolic value of trees as a representation of environmental change. Common conservation target for human population but this also sidetracks and overshadows other environmental issues.

Trees are an excellent yet disturbing indicator of the growth and expansion of human society, specifically deforestation.

Trees also show strong ability to recover from disturbances and forest regrowth is equally as important in environmental history as forest decline. Forest Transition Theory and U-curve Model

Christopher Stone- asks whether or not trees should have actual legal rights and standing in court. The trees cannot speak therefore we must speak for them.

What would the rights of trees look like in your opinion?

Ch. 11  Wolves

Wolves are apex predators – have no natural, regular predators and therefore are essential to maintain balance in an ecosystem. 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.

Wolves subjected to systematic killings, mass exterminations- almost extinct in US by 1800’s

Fate of wolves is “tied to its cultural symbolic value”

“man as righteous hunter, wolf as evil hunter”

The problem of red wolves in eastern North Carolina may be heading to resolution as the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has officially presented a two-pronged request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: remove all red wolves from private land and declare red wolves extinct in the wild.

Ch. 14 Lawns

Lawns nowadays are seen in America as a status symbol. Lawns are arguably one of our society’s most prevalent social constructions. Nice lawns = nice people. It’s why real estate agents strongly suggest having a nicely manicured lawn because it can raise a property’s value by up to $10,000.  There are some home owners associations that fine their neighbors for not having nice enough lawns. Lawns are serious business to some.

But how are they kept so nice? Tons of chemicals. Prior to DDT, the most common pesticide was lead arsenate. Sounds safe. Recently, the accumulation of run off from lawns and farm land have led to issues in water ways. Eutrophication is the process of the chemicals contaminating water sources. Olivia is from Toledo, she knows how this process can affect water supply.

Here is an image of Lake Erie from this past summer (2014). The excess of nutrients causes algal blooms which make the water toxic.

Environmental Solution? Organic Lawn Inputs- alternative lawn care products that are less hazardous than lawn chemical inputs. These include alternatives such as fertilizers from non-petroleum sources or applying nematodes, tiny predators, into the soil to kill insect parasites.

What is a weed? Very subjective term simply meaning a plant growing in a place where it is not wanted. Many plantes identified as weeds can benefit ones lawn.

Ch. 15 Bottled Water

“How did a ubiquitous, free-flowing, fundamental building block of all life on Earth come to be a commodity that is captured, marketed, and distributed around the world?” (261).

Bottled water products are broken down into four categories:

1. Spring water and artesian spring water- water drawn from a single underground water source

2. Mineral water- water must contain 250 parts per million of naturally-occurring minerals.

3. Purified water- MOST common form of bottled water (and probably the reason that 25% of bottled water comes from municipal sources). The water is treated but not much more than expensive tap water.

4. Fortified products-a range of new bottled water products with additional nutritional additives (think Vitamin water).

For some, there are two types of people that use bottled water: those who have to and those who choose to. For developed countries like the U.S. an average citizen spends hundreds of dollars on bottled water yearly (roughly 30 gallons). This is done so despite the fact that municipal water is free and tested more frequently than bottled water.

Is bottled water “healthy” or “less risky”?- 1999 Report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested bottled water in the US and concluded that about 1/3 of all bottled waters are simply packaged tap/municipal water that was not treated any further. This suggests that drinking tap water is just the same as drinking bottled water in many cases.

Ch. 16 French Fries

McDonald’s was the first fast food restaurant to sell and popularize the fry to the image it is known for today.

After corn, wheat, and rice the potato is the world’s fourth largest crop.

10 million tons of frozen fries are consumed globally each year. More than half of U.S.’s potatoes are exported for fries.

There is a longstanding debate that over whether the French or Belgian fried potatoes first.

One issue with potatoes (and several other crops) is the idea of monoculture (a single crop being cultivated on the same plot of land repeatedly to the point of exclusion of any other potential harvest) and the negative environmental impacts it has. With an increase in demand, there must be an increase in supply. It leads back to the idea that more developed societies have the privilege of choosing what they want to eat rather than eating what the land chooses to produce (or consciously eating).

Ch. 17 E-waste

What is E-waste? Exactly what it sounds like. Electronically produced waste that needs to be disposed of.

E-waste has three ways that it poses a threat:

1. The products themselves pose a threat (from chemical leaching in landfills and such)

2. From substandard processing (the chemicals released in burning and smelting)

3. Reagents used in the recycling process (one example would be cyanide)

Electronic waste often contains toxic materials such as: CFCs, lead, mercury, PCBs, and asbestos.

The U.S. is the world’s largest global purchaser of computers (40% of purchases are made in the U.S. as of 2000). In 1977 the world’s first commercially marketed PC was sold.


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