China recently just submitted a bid to the International Olympic Committee to host the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing. If your not familiar, Beijing has some of the worst air quality in the world, four times the standard set by the World Health Organization. So what do they need more industrialization and construction? That’s the same thing some environmentalist are pondering. Since the area is semiarid, they only receive about 20 inches of rain annually, just barely enough for all of its residents to use. So while Beijing has bad air and a lack of water, the government thinks it’s the perfect time to build new facilities and courses in the mountains and around the city for the Olympics. They promise to use “green methods” that are defined in their filings with the I.O.C. This seems like a bad decision on Beijing’s part, because while I understand they are trying to stay on the world stage, this feels somewhat like giving a sufferer of emphysema a cigaratte hoping things will get better.
While last week we saw the anti-water bottle structure put up to combat the excessive use of water bottles and promote the more environmentally conscious method of simply using tap water, people in California seem to be having the opposite problem in some parts. The drought which has been going on for four years has gotten so bad that in some cities where there have been restrictions put on tap water usage, residents have resorted to buying water from water trucks. The water truck owners will fill up their trucks with tap water from their own town, and then drive to nearby towns with water restriction and sell the water for about a dollar or two per gallon. Some cities are trying to restrict this; the truckers are, after all, taking the water for free and making a profit off of it, which doesn’t go to the city. But this restriction would have grave consequences for people in surrounding towns who depend on the water.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to help Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep by transporting them into open territory—and it’s working. The population of this endangered subspecies of North American bighorn was down to as few as 100 individuals. Now it has increased to about 600, half its estimated historic level. California wildlife biologists are aiming to restore robust herds in 12 adjacent chunks of habitat. Instead of using captive-bred animals, it’s extracting wild sheep, mostly pregnant ewes, from healthy herds and using them to start or augment other herds.
America is full of junk. Like, a lot of junk. Like we generate more trash per capita than any other nation in the world… an average of 102 tons per person over the course of a lifetime. When author Edward Humes started out to write a book about America’s trash legacy he thought the number was closer to 64 tons — but while researching the book he found that the real number was much, much higher. In fact, the average person throws out close to 7 pounds of garbage each day.
Humes’ popular novel, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash takes a close look at how and why we throw so much away, what alternatives exist, and what it all means. Surprisingly, while Humes takes what you would think would be the non-controversial position that “waste is bad,” he points out that there’s actually plenty of space in the US to bury all the trash we generate… over the next thousand years. All we need to do is find neighborhoods that want to put up with enormous landfills. Good luck with that.
We felt that the book was very interesting because it shows how trash affects our lives so much, and how recent generations have carelessly made a mess of our world. After reading this book, we definitely started to feel guilty about our littering habits and those of the ones around us. We both now recycle, and both of our families do too, but there were many years during our childhood where things were mindlessly thrown away.
Chapter 1: The book begins with introducing Mike Speiser or better known as Big Mike. His job is building sculptured some amazing work. His main tool of choice for his works of art is a BOMAG compactor. While his work of art is the Puente Hills Landfill which is located in Los Angeles. This is the United States largest landfill with over 130 million tons of garbage and counting. With the size of this landfill it could have its own ecosystem in it. Throughout the rest of the chapter the author discusses what our landfills are made up of and how we contribute to them by our consumption of goods. He also discusses how we have damaged our environment and that our consumption levels are so high that we have to sell our garbage to foreign countries to dispose of.
Chapter 2: This chapter really focused on New York City and the amount of trash that is disposed of every year. It jumps back a few decades to the 1960s when Colonel George E. Waring, a civil war veteran decided that something need to be done to keep New York clean so he began a cleaning team known as the “White Wings.” At first they were made fun of but then people realized the importance of what they were doing and if people continued to live in filth that disease pandemic would follow.
Chapter 3: We begin this chapter with revisiting the Puente Hills Landfill, but this time Humes focuses on the interesting things they find in the landfill and how it is treasure to some people. An interesting was made which dealt with how someone’s most valuable or precious stuff gets thrown away after one dies. Also an interesting find was a man named Robert Glen was found dead mixed in with a bunch of trash. This is just goes to show the amount of trash people dispose of daily is disgusting to the point where you can randomly find a dead body in there. Another important point in this chapter was about the amount of money we spend on local landfills and how if we need to learn to wasted less. However some people have different views such as Lippincott idea is that we can actually sell the garbage in turn boosting the economy. Finally a major topic was our plastic problem. Humes explains that we have come to the point where we are basically dependent on it and pretty much everything is made out of it. Then he also notes the harm plastic causes on the economy and how long it takes to decompose.
Chapter 4: Humes talked mostly about the history of landfills. He began discussing about Waste Management Inc, a great investment prospect in the country. In 2004, America decided to create power plants that had the ability to convert landfill gas to electricity. It then goes on to talk about how this planned power plant has not made it off the ground because locals do not want it. Also there is a large amount of pollution caused by the production of this energy.
Chapter 5: This chapter sparked our interest because it talked about two important topics. The first is waste washing up on shore from off shore garbage dumps. We heared from Mary Crowley and her experiences while working on Project Kaisei. This project was designed to study and clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch. She then goes on to discuss the second big topic which is the amount plastic in the ocean and then how a scientist designed a machine to clean up this plastic chips also known as Chowder Chips.
Chapter 6- This chapter focuses on the history of plastic and the unintentional impact it has had on the world. When we look as see garbage 80 percent is made up of plastic. Nurdles are then introduced which are sand looking pieces of plastic that washes up on sea. Next we learn how these Nurdles actually harm and kill plankton. So what many people ask? Plankton creates nearly half the oxygen consumed on the earth. Finally the chapter reinforces the idea that plastic is literally everywhere.
Chapter 7: This chapter talks about the distance our trash travels and how nearly no one actually thinks about where there trash is going once they place it by the curb. In many cases people are naïve to the fact that they think the garbage man is going to just pick the trash up and take it to a garbage dump that’s not overwhelming and that’s it. However we are informed that in some cases “Trash Truckers” trash has traveled over 200 miles to a dump.
Chapter 8: This chapter talks about the founder of the first garbage project who was Bill Rathje. It gives the background of how it all started. It all began with studying neighborhood trash and then it escalated to incredible findings such as the US Army was throwing away 2.5 million pounds of food waste. It then goes on to state that after these findings they knew that something had to be done. Finally the end of the chapter Rathje wrote an article “Decadence Ways” that was referenced in which he states that if we do not change our ways we will slip into a declining economy.
Chapter 9: This chapter focused on the art in the garbage and how many people have become famous for garbage art. It was interesting to see in this chapter how there are actual art programs based strictly around modeling of garbage. Also how you must pay you access these classes. Humes also made a point in this chapter to point out that it is not just reducing the amount of trash being disposed or to waste less but that it is a mentality that people must begin to adapt to that we do not need the newest version of the Iphone or the newest TV.
Chapter 10-12: The last few chapters I thought tied in very well with one another. They talked about Andy Keller and how a local dump changed his life completely. It then goes to discuss how Portland Oregon is one of the greenest cities and how basically everyone needs to learn to live like they do. Then in the final chapter it discusses how Bea who realized their bad habits and was able to change and make great improvements for herself and also for the environment.
I liked how the book started off with an introduction of how our garbage can kill us and over take us and even bury us alive. The story was sad but true which made it all that more impactful. I think this initial chapter gave helpful statistics and room for improvement by educating. The statistic that the average American “… throws away 7.1 pounds… of trash per day” is discussing. However, it made an impact on me to think about how much space we physically take up verses the amount of space our trash left behind consumes. I don’t want the relics of my generation to be the things we didn’t care for.. our trash. To me a relic should be something of your culture and it saddens me to think our culture is “garbage”. This book stared off fast jumping right into the real and depressing honest topics.
Not only are our waste products hurting the environment but our want for products is a driving forces in direct distraction of the environment. PAPER- the need and want for it is a chronic problem in China. I think about the products from China but I haven’t thought about all the paper required for packaging. Chung Nam’s company, Nine Dragons Paper, seems to be obvious. I guess we only see the gain in our waste when it can provide us with something we want. I.e a can is a can until you realize it is ten cents and need money. At the end of the first chapter their was a “waste receipt” that helped me mentally organize the problems.
The last statistic on the sheet is about food waste: 28 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year. This is approximately 1/4 of America’s food supply. This was a shockingly disgusting statistic. I know I myself am guilty of wasting but am making a conscious effort to cut down in hopes to cut down on the grand statistic. With the constant discussion that in the near future we will need to make more food I can quite understand why we aren’t trying to take more preventative waste measurements. If we could find a way to cut down on the food being wasted we might not be required to make as much. Are those statistics based on food people actually eat or on food people buy? This interested me and I will continue to look into this topic.
Then later in the book the discussion about the plastic in the ocean came to light. This topic is very disturbing and ever growing… Literally. The idea that the plastic just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces is alarming. They discussed how they were able to drag the net through “seemingly clean water” and still collected plastic particles. It was also interesting to read why the trash piles in the ocean are where they are. They called it the trash that escapes.
Overall i really liked the book due to its constant facts and its user friendly tone. You didn’t have to be a scientist to read this book and I think that is one of the most important aspects of change. People without science backgrounds need to be able to read this information and understand their individual impact on the world and each other.
Are Harvard’s Dying Hemlocks a Warning for Trees Everywhere?
Harvard’s forest have seen a recent spike in deaths of hemlock recently due to the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid. The insect is about the size of a sesame seed and can be moved by wind and bird’s feathers and feet. Interestingly enough, while rainforests are still being deforested, the rate of forest growth in northern latitudes has brought the Earth’s total mass of trees to a rate of increase. But this doesn’t mean that things like water stress and pest infestation or disease aren’t seriously damaging forests worldwide. Scientists hope that these forests will be able to bounce back from damages, as tree diversity and forest size and age are important factors in ecosystem function. In Harvard’s forest, the hemlocks are important because their canopy determines when and how quickly snow melts, which further influences spring flooding. The deaths of hemlock will likely dramatically impact the forest species composition as the forest begins to regrow.
Article written by Hillary Rosner, National Geographic, April 2, 2015