Current Event and Project Update

March 30, 2016

Current Event

Obama’ efforts to restore relations with Cuba have led to an influx of American tourism to the island nation. Environmental organizations are concerned that an increase in tourism will be disastrous for the natural resources and defeat the efforts that have made a foundation for sustainability in Cuba. The concerns come from the valuable coastal habitats and biodiversity hotspots on and surrounding the islands. There has already been strain on these resources caused by the recent popularity of tourism and this should only worsen as popularity inclines. To combat this, the US and Cuba are working together to create preventative management strategies for environmental protection. Part of this approach is reorganizing the food and agricultural programs to be more environmentally minded. This includes reducing the amount of food that is annually imported (70%) and converting lands to grow food. The key here is to convert these lands strategically as not to place more stress or disturbance on the environment. It will be interesting to see how these plans play out over the next few years.

Read more: Cuba Has An Ambitious Plan to Protect Its Environment From Tourists

 

Project Update

  • Waiting for funding approval from WSCA ($278)
  • Reserved Benes B for April 19th; film starts at 6:30 then there will be a quick intermission before the panel
  • Will submit licensure application this week
  • To do by next week:
    • Contact panel members
      • Dr. Downing is confirmed
      • Others will (hopefully) be from water treatment plant, watershed, and Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club
      • What should be offered for accommodations and/or compensations
    • Confirm media equipment with chuck
    • Create publicity plan
      • Facebook event, newspaper, and 3-4 large posters to reduce waste of fliers
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Current Event/Environment and Society

March 30, 2016

Current Event: The White House is announcing that they will not be allowing the southeastern atlantic coast drilling. Due to record-low oil prices and heavy local opposition, the Obama Administration is not only saving the east coast environment, but the oil market. Next Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior is announcing that it will not allow lease sales offshore in the mid and south Atlantic after severe public input efforts.

The decision will reverse the department’s January 2015 proposal for new leases in the Atlantic as part of its five-year plan to set new boundaries for oil development in federal waters through 2022. This proposal included off shore oil drilling off the coasts of MD, VA, NC, and SC by 2020.

 

Reading:This textbook was not a “textbook” per se. It incorporated many of the theories we have discussed, and was much more philosophical than educational. Attempting to delve into every chapter was a bit challenging, but having an overview of environment conceptual tools and traditions addresses environmental challenges we face day-to-day in our contemporary world.

The chapter I found the most intriguing was chapter 8, Social Construction of Nature. This reminds me of the discussions we have held about introducing technology and mankind’s footprint into nature. “So you say it’s “Natural?”” excerpt made me laugh. I found this textbook theoretically relatable to our class in many ways, but especially when he lists the three common uses of nature:

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

 


View on “Environment and Society”

March 30, 2016

This book explores man’s cultural and historical relations with the natural world. I especially liked the chapter on wolves because it is a good example of how humanity tends to view apex predators in general. It is not till recently (Aldo Leopold’s thinking like a mountain) that even biologists considered the ecological importance of predators. Religion also plays a big role in how people treat animals, including predators. There is a lot of folklore associated with wolves. Cats are subject to similar prejudices in this aspect.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters of the book that I found unexpected. There are many things in this book that I had at least heard for before. The prisoners dilemma, tragedy of the commons etc. I also foresaw learning about lawns, trees and waste, but French fries? It was a quirky chapter that made me think about something I had not considered before. Before reading this, I knew that we have waaayyy too much corn in our diet. I did not consider that potatoes were just as bad. The book states that more than half of the U.S.’ potatoes are exported for fries. That’s so stereotypical it made me cringe.

The lawn chapter had an affect on how I might manage my own home. In the future when I do have a lawn, I want to plant native plants and allow my grass to seed once a year. I liked how the book explained that lawns are a status symbol. It reflects back to owning land, equating power. Tenant farmers didn’t own the land that they tended. Having money to fund gardens shows status, and wealth for excess.

… Like this beautiful penguin topiary!!

topiary

This is a good example of how the environmental issues we face today are not just a population derived problem, but a societal one as well.

Overall I am a nature nerd and enjoy reading about this material. I liked learning about environmental perspectives that I have not thought of before. This is definitely a read that I will enjoy having on my shelf.

 


Current Event

March 30, 2016

World’s biggest floating solar farm powers up outside London

What will be the world’s largest solar farm has been under construction and planning for the last five years, and is due to go into operation soon. It consists of 23,000 panels, and will float on the Queen Elizabeth II dam outside of London. It is anticipated that this farm will be able to provide enough electricity for more than 1,800 homes.

Though it will be the world’s biggest, it only covers 6% of the dam and will not affect the ecosystem.

A solar farm twice the size of this one is currently under construction, and is due to be completed in 2018.

QEII

Queen Elizabeth II Dam outside of London. The Guardian.

 


Environment and Society

March 30, 2016

Reading a textbook is usually what I expect from my classes, being a science major so it was familiar territory. However, that’s not to say I like reading textbooks more. Personal accounts and novels have an easy going, exciting quality to them that makes them much easier to read than textbooks. However, this particular textbook was not so dense that it wasn’t enjoyable to read. It was full of relevant information from an unbiased perspective given in a concise and clear manner.

As different as textbooks and novels are, this textbook does quite a nice job of tying in many different theories and ideas present in the other books we have read and discussed in class.

The wilderness is a land uninterrupted by humans and nature is the separation between the humans and the earth. The text also brings up the question of whether or not ethics and philosophy have enough strength to overturn the industry of factory farms and save animals from being manufactured and killed. I especially enjoyed the coffee section. I like the idea that the traditional way of growing coffee is in an environment with other fauna and foliage.


Environment and Society: Part I & II

March 30, 2016

Part I:

A few notable things from part I of, Environment and Society, include the following:

  • Carrying capacity and ecological footprints are becoming more well known and understood in today’s society, and the ethics associated with the way people choose to live when given a deeper understanding of nature and their relationship with the natural world is important. As it is humans have not yet reached their carrying capacity, and this very issue is debated by numerous researchers from all disciplines. Its highly debated because it depends on how many people can actually survive on earth, or better yet how many people can earth support before a massive die-back in the human population happens. Allowing for the earth to recover from the over use, and some might say that this recovery is something that is likely to take several hundreds of years to several thousands. It all depends on the state in which we leave the planet in the end, whether or not we avoid reaching past our carrying capacity, and finally if we take the necessary actions to prevent from a massive die-back.
  • The importance of boundaries, proportionality, collective choice, monitoring, sanctions, conflict resolution, and autonomy all need to be considered when moving forward with regulations involving environmental actions, and environmental consequences. If one of them is left out, some part of the problem is not addressed and therefore persists throughout, preventing any true resolutions and mitigations to be undergone.
  • Aldo Leopold, the “land ethic,” and the various considerations that need to be taken into account when it comes to endangered species are staggering. The need to not only look at populations of endangered animals as a species, but as individuals in that species is sometimes cloudy. For small populations that have reached their critical stage it is easier for humans to care and have that desire to save them on an individual level, but when it comes to those animals who are endangered but haven’t reached that critical stage yet the consideration of the species still overpowers the individual. Also the historical relationship people have had to that species plays a large role in our reactions and our desires to save one species over another.
  • The social construction of nature, and the human notion of wilderness have undoubtedly changed over the centuries as people move away from a reliance on wilderness for necessities and instead can appreciate wilderness from a distance. This is also a key aspect of our separation from nature, and what nature means to varying individuals around the world because the nearly unanimous historical appreciation (or lack there of) of nature was not nearly the same as it is today.

Part II:

Carbon Dioxide-

Something everyone has heard about at some point over the past several years, as news about global warming spreads across the world. Taken seriously by some, and not by others. Even with overwhelming scientific evidence some people still refuse to “see” the facts as reality. With recent weather trends in the U.S. over this past winter, more and more people are experiencing the side effect of climate change, but still refuse to admit its happening.

This section on carbon- discusses explicitly our human relationship and reliance on carbon to develop in agricultural,automotive, heating and cooling, and industrial revolutions around the world. A fundamental part of our everyday lives.

Some notable things from this chapter:

  1. Economic sensitivity to carbon dioxide and a new found understanding of where humans are positioned in the world.
  2. Climate Free Riders, and environmental ethics (chapter 5) Aldo Leopold and “The Land Ethic,” and thinking about ethics in relation to shouldering the responsibility of developed nations in moving forward in the new era of climate mitigation. Taking responsibility of the effects their carbon emissions are having on developing nations. Areas where climate change is affects can be seen.
  3. The problem with green labeling, and the important role of command-and-control on cap-and-trade “free markets.”

 

Trees-

Our prominent reliance on trees to move forward throughout history is evident, our understanding of the term “forest,” and our misconceptions that forests will always be there, and are separate from humans is a prime example of binaries that have existed throughout human history. This complex relationship to trees relies heavily on what they mean to the individual, and their symbols and representations of nature, the environment, and the non-human world.

Some notable things from this section:

  1. What is your view of trees and their importance?
  2. The future of trees, and how secondary growth from clear cut areas changes the dynamics of the forest from what it had once been. Why this secondary growth leads to decreases in biodiversity – personal example (clear cutting experiment going on in the Amazon Rainforest, and the research that is going on their, and some of the finding- where its going towards now).
  3. The forest transition theory, and what it means for future forests and biodiversity.

Wolves-

In the United States, wolves, are symbols of great meaning to a lot of people, as are bison- two species that settlers strived to eradicate from the continental U.S., nearly succeeding with bison and succeeding in the removal of wolves from U.S. land. These species where not only in bounty before settlers arrived, but already had key meanings and places in the live of the native Americans already residing in North America. Once wolves were gone, and the lack of their presence gained enough support, scientists began to reintroduce wolves into select areas in 2012.

Some notable thing from this section:

  1. What do wolves mean or represent to you?
  2. “Trophic cascade” is one of the key elements of biodiversity, and the natural control of the number of species. Controlled by a bottom-up trophic levels, available energy, and food webs.
  3. The eradication of wolves was not just a task set by any government, but rather a cruel and unjust way of eliminating the fear of an apex predator that humans could not fully appreciate or understand at the time. Fear drives people to unimaginable and unpredictable outcomes- when it came to wolves it lead to slaughter..

-a disdain toward the wild and an agrarian mode of production- (page 197)

4. Does this quote, and examples, from page 197, in the book and the description of the techniques used in the slaughter of wolves appeal to modern day environmental ethics? Or can this level of cruelty simply be described by the environmental ethics of the time period..

Uranium-

It is disturbing to me, when people make decisions about the lives of others when it come to their health and safety. It is one thing to fight in a war, it is another, however, to subject a population of people to radiation and nuclear fallout.

Some notable things from this chapter:

  1. Class and race have dictated the relationships, and work or labor options of people throughout history. Splitting people into categories based on religion, skin color, language, education, and race are some of the things that have persisted throughout human existence.
  2. The Navajo Nation, and the treatment, compensation, responsibility, and risk management strategies seemed to be thrown out the window in their case. The way in which the natives were dealt with, their language barriers, and work compensations, as the government lacked acknowledgment of responsibilities to the tribe and medical assistance, after links to uranium mining and cancer came out, is disturbing.
  3. What are some of your concerns or optimisms about the use of uranium as an energy source?

Tuna-

To me, this chapter informed me of the gross misconceptions that are associated with the bycatch of dolphins in the process of tuna capture, and the green labeling that is associated with “dolphin safe” tuna. Tuna is something my family eats a lot of, personally I do not eat it, and to me I understood the basis of what the “dolphin safe” label meant when it came out. Although, I could not yet understand just how bad the problem was, and now that I got to read about it and fully understand the situation it becomes even more complex.

Some notable things from this section:

  1. The response to species fished for food around the world versus the response of to the bycatch associated with those processes…the understanding of societal ethics and the differences between “human” and “animal” behaviors that link to how we understand and symbolize certain species.
  2. Does the U.S. fishing and harvesting regulations of tuna set a good example for the rest of the world to follow? Is it our responsibility to help developing countries move towards these standards if they can not meet them on their own due to lack of technologies? Or is this simply a matter for the UN and other oceanic treaties?
  3. The ethics associated with conserving species is debatable, and questionable on so many levels. Scientists must stay objective and put species bias’s aside in order to do the right thing and conserve as many species as they can, but the understanding of funding expenditures is not always popular amongst the general public. Especially when the public believes that funds for animal conservation should be spent on humans who are homeless, unemployed, and hungry.

Lawns-

Something unnatural at the same time its completely natural..in my opinion grasses do not need herbicides and insecticides to look “appealing” and attractive. They are a prime example of human dictation of the land, and how we view “nature” amongst us, and why we feel it is important to have nature in our unnatural lives.

Some notable things from this section:

  1. Eutrophication is a major issue present in watersheds across the world today, and the effects it has on natural ecosystems is not something that can be overlooked. Because it is a visual as well as microscopic issue..concern over the issue can be seen in multiple disciplines because it affects not just nature, but human activities as well.
  2. What do you think about the misconception that well kept lawns belong to good people? What does this indicate about our society and or relationships to each other?
  3. Knowing that the chemicals being applied to a yard are harmful not only to your pets, but to you and your children, why than do you suppose people are still so willing to subject the health and safety of their “families” to theses potentially harmful chemicals? Just to have an aesthetic lawn..

Bottled Water-

Considering the environmental costs of bottled water it is surprising, and its correlation with the increased desire for better health amongst humans. Providing important lessons about our understanding of the evolution of human resources, resources such as water are ones that are critical to biological functions of every organism. The unequal distribution of wealth, health, and management are key factors driving water consumption, and are key to understanding what water means to the people who resides in places that are developed versus undeveloped or developing.

Some notable things from this section:

  1. Desalinization, and what the associated costs are, and whether or not the benefits actually out way them.
  2. The consideration of water aquifers, damning, and crop irrigation, and the real effects they have on natural water ways…is it all worth it? Do the short term benefits of increasing food production out weigh the long (or sometimes not so long) costs of diverting these watersheds, and altering natural processes in possibly unsustainable ways?

French Fries-

I had not realized that the first demand for french fries in the U.S. didn’t occur until the return of WWI veterans to the states. The consumption of french fries seems so common to me that it considering when we had developed this love, reliance, or simple use of french fries for food seemed unimportant. Now that I understand a little bit more about their history I can see the importance of it, and what it means for agriculture.

Some notable things from this section:

  1. Did any of the considerations about french fries and their environmental puzzle come to a surprise to you? -page  285 at the top
  2. What are your opinions on the slow food movement, and how plausible is it really in modern society? Is it going to be a movement that is a luxury to the middle and upper classes who have the money and time to spend waiting on food?

 

Current Event:

Fertilizer applied to fields today will pollute water for decades

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Nonpoint source pollution, eutrophication, and blue baby syndrome are health and environmental issues associated with fertilizer runoff and the resulting contamination of drinking water. In this paper it talks about all of these and points out the fact that excess fertilizer that is unaccounted for is building up in our soils, which leads to long term effects of nitrogen contamination in our ground and surface waters. This systematic accumulation of fertilizers in the agricultural soils along the Mississippi Basin have been projected to remain in high concentrations for year to come even if we stop the use of fertilizer today.

 

 

By: Ashley Tims

 

 


Environment and Society

March 30, 2016

The topic of overpopulation was a very interesting issue to look at. It is absolutely mind-blowing how exponentially our population is growing. When you think about the garbage or pollution we produce or the amount of space our homes/places of employment take up, it’s a lot. It might not seem so large for one particular person, but as population size continues to increase, the amount of space and things we need are increasing as well.fgfdgfgdf

Anyone with a bit of ecology knowledge knows that a large exponential increase like the human population cannot persist. Eventually we will hit our carrying capacity and our population size will drop. It will be interesting to see if we slowly level off or if we shoot way over the carrying capacity and drop back down.

hhgj

However, it is important to note that a large portion of the human population do not actually create much of an impact (environmentally) at all. Populations of humans living in developed countries are what we really need to be worried about.

Also, as you all can tell from last weeks blog on eating animals, information concerning factory farming/meat eating is extremely interesting to me. You all heard my thoughts on the ethics of it, but Foer didn’t mention much concerning the environmental aspects of it. Yes, he mentioned the large amount of poop produced by the animals, but what does that mean as far as CO2 and methane? For anyone who has seen cowspiracy, meat eating is one of the major contributors to climate change. It also uses a ton of water. Giving up showering would not save as much water as giving up meat. Side-note: did anyone see the commercial during the Superbowl about turning the water off when you brush your teeth? Well during that commercial this is what every vegan was thinking:

bjbh

I liked the section on nature and how important trees are. “Trees fueled civilization (fire wood) and represent “the core marker of the complex relationship of environment and society” (p 161) I took population and community ecology last semester and one of our assignments was a digital simulation concerning the use of wood for new settlers. They settled in a forest, but as they began to reproduce they had to choose whether to decrease their personal comfort (less firewood-colder) or to use up more trees than could be replaced (essentially cutting the forest down faster than the trees can grow back. This can be used to represent our entire human population. Currently, the U.S., and many other countries, are choosing comfort over future stability.

trees

Trees are important symbolically as well. Whenever humans settle in an area the presence of trees really influences their survival and comfort. Trees can symbolize stability and a strong sense of comfort for people. Maybe if people witnessed first-hand the amount of deforestation being done in order to provide their comfort they would be more willing to give up some of their comfort.

Overall, the book was obviously very textbook-like, but that was to be expected just looking at it. I felt it was pretty good for a textbook-like read.