Environment and Society: Part I & II

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

 

 

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