Book Notes Current Event

March 30, 2016

I found this book to be very interesting. It did at times read as if it were a text book but did describe the authors points. One thing that I did like about this book is the fact the author was to the point and not dancing around a point that he was going to make.

In chapter 2 it seemed as if the author was describing a social Darwinist society by saying that poor people should fend for themselves and play the hand that they received. Another that I found to be interesting is when he brought up the point about how the population growth is directly linked to this idea of sustainability.

Chapter 3 brought the idea of looking at nature with a monetary value which already do as a society.

Chapter 4 people want to look out for themselves instead of looking out for what is right or just for the environment. Not Surprised

Chapter 5- 9 discuss the political ideals towards the environment. As well as how we should approach the topic. Also the risks and hazards that are associated with what to do to preserve or conserve. In this work we see again the attempt to define nature and pin down what exactly is. We have discussed this previously in the course.

Later in the book, there is the discussion of uranium and the energy question is it worth the risk? I had brought this up earlier in the course to discuss the risks involved with nuclear energy which can be at time dangerous.

The last thing that I found interesting about this book was E waste being dumped on poor countries. This can be very dangerous considering the health implications that go along with the components that are being dumped.

Current Event- This pertains to the possible man made earthquake which could effect Oklahoma due to oil and natural gas extraction that we know as fracking. This article also talks about how the U.S. has already had over 220 earthquakes this year that could possibly be linked to fracking. If you want to know more about this topic visit Earthquakes.


Environment and Society

March 30, 2016

General overview and criticism of book:

  • Very textbooky
    • This allows for more visuals than a normal book may allow
  • Clear and easy to follow
    • Highlighted terms that make understanding easier
    • I did not like how terms were recycled and redefined chapters later – very abnormal for a textbook.
    • Almost seems as if it is intended for a high school level environmental science course
  • I appreciated having a book like this for this course because I feel that sometimes we can get caught up in the biases of an author
    • To-the-point facts
  • Very interesting case studies to tie information to real world application
    • For example, one child rule in chapter 2
  • Aside from the more complex economic topics, I have been familiarized with almost all of the topics and themes of this book through OWU courses such as Conservation Biology, Population and Community Ecology, Seminars, and Environmental Alteration.
  • The repetition of terms is partially because the themes are so interconnected.
    • For example, in the chapter about nuclear power there is a reiteration of hazards and risks.
    • This shows that the topics are not isolated issues
    • This is almost like a real-life approach to the issues where different topics and approaches must be considered and how they relate to one another

Chapter 2: Population and Scarcity

  • Population is limited by diseases and availability of resources
  • How societal conditions relate to population (i.e. literact and birth rates)
  • Demographic shifts
  • Human population growth is directly linked to sustainability
  • Environmental impacts on a population will vary by their affluence and accessibility of technology

Chapter 3: Markets and Commodities

  • Look at the environment as a commodity with a value
    • Way to regulate resources
  • Market based mechanisms as management techniques
    • Green taxes, etc.
  • Difficult to assign monetary values to environmental goods and services

Chapter 4: Institutions and Commons

  • Individuals usually choose personal, instantaneous gain over gains that are distant but for the collective good
  • Tragedy of the Commons: selfishness overcomes foresight
  • Common properties can be preserved with the right management approaches and collaboration of institutions and individuals
  • Cooperation may be hindered by social, political, and economic inequalities

Chapter 5: Environmental Ethics

  • First, I was worried that this chapter would become highly opinionated, but it remained fairly neutral. I think it is nearly impossible for an author or reader to not have an emotional response to a section about ethics.
  • Anthropocentric vs ecocentric
  • Conservation vs preservation
  • Acknowledge that nature has utilitarian value for mankind
    • Do not have to be separated

Chapter 6: Risks and Hazards

  • Hazards vs risks
    • Think of environmental problems as hazards
  • New way of decision making
  • Separation of risk and emotion
  • Evaluating risks may be a societal or social construct
    • Different groups have different exposures to risks as well as have different priorities based on what risks they are facing

Chapter 7: Political Economy

  • I enjoyed the cartoon… these types of figures and notes in the book gives the text more “personality” than a traditional textbook.
  • Intersections of politics and economics in an environmental context
  • Tension for economic gains to exploit natural resources
  • Environmental justice and ecofeminism

Chapter 8: Social Construction of Nature

  • Does normal = natural? No
  • Back to beginning of this course – what is nature?
    • Cronon, Meadowlands, Thoreau, Abbey, etc.
  • Although not necessarily correct, this can have large impacts on politics
    • May lead to inappropriate or uninformed decision making
  • Does this cause for a dismissal of science?
  • Social constructs heavily influence our way of thinking

Chapter 9: Carbon Dioxide

  • This point is a shift in the book from more over-arching social themes of environmental science to issue-based topics.
  • Relationship of carbon emissions and industrialization
  • Creation of carbon-dependent society
  • Idea of greenwashing
  • Combination of economic and institutional approaches for management
  • Carbon cycles and climate change

Chapter 10: Trees

  • Changes in tree cover globally
  • Society has emotional attachment to trees
  • Forest destruction vs recovery
  • Forests are a highly valued commodity

Chapter 11: Wolves

  • History is entirely shaped by human interactions
    • Social constructs
  • Life-history of the wolf
    • Keystone species making it important for preservation of biodiversity

Chapter 12: Uranium

  • Nuclear power
    • Worth the danger?
  • Weapons vs energy
  • Reduce electricity and therefore carbon footprint
  • History of disaster
    • Long-lasting damage
  • Risk of pollution and other environmental impacts
  • No solution for waste disposal
  • Mining is harmful

Chapter 13: Tuna

  • I enjoyed the reference to Blood Diamond
  • Tuna have been unsustainably harvested for years
  • New technologies have made it more detrimental in practice because bycatch and overall environmental impacts
  • Had to appeal to the charismatic dolphin to gain political support by altering the social construct of tuna
  • Why do we not see tuna the same way we see other animal rights
    • Think about factory farms

Chapter 14: Lawns

  • Part of our society and culture
  • Chemicals
    • Hazardous to health and ecosystems
    • We still use them knowing these risks because of the higher concern for cultural acceptance…
      • I have to have a green yard so my neighbors aren’t angry….
    • Grew into multi-billion dollar industry

Chapter 15: Bottled Water

  • Becoming a primary source of drinking water worldwide
  • Social construct of superiority
    • Health and safety
  • Production, packaging, and dispersal are environmentally unfriendly
  • Proven to not be advantageous over tap water
  • Commoditization of nature
    • Privatization

Chapter 16: French Fries

  • Random chapter but interesting
  • Viewed as having broader political implications than just an individual choice
  • Problems with biodiversity
  • Risks to both human and ecosystem health

Chapter 17: E-Waste

  • Environmental justice issue
    • Dumping in poor countries
  • Increasing with increased consumption of electronics
  • Risks to public health as well as broader environment
  • Inconsistent regulations make management difficult

Current Event: Fossil Poison Flower

March 30, 2016

A 45 million year old fossil flower was discovered preserved inside amber from the Dominican Republic. It represents a new plant species related to the coffee bean, sunflowers, peppers, and deadly poisons. The flower species is the oldest found in the flowing plant family, Asterid. From the genus, Stychrnos, which contains some of the most deadly poisons and is on the dark side of the family. The plant is very toxic and deadly, that’s how it survived, but it has evolved into multiple different tree and shrub plants which are being researched as a way to treat malaria and infections at low doses of poison. This plant gives us insight into what sort of environment was around 45 million years ago and how the flower has been evolving for such a long time.


Hope for Olives!

March 29, 2016

New tests suggest that some varieties of olive trees may be resistant to the invasive pathogen that is harming the trees and the olive industry. Europe’s olive industry has been at serious risk since Xylella fastidoiosa, an invasive bacteria entered in 2013. The bacteria spreads through the roots and branches of the trees and has caused a massive die-out. The invasives were originally introduced to Southern Italy and have now spread to southern France. Luckily, grapes and citrus plants are not affected by the bacteria. However, experts warn that the disease has numerous hosts and vectors and thus spreads more easily. Many are concerned with stopping the disease before it spreads to the world’s largest olive oil producer, Spain. Europe as a whole is the largest producer and consumer of olive oil. According to the European Commission, it produces 73% and consumes 66% of the world’s olive oil. Additionally, recent reports suggest that the outbreak has lead to a 20% increase in olive oil prices in 2015.

However, there is hope! Science! Tests have been conducted on a range of olive, grape, stone-fruit and oak plants to create Xylellea fastidoiosa resistant strains. They have been doing this via artificial inoculation and inoculation via infected vectors collected from the field. The researchers found that 12-14 months after artificially inoculating the bacteria on different olive varieties, some of them were resistant while others exhibited tolerance. In the tolerant species the infection is slower and takes longer for the infection to spread. This shows the potential for different responses to the pathogen in different olive varieties.

The European Commission has provided seven billion euros to investigation like this. Hopefully, further investigation will be as promising and optimistic.olives


Environment and Society Pt. 1

March 29, 2016

Chapter 2: Population and Scarcity

Malthusian population theory: Population grows exponentially while our food base stays essentially the same. Diseases, wars, famines etc. help to keep population in check, and helping the poor is counterproductive to managing population. As population grows proportionally too large for the amount of resources, it will decline. Theses cycles repeat.

Problems with Malthusian theory:

  • Doesn’t take into account the amount of resources that some people use compared to others (IPAT).
  • Blames the poor for societal deficiencies and justifies leaving them to fend for themselves.
  • Doesn’t consider how more humans could possibly mean more resources (ingenuity through necessity).

What do you think of the idea that higher populations could lead to an increase in the carrying capacity of an area of land?

Environmental Kuznets Curve: environmental impacts rise during development, and then fall once the economy reaches a stable/mature state.

Do you agree with this idea?

Demographic transistion model: predicts decline in death rates as modernization occurs, and then a decline in birth rates due to industrializatoin and urbanization.

The role of women’s rights and education in lowering birth rates: In some places, birth rates have fallen even without modernization or urbanization occurring. In many cases, this correlates with women’s education, literacy and availability of contraceptives and appropriate health care.

What are some of the challenges that come from having a birth rate that is too low?


Chapter 3: Markets and Commodities

Can human population growth be good for both nature and society?

In some cases, increased population can be good: more people = more good ideas, increased demand incentivizes increased efficiency.

Market Response Model: predicts that scarcity of a resource will lead to either increased supply or decreased demand (or both), as a result of higher prices.

Faith in the market can work, but sometimes leads to market failures. Failures can stem from situations of monopoly, monopsony (many sellers and one buyer), or a range of other inefficient situations.

What do you think of the idea of trusting the market to regulate sustainable, democratic practices? What role should the government play in regulating these practices?


Chapter 4: Institutions and “The Commons”

“For many environmental problems, costs are often borne collectively, while benefits accrue to individuals; on the other hand, individual costs may lead to collective benefits.”

The Tragedy of the Commons (1968): when everyone acts in their own interests, what was previously there for all to use is ruined. The way to solve this is either through tyranny, or through the creation of private property (this way, the impacts of bad decisions are only felt by the owner of that property). Hardin supports the latter.

Contrary to this theory, there are examples of resource management governed neither by tyranny nor private property. In these cases, it was institutions (“rules and norms governing collective action”) that helped to keep the actions of people in order.

What examples can you think of in your day-to-day life in which people generally obey the rules, even when they could get away with not doing so? Why is this?

Problems with the institutional approach: situations in which race, gender, or class etc. create disproportionate ability to decide on the rules can cause conflict.

Can this approach work on a global level?


Chapter 5: Environmental Ethics

“These factory farms are, after all, run more like factories than farms.”

Environmental justice: argument for equitable distribution of environmental goods and environmental bads regardless of race, gender, class, ethnicity etc.

We have touched on this already this semester, but what do you think about the role that Christianity has played in the idea that humans are separate from nature and should have dominion over all of it? Or has utilitarianism played a larger role in the onset of the anthropocene?

How can beliefs about natuer be changed to be more ecocentric?


Pinchot vs. Muir vs. Leopold

Pinchot: Conservationist, utilitarian perspective of nature

Muir: Preservationist

Leopold: “A thing is right when it tends ot preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends to do otherwise.”

What do you think of these differing persepctives? Does Leopold’s statement above potentially justify letting poor people die in order to avoid overpopulation?

 


Liberation for Animals: “How is it that we have broadened our moral horizon to those populations who have historically had few or no rights without similarly extending beyond the human species to include animals as well?”

What about pets in this situation?


Chapter 6: Risks and Hazards

Risk: the known (or estimated) probability that a hazard-related event will have a negative consequence.

When dealing with environmental systems, the risk of a hazard occurring is never completely certain, due to their unpredictability.

Risk perception can also play a role in people being unprepared for hazards – people may think that the probability (risk) of being negatively affected by severe weather is smaller than it actually is.

Cultural theory: individual perceptions (of risk, in this case) are reinforced by group social dynamics.

Based on general opinion about climate change, what is our general perception of environmental risk? Are there other environmental risks that we take more seriously?

  • For ordinary people to be able to make informed decisions about environmental risk, it is necessary for them to have the correct information about such risk.
  • If we look at the case of Flint, what could the people have done even if they had known for sure that the water had high levels of lead? Many people complained about the quality of the water even before it came out, and nothing was done about it. In this case, instances of irreversible damage have been done to the citizens of Flint.

Chapter 7: Political Economy

Thoughts on Lawrence Summers’ idea of “under-pollution?”

Means of production: infrastructure and equipment necessary to produce goods to be sold on the market.

Conditions of production: Natural raw materials necessary for production of goods.

Surplus value: the monetary difference between the value of the labor and the amount that the laborer is paid. This surplus is the owner’s profit.

Primitive accumulation: appropriation of land and resources from people who previously held them.

Overview of Marxist theory: Labor is sold on a market, allowing for the accumulation of capital by a small number of individuals. Over time, with the competition inherent in capitalism, wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of an ever-diminshing minority. Marx argued that this system is unsustainable, and would eventually collapse because consumers (workers) would eventually not have enough money to buy the goods being produced.

Like Malthus, Marx also argued that sustained overexploitation of natural resources would eventually lead to a lack of resources, and a subsequent crisis.

Do you agree that capitalism, either as a result of underproduction or lack of resources, is prone to crisis?

Neil Smith: there inherent contradiction in the commodification of nature. While we view these natural objects as separate from us, we still think of ourselves as part of nature and subject to its laws.

Spatial fix: the tendency of capitalism to find new markets and/or resources as a way of avoiding crisis.

Eco-feminism: theories critical of the role of patriarchy in society for degrading the natural environment and potential for gender equality.

Do you think patriarchy is responsible for the degradation of the natural environment? In a capitalist world with gender equality (if that is possible) could the same kind of degradation have occurred?


Chapter 8: Social Construction of Nature

Many of our notions of nature, as well as areas we consider to be natural, are socially constructed.

  1. Is this claim or concept natural, inevitable, timeless, and universal?
  2. I not, at what point was it invented? Under what conditions?
  3. What are the social, political, or environmental effects of believing that this claim or concept is true, natural, or inevitable?
  4. Would we be better off doing awat with the concept altogether, or rethinking it in a fundamental way?

 

 


Todd D’Andrea: Environment and Society by Paul Robbins et al. Notes/Project Update/Current Event

March 28, 2016

Notes: Environment and Society by Paul Robbins et al.

(pg. 4 of intro) ‘Anthropocene: A metaphoric term sometimes applied to our current era, when people exert enormous influence on environments all around the Earth, but where control of these environments and their enormously complex ecologies is inevitably elusive.’

I have never seen this term used before and I find it interesting.  This seems to be a great all-encompassing term for where we stand as a species in regards to our relationship with Earth.  It is as if we have such a capability to consume and use the resources of the Earth, but have no idea how to manage and maintain the consequences of our actions.

(pg. 19) ‘. . . Based on an assumption that all people lived like they do in the United States, the Earth could sustain only two billion people, or less than one-third of the world’s current population.’

This is a pretty scary assertion to me.  When I read this I was kind of shaking my head given the likely “cliff” that we are approaching in terms of sustainability among the nations of the world.  From a policy perspective I don’t even know how governments would go about taking actions that would leverage this reduction in population.  As we discussed in class before, this is such a sensitive topic to probably most people in the world.  Do we mandate a certain number of children a couple can have? Do we systematically encourage people to “off” themselves at a certain age of limited viability in the name of the collective whole of humanity?

(pg. 37) ‘Market failure: A situation or condition where the production or exchange of a good or service is not efficient; this refers to a range of perverse economic outcomes stemming from market problems like monopoly or uncontrolled externalities.’

I assume with this terminology that it is closely related to a Capitalistic economy.  The economic crisis of 2008/2009 stemmed from this lack of ‘efficiency’ in relation to the housing market being fueled by subprime mortgages that were a result of a lack of oversight by government regulators.  As these crises continue to occur it seems as if they will be a normal pattern given the volatility of a free market society and tendency towards limited capital growth.

(pg. 53) ‘Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.  Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.’

There is a lot to unpack in this quote from Hardin.  It all stems from the actions of man given the freedom and mobility in an open environment to each “pursue happiness”.  There seems to be a fine line when attempting to balance freedom and the desires of man to live their lives to the upmost quality that they can.  This assumption almost gives humans an idea of natural fault in their striving towards wants and needs.  We each have a tendency towards a fear of missing out and needing to reign in temptation and a lack of self-control.

(pg. 68) ‘Stewardship:  Taking responsibility for the property or fate of others; stewardship of land and natural resources is often used in a religious context, such as “caring for creation”.’

Having grown up in the Catholic Church this term of ‘Stewardship’ was applied to many aspects of living a “Godly life”.  In my experience this term was first and foremost applied to one’s body, not just the environment around us.  The assumption of this statement is one that looks at a person’s body as something that should be cared for and respected as it is created in the likeness and image of God, and that this body is a “temple” for the Holy Spirit to dwell in.  As such the body is something that should not be abused or harmed.

(pg. 94) ‘One of the problems with assessing risk is that people’s perception and estimation of risk is not fully rational and is influenced by emotion or affect.’

You see this so often in the conflicts within governing legislative branches of countries.  There are those on one side of the aisle screaming in emotion and concern about a given issue; sound the alarm, and then on the other side of the aisle there are those who could care less and brush off the issue as an overreaction or a rush to conclusion.  This all leads to inaction on the part of those in power because neither side can get to the objective concern at hand and find a rational approach to dealing with a problem.  If you throw in special interest groups and political agendas, this discourse becomes even more convoluted and muddled.

(pg. 110) ‘Globalization: An ongoing process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a globe-spanning network of exchange.’

Just this past Thursday, in my Urban Geography course we were discussing the difficulty of defining this term.  We were touching on the fact that when this term is used for example in a research paper, that it can become elusive in the attempt to apply to what is occurring in cities and countries across the world.  A key piece to understanding this term simplistically is understanding that local societies have become more integrated within a global network of intersectionality, whereby the actions of say one corporation in certain location can impact the exchange and performance of another cities growth and direction.

(pg. 130) John Gast, “American Progress”, 1872

Gast_wk11

 

This painting is almost laughable to me, but I’m sure at the time of its creation it spoke to the climate of beliefs of the American people who were expanding westward.  It’s sad really in the painting as you see the “dark” left side of the painting where bison are being driven away from the land, equated in the same way to the “heathen” Indians in the lower left hand corner.  This work is so thematic and ideological, portraying the “innocent” and “God given determinism” of Americans taking what is “rightly” theirs.  Did anyone ever slow down to think of the ramifications of their actions and how they might be destroying other people in the process?

(pg. 173) ‘Secondary Succession: The regrowth of vegetation and return of species to an area cleared or reduced by disturbance, as where a forest recovers its “climax vegetation” cover after a fire.’

ClimaxVeg_WK11

I found this figure to be helpful in understanding the idea of ‘climax vegetation’. It is interesting how the natural progression of a forested area begins with exposed rock that begins to produce microscopic organisms that then combine as moss feeding into soil that is a means of the start of plant growth.

 

Project Update

Last week I gave specifics to the way in which the $750.00 of the SIP grant was spent on three men who are homeless in the Delaware community.  This week I will be following up with these men to discuss some of their personal experiences with homelessness in order to better understand homelessness for a term paper that I am writing in Urban Geography.  Also, Thomas will likely be coordinating with Jon Peterson of the United Church of Christ to drop off some of the supplies and materials that he has been collecting over the past 11 weeks.

Current Event

http://www.bustle.com/articles/149271-the-single-biggest-thing-you-can-do-for-the-environment

Here are the facts: If you eat vegan even for just one day a week, you have had a greater positive environmental impact than if you were to eat only locally-grown food seven days a week. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off of our roads. If everyone ate vegetarian one day a week, we’d also save 100 billion gallons of water (aka enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost four months); 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock (enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year); and 70 million gallons of gas (enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined and then some) (Krantz, 2016).


Current event: SeaWorld ends breeding of orcas

March 26, 2016

Due to social pressure SeaWorld has decided to end the breeding of orcas. They currently have 24 orcas in their care, and have announced they will be the last generation. This is a great win for animal activists and the makers of documentaries like Blackfish.

We can’t give SeaWorld too much credit though. They were also facing pressure from legislators. Last year they applied for a $100 million expansion that was approved only under the condition that they end their breeding program. As you can see, they probably did not have much of a choice but to end their breeding.

SeaWorld will not release their current orcas as they will die if they’re released. This is very similar, in my opinion, to Barnum and Bailey’s circus who said they will end the use of their elephants by 2017. They receive social praise, but at the same time they plan on ending the use three years later, which drives people to come see the elephants one last time. Then, they do not plan to send the elephants to a sanctuary, but rather they’re going to build them their own sanctuary. This makes me think there is still a future of performing for these “retired” elephants; they will just no longer be on the road.

While SeaWorld claims releasing the orcas will kill them, I am sure there is a viable way to enclose them in an area of the ocean using nets or some other kind of technology. However, that’s not as profitable as keeping them in captivity until their final days. orcaellieorca