Amanda Apicella – Current Event

October 26, 2016

This Article by National Geographic describes the recent discovery of the cause behind the mysterious changing of colors in Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker’s feathers, as well as demonstrates the ripple effects of invasive species.

In the last few decades, ornithologists noted that some yellow-shafted northern flickers had their yellow feathers turned red. At first they thought it was due to interbreeding with the red-shafted northern flicker in the west yet the oddly red birds were found in areas extremely distant from them. Apparently new research has discovered that it actually had to do with their diets (as red, orange, and yellow pigments in bird feathers tend to be attributed to) and due to the importance of coloration in signaling it could have massive impacts on populations (including in finding mates).

One of the first clues to finding the truth was based on a study of the changes in cedar waxwing’s coloration that occurred in the 1960s. The yellow tips of some of the cedar waxwing’s feathers were turning orange and due to lack of red-feathered relatives they looked into the diet. Apparently it was due to the birds eating invasive honeysuckle berries (imported by horticulturalists in the late 1800s for landscaping, bird habitat and food then spread rapidly to become an invasive species) which appealed to their voracious appetite in regards to berries.

In their study regarding the northern flickers, they analyzed the chemicals in the pigments of both the red feathers and honeysuckle berries and confirmed that the red hue did in fact come from honeysuckle berries. This issue may lead to problems for the northern flicker’s ability to find mates and it is unknown how many other bird species are experiencing similar problems as well.

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Environment and Society

October 26, 2016

By: Amanda Apicella

Throughout “Environment and Society” the authors discuss the various schools of thought when it comes to environmental issues and humans’ roles in it. There are many contradicting points and ways of thinking that are brought up and the purpose of this book that was stated in the introduction (to give a wide variety of viewpoints to get a fuller picture and challenge our own opinions and potentially recognize our own assumptions they may be based on) is pretty well done.

This was especially true for me when it came to the initial chapters regarding “Population and Scarcity” and “Markets and Commodities” which made me reconsider a few of my own viewpoints. I will admit that when it comes to the economy and the inner workings of businesses (the pros and cons of various systems too) I am not the most knowledgeable by a long shot. I used to think in just solutions rather than the means to achieve them so to speak so when these topics were brought up in the book it really provided some insight and different views/factors that I may not have really considered much before. I did know that the issues regarding regulations and the approaches to dealing with these problems was complicated but it really did make me reconsider the various approaches and possibilities of it. Jevon’s Paradox (where innovations leading to more efficient use of resources actually leads to increased usage overall than even before) honestly blew my mind when I was reading about it but when I really stopped to think about it, it did make sense (even if it complicated the issue further in terms of solutions).

The issue of human population has always been a hot topic and in the first chapter the authors address it from different points of view and bring in different approaches that throw different assumptions/viewpoints into question (including each other). They discussed different approaches and their effectiveness/ethics in controlling populations (as well as different factors that play a part in or cause populations to increase/decrease/stabilize in the first place) but also brought up some other views from people who point out that populations may not be a “problem” as we make it out to be or may just be a symptom rather than a cause. The role of women’s rights in population control I found to be quite interesting as it does make a lot of sense and clearly has historical credibility when it comes to women’s literacy rates and birth-rates in various countries. Rather than trying to force a population or control it through sterilization (or through not assisting the poor and allowing those that can’t support themselves/their families to suffer and die) as some viewpoints suggested, an effective approach may be to actually empower the people through education and providing means of controlling their own reproduction so they can limit it themselves. Giving people options/freedom and education to make informed choices not only helps in terms of population but also may help with innovations by leading to more people participating in the sciences/inventing in general. It also allows for poorer people to potentially be able to improve their own condition without being held back by having to support children (can have them when planned for so all the children are provided for properly). To counter that though, they also bring up the potential good of larger populations (leading to more innovation in technology and more efficiency/environmentally friendly practices being practiced out of necessity). To contrast that point as well they also bring up the aforementioned issue of increased efficiency in technologies potentially leading to more excessive consumption that is actually more damaging in its effects than before.

It is clear there are many factors to dealing with the balance/relationship between human society and the environment and challenging our own opinions and assumptions is necessary to figure out potential solutions. There is no perfect argument or solution that will cover everything or come with no downsides/issues of its own. By realizing different factors these viewpoints argue around, and in turn scrutinizing our own opinions/assumptions, we can at least approach these topics with a more informed and aware opinion (or theory) than we did before.

 


Eating Animals

October 5, 2016

By Amanda Apicella

Eating Animals by Jonathan Foer is about Jonathan’s experiences, research, and thoughts regarding the topic of vegetarianism. It isn’t straight up stating vegetarianism is the “right” way and discusses both pros and cons as well as cultural aspects to dietary choices too. His story about how he flip-flopped with his dietary choices and the issues that he dealt with in trying to maintain it reflects my own issues as well. I have been trying to cut down on my meat consumption but there are times when I give in or don’t think about it as it isn’t easy all the time. There are times where I feel really guilty about eating beef (I don’t eat red meat that much anymore at all) and chicken but never really thought about my preferences for salmon and fish as an alternative. I had forgotten about the fishing industry’s destructive practices and as I was reading it (while eating some salmon I just cooked right beforehand ironically) I realized it was just so easy for me to forget that the fish we eat aren’t always farmed and many are wild-caught which causes massive damage to various ecosystems and species. I assumed the not-as-damaging practices were the norm since it seemed more reasonable to me without thinking about the reality that many industries try to obscure as much as possible from the public. I thought so much about factory farming in terms of cows, chickens, and pigs (which are animals that are easier to associate with in terms of empathy) that it made it easier for me to just not really think about the origins of my favorite alternative to “land meat”. It is easier to disassociate or not really care as deeply about cruelty towards fish since most people don’t always have to come face to face with them or the realities of the fishing industry. They are easier to think of in an abstract way and although I don’t want them to really “suffer” per say I am more appalled by the environmental damage than the fact of fish being killed for food. I don’t know why but that was just my initial reaction/feelings towards the issue. It is a really fascinating book that sparked a lot of questions that we don’t always think about or have clear cut answers to. I don’t know what I will do since I do love fish and chicken but don’t want to contribute to these awful industries surrounding them. I may flip flop for awhile until I find my answer or settle into a lifestyle that works for me (I will definitely be trying to make comparatively less harmful choices in terms of where and what I purchase) as in my eyes I am in the stage of transition that is similar to the “honest people who occasionally told lies” as he describes it.


Eating Animals

October 5, 2016

Eating animals is something that has been going on ever since man existed. Practically every animal has a part of them that can be used as either fuel for the human body or in other ways such as clothes , medicine, and many others. Often masked in this “living off the land” idea, it has been passed down through civilization without much thought. What Pacia Purcell does in Eating Animals is bring up the idea that has gathered attention in recent times which is questioning the ethical use of using animals as food.

One of Purcell’s most dominant points is that we eat what we eat because we are influenced by what is around us. He talks about how people in one country are brought up on a diet that is predetermined by their parents which was likely determined by those before them. The idea of which foods are acceptable to eat gets passed down through society and determines what is okay for people to eat. What I find interesting is the grandma story that showed an example of how eating habits has changed over the course of history. At first life revolved and depended on agriculture. For me, this brought up something I recently learned about and could connect dots in a further way that went outside of the book. The concept of feudalism was they way of life back in Europe where many of the families now has roots and even the economy back then wasn’t a commodity economy but a service economy. However what is addressed in the grandma story is how  families used to struggle for food and food portions were far smaller than what is the norm today. As the years went by and technology advanced, it became easier and cheaper to acquire basic necessities which allowed people to expand on their diet which created demands for exotic foods. What happened as a result is that the food industry changed its methods to the  development of mass producing animals. This lead to creating cruel conditions in slaughterhouses where from the moment a chicken or cow is birthed, they are subjected to steroids that not only speed up growth but cause health conditions that go unchecked. This in addition with crowed living spaces create a miserable life for the animal but society looks the other way since our needs are being provided.

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Current News:

“The Pacific Island Garbage Patch” is what people have given the name to the plastic pile of garbage that is currently in the Pacific Ocean. This 3.5 km pile of discarded products is growing at an alarming rate with not much stopping it and is recking havoc on food chains. Recently the U.N. said it is almost possible to see it from space. However groups like Ocean Cleanup have took matters into their own hands to save the environment. What they did was gather mic plastics to study the degree of the problem but recently took aerial photos that widely underestimated the amount of “large objects” that function like a “ticking time bomb because the big stuff will crumble down to micro plastics over the next few decades if we don’t act.” This brings to light our problem with waste. Humans everywhere produce tons upon tons of waste, garbage, a year with little to no thought of what happens to it. Landfills can only hold so much. The solution can’t be to just discard it into the oceans.


Pat Watson: Eating Animals 10/5

October 5, 2016

Eating Animals written by Johnathan Foer looks at the problems of eating meat compared against the benefits. The fact that he wrote this book and researched the positives and negatives all to find out whether he should raise his son as vegetarian or not I think makes this fact based book much more relatable and readable. Is it ethical to eat animals? Is it ethical to eat animals in our industrial society? Does our answer to this answer translate to the basic ethics of people living in industrial societies? While I strongly believe in being able to achieve something sustainable in the middle of being a complete vegetarian and an ignorant consumer of meat, this book vastly broadened my view and was well written and explored.

This book looked at the effect of eating animals as humans being a functioning animal in the world, bringing into focus much about food chains and life cycles. This brought to light how truly unsustainable it is for us to be eating meat raised at mass farms, inhumanly being slaughtered, and then the negative environmental effects of such processes. By removing our animalistic features and buying slaughtered animals at the grocery store we create a willing ignorance to the life that was taken. Native Americans used to thank the animals they killed for giving their spirit to them, because they were fully aware of what they were doing their moral and ethical standards were very high. They knew they were doing what they had to to survive but also recognizing the equal life of the animal that they needed. We have removed ourselves from this equation and hence have removed ourselves from ethical and moral understanding of life itself.

Environmental Issue 10/5

(https://iwpr.net/global-voices/armenias-breadbasket-risks-desertification

This article describes the recent ecological happenings in the Ararat valley in Armenia. This area is (or was) extremely fertile and a vital area of food production for the entire country. Its fertility is mainly due to the large amount of underground fresh water available in the basin. For years farmers have been able to take advantage of this natural resource without interfering with its natural self recovery rate. Lately however there has been a sharp increase in fish farms in the area which dig wells and pull out excessive amounts of water in order to farm salmon. This industry has a lot of money tied to it but without any sort of control or regulation of these businesses and their tapping they have started to really deplete the underground water. This is causing all sorts of havoc. Local farmers need to dig deeper wells each year or stop farming because of the expense of deeper wells and subsequent pumps. Desertification is taking place as the area is now deemed semi-arid. Temperatures are on the rise, soil moisture is on the decrease as with average humidity and the larger region is suffering from food shortages.


Current Issues: Max Kerns

October 5, 2016

Mongabay: World’s watersheds lost 6 percent of their forests in 14 years

(https://news.mongabay.com/2016/08/worlds-watersheds-lost-6-percent-of-their-forests-in-14-years/ : August 31st, 2016)

 This article highlights the devastating effect that deforestation has on the some 230 watersheds worldwide. Using satellite imagery, World Resources Institute (WRI), tracks the deforestation of these watershed that shows tree cover loss from 6-14% with some cases showing loss of upwards of 22% over the last 15 years. Some of the most extreme cases are highlighted in Indonesia and Malaysia, due to heavy agriculture for oil palm and wood fiber. This has dire ramifications for local species and communities that rely on the tree cover that helps with a multitude of benefits from preventing erosion to the filtering of groundwater. Deforestation of the watersheds has also been linked to massive landslides, flooding, pollution, and fire specifically on these islands. Though the article also points out that deforestation has been going on much longer than the last 15 years, these same effects can be seen elsewhere still, in places like the watershed of Krishna, India.


Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer: Max Kerns

October 5, 2016

 

I found Eating Animals to be a great read for anyone that has ever even slightly thought about the food they consume on a daily basis.  It is highly entertaining and resembles the sort of stories one might tall around the dinner table. However, I should warn, this book and food tend not to go together. It is honest and blunt at times but keep the reader actively engaged even when they might not want to be. The dialogue that starts with a new father, concerned for his child, unleashes a journey into the world of factory farms, animal cruelty, and general production of food for the masses. It even goes as far as, to try to explain some of the deep rooted issues we have when it comes to our own consumption of meat. The book suggests that in the end when thinking about food, the almost logical discourse is one of vegetarianism, though it even suggests that the book is not a straightforward case. What the author opens is a dialogue that many can discuss and understand. The systems in place are far from perfect and reading this book helps the individual gain some insight to their own consumption of food with the implications it has on a much larger scale.

 

I have decided to do my discussions a little different this week as the book covers so many different ideas and topics. I will be using a bit bigger of a brush and apologize if anyone is offended. This is something I have always thought about throughout my life and have questions.

 

 I was and have been an on and off again vegetarian since I was a very young child. I was even really extreme two times in my life and was strict vegan the longest run was about 3 years.

 

I do believe that as a member of the human race we should treat animals with better care and conditions. Below are some exploratory questions that I pose in order to better understand my personal ideas.

 

Some things the book made me think about: (I would like to add this is a very rough draft for ideas for a class discussion, this book made me think quite a bit on the idea of eating animals. I would like to come back to better organize these thoughts, but if you proceed to read this, know these are thoughts simply that came from the ideas in the book.)

 

Does my dog love me? Or am I in a symbiotic relationship with a food begger..

 

In several ideas / concepts in the books we are given an idea that eating meat it barbaric, in round about ways, one of the most profound to me was “a case for eating dogs”. I always find it interesting that dog becomes on the most widely used examples when it comes to eating meat vs not eating meat. It is very interesting that every culture has its own taboos on which animals to eat and which we do not eat. Is this something that happens only when a society has options? I am not so sure that pioneers or humans living off the land gave much thought to eating to surviving. So I am curious if this is typically branded from a more modern perspective. I know many religious teachings have implications as well.

 

So I was thinking as I was lying in bed about my dog and I. Loki has been a wonderful addition and I found the ideas surrounding humane societies, using euthanized dogs and cats to feed farm animals very interesting. I also found it interesting that the author suggests we pull out the middle man and just serve dog, though tongue in cheek.

 

As I was more over thinking about my best friend I started to wonder if he has the same questions. I am pretty sure he has mapped out how long we would be locked in a house with no food before he turned on me. I would like to think that he has a higher sense of being. However, at the end of the day if I was dead, and he had no food, I am pretty positive he would do what he had to do. This is not much worse than my own thoughts of if it came down to my own survival would I eat my own dog? I would like to think I was above it. However I do not ever recall a time in my life, with food so readily available, ever being so hungry that I myself would have to act on instinct. The different here is, though my dog may be sad or upset I am gone, I am not sure he would feel remorse for eating me. I on the other hand would have an intense guilt for eating my dog. SO, maybe that is why there is a disconnect on the idea of consumption. Possibly we do not want to have these complex ideas come up every time we shove something into our mouths.

 

 Something about meat?

 

I have always been interested that when I am a vegan or vegetarian why it upsets so many people. I have never rallied or discussed someone else’s eating habits. I just chose for myself. Then as I talk to people they will inevitably find out there becomes this hostile conversation. Why do you not eat meat? That’s crazy? Humans have sharp teeth for a reason? Then they go on to try and entice me back to eating meat, MMMMM, this steak is so juicy and tender. It really seems odd to me that there is something almost inherent of humans in this way. Why would anyone give a shit what I eat it is not on their plate. (I do not argue because it is often wasted) I will say that is was funny when I was vegan I always cooked thanksgiving dinner. 2 Birds and eight hours later, I still cooked out of tradition for the family, though I added a variety of vegan dishes. I did not tell people that the mac and cheese was vegan, or the potato salad, or even the brownies. Though my mom had to leak it after everyone had their first plate. Then everyone became a detective and tried to decide what they could eat and what they wouldn’t eat, as a stand to all meat eaters. The vegan stuff was not bad for them, they just didn’t want anything to do with it.

 

Food and sex:

 

I also find it funny that after years of working in the restaurant industry the way the sexes eat. Par example, when a man and women on a first date go to a restaurant, the man normally orders steak or a burger, and the women normally has a salad. I have seen this time and time again. Is this meat thing driven by an alpha male genetic idea? Women also tend to when not “really” friends play into these roles, oh I want a steak, but I will just have the salad, and the boss lady orders the meat and they all giggle and say oh your being so bad. When a man is in a group of men and orders a salad he is an “insert not so friendly word here” and when men are together there always seems to be a food challenge. So is there a hierarchy of meat?

 

Blood?

 

How rare does it need to be to excite?  Just another curiosity I have, there seems to be this excitement to meat and blood. Does it remind one of the fight verse beast? I know that in my humble lifetime I have seen numerous accounts of people reacting oddly to rare food. Even a little too excited. One of my friends used to tell me when he was hunting that when he killed a deer he would cut a piece from it to taste the fresh kill. We are no longer friends but I always wondered why? I mean there has to be a blood connection here somewhere or there would not be overwhelming sells of vampire related stuff. Is there something about being the top of the food chain? Is it the desire to be beast like? I am unsure. I mean why do people spend hours watching the majestic cheetah take down the gazelle. Does it go to something deeper in the human condition a sadistic nature? Is it equally upsetting when a bear mauls a person, as when a person kills a bear?

 

Food Factories:

 

I think we can all agree they are bullshit. However, maybe what should be called into question is the way we eat really being the bullshit part of it more so than the practice. It is all supply vs demand after all. So in my head when I logically think about my food consumption, I think how different it must be from the typical food consumption of my grandparents and great grandparents. I look at how they ate. Normally meat was purchased to last much longer. You would purchase a part of an animal that normally included the skin and bone. Meat was not eaten at every meal, though different parts were used. The entire part of the animal had some use. Normally in my mind from being small, meat was eaten as a main course on special night normally the weekends, then the rest of the week a stock as used in various other ways to feed the family. I do not think it was ever assumed that one would eat an animal at every meal. There is also a difference when someone has to slaughter the family cow to survive versus a 5 minute exchange at any of the various fast food venues.

 

I also think it is odd that we condemn the behavior of worker in the factory farms, and before you go crazy, please hear me out. I understand that the violent acts the do seem crazy to anyone not working in a food factory. I can only imagine the conditions that these humans work in. It would only seem appropriate that if the conditions the animals live in is detestable than the working conditions could not be much better. I also think working in these conditions, the smells, the sounds, the ideas of coming face to face with what you eat has to have a toll on any individual. I helped one of my grandfather castrate a baby pig, and believe me the scream is something I still remember quite vividly. There has to be some sort of disconnect.

 

Also in addition, how humane is humane? How softly does one kill the animal? Does one lay it down and sing it to death while we feathering its belly? It is silly to me that we make examples out of workers that are destroying these animals for fun, but have no regret sending the burger or steak or chicken or tuna back that was not made to perfection, because everyone attached to the food network knows what perfection is. That meat was not given a goof life and killed for nourishment, it had one bite taken out of it and thrown in a garbage can and a new life was taken. The numerous amount of food that is thrown away just because one wants a taste of it is also a factor.

 

So riddle me this, if you are taking the animals life via a wood chipper that doesn’t always get the job done on first pass, or by stomping its head into a concrete block, what is the difference? It just seems to me that if I am not the one taking the animals life for my consumption with my own two hands, then I should not be surprised if someone else does it in a manner that I disagree with. Sorry this is just my belief.

 

Population is the real issue:

 

When the dialogue goes to vegetarianism I always wonder about the plants as being living things as well. I also wonder more about the dialogue of eating plants only vs meat. It seems to me that there is likely still some balance. I read about how much food could be made with fields that if we didn’t use them for grazing. However, I never truly understand this point and might be somewhat ignorant. It only seems to me that I do not graze constantly. There is a bit of science to the amount of consumption that needs to be done by a human to perform certain activities. I consume for energy. I am pretty sure that grazing on a field of grass is not going to work as an alternative. Now I also know that there are plants that I can eat that are very vitamin rich and other sources of protein in the plant kingdom. Though to feed the mass of people, would there not still need to be fields placed? This leads to less biodiversity and cutting of trees. If we speed this process up and say either we ate all the animals, or went to a vegetarian diet. With the way the population is growing wouldn’t we still need to do the same things? Would there not be outcry in the future to save the green? As that is already a concern? So is the real question we are posing here one of responsibility of the human population. I think that is a much more important question and one that unfortunately opens another dialogue altogether.