Amber Week 11

October 31, 2017

Environment & Society Notes Part 2

In the second half of the book, the authors change their focus to real world examples of problems that are currently being faced and the dilemma humans are running into. I found these topics to be the most interesting to be because they relate back to the type of work I want to do to try and help solve the issues the best way possible. The most common things people think of when they think about global climate change is carbon dioxide, CO2. This was an interesting chapter to read because I never really thought about how much of human development is completely tied in with carbon dioxide emissions and the complexity of the debate. With the industrialization of nations, the economy and society of the place became tied to carbon dioxide emissions. As global countries try to lower the amount of carbon dioxide emissions, some might participate and agree in environmental “agreements”. Those mutual agreements will benefit those countries who participate but those countries that do not participate their emissions still has an effect on everyone. Some countries benefits end up having other countries riding on the benefits of others . The carbon dioxide debate shows how intertwined human interactions are to the environment with money and politics also playing a role making the issue extremely complicated.

One of my favorite stories in environmental issues are of the wolves of Yellowstone. The story I had always known was that wolves were eradicated from the park until they were reintroduced years later. After the reintroduction, the landscape and biodiversity of the park changed due to the wolves playing a critical role in the food chain, trophic cascade. The story remains a favorite but after reading this chapter now see the social construct that helped lead to the change in perspective of wolves and some of the issues present due to their reintroduction. Human growth has pushed the bounds of natural habitat of various species including wolves. There are many players involved in wolf conservation as wolves are a predator that could harm a human while at the same time they are considered required in the environment. There is also the economic problem with those who raise live stock and wolves potentially killing their lively hood. People have also adjusted the way they view wolves from hunting them almost to extinction to becoming much loved by most people. As I am finding with most environmental debates, everything is intertwined and there is no single solution to the problem.

Overall, this book highlights some of the many complex issues that are ongoing in the environment. It helps to show many of the pieces of the puzzle and explain the complexity of the debates. Many of the issues I relate to from a biology background and never considered the extant of the economic or political ties that are also associated.

Current Environmental News

A recent study indicates that the vibrations felt when horseback riding lead to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system which could improve learning in children specifically in memory and problem solving. It have been seen that horseback riding have many physical and mental benefits. When looking at the cognitive researchers saw an improvement in ability to perform behavioral tasks but less of an improvement on arithmetic problems. Further research is required to understand if the benefits could also be gained from interactions with more common pets.

Environment and Society Part 2 -Makali

October 31, 2017

Wolves chapter: Wolves like many other animals were hunted close to extinction then we saw the error of our ways and tried to bring the population back. This chapter often debated the pros and cons of having a decent size wolf population.  Of course framers didn’t like them because they sometimes eat their cattle, and other people are just afraid of wolves, but the are many possibly even more advantages than disadvantages. The author talked about an experiment they did trying to bring wolves back into Yellowstone National Park. They introduces eight wolves from another region into Yellowstone, which currently didn’t have any wolves. After a while the wolf population  increased, they were taken off the endangered list, elk population decreased, the willows trees grew healthier, increase number of beavers, increase number in eagles, and beetles. The ecosystem completely change with the introduction of only eight animals. If we take away any of the animals the whole thing could start to fall apart. I believe we should help restore the  populations to what they were, which includes bringing wolves back to a healthy balance and then try to leave nature alone as much as we can.

Potatoes: It surprised me that potatoes were once poisonous. It shocks me that people would keep trying a poisonous food, pick the least poisonous to grow and continue selecting until we have our domesticated one. I wonder what other food we now eat have be domesticated that way. I also think it is a testament to either how desperate or stubborn people were. I was also surprised to find out that not every potato is capable of becoming a fry. “Americans spent six billion dollars on fast food in 1970 and more than 110 billion in 2000”. That is a huge increase in dollars spent in just thirty years. If it keeps increasing at that rate, how big will it get? Later in the chapter the authors talk about a  country selling land that people live on to potato farmers for not much money, jut so they could have more business. I can see a government wanting more business and offering a deal to businesses to come for cheaper, and although its wrong to push people off the land, it happens for other reasons and the people normal get money, at least in America. How could they justify giving the companies such a big break that the government doesn’t get enough money to have schools? That is just beyond belief for me. I never would have thought that fries almost directly effect some peoples’ schooling, but if we stopped eating french fries wouldn’t the government still want business and just offer their deal to another party?

Current event: Dozens of octopi were seen crawling onto beaches. The group that found them placed them back into the water only to come back in the morning to see that more had crawled onto the beach and died. So far no one knows the reason that these octopi are doing this, one theory is that they were about to die away ways, but until more tests are done we will not know.


Niemeyer-environment and society

October 31, 2017

The second half of Environment and Society was less interesting to me than the first, I liked that it tried to look at the different individual problems that we face in environmental policy and practices from the different viewpoints described in the first half, however, the subjects were mostly repetitive of subjects or examples that have constantly been examples in other classes and readings that I have done.

I think it is interesting to look at the social and political justice side of environmental problems, the book constantly brought up different problems with the limits and undemocratic implications that come with environmental problems.  One of the major problems being that the people that are most effected by issues like climate change tend to be those with the fewest resources to combat such problems.  This is something that is often not discussed when we talk about our duty and initiative to change, but it’s extremely important when we think about solutions to environmental issues.  I’m constantly amazed by how little people care about being sustainable, but every time this is because they don’t see the change, they don’t see that they are making a difference, so to them there is no purpose to the extra effort.

Something that surprised me was the stats on nuclear power being used as frequently as hydropower and this being theoretically cleaner than natural gas.  This is something I generally think of as a dirty energy source, and it is, in terms of the waste it produces and the unsustainable management we have of it, but it would be interesting to see how we could change this if we put effort and resources into making it cleaner like we do other fuel sources.

Something that I thought was weird was the discussion of dead dolphins in relation to tuna fishing.  The book talked about the issues as if it was a problem of the past, and this may true in relation to certain tuna fishing, but this is a really big current issue with the global fish industry, especially with long line fishing for shrimp, where 95% of catch is bycatch, which is killed and then thrown back into the ocean.  I did enjoy the idea of consumer advocacy, but this only works when people have other incentive to buy sustainable products, and it also leads to shady advertising by companies that are only interested in their bottom line.

I also thought it was interesting to think that bottled water was commoditized and therefore privatized due to the belief that it was safer than tap water, which was more accessible, cheaper, and more sustainable.  I grew up drinking well water out of the tap, and have had many people visit my house and be unwilling to drink it because of the possibility that it might not be clean.  This has always been ludicrous to me, but it is definitely an idea that has spread, and it would be interesting to see how we could change this view or how this will change as water becomes less available in different areas.

There have been multiple instances of aquaculture fish being accidently released into the rivers of Africa, including crayfish and tilapia.  These are outcompeting native species of the rivers, causing them to be endangered.

Colten Week 11 Posting

October 30, 2017

After reading the second half of the book I am still not a fan. The book is essentially a textbook and is much to dry of a read to keep me entertained. I did like the application of the second half better then the first half, but this book still wouldn’t be my first pick.

Environment and Society part 2 reading: The one chapter I found to be most interesting in the second half of the book was chapter  11, Wolves. The chapter begins by focusing on the wolf population within Yellowstone National Park. It goes on to explain how the last wolf was killed in Yellowstone during the 1920’s and until they were reintroduced by the government in 1995, the park was without wolves. The population did very well and by 2009, wolf hunting and trapping was made legal again, and during the first wolf season Yellowstone’s most famous wolf was killed. This fueled the longstanding debate between environmentalists and ranchers of the area. Wolfs play a huge role within ecosystems but have had a long and complicated history with humans. My favorite quote from this chapter reads, “wolves present something of a window into humanity. When we look at wolves, we can see how science, industry, and emotion become entangled. Working to solve the puzzle of wolves, we may come a bit closer to forging a more sustainable relationship with non-human nature.”

Another portion I found interesting was chapter 13, titled Tuna. A man named Sam LaBudde created low budget film to expose the dolphin slaughter that was being performed by tuna fishers. “In three decades over 6 million dolphin were tangled n the massive tuna nets and killed, most drowning before they could be released. This film caused a lot of uprising around the world and since has brought up a lot of questions. This film attempts to answer some of these questions, such as how we can alter our fishing techniques, what impacts we have on tuna populations, the demand for tuna, legislation surrounding tuna fishing, and many other complex relations. With things like this it is very hard to have one hard and fast solution because it effects so many things. This is similar to many other environmental issues.


Article: Antimatter Angst: The Universe Shouldn’t Exist

Well clearly we do exist…. I think. However, according to new ultra precise measurements of antiprotons, the universe should not exist. This tells us that something about our knowledge regarding the physics of the universe isn’t correct. Basically the universe is a “epic battle between protons and antiprotons that began immediately after the Big Bang,” and protons won, which is why we are here today. New technology has allowed us to measure both protons and antiprotons and we found that they are exactly the same, meaning that protons should not have won the war and nothing should exist.

Collin Environment & Society Pt. 2

October 30, 2017


The second half of Robbins et al.’s Environment and Society seemed somewhat less intriguing than the first part. Largely, this is due to the fact that I’m more interested in the theoretical approaches outlined there. Meanwhile, the second half of the textbook deals with the sheer application of these various models to specific examples, which I generally found less enthralling. When reading, it often felt like the authors would go down the list of ideologies or worldviews, say a political economic one, and rattle off the perspective of that ideology on the subject at hand. Ultimately, I care more about the debate over and justifications for each individual theoretical approach than I care about how they can be applied to understanding french fries. In order to apply a view, one must adequately justify its veridicality in theory.

Minor criticisms aside, there were a few sections of the book that still caught my interest. One of such sections is the part of Chapter 10 that addresses whether or not trees should be accorded legal rights. Furthermore, it raises the question of which rights should a tree have if we were to consider a tree as capable of possessing them. When considered together, the former of these questions is easier to answer than the latter. The concept of nature or natural objects possessing state-sanctioned rights is not a completely silly one. Indeed, a former Supreme Court justice went so far as to assert that trees have legal standing, which would imply intrinsic rights to be protected. Additionally, certain non-sentient entities, like companies, possess personhood and rights as a legal fiction. However, they are also subject to certain limitations that real people in the U.S. are not affected by. As the book mentions, “Corporations cannot plead the Fifth Amendment” (Robbins et al. 179). In context, this point is made in order to specify that trees need not be granted obviously unnecessary rights, such as the right to vote. Nevertheless, this brings up the much murkier issue of what rights trees do have and by what criterion can we determine that they in fact have those rights. To these questions, I have no real answer. What I can say is that any right a tree possesses would be entirely contingent on the will of human beings. Though the authors are correct is stating that “this is the approach that most acknowledges…trees, living things with interests upon whom deforestation acts,” they are incorrect in arguing that it is not an anthropocentric approach (Robbins et al. 179).

Another segment of the book that I enjoyed is that which deals with the cultural attitudes surrounding lawns. As someone who views lawns as a monumental waste of time and effort, I am absolutely astounded by stories such as this one: “households that choose alternative landscaping over lawns are actually sued by one or more of their neighbors” (Robbins et al. 252). As this tale should indicate, lawns are arguably one of the most ludicrous and deeply-defended cultural constructions out there. After all, as the book further notes, people with judge the character of others on the basis of the other person’s lawn quality. I really have no serious argument against doing this, though it seems insane to equate the quality of a person with the quality of some insignificant grass. Of course, one could critique it on the grounds that the textbook more or less does: why criticize an alternative landscape when a lawn requires many dangerous chemicals to be properly sustained? This is a legitimate question, but one that I wouldn’t ask, owing to its overt moralism.

Environmental News

Currently, the National Parks Service plans on raising entrance fees to some of its most notable parks, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite. The fee increase is relatively substantial, with each vehicle of visitors being charged $70 as opposed to the current rate of $30. The intention of this price hike is to ensure the integrity of each park’s infrastructure in the years to come.

Collin Environment & Society Response

October 25, 2017


Robbins et al.’s Environment and Society presents a thorough and multidimensional analysis of the interdependence of humanity, culture, and the natural environment. Though we have addressed many of the topics in this book before, I was happy to revisit many of such issues, particularly where resource management and ethics were concerned. With regard to the former, I have long been an advocate for market solutions to environmental degradation. Specifically, I have supported the use of pollutant permits to control carbon emissions, as was done successfully with acid rain in the 1990s. In part, this is due to my general skepticism of central government solutions. After all, I consider myself as some variant of a left libertarian. However, Robbins et al. present a strong argument for why government intervention is increased by a pollutant exchange system. As Robbins et. al state, “a market based approach…may demand an extension of state regulations, with increasing numbers of state scientists and monitors…assuring legitimacy of transactions in the market” (Robbins et al. 42). Fortunately, the authors do suggest an anti-authoritarian, decentralized way by which resource management decisions can be effectively made. For example, they cite the self-regulation of lobster fishermen in Maine as among a number of real-world examples of this.

An additional section of the textbook that I found intriguing was, as stated earlier, the chapter on environmental ethics. One of such ethical approaches that they mentioned was a set of maxims laid out by forester Aldo Leopold. Specifically, they cite his so-called dictum of “The Land Ethic.” As framed in the book, this can be defined as “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” (Robbins et al. 74). While this might seem noble and altruistic in theory, it is ultimately sheer pathos and nothing more. Indeed, this is true even in the case of Locke’s apparently utilitarian approach to nature. All moral or ethical propositions are incapable of being facts about the world, for there is no steady criterion or criteria by which said propositions can be classified as true or false. When we speak of ethical rules, these are merely an attempt to articulate and validate our visceral emotional reactions to certain behaviors. Consequently, there is no factual way to speak of how we ought to treat the natural world. We merely shape nature, and people react according to their own psychological dispositions. This point is important because it suggests a limitation to our ability to relate and interact with nature. When it comes to ethics, we are inaccessible to nature; in fact, we can’t even speak of it meaningfully.

Environmental News:

According to a piece in the Guardian, the EPA prevented three scientists from speaking at a discussion about the environmental health of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Estuary. The report on the estuary that was supposed to be discussed at the event detailed how the consequences of climate change had led to a warming of the estuary’s water, a rise in the sea level of the estuary, and stressors being placed on the fish population there.


David Week 10

October 25, 2017

Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction provided a lot of new information and concepts along with a lot of information we had already discussed in previous books.  Paul Robbins et al go over in great detail such questions as what we mean when we talk about nature, and how it intersects with political and economic theory.  The book is also filled with descriptive analogies that help explain some of the more abstract ideas, although they can get a little tedious at times.

In the first chapter chapter of the book we are shown a park in the Netherlands that has been set aside for wildlife.  Robbins et al explain how the wild cows living there were actually brought into the park and that the park itself, like much of the Netherlands, was originally underwater until humans transformed the land for settlement.  We are then asked the question of whether this “rewilded” land is actually natural.  This question of what exactly is and is not nature is debated throughout the book.  Robbins et al even cite Cronon in chapter 8, who we read about all the way back in the second week of class, where he talked about Yosemite national park and how the Native Americans living there were removed in order to keep the area “natural”.

Robbins et al also discuss a variety of political and social elements to environmentalism that we really have not talked about in class yet.  In chapter 7 he talks about how membership for most environmental group memberships are made up of 60 to 80 percent women, suggesting that women are more keen to how to the environment impacts their lives and the lives of their loved ones because of their traditional role as homemakers.  This is related to a point made in chapter 2 about how overpopulation alarmists tend to unfairly put the blame on women and their bodies.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book and found a lot of new information in it.  If I had to come up with one complaint it would be that Robbins et al spend an unnecessary amount of time on certain analogies.  For example, when explaining the Prisoner’s Dilemma in chapter 4 it felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again.  There were a few other parts of the book that I chose to skim because of their repetitiveness.


Current Event


Evelynn Wyatt, Week 10

October 25, 2017

Reading Response

I found this weeks reading incredibly engaging as a result of my interest in the ecological sciences. I like that Robbins et al. examines a variety of ecological “objects” in many different contexts. I was especially drawn to his definition of “rewilding , where long-lost ecosystems are crafted by people from whole cloth, in order to reclaim – or create – landscapes as they might have been before human influence (Kolbert 2012).” We have discussed the consequences, both positive and negative, of protection and preservation but have yet to explore the concept of rewilding, which seems to be the most appealing conservation technique, albeit the most expensive and time consuming. I also really liked the way Robbins et al. choose to define natural and unnatural environments as inseparable and interdependent. They write, “Everywhere we seek some place beyond people, the marks of human creation and destruction confront us, and wherever the works of humans are in evidence, there are non-human systems and creatures, all operating in their own way,” (Robbins et al., 3).

In chapter 2, Robbins et al. writes that “the human pressure on resources in the region is tremendous and that impact is by no means limited to water. As new home sites devour land across the valley, the habitat of rare and important desert species… declines as well, with implications for global biodiversity. Dense human habitation and activity also encourages the arrival and spread of invasive species and increases the risk of fire hazards across the region.” I am currently enrolled in a plant ecology course where we have discussed many of these environmental issues and have focused on determining connections among the problems themselves and their relationship to human influence/intervention. For example, bogs, which are already endangered habitats, have been greatly affected by agriculture and land use change. The dust that is released from crops is very high in nitrogen and other nutrients so when it settles on the bog, which is naturally nutrient poor and very acidic, the habitat begins to change rapidly. It generally takes thousands of years for succession to occur in bog habitats as nutrients slowly build up and wet forest plants colonize the area. The addition of agricultural dust, however, speeds this process up to less than a hundred years. The implications of this are both positive and negative, but they cannot be denied as very strong drivers of biological/ecosystem change.


Current Event

A new study has found that areas of the ocean that contain certain species of clams and worms release up to eight times the amount of greenhouse gases as areas without them. This release of greenhouse gas is equivalent to that of 20,000 dairy cows. These seemingly innocuous creatures, studied in the Baltic Sea, are releasing nitrous oxide and methane from the bacteria present in their digestive tracts.

Shellfish farming has become increasingly encouraged as a means to combat “human pressures on the environment, such as eutrophication caused by the run-off of fertilizers into our waters.” The authors of this study warn against the mass implementation of this practice, however, as the trade-off between these benefits and the emission of methane may not be worth it.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Ernest Chi Fru, said: “What is puzzling is that the Baltic Sea makes up only about 0.1% of Earth’s oceans, implying that globally, apparently harmless bivalve animals at the bottom of the world’s oceans may in fact be contributing ridiculous amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that is unaccounted for.”

Niemeyer Environment and Society and news response

October 24, 2017


I thought this half of the essay took an interesting angle to look at different environmental issue causalities and problems with how we generally view different issues, especially with the mindset of if you don’t agree with me you’re against me. This essay had more of a look at where different people have placed themselves on different issues in the past and how that plays into current beliefs within government, communities, and individuals.  I thought it did a pretty good job of separating different mindsets and then picking them apart and showing the downfalls and successes of each.

One of the things that interested me right away was the idea of “rewilding” in the Netherlands, it seems that humans shouldn’t be able to create a wild area, but that’s what we have done elsewhere, like the current state of the National Parks, where we have changed them to fit our own definition of wild and beauty.  Originally, this idea struck me as weird, but we define wild anyway, so it makes sense that we can create the physical being that fits our description.

Another idea that was interesting was the writing by Malthus about the contradiction between environmental ethics and human ethics, namely that it does not make sense to help with food sustainability for the poor in terms of environmental sustainability because it bolsters population growth.  This is interesting because if humans were in treated like animals, there would have been massive culls to regulate population growth, and the weakest would die out due to starvation, but according to human ethics, every human life is important and must be given the best chance possible, despite what this means for the overall human population.

A different idea that was equally as interesting was the idea that if everyone lived like the US did we could only support a world population of 2 billion, but in order for us to live this way, others have to change their regulations. Is it fair of us to require other countries to change so that we can continue our standard of living? Probably not, especially when we are major imposers of these regulations on others but don’t necessarily follow them ourselves.

Overall, there were a lot of new ideas and new ways of thinking about issues that I really enjoyed looking at.

News-California Condors making a comeback

In Big Sur, California the California condor had become nearly extinct, with 22 wild condors in 1987.  These were captured and bred in captivity by different Los Angeles zoos.  Now, there are over 450 birds and 270 of these are in the wild, and 3 have been born in the wild.  Additionally, these have begun increasing their territory.

Current Event: Kelp Farming Can Save the World!

October 24, 2017

Researchers have discovered something new that can help lower carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere. Kelp farming, which is done mainly in Korea and other Asian countries, can be harvested in the ocean and slow climate change. China currently leads the world in Kelp Farming and it is estimated that up to billions of metric tons of CO2 can be removed if the practice continues to expand. They are also edible :).