Thoughts on Environment and Society:
The following objects of concern were ones that really intrigued me, so I chose to write about them: Carbon Dioxide, Wolves, and Lawns.
When I took an environmental course about a semester or two ago (don’t remember which class it was), I recall talking about the exchange of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as we drive our vehicles to and from places with air conditioning blasting and engines running. The opening few paragraphs of this section provide a perfect example for how daily life of a commuter works, and frankly, it isn’t pretty. Little do we realize the impact we have on the environment from just driving to and from work every day, or even to and from school every day. Last week in class we talked about driving to class and why there are students who drive when walking to campus probably takes less time, and this topic from the book perfectly reflects that. Even if we think that driving from the dorms to academic side have little effect on the environment, those times we drive around – even if it be for just a mile or two of distance – begin to add up in the long run. The book also makes a statement that I think is true regarding this issue: “The CO2 that escapes from these tailpipes is entirely invisible. It rises into the atmosphere, mixes with other gases and apparently disappears. Regrettably, what is out of sight and out of mind is by no means out of action.” I’d say this is accurate for everyone that looks at cars when driving, myself included. I’ll see exhaust fumes trailing out of the tailpipe of someone’s car, but, as the statement says, it eventually seems to dissipate. At that point I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s true. I guess the moral of this object of concern is to be cognizant of the profound impacts each of our vehicles has on the environment. It’s time we make smarter decisions about driving – only drive when it’s deemed as truly necessary, not when you’re feeling lazy or tired.
Wolves of all species alike provide multiple benefits to an ecosystem. They are considered apex predators that control populations of deer, rabbits, and other organisms. Without their presence in an ecosystem, the environment kind of goes to shit. Deer and rabbits outgrow the ecosystem and rid themselves of resources. Without food to go around, these once seemingly abundant populations grow scarce until the resources replenish themselves. This never-ending cycle is a constant reminder that we need predators like wolves to keep populations of herbivores in check. This section reminded me of Aldo Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac,” specifically when he talks about the death of a wolf that he had shot and killed. After he kills the wolf, he makes this profound statement that had moved me immensely when I first read it: “In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy… When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks. We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. … I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.” After Leopold realized how stupid his logic was, he made it a goal to conserve the remaining wolf populations. While I think his actions were immoral and did not agree with his views, I was elated to see his realization that wolves are vital to the ecosystem more than he had ever known.
I liked this object very much because I think that the culture behind lawns is just so weird. I’m glad that my family doesn’t really give a crap about what our lawn looks like. It definitely isn’t overgrowing with weeds or anything of that nature, but we surely don’t spend thousands of dollars on it every summer just to maintain a pristine look. I don’t think we even run a sprinkler anymore to water it. The least we do is mow it. Granted, anything we do with our yard leaves an ecological footprint, but it isn’t as drastic as it could be. There are people across the country who pay thousands to keep their yards looking nice. Why are people like that? Even after reading the history of lawns and having a general understanding of the culture, I just don’t get it, but whatever. This whole section reminded me of a chapter from William Cronon’s “Uncommon Ground.” He has a whole section that talks about people’s yards in California and what they do to maintain them. He treats it as a symbol of American culture rather than an expression of the economy. It has grown into an instrument for maintaining both growth in contemporary urban development and for creating a responsible American citizen. It’s crazy, the things that people do just to maintain a perfect image of themselves.
Environmental news item:
Dogs are currently being trained to detect malaria in human vectors that are asymptomatic of the disease (that is, they show zero symptoms but still carry the parasite). In double-blind lab tests, two canines proved able to correctly pick out the scent of children infected with malaria parasites 70 percent of the time. They tested the dogs on students from primary schools in Gambia. The students were required to wear socks overnight and return them the next day, where the dogs would be trained to weed out the parasite-ridden socks. While all the schoolchildren appeared healthy, blood tests administered on-site discovered that 30 children were actually carrying the disease. The goal is to someday get dogs located at airports or border crossings to get them to smell asymptomatic carriers and prevent them from introducing the disease elsewhere.