Garbology/Current Event/Project Update

April 13, 2016

GARBOLOGY

I enjoyed Garbology more than most books in the course because I thought that it was well-balanced between statistics/data and stories. These types of books are usually organized in this way to persuade the reader by presenting often surprising statistics and emotional stories to connect the reader to the text and convince them of the topic at hand. This is not to say that these books are guilty of wrongly manipulating the reader into advocacy of an issue, but effective in getting a point across and raising awareness to the audience. Furthermore, I appreciate these types of book because they are intended to reach a general audience. Not only is a textbook dry and inaccessible to most, but the intended audience is likely already well-versed in the issue. We need books like Garbology to inform and inspire those outside of the sciences.

I also enjoyed this book for the raw content. I found about 50% of the text to be revalidating what I already knew about trash and waste management but it never felt redundant; Humes was able to present the material with a new perspective that created excitement and kept my attention. This book helped me reconnect to what I know about waste while inspiring me to become informed about waste issues that I had not previously been exposed to.

One thing kept coming to mind as I read this book and it was the idea of “personal ethic.” Recent Sagan speakers (Max and Josh) both eluded to the idea that what we do in our personal lives don’t really matter because almost all waste is created at the industry level. They argue that anything we do to minimize waste and recycle is all part of our “personal ethic” and while it is not inherently wrong, it is ineffective on the greater scale. My personal belief on the matter is that everyone should do what they can to play their part. Ignoring the problem because it isn’t effective on the scale that is necessary is not going to solve anything. For example, the book introduces the problem describing the mountains of discards. All of this came from people. If we didn’t try to limit ourselves or solve the problem (given, not many of us do), this situation would be much worse and continue to escalade. We cannot simply give in to waste management to make our “personal ethic” feel better – it really does matter!

 

(not so) CURRENT EVENT

While reading Garbology I was often reminded of a campaign from 2010-2012 called “Pick Up America.” Although this event isn’t that current, I thought it was worth discussing.

Pick Up America began with the idea that Davey Rogner and Jeff Chen (founders) would team up with 11 other “Pick-Up Artists” to travel coast to coast (Assateague Island, Maryland to San Francisco Bay) picking up litter every step of the way.

The journey took nearly three years. Volunteers picked up trash for 378 non-consecutive days during this time, walking 3,672 miles of highway and picking up 201,678 pounds of litter!

However, this trip wasn’t just about picking up litter. The founders knew that the work being done by the mission would be ineffective if nobody knew what they purpose was. The days between litter pick-up days were spent in education. The team stopped at schools and community centers to inform kids about litter and encourage them to live a waste-free lifestyle. Additionally, they would hold events for the community with music and art to encourage attendance and teach the patrons about sustainability and minimizing waste. The bus the crew was driving became an icon – at each city people would continue to paint the restored school bus that ran on waste veggie oil collected from restaurants and markets along the route.

A few years ago I was able to meet and hang out with Davey and one of the other crew members when they were just months away from reaching San Francisco. Since then, I have been inspired by this campaign and I hope that Pick Up America plans another trek someday.

Do these types of campaigns have hope? Are there others similar to it happening now?

Follow the link to find out more info and see the map that Davey and his crew followed: http://www.pickupamerica.org/

 

PROJECT UPDATE

Everything is set in place for the film screening on April 19th at 6:30 in the Benes Rooms. The panel will include Dr. Amy Downing (OWU), Dr. Thomas Wolber (OWU), and Tom Hinson from the water treatment plant. Brad Stanton, the utilities director of the water treatment plant may also join and I am still waiting for confirmation from a representative of the Ohio Sierra Club.

 


Book Notes and Current Events

April 13, 2016

It is very interesting to read about the amount of trash that society generates throughout world. One the other hand it is very depressing to see the state of our landfills.

In chapter 1, We read about the 130 million tons of garbage that is in the Puente Hills Landfill near Los Angeles. The size of the landfill could potentially have its very own ecosystem which is a crazy thing to think about. Later the author discusses how we as consumers add to the landfills with the goods that we purchase and let go to waste.

Chapter 2,

New York city, one of the largest cities in the U.S. No surprise that it is a large producer of garbage.  It is interesting to see that in history their was a need to keep New York clean due to the possible pandemic that could be caused by the lack sanitation.

Chapter 3,

Here the author points out that the some of the garbage that people throw out is not always garbage to some people. Also this came with a disturbing twist a Robert Glen was found dead mixed in with a bunch of trash. This is quite unsettling but at same time it is not surprising.

Chapter 4,

Here Humes discusses the history of landfills. We also see the idea of making garbage into a renewable energy source but has fallen short due to local not wanting to have this. With this process comes a large amount of pollution as well.

Chapter 5,

This chapter is about two projects that were designated to clean up the trash that was off shore. We hear of one lady Mary Crowley and her experiences working to clean up the pacific garbage patch.

Chapter 6,

Here we see the unintentional consequences from the use of plastics and the impact that it has had on the world. This is kinda of sad to hear about when we hear about ocean creatures dying because of our ignorance.

Chapter 7,

We the distance in which garbage travels throughout the world. In some cases garage has traveled over 200 miles.

Chapter 8,

This chapter discusses the amount of trash that was thrown away by the U.S. Army. Over 2.5 million tons of food waste.

Chapter 9,

Out of garbage we see this influence for art that is created out of garbage.

Chapter 10-12,

The last two chapters discuss how garbage has changed peoples lives. Also how Oregon is one of the greenest cities in the U.S. Then it is also stated that the rest of the U.S. should model ourselves to become more green.

Current event,

This is a little different, Online mapmakers are charting the Syrian conflict. Amateur cartographers report on the shifting battle lines to create maps that are the most up to date on the hostilities. If you would like to learn more click the link:Syria


Current Event

April 13, 2016

Solar power provides British homes and businesses with more power than coal

The Guardian, Adam Vaughan

For 24 hours over this past weekend, the sun provided more energy to Britain than coal-powered sources. Previously, this had only happened for a few hours at a time – this was the first time that it occurred for a full day.

Due to carbon taxes, coal has declined as an energy source in recent years, while solar power has grown in popularity over the same time period. This growth has been due to government subsidies and incentives, which (unfortunately) are due to be cut in the oming months – this will mean a likely evening off of the growth of solar-powered energy sources; however coal will continue to disappear as a viable source of energy and the country hopes to have completely phased it out by 2025.


Good News For Tigers!!

April 12, 2016

Tiger Numbers Show Increase for the First Time in a Century

BBC News

 

Recent studies have shown that for the first time in a century tiger numbers in the wild are increasing. Every species of tiger is endangered and at risk of becoming extinct in the near future. Few species did not make it to the 21st century, like the caspian tiger, bali tiger and the javan tiger. In 1900 there was an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild. That number decreased to 3,200 by 2010. Cambodia has declared them functionally extinct. As top predators, these animals are very important to maintain a healthy ecosystem. They are also a charismatic species, and losing them would be devastating. With all of that in mind, it is terrific news that reports have shown increasing population numbers. However, the senior vise president of conservation at WWF has warned that this increase could be due to improved data collecting. He follows up that statement by saying that regardless, the trend is moving in the right direction. Their possible increase in numbers could be due to better habitat protection and harsher laws against poaching. WWF is optimistic and hopes to double their numbers by 2022. If that goal is met, it would be an amazing feat and set a good precedent for other animals. Good news is often hard to find. Rising tiger numbers are a silver lining rarely seen in today’s climate. Tiger numbers


Current Event: “Climat-smart soils” may help balance the carbon budget

April 11, 2016

This idea of shifting our land use towards a more carbon sequestering source sounds promising, and understanding that in order to gain public support and implement policies we must gain knowledge on all of the affected systems. The natural system, habitats and animals, as well as the socio-economic system, and political systems will allow for a pooling of multidisciplinary action to come up with an effective implementation plan. The idea that we can use and manipulate our soils to sequester more carbon from the atmosphere than they are currently doing, is just one way policy makers and scientists are proposing we approach the problems we are facing with increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. In this article they mention avoiding the further degradation of native ecosystems, while restoring marginal lands to perennial forests and grasslands. While these sound good to scientist they also propose how this soil management system will be able to improve agricultural practices by tightening the nitrogen cycle in soils and providing for more fertile soils, improvements in soil fertility and crop production, as well as reducing erosion and runoff of excess fertilizers. Looking at all of the things encompassed in this article it sounds like it would be an effective strategy in not only sequestering more CO2 from the atmosphere, but also helping to eliminate some of the second and third effects of this excess CO2 in the earth’s system. Improving overall functioning of ecosystems, agricultural practices, and our human relationship to the land.

 

-Ashley Tims


Todd D’Andrea: Garbology Notes/Proj. Update/Current Event

April 11, 2016

Edward Humes: ‘Garbology’

(pg. 6) ‘The purchases that drive the markets, the products that prove the dream, all come packaged in instant trash (the boxes, wrappers, bags, ties, bottles, caps and plastic bubbles that contain products).  And what’s inside that packaging is destined to break, become obsolete, get used up or become unfashionable in a few years, months, or even days- in other words, rapidly becoming trash, too.’

I really like the wording here in the first part of this excerpt.  Humes writes, ‘the products that prove the dream’.  Capitalism, consumerism, and the pursuit of happiness go hand and hand with waste.  Waste is the byproduct of a quality of life that we as Americans attempt to attain in this country.  It is becoming more evident in the research that is being presented that the rate at which we are producing waste is becoming unsustainable.

Humes goes on to write about the ‘unfashionability’ that can quickly occur with our consumer products such as with TVs.  It is as if there is a new better TV produced every 6 months that relegates the perfectly fine TV that you had before to a status of being old and dated.

(pg. 28) ‘To put this in perspective, the very first documented trash crisis dates back 2,500 years to the ancient Greek capital of Athens, where city fathers grew alarmed by citizens’ habit of hurling their refuse out of windows and doors where it clogged alleys, streets and walkways (a common practice in ancient cities and, until relatively recently, almost every modern city).’

I have a couple things to note on this excerpt.  First, it’s fascinating to me how much of our modern day concerns were evident in a society that was living 2,500 years ago.  Something so mundane as trash removal.  It is easy to read accounts of history and forget the daily routines of people’s lives as they try to survive and make a living.  Secondly, I asked myself, how stupid were these people for simply throwing all of their waste onto the street, but even in modern times many people still do the same thing out of laziness or a lack of concern.  I doubt the general population was also aware of the many health concerns that come with such practices given the lack of scientific knowledge at this time in history.

(pg. 58) ‘The smog had grown so bad that by then that it became nearly impossible to dry clothes successfully on outdoor laundry lines without them absorbing a rain of black soot.’

Humes writes earlier in the paragraph that it took all the way up until 1957 to pass ordinances in this city to stop the use of personal incinerators.  It’s comical to me that this was simply a part of daily all the way up until the late 1950’s in many cities.  Did people just accept that their washed laundry would have black soot on it as they dressed themselves? Even more concerning is the health hazard that would become prevalent with dioxins when one would wear this clothing in breathe in these chemicals.  I don’t know how you would ever feel clean enough to be around other people and not be self-conscious of the way you smell or look.

(pg. 65) ‘A popular media journal of the day, Printers Ink, went further, suggesting the mission of marketers had to be centered on the fact that “wearing things out does not produce prosperity, but buying things does. . . Any plan that increases consumption is justifiable.”’

This quote from Printers Ink says it all to me.  The end justifies the means when it comes to capitalistic growth and our love affair with having new things at the expense of disposing items that are in perfectly good use.  As a country we cannot have the economic growth that investors desire if people are frugal with their spending and conscious of the way in which they waste perfectly good things.  This really comes down to an addiction and sickness that we have in this country and it’s starting to have mass consequences.  What ever happened to people understanding the fact that it is rewarding to be efficient and thrifty when it comes to their budgets and consumption? We as a society do not “mend” the things we have or fix the things that could be still useful by simply taking the time to repair them.

(pg. 112) ‘Researchers at University College in Dublin discovered that a single garment made of synthetic fabric can shed up to 1,900 tiny plastic fibers with each wash, and these tiny bits are flushed down the drain.’

We take for granted what is really going on when we use our washers and dryers.  Doing laundry is a chore that many of us passively do disregarding the microscopic things that are occurring, blind to the naked eye.  This struck me because when I pull the lint screen from my dryer I always can distinguish the garment based on the lint that is produced.  How much of this do we breathe into our bodies and consume through the water that we drink? There are so many aspects in our daily life that accumulate in my opinion to cause many of the cancers that so many people face as a result of our daily habits.

(pg. 137) ‘The age of plastics (and the modern derivation of the word from the ancient Greek plastikos, which means “moldable”) started with a Belgian-born American chemist, Leo Baekeland.’

wk14_Baekeland

 

Baekeland was funded by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak and the father of modern photography (Humes, 2012).  Baekeland invented a better type of photo paper and in his research stumbled upon a polymer made with other properties that could be shaped in infinite ways.  How many of the life changing things that we use daily are a result of this type of “stumbling” upon a substance that changes the course of history?  Another name that comes to mind with chemicals is the DuPont family which has changed the course of history through the research that they have conducted.

(pg. 281) ‘Every year, when Harvard’s students depart campus for the summer, they leave behind roomfuls of perfectly good couces, chairs, tables, lamps and all manner of household items, abandoned without a care.’

wk14_May

 

This is a great initiative on the part of the university.  Students throw out a lot of great things that many people in the community need and want.  And the items are quality stuff.  As a university we should take pride in the strong relationship we have with the Delaware community and the ways in which we impact it in a positive manner.  This is my first year at Ohio Wesleyan University and I am looking forward to seeing how this planned project plays out this May when all the students are heading home and leaving town.

Project Update

Our homeless initiative has been completed.  Thomas and I will be presenting our work next week.

Current Event

Researchers Are Dumpster Diving Outside the Large Hadron Collider

https://www.inverse.com/article/13781-researchers-are-dumpster-diving-outside-the-large-hadron-collider

A scientific ecosystem has sprouted up outside the grounds of the CERN in Switzerland.  Tools, devices, detectors, wires, and scrap metals are all being thrown away in the dumpsters outside the facility and many researchers are eagerly “diving in” to claim many of these useful and valuable items.  In the article the author discusses many of the researchers doing the dumpster diving are at the PHD level who recognize that disposability can have it its rewards.

wk14_CERN


Current Event- Chytridiomycosis in amphibians

April 10, 2016

Batrochochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a fungus that is decimating amphibian populations all over the world. It’s thought that the fungus was initially found on Xenopus laevis, a popular lab frog, and when it was traded worldwide the fungus was spread as well.

Bd has a life stage completely dedicated to water, subsequently, tadpoles are affected at the highest rates. The Bd doesn’t kill the tadpoles immediately, but decreases their probability of survival and uses them as a vector to spread to other amphibians: tadpoles and frogs. A group of scientists have set out to help 30 species of frogs in Honduras, 14 of which are endangered. Their plan is to collect as many individuals as possible and either treat them for Bd or raise them to adult frogs that are less susceptible to the fungus.
As far as treating the disease goes, Bd thrives in moist, cool temperatures, so they plan to “heat” the frogs up as much as the frogs can stand. Another method is to use anti-fungal treatments, but these tend to be harsh on the frog’s very thin skin.

Ultimately, the frogs need to develop strong defenses against the pathogenic fungus, or we could end up losing a majority of our amphibian populations; especially those that have a tendency for moist, cool climates. More than 200 frog populations have been negatively impacted so far. More information can be found here.

Picture of a mossy red-eyed frog One of the 30 species native to Honduras that this group plans to protect.


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