Garbology, Edward Humes: Max Kerns

December 15, 2016

Garbology by Edward Humes was a very enlightening read. What I thought was most thought provoking were the ideas surrounding the underworld of garbage removal. We often do not take time to think about where our garbage goes, how it is processed, or who even deals with it. The idea that every person living in the United States creates on average about 102 tons of garbage in a lifetime was staggering. It really made me think about my own personal garbage footprint and how much waste I create.

Some of the things I liked in the book:

I really liked the grey box highlights throughout the book. Things like Bea Johnson’s list on page 285, history of the plastic bag page 217, etc.

The Nerds Vs. Nurdles chapter was very interesting. It is hard to image that only a hundred years ago there was not plastic in the oceans. Now it is hard to look anywhere in the ocean and not find some trace of plastics. The great garbage patches in the ocean are insane. One of the issues is that so many large companies use plastics now for production and transportation of goods along with use in many products. It would be nearly impossible to go through the day without using plastics in some way.

The idea about landfills being an archeological connection to the cultures and civilization of different times was fascinating. I wonder what future generation will think when they uncover some of the many landfills through the country. I would think that we are currently living in a time of mass production and waste. In my hometown of Columbus you do not have to go far to find the landfill south of the city. It amazes me how that used to be farms and plains land. Now the ever growing hill of trash is impossible to miss. It once again made me think of how much trash I have created in my lifetime and how much of it resides in that heap. I think of celebrations, diners, and general life memories that are now slowing decaying under the pressure of more trash collection. It really is mind-blowing to think of where my trash ends up.

I think my favorite chapter was 12. I like the idea of simplifying one’s life and to reduce consumption. There is something very satisfying about reusing and fixing items that we have. I know in the last few years that I have tried to downsize my need of “things”. I try not to buy as much as I once did and rarely buy new items. I have found buying clothing and good from thrift stores is not only cheaper but gives items a second life. It made me think of local artist that use waste items to create art. I love the idea of making something old new again.

Finally, the book made me take a more serious look at how much waste there is in everyday life. Especially living on a college campus where convenience tends to dictate packaging. However one of the things that really get me going is the amount of junk mail, flyers, and general paper waste that is delivered to me daily. I have currently found no method of making this stop and it aggravates me to no end.   It seems silly to me that I have to accept this form of waste and have no control over it.


Notes on Reading: Meadowlands**

December 14, 2016


I honestly found this to be a fascinating read. The way he describes the Meadowlands and its history is honestly very interesting and it seems to be a weird combination of toxic dump/failed attempts at development and the stubbornness of ‘nature’ persevering through all of it. While it isn’t traditional wilderness it really does blur the line. There is no mistaking human influence and structures but it still has a sense of wild-ness to it that refuses to submit. The way in which he approaches and explores it is something I would honestly be interested in but to be honest it seems like he went through a lot and more in depth than many others (including myself) would likely go. It is admirable and I am kinda considering visiting there if I ever get the chance as although it may not be the exact same as when he visited, it is still something I would like to see for myself and maybe even study (as a person interested in Environmental Science).

Garbage Matters Notes + CurrentEvent

November 16, 2016

By Amanda Apicella

I found the ways in which the author divided up the approaches/views towards waste in various works to be pretty interesting and a pretty accurate/effective way to distinguish between these schools of thought. We have talked a lot in this class about divisions and viewing things as “separate” from humanity/us and where those divisions lie or if they are not entirely founded in reality (aka are arbitrary to varying degrees) so considering how often it comes up this is a significant distinction when it comes to topics like this. This time though it is our relationship with waste and how it is treated. Although none are necessarily “wrong” as the author states, it does give insight into different ways people view waste and how it relates to us/our society as a whole. Considering that I don’t often hear of people referring to waste in a positive manner due to the word’s connotations, It is interesting to see how many different ways it is viewed/addressed that I never really considered before (most of the time I hear about waste it is in the “waste as hazard” way of addressing it). The waste as a resource section was particularly relevant to me as I have always been interested in recycling and the extent/effects of it. The idea of viewing recycling and waste as a resource in terms of being similar to other cycles/systems that we also see in nature was something I was aware of but never really fully thought about to be honest. When it comes to “nature” we tend to think of everything as a cycle when it comes to animal waste/leavings and even death but when it comes to our own waste/leavings we tend to fall into the “one way street” way of thinking, even if it isn’t intentional. The waste as a commodity section was something I didn’t even realize was a “thing” so to speak as it just never seems to be thought of that way by people not familiar with it. The trade and market regarding waste considered hazardous just never really came to mind and I honestly plan to look into it more as it seems to be a fascinating topic.


Current Event: Study finds limited sign of soil adaptation to climate warming

Soil is releasing 9x more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all human activities combined due to natural respiration of soil microbes/plant roots. Due to the increased temperatures of soil across all biomes, there is significantly increased respiration as well as releasing of stored carbon dioxide in previously frozen soil in the Arctic. Data regarding the effects on and of soil in relation to climate change is needed to be studied and gathered more extensively as they also need to obtain data from non/under-represented regions to include in the wider dataset. Considering the significance of their contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases we already know about, this is a serious issue that we need to look more into and potentially find a way to address it (or at least mitigate the problems it will likely cause).

Pacia Purcell: Garbology

November 16, 2016

The book mentions a few alternatives to landfills. One such alternative is burning the trash to create energy that can be used. This is already done in some places such as Sweden and Connecticut. Not only does this practice cut back on the amount of trash that ends up in landfills, but it also provides alternatives to unsustainable practices of producing energy. At the creation of one large landfill mentioned in the book, the thought of using the trash to run a power plant was proposed, however was not put into action. Landfills are cheaper options and have a higher profit margin. People in this society are money crazy, because they have to be. Here in America and many other places around the world, you won’t go far without money, but you can go far by harming the environment. The world’s drive for money is causing an environmental crisis.

A great majority of the book dealt with the topic of plastic and mentioned how one woman researched the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans and eaten by the wildlife. When plastic in the oceans is mentioned everyone thinks about those plastic rings that hold cans or bottles of pop together and how they end up wrapped around a turtle’s body or some poor penguin’s throat. However there is a lot more plastic in the water than what meets the eye. Small, unseeable particles of plastic are present throughout the water. These can come from many sources, but many are washed down the shower drain and come from your favorite hygiene products. Many soaps, shampoos, and face washes contain plastics that are unknowingly washed down the drain when you rinse off. Who knew that trying to be cleanly could be so bad for the environment? Some of these plastics are discarded into the ocean, where they are eaten unknowingly by fish, which can not only cause problems for the fish, but those who eat the fish also.

Humans rely heavily on plastic. Looking around my room I can’t help but notice all the things that are made of plastic and the things that probably contain plastic, but you just can’t be sure. Plastic is cheaper to produce than alternative materials in many situations. However, humans still overuse plastic for things that really need not exist. Many candies contain plastic parts from which you eat the candy off of. There are many little, cheap, plastic toys that are bought one day and thrown away the next. Many cheap plastic things are not made with the thought of do people need this, but rather do people want this? This makes people sound greedy and in truth they are. Why else would products that harm the environment be produced if humans did not necessarily need them? From human greed for more money and human greed for more material things. Plastic is a huge part of the composition of our landfills, and a lot of plastic that is produced could not be and humans would be just fine.

Pacia Purcell: Placing Animals

November 9, 2016

This book dealt with the interactions and relationships between humans and animals. One of these interactions deals with horses and their interactions in all ways dealing with humans. As an avid horse-lover and rider I feel as if I must weigh in on this issue and how I personally interact with them.

For years throughout my childhood, I rode and showed horses. I still continue to ride today, however not to the seriousness that I once did. I cringe slightly to think back on how how much money was spent on and for horses. This was talked about in the book. The horse economy is insane. People watch shows like Dance Moms and Toddlers and Tiaras and think wow those moms are crazy. That’s like going to a horse show. Except instead of one child the parents have two, their child and the horse. People spend crazy amounts of money on getting perfectly trained that come from amazing bloodlines and are trained to perform in ways that horses don’t naturally move. People spend thousands of dollars on an outfit to show in. After spending all this money on horses and their child, parents go crazy if their child doesn’t win or at least place. Horses are dressed up, shaved, banded and braided, shot up with drugs, and paraded around. Horse shows are crazy.

Upon looking at my relationship with horses I feel a bit like a hypocrite. I am a vegetarian for the reasons of how animals are treated. Yet, at least once a week I put on my leather boots and gloves made from the skin of cows. I put my leather saddle (I’ve owned probably close to 15 over the years) on my horse and and bridle him with my leather bridle. Occasionally if my horse is acting up, I strap on my spurs with leather straps. Sometimes I feel bad about all the leather that I own, but I also think to myself, what else would I use. All of these materials are made with synthetic material, but if you showed up at a show with these materials you would definitely not win a thing. I have owned synthetic boots before and honestly they sucked. They fell apart within a year. Yet they were cheaper and not made of animal products.

Additionally, the book talks about the morals in riding and using horses the way that humans do, especially in racing. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself and my own horse. My horse is a thoroughbred, the breed usually used for horses who race. He was bred to be a racehorse, but his times during training were too slow. He is now used as a hunter jumper horse. He is crazy and loves to throw fits, however despite this I know that he enjoys what he does. He loves to jump. When riding him you can tell. I can’t explain it, but I can feel it. Additionally he loves to run. He runs for fun. When he needs to burn off some steam, he runs. When he is unsure of what to do he runs and he runs fast. As a horse bred to run, he loves it. I believe that race horses love to run and probably enjoy racing.

The book also brings up bestiality, with some people being known to believe that animals can consent to sexual acts with humans, which is absurd. Sexual consent means saying yes to sexual acts. The vast majority of animals cannot speak and so therefore cannot consent. The book also brings up the topic of why consent would matter here, but not in our other relationships of animals, such as eating them. I’m sure if we were able to reason with animals and asked them if they were okay with humans killing them to eat them, they would definitely say no. So even if they do “want it” and are able to consent why would that matter. We take everything else from animals why should sex be any different.

A whole chapter was devoted to farming and animal agriculture. Once again, the concept that some animals are treated like gods while others are viewed as property was brought up. Additionally religions that don’t eat meat were brought up and their biased towards certain animals that they literally view as gods and worship. One specific instance of this bias was brought up with tigers. When a restaurant in Texas tried to sell tiger, there was an uproar. However, in some Asian countries tigers are bred and sold for consumption. What you eat is dependent upon the culture that you live in, however one thing doesn’t change, some animals are treated as objects, while others are treated like family.

Environment and Society: Max Kerns

November 3, 2016


Environment and Society is an excellent source and should be used as a text for anyone that would like to know more about the interactions between humans and the environment. The Authors view the main issue with all environmental problems to be in concerns of the total human population.

Chapter 2:

Zero population growth, I was particularly interested in the model that global population is likely to reach stability in the next 50 years.

Also that National Fertility rates and literacy rates seem to go hand in hand.

I = P*A*T and the idea that different people have different ecological footprints.

Chapter 3:

Environmental scarcity drives markets, innovations, and new products.

Incentives to but more environmental products, though education about products truly meeting these guidelines are important. Green Business is and can be an opportunity for profit.

This made me wonder about ideas behind things like the energy saving light bulb.  How do government subsidies and politics play into these models?

Chapter 4:

Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the idea that individuals often do not make the best overall choice for the greater group. I wondered how this played into basic statistics.

Tragedy of the Commons: basic to all environmental discussions. Generally this is when a group shares a resource that many act out of personal interest that can hurt the group as a whole. Though once confronted with this, the group can learn to cooperate for the better good.

Chapter 5:

This is a bit of review from a lot of the reading we have done thus far. Basically deals with ethics when dealing with the natural realm. Though this brings up ideas of whether an eco-centric of anthropocentric system is more ideal.

Chapter 6:

This chapter mainly deals with risk and understanding problems or hazards with the human population, though also understanding that this is perspective based, and meaning that the individual assessment might not always be viewed in a logic or coherent state.

I found this particularly interesting when looking at the places that vast amounts of people live in the United States, particularly when looking at coastal areas or high risk areas. I recently did a report on the Sierra Nevada fault systems, and the amount of people in the shakedown area of California is intense.

More later.




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.