Environment and Society Pt. 2

March 28, 2017

The Puzzle of carbon dioxide- thought this was very interesting, they said that the history of civilization is also a history of gases, molecules and elements. When you think of the history of mankind the thought of carbon and other gases isn’t what comes to mind. Yet this is something that is strongly connected to our society. Humans and non-humans influence each other in complex ways. Carbon is vital to our survival because it’s vital to plants, never do we sit and think about this. It’s so small scale its overlooked.

The cap and trade system is an economic policy tool that has been used to limit emissions of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (a cause of acid rain) in the past. A cap and trade system places a maximum limit on the amount of a pollutant that can be produced in an area. Each local company has the right to emit a certain percentage of that total, but no more. If a company emits less than its share, it can sell the remainder to other companies that are emitting more than their limit, to offset their emissions. In this way, even though there is still some pollution, it is kept in check, and there are incentives for companies to reduce their emissions so that they can sell their remaining emission rights.

On the topic of global warming you have places like the “global north” refers to countries in the northern hemisphere, which are currently the centers of global wealth (United States, European countries, and so on). The “global south” refers to countries in the southern hemisphere, which as a group are much less wealthy and less developed. Part of the reason why the global south cannot expand is because the global north creates all these green house gases which end up affecting areas like Bangladesh who emit very low levels of green house gases.

Current Event

Researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute are developing a method to use the vascular network in spinach leaves to deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to grow human tissue.

 

 


Wolves and Commodities

March 28, 2017

Environment and Society part dos

Current Event:

https://www.thedodo.com/bear-wolf-alaska-hunting-sjres18-2324704518.html

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People want to kill hibernating bears. I know this doesn’t have a direct contact to the environment, but it is one of those news stories that makes you question the human race. Also this story is similar to the wolf chapter. These hunting tactics are barbaric, cruel, and most notably, cowardly. It reminds me a lot of the story by Ernest Hemmingway, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. A man and his wife go on a safari hunt because Francis was unable to shoot a lion on a previous trip and his wife remarks on his lack of courage. On the most recent trip in this story, he kills a Buffalo right before it charges him, but his wife “accidently” shoots Francis in the head and kills him immediately following the charge. In my opinion, this story has many interpretations, but to me, it reflects the little courage it actually takes to kill a lion, because in the wild, lions sleep a lot and hunt when they are hungry, because in wild environments, they do not have predators. So, when people kill lions, it is cruel for one, but also takes zero effort because the lion is not expecting it. Just like the bear in hibernation, you are taking an aspect of a bear’s natural cycle of life that is extremely venerable  and exploiting it, much like shooting a lion in its natural habitat. The cruelty of this world sometimes amazes me and surprises. I might be naïve, but this legislation getting passed surprised me a lot, because I thought more humans would be concerned about the animal’s well-being rather than the hunter. But, that is obviously not the consensus.

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“Adam Ruins Everything”: Electric Cars Aren’t As Green As You Think

The Carbon Dioxide Chapter especially the remarks on the rise of industrial production that a created a directly related rise in carbon-depend economy and society reminded me of the college humor video located above featured on the Trot show, “Adam Ruins Everything”. This video basically pokes fun at “green freaks” who feel they are doing their part by buying “green” products such electric cars, recycled paper plates, and other “green” products. However, part of the greenhouse epidemic is consuming such products. The main concern in the video was buying a new car that is completely gas free while still owning a functioning car. It is worse to buy a new car than use what you have. Part of this problem to the greenhouse gas problem is rooted in our capitalist and carbon crazed society. Companies and their products exploit this desire to help the planet buy selling “green” products. However, the best thing to do in that situation, is to not buy more things. It is not an individual’s fault for the greenhouse gas emissions. Companies make it seem that it only takes an individual to make a difference, but really it takes large corporations that you are buying those recycled plates from to make a change and individuals can make that change to happen.

 

The Wolf chapter very much reminds me of my current event about shooting bears while they hibernate. The end of the chapter talks about the social construction of the wolf vs masculinity.  Similarly to the hibernating bears, humans (hunters) are using inhumane and cruel hunting tactics to kill wolfs. And for what end game? Not always to eat, but a bigger agenda was at play. There is a tie between the social constructions we put on society that is also placed on our view of wolves. For many centuries, masculinity was embodied through a gentleman hunter that is righteous, lives in solitary, and is merciful to the hellish and savage wolf.  The view of wolves is a social construction and “For centuries, negative construction of wolves fueled an extreme hatred toward hem and this hated was manifest in a terrible slaughter that went nearly unquestioned by society as a whole.” Now, we have view wolves as a more wild and preservable creature. This change is inspired by our understanding of nature as a social construction. In this case the societal images of nature is conserved and preserved.. Enter the wolf. There is less slaughter of them today, but it seems that other species have take their place. Enter the bear. Is masculinity so fragile that it needs to be validated through the slaughter of something vulnerable? It seems that the shooting of bears while hibernating reflects the fear some men feel that their masculinity is being muddled by change in a more gender-fluid and accepting social climate. It is less about the view of the bear in society than it is about the view of masculinity or the lack of a view of masculinity in society in modern times.

 

Water has become a privatized commodity. It is ridiculous. Not only has plastic use and production increased significantly from he 1930s. All drinks are in one time use plastic bottles. Not just water. Therefore, increasing the waste due to plastic’s specificity and inability to be recycled easily in most areas. So, not only does water increase the space of our landfills, it represents wealth. Or in more general terms, it represents choice. There is a choice to buy water or just use the tap. I have learned that if you see something as a health benefit or scare people with germs, the product will do increasingly well. Water is one of those commodities. Where tap is not contaminated and bottled is fresher and cleaner. Which might be true, but not in a major impactful way to one’s health. People who live in the Global North generally have more of a choice between what kind of water they want while others are less affluent to make this choice. It is strange to me that something like water, a basic and rational choice to have in one’s life that we have to choose where it comes from when water is so easily accessible through tap water or wells. Water itself is a scarce resource, but I mean it seems weird that we bottle it. I rarely use bottled water and when I do it is a foreign in concept and I feel shameful. But that is beside the point. Water has become a commodity like everything else and it makes me upset.


Environment and Society & Current Event

March 28, 2017

CURRENT EVENT

My current event this week is about an experiment involving growing new human tissue on plant cells.  It has been a challenge to try and find a vascular system that can deliver blood to regenerative tissue.  To solve this problem, researchers stripped a spinach leaf of its plant cells and then pumped a fluid meant to imitate human blood through the plants vascular tissue.  This method has also worked with other plant species, but researchers think that the spinach will be best for cardiac tissue and even cultured a beating human heart on one leaf.

ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY PT 2.

The second half of this book dealt with issues like lawns, bottled water, tree rights, and french fries.  The section about lawns reminded me a lot of what we read in part 2 of Nature.  Nature described how important lawns were to Europeans in the Renaissance period and Environment and Society described how important they are to Americans.  I’ve always thought it was really weird to make some grass outside your house a point of pride.  It’s just grass.  It’s not even interesting to look at.  I feel like the upkeep of the house is way more important that the upkeep of a lawn considering you actually live in the house.

The bottled water and french fry sections are sort of similar to me.  They both explain how humans make terrible choices daily when there is something better they could choose right in front of them.  Not only that, but they are pressured into making those bad choices because it is marketed to them like a good choice.  It is really hard to know what to do when the media is telling you something is good and then 5 years later you find out it’s the worst thing ever.  Even worse is that even when we do find out, people still believe the media.  I think the fact that McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of potatoes says something about America.  American simply don’t care.  They don’t really have to, so they simply don’t.  That really sucks.

I thought the part about giving trees rights was pretty interesting.  I know we talked about it before in class, but we never really made a decision.  It is a hard decision to try and make.  I initially thought that trees didn’t necessarily deserve rights (besides making sure we have enough of them) because they don’t have feelings.  But then again, how could I possibly know that?  There could be a study 5 years from now showing that they do.  I also recently learned that plant produce heat and need to be warm enough to stay alive.  This seems obvious in retrospect, but it really gave trees a more human quality to me than they had before.  I think it would be good to extend rights to trees considering we need them for oxygen and they don’t grow that fast.  Honestly, what would we do without them?


Seattle Sewage Spill

March 28, 2017

After equipment failures exacerbated by rain storms, millions of gallons of raw sewage and untreated runoff have flooded into Puget Sound (the United States’ second-largest estuary) from Washington state’s largest sewage treatment plant. Overall, about 30 million gallons of raw sewage have been dumped into Puget Sound over the course of three breakdowns at the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle. Since the spill, the waste has not undergone a secondary treatment that uses organisms to clean the waste, which is in violation of federal clean-water laws. It is estimated that it will cost $25 dollars to repair the damages so that the plant can run by the end of April.

Seattle Sewage Spill

Here is a picture of the sewage pump room at the West Point Treatment Plant.

This spill could have detrimental effects on marine life and public health due to the released chemicals and bacteria, but the spill is currently being sent through deep-water pipes, and Kimberle Stark of the marine monitoring program does not think the spill will lead to widespread damage of wildlife. Council members are investigating the causes of the equipment failure, and county officials have been testing for fecal bacteria and dissolved nutrients every week since the spill. All results have so far been normal.

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Self Appeasement and Nature

March 21, 2017

Self appeasement is misjudged as lazy, unproductive, and a waste of time in today’s materialistic, capitalist-driven, and ultra productive society. The basis of this book is the notion that one’s leisure time is an essential cost to one’s busy life. Unfortunately leisure time is also essential to being happy and self fulfilled. This book reminds people of the benefits of taking time to reflect, to meditate, and to appreciate one’s surroundings. I often caught myself nodding my head in agreement with reading this book. This book reminded me of my recent trip to New York City over spring break. I felt like every person had their own private mission, driven by a sort of tunnel vision. There was not time for leisure or socializing in the eyes of a New Yorker. It felt like many New Yorkers could learn from the perspective of this book. I do not think a productive life is more valuable than an unproductive one, in terms of one’s professional contribution to society. I do think many people develop an unbalance in their lives between taking time for themselves and not wasting time. For example, in my life, I am a firm believer that sleep trumps studying if it’s past midnight in most circumstances. But, I seem to be in the minority especially in college. I hear conversations in which college student are comparing their sleep cycles (or lack of sleep), like it’s a good thing to get less sleep. It is understandable that college is a tough and time-consuming sector of our lives, but I think more people would feel happier and feel more rewarded if their lives weren’t being compared to others’ lives so much. I think this book would agree in the sense that more of life should be savored than rushed.  Productivity should be checked against one’s level of exhaustion. We are constantly pressured to see how far we can reach before breaking. I think a majority of us are closer to that breaking point than is healthy. Being overcommitted isn’t necessarily the most healthy habit even if it’s viewed as a sign of productivity. I think what is worse than pressuring oneself are the external comparisons and negative social stigma that one’s productivity or idleness level receive.

With all that said, I think some social stigmas have turned around since 2005 when this book was published. I think there is a growing concern over the over-prescribed antidepressants this country’s citizens consume and a growing push to develop alternative methods to cope with the overcommitted lifestyle. There is still a negative social stigma toward taking time for oneself, but it is getting better. Not only does savoring one’s lunch, taking a long stroll, or meditating slow down one’s busy life, it improves one’s mental health. Mental health is something that this book doesn’t really bring up, but I think it could go hand in hand with the message of this book. Mental health is crucial to executive function in the workplace and elsewhere and should be a top priority for the individual and for society as a whole. Beginning in childhood there is a pressure from relatives and strangers alike to look and act the best, but we are not taught to care for our mental well-being along the way. This book brings up many ways to remedy the stresses of modern life without explicitly stating their benefits for mental health. Savoring time for tea, fishing, and taking naps heal the spirit and the mind. All these acts reflect on the major theme of this book which is finding ways to “just be”.

 

Current Event:

http://asset-manager.bbcchannels.com/workspace/uploads/bbcw-real-happiness-white-paper-final-v2-58ac1df7.pdf

Instead of a recent news story, I found a somewhat recently conducted study that found watching Planet Earth makes you happier. I thought this article relates to this book because of the major themes of happiness and self appeasement. What is better than finding those things than through nature (even if it is through a screen).


Environment and Society

March 8, 2017

 

This book covers a lot of different topics and devotes a relatively good amount of words to each, which I really like. The hardest part to remember is that each topic could have an entire book of its own, so it’s important to recognize that there are still concepts and facts that we haven’t learned. However, as for the basics, I think it did a good job of touching on the relevant subjects. Initially, the material is basic and geared toward our global society, treating humans as one big population, but then it begins to categorize and differentiate populations. The book does a good job of incorporating examples from other countries and provoking the reader to consider other cultures beside their own by illustrating how values/morals/norms differ among them. It reminds readers that when considering environmental problems there is not a ‘one shoe fits all’ solution and we must be innovative and empathetic to others.


 

New Priority for Ocean Resorts: Restoring Reefs

Outrigger’s Ozone, a collaboration between a handful of resorts and local dive teams, is an initiative whose program is designed to rebuild and regrow damaged coral reefs off the resorts property islands. Outrigger’s Ozone works to undo the reef damage caused by large structures on the beach, climate change, land-based pollution, and the impact of fishing.

The coral restoration process is similar across all resorts: broken but still-living coral fragments are attached to a frame, either metal or concrete, and the whole system is secured underwater. It’s a slow process (coral takes about 10 years to fully grow) but with care and protection, the reef regenerates itself on the frames. One of the resorts, the Andaman, has Asia’s first inland coral nursery, allowing guests and staff members to start the regeneration process in a safe place and then transplant it to the ocean. Furthermore, all the frames are designed to become carbon-negative within a few years to reduce the properties carbon footprint.

To date, across all the resorts, more than 321 coral frames have been transplanted into the reef. The Outrigger team alone has already planted about 21,450 square feet of new coral and at the Andaman, 200 baby corals from the nursery have made it into the ocean. One hundred more are still growing and nearly ready to transplant.

Click here to learn more!


Environment and Society (pt.1)

March 8, 2017

I really enjoyed this book because it brought up a lot of ideas that I’ve thought about a lot as well as some others that I haven’t but definitely interest me.  This book didn’t offer a lot of opinions, which is fine because it gives you the facts, the history, and the options so that you can make your own opinion.

One of the points that he talked about that I’ve thought about a lot is the carrying capacity of humans on Earth.(pg. 15)  It’s a complicated question and I liked that they included multiple different explanations for why the population has changed and is changing the way it is.

One of the points that they made that I hadn’t really thought about is the relation between hybrid cars and gas prices.  Economics isn’t my strong point so I tend to put those points off to the side.  However, it was interesting they way they explained how an increase number of hybrid cars could actually increase the total amount of gas used.  I guess this effect is inevitable until hybrid cars are more universal? People wouldn’t start driving so much more that that couldn’t have a negative affect on the use of gas.

The other thing that he talked about that interested me was the different takes on hunting (pg. 76)  I feel like I fall in the middle of the two sides he talked about.  I don’t like hunting, but I understand the necessity of it.  However, in the case of the white tail deer, I think it would help to remember that they are overpopulated because humans over hunted their predators.  So we have to hunt because we hunt in the first place. A more controversial example is the goats and tortoises on the Galapagos Islands, where the invasive species of the goats are outcompeting the native tortoises.  The solution is to kill the goat herds en mass and I’m curious what other people think about it because I know I still feel uncomfortable with the idea, but completely understand the necessity.

Current Event

30,000 acres of forest was burned by a wildfire in Peru and then flooded by heavy rainfall soon after.  Local conservation groups are working on rebuilding , specifically the Spectacled Bear Conservation who saved over a hundred bears from the natural disasters while trying to keep their headquarters from flooding.