Featured

Matters of the world

This is the post excerpt.

Advertisements

This is just a simple blog discussing matters of the environment and our effect on it.

post

Environmental science (Matters of the world)

Blog #3

 

Living Downstream: An Ecologist looks at Cancer and the Environment

 

Written by Sandra Steingraber this article discusses her family’s history with cancer and why she continues to research it. Sandra talks about her close family’s bouts with cancer including herself and her mom. After reading an article in the paper about the discovery of the DNA strand that turned normal cells of mice into cancerous ones similarly to ones that caused her bladder cancer, Sandra wanted to know why these cells weren’t repaired normally, but more importantly what could have caused this cancerous growth. This is the part of the article where it becomes less about her backstory and puts more focus on her research including the effects of carcinogens on people, how aromatic amines can affect people differently and how polluting our environment can increase our risk of getting cancer. Unfortunately it’s hard to gauge the effects of carcinogens on people. While tests on mice will yield some results it is not an absolute when compared to humans. Additionally when it comes to testing on mice their environment is usually relatively consistent, however for humans we all live differently and were born differently. Carcinogens will have varying effects from person to person and it’s hard to measure that variance.

 

Our Stolen Future

 

Written by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers, this article discusses how our polluting of the environment is ruining the future of humanity. But this one is a little different normally while they could talk about the degradation and collapse of our ecosystem Colborn, Dumanoski and Myers discuss another part of our future that’s being ruined, that being the future generation of humanity. This ruination is brought on by endocrine disruption, a process where foreign chemical like Diethylstilbestrol (a synthetic hormone drug) enter the body and mess with the hormones of people and animals. This disruption shows effects in children and pregnant women leading to many birth and growth abnormalities. The problem is there aren’t many reports on this issue because “Few disease registries exist for anything except cancer”. And while cancer is a big deal in terms of illnesses it’s not the only one we should be focusing on, otherwise humanity could get blindsided by another disease that had been around but was never properly studied.

 

Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services

 

Written by Boris Worm this article shares the research he and his colleague conducted on global fisheries and marine ecosystems to measure humanities impact on its diversity. They found that “rates of resource collapse increased and recovery potential, stability and water quality decreased exponentially with declining diversity.” They conclude that the “marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations. These changes in marine biodiversity Boris believes, were caused “directly by exploitation, pollution and habitat destruction, or indirectly through climate change and related perturbations of ocean chemistry”. Boris shares his team’s experimental process and how increase diversity in both costal and large marine ecosystems further enrich that specific ecosystem. And we need that diversity in ecosystems with commercial fisheries on the decline. Due to overfishing techniques many species aren’t being given enough time to recover. Additionally with the overfishing of the bigger predatory fish this is causing imbalances in the system. Also with the pollution that is either directly dumped into the water or makes it in through run-off it further decreases the quality of life for marine species.

 

 

Activity

 

With the conclusion of this environmental sciences class I wish to tidy up my local area. I plan to keep a bag on me while traveling by foot and bicycle so that if I happen to find any garbage or recycling I can dispose of it accordingly. This has been an idea that I’ve considered for a while but I’ve never had the drive to put it into action. I hope to clean up as much as I can so that I don’t have to see litter everywhere and feel depressed about not doing anything.

 

Reflection

 

What do I like and dislike about my food system?

 

I like the convenience of the supermarket, but sometimes the origins of those products can be questionable. I like the taste of many snack items, but the list of “ingredients” (chemicals with incredibly complex names) and the nutritional table tell me how bad it is for me. I like using the local farmers market to get fresh baked goods and produce, but they are only open seasonally so I’m out of luck for the winter.

 

What am I doing to promote sustainability and happiness in my life? What would I like to do?

 

I pledge to use energy efficient appliances wherever I may live. I will try to live in an area close to my daily destinations to reduce the amount of travel by vehicle. I will use cold water to wash my clothes to save energy. I will try to buy local whenever possible. And I will try to reduce my electricity use and find alternative activities that aren’t related to technology.

Environmental science (Matters of the world)

Blog #2

 

A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030

Written by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi this article discuss how we has a species could move down a path of sustainable energy within 20-30 years. They breakdown the uses of various renewable sources that are interconnected and how we could use multiple types in tandem to pick up where the others fail. For example collecting solar energy in areas prone to high amounts of sunshine. But most of the time these sun-soaked areas usually have gentle winds meaning that wind energy would be minimal. But whenever there is a storm, the wind turbines could compensate the energy not gained from the solar panels. Jacobson and Delucchi proceed to explain away any problems that could be had with wind, water and solar energy as alternative methods by going over the supply of power they could provide, the cost of production and strategies to implement these new systems. The problem here is trying to get those systems going. Many societies have invested plenty of money and man-hours into crafting the current energy system with the reliance on oil and fossil fuels. The problem is that if there is a change in systems those people who set up the initial systems my not see a return in their deposits. If wind, water and solar out perform oil then many countries and people who gained fortunes from oil would be hard pressed to find an alternative economic source. Not making this a personal attack but now those oil barons feel threatened by the newer cheaper energy source and would like to see it either slowed down or stopped so that they can continue to profit from oil. And since they already have an absurd amount of money from their oil businesses it would be easy for them to influence those who could stunt the growth of alternative fuel sources.

 

Women’s Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation

Written by Vandana Shiva this article discusses how women have a greater sense for diversity when it comes to humans and nature. Shiva discusses the keen instincts of women in various field including the dairy industry, forestry and agriculture. While most of her specific examples are based in and around India she gives enough examples to further emphasis her point. I will have to disagree with her on one aspect though. Over the course of the article she kept bringing up corporations and their use of uniformity and sometimes it seems like she is trying to portray them as a more male-centric viewpoint. While on the other hand she portrays these women from third world countries as the suppressed invisible workers who are true master of diversity. While I can’t deny that suppression and low recognition is something that society has yet to work out, I was not a fan of how this article made it seems like women are the sole keepers of diversity and have a natural sense of it. One can’t really say if there is a distinction between how men view nature and how women view nature because there is a natural bias towards your specific gender. But more importantly you can’t say for sure what the other gender can do because you aren’t that gender. Similarly how I can’t deny her points towards what woman know, Shiva can’t fully understand what men know, because I’m not a woman, and she’s not a man.

 

Activity

It is fairly easy to go a day without having to use a car. I’m lucky enough that a majority of things that I need are within biking or walking distance. But that’s the easy part trying to pin down how much fossil fuels are used within every other part of my life is difficult. Natural gas heats my house so that is one aspect. When considering food though the use of fossil fuels can go deep. I could not use fossil fuels by biking to the supermarket but then I would have to consider that the items I am purchasing could have travelled great distances to get here so that is fossil fuel consumption. Then it can branch off even further if I consider if any vehicles were used on the farm, which could also take fossil fuels. Needless to say the use of fossil fuels goes deep if you think about it hard enough.

 

Questions

Should Tar Sands production continue? If so – How? Can it be regulated?

Looking at the environmental and health risks keeping the Tar Sands around seems grossly ineffective. Additionally with the amount of effort and resources that go into removing the oil from the sands only to get about a 60% recovery rate just seems like a waste.

 

Is it worth developing (either rail or pipeline) ways to transport oil and bitumen?

Developing for the transport of oil and bitumen seems like a short-term answer. There will come a time when humans hit peak oil globally and unless railways or pipelines can assist in the transportation of fuel/energy after the oil runs out then it’s not really worth developing.

Environmental science (Matters of the world)

Blog assignment #1

 

How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

This article written by Jared Diamond discusses the factors to the collapse of ancient civilizations and how we could be fall prey to these it factors if we as a society do nothing. There are 8 factors that Jared believes were the main cause of collapse for ancient societies. Them being:

  1. Deforestation and destruction of habitat
  2. Soil erosion (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
  3. Water management problems
  4. Overhunting
  5. Overfishing
  6. Effects of introduced species on native species
  7. Human population growth
  8. Increased per-capita impact of people

With more modern societies Jared adds that in addition to the 8 previous problems there are 4 new ones

  1. Human-caused climate change
  2. Buildup of toxic chemicals in the environment
  3. Energy shortages
  4. Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity

Jared believes that not managing these problems could lead to a societies ecological suicide-ecocide.

However the main point Jared wishes to bring up is this. Despite how damaged the environment might be it is never the sole cause for a societies collapse. There could be a myriad of other factors like hostile nations, trade partners, and not adjusting to the climate. That is to say even if a society does damage their environment they aren’t doomed to collapse. It is only through inaction would there be cause for concern. That is why article is about how a society chooses whether it succeeds or fails. If we as a populace refuse to make any changes to our way of life then yes, we are doomed to fail.

 

Tragedy of Commons

Written by Garrett Hardin the Tragedy of Commons is an article discussing the titular Tragedy of Commons. The Tragedy of Commons itself is where people will overuse a shared limited resource for their own personal gain. When given the opportunity to use a resource to ones advantage, it make logical sense that if some of the resource yields some profit, then more resources will yield even more profits. “The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is part suffers.” This similar principle applies to human waste. But it’s not about what is removed but what –sewage, chemicals, radioactive material, etc. – is added. One problem to this overuse of resources could be the overpopulation of humans. With more people around it is necessary for more resources to go out to sustain their existence. When it comes to families with many children, then each one needs to be provided for. In this case the parents wishing for more children shall use more resources than another family who have either 1 child or none at all. This is the Tragedy of Commons.

 

A Sand Country Almanac

Written by Aldo Leopold discusses what is means to provide ethical treatment to a piece of land. Aldo brings up the fact that “ethics” has a different meaning when applied ecologically and philosophically. “Ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. An Ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct.” With this in mind it would make sense, philosophically, for someone to use their land, their property, as they see fit. But how that person deals with the other inhabitants (plants and animals) on his land could lead to unethical (ecologically) treatment of the land. As Aldo puts it “Ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. As such we should be “thinking like a mountain” where everything is interconnected and no one part works independently of the rest. Like how the mountain grows vegetation for deer, put to prevent the total desolation of it’s vegetation the mountain provides homes for wolves so that they can control the deer population as it is easier to replace a deer there a devastated field.

 

Activity

As I have the ability to bike the school and now that the winter season has finally past I have decided to bike to these summer courses as a means of exercise and avoiding emissions created by vehicles. After the particular day of classes had ended I decided to use this opportunity to spend some time cycling through Kings Park located not that far away from the University of Manitoba. As I hadn’t visited the park since the fall it was a welcome return. As this was late morning, just before lunchtime, this was an opportunity to silently go through this park and just intake the sounds of the park. Birds calling from various clusters of trees, leaves crackling under my bike tire and the soothing sounds of the highway traffic just across the river… Needless to say that even with this park seeming to be a little caged in pocket of nature whose perimeter is surround by trees the nearby perimeter highway could still be heard pretty clear despite the distance. That isn’t to say there wasn’t any man-made noise in the park itself as there is a maintenance lodge at the entrance of the park for those who helped trim some of the vegetation in the commonly visited areas of the park. Continuing on my trip near the back half of the park I come across an opening in the grove of trees down to the river. As it was a shallow slope I decided to descend to the riverside to have a look around. To my surprise I find myself standing on top very dry and cracked mud. Solid enough for me to stand on easily but it seemed very arid despite being right next to the river. Further along the paved path I discover an “off-road” path heading the opposite direction of where I just came from. Curious I decide to pursue this alternate path as it took me deeper into the more wild part of the grove. I follow this off-road path for a while until managing to encounter a squirrel who obviously wasn’t expecting any visitors on this path as it was leisurely walking until I showed up. Upon encountering a massive tree trunk on the path I return to the regular route. Nearing the end of the loop around the park I encounter another pathway to the riverside, but unlike the first one this one had an orange plastic barrier put up to deter people since the drop is much steeper. And as plastic orange barriers are well known for their stopping abilities I find a path to the riverside. Looking back on the steep wall of dirt I notice tunnels of the small creatures that have been through that area, but more importantly how the roots of the trees are doing their best to hold together this obviously eroding ledge. Returning to my bike once again I finish the trek around King’s Park with the final stop being two marked trees that contain bee colonies and advising me to “bee careful”. So concludes my visit to King’s Park.

 

Additional questions

 

What promotes the connection and disconnection of humans from nature and how can the disconnection be dangerous?

It’s pretty easy for people to connect with nature all they have to do is just interact with it. The problem is when we return to society and technology as the nature that should be in the foreground of our minds is merely being used as background decoration crafted to beautify our cities and towns. The disconnect from nature can lead to very lazy approach to nature and people not caring about their environment as long as their personally satisfied. I could example is how easy it is for people in cities to litter despite how easy it must be to dispose of their garbage appropriately, but they just couldn’t be bothered to do so.

 

Where do your environmental ethics lie?

I would like to say I have an ecocentric view of the environment and I’m doing what I can for now. But, that unfortunately is not enough, I still have many anthropocentric habits I have yet to break and could really being doing more for at least my immediate environment.

 

Can parks meet its dual mandate of access and protection? How can it be achieved in Wapusk?

Maintaining the integrity of nature should be a national parks number one priority, but allowing people to visit and observe the protected nature could give people a greater sense of scale when it comes to their impact on the environment. For Wapusk national park there isn’t really a surefire strategy for it other then allowing for safe trails through the more ancient parts of the park. Then people will come to better appreciate the history of the land.

 

What role, if any, should zoos play in conservation/education? Is it ethical to keep animals in zoos?

Zoos are absolutely a wonderful way for people to learn about the various animals of the world. When it comes to things like conservation it would make the most sense for us to try and prevent a species from going extinct if we were the instigators to their population decline. But to keep animals inside the specific domains is not the approach we should be taking. Instead it should be like the wildlife preserves and safaris where the animals are allowed to run free and the people are caged on the back of a touring vehicle. Additionally having animals far outside their appropriate climate is also a poor decision that wastes resources as people – for example- try to cool off a polar bear in a florida zoo