End of the Semester Wrap Up

April 22nd, 2011

Well, Enviro Science.  You’ve been fun.

Because of this class, I decided to add Environmental Sustainability as my minor, since I’m already staying an extra year (I’ll be a super senior in the fall) for my second major.  Being the overachiever that I am, I thought, hey, why not!?  Well, I’m glad that I did.  For years I have been recycling, re-using, buying clothes second hand.  I don’t like the fact that each person can have such a strong impact on the world, and that that impact isn’t necessarily a good thing.

I’ve grown up not only doing these things, but with the thought that I want to leave my mark on the world.  School teachers have been telling me since I was little to strive for what you want, reach for the stars, leave behind a history.  Although I have many leadership roles on campus now, and throughout my life, I’ve never really thought that I could make such a huge difference.  This class taught me that I don’t have to go above and beyond to help out.  Just recycling, walking or riding a bike can have such a change.  Encouraging others to do the same (well, I yell at friends that don’t recycle) can have an even larger impact.

This class has taught me so much more than just about the different case studies and major problems.  This class has taught me that I don’t need to make a name for myself.  I just need to do whats best for the world I live on.

Thank you Dr. S.  It’s been awesome.

Climate Change… boo!!!!!

April 22nd, 2011

Yea, well, Climate Change.  Seems to be the enemy of every environmentalist ever.  And that’s fine.  But what exactly makes it tick?  What exactly does climate change do to the world?  How is it created?

In trying to find these answers, I came across these clips:

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In this clip, Professor Bob Carter from James Cook University goes over what all Climate Change can mean.  There are a few more clips that continue his talk, but this is his presentation starter.  He goes over whether or not Global Warming is happening, as this is a huge argument between environmentalists, scientists and all sorts of nay-sayers.  He has charts, boxes, visual aids to help get his point across and how this argument is even occurring.

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The thing that I liked most about this video was his use of a square grid… oh 100-level Biology.  Anyways, he brings up a great bunch of points, one of my favorite being that “No one can know with absolute certainty what the physical world will do.”  This point is frighteningly true.  No one at Easter Island knew what would happen exactly when they started cutting down trees.  No one knows whether or not 2012 will actually happen, things like that.  The future cannot be so easily seen, and the Earth itself is a factor that no one can perfectly predict the actions of.

I really enjoyed learning about Climate Change and Global Warming as their (at least in my opinion) so similar, if not the same thing with different names.  What we are most fighting against, however, is not whether people believe such a thing is happening, but getting people to do something to help the planet, rather than harm it, as it is the only planet we have.

Industrial Revolution

April 22nd, 2011

A while ago we were talking about the Industrial Revolution within the United States. For our country, that meant that goods were more easily produced. They were faster made, less costly, and more centralized.  Factories were built, workers were hired, the country was advancing.

How much did this advancement take out on the Earth though?

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The Industrial Revolution was so much more about production and costs rather than the environment that it’s scary.  What they produced then, we still have to deal with today, only now we’re working more on how to stop the pollution that these machines have caused and how to cut this down rapidly rather than how to continue making and making with such a harmful effect.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that we’re still in a need for goods, and that our poverty levels are through the roof, but to continue with the progress that we’ve been laid with will only cause more harm to the Earth than good to the people who live on it.

Facts of the day and Coral Bleaching

April 22nd, 2011

I’m a HUGE fan of facts of the day, especially if I randomly come across one in my classes. That’s why I found class on March 31st so interesting. I’ve gone snorkeling before, and seeing all of the life possible underneath the waves is amazing, and an experience I would love to repeat.

I’ve never actually thought of coral as being a living creature before, and especially not one capable of stress. In looking through youtube for an easy way to understand this concept, I came across this clip:

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What I find most interesting about this concept is that the reason for bleaching is just a temperature difference. If the water surrounding the coral gets too hot (or too cold for that matter) the algae within that helps it convert salt to food leaves, and since it is this same algae that gives the coral its beautiful color, that color leaves.  Bleaching can occur without the immediate death of the coral, but the temperature has to resolve itself quickly, or the coral will die.

Like all life on this planet, coral is interconnected to everything else, our emissions, our pollution, our trash effects them as much as it effects us, and some of the most simplest steps can be taken to make sure that coral, ourselves and the world surrounding all of us is healthy.

Ecotourism

April 22nd, 2011

A lot of people have done blogs about Ecotourism, and I thought I would add mine to the mix. The dialogue that we had in class (in which I was the very sassy Lucy Soto) actually opened up a lot of windows and doors into the problem, and what all it can cause for a community.  A lot of the problems that we talk about in class aren’t always reachable for me.  I’ll sit there and take plenty of notes, but I don’t always understand the concept fully. By interacting with classmates, I learned more about the topic, and just how harmful it can be.

With the communities outside of ecotourism, a lot of families like the way they live, even if it has already been changed in order to accommodate the new lifestyle surrounding them.  For example, the Lucy Soto character doesn’t care so much about the building project of a reserve as she cares about having her job.  Most people in countries that are beautiful, and flocked by tourists are countries that are hurting. Lucy enjoyed being independent, having the ability to buy and pay for the necessities of life, which is more than can be said for a lot of people in countries that have been hit by ecotourism.

In searching for ecotourism, I came across this link which showcases some of the blunt points of this problem.  However, it was my own conversations with my brother years back that really came to mind.  When he was in college, he took a spring break trip to Jamaica with his Christian Fellowship group.  It wasn’t a drinking and partying type of trip, but rather quite the opposite.  They spent their time helping out the citizens of a country that has been hit by ecotourism.  They visited the portions that aren’t so bright and shiny and appealing to outsiders.  They went straight to the heart of those hardest hit and helped them build and progress in their lifestyle, finding them ways to gain what they needed to live and how to live a better life in general.

Although my brother doesn’t have much to tell me about the trip anymore since it took place so long ago, I found numbers of the percentages of wealth distribution in Jamaica at this site.  The most important point that I took away from that site is that as of 1996, “the wealthiest 20 percent of Jamaicans controlled 43.9 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 20 percent controlled only 7 percent. In fact, the poorest 60 percent controlled just 34.3 percent of wealth.”  Those numbers are very scary, and if they were to be implemented in a place like our own country, that would leave a lot of people in a very impoverished lifestyle.

Eco Club Event/Activity Blog

April 22nd, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Eco Clubs Green Week Event in the Great Hall.  While I was there, I signed a pre-written letter to Rob Wittman in which it stated how upsetting I felt about his support for destroying mountaintops.  I remember that I signed that I was happy he took the time to read the letter, and that even though I was one voice, that when one voice stands with another, those voices grow louder.

In further researching the destruction that the Eco Club seemed so against, I found this link.  Its a listing of a bunch of short videos about the most endangered mountain ranges due to this problem. Virginia alone has two of the currently ten posted videos.  In watching them, I learned more about the problem, how it is destroying the homes of the communities around it, and just how far destroying a mountaintop through this process of blasting, mining, driving trucks and gaining coal can really harm not only pollution but a population.

I really enjoyed the event, even though I was only able to stay for an hour. I was able to participate in the clothing swap, giving away a shirt that I got for free last year from a friend that I have never worn. I highly doubt anyone took it home with them (it was pretty ugly) but I am glad that I was at least able to take part in it, as I took home a pair of work-out shorts that I have since worn.

I left before the band started, but from the sounds of them warming up, I’m sure they put on a great show.

In further researching the movements of my congressman, I found out just how easy it is to write to any congressman.  Simply go to this link, and you can even decide if you want a note back or not! I’m glad that it is so easy to voice concerns, even if you aren’t 100% sure that what you are writing will ever actually reach his/her desk.

FWS.gov and Rhinos

April 22nd, 2011

I’d never been to the US Fish and Wildlife Service webpage before, so when we looked at it in class, I was intrigued.  The first thing that popped out at me was this link, which leads to a press release about a man in Zimbabwe that won the Goldman Environmental Prize for his work towards preserving rhinos in his home country.  He was awarded the prize just a few days ago, granting him $150, 000 in order to continue his work. As stated in the press release, this award gives its recipients the largest international award for grassroots environmentalists.

As we were talking about extinction in class this week, I thought it would be a good idea to look further into the problem, and specifically into the movements to stop the extinction of a selected species. Mr. Raoul du Toit and his team currently monitor/protect/care for 77% of all Zimbabwean rhinos.

In 2008 and 2009 alone, poachers killed 192 rhinos illegally for their horns.  Mr. Raoul du Toit and the Zimbabwe government, however, were able to move rhinos into a more protected area, making illegal poaching decrease.  A little known fact about both rhinos and tigers (who are both covered within the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund which was developed/passed by the US Congress in 1994) is that their internal organs are sold on the black market, and are extremely popular within Asian medicines. Just think about taking a pill made out of Rhino liver! Yuck.

Through this link, one can take a look at the Rhino Program factsheet, which is a downloadable PDF file.  These two sheets share a lot of information about the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund and not only gives numbers, but goes into depth about what the Fund is strictly for.  They give money in order to help the protection of these creatures, their habitat and anti-poaching endeavors.

Although the passenger pigeon is extinct, and we might be on the verge of the 6th mass extinction, efforts and steps are being taken to stop the progress of this, and that’s a very uplifting idea.

some people…

March 13th, 2011

some people have the world on a string. have the whole world, the whole population just handed to them… regular people… people on my level, that just have everything in their palm. like they own it. and yet, i’m not talking about the stereotypical people who are all haughty, or know that they’re better than you. i’m talking about the people that don’t “really” think they’re better than you, but sometimes act like it anways. for instance, they’ll be all bashful when you give them a compliment, but then they’ll own it when you’re not looking. they’ll act like they have NO idea what you’re talking about, but they know deep inside that they’re better than even you have said.

like this chick… if she read this, she wouldn’t think it was her. and maybe it isn’t, but that’s what i’m centering. she was perfect to you. you wanted her. and then she changed, became something else, and somehow you were able to remain friends with her, even though it boggled my mind… it was crazy, and i felt like i could never impress her, and i still feel like that, but more so because of what has happened since, than because of initial feelings on the subject.

anyways. i’m gonna leave it at that. i just hate that she had (and still has) so much of a chance and my window was only open for a short period… where is the equality in that? p.s. petals don’t lie. get out of my nightmares. kthanxbye.

revolving doors

February 4th, 2011

In class on Tuesday, I realized just how often the same destructive things people do to the earth happen.  It seems like every failed civilization that we have studied thus far has had at least one factor in common with another that also failed.  At the time, I highly doubt that these civilizations had much contact, and couldn’t really learn from the past mistakes of others. However, those past mistakes? Well are we really learning from them still? Is there really a way to treat the earth well, instead of slowly destroying it? Is there any way around killing the planet we live on?

I had a lengthy discussion on Tuesday night with a friend of mine, that although doesn’t go to school here, has always proven to be a deep thinker. I got worked up mostly about the Anasazi and the Easter Islanders. They both faced deforestation, on purpose. I made me angry that they never really seemed to think about their actions. Were humans really so base, that they never really cared about what was to come until it was too late? How alike are we to them now? Even with all of our advancements, medicine, technology, agriculture, are we really so different? We like to think that we’ve progressed. We like to think that we’re different, smarter, more experienced, but is that really true?

Feels like no matter which option we take, there will always be consequences, both good and bad. I guess the question then becomes which consequences outweigh the others? There will never be a “right” answer to the environmental problems we face everyday. There will only be answers that help more than hurt. Either way, we still don’t know, can never know just how much which choice we make will effect the generations to come, and their lifestyles. Nothing will ever be easy to decide, and a quick decision will, although quickly fix one problem, might just lead to a different problem that will then need a solution. All in all, we are just shifting the questions to another place, another people, another time. Seems that the problems we face now, the problems created back then, the problems that we are creating now, will be a continuously revolving door, no matter what the choices are that are being made.

Response:

After writing this post, I realized how truly pessimistic I am/can be.  Environmental problems need a more optimistic approach in my eyes.  However, that optimism needs to still be rooted in knowledge and in knowing that every decision made makes an impact, even though that impact might not be seen in either the close future or even in the close region being worked on.  We are beginning to realize just how much we are all interconnected to each other, and to the world we live on.  In this new problematic era, what needs fixing almost as much as the Earth does is the relations between countries.  By fixing and improving these relations, we can follow up on problems and solutions together, making sure that problems don’t just shift from place to place, but cease or decrease in size.

footprints and such

January 27th, 2011

I’ve always been interested in knowing how much of an impact my footprint had on the Earth, so when Dr. S. told us about the link to check our footprint, I, of course, did so. I tried filling out the information to the best of my ability about the house I grew up in, but of course there were a couple of things I was stumped on. For instance, I have no idea how many acres my house takes up. Anyways, when all was said and done, I found out that if everyone lived my lifestyle, we would need 4.39 Earths. Ouch. I mean, I’m an environmental sustainability minor, I yell at my friends when they don’t recycle, ask them. I guess it could be worse, but I thought that I’d be at least at 2 or 3.

Thinking about it though, that’s how many if I lived at home, and even then I’m sure I had some questions answered wrong. Plus, we’re putting in new energy efficient windows soon, so I should be good, right? Wrong. Granted, the country average would take 6.35 Earths, and my overall footprint lands at a 170.47 while the country average lands at 246.41, but that’s still a pretty high number. Just looking at that page makes me feel sick.

The page goes on to give you a link on what steps you can take to reduce your footprint, but some of the ideas just aren’t plausible for a college kid. For instance it tells you that you should cut down on the amount of times you wash your car. They advise, actually, to take your car to a commercial car wash rather than even washing it on your own because a car wash place uses less water. I take my car to get washed MAYBE once a year, but I thought the fact was interesting enough.

I think the point that they make that could most effect our lives in college is to buy carbon offsets for the energy that you have to use. For instance, I’ve heard that the textbook renter Chegg plants a tree for every textbook you rent. Currently their website says that they’ve planted over 4 million trees. Now if only we could go back in time and plant those trees on Easter Island…

Response:

In reading the comment from Dr. S, I realized that just from being an American, the odds are against me and my footprint just because of where I was born.  The footprints of everyone that lives in this country is effected just because of where we live, which means that as a country, we must work together to lessen these numbers.  I remember catching one of those shows where they take you out of your current living situation and put you into a completely different one (kind of like wife swap, but not).  The one I remember included these two people, one man, one woman, who they moved onto an organic living community.  These two people had beforehand had lives that needed more than 7 Earths, so obviously it was a bit of a culture shock for them.  They had to learn how to live without electricity, modern plumbing, and growing crops.  The community were at least vegetarians, if not vegans, and of course the man was a carnivore at every meal.  I think the woman had the hardest time, she was definitely the princess, and she complained about everything.  But the show as a whole was rather intriguing.  It showed that people are making the effort to change the world for the better, even if they live in houses made out of fecal matter.