Monday, November 30, 2009

Junk Mail

Everyday we go and check the mail only to find it filled with tons of ads, coupons, promotions, letters, "pre-approved" cards and fliers. Yes...junk mail. We all know what its like to go through these countless pieces of mail only to throw a good 85% of them away. Junk mail is constantly sent to many peoples homes in hopes that they will be interested in the item being advertised. Most times the person receiving the mail doesn't give it any thought. Instead they discard of it. If these letters are sent out in bulk to numerous people across the world and at the same time being discarded by numerous people around the world that can only lead to one thing: waste.

I did some research and found some interesting facts about the amount of waste produced due to the junk mail that ends up in land fills:
-In the US, the Enviormental Protection Agency estimates that 44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened or read
-The amount of junk mail being thrown away equals four million tons of waste paper per year
-Only 32% is recycled
-In 2002 advertised mail accounted for 500,000 and 600,000 tons of paper, only 13% of it being recycled.
-5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually.
-The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees

The best way to help with the problem created by junk mail is to get you name off the advertisement mail isting. This prevents companies from sending letters that will go unopened to your house. Start by contacting the companies that are already contacting you and have them put you on a do not promote list. Next off try investigate websites that help find junk mails such as

New Form Of Energy

Researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are looking for a new, clean alternative fuel source and are now looking to hydrogen. The question they are trying to figure out is how to obtain and form this hydrogen without turning to any high energy processes? One overlooked way is right above us. The sun provides photosynthesis, a process by which plants regenerate using energy from the sun. This process may be the answer to our source of a sustainable, clean source of hydrogen. Hydrogen has the quite possibly to be the cleanest fuel alternative. It also emits no greenhouse gas production. This new innovation allows hydrogen to be readily produced from non-hydrocarbon sources

It was found that when coupled with a platinum catalyst, algae has a inner machinery of that of photosynthesis which allows, when exposed to light, the production of hydrogen. A benefit of this method is that it cuts out the unnecessary in the process of solar conversion. It cuts out the the time normally required for the plant to capture solar energy leading to it to grow and reproduce where it will then die and eventually become fossil fuel. It also cuts out the substantial amount of energy required to harvest and process plant material into bio fuel. By ridding these options, we are taking a giant leap forward in helping our planet in a much better and efficient way.

How Big a Difference Can GoodGuide Make?

I think has tremendous upside. Just by casually browsing, it became obvious to me that the site was young and imperfect. It certainly needs to expand and cover more products, but I think its concept can help us and the environment at the same time. That being said, I'm not as optimistic as Daniel Goleman that knowledge of environmental friendliness will sway consumers.

I decided to look up three different categories of food on GoodGuide, and see how two companies compare within each category. I matched Frito-Lay against Wise Foods, Pepsi against Coke, and Peter Pan against Jif. I wanted to see if these companies, competing for the same consumers within their category, had significantly different ratings in the database.

First, the match-up between chip companies. Unfortunately, GoodGuide lacked the thorough breakdown of ratings for both companies. It did say that Frito-Lay earned a 4.3 brand rating, and Wise Foods edged them out with a 4.4 rating. I don't believe this to be a significant difference, but considering how seldom I actually eat chips, I would have very little difficulty being loyal to Wise Foods over Frito-Lay.

Second, I checked the ratings for the two soda behemoths. This time, GoodGuide had a full breakdown of the colas, but not the entire soda companies. Considering how similar in product and business the two are, I was surprised to find that Coke rated higher than Pepsi, 4.2 to 3.8. Though neither overall rating instills much confidence, Coke led the environment category 7.0 to 5.5. I will keep this in mind when next purchasing soda. If both products are interchangeable, why not choose the more eco-friendly one?

Lastly, I compared Peter Pan peanut butter to one of it's competitors, Jif. The difference between the two was a mere 0.1; the edge going to Jif. Whereas with chips and soda, I have very little preference, with peanut butter, I heavily favor Peter Pan. In the environment category, Jif prevailed by 0.2, but I don't feel like that difference is enough to make me abandon a product I prefer. This, I think, could big a problem for GoodGuide.

I don't believe consumers, especially Americans, will feel strongly enough about environmental impacts to avoid products they prefer. In the video we watched in class, Daniel Goleman and Bill Moyers discuss two shampoos, and their ratings on GoodGuide. They point out that the cheaper of the two is actually the more eco-friendly, and that this should dissuade consumers from the belief that pricier items are better. What they fail to mention, however, is which shampoo leaves the hair in better condition. If the more expensive, less green product outperforms the other, in terms of hair care quality, people will continue to buy it. Knowing a product is better for the environment will persuade some consumers to buy it, but many people will continue to buy the product they prefer, no matter the environmental impact.


I was reading today about 10 tips for having an environmentally friendly Thanksgiving, and I thought it was interesting that we have talked about all of these ideas that were listed in class. The ideas range from eating local and organic food to staying at home and inviting neighbors. Some other ideas are to reduce, reuse and recycle, and making your own decorations. The ideas are all very basic and something that every person could do this holiday season.
The holidays are a time of travel and shopping and in most aspects are a very environmentally unfriendly time. We buy things we don’t need and many times these things are packaged in plastic. We travel places we don’t need to go. We use electricity we don’t need to use; most of us light our trees and have decorations that use electricity. Many of us also make way more food than we eat. So much food is thrown away on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at our holiday parties. For example for Thanksgiving my family had dinner for 7 people we had one large turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, Brussels sprouts, rolls, squash, and 4 pies for desert. There was so much food left over like I’m sure there was around the country. All the leftover food was saved but not all of it will get eaten. I think that this is a time of year we should cut back a little we don’t need everything we get this time of year, and we need to realize that so we can have what we think we need to have for a happy holiday season other people around the world are being exploited and are not able to have even a fraction of what we have.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bike Lanes in NYC

On my way home for Thanksgiving Break i noticed something different about the streets of my neighborhood. Looking out the bus window I realized that there was only one lane of traffic where there used to be two. The "missing" lane had now been transformed into a bicycle lane. At first I thought about the bike lane and felt that it was a stupid idea. I felt that it would probably make traffic go much slower than normal, causing problems for many commuters. It was soon after watching the lanes in use that I realized how much of a great idea this was.

Most people who do use their bikes, whether for recreational uses or as a means of transportation, have to compete with the dangers of traffic. A new bike lane reduces accidents from happening and protects bicyclists. The increased safety this provides may also attract new people to riding their bikes to where ever they have to go. Using a bike instead of a car reduces pollution and carbon dioxide emissions from the air. Encouraging more and more riders to rely on their bikes will all together reduce the amount of carbon emissions that person would normally have emitted. In regards to my original thought about the bike lane slowing down traffic, I was wrong. I noticed that traffic flow was much more smoother. The two lanes before used to hit heavy traffic when it came to merging to another road however kepping the sinlge road prevents this buildup and keeps cars flowing at a much calmer pace.
Once skeptical, I am in great support of bike lanes and hope that the city continues to place them in more and more reads. Its great for the planet and the people.

How Boxed Wine Can Help Our Planet

Many times we hear about products and automatically associate stereotypical terms with them. This weekend I was watching the morning news and an special on boxed wine came up. Automatically I thought "cheap wine" just because the norm is that wine is suppose to be elegantly poured out of an dark, tinted bottle. Never do we see elegant commercials about wine being poured out of a box. It was later in the special that I learned all the important aspects of boxed wine and how it can truely help out planet.

Boxed wine has many benefits to our pockets and our planet. The first is that is it much more cheaper that the bottled version. In Australia it is valued at about $8 US dollars for four liters. Also unlike bottles wine, the boxed version lasts longer. When exposed to the air for a certain period of time, wine starts to go bad. The boxed version is in a vacuumed-sealed bag within the box, keeping it fresh due to the lack of exposure to the air. The benefits of boxed wine to the environment are also seen in the fact that the manufacturing of glass contributes greenhouse gas emissions, generates nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide all of which when inhaled can cause tiny particulates that can damage lung tissue. Transporting wine across the country also causes a lot of problems. Transporting wine from the West Coast to the East Coast generates a lot of carbon footprinting. A standard wine bottle which holds 750 milliliters of wine generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in the West side to a store East side. However a 750 milliliters standard 3-liter box generates about half of that. By switching to boxed wine we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons which is also the equivalent of removing 400,000 cars from the roads.

A brand of boxed wine advertised is called Yellow+Blue. As the name suggests it is environmentally green. It is certified organic wine, made with no pesticides and no synthetic fertilizers. It is produced in Tetra Paks which are made from 75% paper harvested from responsibly managed forests. They weigh far much less and is less bulky than bottled wine when it comes time for shipping. If people start making small changes which greatly helps themselves save money, theay can also greatly help the environment.

population growth

Today the population of the world is growing at an exponential rate. If this growth continues eventually the human race will meet and then exceed the carrying capacity of the earth can support. At that time there will be drastic consequences and an almost yo-yo like effect on the human population. The population will probably drop rapidly then grow again then drop rapidly and repeat this process with less death and less growth each time until the population eventually stabilizes. We might be able to avoid this devastating effect if we can curb and stabilize our populations now.
Today the fastest growing populations are in countries that are less developed and less stable. Because even though they have a higher death rate and a higher infant mortality rate the number of children each woman has is much larger than in more developed countries. These are the countries that we need to focus on and help them find ways to lower the rate at which their population is growing. One way to do this would be to educate the woman. Better educated woman have more prospects and are less likely to have a large number of children. In less developed countries children are sometimes used as a source of free labor or cheap income. This is a way of life that needs to be stopped in order to lower the population growth of the world to a more manageable rate. Family planning is helpful but unless the women have control and are allowed to have a say in their pregnancies this method will not be as effective as we need it to be. Population growth is a serious problem we face today, as serious and as catastrophic as global warming and pollution. There are many things we can do to help under developed countries bring their birth rates down and keep the population at a stable rate that the earth can sustain. Population growth is a problem that is not as publicized as other environmental concerns. But as more and more people live on this planet the environment is strained more and more.

pollution changing gender?

I was watching the news the other day and something caught my eye about pollution in the Mississippi river. Apparently male bass fish in the Mississippi are now getting female genes. They estimated about 75% of the samples they took have female genes. The male bass fish were now seen with female eggs in them. This is now another reason why we need to stop polluting our rivers. Even though this has been limited to the bass fish in the river so far it makes you wonder what other animals could be affected in the same way due to the pollution.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Population Control: A Cure for Global Warming?

I believe overpopulation is a big factor which contributes to global warming. More humans means more food which means more fossil fuels burned. The article Fight Global Warming: Wear a Condom by Maria Cheng highlights the importance of birth control nowadays. The UN's Population Fund executive director is quoted saying, "We have now reached a point where humanity is approaching the brink of disaster." They believe that "the battle against global warming could be helped if the world slowed population growth by making free condoms and family planning advice more widely available." Though this seems like a great idea to curb overpopulation, other sources show this may not be enough.
Our course text The Cartoon Guide to the Environment examines the dangers of overpopulation. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote a book titled The Population Bomb. "Ehrlich saw an exploding population and concluded that mass starvation was just around the corner." (Gonick & Outwater, p.207)
As we all know, history repeats itself. As seen on page 118 of The Cartoon Guide to the Environment, "Human history has seen the population growth curve drop several times." So what's stopping it from dropping again? The answer is: nothing. It seems to be a natural re-occurrence which leads me to believe birth control cannot stop it from happening, although if utilized globally, could slow the pace.
Another quote from the article Fight Global Warming: Wear a Condom states, "Using the need to reduce climate change as a justification for curbing the fertility of individual women at best provokes controversy and at worst provides a mandate to suppress individual freedoms." Our second course text The Party's Over quotes Russell Hopfenberg and David Pimentel saying, "some people believe that for humans to limit their numbers would infringe on their freedom to reproduce. This may be true, but a continued increase in human numbers will infringe on our freedoms from malnutrition, hunger, disease, poverty, and pollution, and on our freedom to enjoy nature and a quality environment." (Heinberg, p.246) While it seems like a good idea to curb human reproduction, most people have the mindset of saving themselves individually over our species as a whole. Thinking this way may even lead to increased reproduction which is why we must get the word out about birth control and make it more available.
We must think of our carrying capacity as a balloon and each human being as an air particle. If we keep filling the balloon, it will most definitely pop at some point. Birth control may help limit the number of new particles, but unless we can find a means to enlarge the balloon or find a whole new one, our carrying capacity is sure to explode - or something big may suck the air right out and we'll have to start all over.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dublin Plant Recieves Enviormental Award

On Thursday, Orion Energy System gave Flexsteel Industries Inc. an Environmental Stewardship Award for reducing their consumption of electricity, their consumption of water and their waste. The company located in Dublin, is an Iowa-based company which designs and manufactures mostly wooden furniture for residential, commercial, recreation use. The company has contributed to the environment by reducing over one million kw hours which saves 80 thousand dollars on power billing, saved 683 tons of carbon dioxide and reducing electricity to an amount equivalent enough to power 100 homes per year, and saving 85,889 gallons of gasoline per year.

The methods the plant is using isn't negatively affecting any of its workers or employees. In fact they are proud to be apart of this effort to save the environment. The company plans to hold an award ceremony to celebrate its accomplishments and that of its employees. In additions to the Environmental Stewardship Award, Flexsteel is also being recognized by "Keep Georgia Beautiful." They are doing what they can to help the planet and in the process companies are taking notice.

I feel that more companies should take the effort to do what they can to save the planet themselves. A lot of industrial companies are the ones that are smoking up the skies, contributing to the pollution problem all in the name for faster, cheaper production. However Flexsteel is making effort to help. If more companies take the initiative to do what they can to help we can begin to see a major change. Many of these changes not only help the enviorment but also helps the company itself. As mentioned before Flexsteel saved 80 thousand dollars in its power bill. This saved money can greatly help companies and lets face it for anyone the more money saved the better. I feel that being awarded and recognized is a great incentive for other companies to do the same. Not only is it recognition but it gets the companies name out there and not for a negative reason. People appreciate efforts that big companies can make and the planet appreciates it too.

Reusable Bags

As I was at the grocery store today I was thinking about changes that every person can make in their everyday lives that will help change the world. What if grocery stores no longer offered plastic bags? What if people had to bring their own reusable bags and use them for their purchases? Many people today use reusable bags; I know I try to remember mine when I go to the store and when I am at the store I always see people using them. However I always see many more plastic bags leaving the store than anything else. Reusable bags are something that every person can switch to. Not only are they affordable (I saw them at Price Chopper today for 99 cents) they also hold so much more than a plastic bag and I find them much easier to carry.
What if grocery stores just did not provide bags for people anymore? The stores would save money because they would not have to purchase bags. Eventually these savings might lead to a slight decrease in food prices. The bags would also lead to less trash going into our landfills and a slightly healthier planet. Everyone has the ability to purchase a 99 cent reusable bag, and there is no reason Plastic bags are still being used today. Plastic bags are a product that are harmful to the environment and tehy are something that every person could stop using today. This is a small change and will not solve our environmental problems but it is an easy change and even small changes like this one will add up and help over time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Overburdening Earth's Oceans

In an article published in the NY Times (, Sindya N. Bhanoo describes the decreasing efficiency with which our planet's oceans absorb CO2. Apparently Earth's oceans are no longer able to absorb CO2 as well as they did in the pre-industrial era. Samar Khatiwala was the lead author of a 20 year study which collected tens of thousands of ocean samples. Their research enabled them to estimate the efficiency with which the oceans absorbed carbon dioxide each yeah from 1965 to 2008.

Earth's oceans have long been considered dependable "carbon sinks" by the scientific community at large. This study suggests that this logic, while sound for now, may not always be the case. As humans continue to burn fossil fuels at alarming rates, carbon emissions into the atmosphere consistently increase. The oceans are now overtaxed; the more CO2 they are forced to absorb, the more acidic they become. This is a serious problem because as the oceans grow more acidic, they are even less efficient at absorbing CO2. Put simply, the more carbon emissions an ocean absorbs, the worse it becomes at absorbing more CO2. So now, Earth's oceans are stuck in a positive feedback system with CO2, and the situation will continue to worsen.

According to Khatiwala, "It’s a small change in absolute terms. What I think is fairly clear and important in the long-term is the trend toward lower values which implies that more of the emissions will remain in the atmosphere." If we cannot rely on our oceans to help relieve some of the CO2-induced stress on the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect will become even more profound.

Khatiwala's findings are supported by a 2004 study done by Christopher Sabine. Sabine's team investigated carbon uptake levels in the oceans up to 1994, by collecting data on more than 100 cruise ships. Each team used slightly different methods, but their conclusions are in accordance with one another. Khatiwala reports that "the oceans’ uptake rate growth appears to have dropped by 10 percent from 2000 to 2007." Much of, if not all, this decrease in efficiency can be attributed to increasing human-generated CO2 emissions. This cycle is almost certain to continue unless there is a significant decrease in CO2 emissions, which would have to result from a decrease in fossil fuel consumption.

The end of the article does mention something interesting, and possibly optimistic. Khatiwala's team also estimated CO2 absorption by land, and their conclusion was that Earth's land was actually absorbing more CO2 than it was admitting. Khatiwala admits to not being "land people", but their hypothesis is that land plant's could be consuming more CO2 in order to grow bigger. However, they said that while their research about land absorption was interesting, it up to another team to conduct further research. If the oceans are becoming less adapt at absorbing carbon emissions, perhaps hope can be found if we find a way to take advantage of the absorption efficiency of Earth's land.

Public Transportation Paradox

Recently, more and more daily commuters have been going green by using public transportation. Mass transit is viewed as highly efficient, and a step in the right direction. There is a variety of positive aspects of mass transit besides energy efficiency. The most important aspect of mass transit is that it provides very cheap transportation for those who cannot afford to drive or are able to drive. It also helps reduce congestion at rush hour as well as parking congestion. Mass transit is also much safer, producing fewer accidents and injuries than cars. There is also the social aspect of mass transit that people tend to overlook. Public transportation almost forces someone to step out of their "inverted quarantines" and actually interact with others in the community. Seeing familiar faces on a bus or train builds up the sense of community, rather than looking at yourself in your rear-view mirror.

Unfortunately, mass transit is not as efficient as many may think. Brad Templeton, a private researcher who interviewed both the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation stated that: "I was disturbed to learn that city diesel buses and electric trolley buses are both mildly worse than the car in energy efficiency." How can this be, you ask. When viewed at logically, a paradox presents itself.

A full busload or trainload of people is much more efficient than private cars. But that same bus or train is not ALWAYS full. That bus or train is only filled to capacity at specific times of the day, like rush hour or lunch hour. Also, when that full bus or train reaches its destination, it unloads and then must return empty back to the original stop. Another aspect of the paradox is the design of these mass transit vehicles. A bus tends to start and stop frequently, which consumes a lot of energy. Now imagine that same bus filled to capacity starting and stopping frequently. Much more energy is consumed. Another aspect of the paradox is the lack of progress of design for these mass transit vehicles. Brad Templeton reports that "Over the past 30 years, private cars have gotten 30% more efficient, while buses have gotten 60% less efficient and trains about 25% worse." So, as buses and trains get less aerodynamic, they become less efficient.

Although this slight paradox makes public transportation seem less green, in the end it is in fact more efficient than driving. It is believed to be much more efficient for an individual to take already existing mass transit than their car. Since the transit is already running, adding one more individual to the transit is more energy efficient than driving individually.

The Weird and The Global Warming to Blame?

More recently, there has been discoveries of weird animal species and mutations. Starting at my homeland of Long Island, the "Montauk Monster" was discovered last summer. It resembles something like an over-sized rat but with a beak. No one knows where it came from or what it is, but another creature like it was found and killed in Panama. The next animal, which I was surprised to find out that it's not the only one of its kind, is a two-faced kitten born in Ohio. Another feline frenzy happened in China - a cat actually sprouted wings. They say it was during a 'hot spell' and genetic experts claim it is a "a genetic defect or a hereditary skin condition." This blogger believes the heat, most likely from global warming, defected the cat's genes which caused the mutataion. Although there are bones in the pertrusions, they doubt the cat will gain the ability to would be fun to see though.
So many animal deformities and mutations make me wonder if the increased global temperature is to blame. Humans have also been affected by mutations such as mermaid syndrome or the girl born in India with 8 limbs, who is believed to be the reincarnation of the goddess Lakshmi.
Whether it be the changing global climate or simply the effects of evolution, we cannot ignore the fact that our world is constantly changing and the beings and creatures that change along with it. One can only wonder what the Earth will look like in the years to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How The Evolution Of Cooperation Has Helped Lead To An Increase In Greed, Selfishness, And The Overall Destruction Of The Planet

It is well known that humans are social animals. This fact is clear to anyone who has noticed our ability to show sympathy, our need to assign ourselves to political, religious, and social groups and our tendency to love gossip. However the reasons behind why we have evolved to be social animals are not always as well understood. What is even less understood, or even mentioned for that matter, is the ever growing gap between the social animals we have evolved to be and the increasingly greedy, selfish, unsocial animals we are now becoming. Most importantly, it is ever metioned how this gap or shift in our evolution is only further contributing to all of our current ecological and environmental problems.

Our early ancestors developed cooperation and social skills for many reasons, the principle reason being that IT WAS KEY TO THEIR SURVIVAL. Being a part of a group meant you had a higher chance of survival then if you were on your own, you were able to hunt better in a group then alone meaning you got more food, you were able to better protect yourself from predators, meaning you had a lesser chance of dying or being eaten, you also got to benefit from all the services the people in the group provided you such as grooming each other or caring for each other’s young…etc. This lead to the evolution of increased cooperation skills because those groups who members cooperated with each other the most were that most productive and therefore the most successful when compared to other groups. These memebers would then pass on and spread the genes that allowed them to be more cooperative then the others.

This form of cooperation is similar to old saying I’LL SCRATCH YOUR BACK IF YOU SCRATCH MINES. This obviously worked and worked very well for our ancestors allowing them to not only survive but prosper and flourish in their environment. Our ancestors begin to grow in number and thus grow in group size which unfortunately help give rise to cheaters within the group- individuals who though I'LL LET YOU SCRATCH MY BACK BUT I WON’T SCRATCH YOURS. Where as in smaller groups these cheaters would be easy to notice and track in large groups it becomes ever more difficult allowing these cheaters to work the system getting all the benefits but none of the cost- I’ll GET MY BACK SCRATCHED FOR FREE AND NOW I CAN GO DO OTHER THINGS WITH MY TIME AND ENERGY. These cheaters of course only made up a small part of the group and if they were to ever grow too large in number the whole system would fall apart NO ONE WOULD SCRATCH ANYONES BACK and thus no scratching would get done leaving the whole group to suffer and in extreme examples (where the behavior is important to survival then scratching) leave the group to die.

Our ancestor (both the ones that cooperate within the group and the few that cheat) passed on the genes that allowed them to perform these complex cooperating social skills along with ability to cheat to us their descendants. However, unlike our ancestors we currently live in an environment in which WE DO NOT DEPEND ON GROUPS FOR OUR SURIVAL. Cooperating and working together (at least for the most part) in today’s society does not increase our survival. In fact the opposite is mostly true the more greedy we are and the more selfish we act the higher our fitness –i.e. the more money we make, the more food we can buy and the more children we can support. Thus all the cheaters within the group can now grow without limits and are in fact selected for. At first glance this would seem like it wouldn’t be a problem in today’s society because if the cheaters grew to numerous the cooperating social system would fall apart but since we no longer rely on that system for our survival anymore it wouldn’t make much of a difference to us. AS LONG AS I CAN DO WHAT I HAVE TO DO FOR MYSELF AND CAN SURVIVE WHO CARES ABOUT THE PERSON NEXT TO ME.

However, unlike our ancestors and unlike any other species on the planet we as a collective group and even to a small extent as individuals now have the power to severely impact our environment and our overall planet in very harmful ways. If I as a greedy and selfishness person (cheater) do something that benefits me but harms not only the people around but MY ENVIRONMENT in a way that doesn’t directly harm me I am gaining an advantage. BUT what I don’t see is that that advantage is only temporary and where in cheating a person or multiple people around me will not cause any server consciences (other than losing that person or people as trustful members of my group) cheating my environment does have server consciences that in turn come back around to harm me.

When I as a CEO of a chemical power plant decide it will be beneficial to me (and maybe even a small group of share holders) to drop toxic waste into a nearby river or water system, saving me the cost of having to pay for properly disposing of that waste, at the cost of other people around who may depend on that river in a way that I do not I am gaining an advantage- i.e. making money. Although I think I am just losing the trust of all the people I just cheated I’LL DIRTY YOUR RIVER WHICH YOU KEPT CLEAN BUT I WOUNDN’T CLEAN IT BACK, I am losing much more. I am losing the river which is part of the nearby ocean which is part of more complex water recycling and cleaning system, which if I damage enough may affect the water everywhere; including the water I get and need located somewhere else or the fish and crab I like to eat bought miles away.

Thus acting as a collective group of selfish individuals who do not truly care about each other or care about cooperation in any large collective sense leads to massive ecological and environmental damage. Not caring if the product my factory makes pollutes the waters in the area used to make it, or if the computer I buy in the U.S requires the mining of toxic heavy metals somewhere in Africa destroying their rain forest, or if the car I use pollutes the air of someone else around me who doesn’t have home air filtration, or if the garbage I throw away stays in a land fill miles away for me where other people live, all has a combined negative impact on the environment.

The environment that once required intense cooperation to survive is now one in which little cooperation is necessary and greed and selfishness flourish and is running wild. The worst apart of all is that that greed and selfishness originally arose from cooperation. Without people cooperating there would be no one for the greedy and selfishness to exploit or take advantage of. The problem now is unlike our ancestors we live in a society where greed and selfishness is not the controllable expectation but the irresistible norm. If we are to have any chance at reversing the harm we have done to the environment and any hope of living a peaceful existence with nature we must change our current view on our social system based on individual gain. We must change the saying from I’LL SCRATCH YOUR BACK IF YOU SCRATCH MINES( a saying which can lead to cheating and in our case the destruction of the planet) to I’LL DO MY PART IN TAKING CARE OF THE PLANET AND YOU’LL DO YOURS (a saying that promotes cooperation without leading to cheating while at the same time preserving the planet). In the end all we really have is one planet earth and if I do not do my individual part to take care of that planet we all will suffer equally in that there will be no planet left for us to live on. It shouldn't be about scratching backs but preserving that in which we all have to share - the planet. You can be greedy and selfish all you want about the things that belong to you but not with that in which no one person owns. You can be greedy and selfish all you want but not in a way that harms that in which you need the most - clean air, clean water, and a safe place to live, and without a healthy planet no one person can truly have any of those things.

Swine Flu Vaccine-is it safe?

Recently, there has been a somewhat sigh of relief when the H1N1 vaccine emerged and was widely available. Many Americans rushed to get the shot, bringing their children along to get the shot with them. But two weeks ago I was in Albany Medical Hospital getting a mandatory physical so I could become a volunteer. The physical required that I get a seasonal flu shot and, if available, an H1N1 shot. While I was getting the flu shot, I asked the nurse if I was also getting the H1N1 shot, and she replied no and almost under her breath she said "you're better off without it". At the moment I didnt question her statement but it got me thinking, and I went ahead and checked up on the safety of the H1N1 vaccine.

One issue that I became aware of was the overall speed that the H1N1 vaccine reached the public. Most vaccines pass through a series of tests to ensure that it is relatively safe for the public of all ages. Natural News reported that "The FDA usually requires rigorous testing of any new drug, but concerns about the H1N1 pandemic has sped the vaccine through the channels without the same clinical testing as other vaccines. Even health care workers are concerned, as they are the first ones to receive the swine flu vaccine and will, in effect, be human guinea pigs."

In July of 2009, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the H1N1 vaccine contained thimerosal, which is a mercury based additive which has been specifically removed from many other vaccines due to long-term side effects. In various websites and postings that I found, it was stated that thimerosal has been linked in causing autism and other neurological disorders. Representatives from the CDC have recently rejected the statements linking thimerosal to autism and any other long-term side effects. Many videos describing the effects of thimerosal on the brain are available on youtube.

The CDC also reported that the H1N1 vaccine contains squalene which is another additive not found in many vaccines. Squalene was last found in the vaccine given to Gulf War soldiers and is now known to be the main cause of Gulf War Syndrome. Gulf War Syndrome became present shortly after the war when veterans began experiencing a range of medically unexplained symptoms. These symptoms included chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, headaches, dizziness and loss of balance, memory problems, muscle and joint pain, indegestion, skin problems, shortness of breath, and even insulin resistance. A sudden rise in Lou Gehrig's disease after the war has also been linked to the pressence of squalene in the Gulf War vaccine.

Recently, many medical facilities have forced their employees to get the H1N1 vaccine. These medical facilities are very serious about their employees getting the vaccine that if any employee refused to get the shot, he/she would lose their job. There was recently a variety of protests in front of the capital building in downtown Albany which included hundreds of health care workers who refused to receive the forced vaccination. These protestors believed that the vaccination was not properly tested and contained additives that were more harmful than H1N1 itself.

So, if you have gotten the shot already I would not be too concerned. But if you have not gotten the shot yet I would seriously consider researching what exactly is in the vaccination and what long-term effects it might have. I have yet to get the vaccination, I think I'll just take my chances.

Under the Guise of Lamentations

Is it possible to change our behavior in a way that can overcome our reliance on goods and services that are the product of injustice? In class we discussed how our everyday lives are lived through the menial labor of underprivileged people around the world and the abuse of our planet’s resources. How we justify these things is a matter discussed at length by Albert Bandura in his article on Moral Disengagement. Of course the work of the poor and disenfranchised people of the world has always allowed the posh lives of the nobility of their time to exist. In modern times however we have seen in America, Europe and other developed areas a new rank of citizens in the middle class.

Unlike the relatively small merchant classes of feudal times this group of people is much larger and much more demanding. As Heinberg stated at the beginning of The Party’s Over this group of people is relatively rich when compared to the majority of people in the world. Now, if were you to take a look at yourself would you consider your situation in life as highly desirable? Most would say no. In fact most would give you numerous reasons for why their lives are not any sort of pinnacle to be sought after by anyone in their right mind. I for one could list how many things I still desire to do or to have and almost all would require a better occupation than the one I currently have or, to be more direct, more money.

Bandura would have us believe that our greatest hindrances to ecological sustainability lie in our inability to see the moral wrongs we have committed through our displacement of responsibility for them. I on the other hand believe that we have seen these wrongs and we know them very well. The naivety of the populace in their own wrong doing is a nice way to explain why people act the way they do yet moral justification also has another well known cause and it’s the ugly truth that we try to keep hidden.

For the younger generation our lifestyles are all that we have ever known. In addition our sense of ownership for our own destiny has been ingrained in all of us since we heard in grade school that old line of rhetoric, “anyone can be president”. This privilege has continued to be nurtured in every movie where the hero wins fame and fortune or in the novel that ends in true love. We have been a very greedy species. The avarice of the nobles has been passed down and treasured by our middle classes and we are loathe to relinquish our grasp on our relatively lavish lifestyles when given a glimpse of the poverty experienced throughout the world by others.

Warning Signs of Climate Change

Climate change and global warming are widely discussed topics that have brought many questions to the front of our minds. What causes are to blame for climate change? Is it humans? Or is it a natural phenomenon? While we can't justify the blame to any one source, we can't neglect the signs that it is actually happening.
Animals have always stuck true to their natural instincts because it is survival of the fittest and that is all they have to rely on to survive. In movies, they are portrayed as the warning sign that a disaster is coming. As discussed in our BIO230 class today (11/16), because of the cooler and dryer climate changes in Africa, one line of apes have adapted to the Savannah territory. As humans, we have somewhat strayed from our instincts because although there is still competition within our race, we've all pretty much conformed to support each other as a whole. Not to mention that we've made our way to the top of the food chain. This may have been brought about from our bipedalism, as it has brought many advantages to our survival.
An article I found called "Jellyfish swarm northward in warming world" tells how fishermen are seeing swarms of poisonous and deadly jellyfish in their catch. "Scientists believe climate change — the warming of oceans — has allowed some of the almost 2,000 jellyfish species to expand their ranges, appear earlier in the year and increase overall numbers, much as warming has helped ticks, bark beetles and other pests to spread to new latitudes." One fisherman said they get depressed when they see jellyfish because it can severely taint and ruin the fish. "In 2007, a salmon farm in Northern Ireland lost its more than 100,000 fish to an attack by the mauve stinger, a jellyfish normally known for stinging bathers in warm Mediterranean waters. Scientists cite its migration to colder Irish seas as evidence of global warming." One researcher from the University of British Columbia said, "These increases in jellyfish should be a warning sign that our oceans are stressed and unhealthy."Seeing as how this phenomenon is severely penetrating the fishing industry, I'm wondering if this could be the beginning of the downfall of the vast empire. As "they" say, all good things come to an end, unless we can find a way to reverse what is happening, but at this point it doesn't seem like it can be controlled.
We don't need a giant billboard or an ex-presidential candidate to tell us that climate change is happening; we can see the signs all around us. They vary from tsunamis, tornadoes, and hurricanes to animal migrations, diseases, and overall instinct. Maybe if we tap into our own animal instinct we could find a solution to our worries of the changing world...or just quite possibly migrate to an alternate location. I hear they've found water on the moon...

Wind Turbines

I was reading the other day about the wind farm they are trying to build on Nantucket Sound and I found some of the information and the problems they are facing very interesting. A Massachusetts energy company is trying to build 130 wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod. They are proposing to build the towers over five miles from the closest shore, and the proposed towers will be able to provide 75% of Cape Cod’s electricity. This is a project that had a proposed completion date of 2010but because of problem after problem they have yet to even complete the permitting stages of the project. One of the main arguments against building Cape Wind is that some say it will ruin Cape Cod’s view. Many people have huge expensive houses and are concerned that the view of the windmills will degrade their multimillion dollar homes. The windmills from the closest shore will only be visible 1/2 an inch above the horizon on a very clear day. Below there is a visual stimulation of what the views will be on a clear day. As you can see the windmills are visible, but not so visible as to ruin a view.
This picture is a stimulation of a view from Cotuit which is 5.6 miles away.

This is a stimulation of a view from Nantucket which is 13.8 miles away.

There have been many other arguments against building the wind turbines and they range from spiritual to the degradation of the marine ecosystem. One of the things that people who are against this project need to think about is that wind turbines are not the perfect solution to our energy problems. However, we depend on oil for so many aspects of our everyday lives. Not only is oil running out, but our country is in so much debt from buying oil and people are dying while fighting for the oil that we have come to depend on. We need to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and clean up our environment. Windmills give us an opportunity to start to do both. It is not a perfect solution, as windmills have been shown to be hazardous to birds and other animals. However I do not believe they are more hazardous overall than the oil we use every day. Windmills would give us a way to start to lessen our dependence on oil, and I think that it is an idea that needs to be considered with a more open mind.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Perpetual Motion

Perpetual motion, in theory, is a system of energy production that produces more energy than the amount of energy put into the system for generation. In other words, perpetual motion would go on forever and we would never run out of energy. The idea of perpetual motion is great and would solve our current energy crisis however; it violates the second law of thermodynamics that states that the entropy or randomness of a system always increases. Perpetual motion is regarded as very fictitious among the scientific community on the basis that if perpetual motion is possible, then most of what we believe to be true in physics is false. With that being said, I have found a video in which perpetual motion is displayed (or edited to appear to be perpetual motion) using just a few small magnets. Is this real or fake? And can this be produced on a large scale?

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is a method used to water plants and it conserves a considerable amount of water, as compared to the typical sprinkler-like system. Drip irrigation allows water to slowly drip to the roots of plants or to the surface of soil. The main concepts behind the efficiency of drip irrigation are that the water soaks into the soil before it can evaporate or run off and the water is only applied where it is needed, as compared to sprinklers that spray water everywhere. The tools required for drip irrigation are cheap and there is even a “Drip Irrigation Kit for Dummies” available at Sears for $39.99. Some of the disadvantages to drip irrigation include a short longevity, clogging of equipment, and drip irrigation might be unsatisfactory if herbicides or top dressed fertilizers need sprinkler irrigation for activation. Comparing the two irrigation systems (sprinkler vs. drip), sprinklers are ~ 75-85% efficient while drip irrigation systems are ~90% efficient or higher.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Climate Change

Many times people talk about climate change, but after speaking to my younger cousin I realized that not many people actually know what climate change is. In basic terms all climate change really is is a change in modern climate that can span a certain region over a certain period of time. Hearing this one may ask " So whats the big deal?" In reality climate change is a big deal and affects people, agriculture, the ecosystem and Earth in general!

The negative effects of climate change is mainly a result of the increasing heating up of the Earth. Adaption to this change can be both costly and difficult. In fact an increase anywhere from 2-3 degrees Celsius within the next 100 years can result in great damage. Thing like the ecosystem, agriculture, health, water, temperature, and energy are all affected. The ecosystem is affected by changing function and structure which has an effect on the animals of that system. Agriculture is affected in a way that even thought CO2 levels can help crops, loss of vegetation may harm crop growth. Health is affected due to an increase in heat related health illnesses such as heart and respiratory issues. Water is affected in many ways. When it comes to the water cycle evaporation increasing makes way for more storms while at the same time drying up the land. Sea levels are also rising at an increasing pace due to the melting of polar regions. And extreme floods and droughts are more likely to occur. Extreme temperature changes are more likely to occur in ways of extreme heat which in itself has a lot of consequences. And finally energy is affected in due to the costly ways to temporarily cure the problem in ways such as in billing. It also affects the hydro system in their attempts to help energy crisis.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Energy Efficiency and The Jevons' Paradox

Given all the concern over rising oil prices, global climate change, and the overall energy crisis we are facing in this country there has been a large scale movement towards energy efficiency. Whether it be in the use of energy, the transportation of energy, or the simple production of energy, it is believed that if there is an increase in efficiency then there will be an increase in savings and thus a decrease in all the environmentally harmfully effects the use, transportation, and production of that energy brings. For example, it is believed that the more energy efficient a car is the less oil it needs to run and thus the less CO2 or pollution that car releases into the atmosphere and as a result the less affect that car contributes to the environment. In concept, increase energy efficiency can in fact have this effect of decreasing our overall energy consumption and ultimately reducing our carbon footprint; however, this is just in concept and when it comes to the real world the concept doesn’t always hold true (especially in our American economy).

The reason for this is something called the Jevons’ Paradox also known as the rebound effect, which is the phenomenon in which increased efficiency paradoxically leads to increased overall energy consumption. This phenomenon can be seen all throughout the U.S economy. For example, (keeping the same car example ) the more energy efficient a car is the less oil is needed to run the car and thus the more miles you can go in that car for the same prices as before (when you had a car that was not as efficient). Now it is cheaper to go the same distance, but instead of putting aside the oil or money you save by this efficiency in usage what ends up happening is that oil or money just gets put right back into the system by 1) being encouraged to drive more miles now because it is cheaper to do so as a consequence using up more oil then you normally would 2) allowing more people to buy and drive the same energy efficient car (people who may have not been able to do so before) again using up more oil 3) taking the money that is saved and buying or doing something else with it that again may use lager amounts of oil or may not be as energy efficient as the car like buying food imported from another country.

The biggest factor contributing to the Jevons’ paradox is the fact that we live in an economy that is based on growth, meaning the economy only does well if it grows. Every quarter more and more jobs must be created, more and more products must be produced, and more and more consumer goods must be purchased in order for the economy to do well and prosper. Therefore, whatever energy is saved through efficiency will almost automatically be put right back into the system to create new economic growth because without it, the economy declines. This is why so much emphasis is placed on consumer spending because it is one of the only ways to insure continued economic growth. If people are continually spending money, purchasing products, then more products will need to be made, more jobs will need to be created, and more economic growth will occur.

Another factor contributing to the Jevons’ paradox is this strong concept of self present in the American society, the concept of self interest, self greed, and self preservation. In this society, there is very little sense of community and instead of acting as a whole we act as a “sea of selves” which in turn helps lead to consume more energy. Every individual person in the sea of selves consumes energy to his or her own liking or ability regardless of what the person besides them is consuming (they eat as much as they want buy as much as they want and use as much as they want or can afford). Thus, leading to a mentality of – “if I like to or can afford to consume more energy why wouldn’t I do so” versus – “I can afford to consume more energy but I would rather give that energy to someone else who needs it more than I do or truly save it so it does not go to waste because other people need energy too not just me”. If there was a stronger sense of community then we would not only be able to save more energy but share more energy among our community thus limiting the waste or the need for excess.

One solution to the Jevons’ paradox, as mentioned by Jeff Dardozzi, is to do just that - increase the sense of community through the use of the elements of the civic and divine. Civic in the sense of community and responsibility and divine in the sense of a having a higher purpose one that is about more than just taking care of yourself. If you know for a fact that the energy you save goes directly to another person who needs it; then, you will be more inclined to save. Similarlly, if you know what the energy you use and waste can do for someone else, (i.e. if you know how important that energy is) then again you will be less inclined to misuse it. But in today’s society there is such a huge disconnect between people. They are not aware of these things and are in a sense completely isolated from each other leading to many of the problems we are facing today with respect to energy consumption.

For this reason, I strongly believe in Jeff Dardozzi’s analysis of the Jevons’ Paradox. The only way to truly decrease our overall energy consumption and ultimately reduce our carbon footprint in despite of the Jevons’ paradox is to renew this concept of community and higher purpose. This is not something that is hard for Americans to do. In fact, we do it all the time when it comes to other thing besides energy. The best example of this is our U.S military and all the men and women who enlist and serve our country and fight for a purpose that is greater than themselves. They take their most valuable form of energy – their own human bodies, their own lives and risk it putting it on the line for the safety and well being of others (their fellow Americans). We even honor them every year for their service and devote this day to them and their service. However, over the year this day has continued to become more and more transformed into a day that is about cheap deals, discounts and sales, which according to the Jevons’ paradox translates into more overall energy consummation and the continued gap between those who have money and the ability to buy and use energy and those who don’t. This day has become more and more about greed and selfishness versus community and higher purpose. The two very things we need more of if we are to solve the energy crisis. What we need is to truly honor the military and take the sayings like “UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL” and “WE ARE AN ARMY OF ONE” to heart and apply them to more than just the military. It can be done, we know we have the capacity, all that is needed is the motivation. Unlike the military where it is easy to see the need to unite against a common threat overseas, it is hard to see the need to unite against the threat that is present right here under our very noses- the threat that is energy consummation. Once we realize this, the threat it is not hard to see. We can stand up unite and put our energy consummation on the line the same way our veteran put their bodies and their lives on the line for the safety and well being of their fellow Americans. All we have to do is remember the concepts our veterans understood very well – the concepts of community, unity, and having a higher purpose.

Reference Jeff Dardozzi – The Spector of Jevons’ Paradox

Jevons' Paradox

Jevons’ Paradox is the idea that as people gain the technology to increase resource efficiencies the demand for that resource increases as well, thus increasing the rate of consumption instead of decreasing it. This is a rebound effect. By making a resource more efficient thus more affordable the demand and thus the consumption increases. There are many examples of this throughout history. One example is gold. Gold used to be a resource and a luxury that very few could afford. Over time the efficiency of mining gold has improved leading to more available gold that can be sold at lower prices. Today many people can afford to buy gold jewelry and other items made of gold. Another example of this paradox is the use of airlines today. In the past travel by air was inefficient and unreliable. Over time and with improved technology the efficiencies have improved making air travel more affordable and therefore the demand and the number of people relying on air travel has increased greatly over the years.

There is a great deal of emphasis of consumer spending and consumer shopping. One of the reasons for this is because the government wants to keep the economy going. Another reason is that people are trying to keep up with each other. I think many people especially in this country are very materialistic and everyone wants what someone else has. This materialistic attitude fuels shopping, and the availability of credit cards allows many people to spend when they don’t have money to spend. If consumer spending were to decrease the economy would probably become more unstable but many people would probably be better off. If people were to focus more on the things they do have than the things that they don’t have we would probably be happier and healthier.

The term “sea of selves” refers to the way we usually only think about ourselves. Sometimes we think about others but very rarely do we do something to change things. We act on behalf of ourselves and do what is best for us not usually what is best for society or for the world and the environment. Dardozzi talks about the idea of civic and divine. He means that people need to think more of their communities and the bigger picture not only of themselves and their families. People need to become part of something bigger like a community so that the focus is not totally on self.

I think the article by Jeff Dardozzi is very interesting. I agree with the idea that people are focused almost exclusively on themselves and the people closest to them. I also agree with the idea that people have very little sense of community, and are unable or unwilling to see the effects of human actions on the world and the environment. I think that that this assignment is due on Veterans Day because veterans’ day is the act of honoring those people who have given their lives for us and our country. These people probably think about people other than themselves. Today however Veterans Day is about something different. All over today I saw ads and signs for Veterans Day sales and specials. Today we are supposed to be honoring people who fought for our country but we have turned it into a consumer shopping holiday

The Rebound Effect (Veteran's Day Blog)

The rebound effect, also known as Jevon’s paradox, is the belief that increases in the efficiency of energy usage within technology does not lead to a reduction in the consumption of that energy. The main idea behind the rebound effect is that when a person saves money, with respect to efficiency, they will just end up spending more. An example of the rebound effect that is prominent in the United States is the availability of food and it’s link to the obesity epidemic. According to a study published in the October 27, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of obese Americans increased by 50% between 1991 and 1998. This increase in obesity is a direct result of the availability and low price of food. Relating back to the rebound effect, although the efficiency or abundance of food has increased, the consumption has exponential increased and effectively negated the benefits of the efficiency.

Essentially, the rebound effect places the responsibility, or the reason why the advances in efficiency will never end the energy crisis, on the consumers and their inability to stop spending. One of the proposed solutions to the rebound effect is to negate the savings earned from the increased efficiency in order to deter extra spending. However, the rebound effect overlooks the fact that if consumers spend significantly less money the economy will suffer and it can fall into a recession. Less spending = lesser demands for goods and services.

The phrase “sea of selves” refers to the overwhelming amount of selfish individuals who only think about themselves (and sometimes the people closest to them) in terms of survival. The concept of “sea of selves” is adverse to Bailey’s notion of the civic and the divine, which he proposes is the solution to a successful society. The civic refers to the rights, obligations and responsibilities that bind the collective to the individual. The divine refers to the belief of something greater than one's self and that the activities of the collective are significant in relation to the world. After reading about the “sea of selves” and the concept of the civic and the divine, it became apparent to me why this blog assignment was due on Veteran’s day. The individuals who fight for our country express an extreme sense of patriotism and selflessly only think in terms of the collective. Perhaps if people were required to enroll in a boot camp for ecology then the Earth would be in a better condition.

In response to Jeff Dardozzi’s very intuitive essay, I agree with his belief that anti-social elements of the human characteristic are destroying any chances of creating a successful collective and that reorganization will have to be done through force (not necessarily violently) because most people in this society only think about themselves and are content in their ignorance of the problems that we will all suffer from as a collective.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day Blog

The rebound effect is an unintended negative consequence to increased efficiency. Rather than causing an overall decrease in the consumption of a resource, the rebound effect causes an overall increase in the consumption of this resource as a result of heightened efficiency. According to the rebound effect, the initial decrease in consumption will be followed by a reduction in price of the resource. A lower price will then result in increased consumption, thereby increasing overall consumption of the resource. One example of this is the sales of SUVs a few years back. As hybrids became mainstream, and gas prices skyrocketed, SUV prices had to be dropped. As a result of lower prices, sales picked up again. Another example, as noted by Dardozzi, is the increase in paper consumption as a result of technological advances in offices. As the cost per word to print plummeted, paper consumption greatly increased.

I think there is so much emphasis on consumer spending because it's the one thing Americans have always done; it's what our economy is based on. America functions as a free-market system. In stark contrast to the former Soviet Union, our country's businesses face very little government intervention. Consumer saving appears to be the answer because our government does not involve itself in the marketplace. It is up to us to save our own way of life. If consumers stop spending so much our economy faces possible ruin. Without consistent consumer spending, the American economy could collapse in on itself. If we stop spending, there will be consequential job loss, which will only further the cycle.

"Sea of selves" is the term applied to the American citizens who continue to refuse to forfeit their "illusions of freedom for the sake of collective survival." Put in another way, the people of this country view survival in individual terms. We try to protect ourselves, and maybe a few others close to us, at the expense of the country. America is a "sea" made up of "selves".

When Bailey discusses his notion of the civic and divine, he is referencing two different ways in which people relate to the collective. Civic concerns the responsibility and obligation the individual feels toward the collective. The civic is what attaches the individual and the collective. The divine, on the other hand, refers to the individual's concept of something altogether "bigger". Bailey believes the individual must believe in something grander for self-interest as well as the best interest of the collective.

I don't think that Dardozzi's essay provides the complete solution to Jevon's Paradox, but I believe it is a good place to start. Unfortunately, I think it will be difficult to convince Americans to abandon their individualism and begin thinking in terms of the country as a whole. It is too easy and convenient for each of us to "quarantine" ourselves; we try not to worry about any of these issues as long as they don't directly affect us. If we could each learn to think in terms of the civic and divine, we could certainly establish a jumping-off point. However, I am not totally optimistic that we can think of the collective as much as the individual.

I think I understand why Professor Hirsch made this assignment due on Veteran's Day. America's veterans serve the country as a whole, not the individual. They sacrifice personal freedoms and opportunities for the good of us all. These are men and women who serve the ideals of civic and divine. I also believe Professor Hirsch hopes we can learn from our veterans; their loyalty and sense of duty is a perfect model for what must be done for the country in the near future.

Jevon's Paradox

The application of an interesting paradox to our current social and economical aspects of life was presented by Jeff Dardozzi. Jevon's paradox, or the rebound effect simply states that technological progression of a particular resource leads to an increase in the efficiency of that resource which ultimately leads to an overall increase in the rate of consumption. In other words, if something becomes more efficient and cheaper to use, people will use it more frequently. Jevon's paradox can be applied to the increase in production of the Smart Car. Consumers had never before seen a car with better gas mileage. When the production of the Smart Car increased, sales increased due to a lowering in the price. But having a Smart Car with better gas mileage than every other car allows the driver to drive even more than he/she would have with a normal car. So, the increase in production of the Smart Car lead to a decrease in price and an overall increase in consumption. Another example of a resource that exhibits jevon's paradox, is air conditioning. Recently, new air conditioners have been installed in homes that use almost half of the overall energy than the original air conditioners. Production of these new energy-efficient air conditioners has greatly increased, causing the price to go down. More and more homeowners are now buying these new air conditioners. When a homeowner learns that their new air conditioner is much more efficient, he/she will use it much more frequently. And if more and more people are buying them and using them more frequently than their old air conditioners, the net energy consumption will be greater than before.

The has been a very large emphasis on consumer spending in our economy in the past century primarily because it sustains the system. The present consumer spending supports the economic and political order whose power is sustained primarily by maintaining growth and "capital accumulation". Since the economic system requires the constant externalization of its operating costs to maintain itself, a decrease in consumer spending would cause an overall systematic collapse of our economic and social system.

Adam Curtis' idea of corporate America turning our society into a "sea of selves" describes each member of our society focusing primarily on the health of themselves, rather than focusing on the overall health of the system and community. Curtis' "sea of selves" describes an entire popultion that has an "inverted quarantine". He believes that corporate America has influenced and allowed each member of our society to concern themselves with only themselves.

Bailey's notion of the civic and the divine describes, what he believes, the social aspects of our collective personalities. He believes that for a community or organization to be successful, the elements of the civic and divine must be placed at the center of its structure. The civic and devine, he sates, describes an organization's reason to be. The civic element of our personalities is found in our set of rights and obligations that bind the collective to the individual while the divine element describes the notion of something greater than one's self and that the activities of the collective effect the overall system.

I think that Dardozzi's essay paints a very accurate picture of the structures of our entire society. From economically, politically and socially, Dardozzi describes how each aspect will be affected by an overall decrease in available energy and the problems that appear with energy efficiency. Dardozzi's essay makes us as consumers think twice about using energy efficient technologies rather than simply using less. I do appreciate his description of our very fragile system and how one simple flaw will have destructive consequences. I also appreciate his description of the rise of our somewhat selfish personalities. I think he was very accurate when he described our "survival of the fittest" type of attitude, in that most members of our society think and act only for the success of themselves, rather than the success of our system. Although his description is somewhat depressing, I think it is a wake-up-call for members of our society. I think Dardozzi accurately describes who the individual is and why the individual should work more for the collective in order to survive any oncoming crisis.

This assignment is appropriate for veteran's day because of the mentality of the soldier. At the beginning, the soldier is broken down and the "self" is taken out of his/her personality. After the soldier is broken down, he/she is rebuilt to focus on the health and success of the collective unit. A soldier soon learns to fight not for himself, but for the soldiers around him, and the success of the entire operation. A veteran is someone who has fought for the success of the people around them, and for the success and health of the entire nation. The veteran knows that a "sea of selves" will not survive. The veteran exhibits more than others the civic and devine and knows their reason to be. If this nation was filled with a "sea of veterans", our society as a whole would prosper.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bottled Water

By now we've all heard about the unnecessary burden bottled water puts on the environment. Still, I most of us probably continue to drink it. It has become fairly common knowledge that tap water, which must be rigorously tested and treated, is typically cleaner than bottled water, which has much more lax regulations. Still, Americans continue to buy it. The most common excuse is that it's just more convenient, and this is true; it's easier to just grab a bottle of water on your way out the door than to pour yourself a glass of tap water. But, as our guest lecturer pointed out on Monday, the plastic used to make bottled water comes from petroleum. Not only that, but these plastic bottles are extremely non-biodegradable, and tax our landfills.

If American citizens don't care enough to stop drinking bottled water, someone else will have to step in and try and resolve the issue. Thankfully, some people are paying attention. According to an article by Julie Knapp, on, the state legislature of North Carolina has, effective as of October 1, banned the deposition of "all rigid plastic containers, including plastic water bottles, in their landfills." She says state officials are optimistic this will encourage people to recycle their plastic bottles. This after "nearly 7 billion pounds of plastic bottles were dumped in landfills nationwide" in 2007. In addition to increasing plastic recycling, I think this new law will cause North Carolina's residents to think more carefully about buying bottles water in general. If they're going to have put in extra effort to get rid of their plastic trash, they'll probably try to avoid amounting such trash in the first place. Instead of grabbing a bottle of water on their way out the door, maybe now they'll just fill up a Nalgene bottle from the tap and take that with them.

London city officials are also taking measures to cut down on plastic bottle waste. London's bus and railway stations have recently been equipped with water refilling stations known as "Hydrachills". For the cost of about 30 US cents, people can refill any bottle they have with them with cool, clean water. According to Hydrachill's website (, all proceeds will benefit an environmental charity known as Waste Watch. With these Hydrachill stations, London's residents and tourists can save themselves money that would have been spent on another bottle of water, while reducing plastic waste.

I think both of these initiatives, particularly the introduction of Hydrachill, are steps in the right direction. If most people are going to continue to rely on the convenience of bottled water, the government is going to have to either provide a comparable alternative, or draw up legislature to help save us from ourselves.

Environmental Progress of the Great Lakes

After reading Szasz's text, specifically his discussion on the pollution of the Cuyahoga River and when in burst into flames in 1969, I decided to check up on the environmental progress of that specific region. I became very interested primarily because the waters of the Cuyahoga River flow into Lake Erie. Lake Erie is connected to Lake Ontario by the Niagara River (below) and the Welland Canal that was built. I happen to live about 5 miles from the shores of Lake Ontario, so when Szasz mentioned the catastrophic pollution of the Cuyahoga River, I became intrigued. Before I discuss the history of pollution and of recovery, I will first discuss why the Great Lakes are so important.

According to an Elementary School Geography class posting from Detroit, Michigan, the Great Lakes are some of, if not the most important lakes in the U.S. and Canada. The Great Lakes hold about one-fifth of the world's surface fresh water. The Great Lakes are the center of North America's industrial heartland, which supports the ecosystem 8 U.S. states, and two Canadian provinces which in turn supports nearly 40 million Americans and Canadians. These 40 million Americans and Canadians help support a multi-billion dollar tourist and fishing industry. So, as you can see, the Great Lakes are pretty important.

According to the Great Lakes Information Network, "Water pollution is defined as a change in the chemical, physical and biological health of a waterway due to human activity. Ways that humans have affected the quality of the Great Lakes water over the centuries include sewage disposal, toxic contamination through heavy metals and pesticides, overdevelopment of the water's edge, runoff from agriculture and urbanization, and air pollution." As industry boomed in the 18th and 19th century, companies used the Great Lakes and rivers as their own garbage cans, under the widespread belief that water could dilute any substance. The pollutants that enter the Great Lakes come from a variety sources, but the main three sources of pollutants are point source pollution (drainpipe draining directly into a lake), nonpoint source pollution (runoff that picks up pollutants), and atmospheric pollution (air pollutants from coal-burning energy plants and waste incinerators). After a century or two of disposing of waste in these ways, their consequences soon became apparent. The picture below shows the pollution in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The water pollution in the Great Lakes has greatly affected and altered many aspects of the ecosystem. One example of these effects and alterations has been the overall health of fish and wildlife that bases their health on the overall health of the waterway. Heavy metals such as mercury and lead, along with pesticides that enter the overall food chain create various deformities and death among sealife. These deformities include large tumors in fish and three-legged frogs that have been spotted in the past decade. The pollution of the Great Lakes has also greatly affected human health. People surrounding the Great Lakes ingest large amounts of fish taken from the lakes themselves. So eating contaminated fish will have drastic effects on human health such as sickness and disease. According to the Great Lakes Information Network, "studies have suggested that toxic chemicals (present in fish) can lead to reproductive problems, cancer and neurological disorders." Water pollution from industrialization has also created "eutrophication", or increased biological growth. Before industrialization, the Great Lakes naturally contained little plant nutrients which created high levels of animal life. When industry started to emerge, new nutrients were introduced to this natural cycle. These new nutrients were quickly loaded into the lakes which was much more than the natural waterbody could handle. This excessive nutrient loading into the lakes stimulated excessive plant growth, which soon decreased the amount of available oxygen in the water and eventually killing off certain species, therefore greatly altering the ecological balance of the Great Lakes.
After the Cuyahoga river incident and an increase in eutrophication, the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) in 1972. The GLWQA established pollution control levels (mainly to reduce phosphorus levels in Lakes Ontario and Erie), water quality research and monitoring regulations. Since then, countless agreements and regulations have been made to reduce the amount of pollution from nearly every source. GLWQA reports that "since 1970, the levels of toxic pollutants in Lakes Erie and Ontario have decreased by nearly 80%".
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) soon stepped in and reported that between 1992 and 2001 the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) of the awarded 71 demonstration grants totaling $4,855,459 to States, Tribes, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, county and municipal governments, technical assistance providers, and others. These grants have leveraged $2,156,584 in contributions from grantees and others." These various organizations worked to reduce and prevent future pollutants entering the Great Lakes. Below is a list created by EPA in 2002 of various reductions in pollutants that could be measured from 1992-2001.
-8236 Lbs of mercury removed from use or uncontrolled storage
-5790 mercury thermometers collected from residents within the Great Lakes states and exchanged for alternative thermometers
-105275 Fluorescent lamps containing mercury collected and recycled.
-500 mercury containing auto switches collected from autos (both end of life and in-use) and properly disposed of
-451 PCB Transformers removed, and the PCB materials properly disposed of, while the metal, etc. has been recycled
-262,073 Lbs of Pesticides properly disposed of
-7041 Lbs. Of household hazardous waste collected and properly disposed of
-In addition thousands of pounds of electronics and computer equipment containing lead solder, mercury, and other precious metals have been collected from residents within the Great Lakes states and properly recycled.
These efforts and numbers will continue to grow as more and more residents within the Great Lakes states turn their "inverted quarantines" back outward and find systematic solutions to various systematic threats.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Community Gardens

In class we had a guest speaker who made me realize the importance of fresh food and its impact on the bosy and the enviorment. My family comes from a country that grew and relied on agriculture so my parents did thier best to bring what they could of that here, when the moved to America. In my back yard we grow tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, pumpkins and hot peppers. We're lucky enough to have a space to grow these crops however living in the city, also known as the concrete jungle, many people don't have much green space to do this. This is where community gardens come to play.

A community garden is a plot of land in which many people come together to take care of in order to be able to use it to plant what they want. This allows people without a yard to be able to grow what they want to. They are open to the public as long as those who participate agree to take care of the land in which they are using.

Comming from the Bronx I was surprised to hear that there are many community gardens located there. I never really saw any but then figured that I never really was looking. I did research to see where many of these gardens where located and came up with a long list. The only problem with this list was that many of these gardens are at risl of being threatened which means that if more people don't get invovlved the government may replace the green land with what they seem necessary, which according to them is anything thay can make money off of. Its the people who need to spread the word and utilize these community gardens so that we may be able to live fresh and healthy while saving the Earth.

Saving Ourselves

The lecture in class yesterday proved to me that indeed, before you can save the world, you have to save yourself. Signing that petition requesting more locally produced food really made me believe we can make a difference, one little step at a time.
Another little step we can take, which was discussed in class, is providing students the option to learn how to farm or garden important foods so that we can all eat healthier. I've been feeling for a while that the foods I eat really are not as nutritious as they should be because they have been processed and shipped. Not to mention the fact that our government has been proven, time and again, to care only about the profits instead of what's best for us. By implementing courses in the school curriculum that teach growing and sustainability with a hands-on perspective, we could really see a change in the way we live our lives. I would love to say I have a major/minor in farming/gardening.
Seeing as how there are community gardens popping up in crowded, industrialized cities like the Bronx, it shouldn't be hard for the university to find a patch of land for students to harvest and run, whether it be for a class or optional enjoyment.


For a class I was required to read an article titled "Warren Buffet takes charge" from fortune 500 magazine. I found this article really interesting. It is about a Chinese automobile manufacturing company who is now manufacturing electric cars. The company is called BYD and is run by Wang Chuan-Fu. The company began as a small battery manufacturing company; Chaun-Fu expanded the company and became a leading manufacturer of rechargeable cell phone batteries. When BYD purchased a small automotive company they began to engineer and produce electric cars and in late 2010 these new cars are expected to hit the markets. Electric cars are far from a perfect solution to the internal combustion gasoline cars we all use today, but they could be a step in the right direction. If these cars are manufactured and are able to be sold at a reasonable price, the electricity still has to be generated somehow to fuel these cars. Many forms of electricity generation are harmful to the environment just like CO2 emissions. However if some of the electricity could be generated from renewable sources such as wind or solar energy it could cut down on a lot of our CO2 emissions from automobiles.

If these electric cars are affordable they could save people money as well. The article states...

"Assume you drive 12,000 miles a year, gas costs $2 a gallon, and electricity is priced at 12¢ per kilowatt, about what most Americans pay. A gasoline-powered car that gets 20 miles to the gallon - say, a Chevy Impala or a BMW X3 - will have annual fuel costs of $1,200 and generate about 6.6 tons of carbon dioxide. Equip those cars with electric motors, and fuel costs drop to $400 a year and emissions are reduced to about 1.5 tons. "

400 dollars a year is a significant savings especially when you multiply that by the millions of people who could save this. This could also drastically reduce our dependency on foreign oil. The emissions would be reduced by almost 5 tons per year; multiply that by even one million people and the emissions would be reduced dramatically. If we all came to depend on electric cars like we depend on gas run cars today there would be an increase in the demand for electricity, we would just have to find ways to keep the emissions from the generation of electricity to a minimum and it might really help lower the CO2 levels.

One of the other things I found really interesting about this article is that BYD says that they reduced the cost of their batteries by replacing robots and machines with workers. In a time like this where unemployment rises everyday it is interesting to think maybe other companies could do the same and see similar results. More jobs would mean less unemployment and less poverty and would have huge impacts on the economy.