Friday, December 3, 2010


Selection 23: Controversy at Love Canal
            This selection describes the chemical pollution issue at Love Canal and one woman’s pursuit in providing evidence of health problems being experienced by the citizens of the area. An obstacle in this controversy is that it is both scientific and political, proving to be problematic for Beverly Paigen as she seeks assurance that similar situations won’t occur in the future. The history of Love Canal is explained, beginning in 1942 when over 21,000 tons of chemicals were dumped into a canal. Later, the Niagara Falls Board of Education builds a school on this land, although advised by Hooker that the site is contaminated. Opposing viewpoints about the security of the area began to arise; the New York State Commissioner of Health announced a health emergency, while The Health Department deemed the neighborhood as being “a safe place to live”. Paigen conducts experiments and concludes that living in homes near or within contaminated bodies of water effects pregnancy and civilians’ urinary, respiratory and central nervous systems. Although this conclusion was accepted, the controversy continued and Paigen carried on her exploration into the issue. Many factors hindering a resolution are discussed including a bias between the community and state, the disagreement of questions needing to be explored, no one group having control over the information being obtained, the lack of minority opinions being expressed, the abiding of scientists to follow social controls, and having all parties agree on what needs to be solved, how to address this, and agree to abide the decisions. The Love Canal story has provided enlightenment for the necessary steps needed to be taken when solving a controversy in the future.

Selection 24: Restoring Rivers
            This selection depicts the degradation of waterways in the United States, and why it is important to restore these systems. Both water quality and quantity is an issue being experienced by local U.S. communities, as more than one third of rivers are impaired due to pollution and some rivers don’t flow year round due to extensive extraction. This has lead to the extinction of aquatic wildlife, the increase in nitrates, the creation of dead zones and increase in the number of floods, revealing a need for river and stream restoration. The U.S. federal government needs to implement cleaner industrial policies, a law against the destruction of riparian forests and point-source pollution (run-off) into waterways, and enforce land stewardship. Current control mechanisms have failed due to the rate of development and because no restoration standards have been set. This means government officials are unsure of the most effective restoration approaches, have no way of measuring the success of their projects, and have no tracking system to gather the information. Restoration will only be successful if federal agencies are advised and abide by restoration standards, tracking systems are implemented, the effectiveness of national projects can be measured, and funding for projects is used efficiently.

Selection 33: At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic
            Opposing political, economic, and environmental perspectives are discussed in this selection as being problematic when formulating environmental policies. The Shrine of Lady Fatima represents this concept, as some people can see Mary in the air while others cannot, alluding that while some see environmental damage, others see “efficiency, utility, and the maximization of wealth”. An interesting concept discussed is people are both consumers who think of themselves and citizens who think of society, although these two titles don’t always co-exist. It is important to balance economic with ideological, aesthetic and moral goals when creating regulations, as to satisfy many peoples’ backgrounds and beliefs. Efficiency and safety is addressed as safety is often substituted for efficiency which can lead to unjust workplace conditions for employees while keeping market prices down. Another opposing perspective is the cost-benefit approach which treats people equally compared to the Kantian approach which is based on the belief system of superiority. Though it is a difficult process, it is crucial for multiple perspectives be considered when making policies.

Selection 31: Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment
            Sandra Steingraber describes her family’s struggle with cancer and her belief that more research needs to be conducted to better understand the effects of the environment on cancer. Because she was adopted, Steingraber makes a valid point that “what runs in families does not necessarily run in blood” implying that the family’s common environment is more influential than genes in terms of being diagnosed with cancer. Through her research, she discovers her bladder cancer was due to a mutation of DNA caused by the substitution of one genetic code for another. There are multiple studies of various trace exposures causing bladder cancer, although the prevention of these substances is not being employed. Steigngraber addresses the idea that heredity is a major reason for cancer as an obstacle preventing the exploration of environmental factors on cancer. With only 10% of people diagnosed having hereditary linkages, environmental carcinogens are undoubtedly involved. The notion of being aware of the poisons in our environment and having the right to be protected from them is discussed; which ties into the “principle of the least toxic alternative” which explains that we should all make safer choices and abolish the release of chemical carcinogens into the environment.

Selection 10: Life and Death of the Salt Marsh
            The unique salt marsh ecosystems located in eastern North America are described in this selection, and why they are essential to preserve. Through an extensive description, readers are given a vivid impression of a green ribbon-like mat acting as both land and water, which is thick enough to walk on. These marshes support many life forms, including animals that can’t live in the saline ocean and also provide a market for fisheries. However due to growing coastal populations, these ecosystems have been filled with trash, poison and have been eroded. It should be of national importance to preserve these marshes and win the “battle between the forces of development and conservation”.

Selection 20: Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services
            This selection discusses the loss of marine biodiversity and how this affects both the ecosystem and humans. Humans are responsible for marine biodiversity loss as we are exploiting, polluting and destroying the habitats for marine life. The consequences of this destruction include resource collapse and the decrease in stability and water quality. Because millions of people live off foods provided by the ocean, this is a significant problem. Experiments conclude that increased biodiversity within an ecosystem benefits the stability of the ecosystem, provides the channeling of energy for higher levels in the food web and an overall increase in productivity of the ecosystem. In coastal ecosystems, as species-rich systems increase there is more opportunity for the inhabitants of the area be provided with necessary services; and likewise in large marine ecosystems, there was a positive relationship between the number of fishery collapses and the richness of the species in an ecosystem. Fortunately, human behavior can be altered and therefore the level of biodiversity reversed (at least on local to regional scales). It is our responsibility to maintain stable ecosystems and notable coastal water quality in order to ensure future generations are provided with sufficient goods and services.

Consider the evidence of affluenza that you see around you. Do you see it in yourself, friends, family or North American society? Can you take action to combat affluenza?
            After reflecting on the definition of affluenza, I realize there is shocking amount of evidence of this “disease” within myself and all around me. Living in North American society we are bombarded with the message that the more we consume the happier we will be. Nearly everywhere you look the media and advertisements are encouraging society to buy a new product that has more benefits than anything we currently own. An example of this that I have experienced occurred a month ago when I purchased a new Ipod shuffle. I went to Best Buy with the intent of buying a product that I didn’t particularly need but wanted because of its new design. When I got to Best Buy, a sales associate advised that I wait another week until the new version of this product came out. After a week, I made my purchase and was satisfied for about a month before an even newer version of the shuffle came out! Outraged that my new purchase wasn’t the newest model I determined to return my Ipod for the “better” model. I stopped and thought about my decision and realized I would be supporting the company’s exact purpose of persuading consumers to have the newest upgraded product, when really there were little differences between the two.
            I also see evidence within my friends and family, especially when it comes to fashion. Some fashion trends my friends and I have bought into include bandannas, big teased hair, skinny jeans, scarves, animal print and big sunglasses. These fads are successful in encouraging people to run out and buy the items fast, so they too can be in style. I have begun to critic my purchases and realize I spend too much on the latest “in” products that only give me joy for a short period of time, maybe a season before they are old news.
            I’m now aware my family, friends and I have everything we need to sustain ourselves and shouldn’t feel the need to consume in order to ­feel worthy. I have replaced my routine shopping trips with visits to the park with my friends and dog. Having an appreciation for what we have instead of what we don’t, not worrying about brand labels or material objects and living more simply in my opinion is a mindset that we all need to adopt in order to combat affluenza.

Activity: Categorization of my purchases for one week
            I categorized my purchases as “good”, “bad”, or “ugly” by taking environmental impacts, whether the company is local or foreign, and whether the company is corporate or a small business into account. An example of a good purchase is bus fare because taking public transportation is the greenest way for me to get to school, and the money is staying within the city I live in. I consider the food I buy for my dog to be a bad purchase because it is produced and sold locally and has minimal packaging, but contains ingredients that have to be mass produced which contribute to climate change (wheat from agricultural industry). An ugly purchase is gas, for I am fueling a car that contributes to climate change, and Shell is a foreign corporate company that puts no money back into my community.

Gas (Shell)


Carwash (Shell)

Lunch (Subway)


Bus fare

Mom’s birthday present (Body Shop)


Parking (Toonie Lot)


Dog food


Makeup (Pharma Plus)

Ice cream (Dairy Queen)


Driver’s License Renewal

Food and drinks (Moxie’s)



            When analyzing my purchases for the week of November 21-27, I was surprised the majority of my purchases were “ugly”. The only way I can justify spending my money on these items and services is that I am a student and I often buy what is quickest and cheapest (Subway). However, these purchases are not ethical and I would much rather spend my money on organic food products but they are harder to obtain and more expensive. Having only one purchase in the week which I considered “good” is concerning. Looking at other weeks, this trend is consistent as very few of my purchases are environmentally friendly and are from local small businesses.
            This reflection has sparked awareness within myself and I’m now positive I’d rather spend money on purchases I consider “good” rather than supporting companies I don’t respect or on goods/services that inflict harm on the environment. I will start being more conscious of what I buy and consider where and how it is produced, if it effected anybody/anything, how it will benefit me and how I will dispose of it after. For example, instead of buying the regular bottle of shampoo I always buy (350 ml), I bought a larger (1L) bottle so that I’m not constantly throwing out the plastic containers every month. Another change to my purchasing habits is supporting local (or at least Canadian) businesses; instead of shopping at Guess, The Gap, Eddie Bauer or Home Depot for my parent’s Christmas gifts I will shop at Canadian companies such as The Bay, Roots or Canadian Tire or Rona. Eating out or going for drinks is a routine outing that my friends and I enjoy. I realize I can still do this without feeling guilty about it, as long as we are going to a smaller, local place such as Triple B’s, instead of Moxie’s for example. This activity was enlightening and I have already begun to critique my purchases more carefully which I feel is the responsible and ethical thing to do.


Friday, November 5, 2010


Selection 3: Principles of Conservation
            Pinchot’s main focus in this selection is that the conservation of resources means maximizing their value for human use, instead of preserving the source they are being obtained from. The conservation movement that can be applied to more than natural resources began with forestry. The first point addressed regarding this concept is about development, and how the present generation has the right to use the earth’s resources for their benefit. Conservation also means the prevention of waste, which involves educating people on how they can dispose of their waste in the most environmentally friendly and efficient way. The final concept is that natural resources must be conserved for many people, therefore benefiting all people. With the use of foresight and common sense, we will be able to have the best and largest amount of a resource for the longest time, resulting in national efficiency. 

Selection 4: A Sand County Almanac
            This selection begins with Leopold’s realization that although humans have a dramatic effect on wildlife and their habitats we can’t begin to understand the complexity and essence of the wilderness. When looking at ethics, the relationships between many variables such as individuals and society can be explained, but there is no ethic for the relation between man and the outdoors (land, animals, plants). In an economic approach, the land is viewed as being man’s property, and in ethical terms the man is a member of the land. Education hinders the development of land ethic as we are taught to view the land as a commodity without having any appreciation for it. Land ethic entails the recognition of right and wrong actions, and perceiving the land as more than an economic issue.  By accepting this ethic, we have a better understanding of ecology and will preserve the biotic community.

Selection 28: Food Scarcity: An Environmental Wakeup Call
This selection begins with the warning that if we continue at the current rate of environmental degradation, the damages will not only affect local communities, but the world economy. Agriculture is discussed as being a sector in the economy that will be greatly affected. Raising grain prices would have a devastating effect on the both the 1.3 billion people in the world who are living in poverty, and the rich due to severe economic issues that would arise. The world’s growing population is a factor responsible for food scarcity, due to the decrease in cropland and water available. There is a growing rivalry between city and countryside dwellers as there is a high demand for irrigation water, resulting in difficulties for farmers. The evidence of food scarcity is becoming more evident, foreshadowing a future with inflated food prices and no economic progress. In order to sustain the next generation we must maintain food supplies, stabilize population and climate, use energy more efficiently, protect the land, and developed countries must consume less grain-intensive livestock products. All things considered, we must shift our current way of living to an environmentally and economically sustainable way of life.

Selection 29: Environmental, Energetic, and Economic Comparisons of Organic and Conventional Farming Systems
This selection discusses The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial and the various effects of using conventional, animal-based, and legume-based cropping. Conventional farming is characterized by the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which have proved to cause environmental and public health problems; therefore organic farming which aims to conserve soil and water resources is becoming more popular. The experiment’s findings included the conventional system having higher yields for the first five years (due to nitrogen shortages), after this period the yields were similar for all three systems and that during a period of drought, the highest yield was in the organic animal system. The organic system utilized soil with a high level of biomass therefore decreasing the problem of runoff and soil erosion, used less fossil energy and because no commercial chemicals were used, the health of the public and environment were benefited. The list of benefits associated with organic farming continues (with the exception of nitrogen deficiency and weed competition) as well as the verdict that this type of farming is the most profitable.

Selection 27: The Agricultural Crisis as a Crisis of Culture
Discussion about small farms begins this selection and how there was an economy for minor products in the past. The shift away from this type of farming  towards “bigness” commenced the use of mechanical equipment, use of chemicals, creation of monocultures, deterioration of soil, abandonment of land, loss of employment, movement into cities, poorer quality crops, and dependence on markets for food (even for farmers). Culture applies to food as more than technology is required for production, revealing the connection between people and the earth. The movement into the city is a cultural issue as farmers are forced to conform to undemanding jobs and lose their values. Because culture is most successful in unity, farmers must be regarded as being a part of a system rather than being outcompeted. We must use knowledge and morality to become interdependent and create a movement away from the current “bigness” culture in the farming world.

Selection 41: Women’s Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation
The selection begins by discussing the link between biodiversity and women as both have experienced setbacks due to society’s unwillingness for difference. Throughout history and in many countries today, women are viewed as being inferior to men; while biodiversity is seen as being economically trivial resulting in the prevalence of monocultures. The survival of Third World countries is dependent on the conservation and sustainability of diverse resources and therefore many technologies are having devastating effects on the civilian’s livelihoods. In agriculture, the loss of crop diversity results in loss of employment and proves that diversity-based production systems can be high-productivity systems. Although overlooked, women work in various sectors which require skills and knowledge and do many tasks which make them vital in biodiversity conservation. Biotechnology is finally addressed as being a “destruction of biodiversity” as hybrid seeds are created which present many issues to farmers and consumers. Because the seeds are patented, farmers must buy from corporations every year which is unjust and the genetically engineered products pose many health risks.

Selection 39: Towards Sustainable Development
A key point in sustainable development is satisfying human needs and aspirations, therefore we must strive towards an equal world with an improved quality of life for all. This entails the affluent countries to live within the world’s ecological means and for economic growth where needs are not being met. However this is proven to be difficult with the use of technological developments and the rise in population which has a large impact on resources and living standards. It is essential to focus on protecting natural systems so we don’t deplete resources or diversity of species, and be aware of the rate of depletion of our non-renewable resources. Inequity is described as a reason for resource depletion and environmental stress, and therefore the movement towards interdependence is crucial. This is possible nationally and would be beneficial as everyone would be responsible for common resources and not simply looking out for their self-interest. Technology needs to be manufactured to meet environmental resource concerns and be significantly improved in developing countries. Finally, in order for sustainable development to be successful, economic and ecological considerations must co-exist together.

Reflection: My food system
            When reflecting on my food system I realized the things I dislike about the system far outweigh the things I like about it. I recognize this is due to the developed country which I live in, where convenience is a priority over quality. The positive aspects of my food include the overall taste of most of it, the ability to receive foods year round (even though they aren’t in season where I live) and the opportunity to buy a variety of foods from many places around the world (sushi, fish from ocean). The list of negative aspects begins with all the packaging involved in the deliverance of my food. Walking down the aisles of a grocery store, it’s apparent how dependent we have become on packaged food, which is unfortunate as most of this ends up in landfills. Another environmental issue associated with my food is the use of chemical pesticides, hormones and antibiotics which I consume when eating any grain or animal product. Although I appreciate the ability to obtain international foods, the ways in which they are transported are environmentally unfriendly. This brings up another issue of being unaware of where my food is coming from or how it is produced; unlike an apple that has a sticker of where it was made, I never know where my meat products are coming from or what conditions the animals have lived in. The cost of food is upsetting to me, as healthy choices are often more pricy than packaged junk food. This is extremely problematic as it encourages consumers to buy the less healthy foods and is a reason for the sky-rocketing obesity rates. I would love for my parents to purchase more organic foods, but because of the drastic difference in price, it isn’t a completely satisfactory alternative.  Therefore, I would live to see many changes to my food system in the future, shifting towards a healthier, more natural system that favors environmental sustainability. 

Reflection: Zoos
            When reflecting on zoos, I have mixed opinions on the ethics behind them; on one hand I believe zoos provide excellent education for the public and allow people the opportunity to connect with wildlife, however with many zoos not keeping up to current standards, I don’t believe that many of the animals are living a happy life. I do believe zoos have a role in conservation and education. They act as reserves for endangered or threatened species and in many cases the numbers in a species population have increased due to aid in zoos. As well, they provide an environment for abandoned animals, such as the Winnipeg Zoo’s albino black bear. Another positive aspect is the lifespan of the animals in zoos tends to be increased, therefore providing more research opportunities. Zoos are also a place where fun and education co-exist. Personally, I find the signage around zoos to be extremely interesting and I leave every time with more knowledge on an animal’s habitat, threats it faces in the wild, and so on. Children seem to be a target audience in zoos, and therefore many educational activities are offered such as camps and tours. This is beneficial as everybody should have an appreciation for animals and the environment, and instilling this characteristic in children is crucial. I do think it is ethical to keep animals in zoos under very strict conditions. I believe animals raised in captivity feel less of the strains of containment, and therefore only animals born in captivity or rescued from the wilderness should be in zoos. As well, only animals suited to the environmental conditions of the zoo’s location should inhabit there. I always feel sorry for the zebras in the Winnipeg zoo, and don’t believe that shipping these animals across the world for people’s viewing enjoyment is right. Another consideration is the enclosure quality for the animals. For example, tigers and bears need vast space to roam but are almost always refused in zoos. Personally, I love visiting zoos. I visit the Winnipeg Zoo at least twice a year and travelled to San Diego specifically to visit the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. I like supporting zoos so they can renovate the enclosures and continue providing people the opportunity to connect with animals in a safe and entertaining way.

Activity: FOOD Inc.
            For my activity I decided to watch FOOD Inc. as I’ve heard many positive reviews of it and finally had the time to watch it. Enlightening points made about all aspects of our food system are covered, which to my surprise was successful in changing the way I think about what I’m eating. The main point in this film is the industry’s desire to keep consumers unaware of where our food is coming from and how it is made; by keeping us in the dark, the industry is flourishing in selling low quality, unhealthy and unsafe products. I found it alarming that even though a grocery store appears to be stocked with a countless variety of products, this is an illusion as there are only a handful of large corporations controlling the food system. With only 13 slaughter houses in the U.S. for example, it is no wonder there are growing nationwide health concerns with contamination and other illnesses. I was surprised that this film had actual footage inside the slaughter houses, but I feel this was an essential point to convey. The animals were not treated as living beings but as a product that needed to be processed as quickly as possible. Other meat industry topics included the prevalence of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) instead of farms, the unnatural diets of the animals (hormones, feeding corn to cows that eat grass), the dangers of working in a meat processing plant, and the trend for illegal immigrants to work in these plants. This new system of raising livestock requires the production of many animals, on a small amount of land, at an affordable price, which is extremely troublesome seeing as this makes the living conditions horrendous for the animals. The patents on grains are addressed, focusing on the Monsanto corporation. One farmer vocalizes his opinion of the system and loses his entire livelihood, proving this company is working against farmers. The power of large food corporations can be seen again when looking back to when Oprah spoke out about Mad Cow Disease and was sued for doing so. With more growing health concerns, the unethical production of meat, and the trend of moving towards large companies for food production, I am discouraged about my food system. After watching this film I have decided to make an effort to eat local, buy grass-fed meat and be more conscious of my food choices whenever possible.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

ENVR 2000 BLOG #2

Selection 6: The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis
            Throughout history humans have proved to be a significant element in our environment as we possess the ability to manipulate the environment to our advantage. Creating farmland, appropriate hunting grounds or using the forest’s wood to create ships are a few ways in which humans have changed both the ecology and “nonhuman nature” of the environment. A noteworthy event in history occurred four generations ago when Western Europe and North America combined the use of technology and science, providing a new outlook on ecology. The fusing of the two approaches created more advanced technology that begun to take a toll on the environment. Today the burning of fossil fuels is a common practice that is inflicting serious harm on the earth’s atmosphere and the human population growth doesn’t aid in the increasing consumption of resources and other goods. It is proposed we should change our frame of mind to the “wilderness area” mentality where we aim to restore the environment to how it existed before human technological advances.
            It is explained that our current technology and science have roots reaching back as far as into the 17th century, and that today all noteworthy science is Western. It was seen in early history that water and wind were harnessed to power industrial processes. As the years progressed, the expansion of technology allowed for machinery that enabled work to be completed using less time and energy. The history of an agriculture plow is explained, revealing how the advance in technology allows humans to exploit the environment. The early plows scratched the ground and required two oxen. Later, a larger plow equipped with a knife, a share to slice under the ground and a board to turn the ground over was invented that required eight oxen and could cultivate larger areas of land.
            The role of religion is influential in the way humans view nature and destiny. Religion has had such significance throughout history that scientists had to clarify their work from a religious view. Today we live in the post-Christian age, having the belief that humans are of the highest importance and everything is put on earth for our use. This anthropocentric view has distanced humans from the natural system leading to serious ecological issues. We must reexamine our current religion or adopt a new one in order to preserve the man-nature relationship necessary for a sustainable ecology. A substitute for the Christian religion was proposed by Saint Francis who believed there is equality among nature and man. However, this view failed to be accepted therefore threatening our ecology, as we continue to live in a society believing nature’s purpose is to serve man.

Selection 7: The Tragedy of the Commons
            The tragedy of the commons is a term describing the overuse of a common resource when used by many people, and is therefore an example of a problem with no technical solution. The commonly used example of an open pasture is explained, where herdsmen desire to have as many cattle on the land as possible, until eventually the land is degraded and is no longer usable. A positive component of adding another animal is the extra money the herdsman will receive from selling the cow, while the negative component doesn’t seem very imperative because the overgrazing affects the land of all the herdsmen. This provides insight into human nature, as an individual receiving some form of personal gain will overlook the consequences imposed on their society.
            There are many examples of this concept seen around the world, from overfishing the oceans to allowing limitless public access into National Parks. Because the earth isn’t privately owned by anyone, pollution is addressed as being an overlooked tragedy of the commons. The growing population also aids in the pollution problem, as larger populations make it harder for the natural system to exist. Laws or taxing incentives are necessary in order to encourage individuals to reduce their pollution. Population can also be regarded in another light, where the freedom to have as many children as desired is problematic, especially in impoverished countries. The United Nations declare that it is a human right to decide on your own family size, although this has sent many families into welfare states. Therefore, an individual must make the decision to refrain from undermining their society by listening to their conscience.
            Two concepts in order to “solve” the tragedy of the commons issues are mutual agreement and the recognition of necessity. It is essential for the people affected by the exploitation of a resource to come together in order to create a solution, such as the herdsman sharing the grazing land. As well, it is essential to recognize the issue at hand and make a change before a resource (or other mutual aspect) becomes depleted.

Selection 11: Will Hurricane Katrina Impact Shoreline Management?
            This selection examines the construction of buildings in coastal areas and why this federally funded operation should be terminated. The infrastructure damages due to Hurricane Katrina are first discussed which interestingly parallel the damages seen in the 1969 Hurricane Camille. Homes were swept away from their concrete pads, and the same dike of debris appeared. Katrina’s estimated 10 m wake wiped out nearly all proximate shoreline properties, as well as washing out oceanfront homes in Dauphin Island.
            The controversy of whether to rebuild Dauphin Island leads to the debate of whether beach replenishment is beneficial. It is interesting that real estate situated in a vulnerable area is increasing, resulting in a steady rise in coastal populations. When reflecting on Katrina, two opposing viewpoints have arisen concerning the future for beachfront communities. The National Shore and Beach preservation proposes the government should supply aid for beach restoration to help people and properties. However, the more prominent and discussed perspective, is that the U.S. should stop supporting coastal development as it is a counterproductive effort. Beach replenishment efforts create numerous problems including creating a false image of a stable environment when it isn’t, having no property damage mitigation as protection can’t be created to withstand a large storm, the pumping of sand which kills birds, fish and ecosystems and the use of tax payers money that will only benefit the residents of coastal areas.
            The selection then discusses the importance of distancing the U.S. from the most vulnerable coastal regions, which will saves billions in taxpayers money. Though it seems easy to select which areas should be rebuilt, many factors come into play. While rescue aid should be provided to impacted communities, the U.S. must not let emotions get in the way of refraining to rebuild what an area has lost and wants back. Another issue is the American mentality of never being conquered, and therefore residents would rather rebuild than relocate. Many argue that coastal development has a booming economy, although this is seen as being untrue as it contradicts the need for federal aid. Lastly, the U.S. has continued to evade coastal development regulations in order to keep their properties. It is possible for the U.S. to cut their ties with the most susceptible coastal regions, as an area’s weather patterns can predict what the future looks like. It is proposed that a commission should assemble and meet every five years to examine where to allocate federal assistance.
            The concerns with the restoration of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and barrier islands are addressed. It is believed by many that Katrina’s impact would have been lessened by the restoration of the wetlands and the barrier islands would have mitigated the harm posed on the wetlands and property. However both the wetlands and barrier islands couldn’t withstand the storm’s force, so these are seen as false allegations. It is noted that to restore a wetland requires extensive engineering and federal funds should be invested in projects that have the highest success rates, which again suggests a movement away from wetland and barrier island restoration.

Selection 12: Ecosystems and Human Well-being
            The selection begins by explaining how over the past 50 years, humans have had a substantial negative impact on the environment. Although economic development and human well-being seem to be of the highest importance, ecosystem management is a critical issue that should be of our highest interest. The first factor involved in managing ecosystems concerns 60% of the ecosystem services outlined in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment including air and water purification and the regulation of climate that are not being sustained. This is due to the world’s increasing demand of services (particularly food) and therefore the ecosystems are sacrificed in order to support the economy. Another problem is the irreversibility of change occurring in ecosystems, such as hypoxic zones in the ocean and altering regional climates. And finally, it is being seen that ecosystem devastation causes inequality among different regions of people, which is a key principle in poverty.
              The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlights four findings which outline actions needed to be taken in order to see sustainable ecosystems in the future. The first finding implies that humans have altered the ecosystems due to the growing demand for food, water, timber, fiber and fuel. This factor encompasses increases in cultivating systems, water withdrawals from rivers and lakes and the use of fossil fuels which has lead to the loss of 20% of coral reefs, an increase in the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide content, a loss of biodiversity, a homogenous distribution of species around the world, a loss of species (especially in freshwater ecosystems), and a decrease in genetic diversity. The second finding discusses that modifying earth’s ecosystems has lead to human benefits in the form of economic development and well-being. Agriculture is an example, as the land is completely converted into a form that can provide an individual with a profit. The third finding examines four futures with diverse interactions between ecosystems and humans. The scenarios are as follows: a globalized and passive society that has the greatest economic growth, a regionalized and passive society that has the lowest economic rates and highest population rates, a regionalized and proactive society with growing economic and population rates, and finally a globalized and proactive society that has a high economic growth rate and a steady population. It is noted that ecosystem management also requires progress in three of the MDGs; hunger especially in severely affected areas, child morality most commonly caused by undernutrition and water quality, and disease generated from human pathogens needs to be addressed.
            Human activities have unquestionably created factors that are deterring the international community’s Millennium Development Goals from being attained. With the increase in GDP, the unsustainable use of resources will quicken in pace, leading to more severe climate change and nutrient loading. The regions that will be most affected by the change will be poor rural areas where their survival is reliant on ecosystem services. We require the knowledge to modify the way we treat agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, water, and forestry as seen in the selection’s Box 2., and is therefore essential for governing institutions to be more accountable in overseeing changes. Because ecosystems are hard to substitute, we must adapt our views of population, technology, culture and economic growth in order to see healthy ecosystems in the future.

 Selection 15: More Profit with Less Carbon
            There is a common misunderstanding that both the environment and economy cannot be successful under the same conditions. This is untrue, as the advance in technology has created many energy saving products that are environmentally friendly and low-priced. It is estimated that Americans spend billions of dollars every year on wasted energy, when they could be reducing costs using climate controlling methods. The reasons why more people don’t convert is due to the fear of change, being unaware of the benefits, lacking the willingness to learn, and because the government creates an image of energy being inexpensive. As well as energy, decarbonizing our fuels is important in protecting the atmosphere.
            The selection elaborates on the notion that energy-efficient products are not as costly as they used to be. The Rocky Mountain Institute for example, used energy saving light bulbs and solar panels in the construction of their building, which paid for themselves in savings in only ten months. It is also more beneficial to utilize energy efficient technology throughout a whole building rather than in sectors, such as insulating an entire home so no heat can escape from one area.
            Transportation is extremely influential in adding to carbon emissions, and therefore investing in an energy efficient car is ideal. Car manufacturers continue to reinvent more efficient automobiles that use more than 13% of the fuel to propel the vehicle (unlike most modern vehicles) by using lightweight materials and aerodynamic designs. Ethanol and lower carbon gas are two greener fuel substitutes for the conventional oil that are becoming increasingly popular. It is proposed that if the U.S. could invest in energy efficient buildings, industries and vehicles, 28 million barrels of oil would be saved per day. Finally, a New Urbanist city design is mentioned as the closer neighborhoods are to each other, the less gas needed in order to drive from rural areas into the city. 
            Wind and solar energy are forms of renewable energy that is being explored worldwide. Germany receives 10% of its energy from harnessing wind power, which is remarkable and should be achieved more commonly elsewhere. This brings up an optimistic point of having the ability the slow global warming by implementing energy efficient technology and by using renewable energy wherever possible. Because global warming is “cheaper to fix than to ignore” the global economy should be inspired to change their customs and be responsible in revitalizing climate stability.
Selection 16: Reinventing the Energy System
            The current energy system relied upon by developed nations has far exceeded the expectations predicted by past societies. We have the luxury of living in air conditioned homes and have the ability to fly across the world at relatively low prices, making our energy supply seem infinite. However, with the environment in jeopardy the move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable and hydrogen sources has already begun.
            The combustion of fossil fuels creates serious health and environmental issues such as respiratory problems and being a significant source of air, water and land pollution. It is alarming that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest in 160, 000 years, which will need to decrease by up to 80% in the future. Electronics and biotechnology are advancing which are aiding in the overconsumption of energy, and lightweight materials are being introduced in the chemic world and are used in wind turbines and insulation. Energy saving lighting is also becoming more popular as these bulbs use less electricity and last longer. As well, the wind and sun are being used in powering windmills and solar cells which decrease the need for conventional forms of energy.  
            Because there is a disproportion in the allocation of energy around the world, the shift to a solar-hydrogen economy would greatly benefit developing countries. The equality of energy would mean some countries would become exporters and some importers, depending on their resources. It is finally noted that while there must be a broadening of energy services, developed countries must shift their consumption patterns and way of life. This includes not only using energy-efficient technology but focusing on human well-being as a whole and regarding energy as being a luxury not a right.

Selection 26: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis
            Human growth over the past couple of centuries has caused devastating effects on the environment, particularly greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The levels of carbon dioxide are the most significant change which has resulted from fossil fuel combustion. As well, the addition of methane and nitrous oxide have contributed to the overall greenhouse effect. The selection examines the current effects of global warming due to the greenhouse gases such as the increase in global temperature and the rising sea levels, as well as the long-term effects which include changes in precipitation and wind patterns.
            If anthropogenic gases continue to increase, the earth’s climate will continue to warm (as seen in the Multi-model averages and assessed ranges for surface warming graph) in different scenarios. Evidence is presented to support global climate change and the frightening notion that seal level rise and warming will continue even if we cease to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions today.

Offline activity
            This past week with the gorgeous October weather I made it a goal to spend at least an hour outside. Having lived in Winnipeg my whole life I realize how fast the winter months are approaching and how the drastic shift in temperature keeps me habitually indoors. Therefore I thought it necessary to enjoy perhaps the last of the jacketless weather and soak up some vitamin D.
            Monday through Friday I set aside at least an hour to take my dog Charlie to the dog park or for a walk through our favorite park. These places are rather secluded so it is nice to spend time enjoying the little things in life, especially during a season change like the transforming tree colors and migrating geese. As Charlie and I go for at least three walks a week, I realize the benefits of getting outdoors and appreciating nature. I find the air helps to clear my head and put me in a relaxed state, which is necessary during the stressful school year. I fully believe these walks improved mine and Charlie’s overall happiness and admiration for the environment, making me strive to get outside as much as possible.  

Reflection: Environmental ethics
            I think it’s important to reflect on your environmental ethics to analyze your way of thinking and type of lifestyle. Personally I agree with the biocentrism perspective of the environment. I believe that both living and non-living components make up a successful ecosystem and therefore are of equal importance. When looking at food webs for example, the grass that provides food for a grasshopper is as significant as a hawk at the top of the food chain. For this reason, everything within the earth is connected in some way and the degradation of one resource or species is of equal significance. The biocentric perspective is characteristic of a person who respects the environment and believes they are one with the earth. I feel strongly that more people should feel this connection between themselves and the environment, which would lead to a brighter future for the environment.
            Contrasting the biocentic perspective, the vast majority of people in Western society live an anthropocentric lifestyle. While I believe this is the most destructive and irresponsible way of thinking, I find myself being influenced by society and living an anthropocentric life. This perspective of humans being the most significant entities is reflected by my every day actions from not recycling paper products to driving an environmentally unfriendly jeep. I also find the way in which our society eats to be a key evaluator in where our ethics reside. Not only can we ingest food from anywhere around the world, but we can obtain these foods in any quantity we desire. This leads to issues such as overfishing, as the human demand is of the highest concern rather than sustaining resources. It is interesting to note that while we too are animals, of the thirty million species currently identified, we are the only species causing extensive environmental damage. This type of thinking leads to all other forms of environmental degradation as humans believe everything is ours for the taking, which I believe is a wrongful way of viewing our place in the environment. However, I am guilty of living with every luxury at the expense of the environment and should be more conscious of my actions.

            When I first thought about the meaning of anthropocentrism, a picture from the Simpson’s television show immediately entered my mind. It depicts that humans are at the highest level on the food chain and can obtain whatever we desire.  

Image retrieved September 25, 2010 from

Reflection: Parks and Wapusk National Park
            Today many national parks are governed by the idea that environmental and wildlife conservation can only exist with the exclusion of people. Though this ideology has the best intentions of maintaining a healthy environment, it creates many social problems. I believe all parks, even the isolated Wapusk National Park can meet its dual mandate of access and protection, and think that the benefits associated with public interaction outweigh the negative effects.  
            It can be regarded that National Parks are an example of the tragedy of the commons, as “the values that visitors seek in the parks are steadily eroded” (Easton, 2009, p.25). This is understandable as visitors don’t want buildings or other unnatural additions to the park obstructing a pristine environment. However, I don’t agree with this notion because I believe a park can be left in its natural state with little human influence. This means no campgrounds or unnecessary buildings should be built in parks. The first price of denying people access into parks is not providing an environment that can be observed and appreciated. Witnessing the beauty of nature instills a responsibility among the public to preserve the earth so future generations have the chance to enjoy the same experience. As well, people shouldn’t be deprived of a learning opportunity, and the amount of knowledge that can obtained from exploring a park can vary from species information, the local history of the environment, or conservation techniques. The mentality of the public being only a nuisance to parks needs to change, as the involvement of the community and tourists can be beneficial. The participation of more workers/volunteers allows for a higher productivity rate resulting in enhanced management of the park. As well, visitors and tourists bring in revenue which can then be allocated towards sustaining and bettering the environment. There is no reason for this disconnect, as people deserve to experience their land in its natural state and prove to be beneficial components to parks.
            Because parks are sites of high biodiversity and are responsible for the protection of threatened species, it is essential to create an environment where people can’t cause disturbances. While I believe people should be permitted to view both the landscape and wildlife, precaution needs to be taken. Secluded areas where the public can’t enter, designated walkways and viewpoints need to be taken into consideration for the safety of the public and wildlife. I think security officials should be active during all hours of public operation to ensure the area is being respected and left in its natural state. If the proper etiquette is practiced by the public while in a park, there should be no more of a threat posed to any species than would occur outside a park.
            Wapusk is a National Park currently closed to the public as there is concern of humans disturbing the “true wilderness” (“Wapusk National Park,” 2007).  Like any park, I think it should become more human-oriented to provide the benefits listed earlier. As the northern environment is especially unexplored and unfamiliar, the park would attract many people wishing to discover the diverse terrain and native caribou, polar bears and beluga whale species. Because many large animals inhabit this area, humans should only be allowed to observe from a safe and unthreatening distance. Specifically, this park provides a popular denning site for polar bears, therefore spacious enclosed areas separating the public from the animals would be necessary. I can envision Wapusk National Park as being a hot tourist spot in the future, providing a great experience for visitors as well as ensuring the protection of its species and environment.  

Easton, T. (2009). Environmental Studies: Third Edition. Ney York: MccGraw-Hill Companies

Wapusk National Park. (2007). Retrieved September 30, 2010, from

Reflection: Alberta tar sands
            There is no question the development of the Alberta tar sand industry is booming and becoming more popularly viewed as the solution to the peak oil crisis. However, consumers often overlook the environmental degradation and externalities involved in creating the world’s dirtiest hydrocarbon. The tailings ponds that leak toxic waste into the Athabasca River and kill many forms of wildlife, the large quantity of water extracted from the Athabasca River during production, and the abundance of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are only a handful of ways harm is inflicted on the environment.
            I don’t think it is a plausible notion that the industry will cease production any time soon due to the large revenue being brought in. Therefore I believe this project can continue but only if many modifications are made. Primarily, a responsible management force needs to be implicated which currently does not exist. Routine reports on pollution levels and the progress made in order to make this a greener project needs to be taken into account. It will be extremely difficult, if possible at all, to change many aspects of the production process such as clearing vast areas of land used for open-pit mining, or using the massive gas-guzzling trucks used to move the tar sand material. Nevertheless an improvement in all other sectors is necessary such as controlling gas emissions, implementing a better system for the tailings waste and obtaining water from better sources than a natural river.
            Another significant alteration needed to make this a sustainable project is putting a limit on the amount of oil being exported to the United States. Extensive highways and pipelines have been created in order to export 70% of Alberta’s oil directly south, meaning the U.S. is exploiting the Canadian environment in order to fuel their overconsumption habits. If there was a cap on the amount of oil produced every day, the industry would cause less harm to the environment and be better suited to make predictions for the future of the project.