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.
Mom’s birthday present (Body Shop)
Parking (Toonie Lot)
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.