Friday, April 9, 2010

Chapter 20: Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services by: Boris Worm et al.

For the final chapter review for our unit we return to the oceans and animals life. And once more the chapter starts off with and intro paragraph. "Ecologists think the loss of biodiversity is a problem because it threatens the stability of of ecosystems and the potential ability of life to adapt to changes in climate and other conditions." A human connection to this concern is from farmer who have noticed a decline in the number of wild bees and other pollinators. This means that crops are starting to come under threat. Overfishing has become threat to fish populations which in turn could lead to a major economic impact on the live of individual fishers. This was found by Dalhousie Universities Boris Worm et al.
"Human-dominated marine ecosystems are experiencing accelerating loss of populations and species, with largely unknown consequences." Worm ant eh University analyzed local experiments as well as long term regional time series, etc, to test how a loss of biodiversity will marine ecosystems. They determined that loss of biodiversity is "increasingly impairing the the ocean's capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover from perturbations." Recent surveys suggest that local biodiversity may enhance the productivity and stability of an ecosystem. However it is less clear how the importance of biodiversity changes at the landscape level and local experiments and theories don't seem to easily extend to long-term long-scale management decisions. Changes in marine biodiversity are cause by pollution, exploitation, habitat destruction and through indirect means such as climate change and perturbations in ocean biochemistry. Regional ecosystems such as coral reefs and coastal and oceanic fish communities are losing populations, species or entire functional groups rapidly.

Now onto the next section which is titled Experiments and deals with the...experiments... performed by Worm and the University. First off was a look at the effects of variation in marine diversity in areas such as primary and secondary productivity, resource use, nutrient cycling and ecosystem stability in a total of 32 controlled experiments. I will simply quote the results directly from the chapter since it is worded best here: "Increased diversity of both primary and secondary producers and consumers enhanced all ecosystem processes. Observed effect sizes correspond to a 78 to 80% enhancement of primary and secondary production in diverse mixtures relative to monocultures and a 20 to 36% enhancement of resource use efficiency." That's a pretty profound set of conclusions. Experiments that manipulated species or genetic diversity also showed that diversity enhanced ecosystem stability. Experiments with diet came to similar ends. Different diets were needed for various processes such as growth, survival and fecundity.

Now we come to the section describing experiments related to Coastal Ecosystems. Here long term regional trends were documented from a detailed database of 12 coastal estuarine ecosystems and other sources. Trends were examined in 30-80 different economically and ecologically important species per ecosystem. Records show that over the past millennium have shown a rapid decline in native species diversity. "Overall, histroical trends led to the present depletion Ihere defined as >50% decline over baseline abundance), collapse (>90% decline), or extinction (100% decline) of 91, 38, or 7% of species, on average." Only about 14% recovered from collapse and these species were mostly protected birds and mammals. "These regional biodiversity losses impaired at least three critical ecosystem services: number of viable (non-collapsed) fisheries (-33%); provision of nursery habitats such as oyster reefs, sea grass beds, and wetlands (-69%); and filtering and detoxification services provided by suspension feeders, submerged vegetation, and wetlands (-63%). The loss of the filtering services were suspected of contributing to declining water quality and the increase in algal blooms, fish kills, oxygen depletion and shellfish and beach closures. Sea level rise was suspected to be caused by loss of floodplains through the decline of wetlands. Loss of native biodiversity also coincided with the invasion of non-native species and these invasion did not compensate for the loss of diversity. The data suggests that substantial loses in biodiversity are closely associated with the loss of regional ecosystem services and increasing risks for coastal inhabitants.

Now for a look at Worm's et al work on Large Marine Ecosystems. The experiments performed here were the largest in scale, due to the nature of the ecosystem being tested. The global catch database from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other sources were used to gather data. Data on 65 Large marine Ecosystems (LME) was taken from 1950 to 2003. LME's are large (>150,000 square km) reaching from estuaries coastal areas to seaward boundaries of continental shelves and major current systems. These areas collectively produce 83% of global fishing yield since 1950. "Globally, the rate of fisheries collapses, defined here as catches that drop below 10% of the recorded maximum, has been accelerating over time, with 29% of currently fished species considered collapsed in 2003." Cumulative yields across all species has dropped by 13% or 10 million metric tons since passing a maximum in 1994. These collapses occurred at a higher rate in species-poor ecosystems. Fish diversity ranged from 20-4000 species and was influenced fishery related services in several ways. "First, the proportion of collapsed fisheries decayed exponentially with increasing species richness." Diversity also appeared to increase robustness to overexploitation. "Rates of Recovery, here defined as any post-collapse increase above the 10% threshold, were positively correlated with fish diversity. This positive relationship between diversity and recovery became stronger with time after collapse (5 years, r = 0.10; 10 years, r = 0.39; 15 years, r = 0.48)." A reason for enhanced recovery at high diversity may be that fishers can switch more readily amongst the species and thus potentially providing over fished taxa with a chance to recover.

Marine Reserves and Fishery Closures. One question floating around management is if the loss of services can be reversed, once it has occurred. Data was analyzed from 44 fully protected marine reserves as well as four large-scale fisheries closures. An average of 23% increase in species richness of target and non-target species (the species that are a staple of the fishing industry and others that are not fished for yet exist in the ecosystem of the target species). The increase in biodiversity also lead to increases in productivity seen in a four fold increase in in catch per unit effort in fished areas around reserves. ``Community variability, as measured by the coefficient of variation in aggregate fish biomass, was reduced by 21% on average. Finally, tourism revenue measured as the relative increase in dive trips within 138 Caribbean protected areas strongly increased after they were established." These results suggest that at this point it is still possible to recover lost biodiversity at least on local scales. This recovery is accompanied by increase in productivity and tourism.
Now, for the Conclusions. Worm et al state that with the current extrapolation of data the collapse of all fisheries taxa will occur sometime in the mid 21st century (a 100% regression by 2048). Another conclusion is that the elimination of locally adapted populations and and species impairs and the ability of marine ecosystems to feed our growing human population and sabotages their stability and recovery potential. High-diversity systems were found to provide more services with less variability. This has economic and policy implications. ``First, there is no dichotomy between biodiversity conservation and long-term economic development, they must be viewed as interdependent societal goals. Second, there is no evidence for redundancy at high levels of diversity; the improvement of services was continuous on a log-linear scale. Third, the buffering impact of species diversity on the resistance and recovery of ecosystem services generates insurance value that must be incorporated into future economic valuations and management decisions." To wrap it all up, increasing biodiversity act as a safe guard/buffer against environmental collapse (as well as economic) and we must handle our oceanic resources carefully so as to ensure we do not lose this buffer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chapter 33: At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic: By Mark Sagoff

Well I can tell right off the bat that this chapter will be mostly, if not entirely, political in nature.

Well lest get on with it. The into paragraph starts out with stating that we need policies to "guide those responsible for setting ecological and environmental protection policies." The big questions are who will decide how the policies should be formed and on what basis should the decisions be made? Survey have shown that the ranking of significant environmental threats by the general public and by environmental scientists both have very different priorities. Mark Sagoff is the director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy (IPPP) at the University of Maryland as well as President of the International Society of Environmental Ethics (ISEE). He is also the author of many works such as The Economy of the Earth: Philosophy, Law and the Environment (Cambridge University Press, 1988). In this chapter which is taken from the book after which the chapter is named (as always), Sagoff discusses his belief that environmental problems are complex and require more comprehensive assessment than can be made on the basis of economic analysis alone. Essentially he is saying we can't look at the issues or problems within the environment from a purely economic point of view, we need a deeper understanding of them.

The key concept of this chapter is: the limitations of economics in making environmental policy.

We start off with the first section covering the story behind Lewiston, New York near Buffalo and Lake Ontario Ordinance Works, where the federal government decided to dump the residues of the Manhattan Project. Residents say that a south wind blows radon gas through the town. At a recent conference Sargoff attended several parents expressed their concerns and fears surrounding the discovery of cases of leukemia that had been found in children in the area. Meanwhile New York State officials said that people who smoke take greater risk than those who live near waste disposal sights. The parents were not happy. The officials then describe the people as "neurotic" because they refused to recognize or act upon their own interests. They didn't see how risk-benefit analysis had anything to do with the issues they raised. Along the Military Highway are numerous landfills and the decaying remains of abandoned factories.

Now onto the section titled Political and Economic Descisionmaking. This section is concerned with the economic and political decisions we make about the environment. Some people believe that these two should be the same ideally and that all problems with the environment are problems in distribution. This train of thought puts control of the issues right in the consumers lap. It is the individuals values and willingness to pay. Justice and fair society then becomes a matter of distributing goods and services so that more people get more of what they want. Thus the only values we have are those that can be priced in a market. The problem with this idea is that not all people think of themselves simply as consumers. and many of us regard ourselves as citizens. We act as consumers to get what we want for ourselves and as citizens to get what we believe is best for the community. The issue then is do the goals of the consumer and citizen ever overlap? Will a person vote for the things they buy? In short, no. Sargoff then provides some examples of how we think differently when our different roles are involved. He loves his car and hates the bus, yet he will support a candidate who to tax gasoline to pay for public transport. He has an "Ecology Now" sticker on the bumper of a car that leaks oil. Here lies the question as to whether the public economy should serve the same goals as the household economy.

Cost-benefit Analysis vs. Regulation is the next section. Here we are given a historical tidbit. On the 19th of February in 1981 President Reagan published Executive Order 12,291 which required all administrative departments and agencies to support every new major regulation with a form of cost-benefit analysis that established that the benefits of the regulation to society outweighs the costs. A month before a dispute arose between lawyers for the American Textile Manufacturers Institute over the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which was to severely limit the acceptable levels of cotton dust allowed in textile plants. The lawyers claimed the benefits would not outweigh the costs. The Supreme court, (after an opinion was past on the dust issue) found that the OSHA need not be supported by cost-benefit analysis. The Supreme Court also said that "Congress, in writing a statute, rather than the agencies applying it, has the primary responsibility for balancing benefits and cost." This opinion supported the principle that legislatures aren't necessarily bound to any sort of concepts of regulatory policy. Agencies also need not justify the standards they set on cost-benefit grounds. The purpose of the Reagan Administration is to make economic goals more apparent in regulation. The author feels it is foolish to take the the Administration too literally as you cannot solve worker safety and environmental law can be reduced to simply a matter of cost-benefit accounting.

Now onto Substituting Efficiency for Safety. The OSHA was passed in 1970 and was a big win for labor unions. In it it instructs the Secretary of Labor to set "the standard which most adequately assures, to the extent feasible...that no employee will suffer from material impairment of health of functional capacity even if such employee has regular exposure to the hazard..for the period of his working life." An example of this is given when in 1977 the Secretary lowered the parts per million (ppm) exposure level to benzene from 10 to 1ppm. The American Petroleum Institute (API) argued with much evidence that the benefits to the workers did not equal the costs to the industry. The standard therefore did not appear to be rational. The Secretary stood by this standard however on the grounds that the law demanded it. The view was that "an efficient standard might have required safety until it cost the industry more to prevent the risk than it cost workers to accept it." The United States Court of Appeals agreed with the API. This narrowly base Supreme Court decision had a division over the role of economic decisions in in judicial review. Justice Marshall concluded that the decision of the court "requires the American worker to return to the political arena to win a victory that he won before 1970." The decision of the Supreme Court raised many questions. Should courts only uphold only political decisions which can be defended on economic grounds? Should democracy only be allowed so long as it can be constructed as a rational response to a market failure or an attempt to redistribute wealth? The problem behind all this is "An efficiency criterion, as it is used to evaluate public policy, assumes that the goals of our society are contained in the preferences individuals reveal or would reveal in markets." Essentially this ideal assumes we speak our opinions through how much we are willing to pay, rather than listening to and reponding to our views and opinions.

Liberty: Ancient and Modern. Efficiency doesn't work as the criterion of public safety and health as it leads people to ignoring competing visions on what society should be like. It bases overeating off of the market an assumes that is how people think. There are two roles for everyone being the legislator and the consumer. The legislator will not be treated as a bundle of preferences to be juggle in a cost-benefit analysis. Also refered to as the individual, they are to be treated with respect. Benjamin Constant wrote an essay describing this titled De La Liberte des Anciens Comparee a Celle des Moderns. It is a comparison of the ancient world to the modern one in which he (Constant) states that the despite the modern world being more focused on privacy and civil over political liberties, "the individual rarely perceives the the influence that he exercise," The area of natural environment is under the control of public values rather than individuals. Just as we refuse to look at worker safety as a commodity, we refuse to treat the resources from the environment merely as public goods in the economist's sense. How can we balance efficiency with moral. So far Sargoff says that legislative debate and ending in a vote is the best methods we have so far.

Values Are Not Subjective. Essentially this section is a repeat of the cost-benefit analysis information presented throughout the entire chapter so I will only briefly highlight any extra information presented. This section basically describes the viewpoint of the analyst. All valuation happens in foro interno (debate) or in foro publico (has no point). In this format the reasons people give their views does not count only how much their willing to pay to satisfy their wants (as if this were not already beaten into our skulls so far). Economists argue that their role as policy makers is valid as they are neutral among competing values in society. According to James Buchanan the political economist, "is or should be ethically neutral: the indicated results are influenced by his own value scale only insofar as this reflects his membership in a larger group." The beauty of cost-benefit analysis is: "no matter how relevant or irrelevant, wise or stupid, informed or uninformed, responsible or silly, defensible or indefensible wants may be, the analyst is able to derive a policy from them - a policy which is legitimate because, in theory, it treats all of these preferences as equally valid and good."

The next section is titled Preference or Principle? In this section we explore whats called a Kantian conception of value. "The individual, for Kant, is a judge of values, not a mere haver of wants, and the individual judges not for himself or herself merely, but as a member of a relevant community or group." The principle and idea behind this concept is that some values are more reasonable than others. Kant recognizes that values, like beliefs, are states of mind which have an objective content as well. So far we have covered two ways of thinking, the cost-benefit/analyst approach and the Kantian approach. The general message from this section is that there are some questions and issues better suited to the first approach (such as the ration of Frisbees produced to yo-yo's) trivial things, while issues that have an knowledge, wisdom and/or morality component. The latter must be viewed through a Kantian perspective to be dealt with properly, because issues such as abortion can hardly be dealt with in a price margin fashion.

The final section is The Citizen as Joseph K. and is a bit of a wrap up of the Lewiston affair that started off this chapter. The people wanted to know of the dangers they were experiencing and if the sacrifice asked of them was legitimate. The response they received from the corporations was a personalized one. "just people serving people," was what the people were given and is consistent with a particular view of power. It identifies power and with it the ability of an individual to get what they want. If an official were to put aside their personal interests, it is assumed that they put aside theri power to. The people Lewiston are trapped and do not know how to criticize, resist or justify power. For to do this depends on distinctions being made between good and evil, innocence and guilt, etc. Sargoff says that we cannot abandon the moral function of public law. "The antinomianism of cost-benefit analysis is not enough."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chapter 31 - Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment By: Sandra Steingraber

This chapter may prove interesting since it hints at a possible connection between the environment and cancer. There may likely also be a reference to Love Canal as well due to the affects seen in it inhabitants.

Now onto the intro paragraph. Sandra Steingraber is the author of Post-Diagnosis (Firebrand Books, 1995) which is a volume of poetry that is based upon her personal experiences with bladder cancer. That coupled with the loss of a close friend to cancer along with the knowledge that cancer affected many members of her immediate family, drove her to study the research of a Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin, 1962).When Steingraber explored the sources of pollution she was exposed to around while growing up in Illinois she found numerous sources of pesticides and some industrial plant near the Illinois River that were a source of pollution.She then wrote the book from which his post is titled and a excerpt is taken. In it she argues through poetry and fact that we can reduce our exposure to environmental carcinogens and discusses reckless industrial agricultural pollution.

The key concept of this chapter is: the need for further research on environmental factors in cancer incidence.

Sandra begins with s description of how people react when she tells them about her fight with bladder cancer in the past. numerous people assume she is simply from a family unlucky enough to have a strain of cancer, she is adopted however, meaning the cancer must have been caused by something other than genetic heritage. A main idea in this early section is that families share environments and that can lead to even adopted children sharing similar health issues. One fact presented is "Deaths of adopted parents from cancer before the age of 50 increased the rate of mortality from cancer fivefold among adoptees...Deaths of biological parents from cancer had no detectable effect in the rate of mortality from cancer among the adoptees."

Sandra then lists relatives that have died of cancer including two aunts and two other relatives on her Father's side as well as an uncle currently undergoing treatment. Her brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer at 21 (he also cleaned out chemical drums for a living), three years before that Sandra was diagnosed and three years before that her mother was diagnosed. Her mother was diagnosed in 1974, a year which saw a small spike in breast cancer incidents. This was partially because the First Lady Betty Ford and Second Lady Happy Rockefeller underwent mastectomies, of which word spread. Women then rushed to doctors and a large number of people were diagnosed in a short space of time.

The next section is dubbed Ecological Roots. In 1983 on a train ride to a cancer test Sandra noticed a headline on a newspaper back page article titled: Scientists Identify Gene Responsible For Human Bladder Cancer. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology extracted DNA from a human bladder and were able to identify the exact alteration which caused a certain gene to go bad. In essence what happens is that a gene gets crossed for another (like snow and show, or black and block) This caused the cell to manufacture valine instead of the amino acid glycine.

Thirteen years later Sandra was in possession of numerous scientific articles involved with bladder cancer. Two suppressor genes (p15 and p16) are involved as well by being deleted. p53 is also a common gene in many cancers including about half o bladder cancer incidents. The relation between these genes and other processes has been determined and here is a quote from the section to explain some of it: "Consider, for example, that redoubtable class of bladder carcinogens called aromatic amines - present as contaminants in cigarette smoke; added to rubber during vulcanization; formulated as dyes for cloth, leather, and paper;used in printing and color photography; and featured in the manufacture of certain pharmaceuticals and pesticides." That is a fair number of places to find what are essentially health threatening toxins. The first cases of excessive bladder cancer reports was published in 1895. Aromatic amines detoxified from the body through a process called acetylation which is handled by various genes. People with low levels of these enzymes are more at risk for bladder cancer. More than half of Americans and Europeans are estimated to be slow acetylators.

Bladder cancer is one of the most studied cancers and has given much insight into cancers of all kinds and their various stages. However, we have been unable to use all this knowledge to wage an effective campaign against bladder cancer. "Th fact remains that the overall incidence rate of bladder cancer increased 10 percent between 1973 and 1991. Increases are especially dramatic among African Americans: among black men, bladder cancer incidence has risen 28 percent since 1973, and among black women, 34 percent." Less than half of bladder cancer incidence among men and one-third of incidence among women is thought to be from smoking, the single largest known risk factor for the disease. The question remains as to what causes it in the rest of the people who live with it. From a file she posses Sandra wrote that "industries reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory disclosed environmental releases of the aromatic amine o-toluidine that have totaled 14,625 pounds in 1992 alone." O-toluidine is in residues in the dyes of commercial textiles. In 1996 a study showed a sixfold increase of bladder cancer amongst workers who were exposed to the substance. Sandra also states that what her folders don't contain is "a considered evaluation of of all known and suspected bladder carcinogens-their sources, their possible interactions with each other, and our various routes of exposure to them." To expand on this some examples include scenarios such as multiple articles of clothing being washed together, the ecological fate of the sources of the cancer and why - almost a century after their identification - are carcinogens such as amine dyes used and released into the environment in the first place?

There are believed by Sandra to be several obstacles preventing us from addressing cancers' environmental roots. One is that the bulk of cancer research is devoted to inherited cancers which is a mistake, One supporting fact is that only 1-5% of colon cancers are hereditary whilst only 15% show any familial component, and the remaining 85% is referred to as "sporadic". Even when inherited cancers appear there is usually an environmental component or influence.

Cancer rates are not increasing because we have suddenly begun to sprout new cancer genes. In a world free of aromatics and other such toxins we would see far fewer incidences and people born as slow acetylators would not need to worry about exposure or risk and people who inherit defective genes would not need to worry about environmental exposure triggering a potentially life-threatening disease. We are causing increasing incidences of cancer though the mishandling of toxins.

Sandra takes a few paragraphs to describe the waning days of Rachel Carson. In the last year of her life she stood before the U.S. Senate subcommittee and shared her views on environmental contamination and human rights. In her novel Silent Spring she urged the recognition of a individuals right to to know about any poisons introduced into their environment and the right to protection against said poisons. Sandra then states that she believes the process of exploring to know more about carcinogens in our environment is a three-part inquiry. She then uses The character of Scrooge as a metaphor by stating that we need to look back at our past, reassess our current situation and imagine an alternative future. She then describes the process in some detail which I will simply sum up. We start retrospectively for two reasons with the first being an appreciation (not in a good way) of the fact we carry carcinogens in our bodies and still remain in contact with banned chemicals such as PCBs and DDT. Secondly We need to pay attention to possible sources of cancer and the effects of substances such as pesticides over the course of time, since cancer does not just appear out of the blue, but unfolds over a period of decades. We need to know what pesticides were sprayed in our neighbourhoods and what chemicals we keep under the kitchen sink. We must also cross-reference such things with our neighbours to reminisce with people and places we grew up in to open our eyes to possible health threats. We must keep tabs on our genealogical and ecological roots.

Now we come to a section discussing the human rights aspect. "A human rights approach would also recognize that we do not all bear equal risks when carcinogens are allowed to circulate within our environment." People who work with these substances are at higher risk for health related issues and people are not uniformly vulnerable to the affects of carcinogens. "Cancer may be a lottery, but we do not each of us hold equal chances of "winning."" Sandra then puts things into perspective via an example to demonstrate the issue of dealing with carcinogenic cancers. Assume that the conservative estimate of 2% representing the number of carcinogen related cancer is true. That means about 10,940 people in the U.S. die of environmentally caused cancers every year, which is higher than the number of women who die from hereditary breast cancer. "This is more than the number of children and teenagers killed each year by firearms - an issue that is considered a matter of national shame." Yet no funding is provided for studying environmentally caused cancers while millions is poured into breast cancer research and this is not recognised as a source of shame? Sandra then states that the 10,940 Americans will not die quick peaceful deaths or show up in newspapers. She then rights: "These deaths are a form of homicide." There are some strong words which I will not debate about in my blog but should be not be ignored. We should all think about that statement at least a little bit.

Now for the ending section. To end off this chapter Sandra presents the principle of the least toxic alternative, which basically states that toxic chemicals shall not be used so long as the task at hand can be accomplished another way. This means we must chose the least harmful way of solving problems form cockroach removal or stains from woolens. Any movement away from zero toxic chemical use should be preceded by a finding of necessity. and then coordinate active attempts to develop affordable non-toxic alternatives. This principle is designed to move us away from the debates of how to treat or avoid cancers related to carcinogens in the environment and unwinnable battle to set maximum limits on their presence in the water, air, food, workplace, etc. The principle is supposed to make us look toward the release of carcinogens in the environment as unthinkable as practicing slavery.

Issues With Lake Winnipeg

Today we discussed the major issue in Lake Winnipeg; eutrophication. This has already been covered in earlier posts so I will simply leave the definition we were given today.

Eutrophication: "Excessive nutrients in a water boy usually caused by a runoff of nutrients (animals waste, fertilizers, sewage) from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life; the subsequent decompositions of the plant depletes the supply of oxygen in the water, leading to the death of animal life."
The algae is a major issues in Lake Winnipeg since so much phosphorus is coming in. The wetlands that filter it out are overwhelmed. Where does it all come from? Well some from the U.S., some from Saskatchewan via the rivers, and the rest from Manitoba, with Winnipeg producing about 6% (mostly from overflow in the sewer system). When all the algae dies it decomposes on the bottom of the lake and uses up a lot of oxygen. This can lead to the deaths of numerous aquatic animals despite the algae providing a smorgasbord of of food for fish.

Biosolids are one of the main sources of excess nutrients and are defined in class as;

Biosolids: "Solid organic matter recovered from sewage treatment plants and used as fertilizer."

Going back to he sewer overflow it is understandable how Winnipeg (via the Red River) can be such a threat to Lake Winnipeg. Currently their are projects to counteract excessive nutrients such as the upgrading of Winnipeg's waste water treatment plants to remove phosphorous.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Greenpeace Electronics Audit

The link below leads to a method "scale" by Greenpeace to rate how green your electronics are when it comes to disposal. It ranks various electronics companies based off their effort to remove the worst toxic chemicals from their products.

There are 5 criteria for the ranking as listed on a pdf document detailing the whole process:

1. A chemicals policy based on the Precautionary Principle
2. Chemicals Management: supply chain management of chemicals via e.g. banned/restricted substance lists, policy to identify problematic substances for future elimination/substitution
3. Timeline for phasing out all use of vinyl plastic (PVC)
4. Timeline for phasing out all use of brominated flame retardants (not just those banned by EU’s RoHS Directive)
5. PVC- and BFR-free models of electronic products on the market.

Here is a link to the pdf:

For this post I shall list various electronics brands used in my home and their ranking on the scale and discuss my findings. The scale has a range of 0 to 10 with zero being a fail and 10 being completely green.

Motorola (2 cell phones), 1.7/10
Acer (1 laptop, 1 desktop, 2 LCD monitors), 2.3/10
Apple (1 Ipod), 2.7/10
Panasonic (VCR), 3.3/10
LG (LCD monitor), 4.3/10
SONY (digital camcorder, Blu-Ray Disc player), 4.7/10
HP (2 Desktops, 1 Laptop, 3 printers), 4.7/10
Some of the electronics in my house were of brands not listed (our TVs are modern Soyo and an old RCA). However I was shocked to find out how poorly most companies have managed the removal of hazardous toxins substances from electronics. Apple was the most shocking as the company always seems to be proud of how well they manufacture their products, so I believed they would have been closer to the top of the list. Motorola was a disappointment since they make very nice phones and have sold numerous ones such as the RAZR. HP was a bit of a let down since they have made it a major point of expressing how fine their products (mostly printers and computers) are yet they didn't even make it halfway up the scale. This tidbit of info from the pdf also is a let down:
"HP loses point: In September 2006, one penalty point was deducted from HP’s overall score when testing of an HP laptop revealed the presence of a type of brominated flame retardant, known as decaBDE. In its Global Citizen Report 2006, HP states: “HP eliminated the use of decaBDE many years ago and has no plans to re initiate its use.” Moreover, of the five brands of laptops tested by Greenpeace with results released in 2006, only the HP laptop was found to contain lead."
Acer was also depressing to read about since we have over the years found their computers and monitors to be very dependable. we still use some of the older computers made by Acer we have around the house since they still prove useful.
In the end it seems I may make some changes (my family as well when they read this) when it comes to purchasing electronics. Motorola isn't going to be an issue to much as my family is moving towards Blackberry's (yet they may possibly not be to hot either in the green department but the list doesn't include this brand). HP is a heavy hitter in my home when it comes to electronics as we have 3 computers and printers active and in use from this company. I may switch to Dell when it comes time to replace any of these items since Dell does have good products and they ranked high with a 7/10. In reality my family has never disposed of items such as the ones listed above. We have the old TV in the basement to use, the various older laptops are taken on trips when someone has work to do or to surf the web in a hotel room and a VCR can get a few bucks at a yard sale rather than zip from entering the trash. However when the items start to pile up needlessly we will search out companies and organizations that have proper methods of disposal rather than merely dumping the item into a trash can. We do the same with old batteries.
Overall I am disappointed by the electronics industry for not putting in more effort to remove substances that we know to be harmful. Its a bit of a "How can this happen in this day and age?" scenerio.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This is a new term for some people and while I have heard of it I only in this class learned exactly what ewaste is. Essentially, ewatse is anything that is man made such as paper, plastics and chemicals. Some substances such as mercury are included to. Over 50 million tonnes/year of ewaste is formed globally with 140,000 tonnes e-waste/year coming from Canada (2003). That's about 4.5Kg/Canadian. Most of it is toxic heavy metals.

Here are some of the metals and their uses and effects:

- 4750 tonnes disposed/year in Canada
- Solder, gasses

- Chip resistors, infrared detectors, plastics and conductors

- 22% of global mercury use from electronics
- Used in batteries, switches, housing
- Neurotoxin, Bioaccumulates and biomagnifies

Now for plastics:
- Its used in housing, cabling
- Productions and incineration – dioxins, furans
o Carcinogen, endocrine disruptor, liver damage
- Bisphenol A, phalates

And Brominated Flame Retardants (PBDE’s)
- Printed circuit boards, connectors, plastic covers and cables
- Endocrine disruptors and neurotoxin
- Persistent in environment

What can we do about these harmful substances and the negative impact they are having on our environment? Some solutions include Waste Management, Procurement and through Technology development:
- Contain fewer toxic constituents
- Energy efficient
- Designed for easy upgrading/disassembly
- Use minimal packaging
- Offer leasing or take back options
- Meet performance criteria showing they are environmentally preferable

Paper has its own issues and unique solutions:

- 1983-2003: nearly doubled (shocking in the digital age but remember that some people feel the need to print off every email and tax document (however the latter is sound and safe thinking))
- 91Kg, 20,000 pages/person/year
- Excess paper storage
- Associated toner, binders, etc

Solutions (paper)
- Recycling
- Reduction
- Rethinking?

Ocean Plastics

Here we get into the topic of plastics and garbage finding its way into our oceans. First off I would like to list some properties of plastics when it comes to degredation:
- Photo degeneration
- Molecular plastics
- Concentration in the neuston
o May be too small to be seen

Concentrations of plastics reached 1 million pieces per square mile. The study found concentrations of plastics of 3.34 pieces with a mean mass of 5.1 milligrams per square meter. Now when you stop to think about it, thats a fair bit of unnatural material in our oceans waters. One thing we learned that shocked me was the actual existance of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
As defined by Wikipedia: "also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N Although many scientists suggest that the patch extends over a very wide area, with estimates ranging from an area the size of the state of Texas to one larger than the continental United States, the exact size is unknown. Recent data collected from Pacific albatross populations suggest there may be two distinct zones of concentrated debris in the Pacific."
Essentially, it is a culmination of garbage dumped into the oceans from various countries boardering the Pacific Ocean. A "continent" of trash. The albatross that live near this monster do not realize that it is NOT food and feed it to their children, who have been known to have bodies filled with bottlecaps as they cannot be digested or broken down in any way. its really creepy. I have heard of such thing but thought of this patch as a more doomsday scenerio or myth. It is really shocking to be proved wrong. It freaks me out to know that we (people) have inadvertantly created an oceanic garbage dump/continent.
Some more impacts on wildlife by plastics in our oceans includes:
- Resemble zooplankton
- Consumed by jellyfish, entering the ocean food chain
- Plastic : zooplankton, 7:1
- Marine birds and animals
o Sea turtles
o Black footed albatross (mentiond above in the section of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch)

Guest Speaker: Northern Living: Health and Environmental Implications of Atmospheric Pollutions. Braeden Taylor& Dylan Harris

In this class we had two U of M students come and speak to us about how pollution in the atmosphere is affecting Northern Living. It was all presented in a PowerPoint that covered various issues and I shall cover them by category.

To start this post off I shall start by covering some aspects of northern culture.

First off is Traditional/Country Food. The main idea behind traditional foods in northern culture is that it keeps people connected with nature as well as promoting sharing in the community. Food also brings respect and pride from successful harvest and there is a large large variety of foods, depends on season and location. Some examples include caribou, beluga, narwhal, beluga, seal, etc.

Tradition also spreads to knowledge and it has a deep impact on the northern peoples culture as well. Sharing of traditional knowledge is sacred and is held by elders and has to be earned. The ability to speak about certain issues has to be earned and is based off of centuries of experience and observation. This makes it difficult for scientists to get an accurate history of northern Canada as they do not remain there long enough to earn the right or chance to acquire some of this knowledge that could help in their studies and predicitons of how the northern and Arctic areas may be affected by pollution.

Now we come to two vocabulary additions. Food Security defined as: “Refers to confidence that food is available, accessible, safe and nutritious.” (Arctic Pollution Report, 2009). We also have the Northern Contaminants Program Established by Canadian government in 1991 and is part of Canada’s Green plan and Arctic Environmental Strategy.

Now we come to examples of various contaminants which pose a threat to northern peoples, their land, and the ecosystem:
- Polonium: naturally occurring
- Cesium: man made and absorbed by lichen, effects caribou but has been decreasing since ban on nuclear testing in 1960’s.

Radionuclide's are an example of radioactivity in northern communities. Historically, higher levels were found in people who ate more caribou but levels have slowly been declining since 1960’s. We could see greater effect in the future due to climate change however.

Metals also play a part in how pollution is threatening northern communities. Below is a list of some properties of metals as well as how they get into the environment and their affects:

- Naturally occurring
- Mining, smelting
- Cadmium, Mercury, Lead
- Mercury: higher levels in people who eat more fish and marine mammals
- Cadmium: little exposure from traditional food
- Organ chlorides
o Contaminants of greatest concern in the north
o Persistent Organic Pollutants PCB
o Bioaccumulation and Biomagnifications
o Dissolve in fats and oils

The next two vocabulary additions will define the two main issues involved with the scenarios of chemicals and metals entering an environment. Bioaccumulation it the build-up of contaminants in an animal that cannot be digested or eliminated, highest levels found in older animals who have consumed more food over their life span than younger animals. Biomagnification occurs when an animal eats a contaminated plant or animal They consume contaminants stored in that food. That is then passed on to whatever animal eats that animal. Thus toxins are passed on and travel higher and higher up the food chain until they eventually reach us, humans.

At Risk Populations to the affects of bioaccumulation and biomagnification include:
- Unborn children and developing children
- People with high fat diets as toxins are stored by the body in fat for the most part.

There are nurmerous issues involved whne trying to deal with the contamination of food in any community. The method of risk communication must not generate fear in people and turn them away from their traditional food and lifestyle. When finding ways to live with possbly contaminate food there must be a balance of contaminant exposure compared to lifestyle dietary change. A way of life should not end simply because some foods may be a health risk yet that risk should not be ignored.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chemical Pollutants

This is the final unit in the ENVR 2000 course and deals with, well, how chemicals affect people and the environment when improperly disposed of. I'll start off with some definitions we learned in class:

EMS: Environmental Management System ISO 14001
Triple Bottom Line reporting: Voluntary Corporate reporting, Economic, social, environmental

Essentially these definitions refer to how companies handle their relationship with the environment, for good or ill. We covered two major disasters involving improper handling of chemicals and their affects on the local population.

The first was the case of Love Canal. The canal was created in the 1890’s by a William Love and it was dubbed William Love Canal Upper Niagara to Niagara escarpment. The canal was 3000 feet long, 10 feet deep, 60 feet wide. The project was never finished and in 1942 Hooker Chemical Company purchased it and the permission to dump wastes in it until 1952. In 1953 the canal was topped with soil. Later on the land was sold and in 1955 an elementary school with playground was built right on top of the canal. By 1957 storm sewers, roads, utilities had all been put in and later on several hundred homes built. The mid 1970's saw heavy precipitation which caused viscous chemicals to seep into in basement, sumps and caused vegetation to die, and permanent puddles of filth. Holes opened in fields, where people found waste drums containing about 200 chemicals and 12 carcinogens as well as numerous unrecorded and unknown substances as well. The affects of the chemical on the local peoples is covered in my previous post titled Chapter 23: Controversy at Love Canal by Baverly Paigen. Aug 12, 1978 was when pregnant women, children under 2 were forced to leave (thankfully). The after affects of Love Canal include 300 and more homes being demolished, groundwater treatment and creeks fenced off as well as numerous studies of the area (who's results are unavailable to the public). Since 1990, over 200 people have bought renovated homes near Love Canal.

The total cost for handling Love Canal was
- Investigate, halt seepage $150 million
- Cleanup creeks, sewers, study effects, $32 million
- Cost to dispose of wastes in today’s dollars: $2 million

The second incident took place in Bhopal, India. It had a rail system, lake, and a population of 900,000 people. Union Carbide, a pesticide factory, resided in the centre of town and had been there for some years and provided numerous jobs to local peoples. Carbaryl, a chemical produced by Union Carbide is a carbonate pesticide, cholinesterase inhibitor and contains methyl isocyanate. A very toxic gas that burns the eyes and lungs.. On Dec 2, 1984 gas was released from a leak. At 10:30 pm the gas that had entered a water tank experienced a pressure release. It then spilled out as a heavier than air gas into Bopal. It is estimated that between 3,800 to 15,000 people experienced immediate death while up to 50,000 suffered chronic diabilities.

How could this have happened? Well here is a list of causes
- There were staff cuts to save money
- People who came with safety complaints were punished
- No disaster plan
- Tank alarms not functioning
- Backup system not functioning (one not four)
- Tank above capacity (27 tons released)

Currently there is are civil and criminal cases about the Boal Disaster underway in the United States District Court, Manhattan and the District Court of Bhopal, India against Union Carbide. Union Carbide is now owned by now owned Dow Chemical Company, with an Indian arrest warrant pending against Warren Anderson the CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster. No one has yet been prosecuted to date.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chapter 23: Controversy at Love Canal by Baverly Paigen

While I think this chapter would be more at home in our unit of chemical related issues we are about to move on to there is a affluent component, mainly the buildup of waste from mass production.

No onto the intro paragraph.

In the 1970's the the consequences of improper disposal of chemical waste came to light after hundreds of people near Niagara Falls, New York, as their health was threatened by toxic chemical buried under their homes, the school and the rest of the abandoned Love Canal which unknown to the residents was a toxic waste dump. The coverage lead numerous other communities to investigate themselves and discover similar issues. In 1978 a volunteer science advisor Beverly Paigen, now a research biologist at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine grew curious about the reports form Love canal residents about their health and decided to investigate as this seemed like a real world opportunity to put her skills to the test. The chapter is a section from a book she wrote titled "Controversy at Love Canal," Hastings Report Center Report (June 1982).

The Key Concept of this chapter is: the scientific and political dimensions of hazardous waste controversies.

Despite her belief tat more research needed to be done on the health of the Love Canal residents David Axelrod, Commissioner of Health in December 1978 stated that studies by the Health Department were adequate and showed no threat to the residents. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believe that there are about 50,000 hazardous waste disposal sights in the U.S. with 90% of them posing a potential health threat ad they are poorly located or managed.

The first section is Toxic Wastes at Love Canal. in 1945 Hooker Chemical and Plastics filled the abandoned half-mile long canal with more than 21,000 tons of 200 or more chemicals around the time that the Niagara Falls Board of Education came around asking to buy the land. Hooker claims it warned the board about that the site was not appropriate and it sold the property in 1953 for $1.00 only when threatened by eminent domain claims. No living board member confirm or deny the claim. A clause in the transfer article absolves Hooker of all liability. An elementary school was built around the centre of the site with numerous home to follow. As early as 1958 children received chemical burns and birth defects. The Niagara Falls Health Department did nothing and the same goes for other officials. It took determined residents and a reporter Michael Brown to bring the the EPA and New York State Department of Health into the picture. On August 2, 1978 a health emergency was declare after the chemicals were identified. Hugh Carey the governor offered to buy the 239 homes nearest the epicentre after the people were evacuated and assist in relocating them. Despite assurances homes farther to the edge of love Canal were safe residents notices odd smells from sewers and chemicals seeping into their basements as well as certain families living three to four blocks away having multiple miscarriages and other illnesses.

Now onto the History of the Controversy. roughly 850 families were exposed to low levels of chemicals. so Beverly devised a health questionnaire and plotted the illnesses geographically with these expectations: 1) if the illnesses were clustered in families it could mean a genetic disorder. 2) if the illnesses were geographically clustered it could mean the toxins were moving. 3) if the illnesses were randomly distributed then the there would be no relationship with the possibility of exposure. Plotting the results showed a strong geographical cluster. which seemed to be related to former stream beds. As most of the ground is a mixture of clay, soil and gravel it is is permeable enough for chemicals to migrate. A threefold increase in miscarriages was found in wet homes (those built near swamp, lake and river sites) than those who lived in dry homes. The frequency was between 0.4 to 0.7%. Of the sixty four women living in wet homes five (8%) had three or more miscarriages. The probability of this occurring by chance in 0.001%. 24 percent of the 120 children born in wet homes had birth defects compared to the 6.8% in dry homes. Some defects were "minor" clubbed feet, webbed does, missing ear or extra set of teeth. The more serious ones were heart defects, missing or nonfunctional kidneys, deafness and mental retardation. Asthma was 3.5 times more frequent in wet homes and 2.8 in dry homes. Central nervous system issues included seizures, fainting, blurred vision suicides and attempts, etc. The Health Department launched their own surveys and denied the findings of Beverly. They were proved wrong afterwards but not for a number of years despite overwhelming evidence they rejected Beverly.

Elements of Controversy. The community and the State Department of Health were the two sides to the controversy. The community was very disposed to the Health Department yet were inclined to make allowances for Hooker since they had buried the chemical before people truly understood their possible effects and had provided jobs for numerous residents. Once the controversy was under way Beverly notes some factors that impeded a resolution.
1) The failure to resolve any controversy may be advantageous to one side. Since over 600 other waste site existed in New York the state would benefit from the delay as any officials whop voted for positive action would have to justify the spending of $42,000,000 to prevent future leakage. This was an ethical issue rather than a scientific one.

2) Opponents may not agree on the question that needs to be answered. Commissioner Axelrod decided to only check fetus for health defects since they were the most vulnerable of then population an decided to evacuate only pregnant women when the entire community felt that they were all at risk. in 1981 the CDC put a fair bit of money into trying to determine if any psychological damage had occur ed but none into checking for chromosome damage. No plans were made for data compilation and analysis on the population either.

3) In any controversy, since the type of quality of information gathered will influence the outcome, no one group should be in complete control of the information gathering process. The state had a lot of money to put into gathering information about health effects while the residents had only their own energy and few scientists. Beverly took part in one of the three independent studies and one of the two with no funding. The well funded Health Department studies were and still are secret. The reviews too about 122 staff years, $3,292,000, collected about 4,368 blood samples, 5,924 soil, 700, air, sewer and water and 411 physical examinations. All of which are not available for scientific review or criticism.

4) Beyond questions of money and expertise is the issue of full expression for dissident and minority opinions. Scientists who worked for the state and disagreed with their findings were demoted, transferred or harassed. Beverly was harassed as well. As she publicly spoke of her concerns for Love Canal the Department of Health withdrew one of her grants without telling her. Her office files were searched, mail opened and taped shut as well as other censoring methods.

5) Scientists, who are no strangers to controversy, should follow the social controls on behavior that they have developed for the advancement of knowledge and the detection of error. Secrecy was a major issue at Love Canal. When in 1979 a statement was released stating their was no liver disease, seizure, caner, etc, Beverly's request for the data to support the claims was denied.

6) In any attempt at controversy resolution, all parties to the conflict should agree on precisely what facts need resolving; all parties should agree on the composition of the body chosen to resolve the controversy; all parties should agree on the procedures by which that body will operate; and all parities must agree to abide by the decisions. In April 26, 1979 an attempt was made to resolve the issues at hand but the Health department ignored all suggestions. in May 1980 with a report charging the Department of Health and Department of Environmental Control with charges such as having a secret agenda, manipulating data, etc.

The Next Decade. Beverly writes that steps can be taken when controversy arises to both ease the situation and protect public health. First is that scientists should adhere to the norm of their profession, second is community involvement should be sought and used in all aspects and level of the process. Third is fund should be provided to the community so it can hire its own experts. Many of the issues at Love Canal were political rather than scientific and could have been handled better if the ethical considerations and values had been more openly stated and understood by all. The would have helped to keep from "muddying the waters" so to speak.

Treat the Rich

"Being seriously wealthy can, apparently, damage your health. But, Phillip Inman discovers, there is counseling for those unfortunates struggling to cope with the stress of a huge bank balance"

The title of this post is the same as the article I shall review which was written up in The Guardian, Saturday November 10 2001. Basically it covers the issue of helping rich people cope with...being rich. Psychologist Ronit Lami she has interviewed many affluent people who develop a bunker mentality to protect themselves from a world that doesn't understand. Essentially, some rich people feel embarrassed by all the wealth they have and and think most people resent this. At first it seems odd (after all, who has ever seen a movie star embarrassed about how much they earn, for example?). Lami had recently joined financial advisers Allenbridge to give clients (we-to-do'ers) advice on how to deal with the psychological spin-offs of being seriously well off.

Psychologist Ronit Lami is the main person in the article.

"Ms Lami says wealthy people have many hang-ups that can be alleviated with the support of a psychologist.One client wanted to invest £10m. "We took him to a succession of fund managers and after each meeting he said he wasn't sure which investment strategy to pick. He couldn't make up his mind," she says."What he didn't realize was that a fear of failure was holding him back. We discovered that an investment in his past had gone wrong and he didn't want to repeat that experience."

Uh...Why did he need psychiatric help? That fear was experience telling him to be wary. If he handles so much money its a no-brainer that a bad investment would make him careful. This is not a major illness or disability, he does not need professional help. ya maybe he may need a pick-me-up to get back into investing but I hardly see how what this has to do with some of the more serious issues mentioned earlier.

Self-made people who run their own businesses are often workaholics and their lifestyle provides a clue to why they can't be happy."One client was worth more than £100m. He was always careful with money. He liked to go out to lunch and dinner but would always leave his clients to pay."His clients didn't like it, but that was just the way he was. Then he built a huge underground swimming pool in £25m house. When we talked to his wife, she wasn't happy. She said they never used it because her husband wouldn't spend the money heating the pool.

This man is not experiencing an issue except that he is a penny pincher. He makes others pay for his lunch, and doesn't heat his pool. Well the second part may be odd but not very.

Oliver James, the clinical psychologist and author of Britain on the couch: why we're unhappier compared with 1950 despite being richer, says while it may be comforting for people on low and middle incomes to believe that all rich people are screwed up, "it's true".He adds: "People who are workaholics tend to be very emotionally illiterate. They assume a simple equation: that wealth equals happiness. What they don't understand is that there is certain level of affluence beyond which more wealth makes bugger all difference.'' Of course there are exceptions. Richard Branson appears to enjoy his wealth and David and Victoria Beckham, though they might have their problems with stardom, seem happy with their financial situation.

Ms Lami says that in some ways it is easier for the first generation wealthy, or nouveau riche, to enjoy their money. They are usually unencumbered by guilt - they earned it, after all.

The first paragraph I understand and agree with, it is nice (in a dark way) to know the guy down the street who flaunts his Mercedes Benz can feel just as down as you do when the Visa bill come at the end of the month.

However the second paragraph about it being easier for first generation wealthy people to feel good about their wealth, take it with a grain of salt. While it is very true there are people guilty for coming about large amounts of cash they didn't ear take this with a grain of salt. Watch any of the reality shows like that awful The Hills and you will see the next generation of wealthies aren't that guilty about the money they're inheriting. Spoiled rich kids are not a fairytale creation.

Ms Lami says people who have problems spending their money or feeling comfortable with their new status, can get help. There are courses on offer in Switzerland, she says, much like the old-fashioned finishing schools but with a modern helicopters-and- champagne bent.

Wow. All I can say is wow. Hod do I get me some therapy?

Children of the rich, according to US business magazine Forbes, will have to struggle with $136 trillion put aside for inheritance worldwide over the next 30 years. Ms Lami says she has counseled several guilt-ridden children.

Is it just me or is this statement a bit general? I'm sure there will be children with guilt, I got a job because I felt it was time for me to start paying for things I wanted as well as some independence. If that's how I feel, what would be going through the mind of a young person with a couple million dollars dropped in their lap? Yet like I said above with a reality TV show as a reference, a lot of people are happy to see free cash and live a life of affluence in a care-free manner.

The first generation suffer other ailments."Managers who start their own business often catch a dose of workaholism. People who are self-made are very hard to work with. They think they are right, because they have created a company and made lots of money. "But often being obsessed with creating the business and working long hours, has killed the love in the people around them - their children, their spouse and the people they work with. Only a few have managed to build up their companies without doing this."

This make complete sense to me. Self-made people having a God complex or an obsession with work received these states of mind from all the hard work and effort they put into getting where they are now. You don't need to be rich either to be a workaholic. here I can see the need for some one on one therapy or counseling.

She (Lami) adds: "There is plenty of research to show that those who enjoy life but destroy the lives of the people around them are not really enjoying themselves. It's true they can go to their graves like that - happy but unaware - but if they have a crisis of some kind, then they look for support and it is not there."

Totaly true, just take a look at the history of any tyrant, (such as a few Roman Emperors) and you'll have proof behind the destroying others for pleasure idea.

"The Joneses they (the wealthy) are trying to keep up with are far more demanding than tie Joneses most of us have to keep up with" he says. To emphasize the point, a survey by Forbes - itself owned by a billionaire - revealed that 37% of the 400 richest Americans are unhappy. And that was self-confessedly unhappy. A little time with a shrink, and the suspicion must be that a far larger slice of the rich list would break down and confess that an excess of money makes them unhappy.

Three words: large charity donations.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chapter 39: Towards Sustainable Development

The entirety of this chapter is from the World Commission on Environmental and Development so I cannot accurately name the author. However I will begin with an review of the typical intro paragraph.

The WC on E&D (WCED) was founded in 1983 by the UN secretary general in response to a call by the UN who charged the WCED with the task of creating a "global Agenda for change". "Gro Harlem Bruntland (b.1939), then director General of the World Health Organization and now a U.N. Climate Envoy, was chosen to organize and chair this commission." She has supported the UN mandate that called for a sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond. Our Common Future was a report several years in the making by the WCED and lead to the Rio de Janerio conference in 1992 to address and create an agenda to address global environmental issues while promoting equitable economic development.

The Key Concept of the chapter is Sustainable Development.

The first section of the chapter is titled The Concept of Sustainable Development. As this entire blog is basically a definition and description of said title I will be very brief and highlight only previously unmentioned or important points from the section. To start off the section remind us that so long as a world has endemic poverty and inequity is will always be prone to crisis ecological or otherwise. Living standards can only be maintained if current consumption standards are long ranged, which they clearly aren't. "Hence, ssustainable development requires requires that societies meet human needs both by increasing productive potential and by ensuring equitable opportunities for all."

Today mankind's interventions in natural systems to extract or use resources is very profound and threaten life support systems both locally and globally. This doesn't have to happen "At a minimum, sustainable development must not endanger the natural systems that support life on Earth: the atmosphere, the waters, the soils, and the living beings." We must remember that technology can increase the carrying capacity of a society but ultimate limits exist and we must be wary of them. Renewable resources must be handled carefully (such as forests) for while they can be heavily relied upon this should only happen if we have taken into account growth rate of the trees or animals, and all other factors so as to ensure we do not decimate an a resource area and that it can regrow and be reused eventually. For non renewable resources (fossil fuels, etc) "the rate of depletion should should take into account the critically of the resource, the availability of technologies for minimizing depletion, and the likelihood of substitutes being available."

Development is a major threat as it tend to simplify ecosystems and remove (on purpose or by accident) numerous species and decreases the biodiversity in an ecosystem. This can limit the options of future generations so development must be handled with the utmost care to ensure that the ecosystem can be sustained. We must also remember that air and water are resources as well (albeit free ones) and must be protected and managed properly as well.

To summarize the section: Sustainable Development is a state where resource exploitation along with investments, technological development and institutional change are all in harmony.

Now onto the next section: Equity and the Common Interest. The section first presents the major problem of the whole idea of "Power to the people" is not working. Industry has more say and influence than workers and residents of a an are who's resources are being harvested or under development. Ecological interactions have little to no respect for the boundaries of individual ownership and political jurisdiction. Some example include how the use of pesticides and fertilizers on one farm affects the productivity of a neighbouring farm and hot water discharged by a thermal plant into a river or sea can affect the people who fish locally. More traditional social systems emphasised the the aspects of this interdependence and were more focused on the common interest. However, technology has begun to isolate these aspects and eroded common rights in resources such as forests. "Responsibilities for decision making are being taken away from both groups and individuals." A concept for this section is Interdependence, or that we all rely on one another. However, most people do not feel like taking a stand because they are unsure or do not believe that they will have the support of others, effectively isolating them to their own self-interest. Governments and Communities can get around this through laws, education, taxes and other methods.

However common interest can only be articulated through international cooperation as if countries and jurisdictions within countries are left to their own devices their various policies or lack there of will conflict with other jurisdictions and their resources and environments. Of course international cooperation is not perfect. There is no "Grand Solution" to all the issues before us, there will always be winners and losers. Inequalities in access to resources is the source of this. As a system approaches its ecological limits the inequalities in access grow. For example, if a watershed deteriorates poor farmers suffer as they cannot afford the same anti erosion measures as richer farmers. Hence, the neglect of economic and social justice within and amongst nations is the source of our inability to promote common, sustainable interests.

Strategic Imperatives is broken into two smaller sections. The first is Reorienting Technology and Managing Risks. To first accomplish these goal we must start with technology. To start off we must increase the technological capacities in developing countries so that the have the ability to respond more effectively to the challenges presented by sustainable development. The bulk of technological development is focused on few issues faced by developing countries. We need to do more to adapt technologies to the needs of these countries and extend the capabilities of the Third World. In all countries the processes of generating technology and updating it as well as adapting it should be informed by environmental resource concerns. Public policy should also be responsible for ensuring that commercial organizations find it a worthwhile endeavor to to take a fuller account of of any and all environmental factors in technologies they develop. Risk assessment is also a major point. Systems we have put in place such as for transportation can be broken if strained to a certain point. We must be aware of these breaking points as they could have negative affects not only on people, but the environment to.

Merging Environment and Economics in Decision Making is the second pert of this section. "Economic and Ecological decisions are not necessarily in opposition." In fact they must be combined to ensure proper sustainable development. This entire chapter deals with the idea of balance. While that may not be the exact wording or immediate idea gathered from the key concept, it is one of the major ideas behind it. Policies can be implemented to protect vulnerable areas of land and forests improve all long-term prospects for that area. Policies can also be used to ensure companies make more fuel and energy efficient products by set dates. Currently there is a fair bit of fragmentation amongst different companies and sectors who mostly look after their own needs and follow their own ideas and policies only affect certain organizations an territories. We have to end this to ensure that we are all on the same page and contributing equally to sustainable development. "Sustainability requires the enforcement of wider responsibilities for the impacts of decisions." However we cannot rely on the law alone to achieve this, but with community knowledge and support which mean more public participation and promoting citizen's power, initiative as well as strengthening local democracy and and empowering people's organizations.

Conclusion is clearly then end of the chapter and a brief section. I will list some of the requirements for sustainable development here from the book:

- a political system that secures effective citizen participation and decision making.
- an economic system that is able to generate surpluses and technical knowledge on a self-reliant and sustained basis.
- a technological system that can search continuously for new solutions.
- an international system that fosters sustainable patterns of trade and finance.

To end off the chapter this section states that the above ideas above are more in the nature of goals that should underline action on sustainable development. It is the sincerity at which these goals are pursued and the effectiveness of how departures are corrected/

Monday, March 15, 2010

Combating Affluenza: The Slow Movement

After all the talk of the causes and effects of Affluenza we finally spend some time on a specific method for combating it.

The method we discussed in class was known as the Slow Movement and has been around for awhile.

Slow Movement:
- Address time poverty
- Lack of connectedness
- Promote connection to place, people, life
- Place (Bio regionalism, local economy, neighbourhoods)
- People (Family, friends, community)
- Life (Food, nature, animals)

As listed in my previous posts titled Stuff, The idea arose from the ideals and lifestyle that defines Western Living such as seeking fulfillment in consumer goods, always want more, conformity required, etc. Before going on to how to combat Affluanze we took a look at redefining wealth. “Consumer culture has an impoverished definition of wealth” Mark Burch. The support for this statement can be found in the fact that society has substituted depth for novelty.

All dimensions are required for wealth:
- Material
- Aesthetic
- Intellectual
- Ecological
- Spiritual
- Health
- Social

The idea Slow Movement is essentially for people to slow down, literally. Stop rushing to and from stores looking for things we don't really need. Don't burden yourself with extra work hours for money to pay for said useless items.

Now we come to the second concept: Voluntary Simplicity.

Voluntary Simplicity is
“A way of life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich” (Duane Elgin)
- The choice to live more simply
- The choice to live for different values
- The choice to live with greater self-reliance
- The choice to live in deeper connection
- The choice to live with mindfulness
- The choice to live with non-violence
- The choice for a higher quality life

However, it is Not…
- New
- Religion
- Poverty
- Deprivation
- Living cheaply
- Living without beauty
- Inconvenient
- Going backwards

There are various ideals and steps that can be taken to ensure good Voluntary Simplicity and they are to:
- Consume less
- Buy quality, environmentally friendly
- Find meaningful work
- Do what you love
- Live out your values, spend time on relationships, family, community

Also you should avoid High-Impact activities such as motor related activities and sports (ATVs, Sea-Doo's, SUV's), pesticides and fertilizers, Products made from endangered species , etc. A more controversial step is to avoid having children. It is true that a child, especially one who is born into western lifestyles has a large impact on the world, but could teaching the child green and environmentally focused ideas help offset this? I don't really know and this is a topic I would prefer to avoid.

Sources for more info are the books:

- Voluntary Simplicity, Mark A. Burch
- Stepping Lightly, Mark A. Burch