Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter 6: Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis

This chapter begins with a brief look at the view of a Professor Lynn White's opinion as to how man brought about all the issues we have in nature today. He argued the Christianity as an institution in the Western world an its interpretation of the dominance over nature God granted to man has lead to environmental degradation. He states that we have interpreted it to mean nature has no meaning except to serve man. Critics have sited the passages as meaning man should have stewardship over nature and not just exploit it as we wish. The chapter goes on to discuss how this Western thinking and ideals - Medieval times being a major starting point - have lead to our modern thinking that we are above nature and its master. The example of the first knife-shaped plow that revolutionized agriculture and its rapid wide spread use to create larger and larger fields and that farming shifted from supporting the needs of a single family to how much could be plowed and how fast.

The chapter continues on with what I view as bashing of Christianity. As a Christian I am more than willing to admit that scripts and texts have been interpreted for man's "benefit" and that the Bible has been a means to an end for many unsavory deeds. The author does not seem to realise that not only is the Bible obscure, but it can be used for good and "Evil". Just because High ranking churchmen have rammed the interpretation of man's dominion meaning to exploit, does not mean that Christianity is at the core of modern environmental miss doing. The views of those in positions of power are to blame ultimately in the end. Science has been used for very bad thing but has produced wonders such as medicine.

I just wish the author had spent some time to reflect on the points I've mentioned rather then plowing away with the negatives. I will give him credit for the half section devoted to Saint Francis and his belief that man as a whole, not just individuals, could use humility and how he tried to set up a democracy for all of God's creatures.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Human – Environment Connection: Worldwide Views and Approaches

In class we covered a number of reasons for why there is an balance between man and nature. Some of the points we looked at were: Neo-Malthusian (Demographic pressure – overuse), Ignorance (Unintentional consequences), Poor Valuation (No economic value), Exploitation (Deliberately pursued) and Domination (Above nature). We also looked at ancient environmental ethics such as Australian Aborigines belief that the environment is a source of sacred teachings, and Plato who said "The land is our ancestral home and we must cherish it even more than children cherish their mothers.” Then we delved into more modern ways of thinking such as forester, wildlife manager Aldo Leopold and his ideas of "good" and "bad" species (such as the wolf). He eventually changed his mind but many people follow that line of thinking.

We then went through the concept of environmental justice and the terms Anthropocentric, Biocentric and Ecocentric?. I lean more towards Biocentrism in that I believe everything we do in some way may impact the environment and that all life has ethical standing. In other words, we must be careful what we do and how we interact with the environment so as to avoid damaging it and interrupting natural cycles as best we can.

Reflection: Exploring the Human – Environment Connection

The question put forth by the teacher was : Is a deeper connection to nature likely to influence our decisions, Management, Resource use, Waste generation and Values?

If we are deeply connected to nature we are more likely to rule in favor of nature in an argument or decision making process. This is because we have formed a bond and that bond will tend to sway our decision making because it has altered or enforced our personal values. For management decision we may see more companies and people investing in green technology and immersing their businesses in more eco-friendly workplaces. A deeper connection to nature will cause more and more people to reduce their resource consumption and or look towards less harmful alternatives to fossil fuels. The same can be said for waste generation. People will feel a greater need to cut down on hazardous wastes or just waste in general. A deeper connection to nature will change our values from being more economically and self oriented, to being more outward and world conscientious.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sustainability in Practice

In class last Friday I believe, we took a look at the development of Sustainability over the last few decades. We covered what legislation has been passed, scientific reports have been given and what meeting scientists and countries have had to try and deal with climate change. The push for sustainability began in the late 60's when a Silent Spring was published by Rachel Carson linking pesticide use and its harm to animals and humans. We talked about the first Earth Day in 1970 as well as the OPEC Oil Crisis in 1973 as well as the formation of Green Peace in Canada 2 years before. its surprising that the hole in the Ozone layer was originally discovered back in 1985 and that at the end of the day, we haven't done much to fix it over the past 25 years. Chernobyl in 1986 was a major point of interest as it showed mankind the dangers of "clean" nuclear energy. 1991 was when Canada's Cod Fishery collapsed. The over fishing wiped out all the cod and we still see not signs of the cod making a comeback. We went through all the COP's (Conference of Parties to Convention on Climate Change) as well as the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the U.S. withdrawal in 2001. Over the years mankind has done alot to find out how the world works, how we affect it and what we have to do to save it. The class was a brief look back at all we have done up until the recent years.

David Suzuki's: The Sacred Balance

The documentary The Sacred Balance talks about how man and nature are intertwined together and how everything within nature itself is linked. TSB describes the 4 elements Water, Air, Earth and Fire. Water is where life started, and still continues to thrive. Even through we are land based creatures, humans begin life in water in the womb, thus we start out where all life started and then emerge into a different world. The air - or atmosphere - carries the gasses and some elements that are essential to life all over the world, a readily available supply of nutrients that is always on hand. The atmosphere also hold the heat and energy the fires of the sun gives off, providing the energy life needs to exist, in both plant and animal form. Fire is used by both man an nature to help recycle nutrients back into the soil to help give nutrients to new life and aid in maintaining the biodiversity within the earth. TSB also takes a look at a few ancient cultures and how they each view life and the cycle of the Earth. In all they believe that everything is linked and that every action has a consequence. A Hydrological Engineer in India named Veer Bahdra Mishra gave his view on how man and nature should live together. He said that Science and Technology make up the bank on one side of the river, and Religion and Tradition make up the bank on the other side. Only if both banks are firm may the river maintain the flow. Essentially, we need to balance new age thinking with traditional teachings if we, humans, are to help maintain the abundance of the Earth.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chapter 36: The Population Explopsion

In 1800 mankind had a population of about 1 billion, but that grew six times in size in less than 200 years, half of it being from 1960 onward. The chapter states that before reduced birth rates can bring population growth to a halt we will have thirty or fifty "Germany's" (meaning thirty to fifty times the population of Germany) worth of people will be added to the planet. The I=PAT (number of people x affluence x impact from technology) is a general way to measure of the environmental impact of a society. This chapter considers population growth to be responsible for about 45% of humanity's environmental peril. This is what has lead to much of mankind's over consumption of Earth's resources and extended disruption of nature including carbon, nitrogen ,etc cycles, as well as depletion of groundwater and soil erosion. The chapter basically boils down to saying that supporting our vast population, and supporting certain lifestyles, is straining the planet. It is mentioned that the world uses13 terawatts of energy and that 4.5 - 6 tW would be more ideal when balancing lifestyle and environmental impact. It then goes on to talking about basic goals to help deal with population explosion: basic health care and sanitation, education and economic opportunities for both sexes, local control over supporting resources and fair government. Another big one is family planning education. The chapter discusses how in parts of the world that are largely male dominated societies (such as sub-Saharan Africa) are the ones with the highest birth rates due to inequality and poor education. The chapter end off with saying that rich nations need to reduce their consumption while helping to establish environmentally benign technologies in emerging countries in order to move forward to more sustainable future.

Chapter 32: Our Stollen Futrure

This chapter is essentially and extended excerpt from a book of which the title of this section shares its name. It talks about the connection all animals (and humans) share with each other on a very basic genetic level. What happens to a species in one part of the planet is important to us all. An example is a 1980's study by Theo Colborn that showed that estrogen from synthetic chemicals was polluting the Great Lakes (as well as Florida and Northern Europe) inhibiting the development of many animals. This brought about significant testing of chemicals on animals, such as mice, to determine how synthetic products may harm humans who come in contact with them. There is an ongoing debate amongst scientists as to whether animal testing can accurately determine the risk a substance has to humans or the "mice are not little people" debate.The chapter highlights endocrine disruption question and onto the Wingspread Conference Centre meeting in 1991 where 21 researchers came to the conclusion that hormone disruptor's are threatening the survival of animal populations and jeopardizing our (mankind's) future. The U.S. is mentioned as expressing an increasing concern for increasing number of abnormalities in children due to endocrine interruption. The chapter ends off by saying what a tradjedy it is that we ignored warnings to the harmful effects of synthetic chemicals for so long.

Chapter 42: Collapse

Here is my first chapter readings review. This chapter was dedicated to example of how societies have collapsed due to unintended ecocide (ecological suicide). The chapter identifies 8 reasons for societal collapse. They are: deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems, water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, effects of introduced species on the native ones, human population growth and increased per capita impact of people. The chapter seems to discuss not only collapse due to environmental effects, but purely political ones as well, if only for example. An example of the environment proving destructive towards man without our interference is the "the year without a summer" from summer 1816 where Mt. Tambora erupted and injected so much dust an ash into the atmosphere that North America and Europe saw famine. War between two culture such as Roman Empire and its fall to the "barbarians" is a more politicaly based example rather than environmental but this chapter discussed both. The article goes on to many other examples but at the end it touches upon how environmentalists and "Big Business" need to stop viewing each other as polar opposites on the debate about our impact on the environment. They need to work together to solve the issues of climate change.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Class Review: Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle states that: "Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” CEPA (from Rio Declaration)

Personally I feel that this is what society needs in some case when it comes to the environment. If there is a issue or imminent disaster, there is little to know time to determine what, at the end of the day, may be the best answer because you may not - or do not - have all day. You deal with the situation in the best way you immediately can, and after disaster is averted, then you sit down and see how you can improve.

Wide use of this Principle could really speed up global improvement on mankind's "war" on climate change. We have many of different ideas on how to combat environmental issue and way way more speculation. We have some proof that if we don't act now, we'll be in big trouble.

However, we can't just change overnight or immediatly act on every idea just as it comes into our heads. While society needs to hurry it up with combating climate change we need to also be aware of what we have to go through to do so. If the whole world woke up one morning and said: "I'm going to stop using fossil fuels starting this moment and put a wind turbine up in my back yard" for example, the global economy would collapse, the factories and machines used to produce the trubine would not have the power to do so because power plants all over the world would be shut down. We would have blackouts and chaos.

The world does need to start moving forward to reduce climate change and its effects, but in rapid yet calculated bursts like phasing out a power plant or two with wind or tidal farms over a specific period of time. Not an instant overhaul.

7 Criteria of Solid Reasoning

The 7 Criteria are: Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Breadth, Depth and Logic. This post is concerned with how well the media handles these criteria.
Well Swine Flu is an example of how the media does not always do well in the clarity, accuracy and precision department. When H1 N1 first hit the television screen and airwaves no one was alerted to the fact that Swine Flu has nothing to do with pigs. Even if that information was unavailable at the time, the Media should have at least stated that they were unsure of the connection - if any - to pigs. By the time the media got around to clearing up the confusion many pig farmers were in trouble.
Logic should have dictated to the media that people would put "Swine flu" and "pigs / pork products" together in a flash and that the pork industry could be harmed through this connection. Without enough depth in a story the public may focus on a single idea (true or untrue) and almost develop a tunnel vision that can lead whole countries off in the wrong direction.
The media has a responsibility to not only tell the worlkd what they know, but also tell people what they don't know. An entire indusrty felt alot of strain because of the missinformed public view of Swine Flu and its non-existant connection with the animal that shares its name.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My first post will be a reflection of the 7 Criteria of Solid Reasoning which I will add tomorrow hopefully. Right now I'm just exploring all the tools I can use on this blog and "settling in" as it were.