Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ewaste

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:

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

Cadmium
- Chip resistors, infrared detectors, plastics and conductors

Mercury
- 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:
- EPEAT
- 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:

Issues
- 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)
-
http://www.slowmovement.com.

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


Guest Presentation: Rob Altemeyer, Living with Politics

This presentation was more the nature of a class discussion adn quaetion and answer section. Altemeyer handed out a sheet in which he placed various services he used during the course of a year into one of three catagories: Goof, Bad, and Ugly.


NEED SHEET!!

Guest Speaker: Urbansim

In this class we had a guest speaker come a talk about the idea and practice of Urbanism.

Sustainable urbanism if primarily concerned with land use and development (such as location, density types of use, etc..). It is the concept of developing urban areas in such a way the they become more useful to the inhabitants and a more green space, rather than the suburbs idea. Urbanism focuses on development that does not infringe upon non replaceable resources and compact, well designed, sustainable communities.

Some of the ideal behind Urbanism are:
o Enhance local identity
o Provide diverse housing options
o Increase land use efficiency
o Increase local employment
o And support alternative modes of travel
o Short walking distance to amenities
o High connectivity (paths)
o Path that provide connections for walking and cycling
o Neighbourhoods are clustered together around a town square


Essentially Urbanism leads development towards creating a series of communities with individual personality and character rather than a row of large stucco covered homes with a lawn and backyard as selling points. Current development patterns have lead to divided communities and living spaces that require large highways to reach and create social barriers.

The following words and terms are the Key Concepts behind Urbanism:

Density
- Increasing the population of a neighbourhood increase its capacity to serve more people with less resources


Walkability
- Pedestrian dominated design, everything within 10 minute walking distance
- Promotes healthy lifestyle


Connectivity
- Interconnected street grid
- Short street blocks
- Promotes walking


Mixed Use
- A verity of uses give neighbourhood residents the ability to dwell, work, entertain themselves, exercise, shop, and meet daily needs within a reasonable walking distance
- Activates urban areas during more hours of the day
- Serves multiple function with a single building
- Increase housing options for diverse household types
- Reduces auto dependence
- Creates a local sense of place


Diversity
- Offers a spectrum of amenities and service that are provided within a range of operation hours
- Increase the quality of urban life by enhancing interaction with a diversity of people, allowing for a heightened cultural sensitivity to other ethnicity's and classes
- Non motorized modes of transportation are represented equally


Sustainability (a term we are already familiar with)
- Bruntland Commission of the United Nations: “meets the needs of the current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”


Green Building / LEED
- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
- LEED is a third-party program and an internationally accepted benchmark for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. It provides building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings performance
- LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health:
o Sustainable site development
o Water efficiency
o Energy efficiency
o Materials selection
o Indoor environmental quality


Some example of Urbanism in Winnipeg would be:

- Osborne Village (High-rises and houses nearby and various amenities within walking and cycling distance)
- Wolseley
- Corydon
- South Osborne? (Emerging)


To sum it all up, urbanism is the idea of building with community needs in mind, be it comfort, financial or green. It is a reworking of the way we picture how cities are built and the rebirth of the more close-nit community. Urbanism aim to bring harmony to the interaction between people and the world by reducing our impact upon it as well as the relaitonships and interactions people have with one another.

New Unit: Stuff

The class has moved on to a new unit discussing stuff, and our obsession with it or Affluenza.

To start off I will give the definition for Affluenza: "A painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." (Wiktionary, 2009)

The basic idea and emergence of Affluenza was spawned from the ideals that surround Western living as well as the footprint:
o Seek fulfilment in consumer goods
o Always want more, conformity required
o Deep dissatisfaction, emptiness, anxiety
o Work, rush, overtime
o Stress, disease, social effects
o Values individualism not relationships, family, community


There is evidence for Affluenza in the forms of the larger homes being built and bought, increasing material expectations of youth and declining rates of happiness. What contributes to this social disease? Well the giving and receiving of gifts for one (however I personally fell this is a reference to more expensive and outlandish gifts rather than a book or CD as items like that are simple and have a long time enjoyable guarantee) more and more time and focus being spent on careers rather than family and living in the moment without looking ahead or planning for the future.

We also watched a video from a series that explains Affluenza and how it affects the world in a humorous yet intellectual manner:

http://www.storyofstuff.com/

Now we come to the Blog Reflection:
- Consider the affects of Affluenza that you see around you
- Do you see it in yourself, your friends, family, North American Society
- Can you take action to combat Affluenza?


Do I see Affluenza in my family? Yes, over the years my family has given each other gifts and bought ourselves numerous items and trinkets. One section of our basement is a little cluttered as we have begun to sort through items and clothes etc that we feel or know we have no need for and donate the to Diabetes or Salvation Army. We've begun to cut back on our spending a bit and as a result of said clutter because we are taking said clutter and its effects more seriously. We want to free up space in our home and focus more on items we need as well, and for items we want we try to make sure we buy less of them and that we are sure we will put the item to use for a long time rather than5 minutes then throw it into a corner.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities

Here is the brief description and link to the video I shall review in this post:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/carolyn_steel_how_food_shapes_our_cities.html

Cities have lead to mankind distancing itself from nature. As more people move into cities more land is turned to grain fields. Feeding the 6 billion people in the world has lead to 19 million hectares of rain forest being destroyed to make way for farming. even then we do not spread the food around properly. About 1 billion people are obese while about 1 billion starve. Not a good ratio. About half the food in the U.S. gets thrown out rather than eaten.

How did this come about? Well according to Carolyn Steel about 10,000 years ago in a far eastern area called the fertile crescent (due to the areas shape). Here two world changing inventions cam about; Agriculture and urbanism. The discovery of grain as a high yield and stable food source lead to the establishment of permanent settlements possible. These settlements revolved around grain and the harvest. An example of how large settlements in ancient times were able to feed themselves is Rome. Access to water allowed for food to be transported over vast distances quickly so that food would not spoil.

17th century London was built around food routes. The area of the city by the river Thames was all docks and grain and fish markets. Once food routes are established in cities they rarely ever move. Meat is the exception as in pre-industrial time animals literally walked into the city. In any pre-industrial city plan you can see how they were built around food routes by streets named after food an so forth.

ironically some of the first passengers on when trains came about were pigs, sheep and poultry as railways allowed for food to be transported across land very quickly. This allowed for cities to be built almost anywhere and grow to any size. The picture at 9:00 shows how with the coming of the railway between 1840 and 1929 London grew to three times its original size (fires not withstanding).

The final emancipation of man cities from any relationship with nature came with the advent of the car. Now people didn't need to live near markets or near any smell associated with food. they could drive to market and back home again. This has lead to mankind alienating ourselves from nature and losing respect for food. We no longer smell or examine food to see if its fresh, we look at the label. if it does not look or seem right to use we simply throw it away. We are now dependent on system run by companies to access food, so while they promise easier access to food, it has actually become more difficult via the systems we have to go through. Ironic.

An author 500 years ago named Thomas Moore wondered what we could do about mankind separating itself from nature. In his book Utopia he gives and example of a series of semi-independent city-states that were within walking distance of each other. Everyone grew food in their backyard and hand community dinners. The problem with this example and others is that they are Utopian, a Greek word meaning either "good place" or "no place". These examples are not real, only imaginary and only in concepts. Carolyn Steel has come up with an alternative: Sitopia or "food place" (from the Greek word for food sitos, and place topos). This is because she believes (and I agree) that we live in a world shaped by food and we can use food as a powerful concept and design tool for shaping our cities.

One project mentioned is a greenhouse in Toronto where kids are taught about food and how to grow it. This helps reconnect people with nature. Once we start doing this on alarger scale we can turn cities from crowded unproductive areas into a balance of metropolis and nature. A main concept behind this is If the City looks after the Country, thr Country looks after the City.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chapter 27: The Agriculture Crisis as a Crisis of Culture

Wow my last post felt long. Thankfully this is a shorter chapter so I won't ramble too much. This author of this chapter in Wendell Berry

Windell Beery is an author, poet, essayist, farmer and professor as well as one of America's profound ecological thinkers. From his Kentucky farm he states that that humans abuse of nature stems from the fact we no longer live with the land as we once did. This chapter is from a section of The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Sierra Club Books, 1997). In it Berry analyzes the numerous economic and ecological problems to do with modern American agriculture and that "their roots are in the substitution of mindless technology and "bigness" for the culturally complex, thought full communities that thrived in the era of the family farm." Berry argues that in order to have economic stability and environmentally sustainable practices we need farming that promotes interdependence and responsible cooperation rather than a system based on the narrow profit-based definition of efficiency.

The Key Concept of this chapter is: the cultural dimensions of sustainable agriculture.

This chapter is not divided into multiple sections, merely a single one. It is written from author Berry's point of view giving is more "feel" in my opinion. I enjoy articles withe first person perspective sometimes because it feels more real to me (this is opinion though). Berry says in his boyhood his family lived in real farming country with small farms and the people lived within and from the farms, not on them. The farmer grew a wide variety of crops, raised animals and there were some dairy farms as well. Back i the day farms could also make a profit off minor products such as surplus creams, eggs and old chickens. Thrift was also a forceful social idea. The author admits that's this worlds was by no means perfect and people would be violent and wasteful in the use of the land and of each other. The general idea he is trying to get across is that people were more intimate with farming and more involved and knowledgeable.

Wendell states that in the decades following WWII farming became much more mechanized. He then points out that more and more land is coming under the control of profession people from cities who, despite the technology to produce agricultural miracles are still farm richer than farmers. Farmers are more worried about money and moire overworked than ever before (arguable if you think of the days of the single horse drawn plow over a few acres of field) but to an extent very true, I feel.

Minor produce markets no longer exist for items such as a bucket of cream, a few dozen eggs or a single hen. Numerous small markets have been removed by larger corporations for "sanitation reasons" "for which there is apparently no small or cheap technology." Economics and "free market" where "the freest are the richest" is the reason for the displacement of many traditional farms and farming methods, Wendell feels. Those who didn't follow with "Get big or get out" have gotten out. And those who are big are being forced out by those who are even bigger. In 1973 over 1000 Kentucky dairy producer were shut down and a agriculture expert at the Kentucky University, a Dr. John Nicolai said this was because they were inefficient producers and had to be eliminated. That's a lot of farms to shut down and how were they inefficient? Was it because they were small operations producing only small amounts of product? If so, would they not be equal all together vs a large corporation? And would it not be safer to have numerous small operations so if something went wrong at one there would be others to make up for product loss rather than an industry crippled by a single corporation shutdown? It is not discussed in the chapter but the last few sentences were my thoughts on the matter.

One main point Wendell tries to get across is that "food is a cultural product; it cannot be produced by technology alone." Agriculture has become fragmented from other disciplines which has roots in the compartmentalized structure of universities. Foe example, reading is handled by the English Department and morality is handled by the Philosophy Department. We have to deal with food as a community, not let a sing person or organization handle its production. Wendell states that: "A healthy culture is a communal order of memory, insight, value, work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration..... A healthy farm culture can be based only upon familiarity, and can grow only among a people soundly established upon the land;" .

Wendel states that the best farming requires a farmer who is also a husbandman and a nurturer (same can be said of a woman farmer as well). A good farm is a cultural product made by his experience and also the experience of past generations. A good agricultural system can be defined the same as ins Creation where everything is related to and depend son everything else.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chapter 29: Environmental, Energetic, and Economic Comparisons of Organic and Conventional Farming Systems

As you can guess from the sections title this chapter compares conventional farming practices with organic ones. The author behind the material for this chapter is a David Pimentel, who will be "introduced" in the ever present opening paragraph of the chapter.

As well all know farming was once only organic, all natural. Yet as population and demand for food grew we turned to chemical to produce higher yields of crops yet this bonus comes with pollution, resistance to pesticides in insects and toxins that can harm and kill animal populations. While the argument that organic farming is healthier and better for the environment is true, it is debatable as to whether organic farming can support the needs of a world of 6 billion people. David Pimentel is a professor in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and long interested in the issue of sustainable agriculture. In the chapter he and his colleagues explain their conclusions that organic farming techniques have clear benefits and crop yields per hectare and the farmer's profit can be as great or greater than those of conventional agriculture". They also claim that while organic farming may not be able to replace conventional farming its techniques can make conventional methods "more sustainable and ecologically sound".

the key concept of this chapter is: the sustainability of organic farming techniques.

The first section bears no title and give an overview of conventional farming practices. One fact is that "more than 90% of US corn farmers rely on herbicides for weed control, and one of the most widely used of those herbicides, atrazine, is also one of the most commonly found pesticides in streams and groundwater." It is estimated that $12 billion is the environmental health care cost for using pesticides as recommended levels in the US. Runoff has also been associated with the deterioration of large fisheries in North America as well as nitrogen fertilizer from the Corn Belt contributing to the "dead zone" in the Gulf Of Mexico. Reports from the National Research Council (NRC) state that "the cost of excessive fertilizer use - that is, fertilizer inputs that exceed the amount crops can use - is $2.5 billion per year." Annual costs for public and environmental health losses due to soil erosion were estimated to exceed $45 billion.

One suggested solution to this in Integrated pest and nutrient management systems along with certified agriculture. These two combined can "reduce reliance on agrochemical inputs as well as as make agriculture environmentally and economically sound." Various government programs in Canada, Sweden and Indonesia have shown that it is possible to meet a 50-65% reduction i pesticide use without crop yields and quality.

Organic agriculture is aimed at augmenting ecological processes to foster plant nutrition while conserving soil and water resources. This system eliminates the need and use of agrochemicals as well as reduce other external inputs, thus improving the environment and farm economics. The National Organic Program "codifies organic production methods that are based on certified practices that are verified by independent third party viewers." This is to help give consumers assurance on the methods involved in the making of their food and allow them to choose foods based off production methods. Essentially, it educates the masses and gives them freedom of choice, not bad at all.

Organic culture is growing fast in the agricultural section of the United States. Dimitri and Greene have reported the doubling of organic production area from 1992 to 1997 and is currently more than 500,000 hectares. Organic food also has annual sales of of more than $7 billion and are growing at double digit rates.

The next section titled The Rodale Institute Farming System Trial (FST) describes a comparison by the FST of several types of farming methods over a 22 year study. The study covered sustainability, environmental impacts and other performance criteria. The first method was Conventional cropping which was based upon synthetic fertilizer and and herbicide use and used a simple 5 year crop rotation between corn, corn, soybeans, corn, soybeans. All fertilizer and herbicide use followed Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension recommendations. Crop residue was left on the surface to conserve soil and water resources. This system had no more exposed soil then the organic method but did not have cover crops during the non-growing season. Second was Organic Animal-Based cropping. Grain crops were grown to for animal feed, not sale. the rotation was more complex and included corn, soybeans, corn silage, wheat and red clover-alfalfa hay and a rye cover crop before corn silage and soybeans. Manure from cattle was applied at a rate of 5.6 metric tons per day, 2 years out of every 5, before plowing for corn. Extra Nitrogen was added through legume-hay crops and the total nitrogen was 40 kilograms per year. No herbicides or weed control were used. mechanical cultivation, weed suppressing crop rotations and relay cropping were instead used, in which one crop was a living mulch for another. Awesome recycling. The third method was Organic Legume based cropping and represented a cash grain operation without livestock. Nitrogen-fixing green manure crops provided nitrogen rather than chemicals. Final crop rotation included hairy vetch (a winter cover crop used as green manure), corn, rye (winter cover crop), soybeans and winter wheat. The initial five year system was modified twice to improve rotation. Total nitrogen added was 49 kg per ha per year.

The results showed that (from 1981 to 1985) under normal rainfall soy bean yields were similar for all three methods, corn yield were significantly higher than the organic systems to begin with but the organic systems caught up after 1985. Under drought conditions (1988 to 1998 with 5 years being drought years) with less than 350mm of rain compared to the regular 500mm, average corn yields were 28-34% higher in the two organic systems while the conventional system yielded less. Even soy bean yield was higher in the organic systems as compared to the conventional one. This was brought about by the higher amounts of water in the soils of the organic fields and the lower amounts in the conventional field.

In the Discussion section states that the management of the soil in the animal, legume, and conventional systems lead to nitrogen increases of 27.9%, 15.1% and 8.6% respectively. 41% other the volume of organic matter in the organic systems was water as compared to the 35% in the organic matter of the conventional system. Increased soil biodiversity was higher in the organic systems which is why they had better yields, to put it shortly. As the organic methods used far less fossil fuel energy to produce crops they were all around better for the environment as less CO2 was being pumped inti the atmosphere.

Crop Yields and Economics is a huge section and since this post is very long I will cut to the chase. In most cases when compared to the rest of the world, the experiment say a more even yield of crop between the organic and conventional methods yet the real world comparison showed the organic methods trail by 30-50% in yield (in Europe) to conventional methods. Organic crops also cost more in the store than conventional. Some challenges for organic agriculture are nitrogen deficiency and weed competition. While in the experiment they are able to overcome this with legume crops others have found it more difficult. This can be due to geographical variances between farming regions. Mechanical weed control is also mostly effective under dry conditions, so wetter areas will have trouble. Pest control is the largest threat as nothing really compare to pesticides for effectiveness.

There are four organic technologies that if adopted, would most likely be beneficial: 1. employing off-season cover crops (why not have your soil ready to be used immediately next growing season?) 2. use more extended crop rotations to help conserve water, educe insects, and weeds (geographical situation not withstanding) 3. increase level of soil organic matter which helps conserve water and mitigates drought effects. 4. employing natural biodiversity to reduce or eliminate use of chemicals (Mother nature knows best so work with her, not against).

Conclusions is just as it sounds, the end summary. Here are listed some benefits of organic technology identified in the experiment:
- Soil organic matter and nitrogen were higher in organic systems providing benefits to the sustainability of organic agriculture.
- Higher levels of organic matter helped conserve soil and water resources which was useful during droughts.
- Since organic crops bring higher market prices the net economic return is often equal to or higher than conventional crops.
- Recycling of livestock waste reduces pollution whilst benefiting the organic culture.

All in all I see why organic farming is still seen as viable today despite the success of conventional methods. Natural methods in the long run are better as they do not alter the state of the land and crops and reduces pollution and contamination via chemicals. I hope we can find a balance between organic and conventional methods so as to ease the burden on farmers to supply our expanding population with much needed food.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chapter 28: Food Scarcity: An Environmental Wakeup Call

As always I will begin this post by summarizing the opening paragraph of the chapter.

Lester Brown started out as a tomato farmer in Southern New Jersey and in 1974 founded the World Watch Institute in Washington D.C. and the Earth Policy Institute in 2001 which he currently serves as president and senior researcher of. He is refereed to by the Washington Post as "one of the World's most influential thinkers" and called the "guru of the global environmental movement" by the Telegraph of Calcutta, India. He has authored and co-authored some highly regarded books and some of the most recent being: Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures in 2005 and Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization in 2008. This chapter is made up of sections taken from one of Brown's books The Futurist (1998) in which Brown warns of economic and social collapse due to food scarcity. He also predicts that deforestation, soil erosion, coupled with greenhouse gas emission will lead to an economic decline of the global food system.

The Key concept of this chapter is: environmental degradation coupled with population growth as causes of food scarcity.

The first section is brief yet puts the ideas of Lester Brown into perspective. For the most part environmental damage has been local, for example affecting only a few fisheries and not the industry as a whole. However the scale of environmental damage is increasing and becoming more clear. "We cannot continue to deforest the earth without experiencing more rainfall runoff, accelerated soil erosion and more destructive flooding. If we continue to discharge excessive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, we will eventually face economically disruptive climate change. If we continue to over pump the earth's aquifers, we will only one day face acute water scarcity." Essentially the more we do to damage the Earth the more damaging the consequences are.

The next section titled : Agriculture: The Missing Link, states that the food sector is likely to be where environmental degradation turns into economic decline. Some example provided are the water logging of and salting of the land that lead to the decline of the Mesopotamian civilization and how soil erosion turned the once fertile African wheat lands that fed the Roman Empire into desert. Rising grain prices will be an early indicator that something is wrong and should grain prices rise out of the reach of more and more people, political instability will appear. The doubling of grain prices in 1996 did not affect most people as their food expenses are mostly in the area of processing costs than commodity prices. However, the almost 1.3 billion people who live on a dollar a day or less can be caught in a life-threatening situation should high grain prices persist. People unable to provide food for the families would turn to riot against the government and should it continue long enough the entire economic machine that the world holds dear would be affected in a very negative way. The problems of the poor would become the problems of the rich.

Some present consequences include:
1) The European Union has reduced the allowable fish catch to be lowered by 20% to avert the collapse of the region's fisheries.
2) Saudi Arabia has seen an over reliance on a fossil aquifer to expand grain production has contributed to an abrupt 62% drop in grain harvest between 1994-1996.
3) Brazil is now the largest grain importer in the Western Hemisphere due to soil degradation that follows the burning off of the Amazon rain forest for agriculture.

The Section: In Search of Land, is short yet contain many facts mostly concerned with the world's roughly 5.8 billion people. To combat this farmer have for centuries used techniques such as terracing, drainage irrigation and the Dutch have even reclaimed land from the sea! Between 1950 and 1981 the area reserved for grain production grew almost 25% (587-732 million hectares). It then declined to 683 million hectares in 1993. This is in part due to population growth which is (pardon the pun) "eating up" far land. by 2030 it is expected that grain production will shrink from 0.23 hectares per person to 0.08 hectares per person.

In Search of Water deals with, well, water. The world's farmers face a water scarcity along with crop related problems.Aquifers are being pushed beyond their sustainable needs by water demand. Grain harvest is a major factor in this as its production has nearly tripled between 1950 and 1990 and extended into dry and low-rainfall areas which have a heavy demand for irrigation. However, irrigation area per person has dropped by about 7% since 1979. Competition between cities and the countryside have intensified and the city usually wins, and water is diverted from crops forcing a country to import more grain. Importing one ton of grain is like importing thousands of tons of water. The bottom line of this section is that as irrigation water per person and cropland becomes more scarce prices of grain will be pushed upwards.

Onset of Food Scarcity, deals with evidence of degradation leading to food scarcity. Oceanic fish catch which has been plague by overfishing and pollution has had little growth since its increase from 19 million in 1950 tons to 89 million tons in 1989. Or how Grainland productivity increased by 2% between 1950 and 1990 but dropped to about 1% a year from 1990 to 1995. In the 1990s the U.S. tried devoting more land to cropland handle the slow rise in land productivity yet world carry-over stocks on 1996 dropped to the low level of 52 days of consumption and after 1996 only rose to 57 days, well below the 70 days of consumption required as a minimal buffer against a poor harvest. The late spring and early summer of 1996 saw the doubling of the price of grain and corn due to a heat wave along the U.S Corn Belt and China's emergence as the second-largest grain importer. During the summer of 96' Jordan (the country) was forced to remove the bread subsidy as the country suffered from the rising costs of imported wheat. This lead to several day long riots and threats to bring down the government.

The next section, titled An Unprecedented Challenge, is very long so I will mostly gloss over it and highlight the topics I think best describe the chapters intentions. The main idea behind this chapter is that ensuring future generations have enough food is not longer just an agricultural matter. This will depend on decisions made by family planners, farmers and ministries of energy. In order to attain a sustainable economy and secure future food supplies two components must be dealt with: stabilizing population size and climate. The first can be dealt with by radical changes in reproductive behavior while the latter relies upon restructuring the global energy economy.

Some governments facing lower fish catches and grain harvest declining may be forced to ask couple if they are morally justified in having more than two children which is in the number needed to replace themselves. Some good news on this subject is that some 32 countries (all in Europe except for Jordan) containing about 14% of the world's people have managed to stabilize their populations. This shows that it is possible.

As for stabilizing the climate, people have to lower the amount of fossil fuel burnt which is no small task as 85% of all commercial energy comes from said fuels. Some good news in this area is that wind energy is expanding by ore than 20% a year, and solar cells are following at a similar rate. solar/hydrogen economy is also beginning to emerge and gain momentum to.

As this post has no become longer than Noah's flood I'm going to quickly summarize the finals section title Feeding the Future". The world used to have three reserves to fall back on in the event of a poor harvest. Idle cropland under farm programs, surplus grain stocks and the one-third of the world grain harvest fed to livestock, poultry and fish yet by 1997 the first two have disappeared. The cost of such grain would turn many consumers to cheaper less grain-intensive livestock products but such prices would also mean big trouble for low-income consumers around the world. A way to handle this scenario is proposed in this chapter and that is to tax the consumption of livestock products and offsetting it with reduction in income taxes. Such a tax would be unpopular yet aid in political and economic stability. To sum it all up, the only way to ensure there are food stores for ourselves and the next generation is to is by moving the world economy off "the path environmental deterioration and eventual economic disruption and onto an economic and demographic path that is environmentally sustainable."

Blog Reflection: 48 Hours of Eating

The out line of this blog reflection is to:

1) Write down your food intake over the last 48 hours.
2) Identify what foods I eat regularly?
3) What environmental concerns relate to my diet?


1) For the past two days breakfast has involved a mix of Vector cereal with Rice Krispies and two piece of buttered toast coupled with a glass of orange juice. Mid way through each day for lunch I had a 4 inch-ish pre-made turkey sandwich from Superstore (they were on sale so I treated myself). On Saturday I also toasted a bagel and applied cream cheese. Both days I sampled from a tub of neon sour gummy worms I have (5 or so worms a day). Supper for Saturday wasn't very healthy as I went with a friend to see a movie and binged on popcorn and soda. Sunday however included chicken fingers (the coating etc was home made) along with potatoes cut into small pieces and seasoned (once again, home made). Fried rice with cabbage and a glass of milk rounded dinner off. Dessert on both days involved a chocolate donut (of which I had another one earlier in the day both Saturday and Sunday).

2) Foods I eat regularly are toasted bagels with cream cheese, a cookie or two, some potato product for supper (its potatoes, you can do anything with them!), pork and chicken. Milke and orange juice and water.

3) Well if you read my previous post you can imagine the issues involving meat that occur. For the turkey sanwhiches there is also the added issue of how far the item had to be shipped as well as the process of making it.

Food

A glorious food, the "Staff of Life", how could we live without it?

Let me start off this post with some facts about certain foods that were given in class.

Meat is a major food group with about 258 million tonnes consumed globally which averages to about 40kg/person and is currently a record high. Some major staples are pork (China), poultry, chicken, beef, mutton and goat. In U.S. poultry makes up about 32kg, beef roughly 29kg and pork 21kg adding up to a total of 82kg per person.

Now what is the input of meat? What goes into it? Well there is about 11-17 calories of feed / calorie beef, pork, poultry. Roughly 80% soy bean use for livestock so you have some of those in there and Up to 25,000L water / 8oz beef. Why such bizarre ingredients and ratios? You have to feed the animal your going to eat you know. Microbial are a major part of the diet of cattle (U.S. not Canada) up to 70% of all antimicrobial in U.S. are used on cows, pigs and chicken. One interesting tidbit of info is 1 calorie beef takes 33% more fossil fuel energy to produce than 1 calorie potatoes.

We saw a video at the end of class titled "The Meatrix" Yes, it was corny, but a nice breather from the serious and apocalyptic tone most videos involving major issues have. http://www.themeatrix.com/ click on the link to find out more.

Now what are some outputs associated with meat production?

Manure, obvious and can pollute surface and groundwater along with being a source of methane (16% of world production). Disease. Examples include saturated fats, cholesterol, pathogens (E.coli, Salmonella), Mad-cow (CJD). People who live near hog plants complain about the smell and this alone is a major issue in meat production.

One idea put before the class was the Ethical Gourmet. The idea behind it is to lessen the emphasis on meat as a main course among other ideals for being a better consumer (literally and purchase wise) listed below:
- Meat as a side dish
- Local over imported organic
- Organic over conventional
- Responsible GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) development
- Ethical fish (Blue Ocean Institute)
- Tap water
- Moral menu restaurants
- Socially responsible purchasing / investing
- Vote / lobby
- Cook wholesome foods at home more often


The class also had an intro lecture of hog production in Manitoba. We learned about the Clean Envrionment Comission and some of its goals suchthe research into and methods of handling liquid wastefrom livestock including higher dikes around manure storage facilities as well as requiring all new and expanding hog operation to file manure management plans and provide the livestock producers with financial assistance or incentives to assist them in coming into compliance with the LMMMR.

The Manitoba Food Charter was covered also. Their vision is A just sustainable food system in Manitoba is rooted in healthy communities, where no one is hungry and everyone has access to nutritious food.

A just sustainable food system in Manitoba means:
- Farmers, fishers, processors, distributors etc use ecologically sustainable practices
- Respect traditional hunting gathering, trapping etc of First Nations Peoples.
- Other...

Essentially the main idea behind this class was to enlighten us (students) to the fact that our food (in this case meat) has a dark side to it and isn't produced on a scenic looking family farm. A lot happens to hogs, chickens and cattle that is unethical and profit oriented.