Predicament or Problem?

The past few years, we have been hearing stories that relate to the environment and how our resources are depleting. The truth is, we haven’t been listening. As a species, we haven’t been believing the claims that have been made since the late 1960’s. Now more than ever, is a crucial time in our history to save and try to manage our situation. We currently are continuing to produce and grow, but we don’t see the damage that it is actually causing. We are in a situation, as Chris Martenson said, that doesn’t have any more solutions, but outcomes that we have to now learn how to manage.

Economy, Energy and the Environment. Three aspects of our life that are extremely important for our existence as the human race. These EEE’s, are interconnected to each other and all affect each other. We as a capitalist country love growth and productivity increasing. It is good for our economy, because without a good economy we can’t live to the standards that we are used to. Unfortunately to continue our growth we need to increase our energy in order to use the resources in the environment that run our economy. For example, we need oil which is an important resources for our economy to function the way we like. For our economy to grow, we need to pump more oil so we can trade and use it for other reasons. In order to pump that oil we are using up a lot of energy, because as Chris Materson said, for our machines to work. If the environment has less resources for us, we can’t produce as much because there isn’t as much oil. Without a lot of oil we can’t grow and produce as much. Our energy is being used up by pumping the last drops of oil our planet has left. The EEE’s all affect each other based on the resources we have and how much we try to grow and use up.

I have been using terminology that Chris Martenson used. Who is Chris Martenson? He is a scientist who is dedicated to conveying his opinions and discoveries with the public so we understand the predicament we are in (1). He received a PhD and “post-doctoral program” at Duke University in neurotoxicology (1). He has spent years on studying what our planet can maintain and how many resources our world has left. He has thoroughly depicted what our future holds for us and what we need to do to manage the outcomes. A man who went from being the Vice President of a Fortune 300 company, and living in basically what is a mansion, and then moving to a small rental apartment and living what we call simplistically in order to help our current cause (1). Not only has he been trained in the field of science, but he lived and felt the difference between living large and living smart.

In what Chris Martenson calls the “Crash Course” he clearly states the problem and what our future holds. His overall message states how our productivity continues to increase, like the graph above, yet we are reaching a peak of the amount of oil we are drilling. He says that eventually there will be a cap and we won’t be able to drill and produce more. This will eventually slow down growth tremendously. It will slow down trade and all aspects of life that help us run a fast pace, growing society. Chris Martenson states that every graph that relates to the EEE’s has what he calls the “Hockey Stick Graph” (2).

It is basically an exponential graph, showing how in the last few years we have doubled our productivity level compared to the last twenty years. He uses the example that if he were to drop magic water in his hand and it doubles every minute, the increase will exponentially increase; there used to be two drops that turned into four drops, but six minutes later there are 64 drops (2). That is a huge jump; that jump what is occurring with our population, but that is linked to the amount of people we have to support through our planet’s resources. In the later videos, he explains how data has shown that eventually, within the next twenty years, we will have reached a peak and uses the analogy of a cap of the production of oil (2). That cap will force us to use less energy because we don’t have enough oil. If we continue to produce and drill oil at the same rate for the next twenty years, we will be using more than our means in terms of resources. In the last video, he explains how we live in a world where we must grow and produce more as the years go on; but Chris Martenson says how we are entering an era where we can’t grow because of what the future holds, lack of oil (2). The two connect and cause what is depleting resources, growing without the means. It is a problem that we are currently in and will exponentially grow worse within the next decade or two. Chris Martenson explains how we will probably be forced to live a standard of living less than the one we are used to now, because we will have no more resources to drive our productivity which would grow our economy (2). This is a perfect example of the EEE’s and how they relate and directly connect to each other.

I agree whole-heartedly with Chris Martenson, because we are acting naive and thinking we have more time than we actually do. If we think in the sense that as the years pass we double every time, time is a lot shorter than anticipated. I agree with the idea that we continue to increase consumption and productivity which causes depletion of resources at such a fast rate, we can’t even return to our “old ways”. We will have to deal with our predicament. As Chris Martenson says, “A problem has solutions, while a predicament has outcomes,” (2), we are now in a predicament, we can’t completely fix, but we can manage. I think we need to begin with accepting a less lavish lifestyle and live within our means, regarding our resources and being more conscience of how energy is being used up rapidly by individuals and how that energy deplete more resources to satisfy our lives.

Sources:

1) Martenson, Chris. 2007. Retrieved Nov 24, 2011. http://www.chrismartenson.com/about

2) Martenson, Chris. 2007. Retrieved Nov 24, 2011. http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse

3) Withgott, J. & Brennan, S.2010. Environment: The science behind the stories. 4th Ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education

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Can Humans’ Carrying Capacity Still Increase?

(2)

Population Ecology is the study of the dynamics of how the population of a single species interacts with their environment. Population Ecology can either look at the positive or negative aspects, but regardless it is looking at how species use and live within their habitats; looking at the behavior one species has with their given environment. Human beings are the one species that are directly affecting the outcome of our own environment. Whether it pertains to climate change, the exponential loss of resources or the declined growth of other species, we are only hurting ourselves and other living things through the expansion and constant growth of population.

Over the decades humans have been increasing the population. Human population growth has been a big contributor to the various changes concerning climate, near extinction of other species and diminishing resources. Resource depletion is the one problem that will affect us most directly in the short term if we continue to increase at the rate we are. One question I think of is: whether humans’ carrying capacity will increase at a faster or slower rate over the next few decades?

As we look at the last few decades, our population has increased as the years go on. We are reaching a number that is exceeding our carrying capacity to a level of danger that calls for change.

(3)Looking at this table we can see that over the years as the population increases our amount of oil barrels per capita used has increased as well, meaning we are using up our resources in order to sustain the world population. As we increase our population we are at a point where we are further exceeding our carrying capacity and using more of earth’s resources. Ecologists would definitely agree with this table proving their argument that humans follow the same fundamental laws of nature as do every other species and organisms, we can just postpone when resources are used up.

Economists would still say that this table doesn’t prove that we are depleting our resources and that nature will constantly provide us with resources to use as we increase our population to support increase in demand.(1)

The graph above shows that if we continue to increase population at a fast pace like r-selected animals then we will be doomed, but since we are K-selected beings, we are able to adapt to our environment and find ways to use more resources to accomidate our population growth. Therefore our adaptation will slow the carrying capacity because the new forms of resources will still be enough to sustain our population. This thought process heavily favors what economists think will occur in the next few decades.

Regardless of both sides of the argument I think the answer lies in the reality that “This realization gave rise to The IPAT Equation which pointed out that carrying capacity for humans was a function not only of population size, but also of differing levels of consumption, which in turn are affected by the technologies involved in production and consumption,” (1).

Our species will constantly improve technology and depending on the countries developmental levels the consumption size will differ. Eventually we can only go so far to each corner of the earth and as far down into the earth. I personally believe that in the next few decades our carrying capacity will increase slowly and we won’t overshoot our capacity due to our ability to adapt to our environment. However, in the long term we will place ourselves in a position that will leave us doomed due to the lack of resources.

Sources:

1) “Carrying Capacity.” The Sustainable Scale Project. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <http://www.sustainablescale.org/ConceptualFramework/UnderstandingScale/MeasuringScale/CarryingCapacity.aspx&gt;

2) http://zebu.uoregon.edu/1998/es202/archive/gt1f.gif

3) “Depletion of Key Resources: Facts at Your Fingertips.” Culture Change. Web. 08 Nov. 2011. <http://www.culturechange.org/cms/content/view/597/1/&gt;

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Tensions Rise Over Uranium Mines

Regarding any issue, there will always be multiple viewpoints. With particular issues that pertain to the environment, ethics, economics and justice will always intertwine. There will always be one side that argues for the short term solutions, the solutions that help people live above and beyond; solutions that help a country enter a cycle of wealth, where they spend to make more in order to spend more. This is where economic viewpoints enter the equation. Economists wants growth and expansion, to make more and better. Environmental Ethics pertains to humans interactions with non-living parts of our environment. It is the viewpoint that people hold when they think about the long term affects and how it will help preserve our environment. Justice is intertwined with environmental ethics because the ethics pertain to whether it is just to cause destruction to land, whether occupied or not, that may affect the long term or affect the people that live there, in order to satisfy the needs of money, improving more and making more goods. There is never a wrong or right answer, but it is a constant struggle over viewpoints. They are both important though, because as stated by Withgott and Brennan, “We need ethics and economics…to help us understand how and why we value those things we value,” (pg. 140, 4).

It is well known that throughout Australia there are people that still continue to carry on the traditions of ancient aboriginal traditions dating as far back as to when homo-sapiens began inhabiting this earth. Their cultures are very much integrated into their landscape and their environment. Originating as hunter- gatherers and creating their own clans and territories which they live, creating distinct boundaries through their geographical landscape. (1) Using rivers as a source of hydration and the grass they gathered and the animals they hunted as their source of nourishment. For thousands of years the land has been essential in order for the people to survive this long. Within the group of Australian Aborigines, there is a small clan living in northern Australia in Kakadu National Park called the Mirrar Clan. The Mirrar Clan, like all aborigines, maintain traditions that are still deeply rooted to their landscape. There is an ancient tradition believed that certain “sacred sites” should not be disturbed. These sites is where their ancestors were born, lived and died upon and their bodies aren’t to be disturbed. (2) The Mirrar Clan believe that if the land which their ancestors resided is to be disturbed, there is to be catastrophic consequences to them and the rest of the people inhabiting the area. (2) The Kakadu National Park is the sacred land where the Mirrar Clan live but don’t disturb. The only problem is that the Kakadu National Park is also home to one of the biggest uranium mines in Australia, and the Australian government wants to dig it up since uranium is a huge source of income for Australia.

When this struggle began in the 1950’s when uranium was first found in Kakadu National Park, the Mirrar obviously were opposed, but less obvious are the reasons. The Australian government offered the people inhabiting the land jobs and great means of living, but still the clan didn’t approve of the uranium mining. It was a reason regarding traditions upheld by their ancestors for thousands of years. The Mirrar Clan’s main concern was the fact that if the uranium mining began, their landscape and culture would perish due to the continued mining and the integration of western technology with their own traditional technology. (3)

Understandably the Mirrar Clan were the first inhabitants, or their ancestors were, upholding thousands of years of tradition, deeply rooted with their landscape and environment. It isn’t just a source of wealth or trade, but essential for their survival. Their own integrity and their own ethics to keep their tradition is the main reason for the opposition of the continuation of the uranium mining project. On the other hand, there is a viewpoint regarding economics, where the Australian government is trying to dig up uranium which is one of their biggest sources of GDP. Digging up the uranium wouldn’t just help their economy, but uranium could be used to help create new technology that could help the rest of the world.  Economists would ask, why can’t the Mirrar Clan see that this will help not just Australia and the world, but themselves as well? On the other side the Mirrar Clan would ask, why can’t the government find other mining reserves to dig up rather than occupying our territory that has been ours for longer than Australia has been a country. The Mirrar Clan is emphasizing the preservation of their land and culture by not continuing to mine, also pleeing that it won’t help the environment with the radioactive activity contaminating the air and water. With this argument even ecological economists may agree that there is no guarantee that it will surely help the world, but it is a fact that over time uranium may contaminate the environment. Neoclassical economists will focus on the grand opportunity this mining reserve provides Australia. They are more concerned with the moment and how conserving the land in order to use it is the best way to insure wealth and stability for the country. Once again the viewpoints of economics and ethics come into play.

In my personal opinion, I believe that the government should search for other mining reserves rather than take this one at the moment. With many things I consider myself a neoclassical economists because I am about the short term future, growing and becoming wealthier. Though this is my opinion on most issues, this one is different solely for the purpose of the preservation of the historical and rich culture that has been upheld for thousands of years. Considered to be the oldest traditional culture known to humans, it would be a shame to see their land which is such a central aspect to their tradition perish due to the integration with modern ideologies and technologies. My ethical standards will be based on the preservation of culture and tradition and I would propose for the government to try and find other mining reserves and let the Mirrar be in control of how to use their land. For now, until extreme measure take place that threaten all of us and we would by some means need uranium, I believe that the uranium mine in Kakadu National Park should not be touched.

This struggle is a classic example of how ethics meets economics and the different viewpoints create a disagree in what should be done. The Mirrar Clan want to uphold their ancient culture and traditional values, afraid that it will perish due to the integration of western technology. The Australian government wants to dig up for uranium since it is a huge source of their GDP and may help with further inventions. Depending on the viewpoints comes a different definition of justice and what should be done. I believe that the government should find a new reserve for the time being, respecting the original inhabitants of the land.

1) Australian Indigenous Cultural Heritage. Retrieved on 23/10/11. http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-indigenous-cultural-heritage

2) The Mirrar Gundjeihmi Clan. Retrieved on 23/10/11. http://www.mirarr.net/mirarr.html

3) The Basis For Mirrar Opposition to Uranium Mining. Retrieved on 23/10/11. http://www.mirarr.net/jabiluka.html

4) Withgott, Jay and Brennan, Scott. “Environment: The Science Behind the Stories Fourth Edition”. Copyright 2011 San Francisco.

“Kakadu National Park.” Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <http://wikitravel.org/upload/shared//thumb/b/b7/Kakadu_map.png/300px-Kakadu_map.png&gt;.

“Mirrar Clan.” Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <http://kakadunationalpark.synthasite.com/resources/coroboree%20preperations.jpg&gt;.

“Jabiluka Mining Reserve.” Web. 23 Oct. 2011. <http://images.smh.com.au/2011/04/13/2304704/432426200-420×0.jpg&gt;.

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Ecological Footprints and Their Significance: Ways to Improve

When looking at ecological footprints, it is important to look at three terms that help us understand which countries are using more resources than their land can offer. At first we need to define what an EF, or ecological footprint, is. EF is the natural land and water that is needed to provide for the resources that a single person or an entire country uses. The second term is Overshoot; this is when the population of a country are using more than what their land produces. The third and final term is Carrying Capacity. This term is when an environmental niche can sustain a maximum population of a certain type of species. When humans are overshooting their carrying capacity, it has created a large problem for earth, and that is when the ecological footprint increases.

Comparing the EF of Developed and Developing Countries

Country EF (hectares per person) – (data from ecological footprint) Proportion relative to world average Proportion relative to world area available Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita –

(get data from CIA Worldfactbook)

Colombia

1.9

.61

0.73

(1.9/1.78)

$9,800
China

1.84

.59 1.03 $7,600
Bangladesh

0.6

.19 .34 $1,700
United Arab Emirates

15.99

5.2 8.9 $49,600
Uruguay

4.91

1.5 2.8 $13,700
Burundi

0.75

.24 .42 $300
Australia

8.49

2.7 4.8 $41,000
Nepal

1.01

.33 .57 $1,200
Ireland

9.43

3.04 5.3 $37,300
World Average

3.1

1.0

(3.1/3.1)

1.74

(3.1/1.78)

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Your home country 12.22 (USA) 3.9 6.7 $47,200
Any one country

(Asia)

5.94 (Japan) 1.9 3.33 $34,000
Any one country (Europe) 5.51 (Italy) 1.78 3.1 $30,500
Any one country (Africa) 1.31 (Nigeria) .42 .74 $2,500
Any one country (Americas) 2.1 (Cuba) .68 1.2 $9,900
Your personal footprint 4.06 1.3 2.3

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When looking at the difference in EF between countries there seems to be a pattern in their technological advances. For example, Bangladesh is not as technologically advanced as Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Bangladesh has an EF of 0.6, whereas the United Arab Emirates has the highest EF, at 15.99 and Australia also has a high EF at 8.49. Australia and the United Arab Emirates are both countries that are extremely advanced technologically, so they are able to use machinery that produces more, faster and tends to use up more resources. Bangladesh doesn’t have such technology so they depend more on farming and agriculture, which doesn’t produce as many goods so they aren’t using up their resources as quickly and in such high quantities.

The Similarities Between EF and GDP

If a country has a high GDP, that means they produce more products at a faster rate. All those products that are being made in such high quantities at such fast rates are being powered by extremely advanced technology used to produce so many things so quickly. In order to keep up with the demand of producing so many things so quickly, these countries need to take more resources out of the lands they own and by taking so many resources so quickly, it puts stress on the land. Therefore the EF is higher. The relationship is direct, when there is higher GDP there is higher EF.

USA and their GDP/EF Correspondence

Looking at the graph above, in the United States as the biocapacity decreases our ecological footprint increases. We are still producing more food and goods that require our land’s resources, but unfortunately we don’t have as much of our original resources so our biocapacity is decreasing. This is not helping our efforts to improve global warming and our issues with our ecological footprint.

My EF

When I compare my ecological footprint with the EF of the United States, I have a lower EF than that of the United States. The United States’ average is 12.99 and mine is 4.06. Compared to technologically savvy countries my EF is a lot lower, but when compared to countries that are more dependent on agriculture and not on machines my EF is a lot higher. For example, Bangladesh’s EF is 0.6, mine is almost 4 times that number. If I look at another country that is considered a developed country I will have a lower EF. For example, Italy has an EF of 5.51, so I still have a lower Ef; but if I compare my EF with Cuba, which has an EF of 2.1, I will have a significantly higher EF. My EF can either be higher or lower, depending on the compared country. If every human were to live my lifestyle we would need to have roughly 4 earths. I still have a long way to go to help improve this issue.

Conclusion

Unfortunately we are in a big epidemic of using more resources than we have. If we, including myself, learn how to save, re-use and be efficient when buying, making or selling food and goods; it would help tremendously. Of course, when there are more people, there will be higher demand and so there will need to be more quantity of goods and food, therefore more resources will be used up. If we discover a way to either use less, or use energy that is unlimited so we can still produce the same amount of food, then it will help.

Sources

http://ecosunset.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/carbon.jpg

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=earth&view=detail&id=A8C1931F648A0DB7C7CBC852345C8566BF003857&first=271&FORM=IDFRIR

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My Blog #1

New York City

I was born and grew up in the biggest city in the United States, New York City. Due to so much construction there isn’t much topography anymore, except for rivers that merge into a harbor, that lead into the Atlantic Ocean.

                                        New York City and a View of its Topography

Entering my first year of college my major is International Relations, and I plan to use this blog for my Ecology class as a way to express and view thoughts and opinions that pertain to Ecology.

 

Tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama 

I am interested in learning more about Global Warming and how humans are affecting the situation.  Due to the increasing problems with Global Warming, one significant environmental issue this past year was the tornado in Alabama on April 27th.

Hudson River: Separates New York City and New Jersey

One environmental problem in New York City right now is that the Hudson River’s currents are becoming more rapid, the river is deepening and rising at the same time.  This is occurring due to the construction of buildings, the construction of tunnels connecting New Jersey and Manhattan, and widening the island of Manhattan to accommodate these new constructions, the banks of the river on both side are getting more narrow which is causing the change with the river.

Regarding the Tragedy of the Commons, I believe that with a problem like this, the government has to initiate regulations on how many fish may be caught at a time to prevent people from killing off the fish.  By regulating the amount of fish automatically makes people cut back on the amount of fish they can catch. If the government implements these rules, and there is a ranger or overseer to make sure these rules are being followed has to be a starting point to hopefully in grain, in the fishermen heads’, what is an acceptable amount of fish to catch. I believe once the government implements these rules and makes it a necessity for fisherman to follow these laws, over time the mentality of the fisherman will change and hopefully the fish won’t be endangered. If that approach is taken, along with re-populating the fish in the water to help balance out what has been killed off. Re-populating will help ensure the survival of the fish, and with the fisherman continuing to fish will keep the fish from overpopulation, which could also be a potential problem.

Water Reserve

Sources:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_B67P_53Om9c/TT4pRojT3II/AAAAAAAAABs/3ZdJM9q-LdE/s1600/new_york_city__2.jpg

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=new+york+city+ocean+map&view=detail&id=ED1C0B9E149957B27D5A1041D940A1F748B6FA28&first=0&FORM=IDFRIR

http://www.hotslive.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/alabama-tornado-2011.jpg

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=hudson+river+nyc&qs=n&sk=&sc=3-16&form=QBIR

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=water+reserve&view=detail&id=F5A30B0484A7CAAA25ED1B70048D227CE13381F8&first=0&FORM=IDFRIR

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