Population growth: People, how many of us are going to make it?

The purpose of this post is to reflect my knowledge of the impact of population growth to the environment, the economy and generally the every-day life. Moreover, this topic should trigger the reader to think more thoroughly by reconsidering his actions of consumption, affluence and his usage of technology. The post will present two extreme views which offer different solutions regarding the population growth and sustainability resources.

The current state of human growth population is alarmingly increasing. The ratio of the rapid population growth and the Earth’s caring capacity is not proportionally balanced. This means that the Earth will not have enough space to ‘host’ the increasing number of people. Demographers firm that people will face lack of food, shortage of living supplies and living space. In other words, the percent of population is increasing and the percent of earth’s carrying capacity is decreasing. Some causes that contribute to the increment of population are: technological innovations, restriction of woman’s rights, improved sanitation, better medical care, increased agricultural outputs and declining death-rates. As societies have evolved, technology and easier lifestyle have caught-up. Technological innovations have created better medical and educational conditions; moreover they have eased agricultural work and improved sanitary conditions. All of these reasons made human life easier and more luxurious to live (1).

(7) Population Growth Cartoon representing the unbalanced ratio of the increased number of population and the natural food supplies

However, the current population growth can be seen from two sides of a coin- the Cornucopians and the Cassandras approach. The Cornucopians offer an optimistic view for the future increment of the population and its relation to natural supplies. Moreover, they believe that the Earth, together with the human intelligence, will be capable to adapt to the increment of population and provide enough energy and matter to the increasing population. On the other side, the Cassandras offer a pessimistic approach to population growth. They claim that population growth causes only disasters and problems. As the number of people increases, the living conditions become worse and natural supplies short. Furthermore, the capacity of the Planet is decreasing and eventually, people will live in war for natural supplies and chaos caused by their own pollution (1).

Following from the information above, I believe that, yes, a problem does exist. Firstly, technology and education have eased the lives of one people and harden the lives of others. The access to sanitation, medical care, education and technology is not equally given to everyone. People are not cautious about their consumption and living-supplies distribution. At one place people are enjoying luxurious, rich food and lifestyle until the extreme where they suffer from affluence, and then at the other side of the world, people are sleeping on dust, have AIDS and go to bed hungry and cold. Secondly, the improvement of technological innovations is good and bad in the same time. If appropriately used, technology can solve many environmental and social problems, but if technology is misused, it can destroy, pollute and even kill. Finally, I believe that population growth causes a problem and the only real solution could be found in an approach situated in the middle of the Cassandrians’ and Cornicopians’ belief. If we appreciate our natural environment more and use our human intelligence properly, I believe we could avoid a big future disaster of over population and lack of resources.

Contemporary scholars still preach the Cornicopian and Cassandrian style. Two of these representatives are Paul R. Ehlich, who is energetically alarming the people that population growth increases drastically and eventually we will loose access to resources, and Hans Rosling, who believes that all societies have the tendency to develop technologically and economically by not leaving a person behind.

Paul R. Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who although he has specialized in natural butterflies population, he is very much concern with alarming the public about the problem of overpopulation and resources management. He uses the life style of the butterflies to present a metaphor of the human life-style. As such, Ehrlich is a professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, California, USA where he continues to support the idea that population growth affects the environment. To further explain his theory, he has distinguished three factors of sustainability: population, affluence and technology. Shortly called the IPAT model, represents our total impact on the environment caused by the tree factors of sustainability. This could be summarized as (2):

I= P x A x T

Legend: I=the human impact P= population A= affluence T= technology (1)

The formula calculations show that as the population increases, individuals take more space, use natural resources and generate waste, so the impact of the environment increases as well. Paul Ehrlich went further in explaining his concerns by publishing his book “Population Bomb” in the early 1970’s. In this book, Ehrlich urged that the population growth has to be drastically reduced to zero or making it negative, otherwise mass number of population will face starvation and will lack essential living sources. Nowadays, he criticizes his book by saying that his predictions were too optimistic for the future, because humanity faces lack of sustainable living more and more every day. Natural resources are not equally distributed and especially India, Latin America and Africa face scarcity, death and misery. However, up until now, his predictions haven’t become true. On the contrary, countries keep on developing and managing their resources even better than before. World’s famine has been reduced, health and resources have improved and families have decreased the number of members. Furthermore, technology and economy have developed, giving bigger number of the population work and live-prosperity.

Paul R. Ehrlich, representative of the Cassandra’s pessimistic approach regarding fast population growth and lack of human resources (4)

“The Population Bomb”- book written by Paul R. Ehlich, alarming the readers about the people’s future impact on the environment (5)

Using Ehlich calculation method, we can compare the impact of USA, China and FYROM. The impact of USA can be calculated by multiplying the number of population in all the sates which in 2009 was 307,006,550 (8), the affluence or the GDP per capita-45,989 (9) and the technological usage. However, technology is a brad term and I decided to calculate the massive technological creation of the greenhouse emission per unit, which is 5,752,289 (10). According to these calculations the impact of US is 8.121613252827028e+19. Following the same procedures, China’s impact is 3.042582862093632e+19 and finally, FYROM’s human activity is 100287240952500 (8) (9) (10). From the presented data, we can conclude that China is using technological devices unsustainably and unconsciously. In comparison to the US and China, FYROM has a minuscule number of population (2,042,484) and very low GDP per capita ($4,515). This means that USA and China should reduce the usage of technology and particularly China should introduce further public policies to reduce the population growth.

On the other side, Hans Rosling is painting a more optimistic view of the population growth. He is a public speaker, statistician, academic and a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. Furthermore, his current work focuses on breaking the myths related to the economic improvements of the developed and developing world, stating that these two terms do not exist in reality and should not be used as such. He says that the “developing” countries are moving twice as fast to the road of health and prosperity as the “west” did many years ago. Moreover, one of the things I liked about Rosling is his use of very unique and creative animations, which avoids the usual and boring statistical presentation, to demonstrate each country’s movement to economic prosperity. Moreover, Rosling passion, knowledge and narration of the animations keep the listener focused and interested on the subject (3). Secondly, I liked Rosling suggestion that we should stop labeling and dividing ourselves into regions and countries, but consider ourselves as part of humanity and help each other in places with high child mortality and low economic incomes.

(3) Hans Rosling, representative of the Cornicopians’ optimistic approach of the future population growth and its relation to Earth’s carrying capacity

In conclusion, I could not take one solid side defending the Casandrians nor the Cornicopians, but I would say that humanity should find the middle. Every our move, every our impact affects the environment and we should be ready for the consequences. But in order to avoid the high risk consequences, we should decrease our environmental impact. In the same time, we should forget about the world’s border division and underestimation of countries (especially the “developing” ones) and incorporate everyone equally. Today economically developing countries are stepping up and catching up with the economically rich societies by overgrowing them in the sphere of medicine, education and prosperity.

Reference:

(1) Withgott, J. & Brennan, S. (2010). Environment: The science behind the stories. 4th Ed. San Francisco: Pearson Education. Retrieved May 09, 2011.

(2) “Center for Conservation Biology.” Stanford University. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from .

(3) “Hans Rosling. Profile on TED.com.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from .

(4) Paul R. Ehrlich. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://humanexperience.stanford.edu/survival-ehrlich

(5) “The Population Bomb”. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://www.amazon.com/Population-Bomb-Paul-R-Ehrlich/dp/B000EI3XOS (6) Hans Rosling. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://www.ted.com/speakers/hans_rosling.html

(7) Population Growth Cartoon. Retrieved 08 May, 2011 from http://www.commoditypress.com/tag/population-growth/

(8) “U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division-Google Public Data.” Google. July 2009.Retrieved 09 May, 2011 from .

(9) “GDP per Capita (current US$) | Data | Table.” Data | The World Bank. Retrieved 09 May, 2011 from .

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Organization of food transportation and food usage

Food distribution is one of the reasons for a creation of a big ecological footprint. The reason of this post is to familiarize the readers of what ecological footprint is and understand the advantages and disadvantages of distant and local food production and distribution.

Ecological footprint is the level of impact that humans have on their environment. Moreover, it is the measure of human’s usage of Earth’s natural resources and the Earth’s capacity to regenerate itself. Ecological footprints among countries vary due to the country’s possession of natural resources, industrial development and technological advantages. Few causes that contribute to a big ecological footprint are unsustainable usage of the country’s natural resources such as deforestation; high urbanization; high and non-recycling waste generation, etc.

Food produced at distant places spends much more energy and time then locally produced food. They travel a long road before they are sold, involving the use of significantly more energy for packing, shipping, distributing and selling. By spending more energy, I mean spending much more gas for transportation, machines for packing and money for the labor force.

(1)

Food distribution and cost in America

As food production became more industrialized during the 20th century, several trends emerged. One trend was a loss in the number of varieties of crops grown. A second trend was the increasing amount of energy expended to store food and ship it to market. In some countries food may travel long distances to reach the market. In the U.S. today, food travels an average of 1,400 miles from the field to the table. The price American pay for the food covers the cost of this long-distance transportation, which in 2004 was approximately only one dollar per mile (1.6 km).

Assuming that you are an American (not all of us are in this class), you live in New York City (2009 population estimate 8,363,710), and that the average American eats 1 kg (2 pounds) of food per day, calculate the food transportation costs for each category in the table below (U.S. 2009 population estimates 307,006,550).

Consumer Daily Cost Annual cost
You $1.40 $511
Your class $28 $10.220
Your town (New York) $11,708,970 $4,273,774,050
United States $429,809,170 $156,880,347,05

Challenges faced by long-distance food distribution

According to the information and data above, there are specific challenges of economic sustainability that we face, by the long-distance food distribution system. One of the challenges of environmental sustainability could be the quality of the food. Since it travels for long distances, the food can rot. However, technology has developed, so genetic modifications are done on the food. Furthermore, to increase the quality of the food and extend its durability, numerous fertilizers are used. These fertilizers affect negatively on the soil, creating a non-cautious usage of the soil.

(2)

Moreover, money, gas and energy are spent on the food transportation. Much of the energy spend on packing and delivering the food, could be spend on the local food distribution which would be more advantageous for the local population.

Also, the food distribution is not equal. Many societies grow the food, but they never get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The food is taken and brought to our supermarkets where we can enjoy and consume much more than we need. Governments should introduce policies to solve issues of equal food distribution.

Local versus global food production

A study by Pirog and Benjamin (2003) noted that locally produced food in the U.S. traveled only 80 kilometers (appx 50miles) or so to the market, thus saving 96% of the transportation costs. Locally grown foods may be fresher and cause less environmental impact as they are brought to market, but what are the disadvantages to you as a consumer in relying on local food production?(4)

I believe that local food production is much better and its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. The food is fresher and the transportation costs much less. However, the number of local food distribution decreases, so we are depended and have to buy our food from the supermarkets. Buying food from the supermarket has its advantages because it saves people time. Moreover, supermarkets offer much greater variety of flavors and products. However, we, the consumers, don’t know the process of each food production and we are fooled by the advertisements. The process of production does not always go according to the appropriate standards and there have been many cases where food corporations have misled the people.

Personally, I think that local food production is much more reliable and healthy. However, since we live in a globalized society where everything, in great variety, is served on our tables, it is hard to change people’s lifestyle and limit their needs and wants on a more modest local food production. I think that the advantages of local food production outweigh its disadvantages of food, due to more freshness and familiarization of the product’s quality.

Gasoline prices are constantly increasing, what is next?

The gas prices have increased over time. They have increased for almost a dollar in a year. Since the prices are going up, the transportation of food would be more expensive and maybe slow down the delivery of food, in some poorer places. In the past years due to increased gas-prices, many markets were left without food supplies for even few days.

(5)

Comparison between America and Greece in gas prices

America is a country with large ecological footprint. This means that the USA’s demand for gas is higher than other countries, so the price of the gas is increased. In Greece currently the price of the gas moves around 2.46 dollars, which means that the price here is slightly cheaper. I don’t think there is a major difference between the gas prices in the two countries, so the application of the figures is similar.

Reference:

(1) Burpee Gardens. “Vegetable truck”. Retrieved April 13 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/burpee/167742956/.

(2) “BBC – Religion & Ethics – In Pictures: The Ethical Consumer.” BBC – Homepage. Retrieved 13 Apr. 2011 from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/galleries/consumerwaste/&gt;.

(3) “U.S. Retail Gasoline Prices.” Retail Gassoline Prices. Retrieved 13 Apr. 2011 from http://www.eia.doe.gov/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_home_page.html .

(4) Pirog, R., and Benjamin, A. (2003). Checking the food odometer. Comparing food miles for local versus conventional produce sales to Iowa institutions. Ames, IA: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University.

(5) “Hedge Funds Gasoline | FavStocks.” Stock Market Analysis and Your Favorite Stocks. Retrieved 15 Apr. 2011 from <http://www.favstocks.com/hedge-funds-gasoline/1012522/&gt;.

Ecology and Technology as Ideology

 What is that makes people ignorant and passive? What is the divine force or phenomenon that doesn’t let people act in accordance to the reality they know and passionately refuse to recognize?

I guess this divine force is called profit. People have created fictional set of values and needs based on materialism which alienates people from nature, and unfortunately makes them selfish and corrupted. Attracted from materialism and productivity, people have successfully destroyed most of the arable soil, cut big per cent of the world’s forest and used all natural materials unsustainably, consciously knowing that sooner or later they will disappear. Disregarding this fact, we continue to use the natural resources, following the economic flow that as less something is available, the more demanded and profitable it is. In other words, scarcity decreases profit. Is this reasonable?

Think about future generations. How would they react to the fact that we have known that the natural materials will be gone, and we still kept using them, ignoring the most important fact-natural resources DON’T LAST FOREVER!

Furthermore, we don’t have any excuses. The technology is at its highest peak and scientists every day find sustainable solutions for problems. However, it is not in governments’ interest to create a sustainable living using technology and resource-based economy, because they would lose their profit and the imaginary flow of money.

What is money? Money comes out of thin air. It is fictionally created by banks to sustain the flow of supply and demand (1). Moreover, money, i.e. paper given a value, today oversees the true value of nature. How did we come to this point? Is this what we call development?

Today’s world doesn’t have a Jewish problem, a black problem, a Greek problem, a German problem, a Gypsy problem, but it has a HUMAN problem. We need to avoid the cultural approach and focus on human needs-access to clear water, safe and clean environments, food. Architect Jacque Fresco has presented a solution plan, a resource-based economy, where all decision would be based upon human and environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, his project has been rejected in practice because it doesn’t go along governments’ interest (1).

In conclusion, the existing world is the best world we could live in, but its harmony is disturbed by human activities. Governments and economies cannot and should not be the only ones that decide upon the usage of natural resources. Scientists, engineers and philosophers should play a role as wall (2).

(1)

 

 Reference:

(1)  “Zeitgeist: Addendum – 2008 by Peter Joseph.” Vimeo, Video Sharing For You. Web. 01 Apr. 2011.

(2) “”Examined Life”” Top Documentary Films – Watch Free Documentaries Online. Web. 01 Apr. 2011.

Mid-Term Exam Questions

With the brief introduction to environmental studies, thus far, we have understood the different concepts presented through the material of the book “Essential Environment: The Science Behind the Stories”. We have learned that all living and non-living things are interconnected and depend upon each other. Humans, as the most developed species, also have the biggest responsibility for their actions and their effects on nature. Furthermore, humans have the largest impact on the environment, transforming the environment in accordance to their own needs. This impact is positive when humans work in regard to the environment, while, when they choose to prioritize their needs, they cause negative impact.

The purpose of this assignment is to reflect on our knowledge of the material covered so far. Also, this assignment presents an opportunity to check whether we have understood the material enough, as to be able to generate our own questions.

 

Chapter 1 – “An Introduction to Environmental Science”

Environmental science helps us discover our environments and binds us closer to it. Moreover, through environmental science we see the impact and the problems that humans cause to the environment. After identifying the problems, we try to find adequate solutions for them in order to protect and improve our living space. Furthermore, humans engage in interactions between all living and non-living things and try to understand this interaction through hypothesis and experiments.

Multiple questions:

1. Environment is

a) The interaction between humans and the build environment
b) The interaction between humans and all living and non-living things
c) The interaction between humans and animals
d) The interaction between humans and insects

2. The Triple Bottom Line is a representational chart which includes which fields of value and criteria:

a) Sociological, environmental and economic
b) Sociological, political and biological
c) Biological, environmental and economic
d) Biological, sociological and environmental

3. Eco-centrism describes what kind of view of the environment

a) Human-centered view
b) Biotic view
c) General, ecological view
d) Forest-centered view

4. Sustainability and triple bottom line demand:

a) Limit our environmental impact
b) Increase our environmental impact
c) Maintain our environmental impact
d) Decrease our environmental impact

5. Ecological Footprint is:

a) The environmental impact of a person or a population
b) The environmental impact of animals
c) The environmental impact of plants
d) None of the above

True/False

6. Natural resources that are replaced over time are called nonrenewable resources.
a) True
b) False

7. An experiment tests the validity of a prediction or a hypothesis.
a) True
b) False

Matching:

8. Match the following terms with their appropriate explanations:
a) Ecology                                                1) the study how the natural world works and interaction
b) Environmentalism                          2) the interaction between all living and non-living things
c) Environmental science                 3) social movement dedicated to protect the environment
d) Sustainability                                    4) the study of interactions of living and non-living environment
e) Environment                                      5) having minimal long-term effect on the environment

Essay Questions:

9. Distinguish the difference (if any) between Thomas Malthus’ theory of over population and the current situation of population growth

10. Using the images below, explain how and why the world is facing a sustainability crisis due to large ecological footprints

Countries are shown in proportion to the amount of natural resources they consume. (1)

countries are defined as consuming their own natural resources, or resources from elsewhere, more quickly than they can recover, or they may be releasing more CO2 than they can absorb themselves. (2)

 

Chapter 2 – “Chemistry of Life”

From single cell organisms, life developed into complex communities of different organisms. Composed of molecular blocks such as carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, organisms undergo chemical processes to transform energy, used by all living things. Moreover chemistry helps us understand the world around us, and helps us lower our impact on the environment or find solutions for existing problems.

Multiple choice:

1. The number of protons and electrons is always:

a) Equal
b) More protons than electrons
c) More electrons that protons
d) None of the above

2. Basic solutions have a pH value:

a) Greater than 7
b) Less than 7
c) Between 3 and 10
d) Equal to 7

3. Hydrocarbons contain:

a) Only hydrogen
b) Hydrogen and carbon
c) Hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen
d) Oxygen and carbon

4. Long chains of repeated molecules are:

a) Lipids
b) Proteins
c) Carbohydrates
d) Polymers

5 The following picture presents what type of energy (3):

a) Potential Energy
b) Kinetic Energy
c) Chemical Energy
d) Solar Energy

True or False:

6. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can change forms and be created or destroyed.
a) True
b) False

7. No oxygen existed in the atmosphere until microbes developed photosynthesis.
a) True
b) False

Matching:

8. Match the following terms with their appropriate explanations:
a) Physical Exercise                                                                                   1) Fossils
b) Create their own food                                                                           2) Heterotrophs
c) Eat other organisms for food                                                             3) Kinetic Energy
d) Use inorganic energy sources, such as hydrogen sulfide,
elemental sulfur, ferrous iron                                                                4) Autotrophs
e) Imprints of organisms conserved in stones                                5) Chemoautotrophs

Essay Questions:

9. Identify the three states of energy, and give an example of each one.

10. Generalize how bacteria can be used for sewage treatment

 

Chapter 3 – “Evolution”

The idea of evolution states that species change over time. Species, most commonly, live organized in populations and communities. As such, evolution occurs when an organism needs to adapt to an environment so that it can survive. Moreover, species adaptation sometimes leads to extinction, due to drastic change of the environment caused naturally or by humans.

Multiple choice:

1. Which of these species would be least vulnerable to extinction:

a) An endemic species that only live in a certain forest with a high chance of wildfires every summer
b) A species that lives near the Nile river
c) A species that is present in Europe and Asia
d) A species that eats only small insects

2. Which of the following are K-selected species traits:

a) Reproduction Early in Life
b) Many small Offspring
c) Parental care
d) All of the above

3. Darwin’s theory of evolution states that:

a) Individuals of a species vary only due to their genes, and are not affected by environment
b) Every individual of a species has the exact same chances of survival as the next one
c) Organisms tend to produce more offspring that can survive
d) None of the above

4. The following picture can be described as (4):

a) Clumped Distribution
b) Uniform Distribution
c) Random Distribution
d) Not enough info is given

5. The first living organisms were:

a) Eukaryotic
b) Prokaryotic
c) Both eukaryots and prokaryots were present when the first living cells emerged
d) None of the above

True or False:

6. Allopatric speciation occurs when species form due to physical separation of a population
a) True
b) False

7. Paleontologists estimate that only a small number of all species that ever lived are now extinct
a) True
b) False

Matching:

8. Match the following terms with their appropriate explanations:
a) Accidental changes in DNA that may be passed on the next gen.           1) Extinction
b) Trait that promotes reproductive success                                                        2) Extirpation
c) The disappearance of a species from the planet                                              3) Niche
d) The disappearance of a particular population from a given area            4) Adaptation
e) The organism’s use of resources and its role in a community                   5) Mutation

Essay Questions:

9. Describe Darwin’s idea of natural selection, and how it explains the extinction of species

10. Develop a scenario to explain how allopatric and sympatric speciation might occur at a given area

 

Chapter 4 – “Biomes and Communities”

The world is interconnected web where living and non-living things are in constant interaction. Thus, certain locations on the globe share common climate and vegetation structure due to the same latitudinal position. The difference among the climate and vegetation increases as one location distances from the equator. The more distant the location is, the colder and the less vegetated the location appears.

Multiple questions:

1. Which of these factors affect a biome:

a) Temperature
b) Precipitation
c) Soil
d) All of the above

2. The following position of the Earth would mean that the northern hemisphere experiences (5):

a) Summer
b) Spring’s Equinox
c) Winter
d) Fall’s Equinox

3. The Biome found on the Equator distinguished by lots of rain and high temperature, but low soil fertility is:

a) Tropical Savanna
b) Tundra
c) Tropical Rain Forest
d) Boreal Forest

4. The following picture is an example of (6):

1. A food web
2. A food pyramid
3. Both a food web and a pyramid
4. None of the above

5. Two species that work together to achieve a better life for both species is an example of:

a) Predation
b) Competition
c) Mutualism
d) Parasitism

True or False:

6. Deserts always have high temperatures
a) True
b) False

7. The soil in tropical forests is very fertile
a) True
b) False

Matching:

8. Match the following terms with their appropriate explanations:
a) Soil at or below freezing point of water                                          1) Pioneer Species
b) High temperatures, lots of rain, present on the equator        2) Desert Biome
c) Can be found in only one place                                                          3) Permafrost
d) Little to no rain, either very hot or very cold temperature  4) Tropical Rain Forest Biome
e) First species to arrive in a primary succession area                 5) Endemic Species

Essay Questions:

9.Select one keystone species in any biome and explain why it is considered to be a keystone species and what might happen if its absent

10. Classify the relation between a whale and doctor fish (Garra rufa / Cyprinion macrostomus) and consider how it affects both species

 

Chapter 6 – “Environmental Ethics and Economics: Values and Choices”

Humans are facing a catastrophic consequence if they don’t use nature’s resources sustainably. Most of the time we take nature for granted and abuse her. The usage of natural resources, in free market capitalist systems, guided by classical and neoclassical economic theories, is dependently related to the economic market, which creates a monetary value on natures’ treasures and a clash between a monetary and moral interest. However, there are many national and international policies which contribute to conscious usage of natural resources and protection of the environment.

Multiple questions:

1. Difference between desirable and undesirable economic activity is expressed by:

a) GDP
b) GPI
c) NEW
d) ISEW

2. Contingent valuations use ___ to determine how much people are willing to pay to protect or restore a resource:

a) Experiments
b) Surveys
c) Hypothesis
d) Researches

3. Market prices, in neoclassical economics, are explained in terms of:

a) Buyer preferences
b) Consumer preferences
c) Environmental preferences
d) Production and consumer preferences

4. Renewable resources:

a) Can be depleted if overused
b) Can never be depleted
c) Can never be depleted, even if overused
d) None of the above

5. Biocentrism states that:

a) Only humans have rights
b) Humans are inseparable from nature
c) Whole ecological systems have value
d) Certain living things also have value

True/False

6. Environmental economics focuses on production and consumption.
a) True
b) False

7. Environmental ethics is the application of ethical standards to relationships between humans and non-human entities.
a) True
b) False

Matching:

8. Match the following terms with their appropriate explanations:
a) Whole ecological systems have value                                               1) Eco-labeling
b) Taxes based on pollution generated                                                  2) Externalities
c) How people use resources to provide goods and services       3) Green Taxes
d) Tells consumers which brands use sustainable processes       4) Ecocentrism
e) Costs or benefits involving people other than the buyer or    5) Economics
seller

Essay Questions:

9. Explain how corporations are responding to sustainable development and discuss how they are abusing the eco-labeling process

10. See the following video and demonstrate why ‘Western’ thought of environmental ethics differs from the North American Natives (7).

After finishing this assignment, we confirmed our knowledge of the chapters covered so far, and we further understood the concepts presented in the same chapters. Creating questions is a great way of gaining critical insight on complex topics, sustainable development, the beginning of life, natural preservation, etc. In conclusion, we believe that humans should be more responsible for their actions, decrease their environmental footprint and be cautious for future generations.

References:

(1) (2)”BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | The Living Planet: Facts and Figures.” BBC News – Home. Web. 25 Mar. 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6080074.stm

Withgott, Jay, and Scott Brennan. Essential Environment: the Science behind the Stories. San Francisco: Pearson, 2009. Print.

(3)Strogilis, Chris. “Learn How to Excercice” Total Fitness. 27 Nov. 2009. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. <http://totalfitness-christos.blogspot.com/2009_11_01_archive.html&gt;.

(4) (6) “Pictures 2-1” UCLA DMA Class Websites. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. <http://classes.dma.ucla.edu/Winter06/161B/projects/tonyau/ps2/1/index.html&gt;.

(5) “Winter Solstice 2008.” Wiccanweb. 18 Aug. 2008. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. <http://www.wiccanweb.ca/article-21957.html&gt;.

(6) “Fluctuation in Population Size.” ETap ELearning. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. <https://www.etap.org/demo/biology_files/lesson6/instruction3tutor.html&gt;.

(7)”Environmental Ethics – All Things Are Connected.” YouTube. Ethics Online, 20 Apr. 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NE_ZSfb6O4&feature=related&gt;.

Consume, Populate And Be Ignorant!

We, humans, have been exploiting nature’s resources ungratefully, in order to sustain our survival. We use nature’s resources to create a comfortable lifestyle, but however, through time, we have expended our needs and our conformity. We always need more and more, transforming luxury into ordinarily action. Furthermore, overpopulated and consumer-based societies tend to occupy greater per cent of the usage of natural resources, because they need more resources than other countries, to satisfy the needs of their citizens.

Brief explanation of the Ecological Footprint (7)

 

To what extend can we use the natural resources?

The piece of space on Earth that a country ‘occupies’ and uses its resources is called an Environmental footprint. An environmental footprint is the total amount of Earth’s productive land and water, needed to supply resources and absorb waste from the individuals’ or the groups’ consumption (1). In other words, it is the human impact on the environment. The measurement of ecological footprints is usually presented in hectares. However, when people’s impact on the environment spreads in a great extend where the Earth doesn’t have the capacity to sustain them any more, than an overshoot arises (2).  An overshoot goes beyond nature’s resources which creates the atmosphere of not having enough supplies for a species’ survival i.e. it goes beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity. The carrying capacity of the Earth is the certain number of species that the environment can sustain, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities for survival (3).

Table 1

Following from the small research relating the countries’ environmental footprint, we can see that Bangladesh has the smallest EF, whereas The UAE has the highest. What are the reasons?

Bangladesh is a small country located in South-East Asia. Its population number is 158,570,535, which situates Bangladesh on the seventh place of the worlds’ most populated countries. However, although the country has high population rates, its urbanization percentage is 28%. Moreover, Bangladesh’ standard of living is pretty much low and it doesn’t allow its many citizens to enjoy comfortable life (4). The UAE, on the other side, is has the highest EF with 9.9 hectares per person. Although the UAE, a federation in the Arabian Peninsula, has smaller population rates, its standard of living is much higher than the one of Bangladesh. UAE GDP per person is 18, 250, where Bangladesh GDP is 1,700. This means that the UAE enjoy grater standard of living and they can afford themselves to use greater luxuries such as machines for artificial snow, creation of artificial lake, fountains, etc (5). The UAE use further more energy than any other country in the world.

Australia, as well, has very high environmental footprint which estimates 7.7 hectares per person. Australia, also, enjoys high GDP where its citizens live on a higher standard of living. However, Australia’s EF is smaller than the one of the UAE because, Australia is not in possession in many natural resources that the UAE are.

Following from Table 1 and the comparison of the UAE, Bangladesh and Australia, we can conclude that the national GDP has a great effect on the environmental footprint. As higher the GDP is, as greater EF a country has on the Earth. Proportionally, they have a positive relation.

How big is my footprint?

Calculating my personal footprint on the website www.myfootprint.org, I concluded that my usage of the environmental resources is enormous. Sincerely, I thought of myself as a person who treats the environment rightly, but after taking the quiz, I realized that I need to change my lifestyle and be less consuming-oriented.

My footprint compared with the one from my country is shameful. My EF is 18.96 hectares, whereas the one for FYROM is 2.3 hectares. Moreover, my footprint compared with Bangladesh, Algeria and Mongolia’s footprint is much greater. Their footprints vary from 0.6 til 1.5 and my footprint is skyrocketing.

If everyone was to live my lifestyle, each person would need 1.2 Earths each. This number is amazing. Imagine each one of us using and spending amount of resources available in 1.2 Earths!

My footprint in comparison to FYROM’s footprint by consumption category

We can divide the total percentage of our/countries’ footprint in few categories and we might help ourselves change later on with the aim of decreasing each percent.


My Ecological Footprint (6)

The first category is carbon footprint. In particular, my consumption of carbon equals the average carbon consumption of my country. That means, most of the residents of FYROM spend about 8.3 hectares of carbon. The carbon footprint relates to the average spending of fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation.

The second categorization is food footprint, which is the environmental impact of food production. My food production compared to my country’s average is much smaller. My impact is 3.5, whereas my country’s average one is 7.1 hectares.

Housing footprint is the next category. My housing footprint is 2.5 hectares where the average person in FYROM would occupy 3.1 hectares.

And last, but not least, it is the goods and service footprint. We can see that the average Macedonian occupyes around 7.5 hectares for goods and services. From that average, I spend around 4.7 hectares.

I can say that my footprints are on a satisfying level. Maybe i spend too much carbon, but relating to the other categories, i spend much less than an average Macedonian.

Conclusion

Without thinking of how and from where the products we get from the supermarkets came from, we don’t  realize of our impact on the environment.We use the electricity, food and other supplies unmeasurable because we are certain that we will never run out of them. But, how are we sure about this assumption? We have seen conferring  advertisements on the television?

Countries rich with natural resources and high GDP standards don’t even take into consideration the question of sustainability and they don’t question their size of EF, because they enjoy the comfortable life they are living. Countries like the UAE, will not decrease their ecological footprint until they face a drastic shortage of resources. I am afraid that then it will be too late.

We have to be more cautious and more careful not to pressure the Earth’s carrying capacity, but think about the future ahead. Maybe greater governmental policies can create a limit on EF, so most of the countries can have equal and sufficiently necessary access to the Earth’s resources.

References:

(1)    “Ecological Footprints-Glossary.” Home – Australian Academy of Science. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. http://www.science.org.au/nova/107/107glo.htm

(2)    “Overshoot (ecology).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overshoot_(ecology)

(3)    “Carrying Capacity.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrying_capacity&gt;

(4)    “CIA – The World Factbook.” Welcome to the CIA Web Site — Central Intelligence Agency. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bg.html

(5)    “Report: United Arab Emirates Has Highest Per Capita ‘Ecological Footprint’ – Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News – FOXNews.com.” FoxNews.com – Breaking News | Latest News | Current News. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,243926,00.html&gt;

(6) Ditchburn. “Man’s footprint on the planet today” (2006).Retrieved March 6, 2011 from http://humanitieslab.stanford.edu/UrbanSustainability/759

(7) YouTube. “Emirates Wildlife Society WWF: UAE Ecological Footprint” (2010). Retrieved on March 6, 2011 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPiBItRoKMI

“The Story of Bottled Water”

Hello everyone,

I came across this video few days ago and i thought it is a good idea to share it with you guys.

This video is part of many others, created by Annie Leonard who strives to create a more sustainable and just world. She presents a series of social, environmental and economic concerns which beg to be solved.

Particularly, this video presents us the story behind bottled water. Many of us drink bottled water everyday without asking ourselves, why do I BUY this bottle when water should be free and accessible everywhere? In a persuasive way, Annie Leonard is describing the process of making the bottled water, the bottle-water companies concerns and sincerity and finally, she offers solutions and actions for this problem.

After watching this video, would you buy a bottled water? Would you be more interested to know whats behind the TV advertisements?

 

References:

The Story of Stuff. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <http://www.storyofstuff.com/about.php&gt;

People and the Environment

Mysterious Island-Easter Island

Source (8)

The Easter Island is one of the most isolated and most mysterious places of the Earth. The island tells fascinating stories which describe humanity as a whole. From these islanders we can learn the survival nature of human beings and their development over time.

Easter Island was ‘discovered’ on Easter day by Dutch exploration expedition led by Jacob Roggeveen in 1722 (1). Isolated 4.000km on the Pacific Ocean, on the small volcano island, the expedition found a civilization numbering over 10.000 inhabitants. This number of population exceeded the capacity of the island’s ecosystem. Gradually, the inhabitants faced a problem of limited natural resources. Evidence proves that the people were using the island’s resources without thinking of the future generations. There were faced with the problem of essential survival. Firstly, they used the forestation for food and building canoes. They used the flora and fauna non-sustainably which later caused losing all they had. When the forest was gone (including their food), they had to turn to cannibalism for survivor. The islander’s contact with the ‘Western’ world led to even more disastrous future for the population decline. They were disposed do numerous diseases and slavery (2).

The identity of these islanders dates back from Polynesians. This ethnicity has a strong distinctiveness and has managed to keep it over times from colonialism. Chile, the closest ‘urban’ civilization claimed the island, but however, the Polynesians have maintained their tradition, which today rests as a tourist attraction. The most fascinating part of the Polynesian culture is the stone-heads built centuries ago. There are 887 statues discovered on the island, among which only few of them are placed on their intended destination. It is assumed that the Polynesians were manually caring the sculptures from the top of the volcano to the bottom, close to the ocean (3).

Easter Island Statues I                                                                                          Easter Island Statues II

Source (4)                                                                                                                               Source (5)

Short Story about the Easter Islanders

Source (9)

Today, the Easter Island, a 64 square-miles large island, which locals call Rapa Nui (meaning Big Island), remains on the top-traveling list of many tourists. It is rich with hotels, museum and amazing landscape with volcanic craters, lava formations, beaches, beautiful blue water and archeological sites (2). Furthermore, today Rapa Nui is home of 2.000 Polynesians. They have Chilean citizenship and most of them have moved to Chile for educational and professional opportunities. The Polynesian culture has been modernized and the islanders have the highest consumption of cigarettes and beer. The island has an airport which is reachable only through Chile, but doesn’t offer good hotels and nightlife. The main mean of Easter Islander’s survival are the archeological and touristic attractions and the trade with Chile (5).

Easter Islander today

Source (5)

Unfortunately, many Polynesian islands, including the Island of Tikopia shared the same destiny as the Easter Island.

The Island of Tikopia is a very small volcanic island located in the southwest part of the Pacific Ocean. Similar to the Easter Islanders, the Tikopians faced the problem of extermination due to lack of natural resources. Through their history we can notice the gradual diet change and adaptation to the scarce resources. Firstly, their diet included pigs, fruits and bats, but later they killed all pigs because they were consuming much of the food humans could eat, so they focused their economy on fishing and agriculture (6). However, in comparison to the Easter Island, the Tikopians managed to create a better sustainability plan and their ethnicity didn’t ‘vanish’ entirely. The lack of resources influenced on the population decline, but not total extermination.

People of Tikopia Dancing

Source (10)

According to Jared Diamond, environmental and cultural factors played the biggest role in Tikopian’s extermination. Among the environmental factors, rainfall was one of the most important. With deforestation, rainfalls decreased and the land was slowly drying out, making it non fertile for crops. In order to stop deforestation, the Tikopians focused more on agriculture. Making it part of their Tikopian culture, the islanders made tree orchards where they conserved food (Diamond, 396) (7).

In comparison with the past where the island was home of a population of thousands, today it maintains only 1.200 villagers. The islanders hold strongly their Polynesian identity and resist western imposition (11).

Easter Island’s and Tikopia’s stories should teach us that nothing lasts forever. These isolated islands, laying in the ‘middle-of-nowhere’ in the Pacific Ocean were left on their own to sustain their resources. However, the desire for survivor makes people try any means possible to stay alive. Following from the Easter Island’s story, when all the flora and fauna was gone, people eat each other. They considered cannibalism as a life-resource just to survive.

The reason why the Easter Islanders and the Tikopians didn’t share the same end of their destinies is because of their different approach of sustainability.

The Easter Islanders didn’t take in great consideration the ‘tomorrows’. It is a fact that their resources were scare, but they didn’t try to make up a sustainable plan. Personally, I believe they lacked communal organization. We can use the Easter Island’s story as a parabola for our World. As the Easter Island, the Earth is isolated in the Universe and sooner or later, all of us will be facing the same problem of non-sustainability as the Easter-Islanders (Diamond, 395)(7). Nowadays, most of the people are not concerned about losing the natural resources because the supermarkets are full, the gas stations always have gas, and the heating always works. However, firstly, not everyone can enjoy these commodities and secondly, eventually, we will wake up one day and the stores will be empty, the gas stations will be closed.  When this day comes, it will be too late to feel concerned about the environment. To avoid this situation, we have to make a sustainable resource plan from now.

On the other side, the Tikopians organized themselves better-they build tree orchards where they preserved food. They knew they were facing starvation, but they still tried to solve the problem. The tree orchards idea was the best solution available. Because of their effort and social work, the Tikopians managed to survive. However, we have to take in to consideration the fact that the environment had a big influence as well. Tikopia Island has much higher altitude then the Easter Island, which means that the Tikopians had more rain than the Easter Islanders (Diamond, 396)(7). The environment is another reason why the Tikopians were luckier to survive.

In conclusion, the two stories of Easter Island and the Tikopia Island have to be considered as an example for whole of humanity. We have to be aware of the fact that the population is growing drastically every day. There are more than 200.000 people being born every day (12), whereas natural resources are limited and their recreation takes much longer time than one day. We have to create a greater future sustainability in our economies and environments. We have to act more cautiously in regarding to the environment and we have to take responsibilities for our actions.

References

(1)   “First Contact with Easter Island.” Travel, Technology and Reviews. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.apj.co.uk/rapanui_primer/primer_first_contact.asp&gt;.

(2)  ” Brookman, David Y. “Easter Island Home Page.” PAETEC. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.netaxs.com/~trance/rapanui.html&gt;.

(3) “The Mystery of Easter Island.” Welcome to QSL.NET :: Web Services for Ham Radio Operators. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.qsl.net/w5www/easterisland.html&gt;.

(4)  Tecza, Maciej. (25.02.2008). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/South_America/Chile/Central_Valley/Valparaiso/Easter_Island/photo863017.htm

(5) Clark, Jayne. “Easter Island Looks to the Future.” http://www.usatoday.com/. 1 Apr. 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2007-01-04-easter-island_x.htm&gt;.

(6)  “History and Cultural Relations – Tikopia.” Countries and Their Cultures. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.everyculture.com/Oceania/Tikopia-History-and-Cultural-Relations.html&gt;.

(7)  Diamond, Jared. (May 22-24, 2000). Ecological Collapse of Pre-industrial Societies. Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Diamond_01.pdf

(8) Tecza, Maciej. (25.02.2008). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/South_America/Chile/Central_Valley/Valparaiso/Easter_Island/photo873606.htm

(9) BBC. “Easter Island” (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsiWMw4rfw4

(10) SuperStock. “A village tour, dances and performances by the people of Tikopia Island, Solomon Islands”.(n.d). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.superstock.com/stock-photography/Tikopia+Island

(11) “Tikopia.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tikopia&gt;.

(12) Withgott, Jay, Scott Brennan. (2009). Essential Environment; The Science behind the Story. Third Edition. San Francisco. Pearson Education, Inc.