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The most important thing I learned this semester is the value and strength of human innovation and ingenuity, and how this is playing in a role in our current climate crisis. For centuries, humans have encountered societal problems and have used innovation and ingenuity to solve these issues. For example, in the 1920s the only way to get from the North Bay area to San Francisco proper was to drive 2+ hours around the enter San Francisco Bay. However, due to human ingenuity and innovation, the magnificent and technological wonder that is the Golden Gate Bridge was built to solve this problem. This same scenario of seemingly impossible and daunting challenges faced by humanity which were overcome has played out time and time again over the past few centuries. For example, many infectious diseases were seen as something uncontrollable for centuries, however the 20th century saw the eradication of deadly infectious diseases such as smallpox and rinderpest. In space and technology, the idea of going to the moon or creating an international space station was seen as impossible in 1960 before being completed in 1969 and 1998 respectively. I view the current situation with climate change in the same historical mindset as these other events. Currently, we view the increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere and environmental degradation as a daunting challenge that is seemingly impossible to collectively overcome. However, throughout this semester I have learned about many ways in which we are using human innovation and ingenuity such as electrification of our transportation and energy network and sustainable farming techniques to solve this great problem in front of us. In the centuries to come, I am sure we will look back on climate change as just another problem humanity has faced and overcame.
Toggle Commented Apr 21, 2020 on ECON 255 Final Exam at Jolly Green General
I have always thought of nuclear power as an essential part of the equation to reduce emissions in the United States and around the world. A few years ago, I watched a documentary called “Pandora’s Promise”. The film argued that nuclear power is a clean and safe energy source which is one of our best tools in the fight against climate change. The film stated that wind and solar alone is not a realistic way to achieve 0 carbon emissions and that if you were not pro nuclear, you were pro fossil fuels. I generally agreed with the points made in the film and I entered this class still holding these beliefs. “The Tantalizing Nuclear Mirage” by Alexander Sammon challenges my previously held view point. He argues that due to the large timeframe needed to construct nuclear power plants and the dependence on water for cooling, additional nuclear power plants should not be touted as the future for green energy. However, he does not discuss what to do with current facilities or how new technologies such as small modular reactors could play a role in the future. While traditional designs for nuclear plants take over 10 years and government subsidies to complete, many new technologies are much cheaper and quicker to construct. The MIT technology review recently outlined 3 reasons for renewed hope for nuclear power in a recent article, such as advanced fission, fusion, and small modular reactors. While nuclear isn’t perfect, I do not think that the GND should cast nuclear aside as I believe that innovation and technological progress will develop advanced and viable nuclear technologies in the near future. TED Talk: Bibliography: Phillips, Leigh. “The New, Safer Nuclear Reactors That Might Help Stop Climate Change.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 27 Feb. 2019, Sammon, Alexander. “The Tantalizing Nuclear Mirage.” The American Prospect, 5 Dec. 2019, “Why I Changed My Mind about Nuclear Power | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxBerlin.” YouTube, Ted Talks, 17 Nov. 2017, Sammon, Alexander. “The Tantalizing Nuclear Mirage.” The American Prospect, 5 Dec. 2019,
After reading the article discussing the EPAs new policy of easing pollution enforcement, I was surprised and upset. During this public health crisis, we need to do all we can to maintain public health or even improve it during these trying times. As a nation, we need to come together to do everything possible to flatten the curve and to return to normal life as soon as possible. The idea that we are going to decrease the health of Americans and increase the likelihood that they are going to get sick from coronavirus or any other illness is crazy and illogical. If someone is to get sick, decreasing the air quality will increase the severity of that illness. Additionally, as hospitals are getting more and more crowded, we need to do all we can to ensure the health of people who are not infected with coronavirus to free up beds and hospital resources for those who need them the most. Also, the idea that social distancing somehow affects companies' air emissions limit makes no sense. I don’t understand how the requirement that people stay away from each other will increase the coal burn rate in a coal powered utility or how it could affect a huge furnace at a chemical plant. These giant furnaces and machines have little human interaction and if anything, social distancing should mean that they would not be able to run at full capacity which would decrease air emissions. As an individual who has asthma and lives in an industrial “hotspot city”, I am unfortunately someone who is at greater risk because of this new policy. I personally think that the silver lining in all of this is the fact that many sources of pollution in the United States and around the world are seeing a decreased level of activity due to coronavirus. I think that a great opportunity exists at the moment where we can try to resume previous levels of economic activity without resuming previous levels of air emissions. Bibliography: Chemnick, Jean. “EPA to Ease Pollution Enforcement, Which Could Exacerbate Lung Illnesses.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 30 Mar. 2020,
After reading "Acute effects of low levels of ambient ozone on peak expiratory flow rate in a cohort of Australian children" by Bin B Jalaludin, Tien Chey, Brian I O’Toole, Wayne T Smith, Anthony G Capon, and Stephen R Leeder, I was surprised at the misspelling of “Australian” as “Australin” by ResearchGate in the article title. On a more serious note, I was intrigued as to how this information and research has not made its way to doctors and immunology offices in the United States. As an individual with asthma, I have done more peak expiratory flow rate tests than I can count. When at home, the test involves a small plastic funnel that you blow into as hard as you can. A small red needle moves depending on how forcefully you are able to expel the air from your lungs. When you're at the immunology or allergist office, you place a large electronic straw that is connected to a computer into your mouth. When a grainy GIF of a birthday cake appears on the computer screen, you blow as hard as possible, attempting to extinguish all of the candles (I have never been able to blow out all of the candles). The whole point of the test is to measure how asthma is affecting your lung capacity and elasticity. Every time I had a poor performance my doctor always blamed pollen count, elevated Immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels, or “allergy season”. Not once did they discuss the fact that the immunology office, my apartment, and my high school were all in downtown Chicago which got a “F” rating from The American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air Report. This paper was written 20 years ago by Australian researchers and published in a British scientific journal. Immunologists in the United States need to do a better job reading international literature and implement the findings into their everyday work with patients to better address their health needs. Bibliography: Jalaludin, Bin B, et al. “Acute Effects of Low Levels of Ambient Ozone on Peak Expiratory Flow Rate in a Cohort of Australian Children.” International Journal of Epidemiology, 2000. Ruppenthal, Alex. “Chicago Gets ‘F’ Grade in 2018 Air Pollution Report.” WTTW, 20 Apr. 2018,
Toggle Commented Mar 12, 2020 on 3 short papers for Friday at Jolly Green General
After reading this paper, I was surprised at how much of the conversation regarding coal emissions is focused on the dissipation stage of the coal life cycle. Whenever I think of or discuss coal emissions, the first image that comes to mind is a towering smokestack billowing smoke into the atmosphere. This paper really opened my eyes to just how much energy and emissions make up the extraction, transporting, and processing stages of the coal life cycle. Before reading this paper, I never even thought about factoring these stages into my thought process or conversation. One of the stages that really interested me was the transportation stage, specifically train transportation. The paper stated that 70% of all rail traffic in the United States is dedicated to shipping coal. As the amount of coal production goes up, the number and length of freight trains to transport this coal will also have to increase to keep up with the demand. This leads to the very hotly debated topic in the midwest of rail passage rights. In the midwest, most of the rail corridors and tracks are owned by freight companies. There is a lot of pressure on them to allow the passage of passenger trains on these very tracks. For many small and rural communities, the only transportation linkage and economic stimulant is the train that passes through once or twice a day. Additionally, these trains help to reduce roadway congestion and reduce auto emissions. Many communities which see their daily service decrease and the rate of late arrivals increase blame freight companies for their economic and transportation woes. This has led to local anger towards politicians and freight companies. If coal output and coal transportation traffic increases, it will lead to many more conflicts between freight companies, politicians, and rural communities than we currently see today. Bibliography: Epstein, Paul R, et al. “Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal.” ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, 2011.
Toggle Commented Mar 6, 2020 on Discussion Paper for Friday at Jolly Green General
After reading this paper, I was interested in how a “tourist” was defined and questioned how this could lead to unfairness. For example, should a wealthy tourist who is doing recreational activities in the marine protection area be charged the same exit fee as a hospital volunteer or an American citizen born in Belize visiting their parents for a few days? I suspect that the government in Belize is defining the word tourist as any non Belizean citizen visiting the country, which makes sense as a straightforward and easy to understand definition. However, I personally think that they should come up with a more specific definition to ensure fairness with the implementation of the higher fee. Secondly, I was surprised and intrigued by the fact that that that after the fee was increased from $3.75 to $20, tourism actually went up. “In March of 2018, Belize received a record number of overnight arrivals of 55,488. This represented a 25% increase over March of 2017”(Casey). A traditional supply and demand curve would lead one to believe that when the price of something goes up, the less number of people will consume it. When considering that the most common maximum willingness to pay was $10, this leads me to question how honest people were being in their survey answers and what other factors could possibly be in play. Thirdly, this paper reminded me of a country I researched while studying gross national happiness (GNH). That country is the himilayan kingdom of Bhutan. According to the travel website Lonely Planet, “All tourists must pay US$250 per person per day, with a US$40/30 surcharge per person for those in a group of one/two”(Lonely Planet). This daily fee is extremely high in comparison to the $20 total fee in Belize. However, Bhutan implemented this high fee due to the fact that it not only that it raised environmental funds, but that it also reduced the number of tourists in the country. Less tourists increased the quality of the experience while also decreasing the amount of erosion and damage to the natural beauty of Bhutan. I personally think that this idea of using price to ensure a limited amount of tourism is very interesting and I will be intrigued to see if other countries follow Bhutan. Bibliography: Lonely Planet. “Money and Costs in Bhutan.” Lonely Planet,
While reading Conservation Reconsidered by John Krutilla, I was constantly reminded of a hot and controversial topic at my family's dinner table. That topic is the United States Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). I have always listened to very passionate discussions from pro CRP and anti CRP members of my family in regards to our soybean and corn farm in central Illinois. I decided to learn more about the program through the eyes of Krutilla so I could have the knowledge to form my own opinion. Created in 1985, this program financially compensates farmers (the rental value of the land) who do not grow crops or let animals graze on particular tracts of land and grow native species of plants. “The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, reduce loss of wildlife habitat, and restore forests and wetlands” (USDA). Priority is given to the following areas: sectors with high erosion, farmland where the runoff leads directly into a stream, and areas that support endangered wildlife. This program has had success in Illinois which has seen an increase in the white-tailed deer and North American beaver populations. Additionally, the program has support from the farmers who offer the land to be placed in this program. The farmer in Illinois who cultivates our farm is a big supporter of CRP and has placed over 50 acres of our land under CRP. He said that the guaranteed annual payment is attractive and also is a good economic and environmental use of land that either does not fit equipment, isn't flat enough (very hard to find in IL), or is not an efficient shaped to be farmed. Dan Charles, NPR’s agriculture correspondent stated that it is “one reason why Dust Bowl conditions haven't returned to the Great Plains in recent years, despite droughts that were as bad as in the 1930s” (NPR). However, not everyone is a supporter of CRP. In Illinois, agricultural companies such as John Deere and Monsanto are opponents of the program as it reduces the amount of land where they can sell their products to be used on. Additionally, many environmentalists believe that more should be done. Many argue that focusing on relatively small and sporadic plots of land does not greatly benefit the whole ecosystem and that the USDA should focus on “particular rivers or wildlife habitats and convince farmers in those areas to enroll large blocks of land in the CRP” (Charles). I personally think that Krutilla would be a supporter of CRP land as it helps preserve natural biota to be used for drug development or crop crossbreeding and increases the future option value of the land. This interesting discussion of if and how the USDA should administer CRP land will continue to be debated around the country, just as it is at my family's dinner table. Bibliography: USDA. “Conservation Reserve Program.” Conservation Reserve Program, United States Department of Agriculture, Charles, Dan. “The CRP: Paying Farmers Not to Farm.” NPR, NPR, 11 July 2005,
While reading this article, I was particularly interested in the case of Delta Air Corporation v. Kersey, Kersey v. City of Atlanta. In the case, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was built next to Mr. Kerseys home. The noise from the movement of aircraft taking off and landing “rendered his property unsuitable as a home”(25). In court, Mr. Kersey lost his case when the judge stated, “the conditions causing the low flying aircraft may be remedied… but it is indispensable to the public interest that the airport should continue to be operated in its present condition, it may be said that the petitioner should be denied injunctive relief”(25). Due to the fact that my home city of Chicago is home to O’Hare International Airport (6th busiest airport in the world by passenger numbers) and that avation is one of my interests, I decided to look further into this problem. I discovered that many airports around the country have come under increased public scrutiny in regards to the theme of noise pollution and have attempted to remedy this issue. In the 1950s, O’Hare was built in a farming community and the problem of noise pollution was minimal due to the fact that propeller planes were relatively quiet and the population affected was small. However, in the 1970s and 1980s louder jets became increasingly common and urban sprawl led to the construction of communities directly adjacent to the runways. To help combat the problem of noise pollution, O’hare created the noise management team which, “recognizes that neighborhoods surrounding O’Hare International Airport (O’Hare) are affected by noise from aircraft operations. We are committed to minimizing these aircraft noise impacts on the neighboring communities. Over the years we have engaged stakeholders to develop and implement noise abatement programs, sound-insulate homes and schools, and explore new elements intended to enhance and improve our noise programs”(Chicago Department of Aviation). After initial research, the team concluded that most of the noise generated came from arriving and departing aircraft. As the slope and speed of arriving aircraft cannot be changed due to safety thresholds, the team focused on departing aircraft. They discovered that the industry standard involved departing aircraft climbing slowly away from the runway due to the fact that this was the most fuel efficient method. However, this also led to noise pollution extending far beyond the end of the runway as the aircraft remained close to the ground. At the recommendation of the team, in 1996 O’Hare implemented a law where aircraft were required to make a much steeper climb out of the airport at a lower power setting(Chicago Department of Aviation). This reduced noise pollution due to the fact that departing aircraft were much higher over communities next to the airport. Unfortunately, this approach uses more fuel compared to the old method. This interesting discussion of how to balance noise, fuel efficiency, and most importantly safety is ongoing and will continue to be debated for years to come at airports around the country. Bibliography: Chicago Department of Aviation. “Airport Noise Management System.” Flychicago, Chicago Department of Aviation. “Airport Noise Management System.” Flychicago,
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Jan 16, 2020