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AJ Mabaka
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Since we've been discussing the degree to which impoverished and low-income communities of color unjustly bear adverse impacts of air and water pollution, it was unsurprising, but still unsettling, to read these papers. What I found most interesting was how the COVID pandemic exacerbated this issue of environmental justice. In fact, toward the end of last year there were a handful of publications that actually showed the benefits the pandemic had by leading to cleaner air, waterways, roads as a result of decreased traffic/ human travel. However, this likely occurred in wealthier areas as I now realize. Furthermore, the "Cancer Valley" paper helped serve as a reminder that in lower-income and poorer communities, such benefits were not likely felt because of the increased proximity to pollution-producing facilities. What I found even more shocking and frankly egregious, was that following the EPA change in enforcement regulation, not a single agency (federal, state, or local) acted to help the people in Louisiana, who had essentially been caught between a rock and a hard place (to put it lightly). Without the financial means to move away from pollution-producing facilities, coupled with the adverse health impacts of these facilities, it only makes sense that a global disease outbreak (with heavy pulmonary effects no less) would have a disastrous impact on communities like St. John. In thinking about the future, I'm curious if, given how litigious society can be in the U.S., environmental induced health lawsuits may be filed given the impacts that have been seen throughout the country as a result of poor decisions within federal agencies (i.e., the EPA retracting of enforcement regulations).
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
I thought it was phenomenal that each of the cap and trade policies discussed helped to ensure that low-income households were protected through various regulatory measures (like the per-capita rebate). As we've been discussing the effects of climate change and the degree to which associated burdens are often carried by marginalized, poorer communities, I was happily surprised by many of the conclusions discussed toward the end of the paper. Specifically, I was surprised that in some of the modeling and policy predictions, households in British Colombia might actually be better off after the carbon tax than before, especially elderly people with low income. As we've begun transitioning toward increased monitoring of carbon emissions and mitigating our negative climatic impacts, I found it heartwarming that multiple demographic groups seem to be benefiting from the carefully developed carbon policies in BC and elsewhere. Initially, I met some these conclusions with skepticism because I felt as though there would be tendencies (following suit with history) for wealthier and more ~homogenous~ communities, if you will, to benefit from these policies, rather than the poorer and more ~heterogenous~ communities who carry more of the burden when it comes to impacts from climate change and emissions.
Toggle Commented Mar 24, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I thought each of these papers did an excellent job of connecting the social, economic, and health costs associated with air pollution. While I hadn't really known about the potential for air pollution to adversely impact cognitive function, the study in China provided a very clear picture about the detrimental effects that air pollution can have on human cognitive function (which was scary to say the least). Interestingly, as more research and studies come out about negative effects of air pollution on human health in general, I'm curious what policy/regulatory revisions may be made to mitigate these adverse impacts. As Zhang et al put it, a narrow focus on the negative effects "on health may underestimate the total cost of air pollution." So then, to avoid too narrow a focus wherein we might overlook potential negative effects of air pollution, should regulatory standards become more stringent and if so, how might organizations contributing to air pollution respond to such increasingly stringent regulations? Even more so, are there any novel technological innovations that have proven effective in reducing the release of harmful compounds associated with air pollution? (If so, are these innovations financially affordable for widespread distribution and utilization?) Lastly, there was a part of the article by Andre Nel that I found both alarming and intriguing. Namely, it was the fact that we need to "determine which chemical components are most important and whether, in addition to the PM mass, we also need to monitor particle number when considering the effects of ultrafine particles." I would imagine that we definitely need to monitor the PM mass and the particle number when considering the effects of ultra fine particles. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the Alexis et al. paper concludes that particulate pollutants may prove to have more formidable human health implications than previously thought.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found both these articles to be, naturally, quite unsettling, but also interesting. I think that two very important points were made in each article, the first being that climate change is already occurring and no amount of mitigation techniques will be able to prevent climatic change from happening. The second point was that there is no silver bullet to mitigating climate change, but rather, a multifaceted approach is necessary to begin mitigating and then adapting to climate change on the global scale. Only by relying on solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, and biomass energy collectively, can we then hope to increase efficiency in energy production and (ideally) retire the currently inefficient energy systems we use (i.e., oil, gas, and coal). Interestingly, I thought that Shaw's article brought up an intriguing point regarding nuclear power specifically. In the post-Chernobyl world, there are serious sentiments of fear and mistrust regarding the use of nuclear power, which is arguably fair given the devastating events seen when nuclear power "goes wrong"/fails. On the other hand, a form of energy that doesn't produce carbon is rather attractive given the ever pressing need to reduce carbon emissions. Yet Schrag points out that upscaling nuclear power and the number of power plants , as seen with Chernobyl, would likely have devastating consequences. "Think about a world with 10,000 nuclear reactors... We have only a few hundred today. What is the probability of a big accident? It’s going to happen." Nevertheless, I also found the idea of restructuring society, from Schrag's article, to be rather important. Once we, as a society, can commit to cleaner renewable energy systems and dispose of our reliance on fossil fuels, then I think we can truly begin to combat climatic change. However, as Jackson so elegantly put "it is only at the point where one does not have to go out of their way to make a sustainable decision that is truly going to begin to reconstruct society." There are certianly clear political and economic barriers that limit the widespread adoption of more efficient and renewable energy systems. Although, it's only fair to acknowledge that the lack of scientific research and understanding of these renewable energy systems also limits their widespread implementation. Nonetheless, I wonder how the message of urgency regarding the need to adopt these systems can be better communicated? Because I think it's easy to read articles like these with a grain of salt so to speak, wherein we operate under the assumption that these drastic climatic changes will happen gradually (in such a way that those of us alive today won't be as adversely affected). However, both articles point out the fact that our current climate prediction models are likely conservative and may significantly underestimate the degree of variability in anticipated climatic change. As such, we may very well see drastic and adverse climatic changes in the span of 100-500 years, but it is the latter end of that time scale range that I think warrants the most concern and level of urgency in developing solutions and mitigation/adaptation strategies.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I also saw that a lot of people talked about issues with enforcing fisheries regulations. I think it's an interesting issue because even with seemingly effective fishery policies in place to strive for a sustainable relationship with this natural resource, there's often little to no enforcement of the policies or significant enough penalties to warrant abiding said policies. In fact, a documentary I watched on Netflix called Seaspiracy talks about the fact that "enforcers" of fisheries policies often get bribed, abused, and even killed, especially when fishing vessels make long trips out to sea. Clearly, incentivizing people to follow fisheries policies (that ideally are also effective) seems quite difficult, though socioally/economically perhaps there's a means of doing so. Like if consumers boycotted the consumption of a type of fish because its sustainable and the price of a fish were devalued to such an extent that it wasn't worth commercial harvesting, then maybe that fish stock would likely improve substantially. This has happened before (e.g. with dolphins or dolphin safe tuna) but doing so intentionally via eco-consumer driven conservation sounds pretty cool.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I think it's no surprise that governance over global fisheries proves to be an arduous task to say the least and I agree with the authors that good fisheries management practices have proven effective in meeting seafood demand, sustaining commercial fishing industries, etc. However, as the authors also pointed out, effective management does not always meet the interests of all fisheries stakeholders. This brings me to a point that Niquole Esters made during Monday's webinar, which was that there needs to be more of an incentive for all people to interact with fisheries in a more sustainably manner. The authors brought up some examples of this that were novel to me, like TURFs and RBFMs, which seem like they could help our relationship with harvesting fisheries to be more sustainable. However, as others and the authors have pointed out here, these means of fisheries management reforms can be quite difficult to regulate and maintain. Also, I took issue with what the authors had to say about how climate change would impact global fisheries because I felt that they undervalued the degree of change that is projected (though I realize this article was trying to be more hopeful). Anyway, they mentioned that the overall "change in productivity [of the global oceans] is likely to be small," which I think much of recent research would reasonably argue against. Extensive overfishing of estuaries and embayments around the globe have severely weakened these vital nearshore ecosystems, which serve as significant nursery roles for a large majority of fish species and often support larger nearshore coastal food webs. The historic and continual overfishing of these regions, and the larger food webs they support, has and will continue to harm the productivity of the greater global oceans, especially when coupled with the millions of tons of pollutants that have begun to find their way into both these regions and some of the most remote areas in the oceans (e.g., plastic bags have been found 36,000 feet in Mariana's trench and inhalation/bioaccumulation of plastic kills hundreds of thousands of marine organisms a year). Not to mention, recent climate research studies have shown that the rate at which the global oceans are absorbing carbon (and other greenhouse gases) is causing a gradual but significant change in oceanic acidity (projected to be a ph of 8.0 or more for global oceans in 75 years). As a point of reference, we had a ph of about 7 before industrialization... thus, such a change in acidity would prove disastrous for marine life and the productivity of the oceans. Nevertheless, I don't mean to paint the picture to be dreadful/full of despair, but I thought that the portion of the paper discussing threats to fisheries (specifically climate change) was deserving of more attention; and I really enjoyed this article as there was some novel fisheries management information that I think I could incorporate into my capstone.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed Professor Fisher's portion of the discussion about sustainability. I think it would be interesting to discuss how we might better include tribal/indigenous knowledge in policy and practice regarding agriculture as some communities have truly exemplified a "recreate-able" and sustainable means of living/agricultural practices. Additionally, I was very captivated by Nicole Ester's section on fisheries. I thought that her answer to my question about overfishing, climate change, and the need for more sustainable fishing was fascinating. I feel as though enforcement (of international and national fisheries policies) is truly a serious issue, and as such I would love to discuss more with the class about means in which we might enforce or better yet, incentivize, people to harvest fisheries more sustainably.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2022 on Next Webinar Monday at Jolly Green General
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Feb 2, 2022
I really enjoyed this webinar and the discussion that was had about sustainability. I was especially intrigued by Julianna's work with Terravive (I hope I've spelled this correctly) because she exemplifies such a relatable and feasible means of making positive change for the environment as a recent W&L alum. In particular, as other classmates have commented, I loved that she said "we chose the wrong materials" from which to make consumables because there are other viable options that are not only more sustainable but equally as efficient in terms of use. Additionally, I enjoyed a point Professor Humston made that I think helps highlight the urgent need for more sustainable living/development: humans have deemed this geologic time frame the "Anthropocene" due to the extreme degree to which we have changed our planet. Additionally, as species, humans have only existed for 300,000 years which is quite a small time frame when juxtaposed with the legacy of the dinosaurs (1165 million years) or the Earth itself (4.5 billion years old). Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the conversation that was had yesterday because it's inspiring to know that not only are discussions being held about sustainability and how to live/develop more sustainably, but people (like us!) are actually helping to drive sustainable change and development.
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2022 on Sustainability Webinar at Jolly Green General
I should preface the rest of my comments/ this blog post with a clarifier, I do hold some hope that we as a species may reform to live more sustainably on Earth and in a manner by which all may enjoy quality of life. However, as Quiggins pointed out (and to some degree refutes?), this would be an arduous task to say the least. Anyway, I thought that Quiggins made some interesting points, as others have noted, regarding sustainability and the manner in which we as a species have been existing on Earth. Evidently, the contemporary level of human consumption of natural resources (be it energy or food or water) is unsustainable and with populations projected to reach 10 billion people in the coming decades, there is evident need for more sustainable consumptive reform as Quiggins discussed. However, he begged the question of can we "let everyone live like prosperous residents of the First World without destroying our natural environment" or rather "will we?" I found myself in both agreement and disagreement as Quiggins moved through different examples and avenues of need for consumptive change. Focusing on food, we've all probably heard about cow burps and the degree to which the agricultural sector contributes to methane/greenhouse gas emissions. To this Quiggins seemed to respond that "this means that a global diet with First World levels of animal protein consumption would require a shift towards chicken, eggs, and pork." I took partial issue with this because even though he notes that "a utopian vision for humans shouldn’t have to rest on a miserable life for animals." Even as is there are more chickens on Earth now than there are humans, which is simply to satisfy global food demand. As such, I have difficultly imagining a way in which global food production could meet the needs of billions of people and attain global food security without resting on the backs of billions of chickens and pigs, which hosts ethical concerns as Quiggins points out. Additionally, and I feel as though this applies to many scenarios (be it conversion to renewable energy or food production), it is very difficult to take on costs (or lose benefits) in the present so that there might be future benefits (or avoided costs). So to raise the question as many of us have, how exactly can we incentivize others to make stronger commitments to sustainable living (be it using less energy, consuming healthier foods, reducing emissions)? Part of me feels as though such living cannot be broadly attained by humans as a species until it is in the best interest of the individual to live in such a manner...
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 19, 2022