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Cal Christianson
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Given all that we have been discussing this semester, these articles were not very surprising. That does mean that they are not concerning. I think that to the average american, the idea that air quality would dictate survival of a dangerous disease would be shocking. On average, I think that people tend to focus on specific outcomes. By doing so, the whole system is usually ignored. I remember seeing headlines that discussed how Americans of color were dying of covid at higher rates than white Americans. Given that Black Americans tend to be poorer than the average American, I assumed that this correlation was due to factors such as poor diet and less access to quality healthcare. I did not think about air quality. It is also interesting to think about the dilemma that some residents in these highly industrial areas must face. These industrial plants provide jobs to residences. Even if the jobs do not pay a great wage or are in low numbers, it is still an economic driver to these impoverished neighborhoods. But as these papers show, the health effects of living in these areas are atrocious. You know it is bad when a region is called “cancer alley”. Further complicating the decision to move is the housing market. No one is going to purchase a house in one of these areas. Because of this, a family moving out would have minimal capital to find a new residence. This is the same dilemma faced by families who live in abandoned mining towns. How can they move if their homes are worthless? This is even more infuriating when we know that this reliance on fossil fuel based industry is not mandatory.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
I found the reading to be very fascinating, especially how the different proposals would affect different households. The part that stood out to me the most was how upper income households can actually economically benefit a significant amount from these proposals. My previous thinking was that wealthier people tend to live more exuberant lifestyles, thus they consume more carbon. This would mean a higher economic cost for their activities. I had not accounted for the fact that wealthy households spend a proportionally much smaller amount of their income on carbon products. This does however make sense. I had also not accounted for the rise in value of greener solutions and that the collective ownership of these clean substitutes is predominantly wealthy individuals. The striking part about the paper was how the middle class seemed to suffer with all of the proposals. Being too wealthy to receive any offsetting tax benefit, these households would incur a large sum of the tax. These households would still be receiving the positive environmental effects of a carbon pricing system yet such policies would be economically harmful. The politics of the issue is also very fascinating. As we know, no carbon pricing method has been implemented on a federal level. I wonder if there would be more success at doing this if such policies were framed as being a tax rebate for poor and middle class americans. I think that politicians on both sides of the aisle would jump at the opportunity to sponsor and support such a rebate. This makes me wonder if the messaging surrounding climate action is too “climate” focused and not painted in an economically positive light.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
It is clear that emitting air pollutants is incredibly harmful to society. As the reports said, high concentrations of air pollution causes severe health effects. Naturally, we would assume that this fact alone would be enough to spur change. We would expect governments to impose restrictions on pollution as a form of maintaining a healthy populace. Even if we assume that governments are not benign and only think in terms of grand geopolitical strategy, it would still make sense for restrictions to be imposed. Cleaner air equals a healthier populace. This healthy population would be more effective in achieving whatever the goals of the country are, whether those are militarily or economically based. As we know, governments have been slow and inconsistent on acting upon these notions. Even when the staggering economic losses associated with dirty air is factored into the decision making process, change is still slow to come. This might be a result of the types of populations that are most at risk for suffering these adverse effects. Most communities that suffer from poor air quality are marginalized. With little economic or political power, it has been hard for these communities to make a significant difference. As much as we hate to admit it, politicians are more inclined to listen to a rich white man than a poor black woman. The problems associated with poor air quality are not only environmental problems. They are also social justice problems.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found Shrag’s article very interesting, especially how he addressed the apparent problems associated with transitioning to a cleaner future. While he maintains a positive view of clean energy sources, he is quick to point out the caveats associated with each source. In addition to the problems he discusses with each source, there are other ecological issues associated with them. For example, Shrag points out that while wind energy is a very cost effective way of producing electricity, it has problems with storage and transportation, making it difficult to be the “fix-all” to our energy issues. While this is a big concern, wind energy also causes harm by interrupting the migratory paths of birds. Hydro-electric power, an early alternative to using fossil fuels, produces large amounts of energy. The Hoover dam and the Three Gorges dam are both examples of hydro-electric plants that have transformed the energy landscape in their respective regions. But all dams do damage to the natural ecosystem. In the case of Three Gorges, over three million people were displaced from their homes. The resulting flooding of the Yangtze river damaged a large swath of land, resulting in the loss of ecosystem services. The real question with all energy sources is whether the pros outweigh the cons. Many climate skeptics point to these cons as potential reasons why moving away from fossil fuels should not be an immediate task. This argument, however, is not intelligent. Yes, the paths of migratory birds might be disrupted, Yes, ecosystems might be irreversibly altered. But both of these negative effects are a better outcome than the current trajectory, something that Shrag makes clear. I also found it interesting how humans have found ways to utilize the resources available to us. I found his anecdote about the German war machine transforming coal into liquid fuel fascinating. Environmentally, this process is harmful and was difficult to discover. But for a country starved of oil, the most important resource for waging war, it was viewed as a high priority. To me, this story highlights the human ability to manufacture solutions when we have enough incentive. While the cause was horrific, the project gives me hope that our current scientific and technological efforts will eventually bear fruit.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I thought that the amount of wild seafood harvested every year was a shocking number. I was aware that fishing provides a large amount of protein calories in the world diet, especially in developing countries. But it is still surprising the sheer amount that is fished. It makes the task of protecting aquatic ecosystems even more important. Not only do so many calories come from the sea, it also is the driving force of many economies. But it is also very difficult to properly protect. Because of the nature of such ecosystems, collecting the necessary data is difficult. As the article notes, counting fish accurately is almost impossible. We also need to accurately value such ecosystems. The proper value of any ecosystem is more than just the resources within. But in most countries, the groups in power only value the resources. And without a proper way of collaboration between countries, the situation ends up being similar to a tragedy of the commons.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I thought it was very interesting how sustainable development can work hand in hand with tourism. Common perception is that tourism is a dirty, exploitive enterprise. Even if it happens in an ethical way, tourism still adds people into areas that are natural sparsely populated. But by putting a price on tourism into natural areas, developing countries have developed a way to raise revenue to counter-act damage that occurs to the natural attractions. This includes environmental damage due to overall climate change and degradation, in addition to tourism related damage. While estimating the value of environmental venues is difficult to do, it is a worth while endeavor. The other aspect is the difficulty of determining the proper fee. Too high and tourism would be negatively effected. Too low and not enough revenue would be raised. Either way, I believe that the idea of using tourism fees to advance the economy while protecting the environment is a crucial weapon for developing economies.
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
To me, the idea that environmental justice is critical to solving the current climate crisis really resonates with me. I am currently taking an environmental humanities course where the main focus of our discussions is environmental justice. To me, the most notable point of Lake’s article was how the western world lives a lifestyle that is unsustainable. In addition, it is only the richest percentage of the western world that is contributing to this unsustainable consumption. This is also tied to race. Unfortunately, especially in America, those minorities of lesser means are bearing the brunt of climate consequences. Low income neighborhoods are much more likely to be located in industrial centers, subjugated to high levels of pollution. Outside the US, this phenomenon still holds true. Climate change has caused increased desertification throughout Africa and Asia, threatening the livelihood of people that have lived very sustainable lifestyles. As Lake points out, the people in the so-called “Global South” have undergone a large and rapid leap in technological development. While this has raised standards of living drastically, is it enough to offset the negative consequences of a climate crisis perpetuated mostly by the affluent west? I would argue no. We must look to incorporate climate friendly solutions when looking to improve lives of the world’s disadvantaged. If not, the current trends will continue to degrade innocent lives.
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 20, 2022