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Blake Cote
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I really appreciate these articles on environmental racism and injustice. I have found it very interesting when we have talked throughout the semester about how often low income and minority communities bear the brunt of the negative effects of climate change and environmental problems, as environmental injustice was something I was looking forward to focusing on. The NYT article made me realize that while for many people the idea of sheltering in place seemed like a once in a lifetime recommendation, it wasn’t so unusual for some people. I hadn’t thought about how communities that live near refineries and factories might have received these warnings before as the toxins in the air are at some points dangerous to their health. That makes all the more sense why there is a negative relationship between income and COVID-19 mortalities. The article talks about how inflammatory lung disease and coronary heart disease are both tied to exposure to air pollution and are shown to provide a higher risk for severe cases of COVID-19. Before really thinking about this situation I would have said people of all socioeconomic statuses were equally as likely to have severe cases of COVID-19 and hadn’t thought about how people who are left to live in areas of poor air quality have more adverse effects. Articles like these make me more aware of the fact that the pandemic was much worse for some people than others. I would be interested in learning more about what, if anything, is in the works to address environmental injustice on top of climate change.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
I thought that this paper was intriguing as it is a deep dive on the effects of climate policy on different age groups, socioeconomic status, and regional location. It was interesting to read that the allocation of emission allowances has a bigger effect on distributional outcomes than initial cost. Households with those 65 and older incur relatively less cost than other age groups due to automatic inflation indexing of social security. I learned that low income households spend a larger fraction of earnings on energy than wealthier households, which I could have guessed. I also saw that lower income households will be ok in this regard as distribution of allowance value and indexing of government programs offset this spending. After speaking in class today and reading about it in this article it was interesting to me that the cap-and-dividend approach benefits low-income households relatively more than high-income households, and that middle income households get the short end of the stick as they do not receive low income rebates nor value through ownership of capital stock. It made sense that it doesn’t necessarily affect high income households that much because it is a small percentage of their total income or assets. It also surprised me that older households (75+) are generally better off under climate policy than other households under both Waxman-Markey or the cap-and-dividend process. I think it is really interesting that this paper addresses the consequences of climate policy by not only socio economic status and income, but also by age group and regional location. I also appreciated how they looked at these outcomes on both ends of the spectrum, on the optimistic side and the pessimistic side. It allows the public to know the “worst” and “best” possibilities regarding the burden of climate policy; however, the range of burden per socio-demographic group is still relatively wide which leaves people still uncertain of the specific costs that they might have to bear under certain climate policies.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
It does not surprise me at all that particulate matter has adverse health effects. It does surprise me that studies have shown that there has been an increase in cardiac and respiratory morbidity and mortality from exposure to particulate matter. It also does not surprise me that kids with a history of wheezing endure harmful health effects from average levels of ambient ozone, or that it is even worse for children with bronchial hyperactivity or asthma. What really did surprise me was the effect that particulate matter is taking on peoples’ cognitive performance. The PNAS paper points out that large portions of populations in developing countries live in places with unsafe air which is something that I think most people are aware of, particularly when thinking about different parts of India, China, and parts of the Middle East. It was interesting to read that polluted air may hurt cognitive ability as people age, especially for less educated men. It was also interesting that increasing air quality would lead to higher verbal and math test scores. I know that the article mentioned that the knowledge and existing studies of the impact on air pollution on cognition are limited, but I am curious to see how this theory is further studied in the future. One question I have is about how long the time period would be between the start of the process of cutting annual concentration of particulate matter and actually seeing increased testing scores in these populations. I know this is probably a precarious question but it would be interesting to find out timelines for these sorts of problems to give people an idea of how long it would take to start seeing some progress towards resolution.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In the Schrag article I found it optimistic when he points out that we need to change existing energy systems. He noted that the changes must be in three different areas: increasing energy efficiency, increasing the stock of non-fossil energy generation, and adopting technologies for capturing and storing carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. I find it less intimidating that he speaks on altering existing systems and not creating the eerie and uncertain demand for an entire new system and if we don’t create it, we are doomed. I also like how he pointed out how many companies and countries are paying more attention to nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy. A question arose for me after he also stated that these are all very expensive alternatives and I question how different countries are going to be able to fund these greener alternatives of energy acquisition. In the Harvard Magazine article one part in particular that made me feel unsettled is when Shaw talks about how with the amount that we currently suspect that is stored in the Earth we will run out of oil in 41 years, natural gas in 67 years and coal in 164 years. But with an ever expanding population and with the suspicion that global population growth will increase by 50% by the end of the century, the demand for energy and the dependence on these natural resources will only continue to grow. Sometimes, the depth of the problems associated with climate change unnerve and I begin to feel hopeless. Keeping in the back of mind that coal is the “dirtiest” fossil fuel only adds to this stress and anxiety. I appreciated the following points that there are two ways to sort of “clean up” the process of getting energy from the burning of coal. The first is to gasify the coal to separate the CO2 before it is able to be released into the atmosphere, and the second way would be to sequester the CO2 by directing it into underground reservoirs where experts think (as of now) it will remain buried forever. While these two practices might not be the perfect end solution, it is a start in the right direction and could buy us some time before we are able to discover the optimal, most cost effective way to get closer to being able to depend on renewable energy sources completely in the future, and creating coal-gasification plants.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
To start off, it amazed me that seafood surpasses beef in extraction and production. It was interesting to hear the other night at the webinar just how much of the world’s population solely relies on seafood as their source of food as well as how much of the population primarily relies on seafood. It makes complete sense to me now but is something that I hadn’t thought about previously. It makes even more sense now to focus on sustainability and preservation of aquatic ecosystems and marine life as a substantial amount of the world’s population, especially poor communities, would not be able to consume or live without it providing for them. The webinar, this paper, as well as our discussion in class made me realize that while many people in developed countries enjoy seafood, it is not a necessity and as it is for many people. From the webinar I learned that 44% of the world’s population lives within 93 miles of the nearest ocean which makes seafood obtainable for many people, which simply adds to our need to be sustainable when fishing and taking care of those ecosystems. The paper points out that the majority of fisheries are currently loosely regulated with some restrictions such as seasons or size limits, but these loose regulations often result in overexploitation of the stock or over harvesting. This is an interesting conflict because as most individuals in this industry are profit maximisers there isn’t much holding them back from doing all the fishing they want. The article also points out that regulatory tools like input and output controls have proved to decrease fishing mortality and decreased the chances of ecosystem collapse. This idea of not wanting to hurt the natural systems that do nothing but produce for us and give us life is consistent with the themes in a book called Braiding Sweetgrass (Robin Wall Kimmerer) that we read in my environmental humanities course. It is important to realize that ecosystems that we depend on for life, like the ocean, must be respected in a reciprocal relationship because without them we could not live.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed tonight’s webinar on food, farms, and fisheries. In particular, I enjoyed Professor Fisher's section on archeology and the long view of agricultural sustainability. It was interesting to me how she reminded us all that we are all entering a story that has already been in process. It was eye opening to hear about times in mankind’s history where humans have had to navigate periods of great environmental stress, and what we can learn from past sustainable agriculture as well as unsustainable agriculture. From all of the examples that she shared it seems that the common theme of the colonies and communities that failed was that they double downed on one specific form of agriculture or hunting and were not adaptable or flexible. When the climate crisis presented themselves, these colonies were not able to sustain themselves as they didn’t stray from their particular manner of acquiring food. The colonies and communities that did succeed were the ones that diversified their food acquisition methods. A question that I have, and perhaps it was just pure luck (or lack thereof), but how did certain colonies know to diversify their strategies and why did other communities choose not to? I also enjoyed Niquole Esters’s section on fisheries. It surprised me how much of the world’s population depended on seafood as a source of food intake. I know she spoke about what we need to do to reduce the health of marine environments, and maybe it was because of the spotty connection, but I would like to hear more about specifically what we can do on an individual level as well as a community level to aid in this restoration. Finally, I appreciated her ending quote that in general it is important to understand peoples’ differing perspectives and where they are coming from when making any decision.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2022 on Next Webinar Monday at Jolly Green General
It amazes me how interconnected our world is even though it is so vast. This paper talks about a negative type of interconnectedness in that China has a large influence on Brazil in terms of deforestation. It is both fascinating and devastating to me how China’s economy is a major driver in Amazonia as a result of China’s high demand for soy and cattle. China is Brazil’s largest trading partner and China has helped with the increase in the Brazilian economy. It is interesting to look at this relationship like the two sides of the coin that we talk about often in class. On one side Brazil is gaining a major benefit in that they are being lifted out of the economic crisis by having China as their main source of export surplus in terms of agricultural commodities. This may seem like a miracle to some people. On the other side of the coin there is the huge cost which is the deforestation that is coming as a result of clear cutting for the growth of the soy and the grazing of the cattle, in addition to access roads and other necessities for human intervention. It is difficult to simply say that the economic status of a country is more important or conversely that the state of the environment is more important in a country when in reality these two must both work together in order for the country or region in general.
Toggle Commented Feb 2, 2022 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
These two articles give light to the important connection between the natural world and the economy. The article Ocean and Coastal Management states that in 2014 10% of the global GDP was contributed by travel and tourism, and the industry employed more than 277 million people. The article also points out that the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world, and that Barbados is specifically a very important country in terms of travel and tourism. The vast majority of tourism areas in Barbados are coastal and marine environments with 70% of all hotels are located on the coastline. Effects due to climate change such as beach erosion and coral reef destruction are clearly devastating for the environment and natural world but also damage economic activity as no one wants to pay to go snorkeling around a bleached coral reef. As populations rise and desire to travel continues to increase these problems will only intensify. As we have experienced some relief from the chaos of the pandemic and travel becomes safe again, I wonder if the influx of people eager to get out and travel will affect these already fragile environments. The idea of increasing exit fees sounds like a good idea to me and peoples’ compliance to pay them in order to travel and take advantage of the land and resources is a good start. Perhaps it would be helpful to acknowledge and let the public know where the exit fee is specifically aiding. I think that the authors of both articles do a good job of appealing to a wide audience, because perhaps if more people acknowledge and understand just how much degradation and environmental damage hurt the economy, people will care more and try harder to treat the Earth respectfully.
Toggle Commented Jan 27, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found many of the points that Solow makes in the Sustainability: An Economist’s Perspective very interesting and I appreciated his breakdown of the definition of “sustainability.” The most notable takeaway that I noticed from this article is that the idea that we, as humans, should leave everything how we found it, in terms of the environment, is not feasible nor always desirable. It can also make the goal of sustainability seem daunting or unlikely to be achieved. Solow’s definition of sustainability, “An obligation to conduct ourselves so that we leave the future the option or the capacity to be as well off as we are,” is more practical and is more achievable. I also enjoyed reading about the role that equity plays in sustainability, and Solow’s explanation that we can provide substitutes of equal value to help reach sustainability. The oil example made this concept clear where the UK exhausted the oil supply and said that they were going to provide something of equal value in exchange. But Norway put in effort to attempt to reinvest the revenues back into investment, which if done successfully, would have “guaranteed a perpetually constant capacity to consume” (Solow 185).
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 19, 2022