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Trip Wright
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Environmental racism is a key piece of achieving justice and eliminating prevalent systemic racism worldwide. Communities of color are all too frequently suffering from the impacts of corrosive policy that eats away at their well-being, health, and livelihood. In my History of African Americans since 1877 course we examined the impacts of the BIPOC population today due to racist policies from the New Deal. FRD signed a piece of legislation, which brought great promise and hope for the American economy but only helped select populations. The benefits procured by the GI Bill failed to help millions of Black veterans, and the U.S. Federal Housing Administration denied housing loans for Black families, not issuing them mortgages. Additionally, they prioritized "all-white suburbs" by subsidizing federal bank loans for the mass production of housing developments with the stipulation that the homes were not sold to African Americans. Most notably, however, was the act of redlining performed by the federally sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation by only offering housing loans in what was deemed the less/least desirable neighborhoods/areas of town–designated "C" or "D." The Lane article cited in their research "that people of color experience higher-than-average NO2 and PM2.5 levels and are overrepresented within C and D neighborhoods, consistent with prior redlining research." Additionally, it was found that "Population-weighted mean NO2 levels are higher in D neighborhoods than overall in 80% of the 202 cities [examined] and are lower in A neighborhoods than overall in 84% of cities." Things have only gotten worse! From Tuesday's articles, we learned of the many health effects that come with living in areas with the worst air quality. The four main "health end-points" deal with pre-term births, low birth weight, autism, and asthma. We also established a long-term correlation between children's health and adult outcomes. Thus, putting the pieces together, we can suggest that the BIPOC community, initially placed in a marginalized neighborhood, where families have lived from generation to generation are already at higher risk of early health effects and greater societal disadvantages because of a policy that is almost one hundred years old. The Lane paper writes that PM2.5 and NO2 are only "short-term" pollutants, however, policy has shown over and over again that its legacy persists…and is not always in a positive light. Such impacts became quite prevalent over the last two years as we witness minorities in America dying disproportionately more from Covid-19. The correlation between constant exposure to bad air quality at one's place of residence and the mortality/hospitalization rates for communities of color is real. For Ms. Dobbins, of near Detroit and who first asked a question about associated with neighborhoods and response to Covid, her zip code is one of the most polluted and features "a refinery, two power stations, a steel mill and a sewage treatment plant within a five-mile radius." The land became an industrial haven through policy, most likely deemed lower quality and additionally zoned for housing via racial discrimination for the BIPOC population…paying for that unjust decision today. In fact, the government has reinforced its own wrongdoing as the establishment over the last 80 years of industry is historically redlined areas have made them less and less desirable, decreasing property value, which is quite the opposite for most parts of the country that view buying a home investment. I'll end with a stark figure. In March 2019, the National Academy of Science found that Latine Americans and Black Americans are exposed to 63% and 56% more pollution than they produce, respectively.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
The assigned paper was very enlightening regarding how feasible the implementation of a "pricing of carbon" mechanism is in the United States. I'll admit that I had failed to consider the internal changes that firms would make to accommodate a new "input cost" resulting from a national cap-and-trade program and the impact it would have on households: the topic of the article. However, once I began reading, I could not help but think of the three separate labor markets developed in ECON 180 last semester with you, Dr. Casey, and their relation to the different levels of costs per three income classes: moral being, the middle class is affected the most. The biggest takeaway I had from the paper was that, or so I appeared, the Waxman-Markey bill had so much promise! I was not aware that a national cap-and-trade program had been drafted, let alone passed by the House. I want to take a moment and compare this economic situation with that of advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning. The similarities are straightforward: both the low class and upper class are unaffected/less affected, while the middle class suffers. With the middle class and future of labor, it has been discovered that many of the jobs in this category are "routine," requiring formal and informal education. If one's job is routine, then it follows a pattern, if it follows a pattern, it can be written into code and performed by a machine. The result yields a loss of jobs in the middle class, delivering a financial and emotional burden. With the cap-and-trade bill, the results are not as extreme. Essentially, the middle class faces the largest burden as a percentage of income (around 0.42%) compared to low (0.29%) and high (0.10%) using the Waxman-Markey optimistic case. The rationale was surprising to least for high income. Households older than 75 would be better off due to the social safety net of social security (ironic?) because the cap-and-trade program would most likely increase the pricing of carbon in the U.S., which would lead to a normative rise in the price of goods and services, inflation. However social security payments do those in this age-bracket increase to adjust for such inflation. On the other side of the income equation, the Waxman-Markey bill included a provision for an energy rebate entitlement program, yielding a net gain for low-income households. Alternatively, the cap-and-dividend program proposed higher return for individuals with low income, which I found more promising given that this group would be "most affected" by additional costs of livelihood. I think Josh makes a key point by pointing out how the annual estimate cost really is in the context of other common expenditures. I find it amazing that Americans will easily pay $7 for a burrito at Chipotle, yet contemplate on spending $1.99 for an iPhone app that really appeals to them. It's all relative and a result of context. To sum up, I want to highlight a "caution" that the paper made in relation to national legislation. Congress tends to default to the reasoning for lack of support because the benefits of a reduction in greenhouse gases will occur "x" years from now, while the social and corporate costs of the solution to mitigate climate change begin immediately. Yes, elected officials...the short run will "hurt," but temporarily as the massive, invisible (but not for long) social costs of climate change are massive (talking billions) compared to a few hundred dollars per household annually, which could go unnoticed distributed over 365 days. Short-term hurt, for long-term gain, we will have to incur for a better future.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
These three articles were unique with their approach to understanding the real health impacts of air pollution across the world. I was most intrigued by the first article, authored by Zhang. A fair amount of information has been pushed citing the physical health risks of increased particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere: mainly impacting our lungs, airways, and gas exchange. However, Zhang, et al, looked at the cognitive and mental impacts of exposure to air pollution in China and the results were shocking. They determined that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in both verbal and mathematical tests. This conclusion can be extrapolated to suggest that premature cognitive decline will occur in older populations due to air pollution. I enjoy most when such articles go beyond the limits of their respective study and "connect the dots" between findings and social impact. Zhang, et all, clarified that even though their study occurred in China, the results are exclusive. Rather, the top 20 most polluted cities are in developing countries, and almost all of the cities in low and middle-income countries–with more than 100,000 residents–fail to meet WHO air quality guidelines; thus, the results (decreased cognitive performance as a result of exposure to air pollution) become a global issue. I failed to consider the larger political and economic consequences of such cognitive changes in humans, yet the impact of air pollution will generate large health and social costs. Specifically, Alzheimer's, an already $226 billion dollar health service industry, is likely to increase (as is dementia). Also, the general elderly population depends on choice-making at older ages due to important end-of-life decisions or completing run-of-the-mill chores. Optimistically, the study suggested that, in China, if the country were to cut the annual mean concentration of PM–smaller than 10μm to the EPA's 50μm/m^3 standard then cognitive skills would rise to the 63rd and 58th percentile for verbal and math, respectively, from the current median. Not only is air pollution harming our bodies physically, but there is a very severe, very real mental side of the card, which ought to add urgency to passing legislation to mitigate CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
The "Fueling Our Future" article was loaded with key information about the climate crisis at stake and informed about the stark reality at play and the "best" options we have at our disposal. I appreciated the introductory discussion about nuclear energy because, too often, I hear that form of energy being thrown around as if it is the solution to "save us all" from Earth's widespread climate problem but rather has yet to be implemented widescale. I asked myself "Why is this?" and learned that the current hesitancy with nuclear energy is the risks at play. Shaw points out that Chernobyl acted as a pause on shifting to nuclear energy because that accident occurred with only a few hundred reactors in the world. In reality, roughly 10,000 nuclear reactors would be desired to address climate change; this was an interesting metric. Shaw is blunt in his writing and thoughts on climate change. He does not write about reversing all of our CO2 outputs and putting a cease to energy consumption because that just is not logical or our reality. I appreciated his focus on CO2 parts per million (ppm), which sees a level today around 380-400ppm. The unfortunate reality is that we are going to continue to increase the number of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, at least in the short run. Shaw is confident that before 2050, ppm levels will cross 500. His response comes in the form of a challenge, to keep concentrations of CO2 below 550ppm by 2100. That gives us 78 years to change/modify/adapt our methods of energy production and the waste that is produced as a result. The solution to reaching this goal is not an easy one, but ideas exist. One that really shocked me was that we must embrace the use of coal…seriously! I have known that coal is the "dirtiest" source of energy due to its large production of carbon emissions, much more so than natural gas or oil. The focus on coal as our next big source of energy is that the current known global reserves will last 164 years: enough time to disrupt the current energy production process. Additionally, with global populations rising and countries becoming increasingly more developed, our demand and dependence on energy will only increase. The solution, proposed by Shaw, can be attributed to the properties of CO2 that make it denser than seawater under high pressure and low temperature. So, here we are combining Economics with Chemistry to generate a potential answer to mitigating climate change on Earth: emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of climate change and how many niches of academia ought to be involved to prevent its costly effects. Nevertheless, CO2 will not be released into the atmosphere from the burning of coal, but rather captured, then pumped underground to a location with such conditions mentioned prior. As Shaw reports, "the CO2 would form an ice-like-cap over a spreading liquid plume and eventually dissolve, diffusing slowly into the oceans over millions of years at a rate that would not affect marine ecology." I was so motivated by this proposition, feeling as though we had finally found the answer to a problem that has been stagnant for too long. Then, I remember this article is going on sixteen years old…yikes. Unfortunately, despite all the favorable science and plausibility, our governments have yet to act mainly due to the three I's: ideology, interests, and ignorance. The clock on climate change is ticking, however, intellect is not. I see education of the general populous as the catalyst to begin climate action. I had no idea that we could feasibly pump CO2 emissions underwater, into seafloor sediment, and then it is stifled from polluting the air. The key is to muster the will to act, as Schrag put it, and I remain optimistic in my generation to do just that.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
While reading, all I could help but think of was The Tragedy of the Commons philosophy; what occurs when resources that are public good are perceived to be open to anyone, anytime, and in any quantity? Overexploitation. This issue is complicated by the fact that roughly 97% of the world's fishermen live in developing countries. Additionally, the fishing market is HUGE with approximately 146 billion USD of fish traded in 2014. This market helps generate lots of necessary income for developing nations, contributing to their GDPS, and promoting economic growth. However, fish are a limited resource despite how many live in the sea. In fact, the act of fishing combined with trading on the international fish market is a double-edged sword. On one side, the market yields great returns for some of the world's hardest workers, while at the same time depleting the precious resource. Further, developing countries continue to subsidize fishing operations, which promotes overfishing operatives. I became intrigued at the possibility of marine protected areas (MPAs) and their impact on the fisheries economy. I thought of the Belize shark breeding area that had been cited in class and how the government there imposed prohibiting shark fishing within the region of local reefs. The total protected area is about 1,500 square miles, which displayed a powerful exercise of government power and MPAs to preserve biodiversity and conservation. MPAs not only focus on protecting fisheries but consider the impact of increased conservation. A refuge is established that allows for interbreeding of fish and increased biomass to the point where fish begin to "spill" out of the MPA zone and continue to spread its positive effects into other coastal regions. Perhaps what's more interesting is when MPAs are combined with RBFM. Studies have found that fishing on MPA borders has increased catch rates of fishing crews generating fishing benefits while maintaining conservation benefits. It should be noted that collecting data on such policy implementation is difficult and requires heavy costs, however, technological development is alleviating this concern, particularly with enforcing the protection policies given that MPAs or RPFM can span across large swaths of ocean. I am curious to view how technology will continue to impact the fishing market. On one hand, it will be "pro-conservation," allowing policies to be followed more efficiently and collecting data on fishing patterns (particularly overfishing) to make better predictions for tomorrow. However, fishing cooperations could also enact similar technology to expedite their fishing processes to maximize profits and keep costs low. There is definitely a race occurring in the world of commercial fishing, fueled by corporate interest and greed, yet conservation efforts are looking optimistic to live in a better tomorrow.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
This article was enlightening as it revealed how interconnected the global economy is and its impacts beyond promoting a countries GDP. I think it is important to recognize the immense "purchasing power" that global powers have over other developing/less developed countries: such is the case China and Brazil. The global trade market offers an opportunity to share goods/services around the world in a matter of days, perhaps hours, which is incredible! Yet, the efficiency that global trade occurs creates additional negative social costs or negative externalities. The largest social cost at hand from this article is the increased activity of deforestation due to China's consumption of soy beans and cattle. The trade relationship between the two nations appears to be mutually beneficial as China is able to purchase soy beans/beef at lower costs (factoring in opportunity cost), while rural communities in Brazil's Legal Amazon are generating income to be able to live. However, the exchange between the two countries is leading to detrimental effects for Brazil and the globe because of deforestation! This study found that China's demand for such commodities creates deforestation in the Amazon Forest region of Brazil. The leading factors is the process of growing soybeans on former pastures, which expands the production of soybeans at the expense of cattle being displaced and ranching activity being moved into forest areas, ultimately leading to more deforestation to accommodate the cows. What I found most surprising was how a country on the other side of the world could influence the rate at which deforestation occurs in another country. In fact, China views Brazil as an economic endeavor worth pursuing and perhaps exploiting more with there ability to finance major infrastructure projects in Brazil: end goal appears to be rooted in self-interest and expedite shipping of goods out of the forest and across the Pacific Ocean. The interest in committed funding to the construction and operation of a railroad between Legal Amazon states could severely disrupt ecosystems, biodiversity, and many additional social benefits of tropical forests. However, as is a theme today, the concern tends to lie in the short-term, rather than address the potential bigger impacts of tomorrow. Meanwhile, Brazil's commitment to continued growth on the world's stage from foreign investment and infrastructure supersedes taking any environmental action mainly due to corruption; the tragic capitalist cycle continues.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2022 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Reading these articles really enlightened me to the relationship between government policy and environmental action/justice. I have to echo the sentiments that Jackson made with regard to Belize's decision for the PACT fee to be an exit fee. While reading, I considered the "pathos" factor of visiting a country with beautiful beaches, coral reefs, snorkeling, etc. Such recreation creates long-lasting memories for many who visit, which fosters an affinity towards the country. Introduction to Economics teaches the change of a population's (those visiting Belize) taste and preferences for a good—i.e. visiting Belize—as a ceteris paribus violation causing demand to shift outward. This increase in demand leads to a decrease in quantity demanded and an increase in quantity supplied. Nonetheless, the price of the good, in theory, increases which could be supported in the increase of the PACT fee to $20 USD. The results from the contingent valuation method (CVM) survey revealed that 79% were willing to pay a higher conversation fee which suggests that 21% do not; this relationship could relate back to the decrease in quantity demanded due to an increase in T&P. However, the "price increase" at least the mean max willingness to pay (WTP) was $31.08 USD, 50% greater than the April 2017 fee increase. So, there are big benefits for charging the PACT fee after one's visit to Belize. Additionally, when thinking of those who visit Belize for vacation, they tend to have a decent amount of disposable income to spend. I enjoyed learning that the mean income of the sample was $98,977 USD, which allows an estimate that most individuals vacationing in Belize come from upper-middle-class/upper-class backgrounds. Thus, a $20 environmental conservation fee does not become burdening when mixed in with hotel, excursion, and food costs over the course after a mean 11 nights in the country. Kate brings up a good point by asking who does this PACT fee begin to impact? According to the article, "every international visitor to Belize" is charged the PACT fee. Thus, the country begins to become less accessible for visitors from developing countries. The survey sample yielded 88% of tourists from the United States or Canada, and, although Belize received a record number of overnight arrivals of 55,488 in March 2018, how many people were visiting from developed vs. developing countries?
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Trip Wright is now following Caseyj
Jan 25, 2022
Dr. Robert Solow's article was enlightening on the topic of sustainability from the perspective of an economist. When I think of sustainability, my mind jumps to compost or closed energy systems: phenomena that limit waste. However, I was surprised to read that Solow called sustainability is "vague." A concept I felt to be quite familiar with suddenly became more abstract and nuanced. I believed that sustainability required a direct transaction of equal goods (burn fossil fuels, replace fossil fuels). However, this is not ideal due to the nature of fossil fuels of natural resources. Rather, it is important to think of sustainability as fungible—we do not owe to the future any particular thing. Instead, sustainability requires us (humans) to leave "untouched"; tradeoff between what was consumed and what was invested for the future to be equal. When we decide to use up a resource that is irreplaceable, it needs to be replaced with something of equal value, but that replacement does not have to be a physical good. The substitute is an investment that adds vagueness to the term value; the substitute could be knowledge or technology. The idea of a tradeoff also established sustainability as distributional equity, meaning it requires sharing of well-being between present people and future people. I enjoyed hearing about Solow's idea of replacement and how it is tied to sustainability. The fact that our consumption of fossil fuels can be "replaced" with an investment in education creates a lot of potential power...especially in terms of poverty in the world. Yet, the United States has not been adhering to such an idea because...well...we don't have to. This idea should be a moral imperative; it holds the same weight as tackling the issue of poverty. There are a lot of ways to allow for this "substitute theory" can be implemented. The best way deals with holding firms accountable for externalities they have caused: internalizing the externalities. This is accomplished through perhaps a tax on "Big Oil" which will generate dollars to spend on communities most affected by oil rigs or coal mines; nevertheless, it is an investment, and it is sustainable. The true costs that firms have been accruing, needs to be paid.
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Trip Wright is now following The Typepad Team
Jan 20, 2022