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Allyssa Utecht
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I found all three of these articles to be a powerful intersection of multiple environmental, socioeconomic, and political challenges. All three highlighted the disproportionate ways in which minority communities are forced to suffer environmental consequences they often had very little part in creating. Both the New York Times and Vice cited eerily similar statistics about two different areas: in Houston, minority groups make up 2/3 of COVID deaths but are only 22% of the city's population, and in Louisiana, 70% of COVID deaths were African American when they only made up 32% of the population. In many of the anecdotal stories told in these two article, environmental issues combined with COVID, cancer and other medical problems, a lack of insurance, and no public hospital to climax in striking rates of COVID infection and death. All three stories highlighted how, as a result of existing societal structures and disparities, individuals at risk for pollution-related sickness are resultantly even more at risk for COVID. These articles were deeply striking and saddening, illustrating how when an event such as a pandemic hits our country, it accentuates every challenge already thrown at certain communities often as a direct result of racist practices such as redlining. The essay on redlining described how systemic racial/ethnic air pollution exposure can be correlated with redlining, in which the spatial distribution of pollution sources is aligned with diverse communities. The previous two articles highlighted how dangerous this is, especially during a pandemic, because long-term exposure to air pollution makes people more susceptible to the coronavirus, and covid patients from areas with heavy air pollution are more likely to die from the disease.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
The study analyzed how cap-and trade proposals affect households in the short term by studying the impacts by age group, region, and income, which allowed them to focus on the socio-economic groups that are the most vulnerable. They found it benefits low and high income households because allowance value offsets energy spending and flows to capital owners; however, it impacts middle-income households the most because they do not get low-income rebates or own capital stock. It is important to note that low-income households are protected under all scenarios, and actually receive a net gain. Additionally, older households also do better, and in the pessimistic scenarios, they have fewer average burdens. This study found that while the region had a negligible impact on household burden, the implementation of a cap-and-dividend approach is most significant, as well as how allowances are allocated in this system. This paper serves as important evidence that the most vulnerable population groups will be protected when policies change, and that managing the costs of a changing climate is feasible.
Toggle Commented Mar 24, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found these articles to be a really helpful connection between the general negative effects of climate change, and how they disproportionately affect real people. The articles attempted to connect the direct health effects of pollution and the indirect economic effects on global societies. Two of the studies particularly focused on how air pollution impacts already disadvantaged people - uneducated males and children with respiratory issues. It was especially worrisome to read how cognitive impacts from pollution are amplified for those who are already uneducated. Most of the population in developing countries live in places with polluted air, which is especially concerning when the cognitive impacts are considered, because this could prevent them from advancing their financial status and becoming more developed. I also thought it was really interesting that the results for the study on ambient ozone were found in metropolitan Sydney where there aren’t even any point sources of air pollution; I can’t imagine what the results would be if the study was conducted in a metropolitan area with multiple point sources such as automobile exhaust. In the article on particulate matter, the ultrafine, unregulated particles are the most dangerous and are the primary component of automobile exhaust, which is especially prevalent in places like cities and urban areas. Also, the ozone study was done in 1999 - I wonder how much the impacts have increased since then. While I do feel like the studies were somewhat able to express how worrisome and dangerous air pollution is, I just don’t think citing scientific evidence is enough anymore to changing social views on climate change. Unfortunately, most people won’t change their actions unless they see how it is directly affecting their lives or until the damage is already done.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed JOnathan Shaw's piece "Fueling Our Future" because of his more cautiously optimistic presentation. I particularly liked the idea of 'stabilization wedges' - climate actions that doe no completely solve the problem, but are temporary solutions that are better than nothing. These will be extremely helpful for stabilizing atmospheric carbon levels by 2050, and will allow us to dedicate our time and resources to developing other mitigation, sequestration, and adaptation methods. Since we do not have the current technology, resources, money, or social willingness to immediately adopt carbon-free methods of power, I think it is important that we employ these more energy-efficient methods during the transition process. They may not be the most effective options, but anything is better than nothing, and I don't believe we are in a position to be selective or picky about our mitigation efforts. For example, nuclear is a widely debated carbon-free source of energy. The world is scared of nuclear after Chernobyl, and while it definitely is not going to be the only or best solution, it presents a critical part of the puzzle. We know that nuclear can provide massive amounts of energy without releasing any carbon, and we know that in order to scale it to be a relevant contributor to energy production, thousands of more reactors will need to be built. If we are to wait a few decades for innovation to come up with the ideal solution, I fear it will be too late; until then, I believe we must work to direct funds to creating current viable energy options - such as nuclear - in order to slow our biggest enemy, inertia. A crucial part of this is recognizing that we do not have to invest our money in or choose only one energy source, but rather viewing the climate crisis as a puzzle that requires a variety of pieces. Before any change can be made, however, we must locate the proper funds for projects to solve the carbon problem - which would require only 1% of GDP aka what we spent on the Iraq war - and that begins by first getting the correct policymakers and influential people to believe that the climate crisis is real and worth investing in.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I felt like this webinar was a really nice intersection of everything we have learned in class so far, what I hear in the news, and what I am learning in my other environmental classes. Towards the end, when the speakers were discussing how low prices come with high costs and do not reflect the true cost, it reminded me of our class when we discussed the environmental production function. Rather than keeping prices low, the best way to help poor people is by raising incomes. The speakers discussed how those of us who are primarily responsible for climate change should have to pay more. Sustainable development goals can help us provide clean energy resources to developing countries at a lower cost than we are currently paying. Revenue generated by climate dividends can be used to lower costs for poorer people and raise incomes; energy costs may rise but income also rises, and the dividends are higher than extra costs generated by higher fuel prices. I think the speakers did a good job emphasizing how necessary a globally agreed upon carbon price is; putting a price on carbon would level the playing field and take advantage of what market does best; it sends price signals based on the true cost so firms can invest in more renewable fields. I think an important point they made was how little policy there is for renewable energy sources and how this limits their development. We need more policies and regulations for new alternatives technologies to allow them to scale to the level we need. When Professor Casey was discussing how the cost of building and implementing wind and solar infrastructure is actually cheaper right now on a per kWh basis than coal and oil, I was reminded of one of my recent climate change classes with Professor Greer when she said the exact same thing. In developing countries, it is actually cheaper and more realistic to implement solar energy grids, especially since many of these countries are closer to the equator with more sunlight, than to try to build a natural gas or coal-based electricity grid from scratch. The final discussion on the complexity of carbon capture and storage left my thinking for a while after the call ended. In the classes I have had with Professor Greer, we have discussed CCS at length, and always in a way that promotes their implementation and benefits. I found it really interesting when the speakers were more hesitant about the feasibility of such technologies. Some people don’t think its what we should focus on, while some think it is an absolute necessity. Alex Prather made an important distinction between technological vs nature based solutions, and their unique issues; issues of permanence with nature, and the issues of costs that come with technology.
This article highlighted the importance of economic incentives, primarily rights based ones, in helping promote sustainable management. The management style of fisheries is directly correlated with their health and their maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Effective management can not only benefit the environment and fish population numbers, but it can also improve human food security and livelihood. Proper fishery management can adequately raise biomass, lower fish mortality rates, and increase economic value. The article discussed marine protected areas (MPAs), which outline border around ciriticla portions of the ocean that restrict or prohibit fishing there. However, the article declares that protecting areas and studying data aren’t going to save fisheries; rights-based management is our best option. For the 80 million metric tons of seafood caught in the wild every year, the health and stability of ocean ecosystems is absolutely critical. Previously, I had never really thought about how hard it would be to accurately measure fishery health and assess fish numbers/populations. The article presented an interesting point that it is really difficult to gather accurate data on fish populations due to the nature of deep oceans and the movement of fish. It is also hard to produce on overall analysis of global fisheries, because there is a stark difference between those that are well managed and those that are poorly managed. People often assume that all human intervention in the environment is bad, but when food collection is inevitable, it is critical to employ sustainable, proper management practices. I think Jackson made an important point that while the article does frequently point out that the fisheries in developing countries are often the ones faring worst, it is important to look into the reasons behind this. Rather than solely blaming poor management practices, one could look into how developing countries often disproportionately feel the impacts of climate change and ecological disasters, which directly affect the health of fisheries.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
After taking one of Professor Fishers introduction courses, it was really interesting to listen to her speak on her specific interests and studies. What really stuck out to me was her approach to the 'long view' of agricultural sustainability. I think often when we discuss sustainability, it is in terms of how our present and future actions affect the environment. However, Professor Fisher discussed how we can look to evidence of historical actions, especially through archaeology, to understand how past societies have navigated times of high environmental stress. We can study both sustainable and unsustainable past agricultural practices, and the evidence shows us that it is best to have flexible, adaptable practices focused on local ecology - a limited range of foods and practices is too rigid and risky. For example, by being flexible and adaptable with their agriculture, rural Mayan farmers were able to navigate an ecological collapse. Additionally, another thing that really stuck out to me was Kim Hodge’s anecdote about the intersectionality of community, sustainability, and personal life. She discussed how sustainability can be individual, and a way to connect with your community and your heritage.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2022 on Next Webinar Monday at Jolly Green General
While this was an interesting article, it is kind of unfortunate that I didn’t feel like I was reading anything new or surprising. Across various environmental and economic classes I have ready a variety of similar articles detailing extensive ecological destruction across the globe that disproportionally affect developing countries. This article, in particular, however, raised the intriguing question of who is responsible for fixing these issues; both countries are acting in ways that benefit them the most economically. While it would be easy to point fingers at one or the other, this article effectively exposed the complexity of such environmental issues and that often the solution that is the most sustainable and environmentally friendly is often not the most profitable. Both countries are just acting in their best interest, but China was able to wield their interests more effectively due to their greater financial and political power. I found the cattle part interesting, because people are often quick to spout the negative ecological impacts of beef cattle, but in this case, a reduction in cattle size is actually indirectly related to increased deforestation; a transition from pasture to soybean cropping leads to more deforestation. I am interested to see how this situation has evolved since it was written in 2012, especially in terms of timber and land purchases. The article discussed that while China does purchase timber from Brazil, it is still able to buy most timber from other tropical countries while also possessing the forest land holdings of bankrupt sawmills. The ownership this land did not initially sour a major increase in logging activity because other countries have been satisfying their demand for tropical timber, but I have a feeling this has changed since 2012 due to the exhaustion of timber stocks elsewhere.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2022 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed the seminar and how it discussed a lot of what I learn in my environmental and economics classes in a more applicable style. The various speakers combined various topics into a really well spoken discussion that proposed a lot of interesting questions. I really appreciated the multidimensional approach to sustainability and environmental issues that not only focused on the environment, but also economics and social aspects, balancing ecological and human needs. I found Professor Humston's description of engaged environmental citizenship particularly profound, when he illustrated the dual power of individual actions and choices, and collective actions and policy. I was impressed by Julianna's company and I thought it was really interesting how she actually began developing it in high school. Because of all of her connections to the school, I wonder if it is possible for our school to replace our current compostable to go containers and cups with her company's' products.
Toggle Commented Feb 1, 2022 on Sustainability Webinar at Jolly Green General
I found both of these articles to be great examples of contingent valuation and choice modeling methods that illustrate how often people's willingness to pay is greater than the current fees they are charged. In Belize, I found the $3.75 fee charged upon exiting the country to be extremely low and I was not surprised when I read that it was raised to $20. The survey conducted on tourists demonstrated the frequency with which their WTP end higher than the actual fees, indicating the potential for fees ti be raised even more without negative feedback and the resulting higher revenue for the conservation trust. These exit fees can be a key tool in repairing and conserving coastal and marine environments without hindering the tourism industry and recreation. The choice modeling study done in Barbados illustrates how we can take advantage of tourist’s WTP for cleaner, wider beaches and employ these funds to reduce coastal erosion and beach litter. There is a strong potential for significant funds to be made from raising the prices of properties that are along beaches that are kept clean and and unaffected by erosion, which can be used to install erosion preventing barriers and support litter collection/prevention efforts. Both of these types of surveys provide critical information on how people value the environment, but I think it would be interesting to survey those who live in Belize and Barbados to see if they value environmental preservation higher. However, even if they do place a significantly higher price on the health of the land they live on, I think the tourists should still be the ones who pay the conservation fees since they are often the primary source of damage, litter, and degradation.
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really appreciated Solow's realistic approach to sustainability. I have found that when people discuss sustainability, their definitions are often too vague or impractical. I liked his presentation of sustainability as "shared well-being" between the present and the future by viewing the environment as an investment. I struggled with his description of the poverty paradox, not because I disagreed with him, but rather for his lack of providing any sort of real solution to the issue. I understand that there is no perfect answer and that somehow we must find a way to achieve distributional equity both inter- and intra-generationaly, but I don't think that we can be more concerned about the general state of a future population than the wellbeing of people alive right now. I struggled with his statement that if one were to consider and help poor people right now, this translates into an increase in current consumption, which leaves future people worse off. While I see how this could be true in some ways, I think that Quiggens provided an abundance of avenues for our current society to actually decrease overall consumption while improving the wellbeing of impoverished people. I do think that some of Quiggens' ideas were vague and I can see how the economic implementation of some could be an issue, but I think we can parallely improve sustainably by investing in our current populations and infrastructure, which will in turn benefit future generations. I particularly like Quiggens description of how some developing countries have bypassed a century of technology and actually have more sustainable practices, leapfrogging from no technology to cell phones and solar panels that do not require nonrenewable resources. I think poorer communities present a critical avenue for implementing sustainable energy use practices, simultaneously improving their wellbeing in the present while insuring future wellbeing.
Toggle Commented Jan 20, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 19, 2022