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Clara Ortwein
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After reading Tuesday's readings and the previous articles about the health implications of pollution, even low levels, these articles struck me with more force. I had read about how minority areas, in particular black populations, have seen more deaths due to COVID than white populations, but I hadn't considered how these two things could be connected. Knowing this is upsetting enough, but to read about the EPA's movement away from regulation during COVID made it even worse. I realize that there are not enough studies to prove that these phenomena are linked, but it reminds me of our conversations of the precautionary principle. Even if it is not complete able to be proven at this moment, there seems to be a suggestion that it is possible, and if so, wouldn't we want to be as careful as possible to protect these lives, which are already affected adversely by the pollution they face? The statistics in particular from Louisiana struck me, with 70% of COVID deaths being African Americans, who only make up 32% of the overall population. That is simply a shocking statistic. I hope that more research will be done into this.
Toggle Commented Mar 31, 2022 on Last Post for the Semester at Jolly Green General
For me, the most interesting part of this paper was the conclusion and discussion on who would ultimately be most affected by these policies. In studying Environmental Studies, the inflated effects burdening the poor are often discussed. I am not familiar with much policy regulating this type of thing, but with taxes and other regulations I have always been concerned with regressive effects. I was pleased to read about both the carbon tax system in BC and now these bills which take this into account, also supporting the elderly. In fact, I was surprised to read that in some predictions households may actually be better off after this policy than before, particularly elderly people with low incomes. I was interested by the conclusion that high income will not generally be affected due to their more frequent ownership of firms, which will benefit from the allowances distributed. The fact that the middle class will have to bare most of the effects surprised me, as I would've thought it would be manipulated in a way to prevent that. I understand that the rebate programs often cut them out early in the timeline, but I wonder if there is any solution to this, or if it just makes more sense to allow this phenomenon to happen. It seemed at the end of the paper that they had concluded that these effects do not "pose an insurmountable challenge" to their design of policy, but in the case of the pessimistic outcome, how much support will they be able to maintain from the middle class? I could certainly imagine pushback from this. Overall, however, I thought this was an exciting conclusion and I appreciate the current concern with creating policy that protects the most vulnerable households.
Toggle Commented Mar 23, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I've always heard about air pollution in correlation with asthma, but I've never really taken the time to understand what different pollutants do and where they come from. I was interested in the article about particulate matter specifically because of the lack of regulation of ultrafine particles, which come from fossil fuels. These seemed to have a lengthy list of potential health effects, and it seems irresponsible to have no regulation on many of them. It was interesting to read more about the science behind what they do in the lungs, and this made me feel even more sure that regulations are necessary, particularly when there are many at risk groups who are more affected than others. Quality air seems like a natural right, it seems dystopian to think of approaching a time when it is no longer a given. This makes me think of what we discussed in class about how restricting one kind of air pollutant leads to others being restricted. To tie in with the other papers, PM is not the only dangerous pollutant, so incorporating the extra benefit that derives from one restriction would be efficient in determining the whether or not to impose them.
Toggle Commented Mar 17, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found the Harvard article to be particularly interesting because of the commentary on carbon sequestration. I have learned in previous courses about carbon sequestration methods and have placed a lot of hope in their future success. Reading this article, however, brought back the sense of hesitancy that always creeps in after first learning about climate solutions. What worried me most was the goal that Daniel Shrag set to limit atmospheric concentration of CO2 to 550 ppm, which is a high number. Even this would require such a high level of intervention, and yet it will be "disastrous." Even as an Environmental Studies major, I read this and I wonder what the point of trying is if we can't set a goal below that. But then again, I realize it doesn't do much good to set a completely unattainable goal. In this energy transition, the description about coal cleaning carbon sequestration technology sounded very promising to me, I wonder what the technology that can take carbon out of the atmosphere could contribute to this transition. There wasn't much mention of this being applied, and I don't know how advanced this technology is, but this seems like a crucial piece of the puzzle, considering how unlikely it seems that many of these coal gassification plants will be built widespread globally in the near future. But then the question is, who will invest in these technologies to account for global carbon emission? With the lack of stringent carbon controls in so many countries, particularly the US, I feel unoptimistic.
Toggle Commented Mar 9, 2022 on Papers for Thursday at Jolly Green General
In reading this paper, I was particularly interested in the part about how climate change will complicate these management systems. As fish populations migrate poleward, the people around the tropics who rely on fish to eat will obviously be greatly affected, and this paper made me feel pretty hopeless about this reality. Since this is on a global scale, the externalities of any greenhouse gas emitting processes are disproportionately going to negatively effect them, whereas polar regions will see increases in activity. I wonder how it would be possible to account for this migration with these management systems, and if there could ultimately be some sort of benefit that comes back to the regions closer to the tropics if they adhere to regulations and do not harvest greedily. For example, while one population has the greatest activity, a larger governing body between countries will invest in RBFM/MPA there. If they do not overharvest, then as the fish further poleward, the next countries will be able to benefit. Maybe there could be some sort of return as incentive to the previous adherent countries that have now lost the population. This way, economies that relied more on fish can be supported in their transition, and there will be less of an incentive to overharvest while they are still there. I was also interested in the idea of technology as a way to track fishing activity with less costs. It seems to me that this would be the biggest problem to accurately assessing fisheries and marine areas, it is difficult for me to imagine how this could be accomplished. It reminds me of the difficult of tracking deforestation in the Amazon, but being able to get an accurate understanding would no doubt increase the quality of RBFM plans and other complements such as technology and MPAs.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2022 on Paper for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I was interested to read about this connection between Brazil and China because it illustrates on an international level the power that larger forces and demands can have in influencing policy decisions. In the same way that many politicians are swayed by big oil companies, tourism, or other large contributors to national economy, China is creating an environment in which it is very difficult for policy to be created to protect the environment. This reminds me of conversations in class about how it must become known that the damages outweigh this monetary benefit. While it may seem that creating this relationship with China is stabilizing their economy, in fact it is leading them down a path where the exact opposite will occur. One thing that really confused me in this article was that it seemed that different studies concluded differing things about how soy planting, cow pastures, and past demand all affect deforestation rates. How can governments or policy makers make definitive decisions when they are receiving different feedback on these factors? I realize there are still important discussions occurring in these conclusions, but reading them just led me to confusion.
Toggle Commented Feb 3, 2022 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed reading these two papers because it gave me a much clearer idea of what these two concepts are and how they are used. The main thing I wondered after reading this is how they can be used together. At the end of the choice experiment paper, one of the final conclusions was that tourists (as people who reap the benefits of environmental quality in Barbados) should pay in part for their maintenance. Although WTP was determined based on what was most important to the tourists, does this calculation translate to the amount of taxes/fees that would then be placed on the tourists? Or would this come from studies like the contingent valuation study, which seemed to evaluate more closely how these kinds of fees would affect tourism. Another thing of interest to me was that the increase in exit fees in Belize did not come with a decrease in tourist levels, but actually an increase occurred. Of course, I have no idea what caused this growth, but I wonder if they were able to implement that revenue so quickly that it could have improved quality enough to actually affect number of visitors. If so, it would be interesting to know if the factors they addressed aligned with the findings of consumer preferences found in the choice experiment study.
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I found the article on sustainability from Solow to be particularly interesting because of its unique definition of what sustainability is. As someone who has been most exposed to the buzzword of sustainability from the biology/sciences, the idea of permitting (and encouraging in some cases) the exhaustive use of resources is not what I have typically been taught. The sentiment that if there is a substitute for a resource then it is therefore acceptable to exhaust it certainly illustrates a rift that can occur between traditional conservation and economics. Biological perspectives often encourage the unrealistic standard of having untouched, pristine land and minimal use of resources, which I myself have never felt optimistic about, particularly with our growing population. Another interesting point that I had not expressly considered is the hypocrisy that exists of environmentalists who are unconcerned with the wellbeing of those in poverty today, but rather simply those in the future. Solow stated at one point that addressing future impoverished people is an investment, but addressing it today requires increased consumption (which goes against sustainability)—I wonder what exactly this means. Is current consumption not a kind of investment into the future as well? Is there not a way to structure the necessary increase in consumption in order to create infrastructures that will help to guide us towards distributional equity in the future (cheaper renewable energy, transportation innovation, etc)?
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2022 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Jan 12, 2022