Monthly Archives: October 2013

Response to Prompt 1 Round 8: Feminism and overpopulation

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In my opinion, raising the social status of women leads to lower birth rates because it gives women options for their life.  In general the areas with the highest birth rates are also the poorest and where education for women is suppressed. Due to the lack of other opportunities, women are essentially boxed into the role of a wife, mother, caregiver, and homemaker. They have no opportunity to become educated and secure a job to provide for themselves, so often the only option is to follow the path laid out for them by a patriarchal society. A society that dictates that their main or only role is to produce children and keep house. Education opens doors for women, allowing them to have a future of their own choosing. Education provides opportunities for them to do what they want, even if it’s not creating children or even if it is creating children.

Policies like China are almost automatically rejected by most people. I oppose China’s policy because it is a direct infringement on my basic human rights to have such a personal decision mandated by the government or anyone except me.  The positive side of that kind of regulation is the acknowledgement that the human race has an overpopulation problem and it attempts to do something to solve it. However, it is not a viable solution for a couple of reasons. The most important one is that it completely infringes on women’s rights. It is no one’s place to tell a woman what to do with her body or to tell anyone what to do with their body. The argument could be made that because the issue of reproduction involves the well being of society, the government has the right to step in. However, there are certain freedoms and decisions that cannot be made for someone else. It is better to provide the tools and incentives for a person to make a certain choice. An additionl reason is that our society is constantly relaying the message that we are only complete if we are in a relationship and in turn, a relationship is only meaningful if you have a child. Movies, television, and music all harp on the notion of being a part of a relationship to complete you as a person. In turn, if you are in a relationship, particularly if you are married, and not having children, people think something is wrong. Even having only a single child invites criticism. It is silly to think the government, even if it wasn’t infringing on personal privacy, would be able to successfully combat the pressures of society.

In my opinion, lower birth rates are caused by increased equality between the sexes. A higher standard of living can encourage some people to have as many kids as they can, whether for religious or other reasons, if they know that they live in a country that will provide the resources to care for them. The Duggars are an example.

Why Nuclear Power is Not the Answer

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While nuclear energy promises virtually endless supplies of energy, while producing a fraction of the greenhouse gases compared to coal or oil, it cannot be considered a sustainable energy source until we discover a reasonable way to deal with toxic, nuclear waste. In a growing world, energy demands will continue to increase while fossil fuels dwindle to nothing. If we turn to nuclear energy as our primary energy source, we will have way more nuclear waste than we know what to do with. Inevitably, this waste will have to be stored somewhere, until it is no longer harmfully radioactive (a process that can take generations). Assuming that we are unable to develop technology within the next 50-100 years that can deactivate the radioactive properties of the waste in an efficient manner, we are left with the decision of who gets to bear the burden of toxic waste. However, America has clearly expressed a strong sentiment of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard). In this scenario, a Cost-Benefit Analysis could work ONLY if all of the true environmental and health costs are internalized. However, if these costs are internalized, nuclear power would likely be too expensive to be feasible. In the end, until we develop better disposal technologies, nuclear energy is not a sustainable, ethical, or economical answer to our energy demands.

Response to Prompt 1

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The disconnect that exists between humans and the environment cannot be simply placed on our increased reliance on technology, and we have to keep in mind that being “economically efficient” and “environmentally friendly” at the same time is not applicable with 7 billion people on the earth. Humans have cheated nature ever since agriculture was developed more than 10,000 years ago. It’s just until the last couple of centuries, there hasn’t been nearly as many human beings to cause widespread changes that we’re seeing.

 

Organic farming in the big picture is just slightly less harmful than commercial farming. The main benefits include better soil conservation and less fertilizer and pesticide runoff into the water supply. Any concerns about cancer for inorganic growers can be circumvented by washing and peeling your food. Studies have also shown that organic foods aren’t necessarily any better tasting or more nutritious than their inorganic counterparts. Just go to your local grocery store and get both the regular bananas and the organic bananas. Take the labels off, and the only difference between the two is the price tag.

Response: Nuclear Waste Disposal and the Yucca Mountain Project

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This is a really interesting topic to me, and something that I am planning of writing my paper on. Many environmental scientists have actually backed nuclear power recently, believing it to be necessary to replace coal and oil while we transition to more renewable energy sources.  When I try to form my own opinion on whether or not I believe nuclear to be a good option for our future, it is usually the issue of waste that gives me the most trouble.

On the topic of sustainability, I usually look at nuclear power compared to coal or natural gas or some other form of electricity generation. When looked at like this, nuclear clearly seems the better option, being much cleaner than coal, and even safer, as stated in this article by NASA. However the waste produced by nuclear reactors, while not immediately damaging to the environment, has the potential to harm greatly if is not contained properly. Also, because these wastes will remain harmful for so very long the issue of long term storage comes into play as we currently do not have an easy way of disposing of them.

Because the responsibility of storing these wastes will span multiple generations, this makes cost-benefit analysis difficult, as a large part of the cost will not have to be paid by the generation that reaps the benefits of nuclear power. However, my current opinion is that the benefits of nuclear power do outweigh the costs, even factoring in the long term waste storage. The harm caused to the environment by its alternatives, specifically coal fired power plants is immense, and if we could sooner get these plants offline it would be very beneficial.  Disposing of the waste should be done in the most environmentally safe way as possible, though this might cost more than other methods of disposal, in the long term it makes the most sense. The fact technology could develop a way to make these wastes less harmful in the future is a hope, but it is not guaranteed.

Week 7, Prompt 1: Buddhism

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     I certainly think that the advent of industrialization and technological innovation has lessened the influence of eastern religions that emphasize affinity with nature. Because economic growth in capitalist societies has led to environmental degradation and exploitation for the purpose of consumption, nature’s value has been inherently lessened. Buddhism’s emphasis on the development of empathy with the natural environment is threatened when a society like modern-day Japan places value on industrialism rather than religious and personal growth. Thus, it seems as though the tenets of Buddhism may be becoming less practical in today’s technological society.

     I don’t necessarily think an economic growth mindset is the primary reason why individuals engage in activities that do not go hand-in-hand with environmental health. Rather, I think the mindset that greater consumption=greater happiness is the issue. If people change their worldview into a more simplistic one a’ la Thoreau and focus namely on subsistence needs, there is a much greater chance for appreciating the environment and considering oneself to be a member of a larger biotic community.

Week 7 Connecting Response

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I believe that humans, along with any other species, have a connection with the environment. How deep the connection is varies from person to person and is influenced by how that individual is raised. The way a person is raised affects his or her connection with the environment, whether it is through religion, or through the principles his or her parents instilled. For many people, however, these two things are one in the same. The majority of people on this planet are influenced by religion, which is why I think it is the biggest factor. No matter which religion, it still influences people and their ethics, which is then seen when people deal with their surroundings. However, I don’t believe that just because a person is religious, he or she will have a deep connection with the earth. I think it depends on how the religion was used to teach them about the environment, like the Buddhist did. Using religion as a way to educate people on environmental issues is a step in the right direction. Since so many people are tied to religion, they might have a greater chance to pay attention to environmental issues if it is paired with a religious idea or concept.

No matter what religion a person follows or how religious that person may be, it is hard to tell how he or she will interact with the environment. There are many people who aren’t religious that still respect the environment. What is there to say about those people? Speaking from personal experience, I was raised based on my parent’s values, not a religious text, and I still enjoy and respect the environment. Religion based or not, environmental ethics should still be integrated into society in a way that has the best chance of reaching and affecting the most people.

Week 7, Prompt 2: Permaculture Joe

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I truly enjoyed listening to Joe speak because he wasn’t simply a professor passing on his interpretation of what permaculture was to us. Instead, he was an individual certified in permaculture who had an immense amount of passion and respect for this ecological design system that he chose to live his life by it. We generally look at different theories and ideas through the ethical standpoints that they present to us, however, Joe delivered an insightful overview of what permaculture was from an ethical standpoint as well as a personal one. 

I personally feel like the environmental ethic that best describes Joe would be the idea that every thing is interconnected with everything else in the environment, as well as within our own lives. Joe claimed the main three principles of permaculture are earth care, people care, and fair share. This represents the correlation between plants, animals, and humans; as well as how balance among them all is necessary. Another important point that Joe brought up was how we should work with nature, rather than going against it. Joe lives by observing nature and replicating it, while also cooperating with those beings (human or non human) around him rather than competing against them.

I was born and raised as a hunter and fisher, while my family also had a large garden that we planted seasonally with a variety of different vegetables and fruits. I understand and appreciate the lifestyle that Joe lives for the reason that it reflects a part of mine to an extent. Living off the land, within your means, in a community brings about a sense of pride and places you at an equal level to the land because of the appreciation you have for it. Joe mostly reminded me of Ed McGaa in his essay We Are All Related for the reason that he places himself within the natural system, while still valuing it for its resources without diminishing them.

Joe did confuse some of the technical definitions that we correlate with environmental ethics such as intrinsic and instrumental value; however, he never claimed to be an ethics professor. He is living a life based on sustainability and appreciation for the things around him, so who are we to criticize him? If more individuals appreciated nature and relied on themselves rather than the grocery store down the road our planet would be a much cleaner place.