Author Archives: benhamin91

Response to Climate Change

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I absolutely agree with Ausubel that the failure of the world to mitigate climate change is due to a crisis of government and political action, rather than a limitation of science and technology. Though there is plenty of room for advances in renewable energy that would help make dealing with climate change easier, the technology that exist today is more than adequate to reduce our use of fossil fuels by a large amount, and eventually completely. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report detailing the ability of renewable energy sources to meet our energy demands. According to the report, from a technological standpoint, renewable energy can more than meet our energy demands, and by the year 2050, nearly 80 percent of our energy needs can be met with existing technologies alone. So what is the problem? Why all the doom and gloom in discussions about climate change is the solution is already available to us? The problem is that the transition will not be easy. In fact it will be extremely hard and expensive. Switching away from fossil fuel use is a painful process, and it is one that doesn’t seem to have the political support to get done. Supporting renewables would require the government to spend enormous amounts of money, as well as ignore the lobbyists of the already established energy industry, who will surely resist this change with all of their power. Ultimately I believe it will come down to the public, led by a few political members who understand the situation, to demand drastic change in our energy industry.

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Response: Blog Prompt – Social Ecology B

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This is an interesting question on the climate change topic. When I read Bookchin, I found the arguments presented fairly compelling, and I agreed with most of them. However, I am not sure if the suggested methods would be able to sway the opinions of those who are still not convinced that anthropogenic climate change exists, at least, not the ones in this generation.

                I think that all of the suggestions Bookchin makes would change our society in a way that would indeed influence more people to be more concerned with climate change; however I think the issue would be that it would not change those whose minds were already made up. These things would very certainly influence the minds of children growing up in the world of social ecology, however the problem with implementing social ecology, as it is with any social change, is that it will take time. Those with their views already made up on climate change are extremely unlikely to change their view. Climate change is an issue which desperately needs action as soon as possible, because the actions we take now have can have a much greater effect than actions we take even a few years or decades down the line. We are already locked into a certain amount of overall temperature rise and sea level increase due to the carbon that has already been emitted, the sooner we act to reduce emissions the sooner we can concentrate on dealing with the effects.

                For these reasons I do not think Social Ecology is the best approach to change the public’s viewpoint on climate change, but that is not to say that it should not be pursued.  Social Ecology has the potential to change the way many environmental problems are faced, and could prove to be very useful if it were successfully implemented.

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.

Response to Week 4, Prompt 2

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This is one of the most interesting prompts I have seen so far, because it begins to address an ethical dilemma I often think about. The issue is that of developing countries. As these countries develop their economies, and do so by exploiting their natural resources (as all of the current first world countries did) they are going to increasingly contribute to global environmental problems such as climate change.  The ethical issue arises when other countries or the U.N try to impose restrictions on how these countries develop in order to protect the environment. These other countries are merely trying to obtain the high standard of living that has been obtained elsewhere on the globe, is it ethical for those who already have achieved this high standard of living to forbid them to use the same methods other nations used in the past?

Here is a place where religion can have a big impact, the question being whether the impact will be positive or negative. Due to how open almost are religions are to interpretation, I think that it could very easily swing either way. If the members of a prominent religion within a developing nation choose to adopt or follow closely religious teachings that preach value of the environment and interconnectedness (such as those discussed in Buddhism) then the country might be encouraged to pursue a more economically sustainable development strategy. However, if the majority of a developing nation chooses to follow one interpretation of the Bible, specifically the interpretation that Man has dominion over the Earth and that it was put here for our use, than the country might develop with little or no credence paid to the environmental problems its development might cause.

My personal experience with faith and spirituality probably contributes to my thinking of it as something that is not concrete, or very open to interpretation. I do not prescribe to any religious beliefs myself, and I amazed by how often certain religious texts and traditions can be used to argue two different sides of the same issue. My motivation for being environmentally conscious does not stem from any faith-based or spiritual belief, and this probably is why I am skeptical of using religion to solve environmental crises. 

Response to Prompt 2 Environmental Democracy

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Like the majority of young citizens, and especially the majority of environmentally minded young citizens, in the 2012 election I voted for Obama. I considered voting Green Party, but I decided that in today’s political environment that it would be a wasted vote. This view may have been wrong, but that is a discussion for another time. Like much of the environmental community however, I have been frustrated and a little disappointed in the lack of a real push from the President towards environmental progress. It seemed (and this should not be surprising when discussing politicians) that Obama was much more environmentally minded during the campaign than he has been post-election. Even with these frustrations with our current president, I still find myself wary of the idea of a complete institutional makeover or something similar. In my mind the most important goal of the current environmental movement should be to achieve results as fast as possible, and working within the current political system seems the best option. What frightens me about an institutional make over is not the concept itself, I agree that our current system is not very well designed to handle environmental issues and that it has many flaws. What frightens me about an institutional makeover is how difficult it would be to achieve. The possibility of such a massive undertaking failing completely is very real, and even if it were too succeed, it would take an extremely long time. In my mind, we simply do not have the time; the environmental problems are too urgent already and are getting more urgent every day. Ignoring these problems for the amount of time it would take to achieve an institutional makeover is not the best course of action in my opinion.