Author Archives: jessicarmatthews

Prompt 2: Climate Change

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I definitely agree that failures to mitigate climate change are due to crises of government. We have proven that we have technology to at least greatly limit our carbon emissions (hybrid vehicles, limestone scrubbers, solar energy, etc.), but the government has not placed strict enough limitations on these emissions. Until limitations are in place, companies will continue to cut corners and destroy the environment. The result is our clean technology practically going to waste. As stated in the prompt, President Bush was more concerned about the economy than the future of the environment. This mindset, especially in powerful political figures, must change if there is any hope for significant environmental regulation.

I do not think these resolutions will easily fit into a dichotomy between government and technology. Again, strict regulation would greatly interfere with the economy. While greener products could be sold at a similar rate to products now to prevent an economic collapse, to truly make progress we must stop this need for growth that capitalism is founded upon. Unless this happens, it does not matter how many green products are on the shelf to be consumed. There is not an infinite supply of anything, so infinite growth is clearly out of the question. Stopping this growth would require government to put more interests into the environment than into the economy, which I cannot see happening anytime soon.

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Homo Economicus

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Maintaining our high standard of living while decreasing consumption may involve reformatting our entire economy as, like you said, ours requires constant growth. However, an increase in sustainable technology is a start. If we consume items that are more advanced and built to last rather than built to break (so we have to buy new ones), perhaps we would not need to consume so much. Still, mother culture has taught us that it is natural to want to consume. This behavior will be much more difficult to change.

Collaborative consumption could also be a step to eliminating mass consumerism because it would allow us to have “new” things without going out and buying something every week. This would still require some consumption, because new items must be introduced to the system if consumers are to be kept entertained. These new items could be made sustainably to further reduce environmental impacts.

I think Rosling’s idea of increasing consumption to increase standard of living and thus decrease population is very feasible, but decreasing consumption overall is essential if we are to live sustainably. Perhaps this decrease in consumption should be added to the demographic transition, implying that those in poverty would have to industrialize and become a mass consumerist society (as long as they are consuming “green” products) before they could decrease consumption. Rosling estimates that if this happens, we could stop population growth around 9 billion people. Technology would have to increase rapidly if the planet is to house 9 billion consumers, so I think consumerism must decrease even if it is green.

Response to Round 7, Prompt 3

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I believe that we are deeply connected with the Earth, but we have pushed this out through civilization and social constructs. Religion is much too broad to simply be “the biggest factor.” Before one could adequately answer that question, one would have to spend hours defining what religion is to oneself. I think education is a very significant tool that we can use to fight climate change. Since Environmental Science has been recognized as a science and taught in schools, more people have become aware that there is a problem. Without education, most people probably would not know that the environment is in danger, and those who know would not understand the implications (e.g. that humans are causing it and that we must take action to stop the degradation). Thus, education is definitely key when it comes to combating environmental degradation, but there are other factors that need to be considered as well. For example, in class we talked about how people who are simply trying to put shoes on their feet probably would not necessarily care if the environment is in danger. 

I believe that not only do we turn our connection to the Earth off, but some people have been conditioned to forget it entirely. Others find ways to stay in touch with it through meditation, religion, etc. It is very easy to forget our deep roots because we alienate ourselves so much from the rest of the world. As Leopold suggests, perhaps we should live as plain citizens of nature rather than its conquerors. Then maybe we will rediscover that ancient connectedness to the Earth that will never fully disappear.

Week 4, Prompt 3: Humans vs. Nature

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I think that since humans evolved from the same ancestors as every other creature on the planet, we are part of it and, thus, nature. Just because we can communicate with each other and we have the power to dominate other species does not mean we are above nature. Our innovation is a part of us, therefore it is also a part of nature. Think about other creatures who use tools and make shelters. Are beaver dams unnatural? Are bird nests? Of course not. Our innovations and creations are just as much a part of nature as any other animal’s; the only difference is that ours dominate others in a harmful way.

Animal testing is unjust regardless of how you think about it. As stated above, we are not above them. What if another species ended up on top and they used us for experiments? Most people would agree that would be ethically wrong. Animal testing is not always effective, either. While many species have similar genetic compositions, none of them are exact, so we do not really know how a product will affect a human.

I think that the Earth has the capacity to heal itself, provided we do not destroy it first. This will also take an unfathomable amount of time. For example, the half-life of Plutonium, a by-product of nuclear fission used in power plants, is 27,000 years. There is no frame of reference that would allow someone who will live for probably around 80 years to wrap his or her head around 24,000 years. Do we really want to condemn our planet for thousands of years? Does it matter whether or not the Earth can heal itself after this point?

Responding to Prompt 2 (Malthus)

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I think we have surpassed our carrying capacity by far. Although we continue to survive with over 7 billion people on this planet, it is only due to impermanent advances in technology. While they work for now, there is no guarantee that they will work 10, 20, even 100 years from now. According to the law of conservation of matter, matter cannot be created or destroyed; this tells us that there is a finite amount of resources. While we have the technology to expand the little we have, we will never have the technology to spontaneously produce resources. In addition, as implied before, technology is unstable. The only way to ensure our survival is to live sustainably, or within the means of the Earth, without unnatural aid. As for the question of our extinction, I do not believe humans will be extinct 100 years from now. There may be a crash in population if our technology fails us, but I believe even in the worst-case scenario some humans will survive. For example, say our population reaches about 10 billion by 2050 (which some sources predict). Currently, with over 7 billion people, we have billions in third world countries who are starving to death. How will that number increase as our population increases? If the planet cannot sustain what we have now, how do we expect it to sustain 3 billion more?! However, let’s assume the planet is somehow sustaining 10 billion humans. CO2 levels have risen, raising global temperatures and increasing strength of natural disasters. Tsunamis, earthquakes, sinkholes, and rising sea levels inundate the world in 2050. The few humans left will inhabit the small remaining land above sea level. They will, in my opinion, adapt to the situation, outliving extinction. Of course, even in my idea of the worst-case scenario, this is less than ideal! We need to stop population growth now before it is too late, if it isn’t already. Think about this: is it ethical to throw our scraps to a population that cannot sustain itself? Would it be more ethical to leave them to stay at their carrying capacity? Or should we continue to give our limited amounts of food to those who will simply need more and more? What happens when we run out?

Brief sources: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45165#.UiDW8WSDTFY http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/08/21/un-population-projection-map/2682459/