Environment Blog 2

Part One: Field Day Assignment

Wild Edibles

 

I’ve never been much of an outdoors person and the same can be said about my family, but that just makes every single experience that I spend in the nature that much more magical. In the summer of 2015, my family visited our relatives in Vancouver for a few weeks and during our time visiting all the great locations that the city and surrounding area had to offer, the one that stuck with me the most was a hiking trip.

It was an easy-medium difficulty hiking trail that was right next to a lake with a gorgeous beach. It wasn’t a long hike and it was meant mostly for recreation and sight seeing, rather than being a challenge. Although I can’t remember the name of the trial or the beach, I do know that it was in Norther Vancouver and I did take some amazing pictures of the beach area to commemorate my visit.

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The understandably empty beach due to the chilly weather

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Great kayaking location

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Lastly, my favourite picture of this location. Though it has been altered to increase the color saturation.

While walking through the trail, the massive old growth forest and the wild bushes almost had me convinced that I’d travelled back in time, away from all the noise of civilization. During the hike, while I was busy being awed by the massive trees, my cousin was constantly picking up some berries.

These berries looked similar to raspberries, but my cousin didn’t call them raspberries so after some research I’m fairly certain that these berries were salmonberries1. These berries are all over the west coast of North America, ranging from Alaska all the way to California2.

By the time our hike was over, we had mostly eaten all the berries. Even the ripe red-looking ones were surprisingly sour, but since they were fresh, no one seemed to mind. Apparently, these berries are ill suited to be used in other recipes, but some that were left over were later combined with some other fruits and made into a makeshift food salad that was consumed while enjoying our lunch.

The fruit salad that we made included, fresh strawberries, bananas, melons, and of course the salmonberries. Some salt and pepper were added for seasoning and it turned out okay-ish. I wouldn’t say I liked the salad very much personally, but everyone else seems to like it just fine so it must have been better than what I made it out to be.

Part Two: Read and Respond

Climate change is a huge concern that has forced the world to move towards innovating low carbon infrastructure. As the race for clean energy ramps up, countries are scrambling to maintain their lead in this race. Being in the lead for this shift to low carbon infrastructure can provide immense benefits for the economy, but it also poses a similarly large risk for those that fail to keep up. And make no mistake, the world will move towards clean energy because no economy can be stable or prosperous with the far-reaching consequences of climate change3.

This is a concern amongst the traditional industries such as oil and natural gas, mining and manufacturing as well as all those working in these sectors. This is doubly concerning for Canada our country is heavily reliant on these industries to prop up our economy.

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A refinery

One of the concerns that Canada faces is that we might not be able to shift the current jobs to clean energy as fast as other countries because one of our economic leaders in industries is exporting of oil and bitumen. According to Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil and gas industry currently employs 500,000 workers directly or indirectly4, and it is expected to rise.

As the world moves towards clean energy, the industries related to oil and gas will naturally shrink due to the lower demands, but if Canada fails to create more jobs in either clean energy or otherwise, the majority of these 500,000 workers will suffer from the loss of their jobs.

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Clean Energy

This leads to another problem, in which Canada’s over-reliance on its oil and gas industry might stop it from taking the lead in the race for clean energy production. The increasing profit margins in clean energy are crucially linked with great innovations across the world as every country wants to benefit from being the first to develop these technologies5. Whichever country can successfully develop these technologies can then reap the benefit of distributing it the rest of the world. However, if Canada fails to recognize the significance of this, then we will be the ones that will be forced to buy these technologies from other countries.

The ability to produce our tech is directly linked to another problem that Canada will face; Manufacturing. According to the 2016 data from Statistics Canada, the manufacturing industry employs 1,481,973 workers6. This is a significant portion of the Canadian workforce, and if we look at the Stats Canada data, this industry already seems to be shrinking on a year to year basis. If Canada is forced import the technologies, this industry will shrink faster and all the jobs lost will be hard to replace. This also lowers Canada’s economic projection in the world when it’s us that rely on them to supply us the technologies we need.

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Northern communities are the hardest hit by Climate Change

Another impact that most Canadians might not even think about is the problems that our northern communities might face. In the face of rising temperatures, the Arctic ice is melting, and this is causing great damage to the species that rely heavily on this ice. Our northern communities’ livelihood is highly dependant on these species, and these species were to become extinct, the entirety of northern Canada’s communities might have to relocate from the land that they have lived on for generations.

However, not everything is doom and gloom. If we look at the flip side of the coin, Canada is also in a prime position to be able to gain great opportunities from the rapidly changing economic landscape. One of these opportunities is for the smaller companies focused on clean energy to emerge onto the wider arena. The clean energy and low carbon industries are primed to be worth almost $2 trillion by 20207. This will allow the economy to diversify and lower its reliance on the fossil fuel industries.

This opportunity will have another benefit, that of shifting jobs that are lost from other industries. When these new companies are building new infrastructures or producing new technologies, they no doubt will need to hire people, and what better than to fill the gap that will be left behind from the shrinking of fossil fuel industries.

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Vehicles in Cities release large amounts of emissions

Another opportunity that Canada can take advantage of is to completely re-haul its transportation industry. Currently, the transportation industry accounts for 24% of the total national emissions8. If we take this opportunity to make our public transport completely electric, then the potential reduction in GHG emissions would be immense. We might even be able to half the GHG emissions if we take an aggressive stance.

Climate change is a fact, and it will not wait for anyone to be ready for it. It will cause massive damages to both our environment and our economy that relies on it. If Canada does not take the opportunities that will be presented, then the collapse of our environment will be solely ours to blame. Canada might not be a big country like China or India. However, we still play a pivotal role in being the leaders in shifting to cleaner energy and infrastructures.

Part Three: Action

Part A

Most of the products that I managed to match up didn’t contain much of any harmful substances, but a lot of them had mild allergens. Such as the Dove beauty bar, Arm & Hammer fluoride toothpaste and Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel. All of these products are in the moderate zone for risk, and mainly included allergens and immunotoxicity. However, the Dove beauty bar and Fruit of Earth Aloe Vera Gel stood out for their chemicals are rated 7-8 in immunotoxicity, which is a high hazard classification.

I was not expecting these products to contain such high hazard chemicals because of how they are marketed as “natural” or “for sensitive skin.” Maybe the more surprising thing is that I’ve not noticed any personal effects for using these products, but that doesn’t mean I will not in the future. It also raises a question of whether all the companies lie about how good their products are.

Part B

Analysis of all the items bought over a one week period.

Analysis of all the items bought over a one week period.

  1. Frozen Food: BAD    Value: $14

>Processed food, reduced nutritional values and doesn’t contribute towards local economy as it imported from outside.

  1. Fresh Organic Fruits and vegetables: GOOD    Value: $25

>Nutritionally healthy food. Supports farms that use Organic standards to grow crops.

  1. IPad screen protector & cover: GOOD Value: $35

>Supports smaller companies and increases competition in the market and makes standards higher.

  1. Milk: GOOD Value: $8

>Essential food and supports Canadian dairy farmers.

  1. Junk Food (Chips, Soda etc): UGLY Value: $7

>Bad for your health and it’s all imported, so doesn’t support local market either.

  1. Sushi: GOOD Value: $12

>Supports local restaurants and is also good for your health if consumed in moderation.

GOOD: $80 BAD: $14 UGLY: $7

After analyzing my shopping list for the week, I think I’m satisfied with the overall results as the GOOD category heavily outweighs the other two. The other two categories could be reduced further, but that would lead me to live a very disciplined life.

Part C

E-waste in my household is often forgotten as it is a very rare occurrence when we have to dispose of it. As far as I know, the only real E-waste that gets generated in the household currently are empty batteries. These are non-rechargeable batteries that usually get thrown out with the trash, and according to Duracell, their non-rechargeable batteries only include common metals such as zinc, steel and manganese and can be disposed along with the household trash9.

As for the bigger electronic products, they tend to come with warranties, and whenever we have had one fail on us, we just return the old one and replace it with a new one. Even our old TVs were refitted in the basement and the bedrooms, so we didn’t have to dispose of them. However, if a time comes where we have to dispose of these bigger electronics, then the best course of action would be to dispose of them at the nearest recycling centres that process metals and electronics.

Since the disposal of electronics isn’t such a big concern in the household, I don’t think it’ll affect the purchasing habits when it comes to electronics. But, that doesn’t mean that we can be complacent. Knowing how to dispose of electronics vs actually disposing it properly is a huge difference, and it is a commitment one makes to take responsibility towards the environment.

Part Four: In Class Blog Questions

Zoos

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A tiger in a Zoo

Part A

In a world where increasing numbers of species are going extinct by the day, zoos need to play an integral role in conserving and educating people about these species.

Zoos should extract highly vulnerable species that are no longer able to survive in their habitats and place them in suitable enclosures where the species can safely reproduce in re-populate.

This will allow the population of the species to recover and at the same time, researchers will be able to study these species to find out information that would benefit not only these species, but all of humanity. Once the population of the species has recovered, they can be rehabilitated and re-introduced to their natural wild habitat.

During this process, zoos can also help educate people on these particular species and the hardships that they face. This creates a type of bond that makes people care and empathize with the species. This would also improve the chances of whatever led to the collapse of their population can be avoided by learning from our mistakes.

Part B

Keeping animals in the zoo is ethical depending on the situation and has nothing to do with the size or species of the animal. As long as the animals in the zoos are treated properly and taken care of the best of the ability, it should be perfectly ethical to keep animals in the zoo.

Each species has their suitable environment, and if the zoo can create specialized environments for each species, and properly take care of these animals, then they can meet the five welfare freedoms set by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council.

The modern zoos that are accredited and follow the four cornerstones of conservation, education, research and recreation, will also contribute more to the environment than not having the animal in the zoo at all. If the species requires special attention due to its endangered status, then it would be far more unethical not to intervene and let the species die off. If we put them in a position where they are struggling to survive, we should be the ones to take responsibility to help them.

Part C

Zoos are a place that individuals and families visit to experience something new and spend some time together. Due to similar reasons, I also find visiting zoos fun. My every visit fills me with a certain amount of excitement and wonder. This sense of anticipation is probably caused due to my disconnect with nature, and every visit helps me establish that little bit of link with nature.

Food system

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Industrial Farms raise animals in high density for higher profits

Part A

Our current food system is based heavily on the industrialization philosophy, where food is produced in massive corporate farms. The food is heavily processed, packaged and finally delivered to the wider market, where consumers can purchase almost anything they can imagine.

One of the things that I like about this system is that it is cheap. The current food system is focused on mass production and getting the product out to the market quickly and efficiently. This can create a lot of problems, but compared to the traditional methods of farming, it cost of production is only a fraction of the cost of traditional farming, and the end product is so cheap that anybody can afford to buy it.

If we were to make a comparison, someone that works on a small farm can only grow a small number of animals compared to large corporate farms with a high density of animals10. The smaller farm takes better care of their animals and overall devotes more resources to raise them. This ultimately leads to a high cost of end product. If the chicken prices doubled or tripled, then everyone would think twice before buying it, let alone some of the people that won’t even be able to afford it at all.

Part B

The one thing that I dislike about this system is the questionable ethics employed by the agricultural industry to raise the animals. On the industrial farms, high density of animals are being processed every day, and their priority is to make a profit, not take care of the animals. This inevitably causes them to cut corners with their infrastructure and use a lot of questionable means.

These animals are being raised in horrendous environments, where sometimes they never even get to experience sunlight for their entire life before they are slaughtered. These animals are fed growth hormones, antibiotics and fattened up with grains11 12 to be quickly slaughtered and delivered to the market. For the food industry, their well being is never part of the equation.

Part C

The high-density farming methods ignore the real needs of the animals being raised on the farms. Instead, they are stuffed with grains and fed growth hormones to accelerate their growth. This raises a lot of ethical questions about animal suffering and welfare.

In the process of running these high-density farms, the agricultural industry also releases tons of pollution and GHG emissions. In fact, the agricultural sector accounts for almost as much emissions as the electricity sector13. The focus of the industry is to maximize profits, and the environmental issues are put on the back burner.

Additionally, the industry heavily processes the food to stop it from spoiling or going bad during the long time it spends in transportation, but this causes the food to lose its nutritional values14 that would have otherwise been preserved if they were sold fresh. Additives such as sodium are also added to keep the products fresh for longer periods, but excess sodium is known to cause huge health problems, including hypertension.

However, in the end, the industry managed to accomplish what they had set out to do; Keep the prices low. It can be debated whether giving everyone the access to cheaper and more variety food vs access to healthier food which may not be affordable for everyone.

The industry has clearly chosen to prefer the former.

Oceans

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A whale breaking through the water surface

Part A

With the current trend of affluenza, one of my primary concern with the oceans is the accumulation of the plastic particulates in the ocean systems.

In our current society, the demand for plastic is extremely high due to its lightweight, sturdiness and versatility. From plastic bags to chairs and tables, plastic is present almost everywhere, and it is there to stay for the foreseeable future.

However, the problem with plastic is that, while useful, it is very hard to dispose of properly. Plastics tend not to decompose, so burying it underground is not the right solution. Burning it is an even bigger problem as plastics release highly toxic fumes and gases upon burning15. So, traditionally we tended to dump them in oceans or rivers and just hope that they will be carried away. However, this exact thinking has lead to building up of one of the biggest plastic and trash dumps in the world. This accumulation of trash and plastic is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it is growing so fast that soon it’ll be visible from space, much like the Great Wall16.

Dumping of plastics into the ocean has led to the dispersal of the plastic particulates into the oceanic food chain. The aquatic creatures take up these plastic particulates and accumulate them over time. Sometimes it simply just causes them to die, but other times they are eaten by creatures higher on the food chain which causes the particulates to magnify as it travels up the food chain. These oceanic creatures are later harvested by us for our consumption, and ultimately causing these plastics to come back to us in the worst possible form. Any plastic we throw out into the ocean will come back to us; it’s just a matter of when.

CBC coverage on increasing garbage in the Oceans

Part B

As an individual, it is very hard to make an impact on our usage overall usage of plastics. However, change starts from somewhere, and one of the things I plan on doing is to reduce my reliance on plastics in my daily life.

One way to make a change is to stop using plastic bags to carry our groceries and other products we purchase from the stores. Instead, opting to use the reusable bags would drastically reduce the amount of plastic bags.

Another change I have made is to make sure all recyclable plastic is actually recycled and not mistakenly thrown in the garbage by mistake or by accident. This means educating the household members about the consequences and the benefits of recycling the plastics.

One last thing that I did to make a change it to avoid any personal care products contain any trace of plastic microbeads or other uses of plastics and completely avoid them.

Sources:

All images used in this blog are royalty free images taken from pexels.com

1.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/salmonberries-huckleberries-and-other-wild-b-c-treats-1.2695154

2.  http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Rubus+spectabilis

3.  https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/its-not-the-environment-versus-the-economy/article27727251/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

4.  http://www.capp.ca/canadian-oil-and-natural-gas/canadian-economic-contribution

5.  https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/its-not-the-environment-versus-the-economy/article27727251/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/its-not-the-environment-versus-the-economy/article27727251/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

6.  https://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/labr71e-eng.htm

7.  https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/its-not-the-environment-versus-the-economy/article27727251/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

8.  https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions/canadian-economic-sector.html

9.  https://www.duracell.com/en-us/technology/battery-care-use-and-disposal/

10.  http://www.beyondfactoryfarming.org/get-informed/industrial-vs-family-farms-comparison

11.  http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/what-does-your-meat-eat-5-scary-things-farm-animals-are-fed/

12.  http://www.sustainabletable.org/260/animal-feed

13.  https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions/canadian-economic-sector.html

14.  http://nutritiondata.self.com/topics/processing

15.  http://plasticisrubbish.com/2008/06/02/dioxins-why-you-dont-want-to-be-burning-plastic/

16.  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/04/great-pacific-garbage-patch-ocean-plastic-trash

 

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