Global Engagement

One aspect of sustainability and our global impact I focused on and have been thinking about throughout this class is the importance of education. I believe that so many of our goals to reduce waste, increase economic sustainability, etc., are realistic, but only after we get more people involved. I think that one reason many people do not think about or want to acknowledge their global carbon footprint, for example, is because it seems very difficult to change effectively. However, if everyone were educated on small things, such as what types of plastics are recyclable and which are not, for example, a big difference can be made. I believe that most people would be more willing to make positive changes if they were more aware of the great impact those changes could make. One example could be if someone is renovating their house and considering which toilet/ faucet/ shower head to buy. If they are informed about how efficient flushing greatly impacts our water footprint, they might be more willing to buy a toilet that uses less water per flush. If this water-saving toilet uses 2 gallons per flush and a not-as-efficient one uses 6 gallons per flush, even for a household of one person that saves around 24 gallons of water a day. I think many fo the goals outlined on the 17-goal list will become more feasible once we get everyone on the same page about how we can easily change our individual impacts on the world.

Green Fee proposal idea

I think a very feasible and impactful change Union College can make to increase our sustainability is to increase the amount of compost collection sites and by providing more recycling bins. Currently, there are only compost bins in the dining halls. However, students and faculty eat and use compostable items all around campus everyday. I think that the college community would use more composting bins if there were more available, for example, in the library and in academic buildings such as Karp or Olin. Often times we throw things in the landfill garbage bins simply because there are no other bins available. By making composting and recycling more accessible, we could cut down our waste and become a more sustainable campus.

Tidal energy

Tidal energy is a type of hydropower that depends on the kinetic energy in the tides to create energy, mostly for electricity. It works by taking advantage of the rising and falling of the tides. During high tide, the rising water spins turbines and as the tide goes out the turbines spin again and collect the kinetic energy from the water. Currently, the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station in South Korea is the largest tidal power installation. The Sihwa plant has a total power output capacity of 245 MW. Because collecting tidal energy depends on the gravitational pull between the earth and moon, it is a renewable energy and will not run out.

Tidal energy, however, has many downfalls. The equipment is very expensive initially, although it can be installed on already-present buildings in the water such as bridges. Another downside is its possible negative affect on marine life. Fish and animals may get stuck in the turbines, or they could also be affected by the noise generated by the turbines, if they depend on echo-location. However, this does not affect the entire water supply, just in the proximity of the equipment.

Although tidal energy is not going to be our primary energy source anytime soon, technological advances may make the economical and ecological cost go down soon. Tidal energy may be worth the investment of research because tides are more constant and predictable than other alternative renewable energy sources such as solar or wind energy.

Rabbit Island

A small island off the coast of Japan became famous after videos of visitors being swarmed by rabbits were released online. These videos of dozens of rabbits on this island quickly went viral and begun a long list of rumors to how the rabbits first came to the island. Some say a British couple brought them decades ago, others say the rabbits are offspring of animals that used to be on the island for chemical weapon testing, although experts insists those animals were all euthanized. Although how the rabbits got to the island may be in question, they have managed to increase their population by over 30% in the last 11 years.

The fame of these rabbits brought tourists from all around the world to the island. In 2005 the island had 136,000 visitors which increased to 254,000 in 2015. This is an average increase of 11,800 tourists per year.

In general, the population keeps growing, but in the article I read by national geographic, individual rabbits are suffering. The rabbits are depending greatly on the humans to feed them, however the food tourists usually bring is actually harmful to rabbits in large quantities, like cabbage. Rabbits are also frequently run over by the vehicles on the island and suffer health issues related to human contact.

However, because the people on the island have been able to coexist with these rabbits, Takashi Seki at the Ministry of the Environment says that artificial intervention with these rabbits is “undesirable,” although it will be interesting to see how the increasing rabbit population affects the ecosystem of the island in the next few years.

Wage gap between immigrants and U.S.-born citizens

Immigration has been an increasingly covered issue in the media in the last few years. Many americans fear that immigrants are “taking the jobs from american-born citizens.” However, this article in Forbes shows the wage-gap between US-born and immigrant americans. The discrepancies in pay between these two groups is in the thousands in over 29 states. This graph below shows the ten states with the highest wage-gap differences between immigrants and US-born citizens.

According to this graph, the top of the list is an almost $20,000 difference in the annual income of these two groups. The US-born citizens had a median annual income of $59,689 while the immigrants earned $40,145. The article also mentions that immigrants make less money than U.S.-born citizens in 45 states. So although some americans may fear that immigrants are taking opportunities from U.S.-born citizens, this data shows that U.S.-born citizens are, at the end of the day,  making more money annually than immigrants.


Investing in the Future

If how our society acts right now is how the future is going to be, its going to be a long road ahead to recovery. If we were to reduce our emissions by investing in nature then we would be promoting more sustainable options for a successful environment. Reducing fertiliser use and protecting wetlands from development are just a couple goals for sustainability in the future. There have been cases of finding and creating sustainable alternatives to current struggles we’re encountering as a society. For example in the realm of Co2 emissions, the following graph is a great representation of what has happened to date and what is actually the best way to approach the consistent worldwide epidemic of Co2 overuse.

If we were able to become more sustainable in Co2 emission, especially in the regions of South America and South East Asia then we could save the world from the years of future damage due to global climate change.



Water footprints

We have discussed the CO2 emissions of beef and naturally, the amount of water it takes to produce this beef by raising cattle is extraordinarily high. However, it is just just cows that contribute to our global water footprint, every product does, but especially animal products which require so much water to raise an animal. The Water Footprint Network provides an interactive model that shows how much water it takes to produce many of the foods and products we use daily, including chicken.

According to the article, the average water footprint of chicken is 4330 L/kg, or about 519 gal/lb. Although this quantity is less than other common animals such as cows (15,400 L/kg) or pigs (6000 L/kg). It is important to use tools like this to visualize how our food choices impact the global water footprint.

Carbon Dioxide and developing countries

Climate change caused by elevated carbon dioxide emissions takes its toll everywhere around the globe. However, not every country contributes to carbon dioxide emissions as much as others do, and not all countries are affected by climate change equally. Articles posted by the Center for Global Development look at how developed and developing countries differ responsibility for climate change. Historically, developed countries have been responsible for well over 50% of carbon dioxide emissions globally. There is, of course, a relationship between growing infrastructure and industry and  carbon dioxide emissions. However, there are exceptions. In 2014 England’s economy grew by 2.6% and their carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 8.4%. Although some developed countries now are seeing economic growth and decreases in carbon emissions simultaneously, this is rarely the case for developing countries.  There is also a greater cost for climate change on developing countries than on developed countries. More tropical storms and less access to resources take a financial toll on developed countries. While the increase in industry and infrastructure in developing countries may be a good sign for economic growth, it is not beneficial to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. One huge contributor to carbon dioxide emissions is deforestation, which was responsible for one-third of sub-Sahara Africa’s carbon emissions. Finding a balance between economic growth and reducing our carbon footprint is difficult to achieve, but is important in working towards the advancement of developing countries while being ecologically thoughtful.

Intro Post

My first experience in understanding sustainability was while I was working on a project in elementary school. We each had to choose a household item and trace back every step on how it went from raw resources to the final product. I chose a pencil, an item I used everyday but had never thought about how it came to be in my hand. That project was a kind of awakening which has been important in my understanding that every purchase I make and product I use has an impact on many people and resources all over the world.

I have always tried to be conscious of my carbon footprint and do my best to implement sustainable habits in my life. However, I am hypocritical very often. I try to use a reusable bottle every chance I can, but I often buy plastic. I eat meat and animal products, even though I am aware that they are a huge contributor to global warming. Many of my everyday practices contradict the values and morals I believe in.

I hope that through seeing physical numbers in this course which represent some of my less-sustainable habits, I can be more conscious about my impact on the globe and be more prompted to make small changes to better the world around me.