Global Awareness

Global awareness is defined as the knowledge surrounding certain concepts that impact the world: socially, politically, environmentally, and economically. The world leaders created 17 goals that they want to achieve by 2030. Each of these 17 goals are interrelated and can be thought about in terms of global awareness.

When considering the 17 goals, many of them are related to combating climate change. One of their goals is to seek out more affordable and clean energy. We also looked at this issue in class because there are so many forms of sustainable energy that I never considered myself. Such as wave energy which has the potential to produce a lot of energy on the coasts. The leaders define the goal relying on more affordable and clean energy types as “ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.” In order for this goal to be met, we can all make specific efforts such as being mindful of the energy we are putting out. In 2017, only 11.3% of our energy came from renewable sources. So it is clear that we rely on fossil fuels for majority of our energy. We need to support more sustainable methods. We can turn off the lights when we are not using them, we can buy rechargeable electronics, but most importantly we can stay informed and do all we can to support these efforts being made.

Green Grant

For my green grant, I propose that the dining halls get rid of the trays used to carry food. Eliminating trays from the dining halls would lower energy and water use. At Union, the trays are not used by all the students, but more so to bring the dirty plates, cups, and utensils into the dish room. If we eliminated the trays from this process and just had a rotating conveyer belt system, then less water would be used cleaning the trays. Additionally, there would also be fewer plates to clean. This experiment was done at Georgia Tech and for the 18,000 student body, they save 3,000 gallons of water each day. Additionally, when students do not have trays to carry their food, they can only take what they can hold reducing the overall food waste. Another study was done in New York that showed that without trays the school saved a total of 25 pounds of waste each meal. This is because students have less space to carry the food to their area so they can take only what they need. At RIT, last summer they removed trays and they saw less food waste and the school saved 10% of food spending. Overall, taking away trays and finding a new system for Union students to transport their waste to the dish room would have several benefits.

Wave Energy

Wave energy forms from wind. The amount of energy is dependent on the speed of the wind. According to the EIA, the annual energy potential of waves off the coasts of the U.S. is estimated to be 2.64 Kilowatt-hours, which could produce 66% of energy generation. There are several ways to channel wind power: Wave energy can be harnessed into a narrow channel to increase their size and power which can spin turbines that generate electricity. It also can be channeled into a catch basin or reservoir where the water flows into a turbine. This is similar to the way a hydropower dam operates.

According to the New York Times, in Western, Australia they have buoys that generate waves into electricity for a nearby military base. The buoys started supplying 240 kilowatts each to the electricity grid for this base, roughly about 5% of its electricity. This is proving to be a successful experiment and source of renewable energy because it does not use any fossil fuels.

The biggest challenge facing wave energy is the cost. If you want to test an idea, it costs millions. Additionally, once generated it is at a cost of 40 cents per kilowatt-hour. While it is expensive, improvements are being made in order to improve the equipment and ensure it is not destroyed by storms. In order to make this a more consistent form of energy used, the government will need to assist in the funding of these projects.

Decline of Polar Bears

The Polar Bear population is declining and it is expected to continue declining in the future due to climate change. It is said that by 2050, the polar bear population could decline by 1/3. This is all due to the disappearing of arctic sea ice. The arctic sea ice is declining by a rate of 12% per decade since the 1970s. The melting of the ice and the warming of the waters is not a good climate for the polar bears because they are ice dependent. Much of the food they eat is primarily found in the arctic waters. Polar Bears rely on their access to seals as a sources of food and to breed.

Today, the population of polar bears is thought to be 26,000. By 2050, 8,580 Polar Bears will remain if this estimation remains true. That means that from 2018 to 2050 in this 32 year period the total change would be 17,420 polar bears. This means the decay factor is 0.33. Overall, something needs to be done to slow the decline of the polar bear population because right now they are at high rate of extinction. What is happening to polar bears is also happening to other species, so the issue of climate change needs to be addressed.




High School Dropout Rates by Family Income 1972-2001

According to Radical Math, the graph below shows high school drop out rates of students aged 15 to 24 by family income from 1972-2001 for grades 10-12 in the United States. This study was produced by the United States Department of Commerce. Low Income is categorized as an income in the bottom 20% of all family incomes, middle income is categorized as a income between 20% and 80% of all family incomes, and a high income is categorized in the the top 20% of family incomes.

This graph shows that within families of lower income there are higher drop out rates compared to families with middle and low incomes. In 1972, the drop out rates among low income families was 14.1% while the drop out rate was 2.5% for high income families. In 2001, the drop out rate for low income families was 10% which decreased from 1972. In 2001, for high income families the drop out rate was 1.7%. According to this article by American Psychological Association (APA), the United States is currently in a drop out crisis. Their data in 2012 shows that 1.1 million students in the graduating class did not receive a high school diploma. Their reasoning for this is the adverse toxic stressors that are put on these students ultimately affecting their behavior and health. There is a need for solutions to improve the high school drop out rates.

The Frequency of Natural Disasters

Certain areas across the United States have been targeted most by natural disasters. For example, In the last 16 years, Louisiana has seen 6 hurricanes. Additionally, California has become more prone to wildfires. The graph below shows the annual losses in billion dollars each year since 1980. It is clear that in the last 40 years, the amount of billion dollar disasters has increased, significantly. It is also clear that these disasters have become much more frequent. In the first 3 months of 2018, 3 big storms hit. One of the three was Hurricane Harvey with damages that cost $125 billion which was right up there with the costs of Hurricane Katrina in 2006. The graph below also shows that while 2018 has been the most costly year so far in terms of natural disasters. The overall costs of natural disasters has increased significantly since 1980.

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The Water Footprint of Alfalfa and Meat

Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California. This mainly accounts for the growing of the plant Alfalfa. Alfalfa is a plant grown to feed livestock. Beef consists of a large portion of the American diet. In order to feed these animals the production of Alfalfa is increased significantly due to the increase in demand for a beef hungry diet. Beef has a water footprint of 4 million gallons per ton produced. This is far more than any other crop.

Additionally, the way that meat is being produced today is different than it was decades ago. Because the meat is not being handled the same way, when it does not reach standards of the FDA this also means that water is wasted. According to a New York Times article, when 8.7 million pounds of beef are wasted that is roughly equivalent to 631.6 million gallons of water wasted. That is equivalent to about 15 million barrels.

If we relied less on a meat heavy diet and replaced 50% of the animal products normally consumed, there would be a 30% decrease in an individual’s water footprint. If individuals had a vegetarian diet, their water footprint would be decreased even more to about 60%. Seeking out less meat hungry diets will help to conserve the amount of water used for Alfalfa.

CO2 Levels are Rising

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occuring greenhouse gas that is a part of our atmosphere. The reliance on factories and various forms of transportation to burn fossil fuels have increased the amount of CO2 found in our atmosphere today. While, carbon dioxide only makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere this number has increased significantly overtime. Today CO2 levels consist of over 380 parts per million (ppm) but, prior to the Industrial Revolution carbon dioxide consisted of 270 ppm. Specifically, throughout this decade, CO2 levels have increased on average, 2.3ppm per year. Also, we emit 400 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. In metric units this is 362.874 Tonnes. Again, this number simply shows that while CO2 makes up less than 1% of our atmosphere, the unnatural increase of CO2 has shown negative effects.

It is important that we find a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it has serious effects on the environment such as making our oceans more acidic and increasing the temperature on earth.  A New York Times article discusses the fact that removing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere is a potential way to stop global warming. The goal would be to keep the carbon dioxide below the two degree Celsius target estimated in 2015 by the Paris Agreement. However, this is an extremely difficult task. One suggestion would be to follow a process known as “direct air capture” to minimize its presence. All of the studies show that it is extremely hard to decrease the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere but it is crucial that we take conscious steps to reduce it for the future sake of our environment.

Blog Post #1: What Sustainability Means to Me

What sustainability means to me has changed since coming to Union and being given the opportunity to study abroad. This past spring, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. In Florence, I lived with a host family whom was extremely environmentally conscious. Italy but also Florence in particular has severe air pollution issues, which have affected the health of many citizens. Their lack of clean air has lead to government intervention in order to regulate the amount of water households can use and the amount of time the heat can be left on. This has been done to improve some of the environmental problems that have left Florence with the worst air quality in all of Italy. Not only that, but my family made it their mission to compost, recycle, and minimize waste constantly. This is something that has also been shown to me at Union. The Students here have made it their mission to make composting and recyclying a part of our daily lives with composting and recycling bins located all throughout campus. While abroad, I became more aware of the importance of a sustainable lifestyle in order to reduce my own carbon footprint.

Krka National Rain Forest in Lozovac, Croatia