17 Global Goals

The 17 Global Goals for sustainable development, set for 2030, is all encompassing of everything sustainability has to offer. From global awareness and perspective, to global engagement and responsibility, the 17 goals for sustainable development touch on aspects of social as well as environmental partnership.

Sustainability from a mathematic and global standpoint is an incredibly crucial aspect. By computing our carbon footprint and other sources of measuring our energy on a global platform, we enhance our knowledge and understanding of just how important sustainable living is for our environment. To more accurately guide emissions and usage of our planet’s natural resources, as well as social issues surrounding these, it is crucial to look at the bigger global picture as a whole.

Using mathematical concepts like computing the total, as well as percentage changes throughout history or into the future we can more fully understand our societal impact. Without global awareness, countries would not take into account other countries’ impacts on our natural resources. Without fully encompassing the world’s total carbon footprint and emissions alongside  the planet’s biocapacity, a function or equation would prove to be widely inaccurate.

In evaluating how predictions of global sustainable goals reflect actual data, we can connect human societal issues with the more prevalent usage of earth’s natural systems. To increase the awareness of the interrelationship of human activity and our planet’s natural systems it is important to educate the public with accurate information.

I think the Global Goals does a great job encompassing a ‘we’ message, instead of a nationalist ‘us before them’ message that has been oh so present in our national politics as of late. It makes my heart warm to know that there are still enough compassionate people in the world to make an impact, and I am committed to these 17 goals by 2030.


As I was pulling out of the Nott/Seward parking lot earlier this week, I noticed that the pavement was extremely uneven. As usual, I simply thought to myself that they needed to repave the lot. Well, with this week’s blog theme in mind a thought occurred to me: What if Union repaved the lot with a more sustainable method?

Many ideas have come and gone, and an expert I claim not to be, but perhaps we could go even further than simply using more sustainable concrete alternatives. Working with the sustainability coordinators and other departments on campus, I am curious to see what types of solar or thermal energy could be produced through pavement materials.

Along with economic factors, I could see this being cost effective for Union long-term, especially if proposed as a Green Free or Presidential Green Grant to cover short-term fees. I could not find any material as to the actual cost or probability of any of the previously discussed methods, but I’m curious to see if this would be a possibility.


Hydroelectricity uses the energy from moving water to create electricity. Using natural sources of water like rivers, dams and rainfall, hydro power seems to be a feasible option for renewable energy. I found a page that discusses the gravitational power of rainfall in Britain per year. Taking the total amount of rainfall (584 mm per year), times the density of water (1000 kg/m^3), the altitude above sea level (100 m), and the strength of gravity (10 m/s^2), we would get about 0.02 W/m^2 of power per unit at best. This number represents the amount of power per unit land area that the rainfall landed.

(584 mm / year * 1000 kg/m^3 * 10 m/s^2 * 100 m = 0.02 W/m^2)

When we multiply the amount of power per land unit by the area per person, in this region of Britain (0.02 W/m^2 * 2700m^2 / 60 million people) we would be left with about 1 kWh per day per person, at max rainfall. Right away we can see that this is nowhere near the amount of energy needed to sustain even one person for a day.

A major roadblock for hydroelectric power is that it never uses water’s full potential energy due to high rates of evaporation as well as scarcity of hydro power/electric plants. It is clear that hydroelectric power itself cannot power our everyday lives, though perhaps through further experimentation and research we may see an increase in hydroelectricity usage worldwide.

Human Population Growth Rate

World Population 1950-2100

During my research for this post, I found a graph on the world population and chose to implement the skills we’ve learned in class for this section. I decided to use the graph as my own new data to work off of. After gathering data from this graph, I found that in the 64 years between 1950 and 2014, the world’s population had increased by 4.76 billion people.

This computed out to be a 187.4% increase during the 64 year period (4.76 billion people [total change] / 2.54 billion people [initial] = 1.874). With this information, I went on to find the growth factor and rate of change.

2.54 billion people + 2.54 billion people x 1.874 = 2.54 billion people (1+1.874) = 2.54 billion people (2.287) = 7.3 billion people

After computing this solution, we can see that the growth factor was 2.287. To find the rate of change, I divided the total change (4.76 billion people) with the total amount of time (64 years), to find an increase of 74 million people per year.

Lastly, I have estimated that the growth of the world’s population between the years 1950 and 2014 was that of exponential growth, rather than linear. I found that the world’s population between 1950 and 2014 increased exponentially at around 1% per year.

 To find this, I made a table that looked something like this:

1950        1958        1966        1974

2.54         2.92         3.41            4        billion


15%       16.78%      17.3%

380           490          590            million


Racial Disparities In US Prisons VS US Population

Did you know that only 13.4% of Americans are black? According to the United States Census Bureau, that leaves our population 76.6% white and only 10% Latino, Asian, and Native Americans combined. However, our incarceration rates do not reflect the same statistics. The Federal Bureau of Prisons released statistics last week that show 58.2% of US prisoners are white, 37.9% black, and only 3.9% other. I designed a graph to show just how skewed our justice system is.

As you can see, black imprisonment rates are higher in comparison to population percentage in the US than any other race. How is it that people of color are imprisoned at higher rates than white people, when whites represent 60% more of the population than blacks? This is an astonishing, though not surprising piece of information.

The mass incarceration of people of color has been an ongoing issue since the abolition of slavery. It would be naive to think this bias will go away anytime soon, as it will take generations to see any change. It is invigorating to know that people are so primitive in their ways of thinking about people that are different than themselves.

U.S Consumption of Beef

Since posting last week about the water footprint of beef, I have not been able to get it off my mind. I took this week’s post as an opportunity to go a bit more in depth about the consumption of beef in the United States. An article I found discusses the shift of Americans from beef toward chicken consumption.

The graph shown below displays the peak of beef consumption in America during the 1970s, through the current decline of beef consumption per capita. During this 17 percent decline of beef consumption, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 10%. As we can see, pork and poultry consumption have relatively stayed the same throughout this period of time. Though this means more chickens are being eaten, reducing the amount of beef consumed proves crucial to reducing our carbon and water footprint.

The article goes on to explain that the production of beef emits seven times the amount of greenhouse gases than chicken. Further, the carbon and water footprint of beef is roughly 20 times that of plant-based foods like beans.

The next graph shows that the production of chicken has increased by 5 times, while beef production has stayed consistent. This is partly due to the high demand for cheaper meats like ready to cook chicken. Beef takes longer to cook, making chicken an easier everyday option for most Americans.

Lastly, we should touch on America’s dietary footprint. Though we have decreased our consumption, beef still accounts for almost half of our dietary footprint. The final graph shows that American consumption of beef is not only one of the highest in the world, but actually four times the world average.

These trends all point to one thing: reducing our production and intake of beef will substantially decrease our carbon footprint within a single generation.

The Water Footprint and Waste of Beef

Did you know that it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef? That is the equivalent of taking 90 eight-minute showers, or staying in the shower for 12 hours. Personally, my jaw dropped when I read this article on beef’s water footprint. Beef has a much larger water footprint than almost any other crop or meat (Table 1). This is primarily due to the size and lifespan of cattle, and the amount of water it takes to produce their feed.

Beef 1,799 gallons of water
Lamb 1,250 gallons of water
Pork 576 gallons of water
Chicken 468 gallons of water
Tofu (soy) 303 gallons of water

(Table 1)

Though this might be an awakening ‘slap’ in the face to some, it does not mean that we shouldn’t eat any beef simply in the same of sustainability. Whether or not to cut out beef completely from ones’ diet is obviously a personal decision. There are, however, ways we can cut down the impact beef has on our water footprint. Some of which include choosing pasture-raised instead of factory farmed beef, or simply cutting down your own beef intake.

This leads us directly into water waste. Anytime beef is thrown away, this adds to our water waste. The almost 1,800 gallons of water it takes to produce a single pound of beef is completely wasted when it is not consumed. Taking a step back, I can recall a handful of times that I threw away 1 or 2 pounds of beef that had gone bad. Say each person throws away 4 lbs of beef per year, and that there are 7 billion people in the world. For every 1 lb of beef wasted there was also 1,799 gallons of water wasted. This would equate to 5 x 10^13 gallons of water waste from beef in one year. That is about 28 billion lbs of meat wasted and over 50 trillion gallons of water wasted in a single year.

Putting this into perspective I now understand that by throwing away a few pounds of beef has a huge impact on our water waste and footprint. Perhaps by producing less beef and using more sustainable techniques such as free range cattle rather than inhumane factory farmed beef, we can start to reduce our water waste and footprint exponentially.

Taking a look at Union College campus’s own water waste, we can assume that there are around 2,500 people on campus (including faculty and staff, as well as students). Lets say the average person consumes 31.8 gals of bottled water a year, that is .087 gals/day, multiplied by the total amount of people on campus is equal to 217.5 gals of bottled water consumed each day. Using the unit factor method 217.5 gals = 27,840 oz / 16 oz per bottle = 1,740 16oz bottles. With this solution, I would estimate the total bottled water consumption on the Union College Campus to be around 2,000 16 oz bottles a day.

Carbon Dioxide from Deforestation

An article from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains how we measure the amount of CO2 from deforestation in our atmosphere. The study concludes that deforestation contributes to around 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere per year; that is, about 10% of all CO2 emissions.

Simplifying these numbers and their units to a more easily understandable human term is extremely helpful in cases such as this. Explaining that 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide is different from 3 billion tons of bricks is essential in this understanding. So just how big (or small) is 3 billion tons of CO2, and how would we find out?

We can start by using the unit factor method to compute this number into human terms. For instance, we could express 3 billion tons of CO2 as the equivalent of 13 million railroad cars, stretching around 125,000 miles or half way to the moon. By using a familiar term such as the size of a piece of land or animal, we get to see a big number from a different perspective. That being said, the total amount of CO2 from deforestation is equivalent to the total emissions from all of Western Europe combined.

Finally, the article takes into consideration the approximation and estimations that we read about in the textbook this week. The author described two approaches that one might take to compute these numbers. In one approach they explain using the most certain and comparable numbers, focusing on specific dates and measuring only one thing (CO2). The next approach brings in other aspects with complete and up-to-date information, calculating all possible variables creating a more substantial result.

There are many different ways and units to measure numbers with. In this specific case, all calculations came out to around the same conclusion: 10% of all CO2 emissions are from deforestation itself, or the equivalent of 600 million cars (twice as many than there are in the entire US).


Human Extinction !?

Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, Sedona, Arizona

Before discovering the wonderful world of Political Science, I had always found myself looking at things in a more pragmatic way than others. I’ve grown to understand that sustainability means more than just maintaining a balanced rate of our resources, to avoid depletion for our future generations. I now know that sustainability is bigger than the human existence and that we should work to not only sustain our resources but find renewable alternatives to them as well. In doing so, we take a step back to remember that we share these valuable resources with all other living beings on Earth, and that life will exist long after human extinction. I believe that we should think sustainably beyond our natural resources, but also to our fellow species that inhabit this beautiful planet that we all share. There is much conversation on how to sustain human life on Earth, though I believe we should use our knowledge to sustain all life on Earth, even after the human race is gone.