April 2012 Archives

Roaming Buffalo in Montana

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Since grade school I've been told that because of game hunting and poaching on the part of the Americans, the American buffalo that roamed the grasslands of the American Prairie are all but a myth. The numbers are so low that one day the American buffalo would become an extinct species. In grade school, other than the few endangered animal projects that were handed out there was never any real activism done, only awareness. Thankfully, there are organizations created to preserve the buffalo.

The American Prairie Reserve (APR), works to, well... preserve the American prairie. I wouldn't have known about this organization if it weren't for a tab on the World Wildlife Fund's website that is dedicated to the Northern Great Plains (there are other great orgs on the website as well).

 The organization is devoted to the "The American Serengeti", and saving the land and wildlife by buying land so that there is open land for the animals of that biome to roam without fear of extinction. In Montana, where the APR is stationed, there is a buffalo ranch dedicated to releasing calves from the Elk Island Reserve in Canada into herds of wild buffalo.  Last month they reintegrated close to 75 calves into a herd, much to the delight of the Salish and Kootenai tribes that were there to witness.

In 2025 the APR is projected to be responsible for close to 5000 buffalo, and be the largest conservation group in the world. Although this number is far from the 60 million that roamed the American prairie 200-years ago, it is amazing to know that there are groups set up to maintain the American buffalo.

 

WWF page dedicated to The Northern Great Plains - http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/ngp/projects.html

American Prairie Reserve - http://www.americanprairie.org/

Buffalo releasing in Montana - http://www.economist.com/node/21550292

The Unseen Hazards of the Alaskan Gold Rush

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In today's day and age, it would seem that Alaska is quickly becoming the new "western frontier." Alaska is now the furthest west that Americans today can go, and just like the pioneers of the past, they are determined to go as far as international boundaries will allow them, The west of old appears to be exhausted, with gold and oil rushes being a thing of a romanticized past.  Cowboys are being forgotten in the media, and instead, the spotlight seems to be on Alaska.  Alaska is constantly in the media today, with TV shows like "Flying Wild Alaska," "Ice Road Truckers," "Gold Rush" and "Bering Sea Gold" gaining millions of weekly viewers due to its fascinating portrayal of rugged life in the arctic, as well as the modern day gold rush.  These shows seem to advertise Alaska in a way that would strive to attract people looking for a sense of adventure, or an interesting way to strike it rich.  The mining shows are arguably the most popular of the bunch, with "Gold Rush" being the number one show in all of television on Friday nights while it was airing.  However, while focusing on the struggles and triumphs of the miners in the show, the environmental hazards that gold mining, or mining of that nature in general, called "open-pit mining," are conveniently ignored and never mentioned at all.

Mining in general creates large scale water contamination due to its leaking of chemicals and byproducts into underground water sources. According to Ground Truth Trekking.org, "mining has contaminated...over 40 percent of watersheds in the western continental US" alone.  A big environmental problem that results from mining, especially in Alaska, is that of the tailings, or leftovers from the mining process.  These tailings contain unwanted materials, such as dirt and rocks, but may also contain various other substances that may be hazardous to the environment if leaked into the water system. One common substance left behind in tailings is iron sulfide, which when exposed to air or water reacts and turns into sulfuric acid. According to Ground Truth Trekking.org, when the sulfuric acid is introduced to water, it makes it much more acidic, and can cause various toxic heavy metals to leach into the water.  The acidic water can get so bad that nothing but bacteria can survive when contaminated. This environmental issue is known as acid mine drainage.  Since many mines, especially gold mines, rely on close large quantities of water to function, the ease of contamination is evident.  There are ways to control and prevent acid contamination, however these methods of prevention, as well as the hazards themselves are never scene on the reality TV shows showcasing gold mining.  I feel that if audiences were clued in to the potential environmental hazards that gold mining can have, then it would be a very efficient way to cause awareness, especially since millions of viewers watch the show every week. However, it would seem that the networks are wary of turning off viewers, and instead focus on the romantic aspects of gold mining, as well as the struggles of the everyday man in order to keep viewers coming back every week.

 

Works Cited

           

Bibel, Sara. "Discovery Unveils 2012-13 Upfront Slate Including 4 New Series and 12 Returning    Series."

TV By the Numbers. Zap2it. 5 April 2012. Web. 30 April 2012

         

Coil, David, McKittrick, Erin, Higman, Bretwood. "Alaska Metals Mining."

           Ground Truth Trekking. 19 April 2012. Web. 30 April 2012.

Nuclear Waste and Yucca Mountain

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 Some say that nuclear energy is the way to a greener future, after all nuclear power plants do not emit carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides. However, there are some downfalls to nuclear power the most important one being nuclear waste. "There is pretty much no knowledge in the human repertoire on how to handle such long lasting toxic substances, so industry relies on that old standby, computer projections, and counts on the Earth to take care of it," (LaDuke 97). Winona LaDuke in her book All Our Nations explains to readers that the United States government has been trying to "dump" nuclear waste on reservation lands and that Yucca Mountain, located in Nevada and on Western Shoshone territory, is going to be the final resting place of copious amounts of nuclear waste. Currently nuclear power makes up 20 percent of the country's electricity. We need to encourage our government to put more money into finding actual green, renewable energy sources, and there also needs to be a new plan of action for containing all of the hazardous waste we have created.


Luckily for the Shoshone people, Nevada was also, for lack of a better term, pissed about the plans for Yucca Mountain. This was a project that was not volunteered, but being forced on not only the native Shoshone people, but also the state as a whole. In 2009, President Barack Obama ended the Yucca Mountain project, which by that time already had $15 billion invested into it, and parts of the new laboratory are already constructed. If the bill to make Yucca Mountain passed, "it would authorize the transportation of up to 90,000 shipments of nuclear waste on American highways and railways across the country," (LaDuke 108). LaDuke also points out that 50 million Americans live within a half-mile of the most likely highways.


The Blue Ribbon Commission was formed and released its findings in January of 2012. The report outlined three crucial elements: 

1. They recommend a consentbased approach to siting future nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities, noting that trying to force such facilities on unwilling states, tribes and communities has not worked.'

2. The responsibility for the nation's nuclear waste management program should be transferred to a new organization; one that is independent of the Department of Energy and dedicated solely to assuring the safe storage and ultimate disposal of spent nuclear waste fuel and high level radioactive waste.

3. They recommended changing the manner in which fees being paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund - about $750 million a year - are treated in the federal budget to ensure they are being set aside and available for use as Congress initially intended.


Here is a video that talks about another solution for storing nuclear waste:



Sources and Site for more information:

USA Today article about Yucca Mountain and the results of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Blue Ribbion Commission website.

Environmental Protection Agency for information about the pros and cons of nuclear power. 


Mother's Milk Project

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In her book All Our Relations, Winona La Duke sheds light on the issue of PCB's and the fact that these toxins are accumulated via water, and they are stored in body fat and excreted through breast milk. These toxins are being pumped into the water by multi-million dollar corporations such as General Motors, and other industrial plants located near the Mohawk reservation in upstate New York. Katsi Cook, a Mohawk woman, became curious as to if and how this would effect the babies being breast fed by other Mohawk women. This curiosity was the basis for the founding of the Mother's Milk Project, something that still is used to inform pregnant and breastfeeding woman of the dangers of PCB's and other dangerous contaminants.

In 1985, Katsi helped with the creation of the Akwesasne Mother's Milk Project. The project was designed to "understand and characterize how toxic contaminants have moved through the local food chain, including mothers' milk," also stating that another goal was to get woman within the community to learn how to apply science in their everyday lives. The research project was funded by the U.S. Congress, and studied 50 new mothers over several years. The project showed a 200% greater concentration of PCB's in the breast mild of mothers eating fish from the St. Lawrence River near the reservation as opposed to the general population.

Mohawk mothers, much to their outrage, were told to continue breast feeding by Mohawk officials despite the project's finding. Katsi stated, "Our traditional lifestyle has been completely disrupted, and we have been forced to protect our future generations....Although we are relieved that our responsible choices at the present protect our babies, this does not preclude the corporate responsibility of General Motors and other local industries to clean up the site."

It is not fair for the mothers and their babies are being punished by General Motors and the other industrial plants located near the reservation. Though they have stood up against GM, it is an ongoing battle. It is our job as caring individuals to not only inform other woman of the harmful effects of toxic chemicals in breast milk, but to also support the Mohawk woman in their attempts to take down GM. This isn't something that just effects Mohawk mothers, but all mothers, as the contaminants can get into the water all over the world. By visiting the Mothers Milk Project website at www.MothersMilkProject.org , one can learn all of the facts related to the harmful toxins being found in breast milk. There is also information on how to give a milk sample for testing, as well as important events coming up for the project. "We believe 'breast is best' and our babies should be protected from insidious contaminants" said Nancy Burton, co-founder of the Mother's Milk Project. This project is very important and I strongly urge anyone to read up on it and inform others, with the hopes that knowledge really is power, and that a change can be made in the environment by standing together and standing up.

References:

La Duke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. Print.

"Mothers Milk Project." Mothers Milk Project. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mothersmilkproject.org/>.

Save the Pacific

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When I think of the West, as we have been covering in class, I often think of California. Having spent a lot of time over a few Summers there, California, and in particular the Los Angeles and Santa Monica areas, it is very near and dear to my heart. I was not shocked, but very saddened to learn that recently California is experiencing problems with trash in the Pacific Ocean killing wildlife. The West is a place that people go to experience new and great things, and one of them should not be a polluted ocean.


According to environmentcalifornia.com, Californians throw away 123,000 tons of plastic bags each year, and many of them end up in the ocean. Today, there are 100 million tons of trash in the North Pacific Gyre, and in some parts of the Pacific, plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1. This trash in the Pacific is creating an ecological disaster, according to Environment California. Turtles and sea birds often ingest the trash, thinking its food. They also get entangled in bags and often drown or die of suffocation. Toxic pollutants also leak from the plastic into the water. Scientists are now studying whether fish and other marine life absorb these toxic pollutants. If so, there is a good chance that we also absorb them when we eat the products of the sea. 


The effects of this are being tackled at great lengths already, but it is imperative that everyone stand up to help make a change. Great progress in educating the public on the harmful effects of plastic has been made, and today, bags are banned, or soon will be banned, in 40 California communities. "It's a great start, but we're not stopping until we rid the whole state of plastic bag pollution," states Environment California.


With outside help, Environment California believes they can put a state wide ban on the plastic bags that are harming the ocean animals and in turn could also be harming those eating the fish from the ocean. By going to http://environmentcalifornia.org/programs/keep-plastic-out-pacific and clicking on the "help protect ocean wildlife"tab on the right hand side, you personally can send Governor Jerry Brown to support a statewide ban on plastic bags. More information and ways to help out are also available on the cite. Though you may not live on the West Coast, it is still important to help support the movement as someday the issue could effect you as well. Do your part and help save the wildlife in the Pacific Ocean!

20090422-tows-fabien-cousteau-1-290x218.jpg

References:

"Keep Plastic out of the Pacific."Environment California. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://environmentcalifornia.org/programs/keep-plastic-out-pacific>.


"The World's Biggest Landfill - Ocean Pollution - Oprah.com."Oprah.com. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://www.oprah.com/world/Ocean-Pollution-Fabien-Cousteaus-Warning-to-the-World>. 

Surmounting Native American Conflicts

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Throughout the semester, we have discussed the difficulties imposed on Native American tribes throughout the western United States.  As we have seen, Native Americans suffer disproportionately to other ethnic groups in the United States due to the reservation system, unscrupulous entities who would use their land, through climate change, and through stereotype and prejudice.   Though the reservation system may be Native American's only current option following the United States government taking their lands, these other problem areas can be improved on for the benefit of native people and American society as a whole.  It will take a combined effort to address these issues, but remediation will be key toward a progressive American culture comprised of coexisting ethnicities and nationalities. 

In researching some of the conflicts facing Native American tribes, I came across some articles that provide additional information about the problem of dumping on reservation lands and climate change's effect in general on reservation land.  David Kelly of the Los Angeles Times reports that in California, Nevada, and Arizona, illegal dumping contributes to pollution and residents fear their health is at risk.  Kelly inspected the illegal dump of George Auclair, a Torres Martinez tribal member, who has recently been fined millions for the site.  Auclair apologized for his actions, but Kelly notes that illegal dumping has been a source of revenue for many in the area.  Kelly interviewed Lt. Mark Barfknecht of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department who remarked, "People who have objected to the running of an illegal dump have had their families threatened...As recently as 18 months ago there was a school project where kids living in and around the reservation filmed the burning in the illegal dumps and were chased off by armed men. (David, 2007)"

In addition to this manmade environmental problem, there is the growing problem of climate change and its effect on this country.  According to John Broder of the New York Times, Native Americans feel the effects of climate change disproportionately to other groups within the United States.  Broder cites a recent study by the National Wildlife Federation which states, "American Indians and Alaska natives are more dependent than most other Americans on natural resources and on the bounty of oceans and rivers and thus are particularly at risk from the effects of a warming planet... (Broder, 2011)" Clearly, something must be done to assist Native American people adapt to a changing planet.  Native Americans need to be assisted with increased federal funding to adapt their lands to the changing climate.  Additionally, the United States needs to make greater use of solar, hydro, and wind power to accommodate America's vast energy needs while limiting the effect of its consumption on the delicate environment. 

Though Native Americans struggle to an unfair extent, this injustice can be corrected with some simple behavior by us all.  Just by thinking twice about where your refuse will end up is one way of helping these people.  Also, being mindful of your own carbon footprint can slow down your impact on climate change.  Finally, one must be culturally sensitive to the needs of others and mindful of the fact that we are all different parts of a whole who must work together to maintain a good stewardship of our planet. 

Works Cited

Broder, John. "Climate Change an Extra Burden for Native Americans, Study Says." New York Times on the Web 3 Aug. 2011. 30 Apr. 2012 <http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/climate-change-an-extra-burden-for-native-americans-study-says/>.

Kelly, David. "Reservation's Toxic umps a Multilayered Nightmare." Los Angeles Times 2 Jun. 2007. 30 Apr. 20012 <http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/02/local/me-dump2 >.

Caribou as Canaries

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We need to oppose drilling in protected areas within the United States, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in order to ensure the diversity of animal life in North America as well as protect citizens from pollution's health-hazardous effects.  Drilling of the North Slope has already affected herds of Caribou and other migratory animals negatively.  In testimony in the House Committee on Resources, retired research biologist Kenneth Whitten testified: "...development of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield displaced caribou and disrupted their movements. Similar long-term displacement now appears to be occurring elsewhere, even in the "state-of-the-art" Kuparuk and Milne Pt. Oilfields...The entire population then declined. (Whitten, 2011)"  How typically American is it that we look to the last pristine part of our country and decide that an oil refinery would look better there?  There is a reason it is the only untouched location left--we have ruined most of our other natural landscapes with roads and industry.  Can't we show the world that we are better than this, just this one last time?

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. used 6.99 billion barrels of refined petroleum products and biofuels in 2010 (U.S. Energy Administration, 2012).  A Geological Survey mentioned by H. Josef Hebert of the Seattle Times suggests there is at least 5.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil within the Arctic Refuge and with estimated average extraction in the range of 10.4 billion barrels (Hebert, 2005).  Wouldn't the resources that would be used to devastate a refuge for protected wildlife be better spent pursuing alternative means of energy in lieu of an extraction program that may not even sustain the United States for one year at its current rate?

As a country, we need to realize that we are not Saudi Arabia.  We do not have the oil reserves of that country and can no longer afford political policy that pretends we do.  This mistaken assumption of the petrochemical model will only lead to a greater reliance on foreign oil in the long term.  We need to replace our fossil fuel economy with more stable, renewable resources such as hydro, solar, or wind power.  It will not be easy, but with a diverse approach towards energy programs combined with careful conservation of resources, we can wean ourselves off of the need for Alaska's negligible oil.  We need to use the indicators of the dwindling caribou as an warning sign that there is something not conducive to life about the American lifestyle.  If animals are being harmed, we should be concerned because we are animals and may experience similar biological effects contrary to our own propagation.  We need to ride our bicycles more or take public transportation instead of using our cars as frequently as we do.  It is wholly unnecessary for automobiles to be leaking in everyone's garage or driveway while not in use: car shares should expand to correct this.  Though the task seems daunting, if we work together we can achieve a sustainable mode of life without much sacrifice.

Works Cited

Hebert, Josef H. "How Much Oil in Alaska Refuge? It's Guesswork." The Seattle Times. 19 Dec. 2005. 30 Apr. 20012 <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002692315_webanwr19.html>.

"How much oil does the United States consume per year?". U.S. Energy Information Administration. 30 Apr. 2012 < http://205.254.135.7/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=33&t=6>.

United States. Cong. House. Hearing on Republican Energy Bill: "Energy Security Act". House Committee On Resources. July 11, 20011.  <http://www.defenders.org/publications/testimony_on_caribou_and_oil_development_on_the_north_slope.pdf>.

Standing up against General Motors

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 In Winona La Duke's novel All Our Relations, she presents the environmental issues that are greatly effecting the Mohwak peoples living on the reservation in up state New York near the St. Laurence River. In the 1950's when industrial plants started to take over the area, the river the Mohawk people depended on became a "toxic cesspool." Now, some fifty plus years later, the Mohawk people are still experiencing the injustices of the large corporations, as they have nearly taken away everything the Mohwak people depended on to live, with General Motors being the prime offender.

Up until the mid 1980's, General Motors had a number of "PCB-filled sludge pits" on the property adjacent to the Mohawk reservation. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCB's belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. Their manufacture was banned in 1979 due to the fact that they are highly toxic and present health risks. These chemicals got into the air, soil, and water, and thus greatly effected the plants, water, and people in the area.

In 1981 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confronted General Motors dumping of PCB-contaminated materials, fining the company $507, 000 for unlawful disposal and said the area also needed cleaned up. Originally they estimated it would cost $138 million to clean up the site, but they then backed down and suggested GM "contain" rather than "treat" the area, saving the company $15 million dollars.

More than thirty years after PCB's were banned, the Mohawk people still unjustly effected by the chemicals, which are one of the most lethal poisons of industrialized society, being known to cause liver, brain, nerve, and skin disorders. The people can no longer farm their land and they can no longer fish, something they have done to survive for centuries, because the rivers are so extremely polluted. Mo hawk peoples are forced to forget their heritage and are denied their livelihood or face the negative effects of the horrible chemicals. Though the Mohawks have spoken out against GM, justice still has not been served.

What can be done to help these people? The most important step is to become informed and inform others. If everyone stood up with the Mohawk people and spoke out against GM, a change could be in the future. By writing letters to not only the company, but people such as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, concerned citizens can voice their opinions and demand something be done. Making a difference starts with you. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

References:


"Basic Information."EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/about.htm>.

LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. Print.

Killing Deer in Pennsylvania: Hunting, or Population Control?

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In Rick Bass's Caribou Rising, he addresses hunting, and his motivation for it. Specifically, he claims that "Hunting is, largely more about desire than anything--more about desire than even the quarry itself. There's a desire for wild meat gotten fairly, knowledgably, and intimately--but, at the risk of sounding exceedingly simple, or worse yet, artsy-fartsy, it's about the desire to hunt: the act, the condition, of desiring to hunt" (Bass, 50). Moreover, motivations for hunting are quite varied, and range from survival, to sport, to population control. The latter of which certainly applies to hunting deer in Pennsylvania due to an alarming overpopulation. Yes, hunting allows one to immerse them self in nature, and partake in perhaps the most primal of activities, obtaining one's own food, but in certain instances, hunting is not all about thrill-seeking as most non-hunters in Pennsylvania, like myself, may believe. Most hunters are seemingly motivated by the act it self or simply immersing them self in nature, but just because hunting motivations are seemingly not rooted in sustenance, does not mean that the mass hunting of white tail deer in Pennsylvania is in vain. "When deer reach high population densities they may push into urban areas, where they can pose a threat to people because they often carry Lyme disease ticks. Deer also pose as a serious threat to drivers, causing about 34,000 accidents per year in the state of Pennsylvania" (Naturetourism.com). Hunting white tail deer, and subsequently decreasing the population in Pennsylvania also positively effects farmers, because deer "are troublesome and an annoying pest[s] to farmers and gardeners. Every year many farmers lose valuable crops to deer which results in the loss of money" (Sportales). Furthermore, the benefits of hunting white tail deer in Pennsylvania far out-weigh its negative associations. To learn more about the benefits of hunting white tail deer in Pennsylvania visit either of the websites cited in the references.

References:


1) http://sportales.com/hunting/hunting-and-its-benefits/

2) http://naturetourism.allegheny.edu/essay_deeroverpopulation.html

3) Bass, Rick. Caribou Rising: Defending the Porcupine Herd, Gwich-'in Culture, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge / Rick Bass. San Francisco: Sierra

Preserve the Florida Everglades, and WE Preserve the Florida Panther

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In Winona LaDuke's All Our Relations, she addresses environmental pollution in the Florida Everglades, and how it has compounded the already negative influence humans have had on its panther population. "The steep decline of the Florida panther population was initially brought on widespread hunting. Next it was...the highways [and] Today, pollution in the ecosystem has moved up the food chain to endanger big cats and humans" (LaDuke, 31). As if initially depleting the panther population via guns and automobiles wasn't upsetting enough, now we are killing panthers indirectly via pollution. The current estimated population of Florida panthers in the wild is 50 to 70, which is staggeringly low number despite its increase form 30 to 50 in the 1980's (Florida Panther Society Inc.). Moreover, despite recent efforts to diminish hunting and vehicular accidents, the environment in which the panthers live poses the largest threat to there preservation. "Because the Everglades function like kidneys, most of the toxins that are in the larger ecosystem end up in the Everglades eventually. In 1989, federal and state scientists discovered that freshwater fish in the Everglades had high levels of mercury, largely, they surmised, from the post-harvest burning of the [sugar] cane fields" (LaDuke, 31). While considering the high mercury content of fish in the everglades, statistics suggest that mercury has negatively effected the panthers as well. According to a study done by The Florida Panther Society Incorporated, 20% of all Florida panther deaths from 1978 to1997 can be attributed to bacterial infections, which include mercury toxicity (Florida Panther Society Inc.). Furthermore, the conservation of the Florida Everglades is inevitably linked to the conservation of Florida panthers. If we hope to preserve the panther population, we must begin with preserving the environment in which they live, which means people must make an individual effort to raise awareness for this issue. How can you help? Visit the link below, which will lead you the National Wildlife Federation's website, where you can compose a letter to your respective member of Congress, urging them to oppose cuts to crucial conservation programs.

 

https://online.nwf.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1501&autologin=true&s_src

 

References:

 

1) The Florida Panther Society Incorporated - http://www.panthersociety.org/index.html

2) National Wildlife Federation - https://online.nwf.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1501&autologin=true&s_src

3) LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. Print.

Ranchers and Environmentalism in the Sandhills

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In The Last Prairie, Stephen Jones praises the ranchers for their environmentally conservationist behavior, talking about how they "interact quietly with nature every day." (Jones). While Jones does note some issues with practices like ditching or introducing new grass species into crops of hay, he mostly just has good words for the ranchers and their conservationist efforts.

In particular, Jones points out how "continued public-private partnerships involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation groups such as the Nature Conservancy will [most likely] lead to an incremental restoration and preservation of Sandhills wetlands and grasslands." (Jones). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service says that "ranching has proven to be the best economic and environmental use of the Sandhills" and that they have "an ecosystem approach to resource management in the Sandhills." (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). The Sandhills Task Force works together with ranchers to "to enhance the sandhill wetland-grassland ecosystem in a way that sustains profitable private ranching, wildlife and vegetative diversity, and associated water supplies." (Sandhills Task Force). This joint effort between the government and local ranchers seems to be a refreshing and agreeable approach to environmentalism. According to the rancher John lee, "I've never seen government work like this. We get along real good. This was a unique opportunity to work with them instead of against them. We're trying to get along, with the land, with the wildlife, with the government." (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

It is very interesting that an entire community has managed to keep a natural ecosystem basically intact, or at least changed it very little, with only minimal help from the government. In The Last Prairie, Jones quotes Daniel Licht, who said, "Of all the large ecotypes in the grassland biome, the Sandhills may be as close as any to its pre-Columbian condition." (Jones). Yes, there have definitely been changes--most notably in the near-extinction of bison--but the Sandhills ecosystem has basically remained unchanged. This fact is partially due to the fact that the Sandhills are so remote and unsuitable for anything but ranching--were the land good for some other economic purpose, it would have been destroyed a century ago. Still, there is no denying that the ranchers love the land, and are willing to protect it.

The behavior of the rancher community shows that it is possible for a community to take care of its environment--and also that it is possible for the government to work with local people rather than against them for the environment's sake. If this approach could be taken with environmental efforts across the country, it could be extremely helpful for the environmental effort.

 

Works Cited

Jones, Stephen. The Last Prairie: A Sandhills Journal. Kindle edition. USA: Ragged Mountain Press, 2000.

Sandhills Task Force. http://sandhillstaskforce.org/

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/pfw/ne/ne4.htm

Why Reuse is Better than Recycle

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People think they are being green when they chose the recyclable products.  If we recycle something, then we are helping out the planet.  However, we forget that recycling requires energy and can release chemicals into the atmosphere. The processes through which we recycle can still harm the planet.  Plastic recycling, for example, still releases dozens of chemicals into the atmosphere that eat away at the ozone and contribute to global warming.  Plastic recycling is also down-cycling, which means that less products are made from the original good.  So even though those plastic water bottle can be recycled, less is made from them, and the waste can enter water systems and pollute them.  Recycling has become more of a generic term for breaking down products into smaller pieces than it is actually recycling a product to make another like it.

Reuse, on the other hand, keeps these harmful products from entering our ecosystem, and they can be reused over and over again.  Most of these products are made from natural sources, like ceramics or glass, and even if they break at some point, they will not poison the ecosystem.  Cleaning them also poisons the ecosystem less too.  Rather than go through a process of breaking down structures that need chemical reactions, washing a resuable mug or container needs soap and water, both of which can be procured easily without too much damage to the environment.  The water can be leftover water from the tap when you are waiting for it to heat up, and the soap is easily purchasable, especially now that you can buy environmentally safe soap that will not do as much damage to the environment as regular soap.  It might cost a bit extra to buy reusable products rather than recyclable products, but the extra cost upfront adds up over time as the reusable product continues working.


Buying reusable goods also helps local businesses and is estimated to create at least two hundred jobs or so when it is implemented in communities.  Supporting local green businesses is a great way to help the environment and to also give back to the community in a way.  Everyone benefits from it.


If ceramics or glass are not feasible products for you to use, then buy reusable water bottles, like the new Brita filter ones.  These water bottles are made from non-degrading plastics and each contain a Brita filter in the nozzle so that the water is automatically filtered every time you take a drink.  It removes any impurities in the water, and as long as you are not allergic to the filter (like I am), it is an excellent way to both save money and the ecosystem.  These water bottles do not break down like regular plastic water bottles do, and do not require any special cleaning other than hand washing them in some cases.  


Sources:

Why Reuse Beats Recycling

Green Living Tips: Reuse vs. Recycle

Compostable or Biodegradable

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The latest craze in going green is the use of compostable products such as compostable plastic forks and knives, and potato chip bags.  College campuses have also started compost collections, which ask students to separate compostable objects from non-compostable objects so that the collections can be made without risking contamination from non-compostable items.  However, there are numerous problems with compostable materials, the least of which is the somewhat blase attitude people have towards compost collections.

As a personal example, I remember the recycling bin in Tener Hall, where I lived freshman year.  Every week the Resident Assistant would remind us not to put trash in the recycling bin because it would contaminate the recycling and all of it would have to be discarded.  Inevitably, every few days, there would be trash in the recycling bin.  It was probably never malicious intent, but even forgetfulness has its ramifications.  A similar incident happened a few years ago with the Penn State Food Services' plan to compost plasticware.  Students kept contaminating the compost because they either did not know better or simply did not care.  Sometimes it is very difficult to make people change their habits without some sort of incentive, and neither the recycling bin nor the compostable collections offered students anything for being good to the environment.

The other problem with compostable products is that consumers confuse them with biodegradable products.  For example, Sunchips bags are biodegradable, but people would still place them in composting bins, which has led officials to ask people to simply discard the Sunchip bags in the trash.  The bags take too long to biodegrade and create a clogging problem at the compost plant.  Unfortunately, now consumers are just throwign away the bags, creating a problem at landfills due to overcrowding.  Instead of solving a problem, the Sunchip bags created a new one and exacerbated old ones.

So what can be done?

One solution that I can think of is to buy products that come in reusable containers, like peanuts tins, which can be reused as a container for almost everything else after it has been washed.  It may not make companies change their packaging practices, but we can cut down our production of waste.  We can also work to be more educated on the difference between biodegradable objects and compostable objects, and work to make sure we are not accidentally contaminating compost bins with trash.  There are several websites dedicated to educating readers about biodegradable goods versus compostable ones, and they all deserve a look over so that these problems I have mentioned do not continue to grow.

Sources:

Best in Packing

Sustainable Plastics?

E-Waste and How To Curb It

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Electronic waste, defined as any electric consumer products that have been discarded, is not something we think of on a daily basis.  In fact, it probably is not something we think of at all.  Our phones or computers break, we replace them with the latest models, and the old ones are put in the garage or in the closet until at some time in the distant future, they are thrown away or driven to one of those e-recycle places we see sometimes.  But where exactly do these broken down electronics go?  How are they recycled?  Who is recycling them?

In 2008, Sixty Minutes tracked down a shipment of broken or discarded computer monitors from an e-recycling plant in Colorado to Guiyu, a heavily polluted city in southern China.  Though it is illegal to ship e-waste out of the country and into China, Guiyu is a hub of sorts for American e-waste.  The river is completely polluted with ash from the uncontrolled burning of plastics.  Women there are six times more likely to miscarry their babies, and those babies that are born have elevated levels of lead in their blood because the area is so polluted.  Underpaid, poor workers melt down the insides of computers to extract precious metals from them, and these workers do not have any sort of protection from the pollutants and cancer-causing, chemical by-products that are produced through such processes.


Obviously, something needs to be done.


The first thing that anyone can do is research into these so-called e-recycling plants to make sure that these products are recycled in the United States and not shipped out to Asia or Africa.  People need to look online and do some fact-checking before driving out with the broken computer.  We also need to step back and look at our consumerism.  Is that new phone really worth the price that thousands are paying in Guiyu, especially if your old phone still works?  Do we really need to replace that laptop because it will not run the latest video game?  If we all toned down our spending and stopped throwing away our e-waste in landfills, we could dramatically cut back on how many products we ship out to foreign countries.


Furthermore, we need to stand up and push for legislature that makes it illegal to both throw away e-waste and to ship it to foreign countries.  We need to demand a way to recycle these products safely and within our own country, without relying on underpaid workers with no health benefits.  More research and money needs to go into programs that train workers in hazardous e-waste removal and disposal.  However, we cannot allow this waste to be dumped in landfills or in any other 'quick-fix' areas, like in reservations.  Instead, we need to invest in researching ways to effectively diminish and recycle our e-waste, and to do so, we need to start looking for those who are demanding the same.


Sources:

Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste


Electronic Waste and eCycling

Change Begins With The Individual

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Global warming has been a hot topic in America for nearly a decade, and in 2006, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, propelled global warming to the top of the world's most pressing environmental concerns. The film was received with a myriad of different responses, most of which associated a seemingly inevitable doom to climate change. However, the film's intention was not to instill fear or hopelessness, but rather to spark and raise awareness to an issue that needs to be addressed. Since the earth's creation, the globe has been increasing in temperature and it will continue to do so because "of changes in the Earth's orbit, the sun's intensity, the circulation of the ocean and the atmosphere, and volcanic activity" (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html). Global warming is not a novel or abstract notion, and it's not something we can eradicate or ignore. Moreover, global warming will not and can not be "fixed", because it is inevitable and the natural progression of our earth. However, just as An Inconvenient Truth argues, we can do something to ease the process instead of accelerating it, and world wide assimilation to natural law must begin with individual change. Winona LaDuke, in All Our Relations, reiterates the importance of human assimilation into the natural world when she says, "The challenge at the cusp of the millennium is to transform human laws to match natural laws, not vice versa. And to correspondingly transform wasteful production and voracious consumption. America and industrial society must move away from a society based on conquest to one steeped in the practice of survival" (LaDuke, 197). We are, as a human race, capable of change but it is imperative that we first believe that change is necessary, beneficial, and possible on an individual level.

"Change will come. As always, it is just a matter of who determines what that change will be" (LaDuke, 200). Dissimilarly, skeptics of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, might think that individual change won't impact global warming, but it's that kind of thinking that will in fact accelerate the issue. You, me, and every human is capable of contributing to this change, and how we choose to contribute is up to each individual. For a list of easy changes anyone can make to accommodate natural laws, visit http://an-inconvenient-truth.com/what-you-can-do/.

 

References:

 

1) E.P.A. - http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html

2) An Inconvenient Truth - http://an-inconvenient-truth.com/what-you-can-do/.

3) LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. Print.

Modern Natives, Tradition, and Environmental Issues

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While the United States' society has moved past genocide as an acceptable social practice, Native American peoples still face many challenges. Some of these challenges are directly related to the environment--specifically in who gets to use it, and how. Fortunately, today Native Americans have a little more say in the use of their resources--or at least are better able to make their issues and opinions known.

In the past, Native Americans had little say in the changes made in their environments. As the white settlers moved in and began changing the land, Native peoples attempted to continue with their old ways of life until such lifestyles became impossible. On the Great Plains, new practices like large-scale buffalo hunting "encouraged Plains Indians to turn from a subsistence economy to a more exploitative one and left them more dependent on European American culture and economy." (Jones). The United States government managed to control the Native Americans by controlling their lands and lifestyles.

Today, Native Americans still have environmental issues with the government. One example is the case of Marisa Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu Nation in California. Sisk and her people are currently attempting to get a section of the McCloud River closed for four days so that the sixteen-year-old can complete her coming-of-age ceremony. According to Indian Country Today Media Network, this ceremony is "a vital rite in her development as a Winnemem woman and as a future chief." (Dadigan). Past ceremonies have been disrupted by boaters in vulgar and frightening ways, so the tribe would very much like to have the river to themselves for Sisk's ceremony. However, "Sisk may be blocked from the vital ritual for reasons that started decades ago and continue to this day." (Peterson). Though the McCloud River is part of the Winnemem people's ancestral territory, it is legally in the domain of the Forest Service, and only a federally-recognized tribe can request a river closure. The Winnemem Wintu Nation is only state-recognized, and the Forest Service says that "no law allows them to put the tribe's rights above those of recreational users and to close the river for the ceremony." (Dadigan).

To make matters worse, the tribe's sacred Puberty Rock--a vital part of the ceremony--is hard to access. There used to be more Puberty Rocks, though all but one are now submerged in Shasta Lake thanks to the Shasta Dam, and "the existing Puberty Rock spends most of the year underwater because it's located where the McCloud River intermingles with Shasta Lake." (Dadigan).

Though Native Americans are no longer being systematically wiped out, it is important to remember that their ways of life are still greatly impacted by the government and society. Environmental and land use issues are still a very big problem in modern Native culture.

 

Works Cited

Dadigan, Marc. "Winnemem Wintu Tribe Protests, Demands Forest Service Office Stop Harassment at Coming of Age Ceremonies." Indian Country Today Media Network. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/04/17/winnemem-wintu-tribe-protests-demands-forest-service-office-stop-harassment-at-coming-of-age-ceremonies-108610

Jones, Stephen. The Last Prairie: A Sandhills Journal. Kindle edition. USA: Ragged Mountain Press, 2000.

Peterson, Latoya. "Winnemem Wintu Nation Fights Against The Clock To Preserve Their Heritage." Racialicious. http://www.racialicious.com/2012/04/25/winnemem-wintu-tribe-fights-against-the-clock-to-preserve-their-heritage/

Worldwide Deforestation and Illegal Logging

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Having grown up in rural Pennsylvania and raised to appreciate the outdoors, I've come to appreciate and respect the eastern deciduous forests of the U.S. and the unique wildlife they sustain. I couldn't help agree with Edward Abbey that environments that we feel so connected to must be preserved.

Recently there has been a lot of timbering of the forests around my house. While this activity is acceptable to an extent, it turns out that deforestation is a worldwide problem. Both legal and illegal logging activities around the world have contributed greatly to deforestation. Greenpeace has approximated that 23 million acres of forest are destroyed a year. (http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/forests/forests-worldwide/illegal-logging/) Illegal logging presents additional problems because it often employs children, encourages the cutting of protected species of trees, and timbers in excess of legal limits. The government sanctioned logging proves problematic as well due to high lumber demands around the world.

The problems created by deforestation are devastating. Only 20 percent of the world's forests remain undisturbed, this 20% sustains about two thirds of the world's terrestrial species. Many forests are also home to indigenous peoples whose way of life is dependent upon forests. (http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/forests/forests-worldwide/illegal-logging/)

Unfortunately, many governments continue to fail to establish laws that regulate logging. It has been estimated that ten percent of all logging operations are illegal. In certain areas, notably the Amazon basin, as much as half of all timbering operations are outside the law. There is little the average person can do to actively thwart illegal logging. The power to stop deforestation lies in the hands of governments and legislation.

What we must do is read up on deforestation, and gain an understanding of just how serious the problem is. From there, informed decisions can be made in terms of what officials to elect or what foundations to support.

All information presented here and more can be found at:

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/forests/forests-worldwide/illegal-logging/

 

Protecting the Environment for the Environment's Sake

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In today's political climate, conservation is something of a hot-button issue caught between the need to protect the environment and the need to help the economy. Be it global warming, oil pipelines, endangered species, or just everyday recycling habits, conservational issues are sure to spark debate between those who view conservation as a necessity and those who view it as a threat. Protecting people's jobs and strengthening the economy is of course important. However, protecting the natural world is just as crucial, and it is a pity that protecting the environment for the environment's sake is not always seen as a worthy reason.

Much of the reasoning behind the environmentalism-is-bad-for-the-economy mindset seems to come from political rhetoric. According to Environment Magazine, such talk began when "the Reagan administration labeled environmental regulations a burden on the economy and tried to weaken them and reduce their enforcement." (Environment Magazine). Since then, an ever-widening gap between the political parties has convinced many people that conservation is bad for the economy, and allowed big businesses to take advantage of the situation.

According to Professor Larry Hamilton, "People living in areas with high unemployment rates may perceive environmental rules as a threat to their economic livelihood." (Science Daily). Due to the wariness many people have of environmentalism, most conservationist arguments must be framed in a way that makes people feel that environmental efforts would greatly benefit them. In The Last Prairie, Stephen Jones talks about how the environment and economy coexist in the Sandhills, where "most ranchers do a good job of conserving wetlands and natural grasslands." (Jones). Protecting the environment comes naturally in places like the Sandhills, where "cattle ranchers must conserve the prairie to survive." While it is good that the ranchers protect their environment, however, things would have been very different for the Sandhills had environmentalism not been necessary. According to Jones, "what saved the Sandhills was not a conservation ethic but a random convergence of economics and geology."

It is definitely easier to motivate people to protect the environment when they have a vested interest in it. However, it is still a pity that, for many people, saving the environment simply for the environment's sake is not an acceptable reason to do so. Some people do want to protect the environment for its own sake, though, and are encouraging others to do the same. One such person is Ken Strom, director of the Lillian Annette Rowe Audubon Sanctuary. Jones talks about Strom in The Last Prairie, saying that "Ken talked about educating the local farmers, many of whom gave little thought to the cranes until the tourists began showing up a decade or two ago.

"'I've seen farmers who would have been perfectly happy to do away with cranes in the name of progress, but when they come down to the river and see the great flocks, they come away saying, "What can we do to help? We have no right to destroy this."'" (Jones). By showing people the beauty of the cranes and their river and making them imagine what it would be like for such things to disappear, Strom gets more people involved in protecting the environment for its own sake.

Protecting the environment for one's own interests is instrumental in getting other people to care, but it is also important to believe that the environment in and of itself is also worth protecting. Perhaps, if more people thought of the environment as more than just a resource to be exploited, it would be easier to keep it safe.


Works Cited

Environment Magazine. http://www.environmentmagazine.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/September-October%202008/dunlap-full.html

Jones, Stephen. The Last Prairie: A Sandhills Journal. Kindle edition. USA: Ragged Mountain Press, 2000.

Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100708111336.htm

 

In the last several years we have been hearing more about the damages the Earth and its creatures and its environment are undergoing. With movies like Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth we have seen first hand the negative effects of climate change. The evidence is clear, "By burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere and temperatures are rising. We're already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitats, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing" (http://www.climatecrisis.net/the_evidence.php). The startling facts have been available to people for years now, but the negative effects of climate change and other harmful processes have yet to decrease. Winona LaDuke also comments on the eye-opening effects of things like climate change in her book All Our Relations, "Somewhere between the teachings of western science and those of the Native community there is some agreement on the state of the world. Ecosystems are collapsing, species are going extinct, the polar icecaps are melting, and nuclear bombings and accidents have contaminated the land. According to Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, 50,000 species are lost every year...and one-quarter of all mammalian species are endangered. Tropical rainforests, freshwater lakes, and coral reefs are at immediate risk, and global warming and climate change will accelerate the rate of biological decline dramatically" (197).

If we all know that the Earth is in a state of disarray, why are we all so shy about taking action and making a change? I think it's because we all want an easy answer; someone to tell us exactly what to do to change the decreasing state of the Earth. However, "There is no easy answer, and even scientists themselves seem to recognize the necessity of finding new strategies and understandings" (LaDuke 197). There may be no easy answer to solve this problem, but something still needs to be done. Simple everyday tasks and small sacrifices can make a huge positive impact on our planet. There is still hope. For several easy tips to get involved and make a difference, please visit http://www.climatecrisis.net/take_action/12_tips.php and take a few moments to read how your action can make a bigger difference than you realize! We have a reason to be hopeful if we all make a little effort. 

The Cost of Fracking

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The process of hydraulically fracturing the earth, for the increased excavation of oil and natural gas, has become a recent topic of interest in the United States.  Proponents justify it as a way for Americans to utilize their own resources effectively.  The negative consequence of fracking needs to be understood regarding its effect on groundwater.  The polluting nature of fracking dictates why it must be banned in the United States.  Knowing about the content of the fracking fluid used for extraction may shed some light on why the E.P.A. has investigated numerous incidents of water contamination in connection with it (E.P.A., 2004).  In the Congressional Fracturing Report, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce lists an alarming amount of toxic chemicals, including 29 known human carcinogens, as components of fracking fluid (Waxman, 2011).  The report notes that between 2005 and 2009, "[Petroleum companies] injected 10.2 million gallons of fracturing products containing at least one carcinogen. The companies used the highest volume of fluids containing one or more carcinogens in Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. (Waxman, 2011)"

It is important to realize that deeper activity within the Earth has an effect on shallower aquifers.  The E.P.A. report on water quality incidents in relation to fracking notes that in the San Juan Basin, "After coalbed methane production began in the basin in the late 1980s, a local citizens' group voiced concerns that natural gas contamination of drinking water wells had increased in La Plata County. One study reported that 34 percent of the 205 domestic water wells tested in the county showed measurable concentrations of methane (BLM, 1999). This appears to indicate that there is a conduit for fluid to flow to the shallower [underground source of drinking water] and its drinking water wells. (E.P.A. 2004)"  If there is indeed a connection between the deeper oil wells where fracking occurs and the shallower aquifers that comprise our drinking waters, then the chemical content of fracking fluid does matter.

In a hearing before the House subcommittee on Energy and Environment the committee refers to fracking fluid as "Produced Water".  John Veil, Manager of the Water Policy Program at Argonne National Laboratory testified: "Produced water, much like other sources of industrial water, can be cleaned. It depends on how much you want to spend to clean it, in order to get it clean enough for drinking purposes.  That has been the problem so far is the cost of getting out sufficient pollutant has exceeded the cost of being able to inject it somewhere for disposal, so there has been no incentive on the oil-company side to do it that way. (Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, 2007)"

Currently, we inject carcinogenic chemicals deep within the Earth at a rate of millions of gallons and expect it to not affect the groundwater.  We allow the oil companies to dictate a deregulatory environment which is simply not reflecting of past U.S. environmental policy. Will our children be as lenient with us, when their homes are situated on sites where the groundwater is contaminated by a chemical mixture we do not have a cost-effective way of cleaning?

We, as citizens of the United States, need to demand renewable sources of energy that will not pollute our groundwater.  It is inadvisable to exchange a few kilowatts of power in the short term for permanent damage caused by the chemical cocktail being injected deep within the earth.  We are only beginning to see the negative effects of this pollution on animal and human life.  It is time to demand other sources of power, such as hydroelectric and wind power, which do not devastate our drinking water in the way that fracking does.  Clean air and clean water laws already exist in our country--we simply need to hold these natural gas extraction operations to the same standards we hold other polluting industries to.  Additionally, as Pennsylvanians living on top of the Marcellus Shale, we need to advise our neighbors against accepting drilling agreements that will ultimately pollute our soil, contaminate our waters, and provide at best a temporary solution to the growing energy problem.  The petrochemical companies can only exploit a new technology that pollutes like fracking because of lack of public knowledge about its effects.  The onus must be on them to prove that the contamination of groundwater and release of methane near drilling sights is unrelated to fracking.  If the petrochemical corporations cannot do this, and if they refuse to remove chemicals known to be carcinogenic to humans from the fracking fluid they use, we must ban this process as irresponsible behavior.  We must write our congressional representatives to let our disapproval be known and ally ourselves with community efforts, such as the ban against fracking in Centre County, to locally ban fracking until we can institute a national moratorium as law.


Works Cited

Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs. 2004. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 30. April 2012. <http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/websites/epagov/www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/cbmstudy/pdfs/completestudy/ch6_6-5-04.pdf>.

United States. Cong. House. Chemicals Used In Hydraulic Fracturing. By H. A. Waxman. April 11, 2011. Washington: GPO. <http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Hydraulic%20Fracturing%20Report%204.18.11.pdf>.  

United States. Cong. House. Research To Improve Water-Use Efficiency And Conservation: Technologies and Practices.  Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. Hearing, 110th Cong., 1st sess. Washington: GPO, 2007. <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110hhrg38533/pdf/CHRG-110hhrg38533.pdf>.


Sustainability from State College to the World

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I think that in our lifetime, we will see a big push to return to a simpler and more sustainable way of life. I am currently an intern with a nonprofit organization called New Leaf Initiative. The main goal of the group is to provide a place where the community can learn and share ideas about sustainability. By providing a place for this type of innovative thinking to occur is an amazing benefit to any community. In fact, State College, as I am sure many towns and cities throughout the world, seems to be booming with groups that want to raise awareness about these issues and make a difference in the world now, not after it is too late. An environmental catastrophe may be just around the corner, if we do not all start to be conscious of our impact on the planet. Getting involved in a group that is focused on saving the world could save us too.

The biggest project that New Leaf has in the works now is the Co Space. It will be a place where students and professionals in sustainable businesses and jobs can live together and learn from each other. The house would be a renovated fraternity house that is more environmentally friendly. It will be a living example of what the group is trying to accomplish. Students will also be guaranteed an internship or externship with companies/businesses that invest in and work alongside them in the house. I have worked with a team to put together a donor diner that happened this past Thursday, April 26, 2012. It was held in the beautifully rustic Henry and Co. Barn on U.S. 322 and was catered by the sustainable company Ecovents. We are currently trying to recruit freshmen and sophomores to apply for the opportunity since the house will not be up and running for at least another year. The other beautiful part of this project is that it is being pitched in cities all over the U.S. and the world, including London and Cape Town, South Africa. This is the start of a truly amazing initiative, think of all the world saving ideas that could come out of this. In addition to the Co Space, one of the intern teams is trying to put in a living wall at the borough municipality building. 

The Spring Creek Homesteading group in the area is also doing some pretty interesting and exciting things. The group was founded in August 2011. Their mission is to "support local self-sufficiency within the Spring Creek Watershed of Central Pennsylvania by supporting new, renovated and expanded food gardens and orchards, urban farms, community greenhouses, kitchens, bakeries, farmers markets, and workshop programs in the homesteading arts." There are three different program areas:

  1. Reskilling - Organizing reskilling workshops in the homesteading arts.
  2. Building - Coordinating funding, materials and labor to establish, renovate and expand gardens, orchards, urban farms, community greenhouses, kitchens, bakeries, farmers markets and other relocalized food infrastructure.
  3. Fundraising & Grantmaking - Financially supporting public and private food security projects.
There are many reasons to support local nonprofits and buy locally grown produce. According to SustainableConnections.org buying from local businesses is an investment in the community, since many local businesses put money into other local businesses and it supports local nonprofits. Local businesses keep our communities unique, reduce environmental impact, creates more jobs and also provides better customer service. There is something rewarding about investing in your community and your world. So stop by New Leaf's office downtown under the Dunkin' Donuts on Fraser St. and see what ideas are swirling around or sign up for a Spring Creek Homesteading workshop. Just do something!


For more information on New Leaf and the Co Space visit these websites:

thecospace.com
newleafinitiative.com - "we bring sustainability to life . . ."

If interested in other State College environmentally friendly groups check out these:
Ecovents - Facebook page
Greenmoore Gardens a community supported agriculture
Spring Creek Homesteading
Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
Envinity - Green Services






"Give me a home where the buffalo roam . . ."

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Like the popular children's song, the Native American Buffalo peoples are dreaming and fighting for a home where the buffalo roam . . . again. Winona LaDuke dedicated an entire chapter of her book All Our Relations to the plight of the Native American people of the Buffalo Nation and the Buffalo themselves. "In 1850, 50 million buffalo ranged the prairie system and left it in excellent shape," (LaDuke 143). She then quoted Grasslands author Richard Manning, who says, "if one can find an ungrazed stretch of native high plains, one can identify as many as 250 species of plants inhabiting a single site. On a site that has been grazed by domesticated livestock, that count would drop to about four; a wheat farmer drops the count to one species. On grass land, soil erosion is virtually nonexistent. On wheat land, it is constant." It is idiotic that the United States government would replace these animals with cows, when there seem to be zero benefits to having done so, with the exception of crippling the Native American people who relied on these animals. We the people, and the government of this country, should be working harder to restore these animals to their former glory. 


Reasons why the buffalo should be restored:

-The buffalo will help to restore the natural prairie ecosystem. Their hooves break up dead materials and till the soil, allowing for water to percolate through the ground.

-They do not eat past the crown of the grass which allows regeneration.

-The shedding of their winter coats helps to spread seeds of plant life.

-Their meat has fewer calories and fat than other meats but also has more protein.

-Cow hooves pack soil killing grasses and making it harder for water to percolate.

-Cattle are also more prone to overgrazing, which leaves bare ground that is more susceptible to erosion and gullying.


There are many setbacks to restoring the buffalo like the Seventh Generation Buffalo Cooperative (which LaDuke mentions) are trying to do. These problems include established cattle farmers who are resistant to change and that the national media tend to sympathize with, thereby swaying the rest of the country to feel like they are an invasive species even though they belong here more than we do.  There is also confusion as to the buffalo's status. Is it endangered? Is it domesticated livestock or is it wildlife? Only 10 U.S. states classify buffalo as wildlife. The U.S. as a whole, as of a report in 2010, does not have any plans to help restore buffalo. Instead it is individual states, nonprofits, environmentalists and of course the native people to save these amazing animals. Perhaps supporting some of these groups, buying bison meat and writing to our political leaders would be an effective first step in restoring these magnificent creatures to their place, to their home.

Video of Buffalo in the media:  


Sources and sites to learn more:

SacredGroundInternational.org

An extensive report about Bison as well as their cultural significance and the legal challenges of restoration: American Bison Status Survey and Conservation Guidelines 2010

About the meat: MontanaBuffaloMeat.com



Floridian Perception?

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In Chapter two of All Our Relations, Winona LaDuke introduced us to the Seminoles of Southern Florida. We read about the jaguars, the split between the Seminole nation, and the destruction of their land and one of the most diverse ecosystems in our country. During class (and my talking point) we all focused on the importance of social media and why all of the injustices that we have read about over the past few months don't have any attention from news outlets and reporters. The discussion led to this alternate final assignment, which I am really enjoying. Because of this blog project, I'm realizing that I do care about human rights, the natural world and animals, despite the fact that I hate being in nature and I enjoy what modern technologies have to offer.

All of what I have said does have a purpose. It's not all fluff writing, because it all relates to something I found on my Facebook wall last week. A girl that I had a writing class with in my sophomore year shared a picture that someone else shared with her. She is a Florida native (in the Orlando area) and the picture was a map of Florida, with the caption, "Here is a detailed map of the demography of Florida." There were many likes on the picture, from her friends back at home, and her mom commented on it and said she 'had' to share it as well. Take a look at the picture (excuse the 'detailed' language):

http://a1.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/574713_319352694801453_229064063830317_755681_1728685197_n.jpg

Looking at this two months ago, I would have laughed and agreed that that is all I think of when I think of Florida, even though I know that pictures like this are only created to mock stereotypical thoughts and give some people a laugh. There is the space station, beaches, Orlando, Key West, and swamps. Because of reading LaDuke, I now know that there is far less 'swamp' and the 'swamp people' consist of a Nation of people that had to deal with being ousted from land that was theirs for centuries because they had to deal with Ponce de Leon looking for The Fountain of Youth and big businesses wanting to use the land to their discretion. Last week, when I saw the picture, I didn't laugh or agree with the image. I thought that it was sad that a girl that lived in that state for her entire life would post this, and that people that she grew up with will spread this image like wildfire. Does she know (or care) that the Everglades is being controlled by a system of dams and locks so that any possible construction won't be disrupted by the natural water system of the swamps? Does she know how many extinct or endangered animals have been effected by the government that we claim? Does she know about the plight of the Seminole people and the issue of pollution that almost all Native American as a whole have to deal with? Spreading information is important to the well-being of everyone, it can change how the judicial system works, and the raised awareness of any social problem can lead to the greater good. How can we, with all of the technologies given to us, alert someone of an important social issue in their own backyard without looking like a radical?

In Defense of Hunting White-tailed Deer

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Rick Bass introduced us to hunting for the first time in the semester, a subject that has been largely untapped in our study of literature of the west. At one point, Rick discusses how he feels the need, more and more, to justify his position as a hunter.  What I have seen through personal experience is that not many people task hunters with justifying themselves. They aren't adamantly against it, but rather indifferent toward it.

While Bass offers a well-structured explanation of his feelings toward hunting, he neglects to mention its benefits to both the hunter and the environment. It allows one to experience nature in a way few other activities can match. The keen awareness of surroundings required when hunting ensures that you will notice more of the nuances of the woods when you hunt and ultimately enjoy being outdoors more. Hunting requires you to blend in as well as possible; merging yourself with the natural world you are present in. I truly believe hunting is the most optimal way to enjoy Pennsylvania's woods. Surveys have shown that most hunters hunt for a chance to enjoy nature, rather than just killing a deer. (2011 PA Deer Hunter Survey)

I can speak volumes on how much more I enjoy venison than other meat, but it's true that not everyone will like it. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has a charitable organization known as Hunters Sharing the Harvest. It allows hunters to donate their deer meat to food banks across the state. I have personally donated several pound of meat from every deer I have harvested.  

While these personal incentives are nice, a more substantial benefit of hunting comes from its effect on the environment. Every hunter who buys a license is adding to the budget of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. These funds are allocated to wildlife management research and projects. They allow the Game Commission to closely monitor the deer herd and determine what effect natural predators are having on the deer population. From there they can allocate an accurate number of antlerless deer licenses to keep the deer population in check or help it recover during the hunting season. (PGC Position on Predators and Deer, pg. 2) Controlling the population is important to reducing the number of highway accidents involving deer and preventing them from over browsing forested regions. Over browsing happens when deer clear out entire areas of forest. They eat every single bud of newly growing trees and prevent forest regeneration. (Forest Habitats and Deer Deterrent Fencing, pg. 2) Funds from hunters have also been used to purchase land, converting thousands of acres to protected state games lands. These lands are made for hunting, but anyone can enjoy visiting them. The have maintained trails and are monitored for litterers.

State game lands are some of the last places in Pennsylvania to see untouched wilderness. The woods around my neighborhood are being timbered and cleared for truck depots and warehouses. Without the protection of game lands, there would be no woods left in my neighborhood to hunt in or visit. If you just can't see yourself as a hunter, encourage people you know who have ever expressed an interest in hunting to do it. The rewards it offers are well worth overcoming the stigmas attached to it.

 

All information referenced here and much more can be found by visiting:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/deer/11949

(Note: Most of the links on this page are PDF downloads)


For information on venison donation, visit:

http://sharedeer.org/

 

Loss of Land: Native American and Palestinian Struggles

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            Native Americans have been forced away from their land by Colonialism much like the Palestinians have been driven from their land by the Zionist movement.  This is an important link to make in history, because the similarities of both conflicts have both detrimentally affected both Native American and Palestinian cultures.  I have had the opportunity to take courses that focus on the Israel-Palestinian conflict which has spawned this discourse between the two cultures.  A common theme between the two cultures is the idea of inhabiting the land before outside forces came along demanding ownership upon it.  I think it would be fruitful to examine the United States' stance on this world issue in comparison to how the United States regarded its own similar situation of taking land from the Native American people.  I want to focus on the Native American and Palestinian struggles with loss of land, and the United States' stance on the current issue--supporting the conquest of land of the dominating group of Israel.  It is important to make these connections between the past and present, and to show how American political views have not changed much in this regard.

            The Native American population has been driven away from their lands because of the United States' desire of possessing the entire region of North America, which is known to many as Manifest Destiny.  Because of this the Native American culture has suffered greatly along with the physical environments of land that they used to control.  This has led to many disastrous relocations of the Native American populace--for example, the Trail of Tears.  Since this expulsion of the Native American people from their land, they have been forced to relocate to small portions of reservation land, where they have struggled with their identity and the loss of their culture. 

            Much in the same, the Palestinians have been driven from their land through the Zionist Movement.  The Zionist Movement is an association that believes in a state for the Jewish people, but the lands they purchased (and the idea of a Jewish state given after WWII and the Holocaust) pushed Palestinians away from their land, disrupting their way of living and conception of a state of their own.  This has spawned an international predicament, which is the reason for much turmoil in the Middle East today.  The Palestinian people are forced to live like refugees--no other state can take in the large population, and so they have become a displaced people.

            The United States claims that it is in support of a solution to give land to the Palestinian people in the region, but the United States is allied with Israel and supports their right there as well.  Much of the United States' support remains with Israel, because they are a key ally in the Middle East, and not much has been particularly done within the past sixty years to create a Palestinian state.  The land that Israel would give up is either unfarmable or in adverse locations. 

            The best avenue of action is first and foremost awareness for the American populace.  Many Americans have warped perceptions of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  Some Americans believe that Israel and Palestine have been fighting over land for thousands of years, but this is not accurate.  They have been fighting over the region for the past hundred years, since the Zionist Movement began populating the region.  Also with views towards the Middle East, because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and terrorist organizations--such as Hezbollah--give many Americans the idea that the Palestinians are one in the same with these groups, which is simply not true.  Looking back on our own treatment of the Native Americans should put in perspective what is actually happening with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

For more information regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict please select the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5MlMGU63CQ

 

To see what much of the Native American population has been reduced to please click on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7VuwOJ98f0&feature=related

Save the Gwich'in, the caribou, and the Arctic Refuge

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After watching this very short video  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3lRo1U9XQU) about the importance of the caribou to the Gwich'in people in the Alaskan Arctic Village I get a better sense of what Rick Bass is discussing in his book Caribou Rising. The man in this video talks about how the caribou, which have been on the land long before the Gwich'in people, keep the Gwich'in people alive. The caribou sustain the lives of the small group of people who live in Arctic Village. Once the government tries to interfere with this land the cycle of the caribou will be broken and life can no longer be sustained. Rick Bass also discusses how the government is trying to destroy this land and the culture of the Gwich'in people, "For approximately twenty thousand years, the Gwich'in have been following, and in every way relying upon, the Porcupine caribou herd, loving and celebrating and praying to both the caribou and the land they live on, and now Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, after a round of secret meetings, have concocted a plan to open the refuge (where the caribou lie down to give birth each spring) to oil and gas drilling" (4). The fact that the Gwich'in and the caribou have relied on the lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for hundred of thousands of years should make a difference to the government and to the people trying to destroy their culture for selfish benefits. These people should be able to live peacefully on this land and should be able to sustain their lives from the caribou without interruption from the government, which is supposed to protect the well-being of ALL American people, not just the ones who are convenient for them to protect. The Gwich'in Steering Committee continues to fight to keep the Arctic Refuge and the Gwich'in culture unharmed by the government, but they need all of the help they can get. Donations will help fund their fight. In order to learn more about helping, please visit their website (http://www.gwichinsteeringcommittee.org/). These people, who already have little to their names, need help keeping their lifeline--the caribou and the land. 

The Florida Panther and the Everglades

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            The environment does not singly consist of plants and waterways. Animals are an enormous part of the world's ecosystems, and even though they are living creatures, like humans, they are often denied the safety and protection that we are allotted. Often, when an environment is compromised, the animal species that live in that location are either forced out or made to adapt to the change or destruction of their home. A good example of this kind of damage is the Florida Panther and the Florida Everglades. The Everglades are facing demolition at an alarming rate, and with them go the endangered Florida Panther, a species that thrives in this Floridian ecosystem.

            The Everglades are an extensive network of wetlands that Winona LaDuke refers to as, "the kidneys of the earth...The wetlands remove sediment, pollutants, minerals, and other materials from waters washed in from upland areas" (LaDuke 30). Unfortunately, these essential ecosystems are being invaded by citrus and sugar growers and drained by canals. Due to the shrinking and changing of this environment, "About one-third of the plants and animals on the federal endangered species list can be found in the Florida wetlands" (LaDuke 30-31). One of those endangered species is the Florida Panther with only approximately 30 to 50 left in the world (LaDuke 27). More recent estimates suggest that there are now 50 to 70 panthers, which proposes that the population is slowly growing for these endangered creatures (The Florida Panther Society).

            The Florida Panther has reached a severe level of endangerment due to multiple reasons. LaDuke's reasoning for the loss of panthers is that, "The steep decline... was initially brought on by widespread hunting. Next it was cars driving down the highways cut through the swampland that killed the big cats. Today, pollution in the ecosystem has moved up the food chain to endanger big cats and humans" (LaDuke 31). There is more pollution and less Everglades as overdevelopment continues to destroy the wetlands. The Everglades also lack a continuous water source which allows pollution to sit in the environment and creates a cesspool of toxins that allows for many species, including panthers, to become contaminated. One of the most noted pollutants is Mercury, which is thought to have caused the death of several panthers due to their common meal of raccoon (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). The destruction of the Everglades is synonymous with the demise of this unique breed of panther.

            It seems that the survival of the Everglades and the Florida Panther are in the hands of the Florida government. There is an Everglades National Park, but that does not seem to deter the ruin of the land. The citrus and sugar farmers need to stop encroaching on the little land left for the environment and this endangered species, and the government is probably one of the few authorities that could stop this intrusion. It would also be wise to allow a continuous flow of water back into the wetlands to try and lessen the poisoning of multiple species. Most of the action seems to need to take place in Florida itself, but as always, it can be beneficial to spread the word. To help the Everglades and the Florida Panthers we can hold fundraisers to make donations or we can write about these issues, so that hopefully, at some point, these notions will extend to other people who will join us in our quest to save the environment.

 

Resources:

 

The Florida Panther Society - http://www.panthersociety.org/

 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - http://www.floridapanthernet.org/

 

Everglades Trust - http://www.evergladestrust.org/our-issues/land-development

Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia

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Even though throughout the semester my colleagues and I have focused primarily on environmental issues regarding the west I thought that it would be productive to explore a concern even closer to home--West Virginia's mountaintop removal mining.  Mountaintop removal mining is a form of surface mining that engages in the withdrawal of the summit or the summit ridge of a mountain.  It is the process of blasting with explosives to eradicate up to 400 vertical feet of the mountain in order to expose underlying coal seams.  The excess rock and soil laden with toxic mining byproducts are often dumped into nearby valleys--these are called holler fills or valley fills.  This type of mining has both disrupted wildlife and destroyed many properties of the people who live by these mining areas.  At current rates, MTR in the U.S. has mined over 1.4 million acres in 2010, an amount of land area that exceeds that of the state of Delaware.  (Lazaroff, page 1)

Ann Pancake, an essayist, fiction writer, and environmentalist, has protested and fought these oil companies who are destroying West Virginia's mountains and wildlife.  Pancake went on to film a documentary in 2006 called "Black Diamonds," which highlights the destruction these mines have on both nature and the inhabitants of rural West Virginia.  The people who are being forcibly bought out of their land are hurt because they are losing their homes and the wildlife that has become a part of their daily customs.  Studies have shown that mountaintop mining has serious environmental impacts--including loss of biodiversity where mitigation practices cannot successful restore where they have blasted.  The oil corporations who drill the areas in West Virginia try to buy up land from little towns to drill, and if the inhabitants refuse to sell their property then it becomes a casualty to the explosives that occur from the mine sites.  In Anne Pancake's "Black Diamonds" documentary a spokesman of the coal industry said, "God put coal in the earth for people." (Black Diamonds)  Ignorant ideas like this give the false realization that humanity owns nature.  To think that nature is just going to continue to handle our abuse upon itself is absurd.  Those that still live along nature, observe the life cycles of nature, and witness its destruction see its true mortality.  Many people who live in the West Virginian hills still depend on the environment, which is being stripped away by the coal industry.

            There needs to be an immediate call to action before the great mountainous region of West Virginia becomes nothing but a desolate wasteland.  The oil corporations claim that they are restoring the mountains and trees after they are finished, but this is nothing but a hollow promise. Yes, I'm sure they are putting the waste they no longer need back on the mountain summits as they promised, and I'm sure they are planting new trees where they ripped their predecessors out by their roots along with the wildlife that lived amongst them; but it is not the same.  These mountains-turned-mining-areas are mere skeletons of what they once were, and it is going to take years before they grow to a fragment of what they once were; along with wildlife to gravitate back.  This type of mining is too destructive to this environment, not only to the people who live around the West Virginia Mountains, but to the nature and wildlife that thrive there as well.  Jeff Biggers states in his article, Coalfield protesters want to know when EPA chief will visit Appalachia: "And here's the real fundamental misunderstanding: Mountaintop removal, which provides only 8 percent of our national coal production, is a needless crime -- one of the most egregious human rights and environmental violations today. If mountaintop removal waste-dumping operations are in clear violation of the Clean Water Act, as panels of scientists and the EPA and Jackson have noted, then MTR or MTM operations still remain in violation of the Clean Water Act, even if the EPA and Army Corp strike a compromise to reduce the amount of waste dumped."  Mountaintop mining must be banned and replaced with an alternate and safer way of extracting these resources, and if not, then it must stop altogether.  It would be easy to acknowledge a compromise between the oil corporations and the surrounding populations and activists, but the oil corporations have already taken advantage of these peoples and their lands. 

For more information on Mountaintop removal check out the link below to the trailer of "Black Diamonds"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga3YPTAzOJs

 

 

Referenced Articles and Websites

Biggers, Jeff. "Coalfield Protesters Want to Know When EPA Chief Will Visit Appalachia." GRIST: A Beacon in the Smog. 19 Mar. 2010. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://grist.org/politics/epa-sleep-in-lisa-jacksons-fundamental-misunderstanding/>.

Lazaroff, Cat. "Appeals Court Upholds Mountaintop Removal Mining." Environment News Service. BURN an Energy Journal. Web. <http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2003/2003-02-03-06.asp>.

 

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Oil

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The Gwich'in people are fighting to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pure and untainted by the oil companies that seek to drill there. The Arctic is a unique environment that is already receding due to global warming. The plants and animals that inhabit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "are adapted to the specific characteristics of their arctic environment and its short growing season. As a consequence, these plants and animals are especially at risk from impacts of climate change that modify local conditions and may reduce the availability of appropriate living spaces" (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). The Defenders of Wildlife also acknowledge that, "The Arctic Refuge contains one of the most fragile and ecologically sensitive ecosystems in the world. Its environment is extremely vulnerable to long-lasting disturbance because the harsh climate and short growing seasons provide little time for species to recover." Our dependence on oil is far too great. If we reduce our need for oil, we can both avoid drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and reduce our impact on the environment.

            In Caribou Rising, While Bass is visiting the Gwich'in village; he stops in to see Evon Peter, the village chief, who has taken on this role at the unripe age of twenty-three. One thing that the young chief says really struck me; "'I have faith,' he says calmly, and I don't think he's bullshitting either himself or me; I think that even if he doesn't have faith, he is looking for faith, and believes he can get there...'I have a lot of hope,' he says" (Bass 74). I think faith is something that is lacking in this world. The truth is that that one soda can not being recycled does make a difference. If we all had more faith in the fact that our actions do impact this earth, then maybe people would think twice about buying the gas guzzling SUV or throwing old newspaper in the garbage. If oil companies drill into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge they will ruin the ecosystem for animals and plants, and the arctic will turn into another area that once was pure. But everything cannot be put on the oil companies. We, as members of the earth, need to work to reduce our carbon footprint. If someone my age can become chief of a people and fight for the earth, the caribou, and his villagers, I think I can and should do my part to try and save the earth. I think we all can.

 

Sources:

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - http://arctic.fws.gov/ctclimatechange09.htm

 

Defenders of Wildlife - http://www.defenders.org/renewable-energy/renewable-energy-101

Being Caribou

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Being Caribou Documentary http://www.nfb.ca/film/being_caribou/

I stumbled upon Being Caribou after reading Caribou Rising and being interested in the current fate of the porcupine caribou and the Wich'in people. Although this documentary was shot in 2004, it gives a great visual of everything that was discussed in Caribou Rising. Being Caribou, a Canadian documentary about the migration of the porcupine caribou is the ultimate field study for a wildlife biologist and environmentalist. The married couple, Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison follow the migratory path of the caribou in an effort to raise awareness about the danger that their calving grounds are in.

The entire migratory path covers Canada and Alaska, but the grounds that caribou have been born on (and have using for thousands of years), which are on US soil, are in an area that have been of interest to oil companies for years. Both Bush Administrations were shown in the first minutes of the documentary promoting the American people, and doing what is best for the country as a whole. The Canadian government has vowed to keep the migrating lands protected, but in Alaska, drilling the natural land is an issue that environmentalists have been fighting.

At the end of their journey, Heuer and Alison travel to Washington to address Congress, and their story about the importance of the lands seem to fall on unsympathetic ears. In 2007, the Obama Administration, which has been a proponent of clean energy, had no interest in the calving grounds, so the Wich'in and the caribou were safe. Within the last year, The Obama administration signed off on drilling in the Beaufort Sea, which borders the northern end of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

 

2007 Presidential Campaign Stats On Energy: http://www.time.com/time/2007/includes/eco_vote.pdf

Article and Youtube Video of Beaufort Sea Drilling: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/greens-go-after-obama-admin-arctic-drilling

Tribal conflict is the result - yet again - of the mad rush for oil.  A reader of our blog has sent on this link about the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.  It is another BIA controversy like those we have read about in Winona LaDuke's book, All Our Relations.  Perhaps it would be best to cut and paste this address into your web browser.

http://www.hcn.org/issues/44.6/on-the-fort-berthold-reservation-the-bakken-boom-brings-conflict

I. Like. Turtles.

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Similar to the YouTube sensation of a little boy advocating his fondness for turtles during a Halloween celebration, I would find that most people support the statement above. However, it seems that turtles are just another animal being added to the list of species threatened by the human population. Six of the seven species of sea turtles that inhabit the earth are recognized and classified as an endangered species due to dangers such as: accidental capture, entanglement in fishing gear, the lost of nesting and feeding sites to coastal development, poaching, and ocean pollution. While these problems all pose a significant threat to the sea turtle nation, there has been a lack of attention geared towards the importance of conserving nesting and feeding sites. Locations where sea turtles lay their eggs are constantly facing industrial encroachment that increases the level of artificial lighting along the beaches. Today, artificial light pollution is one of the main contributors to the rising infant mortality rate of baby sea turtles, but it also remains to be a one of the easier problems to control and eventually irradiate.

The Current Problem

Two thirds of the world's largest cities are located on the coast. These numbers are just as striking in the United States, as the coastal lines are inhabited by almost half of the country's population and housing developments. Furthermore, the coastal populations in the U.S. have grown by more than 47 million people from 1960 to 2008. (Podolsky, Richard 2003). The increase in population along America's coastline has resulted in an influx of environmental problems plaguing the sea turtle population, that stem from something as habitual as turning on a lamp. Turtles jeopardize the livelihood of their hatchlings as their nesting sites become consumed by the presence of artificial lighting. (Witherington, Blair and Martin, Erick 2000). As the city's limits grow and the shorelines of the continent become more developed, the presence of artificial lighting from homes, streets, and commercial businesses are growing at an alarming rate. This poses the greatest threat to the birth rate of the sea turtle population because when a hatchling leaves the nest, it depends on the light emitted by stars in the sky to navigate its way to the ocean. (Rossotti 1983). Artificial light handicaps the light emitted from the night's sky, tempering with the nocturnal behavior of the hatchling. Studies have demonstrated that mechanisms in the eyes and brain of the hatchling use brightness as a navigational cue to find their way to the ocean. When a baby sea turtle is born, the hatchling is partially blindfolded by the second layer of eyelid used by the eyes as protection from the sunlight. Therefore, baby sea turtles rely on the level and arrangement of light in the sky to find their way to the ocean, known as the Complex Phototropotaxis System. (Mrosovsky and Kingsmill 1985). This system becomes obsolete if the brightness of the sky is altered by light pollution because baby sea turtles will move in the direction where there is the most light. The level of light pollution affecting traditional nesting beaches has grown to the point that artificial light pollution has been found to cause almost 1,000 hatchlings deaths per nesting season. A typical nesting area produces over 4,000 hatchlings per year, but the statistic above indicates that one-fourth of the baby sea turtle population are being sacrificed due to the presence of light. (Podolsky, Richard 2003).

How We Can Be the Solution

When the baby sea turtle leaves the nest, it can become so disoriented from the artificial light that it fails to find the ocean. The hatchling also becomes susceptible to dehydration and predatory violence from animals in the surrounding area. The output of light flow from artificial lighting has increased by 73% from 1960 to 2008 measured in Lux (lx), a measurement of each unit of light flow per square meter along the coastline of the United States. (Raymond 2008). Even with the presence of light increase, there are still multiple, inexpensive, and extremely effective ways to manage the flow of light onto the beaches. The first step is to simply turn the lights off. Private property owners can be more conscious; using curtains or blinds to keep unnecessary light from reaching the ocean at night. In addition, outside lights should exist on the side of the house facing the street rather than the beach. Lamps used to illuminate the beach for safety reasons can use sensor technology to turn off and on when people are present. Moreover, illuminated walkways that lead to the beach can be put in place to reduce the overall number of light sources that directly penetrate the beach. A compromise can be made with restaurants and commercial business to turn off their exterior lights during the nesting-hatching season, but remain on the rest of the year. These alternatives are much easier and more economically sound options that do not inhibit the surrounding beach area if the region continues to develop. (Raymond 2008).

 

Works Cited:

Mrosovsky, N., and S.F. Kingsmill. 1985. "How Turtles Find the Sea." ProQuest Educational Journals. Pg. 26-27. Web. 22 April, 2012.

Podolsky, Richard. 2003. "Bright Lights, Big Ocean." International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)-Information Sheet 193. Pg. 1-2. Web. 21 April, 2012.

Raymond, Price. 1984. "The Effects of Beach Restoration on Marine turtles Nesting in South Brecard County, Florida." University of Central Florida Press. Pg. 112. Web. 22 April 2012. 

Rossotti, Harold. 1983. "Optic Orientation in Hatchlings of the Sea Turtle." Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jesery. Pg. 23. 16 May 1983.

Witherington, Blair. Martin, Erick. 2000. "Understanding, Assessing, and Resolving Light-Pollution Problems on Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches." Florida Marine Research Institute Technical Reports . Pg. 1-70. Web. 21 April, 2012.

Should the United States Drill for Oil in Alaska?

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Over the course of this semester my colleagues and I in Professor Mulford's English course (West of Everything) explored environmental problems occurring throughout the western region of the United States.  An issue that has particularly stuck me is whether or not to drill for oil in Alaska.  The controversy of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been under constant debate in the United States since 1977.  Drilling for oil in Alaska may sustain America's energy problem and the consumer market; while this may be good for the United States in regards of its dependence to other nation's oil resources, it is detrimental to natural wildlife.  (Waller, pg. 1)  Currently there has been much deliberation whether to drill in the 1002 area of ANWR, which rests on the amount of economically recoverable oil--as how it would relate to world oil markets, and considered against the potential damage drilling oil will have on wildlife. 

The topic has been used as a political mechanism by both Republicans and Democrats, particularly through litigious election cycles.  Nineteen million acres of the north Alaskan coast is comprised of ANWR.  The terrain is positioned between the Beaufort Sea to the north, Brooks Range to the south, and Prudhoe Bay to the west.  It was created by Congress under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, and it is the largest protected wilderness in the United States.  Section 1002 of that act delayed a decision on the management of oil and gas exploration and expansion of 1,500,000 acres in the coastal plain, known as the 1002 area.  (Shogren, pg. 1)

It is important to exercise other outlets for oil before turning to Alaska.  Drilling in Alaska should be a last means necessary for energy.  There are other channels of energy resources that can be just as significant; rather than adhering to the oil industry we must turn to alternate sources.  Nuclear energy is cleaner, cheaper, more efficient, and would save much wildlife that exist in oil-rich environments.  There is also much power that can be generated through windmills, which is productive and also cleaner.  One of the main reasons why these alternate ways of energy are unpopular to the government is because the oil industry would lose money in the process.  But these cleaner and more bearable techniques on the environment are the energy of the future, and we should embrace it as soon as possible.  If we do not switch to these cleaner sources of energy soon it will be detrimental to the species of wildlife that live within the Alaskan area.  We are already moving to alternative sources of energy, so it is best to abandon drilling oil in Alaska now.

 

***Please click on the following links below to learn more about alternative sources of energy.

 

For more information regarding wind powered energy check out the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIbRrld6k30

 

For more information regarding Nuclear energy check out the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSi-zSeS0_Y

 

Referenced Online Articles

Shogren, Elizabeth. "For 30 Years, a Political Battle Over Oil and ANWR." NPR. 10 Nov. 2005. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5007819>.

Waller, Douglas. "Some Shaky Figures on ANWR Drilling." TIME WORLD. 13 Aug. 2001. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,170983,00.html>.

 

Akwesasne and the EPA

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The first chapter of the book, All Our Relations, by Winona LaDuke, touches on a very serious problem affecting Akwesasne, a Mohawk reservation on the border of New York and Canada. Multiple companies decided to take advantage of the benefits found on the St. Lawrence River, which allows passage from the ocean to the Great Lakes. These companies, with well known names such as GM and Reynolds, have not simply taken advantage of this convenient method of transportation, but have taken advantage of the environment by dumping hazardous waste into the surrounding water and land. In turn, this hazardous waste not only causes damage to the environment, but to the people who live off that land, the Mohawks.

What are PCB's? According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "PCB's, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a group of man-made chemicals. They were widely used in electrical equipment, in industrial processes, and in the manufacture and recycling of carbonless copy paper until research revealed that they pose risks to human health, wildlife and the natural environment. The federal government banned the production of PCBs in 1976, but PCB contamination remains widespread in the environment today because of improper disposal of products containing the chemicals and byproducts of the processes used to make such products." To quote LaDuke, "In October of 1983, after 25 years of dumping toxics, General Motors was fined $507,000 by the EPA for unlawful disposal of PCB's," and this seems like a promising start for GM to right the wrong that they had committed (LaDuke 17). After making this pronouncement, the EPA backed down a few years later, allowing other proposals to be made, and eventually, "saved General Motors over $15 million dollars in cleanup costs" (LaDuke 18). A news article by the Associated Press, brings to light recent developments about the Mohawks and their fight against PCB's. The article cites that, "Among 89 polluted ex-GM industrial locations around the country, the 270-acre site at Massena is getting the largest single share, about $121 million, of the $773 million cleanup budget established in bankruptcy court last year" (Associated Press).          

One of the most disturbing matters, I find, is that the EPA seems to be shirking it duties to the people and the environment. Doesn't EPA stand for 'Environmental Protection Agency'? Yet, they give monetary breaks to these companies and allow for "'containment' rather than 'treatment'" (LaDuke 17). Some EPA employees acknowledge the havoc wrought on the land, as Judith Enck says, "There's no question there's a legacy of PCB contamination in this area. And the Mohawks have raised legitimate concerns for decades." Unfortunately, Enck also claims, "We believe that the 12-acre landfill has been contained and that it does not pose a threat to public health and the environment" (Associated Press). As a staff member of the EPA, it does not make sense to admit that there is a problem, but then contradict oneself and say there is not a problem. The news article also mentions Dr. David Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and Environment at the State University at Albany, who notes that PCB's not only contaminate the ground, water, and people, but also the air. So, despite what EPA employees might claim, PCB's are still floating around in the air contaminating people and the environment.

Though it might seem like a long shot, I think it would be beneficial for people to contact the EPA about these issues. There are multiple ways to comment or contact the EPA listed on their website (http://www.epa.gov/epahome/comments.htm). Maybe if more people show concern, the EPA will take the issue a little more seriously (I realize this thinking may be a little naïve, but I think it's worth a shot). Another way to try and make the public more aware would be to publish more news articles, like the one sited in this post. My belief is that if the matter gets more publicity, it will eventually reach those people who care enough to try and make a difference.

 

Websites I referenced:

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/03/new_york_mohawk_move_toxic_gen.html

http://dnr.wi.gov/org/water/wm/foxriver/whatarepcbs.html

http://www.epa.gov/epahome/comments.htm

Conserving Polar Bears

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While reading Winona LaDuke's eye-opening book All Our Relations one small fact that she mentions in the first twenty pages really caught my interest. She mentioned that polar bears are becoming more endangered and are in higher danger of extinction because of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) contamination. She writes, "Studies of polar bears in the Arctic indicate dropping reproduction rates associated with PCB contamination, a concern in animals that are already threatened with extinction" (16). This one sentence and one fact among millions really got me thinking about how to conserve the polar bear population. According to the World Wildlife Fund(WWF), there are only 20,000-25,000 polar bears left in existence and environmental risks like global warming and PCB contamination is only going to speed up their disappearance. Startling facts like these just show that human interference in the environment and natural habitats of some of the world's most beautiful animals is life-threatening and can be stopped if we all take the time to make small adjustments to our hectic, everyday lives. Simple tasks like unplugging unused electronics, buying recycled goods, and planting trees can prevent polar bears from going extinct. Luckily, there are several organizations dedicated to this outstanding cause. Polar Bears International , the WWF, and, most recently, Coca-Cola are all dedicated to raising awareness and doing research to find ways to help conserve the decreasing number of polar bears in the Arctic. Making even small donations to these groups will help fund research and will help save the Arctic and the polar bears' environment. A simple purchase of a specially marked Coca-Cola product could make a huge difference to our environment. While I was reading LaDuke's book, I was feeling hopeless about being able to do anything to help save the polar bears, but it is comforting to know that little actions can make a big difference. Action is essential. One person at a time can keep the polar bears' habitat safe so the polar bears will have a home to inhabit.

 

I have just watched a most interesting film on the sage grouse and its behavior and habitat.  Thought I'd share it with readers of this blog.

Here is the link Sage Grouse on Their Lek. Learn what a lek is!

 

 

We have spent the spring of 2012 taking up fictional, poetic, and non-fictional writings about the American West, Native peoples, and the environment.  It's now time to offer our thoughts on some of the most pressing matters we consider worth mentioning to blog readers in and outside our class.  We have taken up readings about Native peoples, their living circumstances, their histories, their lands, and the environmental degradation taking place in western areas where Native lives take their roots. Our blog will comment on specific topics of interest to us, and we might comment more generally about environmental / social / conservation issues that we feel passionate about.  We hope our remarks will be eloquent, passionate, and persuasive. 

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