Wednesday, December 2, 2009
My grandmother deferred the interview to my grandfather and I first asked him what his perspective or philosophy about the environment was. He told me that he didn't believe in global warming, because he'd been reading about it, and it seemed to be improving, while at the same time more and more polar bears were becoming endangered. This was an interesting theory to say the least.
Anyway, I got some real good information out of him regarding his sense of place growing up. He said that everything was different now. "If I told you about the things we had back then, you probably wouldn't know what the hell I was talking about," he joked. He said that when he was growing up everybody's family lived on the same block and families were very close. He said his family used to hunt and fish together all of the time when he was young. Both he and my grandmother spoke of having parks in the city, which you don't find anymore. My grandmother said that my grandfather and her used to go to the park and spend the whole day there. Even though they grew up in the city, things were clearly different than they are now.
Also of note, is that my grandfather pointed out that there weren't as many cars back when he was growing up, but everything was being run by coal. Still, global warming wasn't an issue back then.
I was very pleased with the results of the interview, I sort of figured before hand that my grandfather would not put much faith into global warming claims, but he seemed to have a highly developed sense of place. It does seem odd, however, that even though he has spent so much time outdoors hunting and fishing, he doesn't seem to think that the environment is in danger. This seems to run counter to what Richard Louv, Aldo Leopold, and David Orr would say on the matter.
This blog unto itself could do with a few less entries I believe. The concepts to be dealt with in entries such as "packaging," "The Earth Charter," and "State of the World Impressions" were either practically pointless (as with "packaging") or already addressed sufficiently in class (as with the other two). The blog would not be so bad, though, if it were not for the papers...
Four papers seemed a little excessive in my opinion, perhaps two or three would have been better. I didn't mind the topics, and they seemed important, but they really interfered with doing work in other classes. Still, maybe they were beneficial (I at least was able to fine tune my writing ability which had been lying dormant for some time), maybe there was a problem with the readings...
The writings of John Dewey and Marjory Stoneman Douglas stand out to me as particularly dull, heavy-worded, outdated, and not lending to memory. I could not tell you more than two things that Stoneman Douglas wrote in her twenty page essay that was in the University Colloquium reader. As for Dewey, I just thought there might have been many other authors to choose from for a class focused on environmental issues. If you want to talk about learning, give me Socrates, if you want to talk about the environment, let me read Rachel Carson. The writings of Richard Louv were assigned first along with Dewey, and I had hoped that more articles like his would have been presented. Leopold, Orr, even The Earth Charter, were all fine, but an article like "Endgame" seemed a little out of place. I will say though that the assigned books State of the World 2009 and A Land Remembered were excellent choices for this course.
So, ok, a few reading issues, let's get down to brass tacks here. Some of the field trips were unnecessary. That's right, I said it. I like a good field trip, ECHO made sense, and the canoe trip was fun, but, and despite what I wrote about them in my blog, Corkscrew and Matanzas Pass were probably expendable. Maybe keep one, lose the other. As I said in paper 4, I would rather see a water treatment plant or the waste management facility. Maybe saying that I'd rather go to a waste management facility over going to a nature trail sounds idiotic, but I think that would give more variety and deal with the real issues of this course.
But again, it was all acceptable and I don't regret my experience in the course. The former were all suggestions. I could say that the three or four presentations in the class were undesirable, but I probably needed that practice too (I actually gave more speeches in front of this class than in the speech class I took!). Keep up the good work Mrs. Davis and the other University Colloquium staff!
That's what I'm talkin' about! Image courtesy of http://www.greenstarkville.org/green_living/recycling/imgs/landfill.jpg.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It was made mention of in the chapter that I presented in a group and wrote about that one solution to the problem of carbon emissions was a process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS). My chapter was called "A Safe Landing for the Climate" and it just briefly stated that the cost of such a system would make it unreliable in most situations (26). CCS is also noted in the chapter "An Enduring Energy Future," where it is also denounced as unnecessary due to the use of renewable energy resources in its stead (131). However, a whole Climate Connection article is devoted to it, entitled "Carbon Capture and Storage." Here, the authors talk about how much of the world is dependent on coal and oil for fuel and the fact that carbon capture and storage "aims to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from any large point source, liquefy it, and store it underground" (99) Yet despite its apparent usefulness, the authors do point out its shortfalls or "constraints." One being that the technology may only "become available in the medium [rather] than the short term." "The number and location of safe reservoirs" is another problem. Another issue is that only CO2 will be captured, but other GHG's must be lessened according to the Kyoto Protocol. This process also uses a large amount of water, is expensive, changes the whole infrastructure of the plant or facility it is used on, and there are other alternatives already in the works (100-102). Carbon capture and storage may already be an obsolete technology, but it seemed interesting to me that CO2 could be recycled and that it could be used with preexisting coal and oil power plants.
Of additional fascination to me are the environmental issues related to South America, including Brazil, and other Spanish speaking countries. I am a Spanish minor, I am studying Portuguese, and I intend to visit much of Latin America some day, if not live there. South American countries are mentioned in the Climate Connection "Employment in a Low-Carbon World," where it talks about the growing biofuel crops in Brazil and Colombia offering more jobs. Brazil is also said to have over 500,000 recycling jobs in this article (117-118). In the chapter "Building Resilience," it tells of a city in Colombia that is making sure that low-income households are not building homes in areas that could be affected by the changing climate. Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru come up in a box about protecting watersheds in this chapter. These countries are taking efforts to "conserve clean and abundant water supplies" (161-162). Presented in the "Women and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacities" Climate Connection, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico have been planting trees for the Mayan Nuts Project, which is contributing to reforestation. These were just a handful of the topics offered in State of the World 2009 that dealt with Latin America, and they definitely got my attention.
The last issue I'll cover was given in the Climate Connection "Using the Market to Address Climate Change," which I did a presentation on. Being a business major, this was a very relevant idea. According to the article, there are two main market-driven possibilities for forcing carbon emitting companies to lower their emissions. The two ways to do it are carbon taxes and a cap and trade system. A tax rate would be based on "the marginal damage done by a unit of carbon emitted." However, this "marginal damage is unknown," and is thus more of a political decision. A cap and trade system on the other hand would employ a limit on the total amount of carbon emissions in the country and allowances would be issued to companies. The price of an allowance could be dictated by market forces in an auction type setting. This type of system could change whole business structures, and probably for the better (103-105).
After getting a good idea about what this very informative book has to say about the future of the environment, there are some clear ways that I can see in which the United States can change their environmental policies. I think we as a country need to forget about using oil and coal as energy sources altogether and switch over to renewable resources. And all of these large, emitting companies will just have to deal with it. That's the main thing, I think, but also we need to "build resilience" against the coming climate changes, and at least I believe that our agricultural scene needs to change. I think we should be growing more sustainable crops and raising more sustainable livestock and fish.
I myself will be attempting as best I can to buy more sustainable products such as food, and I will do my best to limit my carbon emissions, for example by driving less.
The principles are very comprehensive and include many ideas that were talked about in the University Colloquium class. One such parallel that I see is in the first principle - Respect and Care for the Community of Life. Number two under that heading says that "with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people." This is basically the theme of the novel A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith, and also a point in the article by Aldo Leopold entitled "The Land Ethic." Number four on the charter deals with preserving Earth's resources for future generations, which is part of the definition of sustainability, and major theme of the University Colloquium course.
Principle II. Ecological Integrity, pretty much encompasses every topic concerning sustainability and the environment that was suggested in the class. "Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems," reads number five, which is under the second principle. It is directly related to such articles as "Endgame" by Michael Grunwald, and the writings of Aldo Leopold and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. "Reduce, reuse, and recycle," the need for "efficiency when using energy," and promotion of "environmentally sound technologies" are all integral to sustainability and appear under number seven. Alternative energy sources and "environmentally sound technologies" were given in State of the World 2009, and shown on videos. I recall one new technology from a video shown in class that would capture carbon in huge filters, and I also learned about the difference between top and front-loading washing machines and that there are more energy efficient surge protectors available.
Of course, the University Colloquium class, in and of itself, is right in line with number eight, which tells of the need for the knowledge of sustainability to be spread. The writings dealing with ecological education by David Orr would fit in with this item. This also ties right into number fourteen under principle IV - "integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life."
In regards to environmental issues, The Earth Charter seems to have all of its bases covered, even addressing economic, political, and social problems. Nobody could fault it for not being thorough, but perhaps it is too ideal. I believe it is merely dealing with symptoms of the global issues of today. It's like a prescription for how to get better, but something tells me that not everybody is going to take the doctor's advice, so to speak. I would instead agree more with David Orr in his article "The Problem of Sustainability," in which he narrows the environmental problems down to a fault in the human condition. People will have to change at a more primal, basic level in order to see and understand just how important the environment is. They will have to be intelligent and educated thoroughly. Otherwise, nothing else that The Earth Charter proposes will even matter.
Monday, November 30, 2009
"Image of an 'ambassador for environment'" was an excellent article that I found at http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009911270398. It ties in directly with everything that we have been going over in the University Colloquium class and I am very glad to have read it.
The story centers around Clyde Butcher, a photographer, whose works were actually being displayed at the Southwest Florida Historical Museum when my class visited. Earlier this month he installed a solar heating system for his home and his Big Cypress Gallery in Ochopee. "It's affordable, he says. It cost $34,000 to install the system at his home, but federal and state incentives plus tax credits will mean his eventual out-of-pocket cost will be less than $1,500." This quote from the article really surprised me! I never even considered all of the tax benefits, though I have heard from another source during the course of the class, that a person could actually sell their energy to the energy companies! My parents really need to get solar power pronto, if you ask me! I'm at least going to research it.
But his solar system setup was not the only sustainable bit of information from this writing. Butcher says that "there will be no everglades to save," if global warming keeps up. Another gentleman by the name of Frank Jackalone, is the Florida staff director of the Sierra Club, he added to Butcher's remarks that, "Clyde lives in ground zero. His home will disappear if we don't do something about global warming in the next 10 years." Figures are also given, such as the sea level rising six and half feet by 2100, and also that actions to curb warming must be put into effect by 2015. This is exactly what the author of my State of the World chapter was saying. The upcoming (December 7-18) United Nations climate summit was also noted.
Butcher's activism was apparently inspired by the film "An Inconvenient Truth." I will definitely have to watch that some time soon.
Here are some other quotes of interest:
"Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, called Butcher 'an iconic ambassador for the environment.' The focus on global warming was a 'natural offshoot' of his Everglades activism, he said."
"The Everglades multi-billion dollar restoration effort flows naturally into the issue of global warming, Kimball said. It is more than just getting the water quality right, getting rid of exotic species, the recovery of endangered species and increasing water supply."
"'We think if we restore the Everglades, we can get more water going from north to south and a healthier landscape more resilient to the effects of climate change,' he said. It also will provide a bigger store of water to keep saltwater at bay."
Could I have found a more perfect article for this blog? Great stuff. In addition to getting solar power, I will have to check out Butcher's gallery some day too. He sounds like an important environmental figure.
I also found several people growing their own lemons or grapefruit, as you can see in these two images.
That's about as far as sustainability goes for my neighborhood. I still have yet to see an all out vegetable garden or fruit orchard, but that doesn't mean that my neighbors do not have an eye for horticulture.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The FGCU Marine Lab and Canoe Trip may have been the last field trip for University Colloquium, but it was by far the best. And could you guess why per chance that would be? Because my classmates and I were able to have first-hand contact with the outside environment. Being able to participate in such a fun past time as canoeing, while admiring the natural habitat of the Estero estuary was a great idea.
Certainly, much was learned about this estuary. The characteristics of mangroves was reinforced - they're chief benefit is to maintain the coastline, holding the ground in place. They also provide water filtration, especially the black mangrove. I was also pleased to learn that oysters were living in abundance there, but sadly I was not able to eat any, but still a fascinating fact. I had no idea they could live in such a place! The estuary was a network of canals that flow close to Estero Bay and the gulf. This was a particularly isolated and pristine place. Very beautiful.
I immensely enjoyed the canoeing. I would like to buy a kayak and do some rowing soon. This gave me a good idea of the type of exercise it is: very demanding, but it many ways relaxing. It's much like hiking a mountain, it will help me to take advantage of the peacefulness of nature.
These tubs (pictured above) were used to cultivate oysters. Where were the free samples?
At the left is a large network of mangrove roots. This demonstrates their land-holding ability and it makes sense that they can serve as water filters as well. These are in fact the red mangrove variety.
Featured at the right is a large specimen of a black mangrove. The leaves are white from the salt being absorbed through the roots. I have seen these and the red mangroves before, but it is obvious that they are essential to the ecosystem of Southwest Florida.
I managed to snap a shot of this spectacle while the canoe was in motion. Shown below is a flock of some native bird, probably a white ibis, but possibly a heron.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I must admit that I was distracted by the sustainable meal that was being served during the film and did not catch much of what was said by the Muslims or Christians, but I was attentive to what was being done at the Teva Learning Center, which is a program that teaches Jewish children about sustainability. My mother is Jewish, and of any of the religions discussed, it is the one I would most likely want to practice.
Regarding the Jewish children, it was funny to me to see them at this camp for the environment. It almost made me wish I had been a part of something like that. I also thought it was funny because I used to go to a summer camp with a theme of Judaism, and it reminded me of that a little bit. Essentially, the counselors at Teva were trying to show the children their connection to nature and God. Thus they took them into forested areas and had them think critically and showed them awe-inspiring naturally sites, such as the cliff-scene from the first video clip I linked to above. Another practice that they incorporated was the "pishtolet," which was the collection of food waste after a meal and weighing it. I am not sure if that's how you spell the word, I checked here http://tevalearningcenter.org/ , which is the actual website of Teva, but to no avail. The goal of this activity, however, was to have as little waste as possible and make the students aware of how much food they take and throw away.
After watching the film, the class also discussed the eating restrictions of Muslims and Jews, or Halal and Kosher, respectively. Kosher eating has always fascinated me, similar to Halal, Kosher laws involve killing animals in a way that is not harmful to them, and facing them in a sacred direction during the process. A holy man blesses the animal. Kosher also can apply to other foods beside meat, in which case I believe it involves blessing of the food and preparing it without additives and with a process that prevents any kind of contamination.
I am not a religious person, but I am glad that religions are becoming involved in protecting the environment and promoting sustainability. This at least will spread the message through an important medium. I am also fascinated by Judaism and am glad that it is incorporating these messages, and I see how nature is very relevant to Jewish practices.
After the "cracker house," the class was taken through an old train car, which ran through this area when the train line was still running. Pictured here is a small, yet elegant room in the car.
Traveling through time once again, we arrived thousands, if not millions of years later with the artwork of the indigenous Native Americans of this region. I believe that the Miccosukee and Seminole were among the tribes of Southwest Florida. Here are some of their tools and decorative pieces (including the small "Marco Island Cat," which is a figurine right below the mask in the top center):
The house and the train car were relatively recent history however, and the museum guide took us next to see the remains of prehistoric creatures that once lived right here in Southwest Florida. This was very interesting to me! The size of the creatures that once inhabited the cities that I call home is mindboggling. Difficult to frame the beast in a single photograph, I was only able to capture the upper body of this giant...SLOTH! Am I reading the information card correctly, this twenty foot tall monster that looks like Bigfoot was a SLOTH!? Sufficed to say, that was the first time I had ever seen such an animal. Sloths in modern times are only 3 to 4 feet long, and I don't think they stand on their hind legs very often. There were also gigantic shark teeth and a large woolly mammoth head featured in this display.
There were other exhibits, including fisherman artifacts and the photographic works of Clyde Butcher and his wife, but what interested me more than those came at the end of the tour. Unbeknownst to me, the small Page Field Private Airport in Ft. Myers once was the training grounds for air force troops around the time of World War II. Pictured first is a plane engine, and secondly is a mounted chain gun.
And our last stop was at the commemorative fountain (pictured below) in Downtown Ft. Myers, which I believe is named "The Three Friends," which included Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone. All of whom lived in Ft. Myers and on the Edison Home Estates. In light of this class, which deals with environmental issues, such as energy conservation and reducing carbon emissions, these three individuals actually could be called the root cause of our environmental problems today. Though regarded as great men, Thomas Edison inventing so many electrical gadgets, and Ford and Firestone assembling the first cars, their mechanical accomplishments would use up the earth's natural resources, cause desire for material objects, and in effect, destroy the environment!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The following is a quiz that I took at this website - http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/diag/have.html - which gauges one's level of "affluenza," which is essentially the habit of spending often and loving material objects.
1. I'm willing to pay more for a t-shirt if it has a cool corporate logo on it.
2. I believe that if I buy the cocktail dress, the cocktail party will come.
False, but that's because I am a man, and don't wear dresses, but usually I do wear whatever I already own to a party.
3. I have a shoe collection Imelda Marcos would envy.
4. When I'm cold, I take my clothes off and turn up the heat.
False, though in Florida it's the opposite.
5. I'm willing to work 40 years at a job I hate so I can buy lots of stuff.
False, I would rather work at my current job throwing luggage and making $10 an hour than do a job I don't like, however, I do want to make more money at a job I'll enjoy!
6. When I'm feeling blue, I like to go shopping and treat myself.
7. I want a sports utility vehicle, although I rarely drive in conditions that warrant one.
False, I never want an SUV!
8. I usually make just the minimum payment on my credit cards.
9. I believe that whoever dies with the most toys wins.
10. Most of the things my friends/family and I enjoy doing together are free.
11. I don't measure my self-worth (or that of others) by what I own.
12. I know how to pinch a dollar until it screams.
13. I worry about the effects of advertising on children.
14. To get to work, I carpool, ride my bike or use public transportation.
15. I'd rather be shopping right now.
How was it scored?
For questions 1-9 and 15, give yourself 2 points for true and 1 point for false.
For questions 10-14, give yourself 0 points for true and 2 points for false.
How did I do?
I scored 13!
What does the website have to say about that...
If you scored:
10-15 No dangerous signs of Affluenza at this time. Watch Affluenza to help build immunity.
16-22 Warning: You have mild Affluenza. Watch Affluenza to help prevent a full-blown case, and see our handy tips for squishing the Affluenza bug.
23-30 Cut up your credit cards and call a doctor! Memorize our list of bug-beating tips. Watch Affluenza, and then watch it again.
...So I did pretty well. I answered honestly and I really do conserve my money, reuse things when possible, and don't like to buy new things very often. I like to SAVE MONEY! In fact if anything, I would say that I save to a ridiculous degree, but I do put down a lot of money every once in a while for something I really want.
Here is a link to the "Affluenza" video that was watched in the course - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6806939155215812613&ei=cE4PS66yAZ_oqQLO5ZHPCg&q=affluenza&hl=en. Watching it a second time, there were several things that caught my attention. For one, the film said that by 1987 there were more shopping malls than high schools in America. Also, it showed some really unethical marketing tactics being used to target children; including selling food at schools that kids are warned against in their health classes! "In ninety percent of divorce cases, arguments over money play a predominant role," the film also states. The documentary talks about how less money is saved in the United States today than in many other developed countries. I, however, save more than the 4%, which is our current level (though I recall from economics class that this number can change based on general economic conditions). These are all bad signs of the role of money in our society. It was mentioned in the film that Roosevelt foretold that unbridled capitalism would corrupt society. Some solutions they have for "affluenza" are the "buy nothing day," which was actually on 11/29 (I think I bought a bottled water from a vending machine though). The book Your Money or Your Life was recommended. Living in "co-families" - two families sharing a house - was also suggested, but that sounds like a stretch. I'm fine with roommates, but I guess I'd have to try the co-family situation in order to understand it.
Also there is this site which discusses this silly, yet serious disorder - http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/escape/action/crash.html. On this site, 10 methods for reducing spending habits are discussed. I agree with all of them for the most part. I have never read and probably will never read the book they suggest, but I have read other books on money management such as Jim Cramer's Stay Mad for Life, which I found very helpful and believe that everybody should read such a book. Considering that my dad's primary hobby is fine-tuning his big screen projector and 61" TV system, throwing out the TV seems like a problem for me! Though I almost always am doing something else while watching TV. As for not having children, I think this website is really being absurd. I mean, if you're stupid enough to take this web site's advice on that, then maybe you're too stupid to have children, but I for one think that is an insane suggestion, and I intend to have children someday. Although I do believe people probably should be financially secure when having children, and should not have too many kids.
One final comment, and this has been a topic of discussion since the first field trip, and in the "Affluenza" film, but I have recently fine-tuned it - living a simple life. I have lived quite simply, but not in the right way. I thought that in order to save money that I would have to buy some moderately junky food. I also had a gym membership for a while. Starting about a month ago, I changed all of that. I started doing body-weight exercises, which are essentially as good as weightlifting at a gym, and it's saving me $40 a month! I have also adopted different eating habits. I thought that fruit and other healthy foods were too expensive, and apparently others my age think similarly. However, I have found that I can still shop around and get nutritional, sustainable foods for as much as I was spending. I'm eating organic foods over the garbage I used to eat. And fruit used to be nonexistent in my diet, now I eat at least four a day! I feel completely different! Truly, tribal peoples with no material objects, who live off of the natural crops and animals of the land, live better than the average American! That is the cure for "affluenza"!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Doing a quick search on Google, I found this United Kingdom based website that talks about product packaging and the environment - http://www.wasteonline.org.uk/resources/InformationSheets/Packaging.htm. The site speaks of how paper and cardboard are the most heavily used packaging materials in terms of weight. Plastics are in wide use for the packaging of food products and "is the most energy efficient" and sturdy material for packaging. Aluminum, glass, and steel are also being used for certain items. They suggest reducing, reusing, and recycling in that order.
Some of the packaged, portable products I use almost on a daily are the following:
- My laptop computer. It came in a cardboard box with Styrofoam inserts, and also included additional booklets sealed in plastic. The mouse also came in a separate plastic package.
- The carrying case for the laptop came in a cardboard wrap. I use it every day to carry items to work and school. The computer, mouse, and carrying case all came to me in a cardboard shipping package.
- My cell phone was purchased from Best Buy and came in a cardboard box with plastic inserts and booklets sealed in plastic.
- One of the remote controllers I use for my television came in the cardboard box my TV set came in, and the other controller came in the DirectTV box's cardboard box.
- All of my textbooks for FGCU came sealed in plastic from the University. They were all used, except for my accounting textbook, which came separately sealed in plastic.
- Notebook paper that I use at school came in a plastic wrapping.
- Mail and packages that I receive comes in various envelopes and packaging. I get junk mail only occasionally.
- I usually eat protein bars when I am at work or school, and they come in a thin foil wrapping. I also eat trail mix that usually comes in a plastic pouch. On occasion, I will bring a small bowl of soup that comes in a tin/plastic can, with a plastic top. I sometimes also bring a tuna fish cracker kit to work. The total kit comes in a plastic/cardboard package, and the condiments and crackers are in plastic packets. The tuna fish is in a foil pouch.
- Some of the books I carry and read probably came in a plastic wrapping and were shipped to me in a cardboard box.
- Every now and again I will drink a soda from an aluminum can or a plastic bottle, and I drink from a bottled water almost every day.
- Paper towels could count as a portable item. I use them often and aside from being paper themselves, they come in plastic wrapping.
- I enjoy drinking tea, which comes in a bag to be dipped in water. The tea leaves come in some sort of sieved paper bag, and the bag itself comes in a paper wrapping. The paper-wrapped tea bags come in a cardboard, plastic wrapped box!
...Those are pretty much all of the portable, packaged items I can think of. Going to this website - http://www.pacinst.org/topics/water_and_sustainability/bottled_water/bottled_water_and_energy.html - one can read about how it takes 3 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water, and in 2006 the bottling of water created 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide! The 3 liters to produce 1 liter syndrome, reminds me of the same problem of which I spoke in my water blog, where cleaning and reusing a bottled water caused me to use 8 cups of water. In addition to these externalities, the bottles have to be shipped, or trucked, which uses further gas. Plastic seemed to be the main culprit in my packages, and though the British site mentioned at the beginning of this blog spoke of its efficiency, it still isn't that efficient or sustainable
The other major packaging material I saw was cardboard and paper, both of which require trees. Perhaps some of the materials are manufactured from recycled components, but I know there is still other energy and water being used in their production. Also not sustainable.
I would like to point out the fact that whenever I sell something online, which I do from time to time, I generally use a cardboard box from a past purchase and insert paper that is actually the wrapping for computer paper that my Dad uses at his print shop. I am proud of doing that, at least.
Note: I only accounted for electricity that was directly affecting me as trying to keep up with every usage of the electronics by my parents seemed impractical and impossible.
October 19, 3:00 PM: Checked the watt hours on the meter on the side of the house. Watt hours = 12,351
Also around 3:00 PM: I had my bedroom light, my fan, alarm clock, and TV on. As a result of the awareness gained instantly from this exercise, I unplugged my cell phone charger. However, I used my camera battery charger.
Shortly after 3:00: I used the rest room. I turned off the fan, light, and TV in my bedroom and turned on the light in the rest room. I noticed that there was a night light and air freshener that my mom had put in the bathroom, which are undoubtedly using electricity 24/7.
3:10: I turned off the bathroom light and turned on my room light, fan, TV, and computer.
3:25: Turned off computer.
3:50: Turned on computer.
4:15: I unplugged the camera battery charger.
5:10: I Turned off the computer.
6:00: I turned off everything in my bedroom and went running.
6:20: I came back from my run and took a shower, which required that I have the bathroom light on, and I used some hot water. Maybe I could shower in the dark, when the sun is out.
6:30: Used the microwave for 3o seconds to defrost bread for a sandwich I ate.
6:35: I turned on my computer, fan, light, and TV.
7:20: I turned off the fan, light, and TV in my room, but left my computer on. I went to the bathroom and turned on the light for 1 minute. I went out into the living room with my parents to eat dinner and watched our big screen TV for 20 minutes.
7:40: I went back into my room and put my light, fan, and TV back on.
8:50: I once again turned off the computer.
9:30: I turned the computer back on again.
10:15: I turned off the computer.
11:15: I used the rest room, and had the light on for about 5 minutes.
11:25: Big surprise...I turned on my computer.
12:40: I turned off the computer (it's true).
1:15: I plugged my cell phone charger in.
1:20: I turned on the bathroom light to brush my teeth.
1:25: Turned off bathroom light and I turned off the light in my bedroom so I could go to bed.
2:30: Turned on the light in the bathroom for 1 minute, then turned off the TV in my room.
October 20, 11:15 AM: I woke up, my fan and alarm clock were on all night. I went to the restroom, and turned on the light for 2 minutes. Then I turned off the fan in my room, because I thought it was cold in my room. I turned on the TV and light.
11:25: I turned off the light and TV in my room. I took a shower with hot water, and the bathroom light was on for approximately 10 minutes.
11:45: I went to Edison Community College to go tutor.
I did not return home until 5:30 PM and the meter now read:
12, 404 WATT HOURS!
No bueno. In addition to having my alarm clock on all day everyday, my home does have air conditioning, which seems to come on at least every hour. There were also those plug-ins in my bathroom. Oftentimes I forget to unplug my cell phone charger, but I have been trying to be better about that. I always have my fan on all night. Of course, sometimes I do laundry, and my parents use much electricity as well.
I learned that my electric company is the Lee County Electric Cooperative. Going to this link in the "About Us" section of their site - http://www.lcec.net/aboutus/images/Our%20Wholesale%20Energy%20Supplier.pdf - showed me that the electricity they serve is from the wholesale supplier Seminole. This site explains that their energy is powered by coal. Only a small fraction, 4%, is from alternative energy sources, however they are able to sell the waste to wallboard manufacturers.
Now for an evaluation of my gas energy usage:
A typical Wednesday at Florida Gulf Coast University involves driving there and back to my house, plus the occasional run to a gas station in between my classes, which is what I did on the Wednesday that I recorded my mileage. I had no passengers in my car, and usually do not. Only from doing the things I just mentioned resulted in me driving 53.2 MILES! A lot more miles than I expected.
My car, a 2004 Hyundai Sonata, has just a little over 84,000 miles on it right now, and it was purchased around this time in 2003, therefore, I drive approximately 14,000 miles a year. Which is a little less than I expected.
Looking at my car's energy score at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/, I found that my car emits 9.5 tons of carbon per year, when I plug in my annual miles data. It also had a 2 on a scale of ten of an air pollution score. It uses approximately 17.7 barrels of oil in a given year.
Dividing the 9.5 tons of carbon per year by 365 days gives me an average of 0.026 tons, which I believe translates into 52 pounds of carbon, if one assumes that the website was using the United States ton of 2000 lbs. That's practically a pound of carbon per gallon! If not more.
I think I did pretty poorly on electricity and gas usage. Not only does my household use a lot of electricity, but it is supplied by a coal power plant. I don't know what the other company, Florida Power and Light is offering, but I don't like it. Furthermore, I was very disappointed with my car's emissions. I thought that Hyundai's were supposed to have good fuel economy and be at least better than average on emissions and the like, but this was not the case.
I don't know what to do about these problems either, they're tough to curb greatly. I'm continuing to turn electric appliances off when not in use, but any major actions that could be taken will probably cost a fair amount of money up front. The same thing goes for my car. I've been very thankful for the fact that I finally paid off my car last month, and I didn't want to get a new car very soon, so that I could save up. So I may be keeping this carbon machine a little longer. Also, I know that living closer to FGCU and my job at the airport would be beneficial, but again cost comes into play. Assuming I spend $2000 on gas per year, living in an apartment instead of with my parents will cost me close to $6000, if I were able to only pay $500 a month. From the ecological footprint exercise in the related blog posting, living separately could possibly be less efficient environmentally as well.
Tough problems. And if I'm having these types of problems with my relatively simple lifestyle, the rest of the industrialized world is in big trouble!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Field Trip to Corkscrew Swamp - Well at Least Corkscrew Swamp Isn't Scr...In Danger of Being Destroyed!
I am glad and feel fortunate to have seen such a place. I enjoy bizarre, out of the ordinary occurrences in nature, and the Corkscrew Swamp falls near that category. It is a very mystical, lively place. The interiors of the swamp remind one of Yoda's planet of Dagobah in Star Wars. Perhaps not everyone will understand that reference, but suffice it to say that the canopy of prehistoric-looking trees, mosses, and unique creatures, gives one the feeling that "the force" is with them. However, that's a very pop-culture comparison. I could also compare it to the deep, dark regions that one would expect to find a Native American medicine man in the Amazon or the bayou of the southern United States. I would have expected to see such a place in the so-called "swamp" of Gainesville, Florida, but I had no idea that such places existed so close to where I live.
Speaking of Gainesville, here is a baby alligator that somebody walking the trail had found. It was explained that baby alligators carry the yellow bands, which are lost when they grow older.
Shortly down the trail to the boardwalk, my classmates and I came across this wildlife crossing sign, pictured right. It may seem insignificant, but it is actually a means by which animals can be saved.
A short distance from the sign was this large patch of sunflowers, an unexpected sight to see. The field of sunflowers was teeming with butterflies and locusts.
After passing through the Wizard of Oz, Poppy Field-esque land of sunflowers...it was time to get on the boardwalk. Pictured right was an initial scene that I came across. A good example of that mystical, "force" feeling. In this photo there are sturdy cypress with lichens growing on them - a sign of clean air. And there are many large air plants and flag grass plants. It is obvious that this is a slough area, with the tree-marked swamp.
Here at the left is a good example of a resurrection fern, which has become quite large on its host tree. Also it is a more-close up example of an air plant.
I don't know how anybody was able to spot this creature, but here is a snake nesting in a tree. You can tell that the "force" is strong with this one. I don't remember ever seeing a snake living in a tree before, very interesting.
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-guide/Storeriadekayi.htm - by looking here, it seems possible that it's a type of brown snake, but it's hard to say. Seems to have a thick body.
Here is another interesting animal living arrangement, a globe of spiderweb that was hanging out into the boardwalk.
Ah, here above is a section of the Corkscrew Swamp with a flag grass marsh. I think I remember seeing flag grass some time ago when I went to the Six Mile Cypress Slough. It is apparently common to sloughs. It is a large, leafy plant. It seemed like birds liked this marsh area.
On the right is just a fraction of the mass of a gargantuan pre-historic looking tree. Trees such as these were not too uncommon on the walk. It is clearly very old and other trees are growing on it. I recall either the professor or guide saying that there used to be trees as large as sequoias in this region. I think this one ranks pretty closely to that size.
The Corkscrew Swamp was almost like a trip back in time a few thousand years ago. Again a very mysterious and powerful place. I think it was my favorite field trip yet. Seeing two alligators in one day was definitely cool. The only thing I wish I could have done there was to have tried a swamp apple, which was a fruit that I saw growing near the boardwalk. But all of them were out of reach. Supposedly it tastes somewhat of mango, and/or apple. A mystery yet to be solved.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Here is a shot of the aquifer right in front of one of the entrances into the trail, along with a nice expansive view of the slough area that the trail runs through. From this view many melaleuca, palm, and cypress trees can be seen.
Starting down the trail it becomes apparent that the region is filled with melaleuca. Which is a tall, skinny white tree with bark that almost seems like it's shedding. It is sometimes called the "paper tree" and I remember taking the bark off as a kid and writing on it. My camera ran out of battery halfway down the trail, and so I didn't manage to get a picture of everything I wanted, including the melaleuca, but I have retrieved a photo online at http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.iswgfla.org/templates/Melaleuca05.JPG&imgrefurl=http://www.iswgfla.org/Melaleuca.htm&usg=__WSWfSM8B43XNXRNAUs_FeIx8jcc=&h=2384&w=3628&sz=2532&hl=en&start=4&tbnid=-aTKnWzDPTZjzM:&tbnh=99&tbnw=150&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmelaleuca%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den.According to the website, and I think the professor also mentioned it, the melaleuca is an invasive species, non-native to southwest Florida.
Other, more native species were present in relative abundance, including cabbage palms and saw grass. While sighting these plants, there was clearly evidence of a forest fire, which had seared many palms in some areas. The professor and guide explained that the woods must be intentionally set fire to every so often in a controlled way in order to prevent a natural brush fire from occurring. Pictured below is an example of this.
Here is another example of a toasted palm, along with a beautiful orchid. Orchids were also a common occurrence on the trail.
After hiking down the trail a little more, it was cut off by a large marshland or swamp. Indeed it was an unforgettable experience trudging through the knee high water. I thought it was very relaxing to walk in the water, and as the professor even said, it would go hand in hand with Richard Louv's theory of being in contact with nature as a means of helping your mind and spirit.
There was much tall grass and trees in watershed area, which also would indicate that it is a slough. A kind of tree-laden swamp. Not a whole lot of wild animals to speak of, but there were signs of hog residency.
All and all it was a pleasant experience. I wasn't afraid to get into the water before reaching it, but then thought that I could skirt the outer rim and avoid it, seemed like a a good plan, but the outer rim disappeared after a while, and it wasn't so bad after all.
It was obvious to me that the university was surrounded by a forest, but I had no idea what the forests were harboring. Now I am aware and I believe that areas like the slough here in our backyard definitely need to be protected. They are very beautiful and it is obvious that they are an important part of the ecosystem.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Yes, Wild Man Jesse, the author of such groundbreaking blogs as "T. Boone Pickens Ain't Who I'm Pickin'" and "Behold Wild Man Jesse's Wild Diet, is himself an environmental abomination, a plague to the human race, because you see, Wild Man Jesse washes his hands AT LEAST FIFTEEN TIMES A DAY! The humanity. The wasted oceans, ravines, and watersheds. Whole submarine ecosystems wiped off the planet by the wiping of my hands.
OK, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic, but I do tend to use a lot of water on a daily basis, and I'm at about the halfway point between necessary hand-washings and OCD disorder. I must be stopped.
Here's a rundown of my water usage from 1 pm Sunday, October 11 to 1 pm Monday, October 12:
WARNING: THE GRATUITOUS USE OF WATER IN THE FOLLOWING BLOG MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
I awoke late Sunday morning, as the result of an unusually hard night of work on the previous eve. I made my customary trip to the restroom upon rising from bed, which involved a flushing of the latrine - 1.6 gallons of water - and a standard hand-washing - 1 cup.
Total water = 1.66 gallons
I proceeded to make myself breakfast, which included a class of water - 1.5 cups.
Total water = .09 gallons
I drank that water and refilled another glass with another 1.5 cups.
Total water = .09 gallons
Later I again used the rest room - 1.6 gallons - and washed my hands - 1 cup. I then used the shower which by my measurements uses 2.4 gallons.
Total water = 4.06 gallons
How did I arrive at that gallons per shower? First, I set a bucket in the shower and then turned the water on. I kept track of the time; usually it takes me about 5-6 minutes to take a shower. I'm at least saving water that way! I think that's a relatively short shower. Anyway, after about 6 minutes had elapsed, I took a measuring cup and found that the water was about 4 cups long, 3 cups wide, and 3 cups deep, therefore, there were 36 cups of water in the bucket. However, I usually have the water on at full power, and I noticed that the bucket did not capture all of the water, no matter how I positioned it. Therefore I divided that 36 cups by .85, which I thought accounted for the uncaught water. The resulting number I divided by 16, as there are 16 cups in a gallon: something I learned in elementary school!
Next I made my other preparations for work. I made a large cup of coffee - 1.5 cups -for the ride out to the airport and reused a bottled water bottle - 8 cups. Cleaning out the bottle ended up using a lot of water.
Total water = .59 gallons
While at work, I used the bathroom twice - 3.26 gallons, washed my hands about 4 times other than when I was using the men's room - 4 cups, and drank a Starbuck's Frappucinno - .5 cup, and a 1.5 cups can of iced tea/lemonade.
Total water = 3.64 gallons
Upon returning home, I washed my hands - 1 cup, and took another shower - 2.4 gallons.
Total water = 2.46 gallons
I then made some food, washing my hands again - 1 cup, and I had 1.5 cups of water with my meal.
Total water = .16 gallons
I brushed my teeth - 1.5 cups - and washed my hands - 1 cup - before going to bed.
Total water = .16 gallons
The next day I woke up at 8:30 am and went to the commode, which involved a toilet flush - 1.6 gallons, a hand washing - 1 cup, washing of my hair - .5 cup, and the brushing of my teeth - 1.5 cups. I also poured myself a cup of water - 1.5 cups.
Total water = 1.88 gallons
It was time to go tutor at Edison Community College. While there I used the rest room, with another toilet flushing - 1.6 gallons, a hand washing - 1 cup, and a bottle of soda - 2.5 cups.
Total water = 1.82 gallons
This was all the water usage I had for that particular 24 hour period, but I will include numbers for the dishwasher, laundry machine, and for shaving, for the sake of argument.
Dishwasher - 7.8 gallons for a normal load.
Laundry machine - 45 gallons
Shaving - .16 gallons
Day without additions - 16.61
Day with additions - 69.57 gallons
Clearly there is a large difference in the day without additions and the day with additions, mostly due to the laundry machine. My house has a top loading laundry machine, which I read at the Whirlpool website - http://www.whirlpool.com/catalog/buying_guide.jsp?sectionId=292 - uses significantly more water than a front loading machine. I will admit that the machine is in use a lot in my house and efforts should be made to curb that.
All and all, I don't use too great of an amount of water, IF I don't do laundry or dishes. In all it amounted to a third of one load of laundry. Of course, with everything else included, there is a problem! I also think I wash my hands too much, perhaps I should invest in hand sanitizer again. Ever since I was a kid, I've had a slight phobia of germs, nothing too crazy, but I like to feel clean. Furthermore, I will see if my folks are willing to purchase a front loading washing machine.
One final note, I am confused about what to do with water bottles, my parents keep buying them, and I'd like to recycle them, but at the same time, whenever I reuse a bottle, I end up using a lot of water to wash it. I guess I need to buy a bunch of washable, durable water bottles and tell my parents to ease up on the throw-away bottles.
I am much more aware of my water usage after this exercise!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Anyway, the trip began with the aforementioned history debriefing at the Estero Bay Historic Cottage, which is a structure remaining from the inhabitants of Ft. Myers Beach that lived during the early 20th century. For some reason it was surprising to me to learn that there were non-natives living on the island of Ft. Myers Beach at that time, but it makes sense. According to the woman in charge of the cottage, things were very simple back then. Most of the people living on the island fished and the environment was thriving. The woman in charge of the cottage also described an arch that formed the entryway from Ft. Myers to Ft. Myers Beach, when the bridge connecting them was first built. This edifice no longer stands, but it sounded as though it was a tourist attraction. Things have changed regarding the ecosystem as well, as chemicals being leeched into the waters have changed the water composition and killed a large portion of the sea life. The information that the woman at the Estero Bay Historic Cottage gave was relatively interesting and I would not have learned them otherwise, I'm sure, but I think that most of my classmates would agree with me that it was not the best part of the trip.
After sitting around in the small cottage it was time to head into the Matanzas Pass Preserve, where no doubt, Spanish soldiers were waiting to do battle. If only that were the case, but I digress. Indeed it would prove to be just about as interesting, as the Matanzas Pass Preserve is a unique mangrove forest ecosystem.
The above photo showcases the unusual tangle of roots that are peculiar to the red mangrove, which is the most common mangrove. There are three types of mangroves, the red, black, and white, however they are not related plant species. In the following photograph, there is a comparison of the black (left) and red (right) mangroves.
Of course, these photographs do not reveal everything present in the mangrove swamp of Matanzas Pass. There were many small crabs crawling along the trees, but they were very fast and tended to sit right on the side of the tree where it was hardest to take a picture of them! And of course there was the snake at the beginning of this post that a classmate and I encountered. It seemed frozen in place. I would imagine that in general it is difficult to get that close to a snake in the wild, and at least in my opinion, they are worth saving. There were also cypress trees and some scattered palms.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
In sum of the information provided on the website, the organization began with a group of Lee County citizens who recognized in 1995 that there was land in this area that needed to be preserved before the whole place was developed and it was too late. They called themselves Conservation 20/20 at this time and eventually through their lobbying, voters enacted a law to raise taxes, the money from which would go towards protecting natural habitats. Officially the group is now called the Conservation Lands Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (or CLASAC), but they are still more widely known as Conservation 20/20. The function of this committee is to take offers and screen possible lands to be protected, which are then deemed preserves by the county.
Also according to the website, the group has these four primary objectives:
1. Protect and preserve natural wildlife habitat.
2. Protect and preserve water quality and supply.
3. Protect developed lands from flooding.
4. Provide resource-based recreation.
I was not aware until now of this branch of Lee County Parks and Recreations, and it appears that they are the responsible party for many of the preserves in Lee County that I have ever visited or heard about.
The preserved natural habitats that I have visited that were set up by Conservation 20/20 are - Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Matanzas Pass Preserve (thanks to the University Colloquium course), Boomer Preserve - Koreshan State Historic Site, and I may have been to the San Carlos Bay - Bunche Beach Preserve, but my memory does not serve me so well on that.
There's always a possibility that I will go to one of the other preserves listed on the site. I seem to always end up at the Koreshan State Historic Site for one reason or another. I'd like to learn more about the individual preserves and see what interests me.
I see no fault whatsoever in Conservation 20/20's mission and I believe that tax money is efficiently being allocated through their program. It is a small price to pay for the ability to live in the future, quite literally!