Resilency Thinking-Final Blog

Throughout the semester, we’ve studied many different global environmental problems.  From Southern California, to the Great Barrier Reef, to the Aral Sea and back home to West Virginia, these problems are everywhere.  So what do all of these places have in common? Human Destruction.  From the beginning, as we saw on Easter Island, humans lived successfully until the population started to grow and with more people, comes more demands.  The people cut down trees for shelter and heat, which lead to deforestation and soil erosion.  Soil erosion leads to starvation because the soil couldn’t produce crops.  The competition increased and religion came before the environment. There was a major lack of awareness and unity.  These exact problems are happening today.  The population is extremely high and still increasing.  The increasing population is increasing demands such as water, food and natural resources.  The crop yields are decreasing even though we have introduced methods such as genetically motified crops.  Climate change is occuring and biodiversity is decreasing for many reasons that lead back to human existence.  Half of the world’s forests are gone, more than half of the world’s wetlands are drained, a third of the coral reefs are damaged, farmlands are severly damaged and fisheries are decimating.  History is repeating itself!  We must change our way of thinking.  We need to promote this change and help people embrace the change.  We need to acknowledge the slow changes because in the past they always lead to the big changes.  We have to recognize the consquences of our actions before we destroy what part of the Earth we have left.  I believe that we can improve the Earth if everyone is on the same page and works together.  I truly believe that awareness is the key.  I know I’ve become more aware by taking this class and watching videos like “Tapped”.  These issues have to get out to the public! It will make a difference.

Taking Global Environmental Problems has really been an “eye-opening” experience.  I’ve always heard about these problems, but I never realized how much our Earth is in danger.  Humans are extremely short-sighted and most of us only think about the present.  But what about our grandchildren or our great grandchildren? Do we want them to have to worry about getting fresh water and food?  I know I don’t!  I’ve also learned things in this class that will help me live a more sustainable life.  I have really tried to cut back on drinking out of plastic bottles.  I always notice things like “We sell antibiotic free meat” or made with organic material (the cream cheese I ate in the Nest has that on the label).  I also think twice about eating beef or fish at a restaurant. I like to tell people about what I’ve learned in the class, especially things like Salmon being fed food with dye in it, so the meat is pink!  People find it hard to believe! If they only watched Food Inc. they would be completely mortified!  I’ve really learned alot and have really enjoyed taking this class!  I will take the information I’ve learned and spread it to others!

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Radical Environmental Activism- Extra Credit

I attended the Activist Panal and discussion session on Friday, with Katherine, John Wade and John Chelen.  I thought it was extremely interesting how they all had totally different approaches towards environmental activism.  It really struck me when a guy from the audience raised his hand and asked John Chelen, “how do I get the “truth” out about an issue?”  Mr. Chelen said advertising; he replied, “Put kids on the posters”, “show the sick people”.  It’s sad to think what one has to do in order to get the truth out about a problem or company who is destroying our environment. I enjoyed listening to Mr. Chelen because he was so knowledgeable.

Next, was John Wade, who wanted to stop suburban sprawl in richmond, where Short Pump was being built.  The two links below are articles from after his trials in court.

The thing that got me about this article was when the judge said, “this case troubled him. He said Linas, from a comfortable middle-class background in suburban Richmond, had “probably never missed a meal … had no reason to be angry at the world.”

What does that have to do with anything? I realize that what they did is illegal and I don’t necessary agree with it, but I just didn’t like that response from the judge.  They were trying to help the world!

Wow! I was shocked by this one!  This article was really trying to make John Wade “look” bad.  The title, “Environmental Film Festival Organized By Former Eco-Terrorist”, seems awfully harsh to me.  Too bad, John wasn’t even there when his friends tried to blow up a crane at the Short Pump Shopping Center.

Like I said before, I don’t necessary agree with vanalizing or using other, similar methods of activisim, but it really does get the point across. Mr. Wade had one thing in mind and that was saving the environment and he wasn’t going to let anything get in his way.  I admire him and anyone else who uses this method of activism because they are giving up alot for the environment.  He was in prison for three years and knew going into it, that he could be put in prison.  As for John, all you have to do is type in his name in google and not all of those articles are “nice”.  He really did sacrifice alot for the environment. When asked if he would change anything if he could go back he said that he would work alone and he wishes he would have gotten a few more “punches” in before he got caught.  Mr. Wade is a really interesting guy and I really enjoyed listening to him!

Katherine uses methods such as lobbying and protests to get issues across to leaders and the general public.  It was nice to hear someone, close to our age, who has always been really involved and making a difference. 

It was really interesting to watch all three guest listen and interact with each other and how they all had respect for the others’ ideas.  John Chelen even said he has tremedous respect for John Wade and the things he does.  It’s nice to know that so many people are fighting for our environment!

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Nestle Water

After watching “Tapped”, I went to the Nestle Water website and started reading.  I found myself either laughing or frustrated at some of the things they promised.

This is found under the section “Local Water Management”:

“We are committed to respecting the interests of our neighbours and the communities where we do business. We also believe it is important to work with all the groups involved to obtain the best results possible in protecting water resources, watersheds and land.”

I guess they consider pumping so much water out of these communities and leaving them with shortages is respecting their interests.  According to the corporation, the beavers are building dams that are causing the water shortage.

This is found under the “Bottle and Packaging” section:

“Like many beverages that are sold commercially, our bottles are primarily made of PET plastic. PET plastic is a 100% recyclable material.”

They neglect to mention that the bottles are made from crude oil and are dangerous to human health when reused.  They contain Bisphenol A, carcinogens and other chemicals that cause obesity, cancer, diabetes and low sperm count.  Under the recycling section, they do say that one of their core responsiblities is to promote recycling. I think that a more effective way of advertising this would be to include facts like, in some parts of the ocean there is 46 times more plastic than plankton.  That statistic really makes you think.  They don’t include this on their website because that would be bad advertising, but if they wanted to get the point across, then they should include things like that.

Throughout the website they kept comparing themselves to other business or uses of water  that are either leaving a bigger ecological footprint or damaging the environment in other ways.  I personally think they should stop worrying about other business and focus on telling the truth about their products.

I must admit that I was clueless about the “truths” of water mining.  “Tapped” is a great documentary that reveals what is really going on.  It’s hard to believe that 40% of bottled water is actually tap water.  I still use bottled water because sometimes its just more convenient, but I really have tried to cut back.  I have a nalgene bottle that I try to carry around and refill at water fountains. I’m anxious to see if “Tapped” will affected Nestle Water Company when the movie becomes available to the public.


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“Jewels of the Caribbean Crown”

According to Walker and Salt, “Coral Reefs are the jewels of the Caribbean Crown”.  Coral reefs protect the shoreline, create sand, provide food and is apart of a thriving tourism industry, yet it is the people who are killing them.  One-third of the reefs are threatened by coastal development, sewage discharge, urban runoff, construction and tourist development.  The decrease in coral reefs began when sediment killed the coral, nutrients and fish in the area.  Seaweed started to take over since theres not as many feeder fish to eat and keep it under control.  Different fishing methods such as troiling, cyanide fishing and dynamite fishing are also killing the coral reefs.  Climate change is yet another big factor in the decrease of coral reefs.  Even the most robust species can’t live in high temperatures.  In the process of destroying the coral, we are also destroying so many habitats of fish species.

(The video below shows the incredible relationships the corals share with other species)

Deep Sea Adventure

(This is an informational video that proves that corals reefs are being affected all over the world.)

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs grow 1 centimeter a year, so if we started protecting them now, we wouldn’t see a change for hundreds of years.  If this doesn’t scare you , I’m not sure what will.  If we keep destroying these beautiful organisms, we will never get them back because they take too long to grow back.  We are taking for granted how important they are.  Caribbean coral reefs bring in between $3.1 to $4.6 billion dollars from fisheries, dive tourism and shore line protection.  Like Walker and Salt said, “for all its importance to the region’s prosperity and future”, we are a direct cause for the decline.  There are several ways we can help the coral reefs, such as ban all types of commerical fishing in certain areas to allow the coral and coral reefs to grow back.  Also, even though scuba diving and snorkling is a big tourist attraction, we should cut back on it because people step on the coral and the stress will kill them.  If we don’t do something soon, we won’t have a coral reefs to observe anyway. We are to blame for this problem, so we need to step up and fix it!

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Chipotle, It’s What’s for dinner!

After watching “Food, Inc.”, and learning all the horrors of industrial agriculture, I want to focus on a restaurant that is making a difference.  Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells in 1993, near the University of Denver.  Steve was an aspiring chef, who had recently graduated from culinary school.  He wanted to produced “Food with Integrity”.  Today, there are over 950 Chipotles in the United States, famous for their burritos and other Mexican entrees.  In 1998, McDonald’s made its first investment in a restaurant chain that it did not itself develop.  This relationship with McDonald’s helped Chipotle spread nationally.  Chipotle is also known for their fresh, gourmet and organic ingredients.  In 2001, Chipotle switched to a free-range pork.  This meant it used meat from a farm that let “pigs be pigs”.  These pigs had never been injected with antibiotics because they didn’t have to stand around in cages, soaking in their own feces, waiting to be taken to the slaughter houses.  The pork has alot better taste and is alot healthier.  Chipotle sells organic white corn instead of yellow corn, which has genetically modified stock.  They have organic beans, organic chicken, and grain feed beef.

(This is a video about Polyface Farms, where Chipotle buys its meat)

Polyface Farms

Chipotle has also practiced sustainability by often re-using existing buildings, instead of building brand new restaurants.  They also open small stores in urban settings near public transportation.  Most Chipotle restaurants have stainless steel or galvanized steel, which is made up of recycled material.  Seventy-Five restaurants use solar power and in some restaurants they use local produce. 

Chipotle is a more expensive fast food joint because the food is a higher quality.  I personally don’t mind paying more for food that will benefit my health and environment in the long run.  I believe that if more people saw “Food, Inc.” they would feel the same way.  The treatment of these the animals and workers is absolutely awful, and if choosing between Chipotle and Burger King helps support sustainability, Chipotle has my vote! Chipotle is setting a great example for not only fast food restaurants, but any restaurant! 


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Mountain Top Removal

Mountain Top Removal, sometimes refered to as “stripmining on steroids” is the extreme process of blowing off the top of a mountain to get to coal in a fast, efficient way.  In the meantime, the debris is being blown in the valleys and destroying and contaminating rivers, causing environmental problems and health problems for the people living near the mines.  The two issues that struck me the most were, the school with the children who have increased breathing problems and the picture of the boy in front of his sink with completely brown water flowing from the faucet. 

Marsh Fork Elementary School is located in Raleigh County, just 150 feet from a coal silo.  Parents are concerned that the dust and chemicals used to mine and clean the coal are settling in the school grounds.  Also, close to the school, there is a dam holding billions of gallons of coal sludge.  Many heavy metals occur natually in coal and coal sludge, such as Aluminum, Arsenic, Mercury, Lead, and Cadmium, to name a few.    People who ingest high levels of aluminum dust have lung problems.  Children with kidney problems have high levels of aluminum in their treatments, often develop bone diseases.  High levels of arsenic cause nausea, vomiting, decrease production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm and can cause death.  Evidence shows that children exposed to arsenic have lower IQ scores.  Exposure to mercury, affects the nervous system, can change vision and or hearing and causes memory loss.  Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning which effects a child’s mental and physical growth. Breathing high levels of cadmium can damage the lungs, cause cancer since they’re carcinogens, and cause kidney and bone damage.  Again, these are just a few naturally occuring metals in coal and coal sludge.  The children attenting Marsh Fork Elementary are being exposed to all of these problems.  I think that it’s a good idea to move the school, but I think it needs to be done faster before it’s too late. 

The coal sludge is another concern for the people of Raliegh County. What if the dam falls?  Protesters have shown up at the gate of Brushy Fork Dam with hundreds of shoes to represent the number of immediate deaths should the dam fall.  The Marsh Fork Elementary School included.  “If the dam fails, 7.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry will flood to 38 feet deep, 26 miles down the Marsh Fork of the Coal River, from Pettus, past Whitesville,” Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero said. “These coal companies, the land companies and their corrupt politicians are destroying the headwater streams that supply drinking water to millions of Americans downstream.”

This leads to the second thing that really struck me; the polluting of all the waterways.  The family in the picture below said they used to have sweet and pure water, but now it runs rusty orange or black at times, with lots of particulate. They believe the polluted water is caused by the coal slurry, which is produced when coal is cleaned and washed with water and chemicals.  They think that the slurry flows through channels of rock layers and infects their water wells.  The blowing up of the mountain tops are also sending debris into the valleys and rivers.  The West Virginia residents shouldn’t be the only ones worried about this because we all live “downstream” and it’s going to effect us in one way or another. 

Coarse waste rock is used to construct the dam at Brushy Fork

Coal provides us with electricity and also supplies many people with jobs.  It takes alot of people to mine coal and is essential for a state like West Virginia.  Mountain Top Removal is destroying the mountains, putting many endanger and destroying our environment.  I think that coal mining is not only a job, but a way of life for these people and to take that away is taking alot more than just a career.  Until they can find another source of energy, West Virginia will always have to mine coal, so why not do it in a way that will atleast help the people?  I totally disagree with Mountain Top Removal and hope that something is done soon.  I think that the protesters, who are being directly affected by Mountain Top Removal have alot of courage to stand up to such a powerful company.  I also respect the politicans who are basically ruining their chances of re-election in order to save the mountains, people, and prosperity of West Virginia.

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Whale Wars- Extra Credit

Whale Wars is a television show about a group, the Sea Shepherds, who venture in the incredibly, dangerous waters of Antartica to stop the Japanese from killing whales.  The Japanese claim that they are doing research on the whales, but in reality they are killing and selling the whale meat for thousands of dollars.  Paul Watson is the captain of the Sea Shepherds and the motivator.  He was fired from Green Peace organization because his ideas were too radical for their liking, so he created his own organization.  The Sea Shepherd’s first, find and chase down the Japanese ships, then they use tactics such as throwing bottles full of Butyric Acid on the ship’s deck, which smells awful and ruins the meat.  They will also throw nets in front of the boat so it will get caught in the propellor or simply have members board the Japanese ship.  Everyone that belongs to Sea Shepherds is willing to die for a whale.  Sea Shepherds will do pretty much anything to slow down the killing of whales.

In the discussion after the video, many people had really interesting opinions or thoughts about the show.  The Japanese are getting away with hunting these whales because they claim they are doing research.  The Japanese don’t really have any recorded studies about the whales, so it’s pretty evident that they are not doing “Research”.  A scientist has to have goals before doing a study and the Japanese present no such things.  I personally think it’s awful that they kill the whales.  As for the whale species, they are not endangered as of right now.  I don’t necessary agree with the way the Sea Shepherds are going about stopping the Japanese, because they are doing immoral things to stop immorals things.  But, I do think that the show is using media to get these problem out to the public.  This way, we can stop the killing before its too late, and before the whales do become endangered.  Overall, I believe that Whale Wars are doing a good thing by showing the world what’s really going on, even if they are doing it in a non-peaceful way!

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Madagascar, Home of the Lemurs

Madagascar is a rainforest off the coast of Africa, about the size of Texas.  It’s home to thousands of species of animals, and 70% of those animals are only found on Madagascar.  The rainforest is experiencing many environmental problems such as, soil erosion, deforestation, desertification and surface water contamination.  These problems are affecting many animal species and causing them to go endangered.  The rapid human development is taking over the lemur’s habitat, which are cousins of monkeys and apes.  There are many species of Lemurs, ranging in size from 30 grams to 10 kilograms, but they are only found on Madagascar.  Lemurs are known for singing like a whale and moving across sand like a ballet dancer.  Most Lemurs live mainly in trees and eat fruit, nuts and berries from the trees, so deforestation is a huge problem.  Humans are also catching and killing certain species because they are thought to be “bad omens”.  Today, some species are endangered and some are even considered to being almost extinct.

In a National Geography’s video, scientist are studying Lemurs in the Madagascar rainforest and they come across a new species of Lemurs.  It’s sad to think that there are species out there that haven’t been discovered and could go extinct before we can study and learn about them.

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Tuvala, South Pacific

Three islands and six atolls, which covers 26 square km make up Tuvala, located in the South Pacific.  Tuvala is the most isolated nation in the world.  The mean annual temperature is 29 degrees celsius and has an average rainfall total of 3,000 mm.  Coconuts and pandanus grow naturally, while bananas, papayas and breadfruit are cultivated.  Fish and tuna are there main source of protein, but they also eat chicken and pork; and about 75 percent of their food is imported.  About 12,000 residents live on these islands.  From the pictures below, Tuvala looks like an amazing place to live, but as always, looks can be deceiving.  With the increase of global warming, due to burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, the island’s shorelines are being destroyed.  This reduces the land for growing crops and also contaminates the fresh water for drinking.  Increasing temperatures will cause an increase in hurricanes, and for such small islands, devastating results are common.  The water temperatures also effect coral bleaching, which occurs when an organism’s symbiotic algae are displaced.  The biggest problem these islands have is eventually the water is going to rise above the land.  The people don’t want to leave their land, but know it will eventually happen.  According to, New Zealand has promised to accepted the entire population when the sea  takes over the islands. 

This first documentary shows how the disappearing of their homeland is affecting their culture, relationships and their overall well being.

This clip shows how the water levels are affecting their crops and homes.


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Life without Oil? Katlyn

Jared Diamond’s, “Collapse” discusses many causes of environmental problems in different parts and islands of the world and the factors leading to the collapse of societies.  Chapter three focuses on three islands (Mangareve, Pitcairn and Henderson) that are known as Southeast Polynesia.  Each island had their advantages and disadvantages and managed to survive over many years.  Evidence shows that these islands traded things like raw materials, tools, oyster shells, fruits, possibly sea turtles, and feathers.  Trade continued from about A.D. 1000 to 1450, but stopped soon after.  Why did it stop?  Disastrous environmental changes on Mangareve and Pitcairn islands left the people with limited resources.  Out of all the islands, Henderson is the most remote and the most marginal for human existence.  Henderson depended on the other islands for many of their resources, so when trade ended, the people of Henderson were stuck. 

The dependency that Henderson had on the other islands reminds me of the dependency we, the United States, have on other countries for oil.  So what happens if these other countries ran out of oil, or decided that they will no longer do business with us? is an article about the things that could happen if we ran out of oil.  According to the article, the president would declare a state of emergency and martial law would go into effect. First, Americans would panic.  They would stock up on alot of food and supplies, but without oil there’s no way to import more food to restock shelves.  Airports would shut down and everyone would be stranded here.  Emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to respond to anyone and chaos would set in.  As for the environment, life without oil is extremely bad.  Coal would give the people some hope because trains can transport food and other goods, but the waste products are detrimental to the environment.  Some people would grow gardens, but would the soil eventually erode? Would we cut down all the trees, even though we know how it’s affecting the environment?  Would the human population on the U. S. die out?  We have to ask all of these questions because the problems happened on Henderson island due to the dependency on others.  We can’t be sure what would happen, but life would be extremely different from what we know today.

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