Is the United States a modern day Pitcairn, and is the Middle East our Mangareva?

I think it would be safe to say that, to most Americans, the United States is the most powerful and successful nation on the planet. However, I also think there is a largely overlooked problem, one that could potentially push our country to a point of collapsing. We rely too heavily on imports from foreign countries. Despite all our power, all our success, and all our wealth, there is one resource that we just can’t get enough of: oil. A parallel can therefore be drawn between the U.S. and the Middle East, and ancient Pitcairn and Mangareva Islands.

While we have our own domestic oil fields, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, almost 30% of our nation’s oil comes from either OPEC or Persian Gulf countries (see the pie chart below). Just as Pitcairn Islanders relied on trade and import from Mangareva for crucial resources otherwise scarce on their own island, so too does the United States rely on the Middle East for a lot of our oil. If the Middle East collapses (and it very well might), we will be left very handicapped.

I do not think that the outcome for the U.S. would be exactly the same as it was for Pitcairn. While the Pitcairn Islanders eventually perished, I think Americans would just suffer from a drastically lower standard of living. For one thing, the U.S. has advantages that Pitcairn did not. For example, the United States has sources of domestic oil. While we may require oil for many things, we can still survive without it; Pitcairn Island on the other hand lacked sufficient food and other materials necessary for basic survival. Also, the U.S. has its large size in its favor. Our country’s size means we have a wide variety of available resources located within our borders. Pitcairn was so isolated and small that this was a luxury it lacked.

In conclusion, I believe that the U.S. could very well have a similar problem to Pitcairn’s, but the consequences will not be the same.

 

POST #1 AGRICULTURE AND TODAY’S ENVIRONMENT

What is the importance of the agriculture in today’s society and how it affects Mother Nature? Pointing clearly discussed the consequences of our agricultural actions and how they may have catastrophic effects on the next generations. “The huge increase in the amount of land under cultivation, the extension of pasture land into new areas and the intensification of agriculture have all led to increased environmental degradation” (Pointing 249).

We cultivate our land excessively in order to increase nutrition and economy. But even though the agriculture is increased tremendously, many nations do not get the needed nutrition, and some are trapped in severe malnutrition. This means that we do not use our agricultural resources wisely.

Deforestation had been a major problem that lies in the agricultural area: we need treeless land for crops or pastures. And this leads to more severe problems for the environment. It is quite difficult to overcome deforestation due to high demand for trees and existence of corruption. For instance in Brazil and Amazonia, there are high dangers for environmental workers in the form of mafia and tree loggers. For economic reasons, it is not profitable for many of the loggers to follow conservation laws.

“The increasing use of irrigation has led to a huge increase in demand for water and often the building of dams that have themselves further damaged ecosystems and many human communities” (Pointing 249). It is true that the irrigation water is essential for our nutritional demands and crops. However, the extreme extraction of water from the underground had led to decrease of its level, which can be devastating in very near future for remote regions such as Indian villages that depend on wells connected to ground water.

As Pointing points out, the increase use of our fragile ecosystems leads to serious problems such as soil erosion, degradation and desertification. All of these problems are visible so that we can raise our attention and deal with great care to prevent some of these grave consequences to occur.

An Almost Lost Treasure: Wolves

As we had learned about collapsed societies and civilizations in the class and through our readings, I decided to look up an issue/society which had been deteriorating but had been saved by a number of solutions which helped restore the losing treasure. For this blog, I chose the journey of wolves in the United States who experienced a flourishing beginning which eventually turned into a horrifying time period; however, the future promised a blossoming arrival of these beautiful creatures on the planet Earth.

Many centuries ago, the relationship which the wolves shared with human beings was considered sacred and was given high importance. Many Native Americans shared a strong brotherhood with the wolves which lived in the Northern America. However, the U.S government started realizing that wolves posed great danger to human population and their safety. The killing of the wolves became quite common and the reduction of their population was considered a great achievement. Wolves started hiding at the mere sight of a human being (White). Apart from hunting and shooting, there were other reasons, such as the European settlement, fur harvest, deforestation, agriculture practices, which led to the severe decline in the number of wolves (Kyle). The disappearance of wolves did not only take place in the Northern America but also in the South West part of America, which eventually raised an alarming situation for the government (White).

In 1872, world’s first National Park was established, named as the Yellowstone National Park. The opening of the park was a positive sign for the wolves, as it increased the demand for the wolves in that area to combat the growth of other organisms. The arrival of wolves in the Yellowstone Park marked the arrival of the other organisms as well, which increased the biodiversity of the region. There are steps being taken to remove wolves from the list of the endangered species, as their population is increasing within the United States, such as in Oregon, Utah, Washington, and even Maine (White). There are many recovery projects being planned to improve the declined population of the wolves in places such as Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, and the upper Midwest (Ripple). Apart from the government projects and researches, hybridization is also being introduced which aims to enhance the “adaptive potential” of the wolves which will help them adjust in the ever-changing ecosystem (Kyle).

Therefore, humans are responsible for understanding and analyzing the causes and effects of depriving the entire ecosystem of the most valuable species as the act of extinguishing specie is irreversible.

Works Cited

Kyle, C.j., A.r. Johnson, B.r. Patterson, P.j. Wilson, K. Shami, S.k. Grewal, and B.n. White.”Genetic Nature of Eastern Wolves: Past, Present and Future.” Conserv Genet Conservation Genetics 7.2 (2006): 273-87. Web. 23 June 2015.

Ripple, William J., and Robert L. Beschta. “Wolves and the Ecology of Fear: Can Predation Risk Structure Ecosystems?” BioScience 54.8 (2004): 755. Web. 24 June 2015.

White, Annie. “A History of Wild Wolves in the United States.” Mission: Wolf Education vs Extinction. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2015.

 

Post #1 How are we different?

As we studied the collapse of Easter Island and other civilizations, I thought of how our civilization may be heading towards a similar situation. We seem to put our own wants ahead of what we know is best for the environment. From little things like not recycling a soda can because the recycle bin is too far away to bigger issues like our dependence on fossil fuels for energy even though we know that they cause serious harm to the environment, we seem to be more concerned about what is easy in the present than  what will be best for everybody in the long run. Much like the citizens of Easter Island we tend to think that our own actions won’t have any effect on the environment and that if nobody else is going to correct their actions then why should we? We also give the responsibility of fixing the environment to the government. When Easter Island trusted their chiefs to keep their environment healthy, they ended up destroying it themselves. Much like the citizens of Mangareva, we are dependent on other civilizations to keep ours prosperous. We depend on many Middle Eastern countries for energy to power our country.

In many ways our society seems doomed collapse like many ancient civilizations have in the past. How can we prevent this from happening? How are we different from the past civilizations? We are different and have a real chance of surviving because of our knowledge of the past. We can use what we know about what happened at Easter Island and the other civilizations to predict what the consequences of our actions will be and try to avoid them. We can see that it takes many individuals working together to  make a real difference and that we can set an example for others and we can learn that its up to us to enact change if the government won’t.

Post #1 How are we different?

As we studied the collapse of Easter Island and other civilizations, I thought of how our civilization may be heading towards a similar situation. We seem to put our own wants ahead of what we know is best for the environment. From little things like not recycling a soda can because the recycle bin is too far away to bigger issues like our dependence on fossil fuels for energy even though we know that they cause serious harm to the environment, we seem to be more concerned about what is easy in the present than  what will be best for everybody in the long run. Much like the citizens of Easter Island we tend to think that our own actions won’t have any effect on the environment and that if nobody else is going to correct their actions then why should we? We also give the responsibility of fixing the environment to the government. When Easter Island trusted their chiefs to keep their environment healthy, they ended up destroying it themselves. Much like the citizens of Mangareva, we are dependent on other civilizations to keep ours prosperous. We depend on many Middle Eastern countries for energy to power our country.

In many ways our society seems doomed collapse like many ancient civilizations have in the past. How can we prevent this from happening? How are we different from the past civilizations? We are different and have a real chance of surviving because of our knowledge of the past. We can use what we know about what happened at Easter Island and the other civilizations to predict what the consequences of our actions will be and try to avoid them. We can see that it takes many individuals working together to  make a real difference and that we can set an example for others and we can learn that its up to us to enact change if the government won’t.

An Almost Lost Treasure: Wolves

As we had learned about collapsed societies and civilizations in the class and through our readings, I decided to look up an issue/society which had been deteriorating but had been saved by a number of solutions which helped restore the losing treasure. For this blog, I chose the journey of wolves in the United States who experienced a flourishing beginning which eventually turned into a horrifying time period; however, the future promised a blossoming arrival of these beautiful creatures on the planet Earth.

Many centuries ago, the relationship which the wolves shared with human beings was considered sacred and was given high importance. Many Native Americans shared a strong brotherhood with the wolves which lived in the Northern America. However, the U.S government started realizing that wolves posed a great danger to human population and their safety. The killing of the wolves became quite common and the reduction of their population was considered a great achievement. Wolves started hiding at the mere sight of a human being (White). Apart from hunting and shooting, there were other reasons, such as the European settlement, fur harvest, deforestation, agriculture practices, which led to the severe decline in the number of wolves (Kyle). The disappearance of wolves did not only take place in the Northern America but also in the South West part of America, which eventually raised an alarming situation for the government (White).

In 1872, world’s first National Park was established, naming the Yellowstone National Park. The opening of the park was a positive sign for the wolves, as it increased the demand for the wolves in that area to combat the growth of other organisms. The arrival of wolves in the Yellowstone Park marked the arrival of the other organisms as well, which increased the biodiversity of the region. There are steps being taken to remove wolves from the list of the endangered species, as their population is increasing within the United States, such as in Oregon, Utah, Washington, and even Maine (White). There are many recovery projects being planned to improve the declined population of the wolves in places such as Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, and the upper Midwest (Ripple). Apart from the government projects and researches, hybridization is also being introduced which aims to enhance the “adaptive potential” of the wolves which will help them adjust in the ever-changing ecosystem (Kyle).

Therefore, humans are responsible for understanding and analyzing the causes and effects of depriving the entire ecosystem of the most valuable species as the act of extinguishing species is irreversible.

Works Cited

Kyle, C.j., A.r. Johnson, B.r. Patterson, P.j. Wilson, K. Shami, S.k. Grewal, and B.n. White.”Genetic Nature of Eastern Wolves: Past, Present and Future.” Conserv Genet Conservation Genetics 7.2 (2006): 273-87. Web. 23 June 2015.

Ripple, William J., and Robert L. Beschta. “Wolves and the Ecology of Fear: Can Predation Risk Structure Ecosystems?” BioScience 54.8 (2004): 755. Web. 24 June 2015.

White, Annie. “A History of Wild Wolves in the United States.” Mission: Wolf Education vs Extinction. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2015.

Easter Island’s “How Could They?”s that leads to Our “How Can We?”

Whenever I heard the name Easter Island in the past, all I thought about or imagined were the statues.  The common legend that I knew never mentioned the people that lived there and how they came to non-existence.  I never knew it was because of the complete deforestation of their island and the collapse of their society.  Like we discussed in class, the fact that they didn’t stop cutting down the trees when they had so few left does beg the questions: “why would they continue to cut the trees down?” and “how could they not question their leaders and their tasks before the last tree fell?”  On top of that, one of my bigger questions is “how can their be so many parallels to this fallen society and our own today, and all I knew about its history was that there were big statues on the island?”

I know I can’t blame anyone but myself for my own ignorance.  I also know that there are so many more people, both older and younger than I, that don’t know the story of Easter Island. What is more shocking is that there are stories about the collapse of civilizations that are better known (maybe the Maya?) that bare remarkable resemblances to Easter Island’s.  Yet, we find the current state of our country relatively good and rising, but we are still using resources beyond what could ever be thought as sustainable.  That sounds very similar to the approach to a climax that will lead to an inevitable crash in the society, which is what happened to the societies we’ve discussed in class.  Each had a success story until they continued to use resources without thoughtful and that could not be sustained right up to and past they point of their collapse.

We, as a society, need to assume the responsibility of our actions and our environment or this whole thing will be for not:  what we do, how we do it, where we get our resources from, where we get our goods from, what they do, how they do it, where they get their resources from, etc.  Like in the case of Mangareva, Pitcairn, and the Henderson Islands, we are all interdependent on this earth and its resources.  Once it and they are all used up, we can’t just throw it away and buy a new one. There will be nowhere else to go.  Except Mars, I suppose, if they are ever able to get that operation up and running.  Then we’ll be in for a world of pain! But I’ll save that for another time, I’m getting off topic.

Population Growth?!?!

In today’s society, there is an unprecedented amount of growth. In terms of population, our numbers happen to be growing exponentially not only within our country specifically but within the global sphere. The “Weight of Numbers” chapter by Ponting notes the importance of population growth and fluctuations by listing examples from successful patterns throughout history. Ponting also goes to mention how the Earth’s capacity is now able to support “five times as many people as 200 years ago”. Initially, this may seem like such an amazing feat that we have been able to pull off; It seems that our societies are growing and thriving and mankind is creating new innovations to deal with this growth. However at what costs does this growth occur? Is it in any way sustainable or are we just pushing the boundaries of our planet and its precious resources? Ponting highlights the importance of the growing need to feed the increasing population and that historically we were able to do so with innovations such as new technologies, better farming and animal production practices but is there a way to sustainably project a similar model to our current situation?

I believe that if sustained properly, population growth is essential to the development of any society. Given that, if done irresponsibly it can become one of the most dangerous global environmental problems – causing additional, if not, more harmful environmental problems to stem from it. Unmonitored population growth has led to the overconsumption of resources, bad planing practices, which as we have seen with our studies specially of the Anasazi and Chaco civilizations, can lead to the downfall of whole civilizations. Another example can be the idea of the resilience of an environment and how it decreases with population growth due to the increase of exploitation from the growing population. Without proper monitoring and responsibility, population has the potential to cause extreme harm to our environment.

As seen with the Domino Effect that we discussed in week 2, population growth has the potential to lead to intensified agriculture which leads to an expansion of agriculture to marginal lands (and helps perpetuate environmental damages 1-8). This can lead to the degradation of land resources, starvation, and war followed by a potential overthrow of the government, population decrease and the establishment of a new population with loss of political, economic and cultural complexity. In our class discussions, we’ve seen several civilizations follow a similar path, however it is vital that we prevent our societies from allowing unsustained population growth from becoming a harmful concept.

Collapsed Societies Look the Same

Our recent discussions about collapsed societies due to environmental issues has provided much food for thought.  History has a way of repeating itself, and I fear that at the rate we are consuming our natural resources and destroying the planet (by way of pollution and rising CO2 levels, among many other factors), we may not only face another collapsed society, but a collapsed human society on a global scale.

Much of the information I have learned thus far is new to me; I had never heard a detailed description of the collapse of Easter Island, Mangareva, Pitcairn, and Henderson,  or the Anasazi and Maya civilizations.  It struck me as dumbfounding how, with all the information we have about the numerous factors that led to their demise, we still face companies or countries that are unwilling to change policies to counteract the damage we have done that mirror the practices those societies performed.  For example, the deforestation of many countries in South America has led to erosion, nutrient leaching, a decrease in wildlife, and a loss of natural resources.  As Professor Tippett said, the environment can be the sole cause of a societal collapse.  I see that, despite the amount of money flowing between countries, our lack of care for the environment can be our fatal flaw.

We may also draw a parallel from the Maya (“too many farmers growing too many crops on too much of the landscape”) to other regions of the world.  For example, the fact that one third of all fisheries on the planet are on the brink of collapse is due to the fact that there are too many people fishing with too little fish (which has a number of externalities, like lack of biodiversity, loss of money, loss of jobs, etc).

While our society may not look the same as the others I mentioned above, we are still guilty of repeating much of the same mistakes.  Luckily, today we have organizations, laws, advocates, and countless others fighting to counteract and stop further environmental problems.  While we may not be in immediate danger of a collapse, we may face one in the coming decades.

Easter Island and the Demographic Transition

In the first couple of classes we talked about defining sustainability and the Demographic Transition. As seen in the society of Easter Island, after the population peaked civil strife and the undermining of the political structures took place. The Demographic Transition is typically applied to societies in the process of becoming more industrialized. However, since Easter Island did not become industrialized on a large scale (their stone tools and hunting/gathering methods improved), I though it would be interesting to apply the Demographic Transition in terms of  sustainability affecting population size (high/low birth/death rates). For the purpose of this post, I am defining sustainability as used in class, “the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely”.

Easter Island, as we discussed, is a very difficult place to live. It is very isolated from other islands and has a very windy and dry climate with few natural resources. However, the Polynesians who first settled the island were able to survive there due to putting forth great effort and becoming extremely self-sufficient. The population size was kept relatively small at first, then the population started to grow  more and more as Moai were erected. However, as the society grew, more resources were needed to keep up with the same daily activates of constructing Moai and feeding more people. As the society grew it became less self-sufficient and its sustainability decreased. As more and more trees were cut down the islanders rate of consumption in food and wood became less sustainable. Unfortunately, the islanders realized this too late, after they had cut down the last tree. Only after all of the trees had been cut down did the society realize its dependence on the trees and how they could no longer sustain the daily activities they were doing before (like erecting Moai, building houses, building canoes, etc.). So, even though the Demographic Transition is usually applied to industrialization, i found that is can also be applied to sustainability. As a population increases, it becomes more complex and organized, but it also strays away from sustainability and self-sufficiency, which ultimately causes a decreasing in population size and possibly collapse. Even though Easter Island was not “industrialized” it was industrialized in terms of increased social and religious complexity and larger/taller Moai. Once the islanders way of life became unsustainable they struggled much more in becoming self-sufficient because they had become accustomed to a more dependent life-style. This caused “immediate consequences for the islanders, losses of raw materials, losses of wild-caught foods, and decreased crop yields” (Diamond, pg. 107).

Do you think we can apply the Demographic Transition in another way, or different aspects of sustainability (like renewable and non-renewable resources)?