Category Archives: envproblems2016

Final Reflection Blog: Problems and Solutions and Keeping a Realistic View

The main things I will take away from this course are some of the environmental problems that I did not know about.  I knew population growth, deforestation, mining, and Carbon emissions were all big issues. However, I learned quite a few very important problems that I had been missing.  Food security, for example, is a big one.  I knew there are people in the world that don’t have food, but for some reason, that never occurred to me as an important environmental issue.  It never occurred to me that per-capita resource consumption of first world countries could be linked so strongly to issues with solving world hunger.  It never occurred to me that livestock agriculture took up such a large percentage of crop consumption instead of that percentage being used towards the world starvation crisis.  It never occurred to me that fossil fuel demand, specifically Ethanol demand, weighed so heavily on cultural practices and societal norms in Mexico and the livelihood of farmers across the United States’ Midwest.  Connecting these dots and reading further into the issue is certainly not an everyday practice nor is the topic of such issues an everyday thought or concern.

When faced with issues like food security once the dots have been connected and concerns and effects of the issue are so apparent and broad, it’s difficult, from first-hand experience, to keep a positive perspective of future solutions and the time frame in which things can and will get done.  However, when learning about possible solutions that, yes, aren’t perfect, but at least address the problem and are moving in the right direction, you can’t help but feel somewhat optimistic about possible future solutions.  While watching these videos of idea proposals or having class discussions about innovations in a field or idea, it helps to know that we aren’t alone in the fight; there are others, very intelligent others, that are already fighting the fight and creating major headway for when you get to the front lines.

Though, even with the positivity and optimism, it’s important to keep a realistic view.  With solutions sometimes comes more problems, and it‘s become imperative to try to anticipate these problems before they become a reality so the issue of perceiving the problem is not such a struggle.  This is when it becomes a need to be an activist, and with activism comes communication, networking, and relationships.  This can be another struggle in and of itself.  When challenged with an opposing viewpoint that comes with evidence contradicting your our belief, people tend to have more faith in their belief because they become defensive (principal known as the “World Backfire Effect”).  This is an example of the importance for positive communication that offers positive advancements for the future of all involved parties.  Such is only one of many tools within the toolkit for environmental science problem solving; show the world all the positives of helping and advocating for the environment without making it too eco-centered.

Final Reflections

Overall, Global Environmental Problems has been a course that I found truly engaging. We learned about current issues, where we were encouraged to dive deeper and find the root-causes to these issues. We were motivated to find solutions, but we learned quickly that not all the solutions will work. That as a whole we would need to work together and cut down our living habits to fully be able to make a change. I learned so much about what I can do to help the environment, even if it is just the little things. I was encouraged to think critically and provide different solutions.

One of the big things that I have taken away from this course, is just how much the little things do matter. No the world can not be changed by one person but, its a start. And that’s what matters those little things do add up in the long run. One person can’t change the world but they can change the world for a few others. Which ends up leading to a domino effect where there are more people following the footsteps of others. Because in order of our Earth to be healthy again, it will take a whole lot of people to make the change. But one person or a couple people can start the revolution. And that is what matters, its the little things that we can do now to help to save the Earth. it will take paitence but it will be worth it in the long run.

This course inspired me to make a difference. I now want to advocate for things that we learned in class. Things that I would have never known without the teachings of Dr. Tippett and also classmates. And now I feel like it is my duty to tell others what I have learned over the course of this semester.

Final Reflections

Global Environmental Problems is the most interesting class I have taken ever. It is a class where we learned what the real issues were but instead of just listing those issues and forgetting about them our discussions allowed us to discuss the issues and try and come up with some ways of solving them. This class gave me the tools to start making a difference. I can now pick a reliable non-government organization to support thanks to my classmates presentations. I know the small things I can do like investing in renewable energy resources as well as limiting my impact as much as possible. I now know that it will take massive change to ensure that the world is passed on to our future generations.

One of the main things that I’ve taken away from this course is that our environmental problems are not able to be stopped by one person or even one country and that it will take lots of time to create a sustainable and resilient society. From taking this course I also now believe that our society will not be able to change on its own. Something will have to happen before we take action its just human nature to continue going until something happens and than change. The greatest thing I gained was the knowledge of how to talk to people about environmental issues. Before this class I thought if  I were to try to talk friends or family about environmental issues I would be seen as a bit radical but with all the information I have now and the practice of talking to people in class I can now say I can put forth a valid argument of why environmental problems are the biggest problems facing the world.

I believe the first move the world should take into becoming more sustainable is by investing more in renewable resources. I think this will be the most effective way of starting the transition into a more sustainable future.

Final Reflections

Global Environmental Problems has been one my favorite courses that I’ve taken at UMW. It incorporated so many different concepts applied them to such a wide variety of issues happening all around the world. The biggest take home concept I’ve learned from this course is that human nature makes everything more complicated. We have such a high future discount rate that we don’t solve our problems now even when we know that the costs will be enormous in the future. This is especially true in terms of our resource consumption, where we’re using up our finite (and even our renewable) resources at an alarming rate. We’re using up all of our resources even though we know that just a few years down the line, our economies and maybe even our societies will collapse as a result. Why do we do this? Because it might not be true. We might have more of the resource than we think, and we might be able to find replacements. All the problems we are going to have to face are not obvious in our daily lives, so we push off fixing them until we have no other choice.

Over the past semester I’ve gained some new ways of looking at things, particularly about people who deny the existence of environmental problems and the possible solutions to these problems. People want to be right, and their entire worldview won’t change in a day. When convincing people that climate change and other environmental issues are very real, we have to convince them that changing the way we do things will result in what they consider a better world, and we need to convince them in a way that doesn’t threaten their worldview. Also, when coming up with solutions to environmental problems, it’s not just the solution itself that must be considered. We have to also think about the consequences of the solution, both for the environment and for people. One example is corn ethanol, and how it can use even more fossil fuels to produce, and caused food shortages. We have to broaden our perspectives from narrow-solutions to long-term widespread answers.

Environmental problems are extremely widespread and affect every aspect of the environment and human society. Solutions to these problems have to be able to work along with the culture in the places they’re being used, and they have to solve local problems while also helping with global problems. People are the basis of the solutions, and we cannot solve environmental problems without the support of local people.

Earth Day Every Day!

Since Day One this class has afforded me the opportunity to gain new insights and fresh perspectives. One thing that has really stood out in my mind is the parallel drawn in the first lecture – the financial analogy between human finances and Earth’s ecological finances.  This correlation really drew a “big picture” and set the tone for how to consider the topics of the rest of the class semester.  I really took to heart the aspect of “living within the budget” or in other words, consuming less than the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of Earth’s resources.  I plan and look forward to the opportunity to use this analogy when talking to others about environmental sustainability issues.

As a young scientist I appreciated the fact that this class approached the science of global environmental problems but then also made evident pathways to a solution as well. A lot of the problems that we (as the human race) are facing today are combination issues: social-ecological systems instead of just unconnected troubles.  I have a slight change in view now in regard to root causes of modern-day issues.  This would not have happened without awareness gleaned from class readings in Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse.”  Environmental degradation on Earth cannot be fully understood without connecting root causes such as population growth and resource consumption.

As at one point I considered getting a degree in History, I still have an interest in that subject and was excited to learn more about past world civilization histories but with an environmental spin. Past and present environmental crises can be compared and vision gained for our future on this Earth.  By aid of this class, I have tried a new approach to evaluating past and current environmental problems through looking at both scientific and social aspects.  I had not done this before.  Moving forward in our modern life, I can only hope that I can have a part in overcoming the challenges of achieving a sustainable society today.

 

Acknowledgements:

Mr. John P. Tippett, Professor, University of Mary Washington, January – April, 2016

 

References:

Brooks, M., Foster, C., Holmes, M., & Wiltshire, J. (2011). Does consuming seasonal foods benefit the environment? Insights from recent research. Nutrition Bulletin, 36(4), 449-453.

Earth Day Every Day!

Since Day One this class has afforded me the opportunity to gain new insights and fresh perspectives. One thing that has really stood out in my mind is the parallel drawn in the first lecture – the financial analogy between human finances and Earth’s ecological finances.  This correlation really drew a “big picture” and set the tone for how to consider the topics of the rest of the class semester.  I really took to heart the aspect of “living within the budget” or in other words, consuming less than the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of Earth’s resources.  I plan and look forward to the opportunity to use this analogy when talking to others about environmental sustainability issues.

As a young scientist I appreciated the fact that this class approached the science of global environmental problems but then also made evident pathways to a solution as well. A lot of the problems that we (as the human race) are facing today are combination issues: social-ecological systems instead of just unconnected troubles.  I have a slight change in view now in regard to root causes of modern-day issues.  This would not have happened without awareness gleaned from class readings in Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse.”  Environmental degradation on Earth cannot be fully understood without connecting root causes such as population growth and resource consumption.

As at one point I considered getting a degree in History, I still have an interest in that subject and was excited to learn more about past world civilization histories but with an environmental spin. Past and present environmental crises can be compared and vision gained for our future on this Earth.  By aid of this class, I have tried a new approach to evaluating past and current environmental problems through looking at both scientific and social aspects.  I had not done this before.  Moving forward in our modern life, I can only hope that I can have a part in overcoming the challenges of achieving a sustainable society today.

 

Acknowledgements:

Mr. John P. Tippett, Professor, University of Mary Washington, January – April, 2016

 

References:

Brooks, M., Foster, C., Holmes, M., & Wiltshire, J. (2011). Does consuming seasonal foods benefit the environment? Insights from recent research. Nutrition Bulletin, 36(4), 449-453.

Final Reflections Blog

The completion of this course has opened a new side of environmental science to me, more than learning facts from the book about river systems, fisheries and other ecosystems.  It’s something that a text book can’t teach you.  To really have an impact you need to be understanding, and listen to people.  You need to be able to not only put the environment first but also the people and their needs; to be able to put your place in someone else’s shoes and see their struggles and difficulties.  Why they might be destroying or degrading the environment. Because I really doubt there are people out there who just enjoy harming  plants and animals.

Non Profit Organizations are a great example of why we need to work together through common interests. A good NGO will listen to every party in the situation they have, and with this information they’ll make a plan on how to help everyone while still having their personal interests being prominent.  Using agreements to make sure they’re getting things done example: “if the NGO and       Organization A make an agreement, then the NGO can help out Organization B with what they achieved from helping Organization A.”  The simple concept of if I scratch your back you scratch mine.

Environmental Science is too negative, lots of people focus on what the problems are and what’s causing them.  But it should be a positive science; because we, as environmental scientists, know how to help these problems. Which is why we should be cheerful that there is way to help the world and all it’s beauty.  To be eager for graduation and go out and help the environment is what I’m taking home from this course.  To help through agreements and negotiations  is what will help the world progress to a more green everyday life.

Final Reflections Blog

Before I had taken this course, I was only vaguely aware of the state of the environment. I had recognized that climate change was approaching dangerous levels, that world hunger was still an important issue, and that as a first world country, few people were willing to take on responsibility for the Earth. I had heard about Easter Island, but only as an interesting tourist destination, and the Maya were simply a civilization that had disappeared.

Several months later, I recognize that the aforementioned knowledge was nothing more than superficial. For example, I am now able to appreciate the plethora of food that is available at the supermarket. The high standard of living around me has also become more obvious. When my roommates use paper plates or plastic forks, I can’t help but point it out so that they at least consider the effects of a simple act such as switching to reusable dishes and utensils.

Something else that I had not expected to happen, was to develop an appreciation for the work that NGO’s do. Again, I had previously been aware of their existence, but not to the degree of which they are able to impact change. The multitude of options amongst organizations give me hope that even minor issues will eventually be addressed. An individual pushing for companies to switch to sustainable methods seems like a daunting task, but knowing that there are organizations ranging from hundreds to thousands of members, with some being on an international scale, is a reassuring reminder.

Another major concept that I am taking away from this course is that change can and does happen from a small scale. Grassroots organizations or individual efforts do make a difference and the scope that relationships can achieve really stuck with me. As I move forwards in my environmental science studies, I think that there will be additional issues that I will learn about, but having seen examples of success and learning about the currently occurring change, I feel more adept to handle these future global environmental problems.

Final Reflections Blog

To say this course was interesting and useful would be a vast understatement. In fact, it honestly changed my time at college and my life. It gave me a lot of insights into environmental problems and how to solve them. One main idea I took away from this course is that humans cannot change the course of nature. Time and time again, both in history and contemporary times, humans have attempted to manipulate the environment to our specifications. I have learned through countless examples in the past, from the Anasazi to the Everglades, that if humans try to control the environment instead of coexisting with it, it will result in failure. Another big idea I have learned is that we must look at the root causes of problems. There are root causes underlying every environmental problem, that must be tackled to truly solve the problems. Another main idea is developing a “personal toolkit” for fighting environmental problems: I learned what skills and expertise, apart from simply an environmental science degree, can be used to help achieve my goals.

This course gave me a new perspective on many issues. The most important to me is that although the future of our planet can seem bleak, it is not hopeless. Prior to this course, I was feeling jaded with environmental science, because the outlook seemed so grim and it seemed impossible to make a difference. This course showed me that individuals working together can make a difference. Another perspective I gained is that working together is absolutely key. I now try to not view people as being on a certain side: environmentalists vs. non-environmentalists. Environmental sustainability cannot be achieved if we do not work with people who are opposed to the goals of sustainability.

This course has greatly changed the way I view my role in global environmental problems. By showing me that there is in fact hope for the future of the environment, it has really changed my entire mindset towards these problems. It has also changed the way I will interact with others when trying to spread the message of environmental sustainability. I now know what is needed to tackle these problems and convince others that hope is not lost.

Final Reflections Blog

To say this course was interesting and useful would be a vast understatement. In fact, it honestly changed my time at college and my life. It gave me a lot of insights into environmental problems and how to solve them. One main idea I took away from this course is that humans cannot change the course of nature. Time and time again, both in history and contemporary times, humans have attempted to manipulate the environment to our specifications. I have learned through countless examples in the past, from the Anasazi to the Everglades, that if humans try to control the environment instead of coexisting with it, it will result in failure. Another big idea I have learned is that we must look at the root causes of problems. There are root causes underlying every environmental problem, that must be tackled to truly solve the problems. Another main idea is developing a “personal toolkit” for fighting environmental problems: I learned what skills and expertise, apart from simply an environmental science degree, can be used to help achieve my goals.

This course gave me a new perspective on many issues. The most important to me is that although the future of our planet can seem bleak, it is not hopeless. Prior to this course, I was feeling jaded with environmental science, because the outlook seemed so grim and it seemed impossible to make a difference. This course showed me that individuals working together can make a difference. Another perspective I gained is that working together is absolutely key. I now try to not view people as being on a certain side: environmentalists vs. non-environmentalists. Environmental sustainability cannot be achieved if we do not work with people who are opposed to the goals of sustainability.

This course has greatly changed the way I view my role in global environmental problems. By showing me that there is in fact hope for the future of the environment, it has really changed my entire mindset towards these problems. It has also changed the way I will interact with others when trying to spread the message of environmental sustainability. I now know what is needed to tackle these problems and convince others that hope is not lost.