Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Looking to the Future by Barbara Laney

Barbara Laney
PHS 100
David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
Aug 9, 2010

Looking to the Future of our Planet
Our society continues to develop at a rapid pace. We are highly industrialized and moving to an information-based economy. The recent past and present have taken a toll on our natural resources. In the future we may need to make some choices and some personal and cultural changes. The questions we need to consider are:
· What resources are limited?
· What resources can be renewed with minimal impact on the plant and animal life?
· What resources are non-renewable?
· How much longer will our resources last if we continue using them at our current rate?
· How much waste is generated by all our resource consumption?
· In what ways can we supplement or change our current consumption to become more sustainable?
With these assessments, we will find answers that may be difficult to accept. It is difficult to put large changes into place. I would like to suggest three changes that are doable for individuals and communities. By starting with small things, we can learn how much impact these changes make when done by each individual. The changes are 1. Reduce water usage, 2. Use less fossil fuel, and 3. Recycle.
Water is the life-giving fluid that is needed for all life. It is a basic component of survival. It comes to us in rain and rivers and snow melt. It is needed for growing crops, drinking, washing clothes and vehicles, bathing, plumbing, watering grass and greenery, among other things. Clean water is in great demand, and there is not enough to supply all the needs while preserving the health of the rivers in our nation. We have come to expect water to flow from our taps without considering the impact it makes. Northern California struggled with a severe water shortage in 1975. The rains had not been sufficient to fill the reservoirs for several years. That is the year I learned about conserving water in household use. We did not flush toilets unless there was solid waste. We did not water our lawns. We covered our pool so it would not lose water to evaporation, and only filled it enough so the filter remained in good repair. We did not wash our car. We did not run water needlessly for anything, from brushing teeth to waiting for cooking water to warm up. We took short showers and turned the water off while we soaped ourselves, waiting to rinse all at once. That was the first time I ever considered that there could ever be a limit to our water supply. The changes that the entire area made helped us to have enough water to last till the rain came in the fall. Some of these changes were more drastic than we need to make, but these can serve as a template for small things that can make a big difference when entire communities work together. With less demand for water there should be more surface water for healthy ecosystems. There should also be less need to draw from the groundwater supply, which takes years or decades to fill (Withgott & Brennan, 2008, p. 425).
Our use of fossil fuel can be cut back with reasonable effort. In October of 1973, an oil embargo was called by the OPEC nations toward the U.S. During that time there was a limited gasoline supply. Cars would line up around the block for gas in the morning. The gas stations would be out of gas by mid afternoon. This served as a “wake-up call” that alerted the American people to our increasing dependence on foreign oil (Hakes, 2008). During this time, my dad started taking the bus every day and walking to and from the bus stop. We walked or rode our bikes to most of our destinations. We lived near a grocery store. We would all walk to the store together and carry our groceries home. We purchased a small economy car to use for short trips. Our country is now very aware of our dependence on foreign oil. We are also more aware that oil is a limited resource. We are looking into alternative energy sources. None of the alternatives have proven to be economically feasible thus far. There is still much we can do to reduce our usage. As individuals we can use public transportation when possible and walk or ride a bike for some trips. As a nation we can supplement our gasoline with ethanol, which is renewable. Although this is not enough, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Recycling is a way to reduce much or our waste and can minimize our need for new resources. The state of Oregon is exemplary in its model for recycling. Paper, glass, plastic, and cans are all taken. Some workplaces and stores provide disposal of used batteries. They must be disposed of carefully so the chemicals inside don’t leach into the water supply. Computers can be taken to a non-profit place in Portland and they will use what is useful and dispose of anything else in an environmentally sound way.
These are all things that I am going to do to be a better steward of the earth. One thing that I have found difficult is using public transportation. Our MAX system has many problems. I would like to ride to work, but I have found that parking at the station is insufficient and the trains go too slow, thus making the travel time significantly longer than a car trip. I am going to write to metro and explain my frustration. Perhaps they can address the problems and make traveling on MAX equally efficient to driving a car. I am going to continue to recycle and perhaps be more careful about including everything that is accepted. I will also dispose of batteries where I work in the battery disposal bin.
My college major is medical management. Medicine relies on plentiful resources and generates a lot of waste, some of which is toxic waste. As I look to my future I hope to address these concerns in my future work by:
· Always recycling paper
· Providing a place where unused, expired medications can be brought for disposal.
· Utilizing the services of a waste disposal company that will manage hazardous waste and sharps and other healthcare-related waste responsibly (Bio Clean Inc, 2010)
· Encouraging staff and patients, if circumstances allow, to use public transportation by providing shuttle service from transit stations and having bus stops near facilities.
· Using temperature controls so indoor air is not too cold in the summer or too warm in the winter, and taking steps to reduce electrical use in simple and reasonable ways
These are all things I can do. They are not difficult to incorporate into my life. As a responsible person with an attitude of stewardship of our resources I can make a small difference. This class has opened my eyes to some problems that I was unaware of previously. The challenge of use of oil, toxic waterways, soil, the impact of our environmental practices on the poor, and the growing problem of greenhouse gases are all problems that have come to my attention. I can make some small changes and encourage or educate my family and friends. This is a good way to start.

Bio Clean Inc. (2010, Jan 15). Retrieved Aug 8, 2010, from Bio-Clean: http://www.biocleaninc.org/
Hakes, J. (2008, October 6). 35 Years After the Arab Oil Embargo. Retrieved August 8, 2010, from Journal of Energy Security: http://www.ensec.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=155:35yearsafterthearaboilembargo&catid=83:middle-east&Itemid=324
Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2008). Environment; The science Behind the Stories. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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