Sunday, March 25, 2012

WS4 Reflection Paper by Glenn Rice

PHS100A Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College

January 26, 2012

From the onset of the industrial revolution, the technological advancements that drove the progress of that day came with new natural resource requirements needed to fuel that progress. Those resources that were readily available to power the new industrial machinery however, came with environmental costs that were little understood at the time. Tragically, the leaders of that time failed or were unable to foresee the damage that would result from the unrestrained use of coal, and other natural resources. However, what arose from forgivable ignorance at that time – as seen from our modern perspective – came environmental destruction, driven by competition and the attainment of wealth.

Eventually, brutal lessons were learned from these environmental abuses in the forms of resource depletion, permanent environmental degradation, and death that spanned the ecological spectrum. Industrial practices would grudgingly change over time, however serious change would not occur until society as a whole stood up against profiteering at the expense of human life and environmental destruction.

Unfortunately, the pattern of profit-driven natural resource policies – that culminates in some form of human or environmental backlash, continues to this day. Additionally, compounding this dynamic, is the emergence of third-world societies seeking to industrialize, driven by their own economic needs (United Nations, 2002). The system that drove societies of the past to extract resources to fuel their new technologically based economies, spread from localized first world regions of the planet – to societies across the globe. This dynamic – as had been experienced within the societies of the past – drove rapid population growth, and the need for cleared land to feed that population (2002). This resulted in a decline in the number of tracts to farm, forcing many landless farmers to migrate toward urban centers – and available jobs. This created a need to build up those urban areas to accommodate population growth, forcing the citizenry into areas prone to major environmental disasters. Exacerbated by hurried and poorly crafted infrastructure, the tragic consequences of any environmental disasters became far more severe (Hogan, & Marandola Jr., 2007).

Additionally, in many regions of the world, but especially in the tropics, clearing land for farming required the removal of vast amounts of forested areas. The removal of forests resulted in the degradation of a forest’s ability to regulate how water cycles through the ecosystem (Withgott & Bennan, 2011). Among the numerous consequences of this imbalance is soil erosion. On hilly slopes, without trees and foliage to secure the soil from the effects of drenching monsoon rains, horrific landslides would occur with great loss of human life and even further environmental destruction. Moreover, the economic losses resulting from these disasters (loss of productive land, loss or redistribution of manpower, etc.) would quickly develop into a protracted state of emergency for the impacted nation (Pellinga, Özerdemb, & Barakatb 2002).

Of course, here in the United States, disasters such as these are not unheard of. Even after decades of experiencing disasters from floods to hurricanes to earthquakes, Americans still take risks against the possible consequences that can occur when farming within flood planes, or building their homes in earthquake zones. Additionally, in more socially advanced societies such as the United States, when little prepared-for major environmental disasters occur, (Katrina, Mississippi flooding, Texas drought, gulf oil spill etc.) there is a significant ripple effect that jars the entire nation with higher food, energy, and human costs.

Often, as has occurred since our earlier industrial exploits, it takes natural disasters such as these to awaken a society to the need to respect nature and adapt to her rules, instead of forcing her to accommodate ours – for it is more than just a quip when it is said that “nature bats last.” Business motives drive our economy and our standard of living, however, a clean and healthy natural environment contributes even more so to these living standards. Indeed, without a healthy environment, there would be very little business to conduct, and fewer businesses capable of conducting it.


Hogan D. J., Marandola Jr., E. (2007). Vulnerability to Natural Hazards in Population-Environment Studies Background paper to the Population. Environment Research Network (PERN) Cyberseminar1 on Population & Natural Hazards. Retrieved from:…

Pellinga, M., Özerdemb, A., Barakatb, S. (2002). The Macro-Economic Impact of Disasters. Progress in Development Studies 2,4 pp. 283–305. Hodder Arnold's Journals. London, U.K. Retrieved from:…

United Nations. (2002). Natural Disasters and Sustainable Development: Understanding the Links between Development, Environment, and Natural Disasters. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Retrieved from:…

Withgott, J., & Bennan, S. (2011). Environment: The Science behind the Stories (4th Ed). New York, NY. Pearson Benjamin Cummings

Urban Government in the Americas

The book "City Making and Urban Governance in The Americas: Curitiba and Portland" by Clara Irazábal (2005. ISBN 0 7546 4253 4) is full of good information and analysis about how cities have to grow and develop. Irazábal has a deep feel for the similarities as well as the differences between these two cities that help not only see the historical implications of proper governance but more so looks deep into the human, sociological aspects that through the cultural dynamics evolve in what we now consider livability of the city. As she looks at the forced integration of what Curitibans tried to do by symbolic representation of ethnic backgrounds while at the same time it seems like some forgetful disregard of real ethnic conflicts. The analytical interpretation of Portland's new character as one of the best livably cities in the US goes far. The changes that during Portland's history mainly based on the active participation of its citizenry though a varied modes of organization, like neighborhood and business associations and other interest groups (like bicyclists) has allow the empowerment of ordinary citizen in their governance.
In brief, Irazábal's book is a must read for those interested in Urban Studies and its relationship with Environmental Stewardship.