Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teach a Man to Fish by Randi Salinas

Teach a Man to Fish & you Have Fed Him For a Lifetime
Randi Salinas
Warner Pacific College
December 18th 2013

Teach a Man to Fish & You Have Fed Him For a Lifetime

            The famous Chinese adage reads as follows: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.  As this proverb continues to resonate deeply in my mind I find that the ability to hold oneself accountable is of upmost importance in regards to how we, as a society, determine the value and importance of our natural resources.  The Lents community right here in southeast Portland, and also the Puget Ridge community in Seattle has determined that raising public awareness through sustainable urban farming, or simply put, community gardens, is one way to become environmentally conscientious. 
            It appears that our society has become accustomed to a lifestyle of convenience.  The problem that I can identify here is that many young adults are unaware of the importance of harvesting your own food supply.  Learning how to grow food under the right conditions is a skill one should not live without.  By having your own personal garden, or a community garden, we can become effective in sustaining our natural environment.  By decreasing the need for purchased items in the grocery store and then by canning your own fruits and vegetables for the off-season, you are conserving energy at a grand scale.  Teaching the community, especially the younger populous, is an invaluable asset that can only strengthen a community, and furthermore give us the knowledge of how to assess our natural resources on a level we can all understand.
            When addressing environmental concerns, such as food supply or land management, we can establish environmental regulations by contacting an agency, such as The Natural Resources Conservation Service where they can give us the technical assistance needed to get a project up and running.  “Conservation technical assistance is the help NRCS and its partners provide to land users to address opportunities, concerns, and problems related to the use of natural resources and to help land users make sound natural resource management decisions on private, tribal, and other non-federal lands” (, 2013).
            In order to be effective in sustaining our environment we need to make informed decisions, and also understand the importance of how making those informed decisions not only affect our current situations, but also how the decisions we make will affect us in the future to come.  By first recognizing and admitting that there is indeed an environmental issue at hand, we can then become advocates for the solution, whatever that may be. 
            Environmental agencies can use tools and fancy equipment to test and give an overall assessment of the quality and or quantity of our natural resources, but we as a society can start by taking accountability for the impact we have on our environment—negative or positive. By acknowledging the information provided to us by these agencies and using the knowledge to teach others, which ultimately has an overall affect on our culture and lifestyle, we can sustain our natural resources as well as our future. 
            Being only takers of our resources in our natural environment will not teach us how to sustain for a lifetime, we must educate ourselves and the public on the footprint we choose to leave behind
Ashton, D. F. (2006). Lents' Children's Garden helps kids grow by teaching the how to gardenRetrieved 12 18, 2013, from

Conlin, R. (2011, 01 27). Making it work. Retrieved 12 18, 2013, from Seattle.Gov:

USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service. (2013). Conservation Planning. Retrieved 12 -18, 2013, from

Withgott, J. &. (2013). Environment: The Science Behind the Stories (5th Ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Portland's Water by Kristin Palmer

Protecting Natural Resources
Kristin Palmer
Warner Pacific College
December 17, 2013

Protecting Natural Resources
            How can we make sure that we are able to live on our planet for as long as possible? Protect what we have and keep it going as long as we can. Humans have a huge impact on our environment every day. The key to keeping our ecosystem going is to figure out the best way to go about our day to day lives and make the smallest impact on the environment as possible. There are so many systems to consider. When I hear that we have a lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, it makes me even less sure as to what I can do to help. As I said before, we have a big impact on our environment. Everything we do makes a difference. Unfortunately the difference is not always good. The energy that I am using right now sitting at my computer to type this paper has an impact on the environment. Simple little things like that, things that you probably do not even think of, have an impact on the earth around you. That makes it seem even more overwhelming to try to figure out how to make less of an impact.
            One of the biggest impacts that we have on our environment happens to be on the water cycle. Environment, The Science Behind the Stories tells us that the water cycle affects all other cycles, and our impact on the water cycle is extensive. We put up dams, we hold water in reservoirs which causes it to evaporate faster, we clear cut plants and trees to develop land which causes soil erosion. Pollution  in the atmosphere is absorbed in water as rain falls, so rain is not even clean water anymore, (pg. 120-21) (Withgott & Laposata, 2014)
            I remember growing up, during the summer there would be advisories against using water because it was so hot out and we had water shortages. People were discouraged from washing their cars or watering their lawns when it was hot out.  Of course I remember my mom still washing the car in the backyard so no one could see her, and we still had our swimming pool filled to play in. The major one I remember was in the summer of 1992 and there was a drought, so the water supply in Portland was running low. I found a brief paragraph about it in a Portland Water Bureau report that talked about water usage in Portland.  They said that the water shortage of 1992 had an influence on customers continued outdoor water use. Many people realized that if they didn’t water their lawns then they didn’t have to mow. It also said that overall per household water use is down from the 1990’s in Portland. (Portland Water Bureau, 2008)
            Looking toward the future, in 2008 there were roundtable discussions around Portland to discuss the future of Portland water. Many Oregonians do not think that we will have enough water in 2028 (20 years from the discussions) to cover all of the needs we will have. Oregon and Alaska are the only two western states without a plan on how they will meet future water demands.  (Milstein, 2008) It seems that even with things like water saving toilets and showerheads, and overall consumption being down, we may still have a problem in the future.
            I do not really know what to do to solve these problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a plan in place for all cities to cover their open reservoirs. This has been a huge issue in Portland, as the reservoirs on Mt. Tabor have been a part of the city for years. The idea behind this is to protect the water from Cryptosporidium and other disease causing bacteria.  (EPA, 2013) I do not think that it is a bad thing to protect our drinking water; I feel that it is unfortunate that we will lose the reservoirs since they are beautiful to look at. I remember as a kid during the summer walking to Mt. Tabor and walking around all of the different reservoirs. I wonder what the city is going to do with them once they are empty, and I think a lot of other people want to know the same thing.
            I do think there should be a way to protect our water. It is our greatest natural resource, and without it, nothing would be able to live. I am just not sure how you would go about creating a committee or actually enforcing limits on our water usage. Unless there was some sort of a device in each home that cut off the water after a certain amount was used each day. This is a tricky thing to tackle. With logging, they are required to replant trees to replenish what is cut down. Yes, it takes years for a tree to grow back to be as big as the old growth timber that they are clear cutting, but at least the process can be started over again and the trees will re-grow. We cannot exactly grow ourselves new water, but if we do not do something about it, in 20 years we may not have enough water for everyone.
EPA. (2013, February 11). Water: Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule. Retrieved from Environmental Protection Agency:

Milstein, M. (2008, December 30). Oregonians forsee future water shortages. Retrieved from The Oregonian:

Portland Water Bureau. (2008, March 20). Portand Water Bureau. Retrieved from Water Conservation plan:

Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2014). Environment The Science Behind The Stories. Glenview, Il: Pearson Education Inc.

Nick Wiltgen's view on Natural Resources and Regulations

Resources & Regulation
Nick Wiltgen
December 14th, 2013

                                                            Resources & Regulation
            Imagine for a minute a utopian society in which the natural environment flourished, seemingly untouched by man, where all of our natural resources were utilized efficiently and harmlessly, and there was no need for environmental regulations which in turn allowed us to lead prosperous, healthy, peaceful and harmonious lifestyles. Now imagine a society in which our tremendously fast paced, money-making and convenience driven lifestyles prompt us to nearly deplete our natural resources, in turn causing severe environmental damage and danger to the global climate, leaving us to ponder and assess how to better utilize and preserve our natural resources while establishing environmental regulations in an attempt to curb the damage to earth. It isn’t hard to imagine the latter, because this is the reality we live in. It is critical to assess our natural resources and to come up with regulations to sustain our environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
            So how do we, as a society, assess our natural resources? Unfortunately we cannot dream about a society in which our natural resources are untapped, because we need them to sustain our lives and meet the needs of the ever-growing population. The most important thing, with both renewable and non-renewable resources, is to approach them as delicate and use them wisely. The first step to assessing our land and natural resources perhaps comes from advancing our knowledge and scientific research. “Decision makers must know how natural resources may be affected by changes in the demand for or use of them, and what impact these changes may have on our economy, our environment, and our quality of life” (USGS). Fortunately, we have people, programs, and institutions, such as the EPA and Center for Natural Resource Assessment, that take on this monumental task. Without the tedious studies of environmental scientists and passion of those working towards the greater good of our planet, we would be doomed.
            Take logging, for example. We need wood for a variety of reasons – from building homes, making heat in fire places, producing paper, and all sorts of other products that we depend upon. While I don’t condone the decimation of the environment, as someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, I understand the importance of logging. Oregon is the largest lumber producer in the United States (Business Oregon), and this not only produces a plethora of goods and products that people rely on, but also creates jobs and boosts our economy, allowing people to live appropriate lifestyles and raise families. However, clear cutting is frowned upon, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that cutting down trees is not in the best interest of the environment. So what can we do? The best thing to practice would be minimal cutting, and replanting of native trees. Things get complicated when regulations are put into place with various federal and state laws, and various parts of land – be it BLM/government land or private land. If a law says that clear cutting is prohibited here, it might not apply everywhere on a federal or state level. Just like many laws and regulations, there will always be loopholes. “Federal environmental laws that apply to BLM and Forest Service lands require analysis of environmental impacts, public input, rigorous stream protections, and protection and restoration of endangered species habitat. Private and state-owned forest lands in Oregon are managed according to the Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA). This allows for clear-cutting, minimal stream buffers, aerial spraying of herbicides, and no public involvement in planned activities” (Legue, 2012). As you can see, regulations are put into place, with the environment in mind, but also trying to please the economy, population, and culture. Perhaps this is a happy medium.
As more and more environmental challenges appear before mankind, one thing is clear: we will eventually run out of our natural resources if we continue to use them so rapidly, and we must carefully assess them and look to alternate forms of renewable energy, such as wind, sun, rain, etc. In the mean time, we must take care of our planet, and creating environmental regulations is a step in the right direction – the difficult part here, and later, is managing these regulations to appease the earth, our society, culture, and lifestyles.
Business Oregon. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Legue, C. (2012). Private vs public: different lands, different laws. Oregon Wild. Retrieved from
USGS. (2005). Assessing our natural resources. Retrieved from

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ricardo Gallegos' views on Western Culture and The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method and Western Culture:
Ricardo Gallegos
PHS 100A Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
December 10, 2013
The Scientific Method and Western Culture
The scientific method is that which can be observed, tested, and measured; and to express the results of these measurements in quantitative terms. The utmost effort must be given to objectivity and the avoidance of any bias, as the results obtained will be tantamount to useless if one does not. Before talking about how the scientific method has influenced western culture, let us first understand what our western culture has become.
Rapacious and superficial, with all its ugly and selfish characteristics – that is what our western culture is. We celebrate the rich and the beautiful, and even the stupid, so long as it’s famous. Usually these trivialities are but distractions by the few, in order placate the masses. However, it is perpetrated with our willing acquiescence. Society and our culture as a whole have become shallow and trite; partly because we are conditioned to be so, and partly because we consent. We refuse to be set free from our collective adolescence; the “id” of our nature has a stranglehold on us and we cannot escape our desire for immediate gratification. While one could agree that a certain amount of hedonism is appropriate and necessary, we take it to the extreme.
There is a saying from the bible that is appropriate here. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). This is profound in its wisdom and simplicity, and also its necessary truth. Sadly, our culture has yet to embrace the spirit of these words, and shows no signs of doing so.
There is a duality to the influence of the scientific method on our culture. On the one hand we accept its merits and utilize all the fantastic gadgets and medicines that result; for science as brought “wondrous treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross” (Star Trek: TNG, 1989). Yet, on the other hand, we steadfastly ignore its numerous warnings of impending disaster, blithely content in the misguided belief that no matter what we do to ourselves or the planet, science will save us and nature will heal itself in the end. There is a chance (albeit small) that this will occur, and by all means let us pray for its success, however, this cannot be depended upon to transpire. We must save ourselves from ourselves.
In their textbook, Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata describes science as “a systematic process of learning about the world and testing our understanding of it”, and as an “accumulated body of knowledge” and its method as a “dynamic process of questioning, observation, testing, and discovery” (Withgott, Laposata, 2013). This description is surely correct, however, it leaves one with a sense of ambiguity in that it seems rather imprecise and too narrowly confined. Do they mean only our world – as in the planet? Can it be expanded into knowledge of the cosmos, or transversely, the subatomic? You see, science is a tool – a method that can be applied to anything under the heavens. Hopefully when they use the term “our world” Withgott and Laposata mean everything. Withgott and Laposata (2013) go on to describe the scientific method as “hypothesis-driven science, research proceeding in a more targeted and structured manner, using experiments to test hypotheses.”
At Western Culture Global (WCG) they say that “western culture can be also referred to as advanced culture; this is because its ideal and values promote the development and sustainment of advanced civilizations” (, 2009). This statement flies in the face of many facts, not the least of which is that the society it created cannot be sustained. How can anything that claims to be advanced (translation: enlightened) be the cause of its own undoing? WCG goes on to say that “western culture has at least some presence in nearly all nations of the world” (, 2009). I would compare this to the spread of a disease. For it is widely understood that if all the nations of the world, particularly those such as India with its massive population, where to suddenly live as we do, the world would quickly become unlivable.
The scientific method has allowed us to gather and keep vast amounts of knowledge and information. Yet there is no discipline in its use. We simply take step after step building on the works of others without consideration for consequence. This dangerous application of knowledge may very well lead to our own demise. Western culture is thought by many to be the age (or application) of logic and reason. Yet there is little logic, and vary little reason in how we use it. At its core the scientific method of a beautiful thing, however the truths and wonders it reveals should be followed (through the use of logic and reason) to their logical conclusions before being brought into the world and placed into application. Some things simply should not be done. Because we can do them is not reason enough to proceed (the invention of the atomic bomb springs to mind). Our culture of gluttony and waste simply cannot be sustained. We are sacrificing future generations at the altar of our self-centrism. As we know, children playing with dangerous toys seldom go unscathed.        
Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2013). Environment: the science behind the stories (5th Ed.). New
York, NY. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN-13: 978-0-321-89742-8
Western Culture Global. (2009). What is Western Culture?. Retrieved 9 December, 2013 from
Roddenberry G. (1989). Star trek: The next Generation: Q who? (Episode 16). [TV series]. USA:
            Universal Studios.
The NIV Study Bible. (1995). 1 Galatians 13:11 (10th Anniversary Edition).Grand Rapids, MI.
Zondervan Corporation.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wester Culture and The Scientific Method by Monica Mast

The Scientific Method and Western Culture
Monica Mast
PHS 100A Environmental Science
David Terrell, PH.D
Warner Pacific College
December 10, 2013
The Scientific Method and Western Culture
What is the advantage of scientific thinking? What practical difference does it make to live in a culture that believes in using evidence to explain the world? According to Withgott and Laposata (2013) scientists have developed what we know as the scientific method, which is a technique for testing ideas with observations. Nothing about the scientific method should be intimidating or daunting. It is merely a strategy that any of us might naturally use to resolve a question we have. There are a series of steps that are practiced by researchers or research teams as a means to learn how the world works. The active involvement by scientists, utilizing the scientific method has driven our modern culture to new heights of awareness which gives way to environmentalism.
What precisely does the scientific method consist of? A sequence of steps outlined to resolve a question or problem using observations, and experimentation. First, to simplify this, a scientist develops and interest and has an idea. The scientist begins with observing some kind of occurrence that he or she would like to illuminate, such as the excessive growth of algae in local ponds (Withgott & Laposata, 2013). A plethora of what, when, how, and why questions are posed by the scientist, which sets the stage to formulate a hypothesis. As defined in our textbook, Environment: the Science behind the Stories, a hypothesis is a statement that attempts to explain a phenomenon or answer a scientific question (Withgott & Laposata, 2013). An example of the scientist investigating the questions of why algae are growing excessively in local ponds might observe that chemical fertilizers are being applied on farm fields nearby. The scientist might then propose a hypothesis as follows: “Agricultural fertilizers running into ponds case the amount of algae in the ponds to increase” (Withgott & Laposata, 2013).
The scientist will then test the predictions by performing experiments that manipulates variables or conditions that can change. For example with our algae hypothesis the scientist could make a prediction linking algal growth to fertilizer by selecting two identical ponds and adding fertilizer to one of them. In this example, fertilizer input is an independent variable, a variable the scientist manipulates, whereas the quantity of algae that results is the dependent variable, one that depends on the fertilizer input. This type of experiment is known as a controlled experiment because the scientist controls for the effects of all variables except the one he or she is testing. To validate the hypothesis, the scientist will want to perform this experiment as many times as possible obtaining the same results each time. The data from these tests is used to determine the strength and reliability of patterns they find (Withgott & Laposata, 2013).
 The last two pieces to the scientific method are the peer review and conference presentations. Peer reviewed work occurs one a scientists work is complete and the researcher writes up the findings to be considered for submission to a scientific journal for publication. The editor of the journal will ask several other scientists, otherwise know as peers, to review the manuscript and provide comments. Sometimes scientists present their work at professional conferences which gives their peers a chance to interact with the information being presented and give feedback and comments. However, there are many flaws and areas of opportunity with peer review, such as politics and personal preference, this is the best system at the present time to analyze and confirm results (Withgott & Laposata, 2013).
Now that we are well versed with what the scientific method consists of, how does it influence western culture? Science is a core value of Western culture. Scientific knowledge is made possible by reason and, therefore, the history of science is, to an important extent, the history of Western culture and its development (Williams, 2007). As a method of obtaining reliable data (in fields such as astronomy, physics, geology, metallurgy, engineering, chemistry, biology and medicine); the scientific method has significant and demonstrable advantages over known or traditional alternatives such as inexact observations propagated as folklore. The advantages of the scientific method have been well documented and widely promoted in late 20th–century and early 21st–century western culture (Slyman, 2004-2013).
As you can see, the advantages of scientific thinking and furthermore the scientific method are an outstanding method to revealing the truth. There will always be truths outside the scope or observable range of any experimental data we may gather. Scientists are, like the rest of us, inherently reliant on the ideas or inspiration that comes to them in response to the stimuli they observe and decide to pursue. Because science is forever bound to the study of the frequent, the commonly observable and repeatable, the imaginable; the scientific method has vastly influenced western culture by answering many questions relating to the infinite and eternal, and will be essential in answering many future questions.
Slyman, M. (2004-2013), Science and philosophy, Retrieved December 10, 2013 from:
Williams, H. (2007), Science culture global, Retrieved December 10, 2013 from:
Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2013). Environment: the science behind the stories (5th Ed.). New  

York, NY. Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vulnerability to Nature

Our Vulnerability to the Elements
Brooke Warner
PHS 100A- Environmental Studies
Dr. Terrell
Warner Pacific College
 November 13, 2013

Our Vulnerability to the Elements
            Humans have so much power.  We have the power to create and destroy.  We can make choices in our lives; where we want to go, who we want to be.  The opportunities are nearly limitless.  There are only a few things in this world that we have absolutely no control over.  No matter of technology we create can cage the power and destruction that is a natural hazard.  Only God has control over these elements, and we can only try to predict and prepare for the power of the weather and the environment. 
            Natural disasters have taken their toll on our environment since the beginning of time.  As far back as when God commanded Noah to build the arc, because he was going to flood the Earth.  How we as a society can learn from these vulnerabilities is the key to advancing the knowledge of our environment (Slingo. 2012).  Natural hazards are deadly, but they do not necessarily have to be something we fear so long as we understand their power.
            Hurricanes are one of the great forces of nature that can destroy miles of a populated environment in a matter of minutes.  Beginning as a tropical disturbance in warm ocean waters with surface temperatures of at least 80 degrees, a hurricane is fed by the energy from the warm sea.  Once the storm reaches speeds of 38 miles an hour, it becomes known as a tropical depression (Withgott & Brennan. 2011).   A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm, and is given a name, when its sustained wind speeds top 39 miles an hour. When a storm’s sustained wind speeds reach 74 miles an hour it becomes a hurricane.  Hurricanes can be up to 600 miles across at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.  They are a massive storm that can last for weeks wreaking havoc on everything it touches.   We have the technology to predict when a storm is developing, and the ability to know approximately when it will reach land (National Geographic.  2013).
            My personal experience with hurricanes was over eight years ago in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Prior to Katrina, I spent a lot of my time in the “Big Easy.”  I was a flight attendant for America West Airlines, and my residency often changed due to where I was based.  I spent close to a year in New Orleans, and witnessed firsthand the power of these storms.  The fear that overwhelms you and the quick reactions and decisions that are required for safety and survival.
            While home over a long weekend, the news alerted the area of a tropical storm that was building in the Gulf of Mexico.  Meteorologists and Storm experts feared that this storm would develop into a full blown hurricane within a matter of hours and advised all local residents to evacuate their homes to a safer location.  Fearing for my life I gathered the items that I knew were the things I could not live without.  Family photos and heirlooms that could not be replaced, leaving behind my home and belongings, I began the drive up to Arkansas.   Fortunately the storm did not do the damage that was anticipated and only minor tree fallings and cosmetic damage were reported to homes and businesses.  Shortly after the storm I was relocated to Phoenix, Arizona.  A few months later, in August of 2005, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, doing un-repairable damage, which is still evident today.
            The evidence of these massive storms shows just how vulnerable our society is to the power of nature.  Understanding the effects we have on our environment, as well as the effects it has on us, is crucial to the protection against these hazards. 


Hurricanes, Engines of Destruction. (2013).  National Geographic.  Retrieved From:
Slingo, J.  (2012).  Society's Growing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards.  Environmental Science Institute.  University of Texas at Austin.  Retrieved From:
Withgott, J., & Brennan, S. (2011). Environment: The Science Behind The Stories. San
Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Can We Predict The Future?

No. Time and time again when ever pundits try to predict the future they get it wrong. The longer the prediction the "wronger" it gets! This weekend in Environmental Studies class we looked at the beginning of the movie Soylent Green, made in the 1970's and plotted in the 2020's. New York in 2020 had 40 million people and all vegetation had disappear from the surface of the earth. As the class made comments about the way that the beginning of the picture was presented one underlying idea was in everybody's mind: the technology was in no way we see today and for sure nothing like we will see in a few years in 2020. Thinking that in the 70's there was nothing like we have today related to mobil electronics and communications it is difficult to imagine how they could have predicted what we have now. So if we can't predict the future how can we plan?

Planning has to be done based on the relationship between what we want and what we can accomplish. Based on principles and values of a society that allow investments that lead to a better future. Think of the time where people in the USA were optimistic and had a tendency to "think big" both in the public and private sector. Governments got involved in huge infrastructural projects like dams, highways/roads, levies, ports, and other related to communication including the space program. Private enterprise got into the military industry, aviation, and in general production of goods and supplies.

And then there was the mixed effort where cities like Portland OR were able to bring together the public and private sectors to set the parameters that would allow growth of the city while guaranteeing livability for its citizens. Nohad Toulan who passed away a few days ago due to a unfortunate car accident in South America is an example of leadership, you can read more about him here:

This is an interesting video:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Literature and the Environment

In the Oregonian today (10/20/2013) there is an article by David Thomas Sumner and Lisa M. Weidman (Linfield College) where the idea of naming an act of civil disobedience as "terrorisms" is very dangerous. This article uses the recent sentence of Rebecca Rubin who committed acts of sabotage where there were no dangers or threats to human life, to analyze how in recent times the idea of eco-terrorism has been used to attack those environmentalist that in their pursuit of inhibiting the damages caused by modern exploitation of natural resources and of the introduction of synthetic processes in the production of food have resorted to violent means. But in any case all these cases of violence have been against property and always carried out with the idea of not harming people at all.
Even if one doesn't get into the legal definition of eco-terrorism, one must understand that when we analyze our interaction with the environment language is very important and being not only clear and articulate about what is going on, we must also be accurate and precise in the wording of our arguments. It is frequent to find in the literature (more so in the newspapers) misconceptions about energy, power, efficiency, and other technical terminology mainly due to the prejudice that as these terms are so frequently used one must immediately recognize their significance and meaning.
We have witnessed when people in high office in government or industry pronounce statements that clearly confuse terms like energy and power and use what sounds like a clear statement to attack or support a political agenda but in close scrutiny these statement do not hold water!
The lack of scientific literacy in our country is dangerously leading us to an anarchic state of affairs and will soon produce deep conflicts in our society. But one must be optimistic as there are those who know the basic principles, natural laws, and theories that are active and leading a healthy fight so at the end the truth will be known. It is possible to block the sun with a finger but it can't be done for long; and of course that will not make the sun disappear.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Metropolis good for the environment

The old idea that cities are destroying the environment has been challenged now with new data and changing paradigm of what it means "a good life". More recently we used to think that the wilderness was not only beautiful and pristine but it was the objective of all human activity. That environmental restoration had the purpose of bringing back the conditions lost by human intervention and waste. Development of our society had produced a plethora of sub-products, second-hand, undesired effects caused by the "ignorance" of developers.
In particular the industrial revolution based on the control of powerful natural energies that brought a rapid increase on the productivity of good needed for our survival. It also brought a dramatic increase of efficiency in the way we do war and destruction. None of this could have happened if not for a better understanding of nature given by scientific advances in all areas. The physical sciences in particular where "energy" and "power" are daily studied, and new forms and mechanisms for their production, control, storage, distribution, and use are being developed. A case in point would be the production of electric power using wind turbines.
So in this context it was that cities were catalogued as necessary evils for the well being of society but people with economic means will tend to move to the outskirts of the city the so called suburbs where they would enjoy the pleasures of nature. Then the end of the twentieth century brought the fact that we could have livable cities and the concept of a "green metropolis" was developed. For more on this read David Owen's Green Metropolis (Why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are keys to sustainability).
In this book we read how New York is in many ways less harmful to the environment than any suburban area based on the fact that one of the most damaging effects caused by humans in modern society is the air pollution generated by our transportation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Urban Resources and Sustainability

It has been the case since the beginning of humanity that modes and fashions come and go. Many times these fades are responding to trends and forces caused by new technologies, like when dads asking their little girls to show their new wrist-watches going to church sunday mornings. It was the response to a new thing, men then had pocket-watches so it became fashionable to walk with your left arm showing your watch.
About 30 years ago a new science was born: Environmental science. It became fashionable to look at the environment through the eyes of the scientific method even though many scientist before have been using "nature" to understand how things work and how reality is governed by laws that are independent of the observer, until Werner Heisenberg with his "uncertainty principle" in 1927 brought the idea of observer interference in the measurement of a phenomenon.
So now we are in the stage of investigating how we humans are affecting the environment and how nature is responding as well as how nature works in general. Fashionable environmental sciences appear all over and many colleges and universities instituted program to organize and structure courses around this theme. Times have changed and society has evolved. A few years ago the majority of humanity lives within the urban environment so we now have to focus on this new reality.
A few years ago I developed a new course at Warner Pacific College trying to address this issue. The class is labeled Urban Resources and Sustainability. Addressing the fact that urban environments are the main driving engines in the way we humans interact with nature.
At Warner Pacific College we are trying to start a new program, a new major to address the need for professionals capable of dealing with these issues and prepared to implement solutions in a sustainable manner.