Thanks, Geog 430

May 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Thanks to all my Geog. 430 students this spring semester. Your participation and meaningful contributions to class discussion and the blog made the semester a great learning experience for all. I asked you to work hard. I demanded clear thinking (and lots of reading). I encouraged better writing. I asked for more participation each meeting. And you came through.

I wish all of you the best and please continue to contribute to the blog. You have earned your place as an Author and I look forward to hearing from you. I really mean it.

-wej

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Burning Tar Sands = ‘Unsolvable’ Climate Crisis: Hansen

May 18, 2013 Leave a comment

In Frog Pond Holler

See on Scoop.itFrackInformant

Fresh off his resignation from NASA, leading climate scientist James Hansen is making the rounds this week, warning media and lawmakers that not only are we heading for a “tremendously chaotic” climate, but if we dig up and burn Canadian tar sands, the climate crisis will be rendered “unsolvable.”

See on www.commondreams.org

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A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit. The New York Times

May 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Another cost of tarsands, Keystone XL

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Current Water Use: Reflection of “Blue Gold”

Current Water Use
Reflection of “Blue Gold”

                The world’s finite water supply coupled with exponential population growth will be our future’s toughest challenge to face. The film focuses on the hydrologic cycle disruption, water privatization, and poorly institutionalized water regulations. The questions become how does our world develop practices that bolster sustainable water use?

                The world is suffering from desertification, and the problem this poses is there is a possibility of running out of water. “Blue Gold” explains that the hydrologic system is the natural means of establishing renewable water. Desertification and urbanization cause rain water to drain off into sewers and back into the ocean. Rainwater is unable to penetrate the natural soil and replenish through the hydrologic cycle. In today’s industrial and technology dependent world the only tangible advancements are seen through more industrial development. Technology is often the solution to solve environmental problems. “Blue Gold” explains water damns have interrupted the natural flow of water and consequentially have disrupted the hydrologic cycle. The general population is unaware to the seriousness associated with our unsustainable development. Activists have been pointing out the issues and trying to educating the general population on the water crises. Once the water crisis is generally understood there needs to be proactive solutions implemented that strive to restore the natural hydrologic flow. The problem is our world has become very reliant on technology and resources such as forest trees. There is a temptation to resort to new technology, but technology has burdened us with the current water crisis.

                Along with expelling technology as a viable solution there needs to be stricter regulations with natural resource use. “Blue Gold” explains water companies have privatized water and in affect have a powerful control over water. Water privatization is not limited to developing countries it happens in the United States. Proper framework evaluations are necessary for a society’s prosperity. The three frameworks discussed in class were the government, privatization and communal ownership. The question is what model of water ownership works for each area. In “Blue Gold” water privatization was completely discarded and announced only profit seeking. While this may generally be true, there are circumstances in which water privatization is the only answer. In third world countries the governments are often times corrupt because the whole nation is poor. Consequently government, operated water-systems only supply water to the upper-class, oppose to the lower-class which is left to find water on their own. On this ground water privatization becomes a better solution, not a perfect solution.

                Modified water-use regulations are cardinal to galvanize water sustainability. In “Blue Gold” the farmers spoke about how they had to use a certain amount of water even if it was an unnecessary amount. If the farmers did not use the allotted amount they would lose whatever they did not use for the following year. Consequently the policy benefited and encouraged the farmer to waste the excess amount of water. Current misguided water policies have caused detriments to our world’s invaluable water source.

By: Chad L. Cook

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Texas: Ready for change, or just confessing

May 3, 2013 Leave a comment

In the last TAMUTimes email that was sent out, a small article was published concerning Texan’s concerns about water.  A survey conducted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service showed that Texans were finally starting to worry about future water supplies for the state.  Maybe this is caused by the severe droughts that have made headline news for the last two consecutive years, or the still recovering water levels in reservoirs near Houston, or the lack of success with recently proposed water infrastructure expansion projects, or maybe it is caused by all the press concerning fracking.  While it was most likely a summation of recent events an, it is about time water concerns rank in the top concerns of the public, even if it is only at 5th place. 

Now that the public has finally recognized that we have a problem, the difficult parts of recovery come into play:  government recognition of concern.  The article points out that the Texas Legislature is now considering several policy options. But when the State economic health relies so heavily on the oil industry, how far will this legislation go?  Texas is already one of the few states that require companies to publish the chemical present in their fracking fluid, but this does not prohibit the type of water used.  The oil company has a history of using their economic pull to adjust the policy in their favor, will that change now that the public is starting to pay closer attention to their water needs?

While this survey states that Texans are concerned about water use and management, nothing was mentioned about the still lack of water access present in the state.  Many of the Colonials have already experienced delays with water access.  Now that the highly vocal and represented residents are seeking changes to the system, I fear that the water access will slip further down the to-do list.

Finally, there is the question if residents are truly willing to do all that is necessary to conserve water.  To ensure that water is accessible for many more years to come, residents will have to put aside some of the accepted cultural practices, like having a green lawn, or a swimming pool in every back yard.  These changes are more than just habit; they are a change to the culturally accepted norm.   I am glad that they Texans recognize that there is a problem, but are they truly willing to go into rehab?

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Vulnerability and Risk: New Orleans vs. Haiti

In 2006, director Spike Lee gave us a powerful look into the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans with his documentary, “When the Levees Broke”. Five years later, the follow up film “If God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise” brings us back to the home of the recently crowned Super Bowl champs to see their recovery progress. Unfortunately, we discover that underneath all the football excitement remains a community and city that are still very much wounded. The film chronicles the struggles endured by the city’s inhabitants after all the floodwater drained, FEMA left, and the rest of the world went on with their lives, specifically focusing on those that call the Ninth Ward of New Orleans home. The film was a continuation of stories depicting the hope and heartbreak felt by those still displaced by, suffering from, and recovering from Katrina. But, the most interesting part of the film for me came towards the end, when Spike Lee centered on the recent earthquake in Haiti and in which he likened the devastation endured by the citizen of Haiti to that of the people of New Orleans, which I believe is a good comparison in terms of environmental justice, but not in magnitude.

There are comparisons that can be made between the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in regards to their exposed locations, social vulnerability, and the unequal distribution of aid. In New Orleans, the Ninth Ward was hit the hardest and was also the most unprepared and socially vulnerable. This caused immense devastation that only got worse after the storm. The Ninth Ward is a predominantly low-income, African American and other non-white individual’s community, who did not have or were not given the necessary means to bounce back after the Hurricane, such as insurance, mortgage relief, and compensation for damages. Because of the claimed racial bias in aid distribution, many inhabitants have still not been able to come back home. Haiti is an African American nation and one of the poorest countries in the world and was subject to environmental racism in the distribution of resources even before the earthquake.

However, there are also some differences. In the aftermath of Katrina, the New Orleans government was in charge of all the money donated for relief. This gave the government the power to do what they wanted with the money and the Ninth Ward was often ignored with regards to the distribution of capital. On the other hand, the Haitian government was not in control of any relief money, leaving it up to the NGO’s and other volunteers.

Finally, despite some of the similarities, Haiti was incredibly more devastated. While New Orleans saw 1100 people die in Katrina, Haiti lost hundreds of thousands of people. Haiti was in distress prior to the earthquake with most of its citizens living in tightly concentrated slums. So, although Haiti received an out pour of support, it could never be enough. Bottom line, New Orleans had something to rebuild, while the Haitians were just trying to survive. 

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Sun Come Up, Island Go Down: The “Sinking” Carteret Islands

The documentary “Sun Come Up”  shows the environmental tragedy of the Carteret islanders in the South Pacific. The Carteret Islands are an atoll in Papua New Guinea, 85 miles from the larger island of Bougainvillea.

These easy-going and peaceful people have lived on these islands for thousands of years. They have developed a strong culture with dances, music, games, local shell money, navigation, fishing,  and agriculture. They have interacted with their environment and each other in a sustainable and peaceful way. Their island is an integral part of who they are.

However, their story has no happy ending: their island is rapidly disappearing as the sea level rises.  The ocean is eating away the shores and the large waves of salty water have killed most of their crops of taro, bananas and coconuts.  They  are facing starvation and know they will have to find a new place to live. The documentary follows  the first group of 5 families as they travel to Bougainville island , the closest neighbor, to try to find a new home.  They bring their plea  from village to village hoping to be given a piece of land to relocate, but it is not so easy. Bougainville still shows the scars of  a devastating civil war that the locals call “the Crisis”; there are armed and angry people who do not want them there. There are also many other problems they have never seen: alcoholism, prejudice, even racism,  and an economy based on money.   If they leave their island, they know their culture will be no more. They are told they will have to change their  “lazy ways” and assimilate, if they do not ” it may be trouble”.

I was born in the South Pacific, and lived the first six years of my life there. This documentary touched me in a very personal way.  I feel frustration, sadness, outrage, compassion. But  as a student I need to be unbiased in my analysis of the film. As I reflect on the concepts we explored in our Environmental Justice class,  I can see the enormous disparity in terms of distributive justice. The islanders are suffering the disproportionate impact of global warming, while they have contributed nothing to the problem. Developed nations  continue to debate, and argue at an abstract level. But for the Carteret people it is only too real. Major polluting companies trade billions in “pollution credits” in the market, but the islanders get nothing. They also seem to lack representative and procedural justice, or even recognition. They seem to have no voice in the issues that affect them, or  influence on the process and funds for relocation. Their government seemed to have no plan for them, or even recognize that there was a problem. They sent a  cargo ship with a  thousand bags of rice. But, as the woman trying to coordinate the relocation puts it, the authorities don’t know what they are doing. With the amount of money they spent on the ship and the rice, the Carteret could have bought enough land  to relocate.

With the loss of their  island they will lose much more than a home, they will lose their identity, their culture, their knowledge, their way of life, and we all will be poorer for it.

 

You can watch the trailer on YouTube  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwkw2aVohnQ

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