Thursday, June 8, 2017

Letter to the editor

Dear Merri,

This year has taught me so much in terms of sustainability and in terms of life as a whole. At the beginning of the year, I talked about how sustainability is equivalent to respect. This relationship between sustainability and respect still holds true to me, but I have seen how much deeper this relationship goes with the more I learn. Earlier this year, I did not know that sustainability had to do with social issues. These social issues are rooted in disrespect and could be solved by actually respecting people and their opinions. My idea of what sustainability is really hasn't changed, but the greater implications that it has become more evident to me after this sequence.

It has been three years since you have taken this class and I hope that you are doing well and living by our sustainability ethic. There are a couple of things that I set out to do that I hope you are still living by. One is that I hope you aren't using disposable plastic products anymore. If you think you respect the environment and are still using those utensils, then you are wrong. It's not too hard to carry your own utensils so you don't have to waste more plastic than is necessary. Another thing that I hope that you are doing is shopping for what you need and not just for what you want. There are so many things you don't need but buy, which is what is causing so many problems in our world. Don't BUY into that consumeristic lifestyle and be more mindful of your purchases. This counts for food as well and you should not be eating out as much as well. I hope you are respecting all people and all things on earth. That is probably one of the most important things that I hope that you are doing because it is so important for the sustainability of our earth and our people. If you don't respect anything, then you're living a very selfish life and I don't know you anymore. So please respect people and the environment through your actions, words, and ideas.

Lastly, I hope that you are keeping up with this blog. I think it is important for you to keep writing and getting your ideas out there and it will make sticking to your sustainability ethic so much easier. Keep writing and keep loving. It's been real fun.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I've got to be rank with you

Everything in our lives needs to be ranked so we know where we stand with others. No one ever wants to be last or even in the middle of the pack. Our aims are usually for the best ranking, except when the ranking is for a bad quality. There are so many ranking systems in this world and they are all based on differing criteria.

Even for sustainability ranking, there are many different systems with many different indicators. One system that I looked at was the Global Sustainable Competitive Index. This index looks at several factors when deciding who has the best sustainable competitiveness or sustainable growth. The factors include governance, intellectual capital, social capital, resource management, and natural capital. They rank each nation on each of these factors on how sustainable their practices are and how effective as well. Some nations rank higher on some factors and lower on others. They use the results from the subrankings in the overall rankings.

There are some challenges with these kinds of ranking systems. Not all information for every individual country is available for every person to use, which could make some countries better or worse if that information was available. Another challenge would be to rank countries with similar scores because what small factor would cause one nation to be better than the other if they were nearly identical? Another issue is that it is hard to compare apples to oranges and assign a score when the two aren't even related. They do have systems in place to take care of these challenges, however, they cannot be 100% perfect.

The goals of this ranking system is to show a much more rounded picture of GDP that takes into account social, environmental, and governmental factors that are otherwise left out of GDP calculations and projections. Rather than just focusing on "prosperity," the Global Sustainable Competitive Index looks at the ability of a nation to provide for the needs of its people today without compromising the needs of future generations and allowing growing wealth without depleting natural, social, and intellectual capital. This makes for a more encompassing ranking which shows which nations are using all of their resources and capital wisely.

The ranking system seems mainly holistic, but could potentially be missing several factors that others may deem necessary like air quality or ability to use renewable energies.  I think that the system provides a great approach to ranking nations for sustainability and competitiveness.

In my opinion, the US ranked pretty high considering its focus on growth of wealth above the environment and its people. The US typically likes to believe it is the best nation in the world and that its this huge powerhouse. Whenever a ranking system puts them in the middle of the pack, it puts things into perspective for many Americans. If we were to have been ranked higher on this list, I don't think people would feel the need to care about improving anything in America. But if others were to see the current ranking they may feel inclined to speak up about it. So its good that America is not ranked the best because there is room for improvement.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Parks for All, All for Parks

Urban Ecology is an organization that works with communities in the Bay Area to establish more environmentally friendly and more socially equal urban design. A lot of environmental racism stems from inadequate and unequal distribution of parks and open spaces. The initiative focuses on removing that unequal distribution to make the Bay Area a better place for everyone; not just those who can afford it.

They had one project in Oakland that emphasized working with community members to get people to use underutlized parks. The people in these areas were characterized by poor health, such as asthma and obesity, and sedentary lives. Urban Ecology led many workshops and town meetings to work to get people to use three parks in the area. They wanted to create programs that would entice people to go out and be active, while improving their lives entirely. They set out to create better parks that people would actually use. To do so, they partnered with local organizations such as the East Bay Asian Youth Center. Together they went to work on improving school yards and other playgrounds in the area.

Another interesting project that they worked on was redesigning BART stations in the Mission District. These BART stations were very uninviting and unsafe, making very few people want to get off at these stops. Urban Ecology worked with local businesses and the community to come up with designs that would improve business and improve the safety of the community. This paired with other revitilization projects in the area have contributed to a rebranding of the district as a whole. The community is more vibrant and welcoming and has increased the productivity of business.

Urban Ecology has definitely taken the people and the environment into account during its projects. These projects are helping to make lives better for everyone in the Bay Area and it is great to see that!

Monday, May 8, 2017

CCL striking a chord

Before today, I had not heard of CCL. At first, I thought we were going to be visited by CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and that would have seriously rocked. But, I'm sure CCL will also manage to strike a chord with us global sustainability kids.

The main policy objectives that CCL addresses are regarding their Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy. This policy is pretty cool. According to their website, CCL claims that it will reduce carbon emissions to 50% of the levels in 1990 and add 2.8 million jobs in the next twenty years. This sounds awesome, but how will they achieve that?

The first part of the plan is to impose a Carbon Fee. The carbon fee would be minimal to start, roughly $15 per ton CO2 equivalent. Each year the fee will go up by atleast $10 per ton, depending on how well they met the goal in the previous year. This kind of incremental building will influence the fossil fuel industry and companies that rely on fossil fuels to run their systems to decrease their dependence. Decreasing the dependence will save them money in the long run and decrease the amount of emissions being released. This will help to foster more support of renewable energy systems, which produce much less or no carbon emissions.

The second part of the plan is to pay dividends to households from the the Carbon Trust. Paying households will allow for lower income families from being left behind with the increases in energy costs due to renewable energies and higher priced fossil fuels. It is interesting to see this sort of social safety net to help foster the decrease in fossil fuel dependency. Rather than just focusing on the environment, which is typically a problem with environmental policy, this idea combines environmentalism with sociocentric ideas that help to alleviate poverty and progress society as a whole.

This plan is pretty interesting as a whole. It will be interesting if they can actually get bipartisan support on these ideas because even though it is economically ideal, it is still not an idea that I feel many republicans will support.

My question for the CCL would be how long they think it will take to get enough bipartisan support to actually make this plan a reality.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Is it God? No, it's David Suzuki


It had to be said. Not only does David Suzuki denounce Trump and all of this anti-science sentiment, he is also a man with great metaphors and phrases. David Suzuki is the first man I have ever listened to and truly respected every word that he had to say. David feels like one of my best pals and I haven't even met him yet. He speaks so wonderfully and has a lot of logic in reasoning in his arguments, which sadly is a breath of fresh air.

In the video I watch, David Suzuki was confronting the Australia media on how climate change does not stop when the rain comes. Australia's climate is conducive to drought and is not very well suited for an extensive human population. During the last drought, they built desalination plants to provide fresh water to the people so that they could endure the drought. The drought ended with immense amounts of rain, which led people to believe that climate change was no longer an issue and that they had wasted all of their money on these desalination plants that will never be used again. But Australia's climate has historically shown periods of droughts followed by periods of wet years, so it doesn't make sense to believe that they will never have a drought again and will never use their desalination plants again. David Suzuki was asked by the news station if he thought that climate change was rubbish since there was rain. OF COURSE DAVID SUZUKI STILL BELIEVES THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS A BIG DEAL!!!! He goes on to talk about how Australia should be at the forefront of combatting climate change since its one of the places in the world that will be the hardest hit by the implications of increased temperatures and ocean acidification. David relates his experience diving in the Great Barrier Reef in the 80's to the present and he says there is a significant difference. This difference should be enough to convince anyone that things are changing within our climate systems.

David Suzuki draws out that the government in Australia was hands-off which should have fostered a more scientifically driven political scene, however, it led to the opposite where they barely believe anymore. David believes it is the job of the political system to inform people of the claims that science is offering - which 97% of science agrees that climate change is the real deal. Without arguing and defeating the media, David made his point that the spread of information is key to inciting a more environmentally aware world where we work with nature instead of against it. David's most persuasive point was when he said "What will we have to rely on, the  Bible, Quran, or the corporations?" which he said to point out that science is the only objective and logical way to approach these ideas. I don't think that he was trying to denounce religion in this point, but science needs to be spread like these ideas. Without the spread of science, people are going to believe that one instance of rainfall ends droughts forever. We need more Davids in this world!

POLITICS AND SUSTAINABILITY: Dr.David Suzuki 'Are We Going to Rely on the Bible, the Qu'ran or Corporations'? (YOUTUBE)

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Very Merri Life

Objective: To share how I'm applying my degree and trying to making this world a better place.

About a year ago, I was applying to various internships that related to my studies, Earth System Science. To all of the internships I applied to, I received rejections even though I thought I was well qualified for the work. I was extremely bummed because I had nothing to do for the summer to interest me or better my resume. So I coached water polo, hoping to make some money. In July, my neighbor gave some lady he carpooled with to work my information because she was looking for someone to help her get started with her environmental consulting business. I didn't know that this lady was about to call me and give me the best opportunity that I have ever had. 

I started working for my boss lady in July and have tackled many tasks, most of them involving me entering receipts into Quickbooks and budgeting projects. The great thing about my job is that it is just me and the boss lady taking on the world. I get a lot of attention and a lot of experience. Within the first two months of working, I went on a business trip with my boss to New York and New Jersey to do environmental compliance audits for one of our clients. It was crazy how quickly I became so emerged into the business. Two weeks after that first business trip, I went on my second one. Alone. I was needed to go to the Bay Area and do an Exit Inspection and to update the CERS inventory at one of their sites. It's completely insane to me how she even trusted me enough to do that trip alone after only working with her for less than two full months. But she wants me to gain as much experience with her as I can, and I could not be anymore grateful. 

So, I get a lot of opportunities to get work experience and improve upon my skills, but what does this have to do with anything but me? Well...

The work that I do is environmental compliance work. My job is to make sure our clients are in compliance with federal and state environmental regulations. These regulations are sometimes hard to understand or tedious, so many companies hire environmental consultants to perform the work for them. Many consultants are in the game to make money, but money is only a part of it for my company. Every day, we go to work to make sure that companies don't continue to be unaware or ill-advised about their practices. Many people don't like regulations, but these regulations make a humongous difference! People in LA used not be able to see anything because of air pollution. Thanks to the Clean Air Act and other regulations, air pollution dropped significantly. What I work with mostly is the NPDES which stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and it is a program run by the US EPA along with the cooperation of the states. This system provides a way for companies to be held reliable for non-point and direct pollution to our waterways. This program helps to prevent large spills and large non-point pollution events because it is proactive rather than reactive. You have to make sure that you don't have any possible contaminants that could be touched by rainfall on your property or otherwise you get fined big time. Since this program has been in place, our waterways have vastly improved in quality and ecosystem health. There is still a long ways to go with many waterways, but it is awesome to know that what I do every day is contributing making that happen. 

If it weren't for consultants and other environmental people like me, companies would continue to discharge straight to waterways, making everything in life worse. I like to believe that what I do everyday contributes to making the world a little bit better. Honestly, that's always been my goal and I hope that my little bit can reach a huge bit by the time I am done on this earth.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's all Berry Interesting...

Wendell Berry is an American novelist, poet, environmental activist, and a farmer. Berry was born in 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky amidst the turmoil of the Great Depression. Berry grew up on a fifth generation tobacco farm in rural Kentucky. He grew up working on the farm with his family. Berry's mother was  a huge reader, which helped to spark Berry's interest in literature. He went to Millersburg Military Instituted and the University of Kentucky with a BA and MS in English. At UK, he met his wife Tanya Amyx, who he had two children with. After university, Berry went on to become a fellow at Stanford's creative writing program. Berry was recognized as a Guggenheim Fellow and lived in Tuscany for a year working along many great writers. After his time away, he worked as a professor at NYU for two years before returning back to Kentucky to work as a farmer. While on the farm, Berry wrote many novels, poems, short stories, and essays. Berry's first novel, Nathan Coulter, a book about a young boy coming of age, was published in 1960. Most of Berry's work reflected the ideal that one's work ought to be rooted in and responsive to one's place. Berry felt akin to people who showed their connection to their home through their works, like Henry Thoreau and his good pal Harry Caudil. Some of Barry's major themes included the ingenuity of nature, respect for locals and local knowledge, and a deep Christian appreciation for our obligations to each other. Barry was also wary of technology and how it would ultimately destroy our connection with nature.

Berry's farmer life definitely helped him to develop his ideas for his literary works as well as form his ideas on life. Berry was an activist for the peace and the environment, writing letters and articles for papers against the Vietnam War and the installation of a nuclear power plant in Indiana. Berry also wrote activist papers to the Bush administration after 9/11 and how they should handle National Security. Berry continues to write today about how the world is at risk to modernization. Berry also continues to join in on protests for the environment and even cut ties with the University of Kentucky in order to continue to protest the coal industry. Berry is very true to himself which makes his writing very interesting and more convincing than most other writers of any time period.

Berry has formed the Berry Center in Kentucky "for the purpose of bringing focus, knowledge and cohesiveness to the work of changing our ruinous industrial agriculture system into a system and culture that uses nature as the standard, accepts no permanent damage to the ecosphere, and takes into consideration human health in local communities." (Wikipedia). Much of Berry's activism has been in the form of protest or through written work. He has had to face many different administrations with various ecological agendas. No matter the issue, he stuck true to his beliefs and fought for them before his own concern. The fact that Berry shows so much concern for the issues he fights against makes his writing hold more grip in the literary world. It was definitely interesting to learn this about him before reading through his essay about wildlife preservation.