Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mooving Forward

This past weekend I watched Cowspiracy on Netflix and I am questioning everything in my life. This MOOvie hit real close to home because I feel like everything I believe in and support is a complete and UTTER hoax. (I will try to keep my cow puns to a minimum, but no promises). The most interesting and shocking thing in the moovie did not even concern beef; it was about fish! Fish makes up a large majority of tropical nation's diets as well as a good portion of other countries' diets. But fishing in our oceans is unsustainable because no amount of fishing can be supported by the current production. Or at least in the way that fishing is being done today. Most of the fishing that is done today is indiscriminate, meaning that people go out with trawlers and large nets and catch whatever swims into their nets. These nets often catch unwanted fish, including sharks, whales, and dolphins, and these marine organisms often become bykill. Even though sharks, whales, and dolphins are not targeted by fisherman due to international agreements, they still do a whole lot of damage to these populations because they accidentally catch them and are not able to release them before they die. A shocking statistic that the moovie shared was that for every one pound of sustainably caught fish, about five pounds of large marine organisms are also killed. At the rate that fishing is being done, there will be nearly zero fish left in the ocean by 2048. That is insane because the ocean is humongous and most of the fish in the oceans have not even been discovered. This is a crazy problem and is making me reconsider eating fish, even if it says that it was sustainably caught.

Healthy food is not quite the same thing as sustainable food. Eating healthy means getting all of your required nutrients and calories. Eating sustainably means eating food that has small environmental impacts and can support the population for many years to come with minimal environmental degradation. Cowspiracy touched on this indirectly, but nonetheless focused on how cows and other domesticated animals use a lot of resources for a considerably small amount of nutrients. It is not very sustainable to base  your diet on proteins that require a significant amount of resources. It's important to have protein in your diet, but there are other foods that require less inputs that have just as much or more protein than beef. If you think about it, it should be a lot cheaper to live on a sustainable diet because all of the food that you would eat would require less inputs for it to grow. If everyone were to stop eating beef, there would be huge economic losses for people in the agricultural sector. But there does need to be some kind of change that will allow for people to continue to prosper, even while diminishing the amount of cows that they produce. Environmentally, it would be most ideal for the cow industry to die out, but this will never fully happen. People like meat, so it is going to be hard to convince them to stop eating just for the environment. It's definitely going to be hard for me to consider eating meat after that movie, but its also hard for me to not eat meat because it makes up a large part of my diet. What's going to be even more difficult for me to not swallow is less dairy. Dairy uses so much water and grain to produce and is just as bad as eating meat. The vegan doctor in the movie described milk as baby calf growing food because it is designed to make small calves into large cows. We don't necessarily need dairy, it's just one of human's best tasting cultivations.

After watching this moovie, I am seriously reconsidering my diet. I don't feel like I eat a whole ton of meat, but I think I am going to seriously cut down my consumption of meat. Eventually, I'd like to be a vegetarian who enjoys some meat on a rare occasion. Even further down the road, I hope to become a vegan who enjoys cheese every now and again. I don't want to fully cut meat and dairy from my diet because they are delicious. Also, it's unrealistic for me to entirely cut out any food while I'm living at home and not buying my own food. I will be suggesting to my mom to reduce the amount of meat that we have in our house because of the things that I have learned from this moovie. Once I fully mooooove out, I will take serious steps towards becoming full vegetarian and possibly vegan. Until then, I will be focusing on reducing my meat consumption to at least once every two weeks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ride into our future

Adonia Lugo is an urban anthropologist who studies the social and environmental impacts of bikes on society. During her research and life, Adonia has influenced communities to increase their reliance on human infrastructure (i.e., walking, riding bikes, etc.). Her main focus has been on advocating for bike transportation in multi-cultural hubs such as in Los Angeles and Seattle. Her advocacy is backed by research and fellow anthropologists who have also been researching similar topics. Adonia has founded and is a member of various groups that promote the idea of biking amongst races and social classes.

One of her ventures is a consulting company for sustainable transportation. Unlike many consulting firms, Bicicultures is run by researchers, professors, and PhD students and/or graduates. Using research, Bicicultures can be hired to provide alternative methods of transportation to local governments, developers, and individuals. One of the most interesting things about Bicicultures is that it was formed by Adonia and two other graduate students. They felt as though what they were researching was not well represented in the literature and wanted to reach out and spread its reach. After starting this initiative, they received inquiries and scientific papers on human infrastructure and sustainable transportation. This place of interconnectedness has really helped them all improve their advocacy and consulting efforts.

Adonia is also an advisory board member of Multicultural Communities for Mobility, which is an organization in Los Angeles that is working with local low-income communities to create bike share programs. These bike share programs are aimed to help mobility through the city so transportation throughout Los Angeles is available to every person, which will increase the ability for people to get to their jobs and social engagements. They also focus on better walkways, bike lanes, and access to all forms of transportation in areas where they are inadequate. Many low income areas are deprived of adequate sidewalks, which is very unsafe and does not promote walking and or bike riding. With the help the Multicultural Communities for Mobility, low income areas can have access to safe transportation methods and will be able to do so in  a sustainable manner.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tragedy of the Waters

Water is one of the earth's most precious commodities. It is often one of the most abused resources on earth as well. Which doesn't make sense if it is so precious and is the only reason that life can exist. If water means life, then why is preserving and using it responsibly such a huge issue in the sustainability playing field?

Many people don't think about how their water reaches their tap because they don't have to. Water districts in developed societies provide water to their people in managed and mismanaged manners. But municipal water isn't the hugest impairment to sustainable water use. It is in fact, agriculture that uses the largest proportion of water world wide. This makes a good deal of sense since everyone need to eat and all food is dependent on water to grow. Agricultural centers in California and around the US receive huge discounts on the water that they use for their crops and nearly have unlimited access to water. This kind of mentality has led commercial and small farmers to over exploit their resources. In their defense, food is so cheap that they have to grow much more food or grow water intensive cash crops. The agricultural industry is proving to be our generations major Tragedy of the Commons.

We can't stop growing food just because agriculture uses a lot of water. That would be ridiculous. As population continues to rise, more resources are going to be needed to sustain the population. Or at least at our current use and evaluation of resources. Relying on only technical solutions to solve our problems is almost as ridiculous as stopping agriculture. The biggest challenge to the sustainability challenge with water is the fact that people are so set in their ways and would rather find some complex, expensive, scientific way of fixing their problems instead of evaluating what they could do to change their consumption. Like I said earlier, municipal water supply is not a huge proportion of water use. Ideally, the agricultural sector would just start growing less water intensive crops and crops that suit the regions where they are being grown in. That is not going to happen fast enough to help the problems at hand. What would help is changing consumption patterns of the average consumer. Instead of buying almonds grown in Central California, they could buy fresh asparagus from their local farmer's market. There are so many solutions if we really take the time to think about it and try to change our habits. But it's hard and that's why we always desire a technical solution. Unfortunately, the Tragedy of the Commons has struck our water supply and we need to find ways to change society so we do not run out of fresh water.

I think that there are some great and ideas for mutual coercion to help shape our consumption patterns regarding water. Grocery stores could drastically raise the price of water intensive crops compared to crops that require less water. The option of buying food like almonds is still available, but at a much higher price. People will be more likely to purchase lower priced goods especially if they learn that they have a smaller water footprint. This coercive action would reduce consumption of water intensive crops in a sneaky way that will also send messages to water intensive farmers to grow less. And growing less of these foods will continue to make the price rise and make these foods even less appealing. As for municipal use, some water districts are starting use graduated scale for rates for their users. You can use as much water as you want, but you will have to pay a higher price for it. It would be wise for people to not use water so they can save money and the precious resource that is water. Mutual coercion is actually a great idea for water management.

WATER you going to do to help reduce the common tragedy that water supplies face?