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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Where to start?

There are many topics in this world that I would love to write about for ten weeks in my global sustainability seminar. There are so many things wrong with the world that I want to fix and explore, but I can only choose three at the moment. So here we go.

Some interesting topics include the following:

BEE-utiful World:
 It would BEE neat to explore how climate change and human interactions are affecting pollinating species across the world and what can be done to help preserve their numbers. As temperatures increase, geographic ranges of plants are changing. It would be interesting to see how they are responding.

Google Time!
Wow. Bees and other pollinators are at extreme risk due to climate change. This is mostly due to the fact that climate change can mess up the time-syncing between pollinators and plants. If plants are blooming too early for honeybees and other pollinators to reproduce at, then those plants cannot be pollinated and the honeybees get overwhelmed or just can't harvest enough to keep their clan going. Obviously pesticides are also an issue because they are killing bees and other pollinators even if its not its intended purpose. There are so many deep issues with these guys.

 Another topic could be delving into how using GMO's can actually be sustainable and improve lives. All crops today are GMOs, whether they were created in a lab or out in the field. GMOs can be designed to use less space to grow, use less water, and produce more food which would help to solve population growth problems along with many other problems.

Google Time!
GMO's, like I said before, are prevalent in all parts of the world through the process of natural selection and actual bioengineering. But most of the GMO's out there focus on duplicating DNA or inserting DNA from other plants, which isn't that dangerous. The real danger GMO's pose is the loss of biodiversity and the inability of the poorer farmer to be able to compete with big brands. But GMO's can be engineered to use less water, which would drastically reduce the amount of water being used in agriculture. As a number one user of water, it would be awesome if they were able to reduce water intake per pound of food.

State of the Environment:
 It would be interesting to look at how governments around the world are presenting the idea of sustainability and what they are doing to actually reduce their environmental impacts. There are many countries that are working towards combatting climate change while others are ignoring it. *cough cough* the united states president *cough cough*.

Google Time!
There is so much going on in our world with our new president. This guy doesn't believe that the world is getting hotter because of us. If he looked back when he was a young fella, he would have remembered that he was not able to see a clear skyline in any city because of all of the pollution. Administering regulations in the US has lead to better air quality than ever. Around the world, countries are taking large steps in the way of sustainability and improving their environment. Germany implements more solar panels than the US with much less area and much less sun. Sweden has the lowest carbon emissions and uses the most renewable energy in the world! There are countries that are doing it right and there are countries not doing enough. It would be cool to explore that.

After all of this exploring, I'm still uncertain which topic to choose because there are so many different ways to go with each of them. If I were to choose one though, I would choose the GMO's because I feel like there is a lot of good literature available that will help me in my search to find out how GMO's can relate to sustainability.