It is easy to think about the future with a grim face.
After all, as John Cohen outlined in the article on top ten population trends, “1 billion lives in slums” and “three billion live on two dollars a day”. But, I do not think the future necessarily have to face the negative fate that we predict. I think if we take another look at our surroundings without overly pessimistic lenses, and scrutinize a bit harder, we would actually see the positive changes that are already in place that have immense potential for expansion. Recycling, for instance, is not a new concept and is already being adopted in cities, workplaces and public spaces such as parks and on the streets. If this idea exists, and certain countries such as Canada provide recycling facilities at work and at homes, then why isn’t recycling more common in other countries around the world? I believe that if there is significant support from the governments to expand, recycling will inevitably change the global landscape for the better. As for the issue of carbon emission from transportation, why not invest in electric cars? The first practical model was invented in 1884 so how is it that, a ‘CLEAN’ alternative, is still not widely embraced? Another alternative to explore further is renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy. California is a prime example where they already transitioned around 20% of their energy usage to renewable sources. As Nicholas Stern stated at a TED talk conference, if California keeps up the current rate of transition to renewable resources, in the next five years, they could reach 33% renewable energy usage. 33% may not seem like a lot, but the implication is that this would bring California’s greenhouse emission in 2020 back to levels that existed in 1990. To me, this is a great accomplishment. When I think about the future, it is much easier to think about increasing levels of the ‘bad’ stuff i.e. greenhouse emission, population, and pollution. But after reading this statistic on California, I believe there is great possibility for a future where we not only halt our destructive behavior towards the planet, but actually expend effort to restore earth back to its pre-Anthropocene state.
When we talk about climate change, it often appears as too large of a problem for any one of us to solve. But I do not necessarily think this is true-we do not need to wait for a major technological advancement for us to move towards the right direction. As Leonardo DiCaprio stated at the 2014 UN Climate Summit, “this disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.” Given the aforementioned strategies that are already in place such as recycling, renewable energy, electric cars, even if we just utilize these more “green” alternatives, then maybe the world in 25 years will not seem like such a grim place as Cohen suggests. If governments act together as a global effort to implement and enforce more regulations such as taxing industries on carbon emissions, increasing subsidies for electrical cars and renewable energy, then maybe in 25 years, the world will actually be a cleaner world than it is today.
In 25 years, I will be 48 and my kids will likely be in school. I do not want a future where my kids will still learn in school that climate change is an imminent threat. My vision for the future is one where my kids will walk through efficiently designed cities, through streets lined with recycling bins and wind turbines and learn in a classroom that is powered by solar energy. I envision a future where my kids will learn climate change as a topic that is incorporated into every subject and it becomes second nature for my kids to treat and respect the physical world around them.
The Toledo Water Ban article addresses the issue of health impacts from contamination of an approximate water source. As I read the article, I was not surprised by its content as the concept of water pollution due to algae bloom is not entirely novel. However, I was alarmed by the date of the article, which was written on Aug 3 2014. I was shocked to find that algae bloom, to my knowledge a well-understood issue, is still a problem that faces our society today. As mentioned in the article, algae bloom are caused by “runoff from overfertilized fields, malfunctioning septic systems or livestock pens”, all of which I believe are causes that are well researched and if carefully monitored, the bloom should have been entirely preventable.
The article also addresses the steps that the city is taking in dealing with the problem, but nowhere in the article do they address the reason they are having this problem in the first place. In other words, why were they not able to detect the algae bloom in Lake Erie sooner? As I revisit the causes of algae bloom stated in the article, I started to question why there is no maximum fertilizer permissible per square feet of farmland, or proper maintenance of septic systems, or restricted areas to keep livestock pens. In my perspective, the difficult part to a problem is finding the cause to a phenomenon, and in this case the causes are well-documented. Thus interventions/preventions should already be implemented and evaluated, which resulted in my initial surprise at the fact that this issue is still a persistent problem in our society today.
From a sociocultural perspective, I found it interesting that environmental factors to health can result in widening of the gap between health in the wealthy and poor. In the article, the teacher Ms. Peters “drove for an hour to a Walmart store in Michigan to stock up on bottled water because she wanted to make sure that the local supply was available for residents who could not afford to travel.” As Ms. Peter’s statement implies, there is a finite amount of resources, in this case bottled water. The poor will not have the opportunity to leave the city and buy water if they ran out, thus some residents will have unequal access to a crucial resource simply because of their socioeconomic status. The implication of this is that in a developed country, residents could potentially face thirst, poor sanitation (as the local water supply is not safe for bathing and brushing), and hunger (as the water is not safe for preparation of food), challenges that citizens living in developed countries face.
Unlike the Toledo article, I was not able to isolate the environmental factor in the Ebola article right away. However after discussing this issue with other public health professionals, I was able to think beyond what is written in the article, and focused on the nature of transmission for Ebola. What if I view humans not simply as agents external to the environment, but as part of the environment? If that is taken in consideration, then the nature of living spaces, i.e. how crowded people lived, how big people’s families are, burial practices, and manner of greeting (handshake, hugs, close physical contact) all become very relevant environmental factors to consider for the Ebola outbreak. Given the current population at 7 billion people, it is possible that human beings themselves are one form of environmental stress that is at an unprecedented level and who’s impact is not entirely known. Perhaps the rise of certain diseases such as Ebola, that has been around for many years is only resulting in an outbreak now because of the change in human movement and increase in West African population.
In conclusion, from both these articles I resolved to two main questions, 1) why is there not better prevention/monitor in place to prevent water contamination from algae bloom and 2) what constitutes as environment-things around us, or we ourselves?
It really is.
Undoubtedly, poverty still exists, inequality is still evident, corruption trickles down every level, there’s still troubles in your own little bubble. But you know what?
Today’s a great day to be alive.
Sometimes we just got to give ourselves a break, not take ourselves so seriously. Keep our eye on the prize, work hard, and be kind to one each other nonetheless, but… just don’t be so hard on yourself :)
Sun still rises in the east, people still hold doors for one another, prices are fair, global temperatures are just moderately high, world war III hasn’t occurred..
It’s a great day to be alive.
We all encounter these, to different scale and in different contexts. However different, I think we can all agree on the fact that they are not something we enjoy and feel blessed about.
At least, that’s just how I feel. And today, actually for the past few days, that’s exactly what I’ve been going through: trials and tribulations. Moments of self stirred doubt, of questioning my ability, of tireless efforts met with poor results, of longing to be in another’s shoes living someone else’s life, times where I just want to give up.
But no hard task can be overcome easily, no sweet reward are at the end of smooth sailing, and I truly believe our trials and tribulations is what defines our success.
Time and time again, I come across my favorite quote “Just keep swimming" from a wise little blue fish in the sea and I would remind myself of all the obstacles Nemo’s dad had to overcome to find Nemo. Did he give up when he didn’t know where to begin, when he had to cross a sea of jelly fishes, and at times of absolute misery that almost made him lose his only friend? No, he didn’t. And as much as this sounds silly basing life lessons off of an animated talking fish, it’s true, and it helps me knowing that Nemo’s dad had to go through a hell lot more, with higher stakes but he didn’t give up and neither should I.
Last but not least, as much as I keep saying “life’s so sad right now” or the popular phrase “sadlife”, I cringe a bit on the inside every time that comes out of my mouth because I really don’t believe I live a sad life, in fact, I know it’s because I’m blessed with a privileged life that I am able to even encounter my trials and tribulations. And most importantly, I’m so so so grateful to have such supportive people in my life, pushing me through, thanks js.
Phew, that was a mouthful, but hey this is the 4th last blog post, I’m allowed to go on a tangent :)