HIstory of Microplastics Pollution

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In order to understand plastic pollution in the ocean it is important to know the history behind plastic and the special interests that influence the industry. This petro-based material started reaching the height of use after the war, and when the introduction of varied colors of plastics hit the market. This ability to create multicolored plastic lead the the introduction of Tupperware. The oil industry not only had a lock on oil and gas but now household items for everyday use as well as one-time use. We have evolved from using plastic for military and household containers to pop bottles, straws, diapers, cups, plates, almost anything you can think of is made of different types of polymers. Because of this fast-food mentality, when it comes to plastic use, we have begun be enveloped by our one-time use trash that has always meant to be used long term. Old toys and disposable object not only end up on opposite sides other the world they also break down into micro-plastics. These plastics cause an infinite amount of problems on their own.

As microplastics float on top of the ocean and disperse, they are then eaten by marine animals, and the toxins that are stored within the plastic are then are housed in the bodies of the animals. After being eaten, these pollutants enter into the food chain and eventually make their way to our bodies. On the other hand, as long as plastics degrade in ocean, it would exist everywhere and easily leach nutrition away from marine animals which could cause the balance of the hydrosphere ecosystem. Basically, the most direct influence made by microplastic is the damage done to marine organisms. However, whenever it hurts oceanic systems, it tends to hurt our health or even our economy (less fishing and ocean product).

Plastics do not biodegrade, instead they break down into tiny pieces which are then consumed by fish and other sea mammals who mistake these bits of plastic as food. Every year plastic is responsible for killing over 100,000 sea turtles and birds. The chemicals present in plastic are released into the water and the atmosphere. As a result fish are contaminated from the chemicals found in the water. There is a direct correlation between plastic chemicals and how they have entered the food chain. Plastics not only impact the ocean but they also act like sponges, soaking up toxins from outside sources prior to entering the ocean. As the animals in the ocean ingest these chemicals, and we ingest these animals, it does not have a positive impact on human health (Andrews, 2017).

Plastics pose a threat to human health in numerous forms. One of them being direct toxicity, which is from lead, cadmium, and mercury. These toxins have been discovered in a large amount of the fish in the ocean which is hazardous for humans. Another form is Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), which is found in some plastics and is a toxic carcinogen. Many other toxins found in plastics have also been discovered to have a direct link to cancer, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues. BPA or health-bisphenol-A is another toxin present in plastic and is of large concern for human health. BPA is a basic building block of polycarbonate plastics. It has multiple uses such as food packaging or water bottles.  Over a period of time, it’s bonds can break down, like when the plastic is being repeatedly washed or is exposed to other stressors like heat. Which then allows entrance of this toxin into the human body by means of drinking contaminated water or consuming a fish that has been exposed to the broken-down toxins. BPA is a chemical that is known for implicating human and mammal hormonal functions (Andrews, 2017)

According to the UNEP, microplastics are pieces of plastic ranging in size from 5mm to nano proportions and are considered to be an essential piece of the planet’s marine litter issue. There are primary and secondary microplastics.  Primary microplastics are plastics that can be found in personal care and cosmetics products, as well as pre-production plastic resin pellets. Secondary microplastics are made when larger pieces of plastic items break down into smaller pieces, which are then easily ingested by fish, mussels, or any other sea creatures. Additionally, there is a growing body of scientific evidence linking microplastics to the passage of chemicals like the pesticide DDT and toxic PCBs, which makes them more concentrated and toxic when coming in contact with marine animals. Research also has determined that microplastics in the ocean are nearly everywhere, present on ocean surfaces, close to river mouths, coasts, and have even managed to find their way in deep-sea sediments (UNEP). The pollution of these tiny pieces of plastic are so widespread that serious action must be taken out to eradicating the problem source and minimizing any further damage to both human health and to the ecosystems.

Cites:

Andrews, Gianna. “Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health.” Case Studies. N.p., 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.

“Plastic and Microplastics in Our Oceans – A Serious Environmental Threat #UNEnvironment.” UNEP. N.p., 19 May 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27442625

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The History of Plastics

Image result for fruit in plastic packaging

Have you ever returned from a shopping trip or errands without having the need to throw things away when unpacking? Chances are slim since plastics and other non biodegradable materials are intertwined with the products we buy. Supermarkets have groceries in every aisle which are packaged in plastic and even fresh produce have plastic stickers on them and are bagged in plastic. Clothes have plastic tags and stickers on them as well. Even fast food restaurants have placed convenience in front of sustainability since all of their meals are usually packaged in single use disposable items. What led to the development and implementation of these unsustainable materials in our daily life? Many different factors played a key role which led them to become a common material. The turn of the twenty first century has led to a faster pace of life where modernization and efficiency have taken prominence over other factors including our health and the environment. Modernization also led to new technological innovations both good and bad. Plastic was one of many new innovative products that were introduced during this time period. In sum, the development of plastics starting in the late 1860s to the recent market changes of the twenty-first century have led to the development and mass use of unsustainable materials in multiple aspects of our daily lives.

Ever since populations have started to exponentially grow,  humans have only had one limitation: nature. Natural resources are finite. Once they are used we will have to turn to other alternatives. In this sense, synthetic materials like plastic originated as a useful alternative resource. “Plastic was conceived to cut manufacturers free from one of the greatest obstacles in industrial production: the limits of nature” (Rogers).  The first plastic was invented in 1868 when inventor John Wesley synthesized celluloid, a material that was later used in photographic film and even in the first motion picture (History of Plastics).

Once plastic was developed, the contributions of multiple people influenced its structure and led it to evolve to what it is today. Despite its invention in the mid-1800’s, plastics did not attain global popularity until 1909 when Dr. Lee Hendrik Baekeland introduced phenoformaldehyde plastics. Baekland was also able to streamline synthesis by adding the elements of heat and pressure to the reaction. This modification yielded a liquid phenoformaldehyde product, which is much easier to mold than its solid counterpart, and thus increased the potential of the still new material. The third major development in plastics occurred in the 1920s when several new material, including nylon and vinyl, were introduced. Because of its chemical properties, the introduction of cellulose acetate made fabrication and use of plastics much safer. Ureaformaldehyde was also developed during this time. Unlike its dark-colored predecessors, it boasted a light color that could be dyed to make more attractive, and therefore more marketable, products. Resins and polystyrenes, used in paints and packaging respectively,  came shortly after in the 1930’s.

World War II induced rapid growth and technological advancement in many industries, so it is no surprise that a wide variety of plastics were developed during this period and a few years afterward. Here we see the rise of insulating plastics as were needed for military equipment. To fill this need, polyethylene and thermoset polyester were developed. The following decade brought the production of engineering thermoplastics, a subgroup of plastics with an incredible impact strength as well as thermal and dimensional stability comparable to that of metals. This group included materials such as polypropylene, acetal, and polycarbonate. The trend of thermoresistant plastics carried over into the 1960s and 1970s to fill the demands of emerging aircraft and aerospace technologies during the Space Race of the Cold War period. This period also brought polyesters that are now commonly used in packaging because of their impermeability.

History has shown how plastics with favorable properties can be designed to fill a niche in an industry. This convenient truth has made it easy for plastics to rapidly make their way into every corner of our modern lives.

The use of unsustainable materials, specifically for product packaging, was exponentially increased due to the changing manufacturing processes of the industrial revolution. During the mid 1800’s mass production was the goal of many companies in order to increase efficiency and accessibility. America’s changes in product production brought along a shift in culture, it is stated best in this excerpt  “Where once people had grown and prepared their own food and made their own clothes, increasingly they were eating, drinking, wearing, and using things that came from factories. We were fast on our way to becoming a country of consumers” (Freinkel).  Depending on factories and mass production in our daily lives created this consumer culture that relies on efficiency in the factories and accessibility to the consumer. To do this, there had to be a way to quickly package goods. The answer that came to be was with the use of plastics, the first being synthesized celluloid. Celluloid and other similar materials helped mass production in two main ways, “Ample supplies of celluloid allowed manufacturers to keep up with rapidly rising demand while also keeping costs down” (Freinkel). As time went on this trend of using synthetic unsustainable materials took off, and now are frequently used in our daily lives.

The impact of the mass production of plastics during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s has created an everlasting effect on both our consumer lifestyle and our environment. Nowadays, it would seem unimaginable to live in a life without out plastic packaging products such as tupperware, plastic zip-lock bags, and other plastic food containers. As our populations increased over the years, manufacturers of plastic materials had to increasingly produce products to keep up with consumer demand. This increase in production in plastics has riddled our environment with unsustainable materials and has created a variety of issues to be dealt with. Innovation has allowed plastic factories and manufactures to develop new products using different materials at an extremely efficient rate. The problem with this is that when these new products are created, we aren’t likely to know the possible exposure effects of theses products on our environment and health. Plastic materials are extremely harmful to the environment in the way that they are slow to degrade, meaning that their physical presence lasts longer than other materials in our environment. Plastic waste can be found almost anywhere near civilizations, it can end up in the oceans and damage marine life or it could end up burning in a landfill, releasing harmful carcinogens and pollutants into our air. In conclusion, our past history with plastic packaging has led to a long-term, detrimental effect on our environment due to the use of unsustainable materials and change in consumer culture. It is important to understand that consumer demand drives the market for plastic materials, and consumers need to realize that although plastic packaging products may be convenient and cheap, they can led to unfavorable environmental conditions.

Works Cited:

Freinkel, Susan. (2011, May 29). “A Brief History of Plastic’s Conquest of the World: Cheap plastic goods have unleashed a flood of consumer goods.” Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-brief-history-of-plastic-world-conquest/

“History of Plastics”. Polymer Plastic Company LC. Retrieved from http://www.polymerplastics.com/history_plastics.shtml

Rogers, Heather. (2005, May 1). “A Brief History of Plastic.” The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture. Retreived from http://brooklynrail.org/2005/05/express/a-brief-history-of-plastic

Generations of White Fur

 

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Polar bears are found only in the arctic region, which consists of parts of Greenland/Denmark, Canada, Norway, Russia, and the United States (Pidcock). It is estimated that there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide (Defenders of Wildlife). There are nineteen subpopulations of polar bears, or nineteen regions where polar bears live (Pidcock). They are marine mammals, and they are also the largest carnivorous land animals in the world (Defenders of Wildlife). Their main food source is ringed seals and bearded seals (Defenders of Wildlife). Polar bears’ bodies have developed and adapted for survival in the arctic regions of Earth. They have very thick fur that keeps in their body heat (Defenders of Wildlife). They have small ears and tails which allows them to lose less heat. Their big paws are like snowshoes, and their feet have anti-slip skin which is like sandpaper (“History of Polar Bears”). Female polar bears can weigh as much as 700 pounds, and males can weigh as much as 1,760 pounds (Defenders of Wildlife). The average lifespan of a polar bear is 20-25 years (Defenders of Wildlife). Intuit people who used to live in the polar regions lived with the polar bears and hunted them occasionally for food or clothing. It was never a concern that the Inuit people would over-hunt the polar bears, because it was dangerous and weapons were scarce (“History of Polar Bears”).

Polar bears have thrived in the North for over 70,000 years until recently. As of May 2008, polar bears have been listed as a threatened species in the United States under the endangered species act (Pidcock). There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is the cause of this. There is evidence that three of the subpopulations, Baffin Bay, Kane Basin and the Southern Beaufort Sea, are currently in decline (Pidcock). Many polar bears are forced to go for very long periods of time without food because of the melting sea ice (Pidcock). Other effects that climate change has had on polar bears include more exposure to disease, and the collapsing of dens (Pidcock). Polar bears make these snow dens so they can have a place to birth their cubs, and hide or protect them if necessary (Pidcock). There have been recent reports of polar bears encountering humans and coastal communities during their hunts for food, and some of these encounters have been dangerous (WWF). Scientists predict that there is a 70% chance that the overall polar bear population will decrease by a third in the next three generations, or about 35 years (Pidcock).

Polar bears are creatures that have thrived in the arctic for generations and now because of anthropogenic climate change, their species is in deep trouble and on the verge of collapse. It is up to humans to take a stand against this to save the polar bear population and make sure they have many more years to thrive on Earth like they have done in the past.

 

REFERENCES:

“History of Polar Bears.” Endangered Polar Bear. N.p., Apr. 2013. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

“Polar Bears and Climate Change: What Does the Science Say?” Carbon Brief. N.p., 23 Dec. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

“Polar Bear.” WWF. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

“Basic Facts About Polar Bears.” Defenders of Wildlife. N.p., 10 May 2016. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.

 

A Background of Norman Water

140521_LakeThunderbird.jpg(Image from: kgou.org)


One of the world’s key natural resources is water. Often times water is taken for granted because people assume that it’s an abundant resource; however, this is not the case. Being able to access freshwater has become much more complicated in the last couple of decades due to a number of varying reasons. Now, more than ever, we must worry about not only the quantity of water, but also the quality of water. The city of Norman has had a history of water problems as it’s water holds a number of unregulated contaminants. Norman gets its water from three sources: Oklahoma City, Lake Thunderbird, and a well field. Although nothing is perfect, some deficiency or inherent problem exists within many of the area’s water supply sources causing far less than optimal conditions.

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, “Cleveland County’s drinking water contains the highest levels of of chromium-6 of any other county in the state [of Oklahoma]”. Rebecca Sutton, an environmental chemist who participated in Environmental Working Group’s study, believes that Norman’s high levels come from heavy metal erosion into the Garber-Wellington aquifer (Tyree). Chromium-6 is a carcinogenic chemical. It is a rare form of chromium because it’s produced by industrial processes (Scutti). The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet set a clearly defined limit of Chromium-6 in drinking water. The EPA has stated that Chromium-6 can cause skin reactions if there’s enough exposure. According to the OU Daily, Cleveland County’s average amount of Chromium-6 was 29.59 parts per billion. The city of of Norman contains approximately 39.3 ppb. To put these numbers into perspective, the state of California has a limit of .02 ppb (Creager). What’s even more shocking is that the drinking water holds 100 ppb of Chromium-6. The exact severity of it’s effect is not yet determined, as discussion amongst people continues to understand the extent of this possibly detrimental concern. However, it is deemed important enough that several programs have been implemented to transform Chromium-6 into a known non-toxic Chromium-3.

It’s important to note that the city of Norman has had other concerns arise, including lead and copper concerns. In 2015 there was a collection of more than 60 water samples for lead and copper. Surprisingly enough the results were below the allowable amount. With these findings, the Department of Environmental Quality proposed to monitor only every three years (Norman Utilities Authority). Even though there are always rising concerns from the community, Norman has made it a priority to improve the water quality of Norman. According to the 2015 Consumer Confidence Report, the Norman Water Treatment Plant was working to make advances by updating equipment and improving chemical safety. In addition, there was a focus to improve the infrastructure in the central part of Oklahoma.

In a recent article in Red Dirt Report, Olivier Rey discusses the poor quality of the area’s Lake Thunderbird water supply. Near the end of 2016, a city council meeting was held to address this issue. Lynne Miller, the mayor of Norman, exemplified the disparity of this issue. Other prevalent individuals, such as Derek Smithee, the Water Quality Division Chief and Amanda Nairn, a representative of Norman’s Environmental Control Advisory Board, were also present at this meeting. According to Smithee, both the current and historical aspect of this deleterious situation is due to the existing watershed, or the runoff water from the local areas into the lake itself. Furthermore, this impending situation is simple and easily overlooked; the quality of water in Lake Thunderbird cannot be great if the water entering the lake is collecting bacteria and toxins such as chemicals and debris from litter and other unnatural resources along the way. Fortunately, this then provides a vast opportunity for improvements. According to an article written by Payne and Stipek, the City of Norman has a plan to reduce the amount of pollutants that go into Lake Thunderbird, which would aid in the  improvement in the water quality for Norman residents. The plan would happen in a five-year time period with a cost of about $1.45 million dollars. The other integral component known as bacteria, however, is not so simple. As Rey noted from the meeting, Smithee pointed out the most prevalent addition of bacteria into the lake results from wildlife. Furthermore, differentiating from the many possibly contaminated sources proves daunting to hopes of providing a solution. There has also been a recent dust removal with the intention of cleaning up the appearance of Lake Thunderbird. Ironically, in clearing the color of the water more sunlight is able to penetrate to greater depths which provides an, “optimal condition to algae proliferation” which is important because “blue algae are toxic and very dangerous for humans” (Rey). Nonetheless, such a history involving the degradation of a large and imperative water source was bound to result in a continuity of inopportune and harmful conditions.

Interestingly, however, the noticeably putrid smell and taste of Norman water is indeed a normal occurrence that peaks semi-annually, or normally twice a year with the change of the cold seasons. The cause of displacing the water, known as a ‘turning over,’ is a phenomena exhibited by many large bodies of water, and it is not bizarre or unusual. This is a matter of simple physics, as cold water is more dense than warm water, and therefore when the surface water is chilled, it becomes more dense and has a tendency to sink. The sinking water causes the now-warmer water below to rise which results in the lake’s ‘turning.’ In mixing up the lake’s water, all of the settled things contributing to the quality of the water are dispersed throughout. Even more intriguing, however, is the claim that this natural process involving many seemingly unnatural water ingredients is unharmful to human or animal consumption, as presented by Paighten Harkins in the OU Daily. The article discusses the prevalent issues to the many Norman residents with a goal to prevent an uprising of community disgust or fear. However, also presented in this article is the fact that, “[a]lgae blooms and weather are two factors contributing to the water’s stronger-than-average taste and odor” and a key individual noted in the report, “doesn’t know the specific type of algae that bloomed in Lake Thunderbird” (Harkins). As proven above, there are indeed specific types of algae quite toxic to consume, but Harkins’s more dated article declares the algae exposed during the ‘turning’ is no such harmful algae. However, as the detrimental contamination of Lake Thunderbird’s water suppliers continue, the impending fear of the development of harmful algae in the upcoming ‘turnings’ becomes ubiquitous.

Norman is one of many areas around the United States that suffers from serious water issues. Norman’s history of poor water supply clearly runs deep, not only in sense of time, but also with the amount of issues. The combination of high chromium levels, lead and copper deposits, and the proliferation of algae in Lake Thunderbird have created a cocktail of sorts that leads to the daily complaints Norman residents have about the taste, feel, and smell coming out of their faucets. Hopefully by bringing awareness to the community and time, even more active steps will occur in order to find solutions to improve the quality of water in Norman for the benefit of all residents.

 

Work Cited

Creager, Daisy. “Study shows that Norman drinking water contains high levels of chromium-6.”

OU Daily. Accessed March 05, 2017

http://www.oudaily.com/news/study-shows-that-norman-drinking-water-contains-high-le

vels-of/article_6eb75046-85c6-11e6-87c3-23d8abf67181.html

Harkins, Paighten, and Taste and Smell of Norman Water Affected by Turning of Lake

Thunderbird, The Oklahoma Daily. “Taste and Smell of Norman Water Affected by Turning of Lake Thunderbird.” OUDaily.com. N.p., 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Norman Utilities Authority. “2015 Consumer Confidence Report”.

http://www.normanok.gov/sites/default/files/WebFM/Norman/Utilities/Current-Consume

r-Confidence-Report.pdf

Payne, Erick, Stipek, Joey. “City of Norman plans to improve water quality of Lake

Thunderbird” https://ounightly.com/2015/11/23/city-of-norman-plans-to-improve-water-quality-of-lake-thunderbird/

Rey, Olivier. “Water Quality of Lake Thunderbird Still Very Bad, Norman Mayor Says.” Red

Dirt Report. N.p., 18 Nov. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Scutti, Susan. “New reports finds “Erin Brockovich” chemical in US drinking water”

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/20/health/chromium-6-in-drinking-water/

Tyree, James.”Norman’s water level of chromium-6 is 200 times California’s proposed limit”. NewsOK. http://newsok.com/article/3525174

A Short History of Bees

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As we all know, bees and other insects play an important role in the pollination processes for many different plant species. Bees, however, are more crucial to this process and it is said that without bees the entire existence of the world could be threatened.

Bees collect nectar and pollen to provide food for their hive. When a bee lands on a flower to collect the pollen and nectar a lot more happens than people may think. During this process, pollen from the male reproductive organ of the flower, better known as the stamen, rubs onto the bees fur. Bees visit many different flowers while collecting nectar and pollen, but they tend to focus on one species at a time. As the bee lands on the next flower, the pollen from its fur can transfer to the female reproductive organ, or the pistil, and fertilization becomes a possibility. Bees can also transfer the pollen onto the same flower and that contributes to fertilization as well. Plants rely on this fertilization process in order to reproduce. Over time they have found different ways to become more attractive to bees. Some of these include the brightening of colors, providing certain scents, and becoming more flat and tubular to attract them. Overtime this adaptation has proven to be successful. Although plants and flowers can reproduce without the help of bees, the process is slower. A detrimental effect of extinction or endangerment is a possibility for many plants without the extra help from bees and other insects.

Bees pollinate more than one-sixth of the flowering plant species, and more than four hundred agricultural plant species. As a society the agricultural industry relies on bees and other pollinating insects for pollinating one-third of what we eat (Tucker). There are over 25,000 bee species in the world, and the US has over 4,000 (Tucker). The most well known species of bees are the honey-bee, carpenter bee, and bumblebee, and each species contributes to pollination. Bees are extremely important to our agricultural business, but also keep the flowers we see everyday blooming. Pollinating flowers creates habitats for other animal species and insects (Tucker). They are extremely economically important, but also keep our world aesthetically pleasing.

Among today’s society, the value of honey cannot be appreciated nearly to the scale that it was upon its initial discovery due to the presence of junk food and artificial sugars. However, “honey is as old as history itself” (“Early Honey History”), and has a very deep history with humans. Evidence suggests that humans have been harvesting honey as far back as 8,000 years, and people did not just use it for food. Additionally it was used for bathing, medicinal purposes, and was an item of trade.

To early societies, honey was unlike anything they had ever seen before, it was incredibly sweet and had a good tolerance for storage. The discovery of honey was as groundbreaking as fire. (About Bees). The hunt for honey was one that inflicted tremendous pain, but well worth it in the end. The Egyptians are believed to have been the first known beekeepers with the first artificial beehives having been created sometime around 4,000 B.C. These beehives consisted of unbaked hardened mud pots, and evolved with time among different societies including the Greeks who modified the Egyptian design by crafting baked terra cotta pots and referred to the honey as “the nectar of the gods” (“Background to Bees”). Other designs include hollowed out logs suspended from trees (currently used in Africa), woven cylinders, and rectangular boxes constructed from wood. All these designs have the same traits in mind, a long low cavity with a small entrance on one end and a door at the other.

Bees have a very interesting history and most humans are unaware of how sophisticated their species truly is. Bees are estimated to have been around for over 100 million years, with their first recording being in Myanmar. There are roughly 20,000 different species of bees and they didn’t always use to be considered vegetarians. The earlier species of bees were more like wasps and fed on other insects rather than nectar and pollen. In Ancient times, honey was the most important sweetener for food and alcoholic drinks, it was so important that parents began to name their children after bees. (About Bees). The start of modern beekeeping can be pinpointed to a man named Lorenzo Langstroth. By discovering that bees would keep a small pathway inside of hives, he was able to develop hives with movable frames of comb.

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” – E.O. Wilson (“The Beguiling History of Bees”)

References

“Bees, Beekeeping, and Honey – Early Honey History.” Heathmont Honey, 5 March 2017. http://www.heathmonthoney.com.au/bees/HoneyHistory.htm.

“Bees, Beekeeping, and Honey – Background to Bees.” Heathmont Honey, 5 March 2017. http://www.heathmonthoney.com.au/bees/HoneyHistory.htm.

Goulson, Dave. “The Beguiling History of Bees.” Scientific American. N.p., 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2017. <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-beguiling-history-of-bees-excerpt/>.

“The Importance of Bees”. Pollination, 5 March 2017.

http://www.bees.techno-science.ca/english/bees/pollination/default.php

Tucker, Jessica. “Why Bees Are Important to Our Planet.” One Green Planet. One Green Planet, 17 June 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Omlet. “Homepage.” About Bees | Bees | Guide | Omlet US. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Greening Buildings: The History Behind the Movement

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While enhancing building sustainability through green retrofits and improvements has been adopted by countries across the world, evidence of the practice has been discovered in ancient settlements abandoned thousands of years ago.  During the height of their culture between A.D. 400-1300, the Four Corners Anasazi of the American desert southwest utilized local and renewable materials in addition to passive solar design in the development of their village architecture (AGPOM, 2017).  This was done in an effort to provide the inhabitants with an increase in solar heat during the winter period due to the fact that the locations of these settlements were frequently subject to sub-freezing temperatures.  Even though the building designs were extremely rudimentary, they illustrate the point that previous cultures have taken advantage of natural phenomena in local and regional environments for the purpose of efficient resource consumption.

Near the end of the nineteenth century, green building design can be more clearly identified in both North America and Western Europe.  Such examples include London’s Crystal Palace in 1851 and Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in 1877, both of which implemented roof ventilators as well as underground air cooling chambers in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of both structures (Cassidy, 2003; Marble Institute, 2006).  By the turn of the twentieth century, the New York Times Building and Flat Iron Building in New York City had begun to use deep-set windows, which were successful in controlling interior temperature, thus reducing the energy requirements of both skyscrapers and improving their energy efficiency (Marble Institute, 2006).  While useful, these practices were only the precursors to the beginning of the Green Building Movement.  

A handful of environmentalists and architects initially questioned existing building construction on the grounds of poor energy efficiency and potential increase in fossil fuel prices.  It wasn’t until the onset of the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 that these fears became a reality, and the Green Building movement began to capture greater public attention.  Consequently, more people began questioning the conventional wisdom of existing sources of energy consumption for transportation as well as for buildings (Cassidy, 2003).  As a response to the energy crisis, the American Institute for Architects (AIA) formed a multi-group committee on energy in 1975 (Marble Institute, 2006).  One group focused on passive systems such as reflective roofing materials while the second group analyzed technological solutions to improve energy efficiency (Cassidy, 2003).  During the late 1970s through the 1980s and 1990s, significant research was conducted in order to push the boundary on efficiency in both energy consumption as well as renewable energy sources (AGPOM, 2017).

The resulting research was applied under the Clinton administration in the “Green the White House” program of 1993.  The program was created in order to promote “energy efficiency and environmental performance…to reduce waste, lower energy use, and make an appropriate use of renewable energy resources, all while improving the indoor air quality and building comfort” (Marble Institute, 2006).  Utilization of energy efficient light fixtures and appliances, reduction of water consumption for landscaping, leasing of fuel efficient vehicles and recycling plans resulted in saving $150,000 on annual energy costs and 845 metric tons of carbon emissions (Cassidy, 2003; Marble Institute, 2006).  The overwhelming success of the 1993 “Green the White House” campaign encouraged the American people and the federal government to expand the greening of buildings throughout the nation.

In tandem with the “Green the White House” program, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) was founded in 1993.  This membership-based non-profit organization was designed to “promote sustainability-focused practices in the building and construction industry” (USGBC, 2017) and plays a major role in structural sustainability today.  The organization’s infancy was spent gathering and analyzing data to create the best method to rate the green-ness of a building.  After years of work, the US Green Building Council unveiled the newly refined LEED certification program in 2003 (AGPOM, 2017).  The purpose of the LEED program was to create a framework for designing and ranking all types of green buildings, so long as they met a set of predefined criteria (USBGC, 2017).  While initially adopted by government agencies, the certification primarily serves the market place in the expansion of green practices, and their benefits, to buildings throughout the nation.

It cannot be overstated that the movement to green buildings across the planet is extremely important, especially given that buildings account for 25%-40% of total energy consumption (Morrissey et al., 2011).  In the U.S. alone, buildings are responsible for 68% of electricity consumption, in addition to producing 38% of carbon dioxide emissions (WNCGBC, 2017).  This clearly illustrates that buildings have a profound impact on the natural environment, due to both consumption and release of greenhouse gases.  Energy itself is becoming an increasingly critical economic issue, with potential ramifications ranging from influences on household budgets to affecting relationships on an international basis (USGBC, 2014).  Furthermore, given that fossil fuel extraction takes an immense toll on the environment and carbon emissions contribute to a rapidly changing climate, it is necessary to incorporate sustainable techniques in buildings to reduce their carbon footprint.

Improving the sustainability of buildings through renovation or construction, however, entails the challenge of incorporating what the natural world has to offer in an effort to reduce energy consumption.   Such enhancements, whether it be the use of renewable energy or improvements in energy efficiency, will ultimately reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and create a more sustainable society.  The benefits of greening buildings are seemingly endless, including better air and water quality, conservation of natural resources and reducing annual waste output that may affect ecosystem biodiversity (Green Building Design, 2012; WNCGBC, 2017).  Studies have also shown that the adoption of sustainable practices, such as energy efficient lighting (Di Maria et al, 2010) and efficient land use, lead to reduced energy costs, thus saving money for the consumer (USGBC, 2014).  Given this information, it’s safe to say that improving the sustainability of all buildings ought to be a necessary process in any plan to reduce the human footprint on the planet.  

References:

AGPOM, (2017). History of Green Buildings. Association of Green Property Owners and Managers. Web. <http://www.agpom.org/greenpropertyresources/green-resources/history-green-buildings/>.

Cassidy, R., (2003, November). A Report on the Green Building Movement. Building Design and Construction. 1-48. Web. <https://archive.epa.gov/greenbuilding/web/pdf/bdcwhitepaperr2.pdf>.

Di Maria, C., Ferreira, S., & Lazarova, E. (2010). Shedding light on the light bulb puzzle: the role of attitudes and perceptions in the adoption of energy efficient light bulbs. Scottish Journal of Political Economy. 57(1), 48-67.

Green Building Design, (2012, April). Why Is Green Building Important? Web. <http://http://www.greendesignbuild.net/Pages/WhyisGreenBuildingImportant.aspx>.

Marble Institute, (2006). History of Green Building. Web. <http://www.marble-institute.com/default/assets/File/consumers/historystoneingreenbuilding.pdf>.

Morrissey, J., Moore, T., & Horne, R. E. (2011). Affordable passive solar design in a temperate climate: An experiment in residential building orientation. Renewable Energy. 36(2), 568-577.

United States green Building Council, (2014, May). Green Building 101: Why is energy efficiency important? Web. <http://www.usgbc.org/articles/green-building-101-why-energy-efficiency-important>.

United States Green Building Council, (2017). Our History. Web. <http://www.usgbc.org/about>.

Western North Carolina Green Building Council, (2017). Importance of Green Building. Web. <http://www.wncgbc.org/about/importance-of-green-building&gt;.

Elements of your Section 2 Post

This is probably the most straight-forward post, “A Short History of [your topic]”.  Please look at the book chapters 9-17 in particular for examples of content, format, and style.  This section will be longer than Section 1, as you can see with the examples.

Citations will be crucial for this one, since you are researching your topic.  I want you to cite your references within your text and include them in a list at the end of your blog posting.  This goes for all of your postings.

Describe the history behind your topic, and ultimately based on that history, why it’s important to look at this topic. Most things have a history, so this is your chance to do some research.

For example, in the wolves chapter (11), the authors talk a bit about and describe the species in a biological way.  Then they talk a bit about the range of wolves and how they survive in packs.  Then they spend some time talking about the ecological role of wolves (apex predators, trophic levels, trophic cascades).  Finally they talk about the slaughter of wolves that took place throughout time and some laws that were put into place to stop it.  You can look at other chapters 9-17 to see something that might fit more closely to your topic.  Visuals and even videos add a lot to these things – the book chapters can only show visuals.

At the end of these sections is “The Puzzle of [Object]” – I want you to save that for the very last Section 6, which will be presented in class.  More on that later.