Markets and Commodities of Beeswax and Honey

Bees have a large impact on our everyday lives, but not only through their pollination services to agriculture across the U.S. Bees are also responsible for quite a few products that some of us use every single day. Some common products include honey and beeswax which has several applications such as makeup products, lip balm, and candles. However there are some lesser known by-products of bees that offer a plethora of benefits. For example, bee pollen, which is significantly different than normal pollen and is not known to cause allergies, rather it provides several benefits including “low calorie content, but high in proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, beneficial fatty acids, carbohydrates, and bioflavonoids which are antiviral, antibacterial and helpful in lowering cholesterol, stabilizing and strengthening capillaries. Its ability to rejuvenate the body, stimulates organs, enhances vitality and accelerate rate of recovery makes it a popular tonic among athletes” (“Honey Bees Wondrous Products”).

Honey has several benefits aside from the sweet taste, it is a natural source of carbohydrates. Honey helps to boost our bodies energy and provides strength. It helps to reduce muscle fatigue and helps to create endurance. Honey contains natural sugars that help to prevent tiredness and fatigue during activities and exercise. The body absorbs the glucose in the honey quickly providing an almost immediate boost of energy. The fructose in the honey is absorbed more slowly thus giving a prolonged boost of energy. The sugar in honey has also been shown to keep blood sugar levels constant compared to other sugars. Along with these benefits honey can also be an immune system booster. “It’s antioxidant and antibacterial properties can help improve digestive system and help you stay healthy and fight disease” (“Honey Bees Wondrous Products”). Starting off each day with a little bit of honey can provide health benefits many people are not aware of.

Believe it or not, as mentioned in the above paragraphs, honey does indeed provide numerous health benefits the average consumer is unaware of. I’m sure I speak for many other individuals when I say how unaware I was of the benefits that bees bring to markets and commodities as well as everyday human lives. For example, honey has shown to help reduce some risks of cancer, heart diseases, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, as well as cough and throat irritation (10 Health Benefits of Honey). While honey can help regulate blood sugar, mentioned in the previous paragraph, it can also help external features of the human body as well. For example, honey has been shown to heal wounds and burns as well as improve skin. The drying effect combined with the antibacterial nature of honey are able to create this phenomenon of healing wounds (10 Health Benefits of Honey). However, the most interesting fact that many people may be unaware of is the potential increase in athletic performance that honey provides. Chelsea touched on this fact when she mentioned that honey can help reduce muscle fatigue and create an immediate energy but I also found that it can improve recovery time. Ancient Olympic athletes use to eat honey to maintain glycogen levels and enhance their recovery time (10 Health Benefits of Honey).

Bees provide important components in many products. Everyone knows the importance of beeswax in beeswax candles, but some more unknown uses are things like beauty products, chewing gum, and wax coating of cheese wheels. Beeswax candles are a very popular commodity, but also a common hobby that dates back to the 6th century A.D. (The Benefits of Bees). Many people also have allergies from inhaling pollen, and it is believed that consuming locally-produced honey can combat these allergies. This is the same logic as receiving vaccinations or allergy shots; ingesting this local pollen may help the ingestor become less sensitive to their local allergens (Honey For Allergens).

Where you get your honey from can make a huge difference. Organic raw honey can have many benefits as stated above. However, if you make the mistake of buying from a source who is not local or all natural you may be depriving yourself of all the health benefits. The benefits can become obsolete after a process that is called “ultrafiltered”. When this occurs, additives are put into the honey. A recent study was done and researchers declared that 76 percent of honey found in grocery stores was ultrafiltered. There is a huge difference in the two honeys. For example, organic raw honey can help stabilize blood pressure, as stated above, and ultrafiltered honey can cause diabetes. To a consumer, this can really pose a huge issue on where to get your honey. Local farmers markets are a perfect place to purchase real organic raw honey. When you buy honey locally it does not have the additives put in by bigger companies in the market. Not only are you helping out your local market, you are also ensuring better nourishment for your body.

Products from bee hives can provide commodities and benefits. Aside from those already mentioned and are the most popular (honey and pollen), propolis is a rich source obtained from beehives that is not mentioned often. Propolis is a resin material used by bees to seal cracks and gaps in their beehives. It is basically a combination of resin from trees and honey (Dr. Edward Group). This component is considered an antiviral and antibiotic substance with many benefits to bees and humans (PCC Natural Markets). Propolis contains flavonoids that gives it its strength as a protective barrier against bacteria/microbes. It has also been found to help support the immune system. It also contains components such as caffeic acid phenethyl ester which is used as an anti-inflammatory component (Dr. Edward Group). Other uses of propolis in health benefits have been found for dental care, blood sugar, and as a carcinogen fighter (Dr. Edward Group). Another commodity from bees is bee venom. Although it can trigger allergic reactions, bee venom contains anti-inflammatory components that can be used for minor wounds or abscesses (PCC Natural Markets).

 

References

Daniels-Zeller, Debra. “The Buzz That Makes the World Go round.” PCC Natural Markets. Sound Consumer, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Group, Dr. Edward. “Raw Honey: The Healthy Benefits of Locally-Grown Nectar.” Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles. N.p., 05 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Group, Dr. Edward. “What Is Bee Propolis? 10 Great Uses.” Dr. Group’s Healthy Living Articles. Global Healing Center, 13 June 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Herrington, Diana. “10 Health Benefits of Honey.” 10 Health Benefits Of Honey | Care2 Healthy Living. N.p., 22 Aug. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

“Honey Bees Wondrous Products.” Benefits-of-Honey.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“The Benefits of Bees.” PerfectBee. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. <https://www.perfectbee.com/learn-about-bees/the-benefits-of-bees/>.

Nall, Rachel. “Honey for Allergies.” Healthline. Healthline Media, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. <http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/honey-remedy#overview1>.

Pennington, Tess. “Buying Local Honey: What You Need to Know.” Ready Nutrition. Web 17 Apr. 2017. http://readynutrition.com/resources/buying-local-honey-what-you-need-to-know_22052015/

Risks & Hazards of Microplastics

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“Microplastics in oceans outnumber the stars in our galaxy by 500 times” (Chow, 2017).

New research has exposed that fibers from our clothing are poisoning our waterways and food chains on a substantial scale. Microfibers, which are tiny threads that are shed from fabric, have been discovered in massive amounts along shorelines where wastewater is discharged. Due to the large scale found researches are attempting to pinpoint where exactly these plastic fibers are coming from.

Synthetic fabrics are winding  up in the oceans as a form of micro plastics. Each time synthetic clothes are washed microplastics are released into the water stream, resulting in polluted river and oceans worldwide (Woolworth, 2017). Mark Browne, an ecologist, released a study over this issue in 2011, where he stated that microfibers account for 85% of human-made debris located on shorelines across the globe (Messinger, 2016).

Browne also discovered that since the 1960s, the pollution of microfibers  has increased by over 450%. After demonstrating this information Browne reached out to the world’s leading outdoor retailers like Nike, Patagonia, and Polatec, in search of help investigating this issue,  none of them agreed. Although, as the amount of microplastics composing our oceans grow, so does the body of research. Since then, outdoor retailers have been forced to address the issue. In 2015, Patagonia authorized the University of California Santa Barbara to perform a research project over the notorious Patagonia fleece and its ability to shed microplastics. The research revealed that a single fleece jacket sheds over 250,000 synthetic fibers during a machine wash. Outside Magazine estimated that, “consumers across the world are laundering 100,000 Patagonia jackets each year, the amount of fibers being released into public waterways is equivalent to the amount of plastic in up to 11,900 grocery bags” (Woolworth, 2017). Furthermore, these fibers are not just a coast or marine concern, they are being found in freshwater as well. Of the 2,000 aquatic samples examined and processed by Browne, around 90% of the debris was microfibers in both oceans and freshwater.

The article “How Your Clothes Are Poisoning Our Oceans and Food Supply.”  specifically focuses on the massive impacts of microplastics on freshwater ecosystems. We constantly hear about microplastics affecting oceans. I was very surprised to find out that “The majority [71%] of what we’re finding in the tributaries are actually fibers,”..“They exceed fragments and pellets. It was shocking to see how plastic waste is consuming all of the bodies of water and shore lines. The Great Lakes are being affected by this plastic waste in many ways. The wildlife’s behaviors are being greatly affected. For example crabs that consumed microplastics ate significantly less than their counterparts. There are also chemicals in the makeup of the plastics that are leached into the environment and the marine life. BPA is a common one found in the production of plastics. BPA has shown to affect the sexing of fish. Originally created as a birth control hormone scientist found that it could work as a polymer as well. Because of these properties you see male fish’s sex organs changing to females. This directly affects the reproduction and continuation of the species. These chemicals can also stunt the growth of aquatic life. One of the other hazards is that microplastics have the inate ability to “absorb persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and to concentrate them in animals’ tissues.” Thus poisoning other animals on the food chain including humans.  (Messinger 2016)

How do these fibers get into our water supply? Scientist believe it is through our washing machines. Although the washing machine industry is not ready to take action to incorporate a filter for these micro plastics The Plastic Soup foundation, a nonprofit based out of Amsterdam, has devised a few methods of extraction. First being a waterless washing machine that uses pressurized carbon dioxide and the second a nanoball that will attract the small plastic fibers so they are not taken through our water systems. Many suggest that we should have a filter retrofitted to our washing machine but they also brought up the point that sometimes it is hard for people to even clean their lint from the filter. No matter what solution the industry or people at home choose, we are still looking at a vast and hazardous problem. The Plastic Soup foundation found that over “4,500 fibers can be released per gram of clothing” can be released in one single wash. (Messinger 2016) It’s no wonder why we are being buried in our own trash. It is time to step away from plastics. I believe the future generations will look back on the era of one-use and plastics as outlandish as we look at the schools spraying DBT in the cafeteria while students were eating.  

Since Browne’s research, Patagonia has released a comprehensive update to examine the developing concern of ocean pollution from tiny fibers, which typically originate from synthetic textiles like nylon, acrylics and polyester, and can be found in products available to consumers across the globe.

According to Patagonia, “Research about microplastics pollution is just starting to emerge among scientists and our industry, but the shedding of microfibers from synthetic garments is a real concern. We’re taking it seriously—committing significant resources to learn more about the scope of the problem and develop an understanding of what steps we can take to help create impactful solutions” (Patagonia, 2017). Since the summer of 2016, Patagonia claims to have taken multiple actions and addressing key factors.  

Patagonia states that microfibers found in our ocean can come from a wide variety of textiles, like nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic, and spandex, essentially everything, “from running shorts to yoga pants to fleece jackets and more” (Patagonia, 2017) Which demonstrates the need for commitment by all apparel industries throughout each product’s life cycle. Patagonia goes on to explain that apparel products are not the sole source for microplastics finding their way into our oceans. Other industries that contribute to this issue are fishing nets, bottle caps, packaging and plastic bags that eventual break down in the water. For Patagonia, the utmost concern to move forward is to “quantify the magnitude of the contribution of the various sources of microplastics to oceans” (Patagonia, 2017). Another fact made was that articles of clothing made with higher quality have been found to shed less when washing than products of lower quality synthetic products, which emphasizes the significance for not only manufacturers but also consumers to spend their money in gear made to last. Washing machines are a key step in the pollution process, which led Patagonia to focus on common appliances in households. Wastewater treatment plants are able to filter out around 65-92 percent of microfibers but are still responsible for a large amount of waste contributed to the environment. Patagonia set out plans for bringing their research to appliance industries and waste operators.

When Patagonia coordinated a group of scientists, academics and public advocates at their headquarters located in Ventura to examine the pollution of microplastics they determined that there is still a large body of knowledge that remains unknown. Patagonia has decided since the release of Browne’s research that they will take the leading role in researching this topic, “to inform clear headed decision making by everyone: the apparel and appliance industries, waste operators, other researchers, the media and more” (Patagonia, 2017).

Whenever we talk about microplastic, the first thing to think about is the tiny piece of plastic which floats on ocean or something get eaten by aquatic animals. Either floated plastic or these pieces eaten by animals would cause potential danger for human-being and primarily make inconvenience to daily life.

Two researchers from California are working on govern the plastic pollution on ocean and they always find bottles or bags everywhere. However, bottles and bags are not the big issues since they are visible and easy to pick. There are more troublesome things exist in ocean, which is the plastic beads. As we know, these beads are very tiny and some of them are transparent in water. According to Eriksen, most of these beads are from “beauty product” such as facial scrubs and cleansers. In other word, as we keep our body clean, we are throwing a lot of microbeads to our sewer systems or further to the grand water system. Our behaviour is actually hurting our living place badly, since some of these microbeads could react chemically with water to produce toxin and could also release heavy metal and oil to the water system.

These little beads sounds horrible right? However, Eriksen has told us a way to reduce it. There is: pick some products which has not include polyethylene or polystyrene, you can check it on the ingredients list. If all of us use the harmless beauty product,  there will be much less pressure to the water system from these beads.

Since the plastic is everywhere of the ocean nowaday, we can imagine every time we eat seafood, there will be some pieces of plastic gets into our mouth. Could you guess how many pieces plastic you might eat every year? There is a research from the University of Ghent in Belgium shows for Europeans, they consume almost 11000 pieces of plastic every year. It means they nearly eat 30 pieces plastic everyday, it sounds disgusting but it is the truth. More than that, we need consider where these plastic would go. Few of them would get absorbed by our body but most of them are just accumulated in our body. And if you keep eating more, it accumulates more. It sounds a little scary but it there are not enough evidence shows if they are toxic for our body. However, it’s enough to warn people to pay more attention on the plastic pollution in ocean. The number of plastic trash in the ocean for now is uncountable and we could never clean all of them. The only way we can make ourselves safer from ocean is to stop throwing trash into ocean and also need protect it as well, since the food chain always bring the trash to our table.

Sources:

“An Update on Microfiber Pollution.” The Cleanest Line. N.p., 07 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.patagonia.com/blog/2017/02/an-update-on-microfiber-pollution/>.

Coleman, Stuart. “The Dangers of Microbeads”. Spirituality & Health. Spirituality & Health. LLC. Jan 2014. Web. 19 Apr 2017.

<http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/dangers-microbeads&gt;

Chow, Lorraine. “Microplastics in Oceans Outnumber Stars in Our Galaxy by 500 Times.”EcoWatch. EcoWatch, 24 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.ecowatch.com/microplastics-world-ocean-summit-2282357538.html>.

Messinger, Leah. “How Your Clothes Are Poisoning Our Oceans and Food Supply.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 20 June 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/20/microfibers-plastic-pollution-oceans-patagonia-synthetic-clothes-microbeads>.

Moore, Thomas. “Microplastics in seafood could be a health risk, experts fear.” SkyNews. Sky UK. 25 Jan 2017. Web. 19 Apr 2017.

<http://news.sky.com/story/microplastics-in-seafood-could-be-a-health-risk-experts-fear-10739835&gt;

Whoolworth, Rachel. “Your Synthetic Shirt Is Killing Ocean Life.” Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. N.p., 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/newswire/microplastics-invisible-ocean-pollutant/&gt;.

A New Mindset for a New Future

It is imperative that radical change be implemented in order to develop a more sustainable view of the world, especially the buildings that we work and live in. Due to the discourses that dominate today’s society, the general population is bombarded with rhetoric telling us to consume to our heart’s content whatever resources may be available.  Furthermore, the existing discourses are very anthropocentric, a mindset that places humans as the most important factor on earth and thus implies that they are the only species that deserves moral standing.  As a result, this way of thinking causes further environmental destruction as the innate value of resources to nature and to other species is completely forgotten (Liu et al., 2016).  With respect to buildings’ construction and energy consumption, it is this inability to value other aspects of the world besides ourselves that will drive the human population’s continued degradation of resource reserves throughout the planet.  

As a result of existing anthropocentric ethics, buildings across the United States consume natural resources that exist in large quantities and are fiscally conservative.  Buildings alone consume over 47% of the energy generated within the United States, with 74.9% of that energy used to meet building electricity demands (Architecture 2030, 2013).  Additionally, much of the nationwide electricity generation comes from nonrenewable resources, including 38.8% from coal and 27.4% from natural gas (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2014).  It is widely acknowledged that combustion of both coal and natural gas results in a warming of the earth (Akorede et al., 2012) as well as widespread environmental disturbances (Lutz, 2013).  Unfortunately, due to the immense reserves of both resources, their continued extraction and exploitation will likely continue in order to power buildings across the country, thus benefitting human populations without accounting for the well being of the rest of the environment.  

Humans have long put themselves before the environment and other species, and this is shown in the way buildings are constructed and maintained.  From continued to overuse of energy to using unsustainable materials, humans rarely retrofit buildings to make them more sustainable, which highlights why it is so important to think about the effects on other species.  Thinking about the life cycle of buildings and the energy they consume is imperative because energy is used through embodied energy, the energy it takes to produce the materials, and operation energy, which is the energy required for lighting, heating and cooling, among others (Cole and Kernan, 1996).  Furthermore, the operation energy takes the most energy (Cole and Kernan, 1996), so that is where humans should work to limit the most energy.  However, it is difficult to see the impact on other species and the environment since they are not directly affected.  In other regards, environmental movements focused on moral extensionism, such as whaling and critiques of farming and livestock practices, have proven to be successful.  Thus, it is possible to become more environmentally friendly through these kinds of actions.  Given that there currently exist more sustainable practices for both of these issues, moral extensionism is one valid way to change society.

Unfortunately the difficulty is that we rarely see the direct adverse effects of energy consumption on animals and nature, such as whaling for example, which likely causes the apathy seen with energy consumption.  However, with more education on the negative effects of buildings, this could become a more prominent part of the movement to green buildings.  Moral extensionism related to buildings could consist of showing the effects of pollution on the nonhuman world.  Air pollution, which comes in part from energy usage, has several direct effects on plant life, including delayed growth (Honour et al., 2009). This not only affects the plants, but everything else in their food chain. Thus, by caring more about other species and the lands that they inhabit, the current unsustainable discourse could be changed for the better in the future.

Whether it is necessary to convert to renewable energy sources or to reduce energy consumption entirely, one fact remains: unsustainable consumption of resources benefits human populations but fails to place moral standing on other species besides ourselves. So long as buildings remain unchanged and do not undergo processes to become more sustainable, the anthropocentric mindset will continue to dictate resource consumption in buildings and to permeate throughout society.  In order to green buildings and improve their level of sustainability, we must change how we view ourselves and our place on earth.  It is necessary to transition from a human centered perspective to one that thinks about our impact and places the environment before anything else, as that is what fostered human development in the first place.

A change that is up for consideration is implementing the practice of Deep Ecology throughout society.  Deep ecology is a worldview that has been widely interpreted as a fundamentally different ethical value system.  In many regards, it is a reaction to consequences of the dominant paradigm.  It is much less widely understood or accepted, though as a political movement it has been growing in recent years.  “In its current form, it is an attempt to synthesize many old and some new philosophical attitudes about the relationship between nature and human activity, with particular emphasis on ethical, social, and spiritual aspects that have been downplayed in the dominant economic worldview” (Nash, 1989).

At the moment, deep ecology is far from a unified and consistent philosophy.  Some of its advocates consider this to be a strength rather than a weakness, promoting diversity and flexibility.  Deep ecologists advocate merging appreciation of some of the more scientific aspects of systems ecology with a bio-centric and harmonious view of the relationship between man and nature.  Basic tenets of the bio-centric attitude of Deep Ecology include the following: intrinsic bio-species equality, major reductions in human population, bioregional autonomy, promotion of biological and cultural diversity, decentralized planning utilizing multiple value systems, non-growth oriented economies, non-dominant technology and greater use of indigenous management and technological systems.  Deep ecologists see technological fixes as commonly leading to larger, costlier, and more intractable problems, rather than progress (Colby, 1991). In practice, these strategies often mean making man subservient to nature.

The application of this philosophy would result in radical changes in social, legal and economic systems, and definitions of development of ourselves and our surroundings. “While some of these principles can be used to inform future development planning approaches, to expect the whole world to return to pre-industrial, rural lifestyles, …  would probably be impossible at current population levels. While Deep Ecology may be more ‘organic’, it tends not to be creative – one of the fundamental cogs in the evolution of both nature and human society” (Colby, 1991).

The simplest change that we can make would be the adoption of a land ethic that is similar or identical to the one proposed by Aldo Leopold.  Leopold suggested that we should define right and wrong in relation to the natural environment.  More specifically, he believed  that “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” (Kobylecky, 2015).  While this is a fairly vague idea, the general principle behind it is difficult to refute.  If we could all make a point to consider our environment when evaluating the merit and necessity of choices, then we would be able to do a much better job of conserving our resources and preserving our lands.

In terms of our buildings, a land ethic would guide decisions about locations, materials and power consumption.  It is not practical to expect a population of our size and seniority to abide exclusively by Leopold’s ideals simply because we would no longer be able to support ourselves if we only acted in accordance with nature’s best interests.  However, acting with these principles in mind would result in far fewer instances of supermarkets replacing forests or campuses that run lighting, heating, and cooling systems 24/7.  We would see a rise in the use of recycled materials and a decline in habitat destruction for the benefit of human growth. It may not be realistic to ask for a full conversion to eco-centrism, but we can definitely afford to be more considerate of the natural world.

References:

Akorede, M. F. et al., (2012, June). Mitigating the anthropocentric global warming in the electric power industry. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Vol. 16, Issue 5, 2747-2761.

Architecture 2030, (2013). Why the Building Sector? http://architecture2030.org/buildings_problem_why/

Colby, Michael E. “Environmental management in development: the evolution of paradigms.” Ecological Economics 3.3 (1991): 193-213.

Cole, Raymond J., and Paul C. Kernan. “Life-cycle energy use in office buildings.” Building and environment 31.4 (1996): 307-317.

Honour, Sarah L., et al. “Responses of herbaceous plants to urban air pollution: effects on growth, phenology and leaf surface characteristics.” Environmental pollution 157.4 (2009): 1279-1286.

Kobylecky, Jen (2015, May). Understanding the Land Ethic. https://www.aldoleopold.org/post/understanding-land-ethic/

Liu, X. et al., (2016, May). Comparing natural environmental and economic performances through emergy sustainability indicators: Moving environmental ethics beyond anthropocentrism towards ecocentrism. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Vol. 58, 1532-1542.

Lutz, B. D. et al., (2013, September). The Environmental Price Tag on a Ton of Mountaintop Removal Coal. PLoS One. 8(9).

Nash, R.F.. 1989. The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

United States Energy Information Association (EIA), (2014, August 14). Electricity Data. http://www.eia.gov

Examining Water as an Economic Issue

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Water is one of the most important commodities because this natural resource sustains all life on planet earth. Water provides a number of economic and environmental services. It’s unique in the sense that nothing else can substitute for it. Unlike other natural resources water not only has distinctive physical properties, but it has complex economic characteristics and cultural features. Therefore it can be easily understood that water, and especially potable water, serves as an integral aspect of today’s demanding and ever-expanding society. Although it is typically overlooked throughout the United States, (despite areas that have experienced significant water shortages due to contamination, drought, or a myriad of other situations) examining the key forces at play in modern economic ideology (with regards to water) provides crucial insight into the desperate actuality of the world’s most precious resource. This discussion will focus specifically on such economic relations in Oklahoma including the scarcity of water as a resource, the importance of understanding an applicable market response model, and the representations of water as a good.

There are a number of forces that are exerting pressure on this commodity. As of now and in the future, there will be an imbalance between the supply and demand of water all across the nation. Oklahoma is just one example of the unequal distribution of water. There is a geographic divide in Oklahoma where there are parts that have plentiful amount of water, while others are quite lacking. According to the Oklahoma Comprehensive Plan, the current demand of water in the central region of Oklahoma is about 335,640 acre-feet/year. This accounts for about 18% of the total statewide water demand. In order to meet the current demand the water is retrieved from bedrock groundwater, alluvial groundwater and surface water. Pretty soon, alluvial and bedrock groundwater storage depletion is bound to happen. Practices to mitigate these depletions include expanding the “…conservation activities in the Municipal and Industrial, Self-Supplied Residential and Crop Irrigation demand sectors” (Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan). The increase in demand for water occurs due to population growth, agriculture, industry, and other related economic activities. In terms of water supply stress Oklahoma is between 0.1 to 0.2, which is pretty low. The panhandle of Oklahoma displays a slightly higher water supply stress between 0.3 to 0.6 (National Climate Assessment). We can apply the market response model to water scarcity in order to determine the “…economic responses to resource scarcity [which] will result in either a decrease in demand for that resource or an increase in supply” (Paul Robbins, John Hintz, Sarah A. Moore, Wiley-Blackwell). The market response model is a great way to to understand the interactions between a resource and the market.

As the model aids people in seeing the interactions between mixed variables, it becomes rather important to understand how this directly applies to water. According to an estimation from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it is predicted that at the world’s “current consumption rate, this situation will only get worse. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortage” (Water Scarcity). Therefore it can be determined that water will indeed eventually face resource scarcity, and as the market response model suggests, prices will rise resulting in the decrease in demand or increase in supply. If you haven’t yet determined why this is so alarming and unavoidably results in an impending detrimental scenario, consider the application of the model: Prices will rise as water becomes more difficult to access and utilize, but there cannot be a decrease in demand, nor an increase in supply. Unless an adaptation in some form of technology to increase the supply, water will definitely crash the market response model, resulting in a significantly unfortunate situation for both humanity and all ecosystems alike.

As previously discussed, water is both an essential and scarce commodity. These two characteristics combined lead to a resource that many think as plentiful to be misallocated. This begs the question: is water a public good or a private good? First, we must define public and private goods. A private good is defined as “a product that must be purchased to be consumed, and its consumption by one individual prevents another individual from consuming it. A good is considered to be a private good if there is competition between individuals to obtain the good and if consuming the good prevents someone else from consuming it” (Investopedia). A public good, on the other hand, is “generally open for all to use and cannot be consumed by one party to the detriment of another party’s ability to also use it…preventing the use of the good by another is not possible” (Investopedia). Concerning water, there is tension between these two definitions as water is necessary for sustaining life, yet also a commodity. According to the Global Water Forum, “after basic water needs have been satisfied, additional water use is no longer a basic human right. Households, for example, may use water to fill a swimming pool, water their lawns, or take long showers. As such, when water use exceeds around 50-100 litres per person per day, it becomes a private good and so is best allocated, like other private goods, through markets” (White). Here, one can see the tension of water as a marketable commodity that also acts as an essential element of life. Water is unique in that it has elements of a public good – it is hard to completely exclude someone from the use of water. However, due to socioeconomic gaps, the use of water is not distributed to people evenly, as different socioeconomic groups use water in different ways and in different levels of consumption. Water also clearly has elements of a private good, as the use of water to wash your dishes excludes another from use of that water to brush their teeth. Since water can lie somewhere between a private and public good, “these characteristics mean that water is not a traditional marketable good and markets can lead to poor allocations of water resources if designed badly” (White). Thus, after analysis, it’s evident that water lies somewhere between a public and a private good. It therefore goes without saying that Norman and Central Oklahoma’s problem with lack of clean water further complicates issues that arise from markets improperly allocating water resources.

From a broader approach, it is apparently quite difficult to pinpoint solutions along with these mentioned issues. Water, although easily disregarded now, will eventually become a problem of immense severity. Analyzing this environmental scenario from an economic perspective truly exemplifies mankind’s remarkable ability to abuse resources of the earth, even those as vital as water. Fortunately, technological advances provide hope for future continuity, but lifestyles and typical ideals of many will have to change.

 

References

Global Change. “National Climate Assessment”. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017. http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/report-findings/water-supply/graphics/water-stress-u-s

Investopedia. “Private Good”. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/private-good.asp#ixzz4ec3THoMk

Layden, Logan. “Oklahoma City Drought Problems A Microcosm of the State’s Water Crisis”, State Impact NPR. 16 February 2015. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017. https://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/2015/02/16/oklahoma-city-drought-problems-a-microcosm-of-the-states-water-crisis/

Oklahoma Water Resource Board. “Central Watershed Planning Region Report”. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017. http://www.owrb.ok.gov/supply/ocwp/pdf_ocwp/WaterPlanUpdate/regionalreports/OCWP_Central_Region_Report.pdf

Robbins, Paul, John Hintz, and Sarah A. Moore. Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley Et sons, 2014. Print.

White, Chris. “Understanding water markets: Public vs. Private Goods”, Global Water Forum. 27 April 2015. Web. Accessed 18 April 2017. http://www.globalwaterforum.org/2015/04/27/understanding-water-markets-public-vs-private-goods/

Water Scarcity. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2017, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity
Image from: http://www.energydigital.com/sustainability/us-energy-policys-hidden-water-costs

Values of an Arctic Beast

Chapter five in our textbook is about environmental ethics, and it includes a wide range of topics that can be related to polar bears. Some of these topics include anthropocentrism, dominion thesis, stewardship, ecology, preservation, ecocentrism, moral extensionism, holism, and intrinsic value. These terms differ in meaning, but they can all be related to one “big picture” question; should humans care about the wellbeing of other animals? This question has been the topic of intense debate for many years. Now more than ever the ethical treatment of animals, including polar bears, is considered by many to be one of the most critical issues on our planet.

According to the textbook environmental ethics is a new extension of ethics, which is the question of what is right or wrong (Robbins). This concept puts nature and all its inhabitants at the forefront of debates on morality. Polar bears are no exception to this, as we have discussed in previous blog postings. In recent decades, the public outcry for saving the polar bears has grown tremendously. Their species is in grave danger due to climate change, and there is overwhelming evidence that humans are causing climate change. Humans must decide if they should act or not. It is true that human concern for polar bears has grown in recent years. However, there has not been any improvement when it comes to saving the habit of polar bears. Why is this?

Basically, every aspect of human life is a detriment to the planet, including what we eat, what we buy, and how we travel. It is not just the issue of what we are doing, but the rate at which we are doing it. All of these things are related to climate change, which is the direct cause of the troubles that polar bears are currently facing. So, in order to save the polar bears humans would have to change their way of life. We would have to start consuming less, and making a conscious effort to bring restoration to the polar bear’s way of life. This may sound like an easy fix, but it is not. Many people do not feel like they should have to alter their way of life in any way for the sake of other creatures. In fact, one could argue that most people feel like they are superior to other animals. This idea of human superiority has been imbedded into our way of life for centuries and has caused a great separation between us and the animals that we share this planet with.

Dominion Thesis, which was introduced in the Old Testament, states that “humans are granted ethical free reign to use nature in any way deemed beneficial”. Clearly, this is what the human species is living by. Humans view themselves as superior to all other living creatures, so it is only right that humans use the earth as they please. But what about the other creatures living on this planet? How do our actions affect them? For polar bears human superiority has caused them nothing but trouble. Putting Dominion Thesis into practice is literally destroying their way of life, and causing their population to dwindle. There are those who believe that since humans are superior, the lives of polar bears should not matter to us. However, one could argue that our superiority is the exact reason that we should be doing something. If humans claim ownership over earth, shouldn’t we feel obligated to make sure that all its inhabitants are thriving? The Bible discusses this concept, human stewardship towards nature. The book defines this concept as “taking responsibility for the property or fate of others… caring for creation.”

Chapter five also discusses a topic like stewardship, called moral extensionism.  This is concept gives moral standing to things that traditionally do not have moral standing, like polar bears. This concept puts polar bears in the discussion about the effects of climate change. This concept also comes into play when deciding if a killing of a certain animal is considered “murder”. All humans can agree that murder is wrong, but kill certain animals anyway as a means of either entertainment or food.  This can be applied to polar bears as well. Polar bears are hunted for food or for their fur. However, some people see polar bears as beautiful creatures that have feelings and should not be hunted. Native Arctic communities see polar bears as creatures that are an “essential part of culture and economy”. However, human expansion has deemed polar bears to be “harmful, ruthless killers” (Hickman).  Native communities use the polar bears in symbolic nature, with value, and see them as a central figure in their ecosystem (Hickman). Natives use a utilitarian viewpoint and base the bears value off their usefulness to humans.  With human expansion, bears are often viewed as violent and are used for commercial hunting. Their viewpoint is anthropocentrism where the importance is to protect human lives and safety (Hickman).

Conservation is the concept that humans should not have any impact on the environment or ecosystem.  In this way of thinking, humans must conserve the environment the best they can to what the ecosystem was before humans.  Things must be as natural as they can be.  In order to save some polar bears, zoos have taken them in and make sure they are taken care of and sustained (Hickman).  Zoos see bears as something with intrinsic value and use animal liberation to sustain them by putting them in man-made enclosures.  Zoos are man-made and should not be considered conservation.  However, some zoos try to preserve the natural habitat and make bears feel like they are in the arctic the best they can.  This is done to sustain life for the polar bears.  Zoo’s seem to be more preservation than conservation.  Preservation is the concept that ecosystems should be preserved, but used for human needs.  Humans are okay to change an ecosystem, but must preserve it where it is both beneficial for them and the ecosystem.  This is what zoos accomplish; providing a habitat for the bears that humans can also find enjoyment from.  

Chapter five also discusses something known as “intrinsic value”, which explains how nature and all of its parts are valuable in and of themselves. There is value in the existence of the polar bear and its surrounding ecosystem that has absolutely nothing to do with humans and how we could potentially benefit from said existence. The thought that nature has value only when it benefits humans is extremely problematic, and has led to exploitation of the earth and the beings who inhabit it. Colonialists used this thought process to defend the subjugation and oppression of entire cultures and peoples, explorers used it to over consume resources and destroy ecosystems in far off places where they would not have to suffer the consequences. Humans have ignored the intrinsic value of nature and even other humans for centuries. In order to successfully prevent the further destruction of polar bears and their ecosystems, along with many other species all over the world, we must come to recognize that they have intrinsic value unrelated to our wants and needs.

blog post 4 pic

Sources:

Hickman, Jenn. “The Arctic Threat: Polar Bears.” Prezi.com. N.p., 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

 

Robbins, Paul, John Hintz, and Sarah A. Moore. Environment and Society: A Critical Inroduction. Vol. 2. N.p.: Blackwell, 2014. Print.

 

Ethics and Sustainable Materials

Image result for plastic bag swap

Plastics are turned to solve many day-to-day convenience “issues”. Why do some prefer a plastic fork over a metal one? Maybe they’re on the go, and they’ll have to carry this utensil to use it later. Well it’s lighter, it’s disposable, and it’s cheaper than a metal fork. These reasons apply to most other plastic products. It’s simply more convenient. It’s impermanence and lower cost draws us to use and discard, we don’t have to pay special attention to its care because we can buy a new one without breaking the bank. But, considering the detrimental effects plastics have on the earth, is it justified to continue use simply because it benefits our lives in this way? Would decreasing the risk of chemical leaching into our food or saving sea life from toxification caused by microplastics be worth the switch to carrying an actual fork instead? Some of the major problems plastics impose on the environment include non-biodegradable physical waste, chemical run-off, and harm to the surrounding ecosystems.

Image result for reusable on the go fork

There are many materials that require fossil fuels in their development process. With these fossil fuels, many ethical questions arise due to some of these natural resources not being able to biodegrade completely. These unsustainable materials affect the earth in a large way. First off, non-biodegradable materials, which can include plastic bags, will remain in the environment for several years after it is thrown away. Certain materials that cannot be broken down by microorganisms are considered non-biodegradable and will affect the environment in a major way. Secondly, run off can be described as part of the water cycle and is caused by certain things such as rainfall amount, permeability, vegetation, and slope. While runoff is not necessarily caused by humans, it does have an environmental impact. Runoff can cause erosion, and specifically with unsustainable materials it can cause pollution. Unsustainable materials can also have harmful effects on animals. If these plastics or papers end up in the environments of animals, there can be significant health impacts. Likewise, these unsustainable materials can have health impacts on human health. For example, chemicals leaking out into food or water bottles in the heat.

Due to the mass production and distribution of plastic related materials, our environment and its inhabitants are subjected to face several ongoing health impacts. For starters, when plastics are improperly disposed into our environment, the debris of these materials can impose several threats on both the wildlife and the health of an ecosystem. For example, in a marine environment, smaller forms of plastic debris, called microplastics, can be ingested by populations of a species and threaten the health of the organisms. These microplastics have been found to contain harmful organic contaminants and have yet to be studied enough to truly determine their potential impacts, yet the amount of plastic debris in environments is rapidly increasing. Apart from the environment, plastics can also affect human health on a range of different levels. Scientists have used a process called biomonitoring, which measures the concentration of contaminants in the human body, to show that, “chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics are present in the human population, and studies using laboratory animals as model organisms indicate potential adverse health effects of these chemicals” (Thompson, 2009). These adverse impacts on the human population can include: reproductive abnormalities, higher toxicity exposure to children, hormonal alterations and more. It is important that we understand the potential risks associated with plastics, as well as the unknown, grey areas that we have yet to discover about the true effects these materials bring to the table.

Another ethical aspect that plays a large role in shaping the environment is social Ecology. This explains how our ecological ills are social in nature. Modern day society is molded by people’s busy lives which values efficiency rather than effectiveness or value. This led us to form unsustainable plastics and single use items. This way of thinking leads to developing solutions to fix the primary problem without caring much about the side effects of the solution which can include landfill waste or other negative effects toward the earth.

It starts with grocery shopping. You’re planning what you will eat this week, and have come to deciding on the snack portion of your diet. Cheese! And maybe crackers. When you’re looking through the cheeses you see one package that has slices stacked just slightly on top of each other, then you compare it to another package that offers individual packets of two slices of cheese. You think, “Oh that would be much more convenient. I can just grab a slice or two and put it into my lunch bag without it touching my fruit!” But what you don’t realize is that the 30 seconds you took to choose convenience, will result in a decomposition process that takes 1000 years (Connor, 2011). That’s right, on average, each plastic bag we use takes about that long to decompose on earth. Now think about how many other products you use have the same type of “convenient” packaging” or the plastic bag(s) you’ll use to transport those products from the grocery to your home. Then, multiply that by how many times you shop per week, month, year or lifetime. America’s Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 2011, America produced 32 million tons of plastic waste within one year (Bond, 2014)!

Despite the adverse environmental consequences of using these materials and excess packaging, it is all too easy to pick the packaging option that seems more convenient for us personally rather than thinking of how our choices affect our ecology. This way of thinking, called anthropocentrism, is the norm of our time and culture. According to Sarah Boslaugh of Encyclopedia Britannica, anthropocentrism is the “philosophical viewpoint arguing that human beings are the central or most significant entities in the world” (Boslaugh, 2016). This view places humans as set apart from and superior to nature, values human life over those of other organisms, and therefore justifies any use or exploitation of nature for human benefit. Because this view is a prominent element of popular western religions, it has come to be embedded in our modern culture. For example, in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, God instructs Adam and Eve, the pinnacle of his creation, to “fill the earth and subdue it” and to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). In many translations of the Bible, the language suggests a position of authority rather than stewardship. It is therefore no surprise that throughout history, this passage has been interpreted so as to condone the destruction or abuse of natural resources for the sake of humankind or what humankind considered progressive. The prominence of Christianity and the religion’s role in the colonization of the Americas spread this ideology past the European continent and embedded it in common Western culture, making it in a sense the default environmental philosophy of contemporary culture.

In recent years, there has been a stronger push for a shift towards the spread of an ecocentric philosophy and culture. Additionally, people are starting to partake in moral extensionism which is extending our sphere of moral concern beyond the human realm to animals and other sentient beings. As can be assumed from its name, ecocentrism is a nature-centered environmental ethic that places an intrinsic value on all natural elements regardless of their usefulness to humankind. We practice ecocentrism if and when we place the healthy preservation of nature above our own personal gain. Examples of this would be washing and reusing glass or ceramic dishes instead of constantly purchasing disposable ones to prevent excess waste, paying more for organic or locally grown foods and veganism. This is counter-cultural to the common habits of finding the fastest and most convenient option for every decision we make.

In this case, ecocentrism is both logical and ethical. Ethical in the sense that we are acting altruistically, giving other life forms importance in our decision making. We fail to realize behaving this way also serves our longevity as a species. The earth is what makes life possible, so if we take care of it, we increase our span of access to the life that earth gives: food, water, and air.

It becomes clear that ethical standards are important with regards to using plastics for both the health of humans, animals and the environment. Since plastics can be harmful to the environment, there is a push for other alternative sustainable materials. Large industries or corporations could change their packaging to paper or glass as opposed to plastic since both of these are made from natural elements such as sand and trees instead of natural gas and polymers (Trimarchi). By making this switch our waste would be reusable or biodegradable and would be using a renewable resource. “Once upon a time, milkmen filled glass bottles with milk… sometimes going back in time is a good thing” (Trimarchi). Manufacturers and the common consumer can learn what was sustainable from the past and correct course along the way by adopting newer sustainable materials as they become available. Another easy swap shoppers can make is to bring their own reusable bags to stores. If this practice was adopted worldwide then the need for plastic bags would cease to exist.

Since these problems plastics present are becoming more prevalent, scientists are researching how to convert plastic into a biodegradable substance. Several different new studies have shown that plastic could potentially be converted into a biodegradable substance by either adding “prodegradant concentrates” or replacing its main component, natural gas, with other materials. Prodegradant concentrates allows the plastic to break down into smaller fragments that are ingestible by bacteria which in return breaks them down into “carbon dioxide, water and biomass, which reportedly contains nor harmful residues” (Trimarchi). Other research has found that other materials could be turned into plastics including milk protein, liquid wood, polycaprolactone, or polylactic acid (PLA) (Trimarchi). Liquid wood is a biopolymer “which looks, feels and acts just like plastic but unlike petroleum-based plastics, they’re biodegradable”. Manufacturers mix lignin with water and then expose it to heat and pressure to form this kind of plastic and since it is made of wood it is recyclable too (Trimarchi). Polycaprolactone is a synthetic aliphatic polyester and although it still does use natural gas it can degrade after six weeks of composting (Trimarchi). PLA is formed during starch fermentation during corn wet milling. “It decomposes within 47 days of composting, won’t emit toxic fumes when burned and manufacturing them uses 20-50 percent less fossil fuels than petroleum-based plastic” (Trimarchi). Overall, if society collectively tries to make these swaps while researching and innovation continues to take place, people can begin to use more sustainable materials.

When people make decisions about purchasing or using a product based upon factors such as convenience, there is usually a hidden cost along with this preference. Using a plastic fork instead of a metal one or buying paper plates instead of glass or ceramic plates might save the consumer time and money, but cost through the detrimental effects they have on the Earth. Is saving time and money on convenience worth the damage done by unsustainable materials such as plastics? Ethical questions tie into purchase decisions when dealing with unsustainable materials and their impact on the environment. Anthropocentrism, or the way of viewing the world as a human centered one in which we are the most significant entities, can justify in people’s mind their use of unsustainable materials. In order to educate people on their negative impact on the environment, we must switch to a more ecocentric point of view. An ecocentric culture places more importance on nature than personal gain, which is important to help people think about the hidden costs next time they decide on purchases solely based on convenience. Ethical standards should be of high importance to people because of materials such as plastics and their damage that they cause to the environment. A solution to this is to use reusable materials instead of plastic water bottles or plastics shopping bags. Since the conflicts between price, convenience, and environmental ethics are so closely related, scientists have even started to research ways to make plastics biodegradable. In conclusion, using products with unsustainable materials such as plastics for convenience raises ethical concerns due to the negative impact they have on the environment.

Sources:

Bond, Shannon. (2014). “Where do Plastic Bags Go?” Environmental Protection Agency Blog. Retrieved from https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/03/where-do-plastic-bags-go/

Boslaugh, Sarah. (2016). “Anthropocentrism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/anthropocentrism

Connor, K. (2011). “How Long Does it Take a Plastic Bottle to Biodegrade?” Postconsumers.com. Retrieved from http://www.postconsumers.com/education/how-long-does-it-take-a-plastic-bottle-to-biodegrade/

Thompson, R., Moore, C., Saal, F. & Swan, S. (2009). “Plastics, the Environment and human health: current consensus and future trends.” NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873021/

Trimarchi, M. & Giuggio, V. “Top 10 Eco-friendly Substitutes for Plastic.” How Stuff Works, Science. Retrieved from http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/sustainable/5-plastic-substitutes1.htm