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In early April, a Ugandan military helicopter was spotted flying over Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo on an unauthorized flight. Around the same time, rangers found 22 elephants dead on the savanna. They were puzzled because there were no tracks around the elephants, and only the tusks were taken (usually poachers take some meat with them for food on the journey home). Many believe the Ugandan military killed the elephants and took more than a million dollars' worth of ivory. Meanwhile, ivory has become the recent conflict resource in Africa. The Lord's Resistance Army, a well-known armed group, are hunting elephants and using the money from the tusks to buy more weapons. The group circulates in central Africa and raids villages, killing the villagers and enslaving the children. The leader is Joseph Kony, and he desperately wants ivory. The ivory is spreading around the world, and a lot of it is going to China. Park rangers are told to shoot poachers without warning, and the nonprofit organization that runs the park is improving the rangers' weapons and equipment. The Congolese government has been a strong "perpetrator of illegal elephant killing in DRC." This is no surprise, since government soldiers get paid as little as $100 a month, and ivory is a great way to get money. However, the recent discovery of the Ugandan helicopter has aroused new suspicions. In June, elephant tusks were confiscated at a Ugandan airport that could have very well been from the 22 elephants killed in April.
I found "Prime targets" in the Nation and World section of the Sunday, September 9th issue of the "News and Observer." The article is important for environmental science because elephant hunting is detrimental to the overall population of elephants. In 2006, there were an estimated 472,269 to 689,671 elephants in the world, but poaching has considerably increased since then. It is unknown how many elephants there are. I cannot imagine a world without elephants, and that is a very real possibility now. The article said that elephants were being hunted at tens of thousands a year, and the level of hunting is increasing. According to an ecologist at Princeton, the populations in Africa are declining rapidly. African elephants are in danger of extinction, and it could happen in our children's lifetime.
The article is mostly biased towards the side of the elephants, although it shows the side of some of the people involved in the poaching, pointing out the desperation of their situation and the value of ivory. The author quotes many different types of people from different sides of the issue; an ecologist, a park ranger, an escapee from the LRA, a Congolese military prosecutor. He is mostly just reporting the events that have taken place in the last few months, although it is evident he is concerned about the herds of elephants.
There is not much I can do about this issue, since I live on the other side of the ocean, and I don't really know what I could do to stop a brutal rebel outfit in Africa or an African government. As a country, we already have American Special Operations troops helping African armies hunt for Kony. This article troubles me because I love elephants, and the fact that my kids or even my grandkids could live in a world without them is saddening. The fact that an all-out battle can be started over elephant tusks is concerning, though, and I don't know what the right thing to do is. On one hand, it seems silly to shoot people to try and save elephants, but on the other hand, the poachers know the risk and do it anyway. Also, they are not just taking elephants' lives; they're taking millions of dollars from the people who own the land. I hope that the National Park will find a way to better protect their elephants from being hunted.
Article 2: High Levels of Plastic and Debris found off the coast of Antarctica
October 4, 2012
Some marine researchers did a study on plankton in the Southern Ocean along the coast of Antarctica. They left about two years ago and returned earlier this year. During their time at sea, they found some startling results; there were high concentrations of plastic pollutants in the Southern Ocean. This is shocking news because The Southern Ocean has until this point been considered a fairly clean environment. It is somewhat isolated and weakly connected to other oceans. They found about 50,000 fragments per square kilometer, which used to be a large amount, but is now the global average. The scientists were expecting about 5,000 fragments per square kilometer. The Southern Ocean was considered one of the last parts of Earth's oceans that was clean. This discovery shows just how far the human touch has reached. No one expected the levels of plastic to be so high in a place that was so far away from land. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area in The North Pacific Ocean that is known to be highly contaminated. The recent findings in the Southern Ocean have led and oceanographer, Charles Moore, to speak out more about the impending issue of plastic pollution's effect on ocean life. He says, "We no longer have an ocean anywhere that is free of pollution."
This article is related to the study of pollution in the environment and how it affects wildlife. We will learn about water pollution in chapter 17. It is pro environmentally biased because it only shows the side of environmentalists and doesn't discuss other points of view such as how we use plastic in almost everything, and it is necessary in our lives now. The article is from the Smithsonian website and they only interviewed scientists, environmentalists and marine biologists. The reader only hears one side of the story.
Nonetheless, I believe the article makes some valid points, and although I would like to hear other points of view, I probably agree with the views expressed in the article. The fact that the average amount of plastic pollution has increased is troubling, and it is devastating to hear that plastic pollution has reached all parts of the globe. It makes me wonder how much worse pollution will get and how much worse it can get before it starts affecting humans in drastic ways. What issues with clean water will my children and grandchildren have to face?
As an individual I can recycle more and cut down on my use of plastic products. I can use brown bags instead of plastic bags, for example. I can raise awareness about plastic and its increasing affect on the environment. As a community we can encourage and pay for more recycling and environmental friendly plastics. As a state and a country we can develop more programs for earth-friendly plastics and recycling. The most important thing is to prevent litter and trash that can pollute the oceans.
Article 3: Can Monetizing Coral Reefs Save Them?
October 16, 2012
Tim Richards founded a for-profit business called ReefCam. He is working on his MBA at American University. He had the idea to create ReefCam when he was thinking about environmental business models he could use in the Caribbean. ReefCam streams live HD video of coral reefs around the world, and businesses such as resorts, corporations, schools, and hospitals can buy feeds to display in these places so many people can see the reefs and learn about their importance. He hopes this aesthetic value can help save the coral reefs. ReefCam can also provide a mobile app for people to see the footage. Richard's business is still in the trial stage while the bugs are being worked out. He hopes to present the ReefCam in November. The project requires coordination between environment and business, and Richards plans to create jobs through his business. He also plans to give 25% of the profit to restoring the coral reefs.
I think the idea of ReefCam is extremely creative. I have never heard of people raising awareness through a for-profit business. Richards comments on his original negative feelings about monetizing the coral reefs, but he believes that since his goal is to make known the aesthetic value, he will not negatively affect the coral reef. He is not exploiting it; he is promoting it and preserving it. I think it's a great idea. Most businesses are for the idea because it is good for the environment and it will increase the aesthetic atmosphere of public places. He says that he views the reefs as priceless, and I agree. His efforts to promote the preservation of the coral reefs are honorable, and he can help the earth by saving the reefs. His plan is smart and effective because he is using his personal business to help the environment.
This relates to Environmental science in Unit 4 when we will talk about Coral Reefs and their importance to biodiversity in the oceans. There was bias in the article because the people involved basically assumed that the reefs need saving and doesn't really consider any people who might believe that the reefs are fine or that increased awareness won't help the cause. The article affects me because if I ever want to visit the coral reefs at some point in my life, I would want them to stay beautiful and healthy.
Article 4: The Pheromone that Could Save Pine Forests from Oblivion
October 31, 2012
This article discussed the recent issue of thousands of acres of forest in Yellowstone National Park are being destroyed by an outbreak of beetles. The bark beetle is a destructive invasive species that is smaller than a grain of rice. In 2010, they wiped out 9.2 million of acres of forests in the western United States. Recently, scientists have discovered new ways to control the beetles. Many methods have been tried, such as cutting down infected trees, spraying pesticides, and even electrocuting the bugs! All these methods have failed. The scientist featured in this article, David Wood, started working in this area in 1955. He studied under a professor at Berkeley. Back then they used pesticides like DDT chlordane, before they were banned. As he studied the beetles, he realized that the shavings they left behind carried a scent, and he wondered what the chemicals were that created the smell. Through experiments he found that beetles produced pheromones that attracted large numbers of females. He used traps with these chemicals to try and destroy the bark beetle population. These pheromones did not work very well in getting rid of beetles because although it killed many beetles, the ones that were left destroyed the surrounding area. Then they discovered the chemical verbenone that actually repels the beetles because it is secreted once there are thousands of beetles in a tree and they want to lay eggs and thrive. In the 80s when they were first testing the pheromone, they could not find a way to make it strong enough to override the positive pheromones, but in 1998, an outbreak raised interest in finding a solution to the problem of beetles. So far, the methods used in spreading verbenone are not cost-effective, but scientists are finding better ways that may be used in the near future to control the beetles. Right now they are just trying to limit the damage.
This article is important because it discusses a problem that has been going on for many decades. The scientists in the article's main concern is protecting the forests. I didn't know there was so much of a problem with bark beetles. I've been to Yellowstone and it would be really sad if all the trees were destroyed by bugs. This article goes along with our class because we just finished learning about deforestation and pesticides in the last unit. If they perfect their methods of using pheromones in beetle traps to keep bugs away, then they will have found an environmentally friendly way to deal with pests. This new improvement in pest control could make a huge difference in our environment.
Article 5: Hummingbirds Are Popping Up in the Strangest Places
November 12, 2012
This article is about how certain species of hummingbirds have been found in regions they were originally not supposed to be in. The main species the article discussed was the rufous hummingbirds. They have been found recently as far north as Alaska. The article highlights two scientists, Dan Harville and Nancy Newfield. There are fewer than 100 master hummingbird banders in the United States. In 12 years of banding, Harville has caught 9,986 hummingbirds from five species (plus one hybrid); over the course of a single year, he will rotate his trap among six or seven sites throughout Washington. His purpose is to track unknown migratory patterns of hummingbirds, but he hopes to help answer a larger question. In the last 20 years, rufous hummingbirds, along with some other species, have started to show up more and more in places they are not supposed to be. Harville and his team would like to answer the mysterious question of why they are doing this.
There are more than 320 species of hummingbirds, all restricted to the Western Hemisphere, and most found only in Central or South America. The rufous is one of 8 species that reliably breeds more than a few miles north of Mexico. It is a creature of extremes. Even though it is only three inches long and weighs an eighth of an ounce, it has the widest range of any hummingbird, spending the winter as far south as southern Mexico and breeding as far north as southeast Alaska. Some will migrate as much as 4,000 miles between their breeding and non-breeding grounds; in relation to body-length, the migration is the longest of any bird.
Until recently it was believed that all the birds migrated south for the winter. The rufous hummingbird has shown a tendency to wander. One of Harville's birds even spent the winter in Louisiana a couple of years ago. Nancy Newfield is a bander in Louisiana who did not start as a scientist, but was fascinated with the changing patterns of hummingbirds. What started has a five year project has become decades of studying birds.
This article relates to environmental science because it has to do with population and habitat alteration. The article discussed a cycle in which people leave bird feeders out all year because they see more birds, which causes more birds to stick around. This causes more and more birds to stay north.
No one knows the true cause of the migration of these birds. It could be related to climate change, or it could just be a random phenomenon. The scientists in this article are studying the causes of these strange habits. They are intrigued by the different migratory patterns between the species.
Article 6: Thousands of Natural Gas Leaks Discovered in Boston
November 26, 2012
The article, which is written from materials provided by the Boston University College of Arts & Sciences and published on Science Daily, is from November 20th of this year. It discusses the recent discovery of natural gas leaks in Boston. According to a study by researchers at Boston and Duke Universities, the City of Boston contains more than 3,000 leaks from its old natural gas pipeline system. The study was administered because of the devastating fires from natural gas during Hurricane Sandy. On the national level, natural gas pipeline failures cause an average of 17 deaths, 68 injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage annually. The natural gas poses an explosion threat, but also an environmental threat with methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Fixing the leaks is very expensive, but would improve air quality and consumer health and safety. The researchers used a high-precision methane analyzer installed in a GPS-equipped car to map the gas leaks. The distribution of the leaks was associated with old pipes as opposed to socioeconomics. The levels of methane in the surface air were 15 times higher than the normal atmospheric background value.
The article states that other cities are prone to dangerous leaks if their pipeline infrastructures are old and aging. The researchers recommended gas-leaks mapping in cities with infrastructures that are "at risk". It is important for all of us to know about the effects of natural gas leaks on our lives and our cities. If our city is at risk, we should make sure the gas-leaks are measured and mapped. I don't want my children to have to deal with the consequences of our contribution to greenhouse gases and global warming.
The article relates to Environmental Science because we just learned about using natural gas and alternative fuels, and we will learn about pollution and more about greenhouse gases in the next unit. I think methane leaks could possibly be the most dangerous environmental impact in our country. We should all try harder to protect our environment from greenhouse gases on the personal, local, state, national, and global levels. This article shows a major consequence of neglect in old systems. We need to upgrade and make our cities more environmentally friendly.
Article 7: Green-Shoots are growing in oil-rich Texas
December 6, 2012
Everyone knows Texas to be a state rich in fossil fuels and doubtful of climate change. Recently, things have been changing in this state. In 2001, Bastrop County experienced wildfires that were the worst in the state's history. There are still contradicting views spread throughout the state. The author of the article said that the idea of the fires being related to climate change had not been discussed. One expert said that he believes the common belief is changing, even if people aren't willing to admit it. More people are ready to believe that climate change is a real thing.
Due to protesting by scientists, the 2012 State Water Plan was passed. A bigger concern, though, is carbon mitigation, coming from the oil gas boom of Texas. It has the largest carbon dioxide emissions of any other state, and if it was its own country, it would be seventh in the world. This boom has come from new technological breakthroughs with fracking. Companies are investing over a billion dollars a month for drilling. With the advances in oil drilling, there are also advances in renewable energy. Texas now has the highest installed wind-power capacity of any US state. Texas's second city, San Antonio, has embraced the new energy economy and is reinventing itself as the Silicon Valley of renewables. San Antonio is well on course to generate 20per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, a target that the European Union is struggling to meet. But there are significant changes under way that may yet challenge the orthodoxy of climate change denial. Inward migration is leading to a population boom, most markedly in the Hispanic population, which has grown by 2.7 million in the past 10 years. And Hispanics are currently overwhelmingly Democrat voters. The mayor of San Antonio believes that eventually the democrats will outnumber the republicans, which could lead to a change in an environmentally friendly direction. If Texas changes pace, the rest of the US may follow.
The article was very obviously biased towards environmentalists. The way the author sarcastically comments on Texan republicans' views is one-sided. Although he shows some opinions of the other side, he writes it in a mocking tone. He describes one woman he interviewed as an "old lady coming out of a Baptist church". He remarks that republicans are "in denial" and uses the phrase multiple times throughout the article as if this belief is a common-known fact. In reality, some people who are "in denial" really believe that their doubts about climate change due to humans' actions are factual and true.
This article is very interesting. I like that Texas may be moving towards using more renewable energy. I believe that this article is a little biased, though. I don't think that the climate change has as much to do with our actions as the article assumed it does. My major concern is the fact that our current energy sources are non-renewable. I think that if we kept getting our oil from Texas it would be better than getting it from the middle-east. Our renewable energy should come from Texas, but also from other states that aren't already producing energy. The only problem with continuing to use oil is that it will eventually run out. I think we should try to come up with as many ways as we can to keep our energy renewable and save our resources, but in the meantime we should use what we have wisely and hope that one day we will find easier ways to obtain and more oil deposits so we will not run out as quickly as we are expected to.
This article relates to my life because I will eventually have to deal with whatever consequences come from people's decisions now. Will I live in a world that runs on renewable energy or will global warming become a world-wide issue? What conditions will my children live in? I believe that these questions are important to ask because the future is very uncertain politically and environmentally.
Article 8: Small, Portable Sensors Allow Users to Monitor Exposure to Pollution On Their Smart Phones
December 20, 2012
This article was written on December 18, 2012. It is about new technologies that will allow the public to access air quality ratings instantly. This air-quality monitoring system is called CitiSense. It is the only system to deliver real-time data to users' cell phones. Computer scientists at the Universtiy of California, San Diego have developed the sensors to make data that measures the quality of the air. These sensors can even be used to distribute the data on air quality to the general public via their smart phones. Their goal is to make better and more data. The data collected from these phones can be much more helpful than the air quality measuring stations in place now. Three cylindrical components in the sensors detect ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
The scientists gave sensors to 30 students and faculty members of the school for four weeks. The subjects were surprised at the results they found. Many were not aware of the pollution around them. The users found that the amount of pollution depended on the place and time of day. It was not consistent throughout the city. Many of them changed their habits or travelling routes according to the air quality. The ultimate goal of the researchers developing CitiSense is to create a wireless network in which hundreds of small environmental sensors carried by the public use cell phones to shuttle information to central computers where it will be analyzed and sent to individuals, public health agencies and the community at large. The sensors currently cost $1,000 per unit, but could easily be mass-produced at an affordable price. So far, there are 20 of them in the field.
This article is relevant because we just finished learning about pollution, specifically in the air. We learned that ozone (troposphere), nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide are all considered criteria pollutants by the EPA. They can be deadly in concentrated volumes and they come from cars and other vehicles. These sensors developed by the team at University fo California, San Diego will not directly "clean" the air or reduce and prevent pollution, but they will add awareness to the problem. People can access information about what is in the air so easily with this new technology that they will start acting more responsibly. One of the scientists in the article says that they are "trying to make the invisible visible." Typically, people can't see what is polluting the air around them, but with these sensors, they will be able to have a visual representation of what is going into the air.
There is not too much bias in the article because nothing is really being argued or debated or defended. There is some bias in the fact that all of the people highlighted in the article support the plan, but it is not overly one-sided. I think most people would believe that we have dirty air. It is not an extreme view.
I think this article is exciting. We use cell phones every day. Putting censors and distributing data through them is a great idea. People should be more aware of air pollution for two main reasons. One is to avoid heavily polluted areas to protect their health and another is so they realize what a big issue pollution is and maybe try to fix the problem. We are all affected by air pollution no matter who we are or where we live. I should be concerned about this problem because I want to breathe clean air. Having real-time data on my phone about how clean my air is would be wonderful! I hope that this idea becomes a reality in the near future. The problem of air pollution will not go away on its own. One day we might be facing this issue in life or death situations. If more people are aware of the problem, it is more likely to be fixed. I think that these sensors would be a good way to make that happen.
What's Happening Questions
Are general news publications unbiased in their reporting? Should they be? Discuss.
The level of bias in general news publications is typically very low. For example, my first article, Prime targets, is from the News and Observer. It was the article that showed the least amount of bias and showed the most sides of an issue. This unbiased approach is expected of an author writing for a general news publication. If an author shows multiple sides to an argument, he is doing his job reporting on an issue. If he only shows one side, then his work could be considered lazy or tacky or invalid.
Are environmental organizations' publications unbiased? Should they be? Discuss.
Environmental organizations' publications are not generally unbiased. The article with the most bias was found on newscientist.com and most of the other articles with bias were found on science magazine. The audience for these articles is scientists and environmentalists. All of the bias I found was favoring the environment and from the perspective of environmentalists. Another factor that influenced the level of bias was the content of the article. For example, the article that had the most bias from newscientist.com was about alternative energy in Texas. There are many sides to take on the issue and many assumptions made on behalf of the author. Some of the other articles I found are about interesting things that are happing in the environment. They don't have much bias because there aren't sides to take on the issue. For environmental organizations, their publications should have some bias because the reader should be aware that he is reading from an organization with certain views and beliefs. Even the articles with little bias could not be considered completely unbiased because they assumed that all their readers would share a viewpoint. For example, the article I read about phones that can measure air quality was not particularly biased about a specific issue because it was reporting on the new app and not so much debating an issue. However, there was some level of bias in the article because the author assumed most people are concerned that about the quality of the air in their towns. This assumption is appropriate for the article because the focus is not on the issue and it was published on a science website.
Do most of the articles about environmental problems suggest solutions? Should they? Discuss.
Most of the articles not only suggested solutions, but focused on one or two solutions in the article. The one article that was more about the problem than the solution was the article about finding high levels of plastic in the Antarctic. The reason it didn't really suggest a solution was because the article was about the recent finding of plastic in the waters near Antarctica. It wasn't about finding solutions. I think it is appropriate for news articles to fail to suggest solutions for problems. Sometimes there aren't any answers. Sometimes there are many answers and that is a whole different debate than what the author is writing about. Other articles have been written about solutions to environmental problems, such as the article about having a live feed of the coral reef to increase awareness and support for saving it, as well as increasing spending towards protecting it. As long as articles about new and creative solutions are being written, the authors of articles about the problems are not expected to include a discussion of the solutions in their articles.
Even "experts" frequently disagree. If opposite sides of an environmental issue both seem to have good arguments and believable "experts" supporting them, how would you decide on which side to base your actions?
I would base my actions on the side that relates to me more. If one side discuses how an action will affect money for schools or jobs then I won't take action because I am a student and working towards a future career and building a family. I don't want my education to be affected and I don't want my future children and grandchildren's educations to be affected. On the other hand, if one side states that taking action will help save endangered panda bears but prevent China from building a new factory or something like that, I will take action because I do not live in China and pandas are my favorite animal. Of course I want to help them and I am not as interested in China's expanding as I am in panda bears.
Do the general news publications and broadcast media seem to go into depth, or do they just do a superficial coverage of environmental issues? If they do a superficial coverage, what can one do to find out more?
I only have one article from a general news publication and it goes in depth. It interviewed many people deep into the issue. The author clearly had been to Africa to study the subject. From prior experience, though, it is common for broadcast media to do a superficial coverage of environmental issues. In these cases, the news source gives a website to find more information. If not, there are most likely many sources with articles on the topic, especially if the issue was important enough to gain enough attention to make it to the news.
Discuss the idea that understanding leads to concern, which leads to involvement, which leads to more understanding, which leads to more concern, etcâ€¦
As people learn more about an issue, they find concern for it. For example, some people will read the article I found about the plastic found in the ocean waters surrounding Antarctica. After reading this article, they will gain concern for the health of the Earth's waters. They will research more information about the subject and find out what they can do to help. After becoming involved, they will continue to understand more about the subject and share their understanding with others. Then the cycle continues and more people will become concerned and start getting involved, and the cycle continues. Another great example is air quality. Someone might hear about how bad air quality can affect a person's health. After doing more research, they may find the article I read about the new app that can measure air quality. The person may get the app and gain more knowledge about how bad the air around him really is. Then he will share this new information because if the app and information is on his phone, he will most likely have conversations about it with his friends and even strangers. Then these people will go through the same cycle.
There is a story that when ostriches see predators approaching, they hide their heads in the sand because they think that if they don't see the predator, it won't hurt them. Some people seem to take the attitude that "What I don't know won't hurt me" with regard to environmental issues. What do you think of this?
Eventually, many of the environmental issues we are facing today will affect everyone. Everyone should be aware of what is going on in the environment around them. For example, I read an article about plastic found in the Antarctic Ocean. Antarctica does not have any inhabitants, but if people did live there, they might have lived their lives thinking that they were safe from water pollution because they are so far away from all the other continents and their water is considered the cleanest in the world. Unfortunately, there are now high amounts of plastic in the Antarctic Ocean. Anyone can be affected by anyone's neglect of environmental action.
Discuss the idea of "Think globally, act locally."
When discussing the environment, we must think about it on the global level. What will my actions do to affect the earth, even if I do not directly experience these effects? This concept goes back to the idea of the plastic in the Antarctic. America's actions are affecting Antarctica's water. When acting on environmental issues, one must act locally. If every person did his or her part in helping the environment, the globe could experience an improvement in health. Small actions by many people can make a big, global difference. For example, the people who used the air pollution app reported that they had already changed some of their habits to help improve the air quality because they had realized how bad it could be. If everyone used the app and changed their habits based on what they saw, the air quality would improve everywhere.