What a semester!

In EVST 2004, we learned so much about topics surrounding health, science, and the environment. The most significant part about this class was not the actual facts we learned about these topics, though. This class taught me to second guess everything I hear or read or see, and also investigate what a message is trying to say, why I am being exposed to it, and what it wants me to do.

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While we looked specifically at how we communicate about our health, science, and the environment, these skills extend much further. It is important to be a skeptic in almost all realms of our life. We have learned that without regulation in media, they cannot be trusted to deliver unbiased news. Like media, many forms of communication are unregulated or lightly regulated. If information is being shared, it is so important to fact-check the message and to analyze why it is being shared in the first place.

Being an informed citizen is useful, but only if we ensure the information we are receiving is true, accurate, unbiased, and reliable. Along with this, we must recognize societal norms that should be discussed and start talking about them! We make so many important topics taboo because we are scared to talk about them, but that should propel us to speak up!

Communication is what makes our species so different from others. The way we spread information and stories allows us to advance far beyond other animals. We should use that to the best of our advantage by talking about the important stuff and making sure it is factually backed-up. This is the best way to avoid hindering the advancement of our society.

– Chelsea W

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Why aren’t we talking about climate change?!?!?

Before the election, during the debates, I noticed a serious lack of discussion on climate change. My question is WHY?

Why aren’t we (as a country) talking about climate change enough, and furthermore, enacting policy changes to combat climate change? As I look deeper into the topic, I realize the relative silence in politics probably stems from the deep divide on the topic between the two major political parties.

On each of the major parties’ websites, it is stated their view on climate change. For the Democratic Party, it is clear that they believe action needs to be taken to combat the effects of climate change. The democrats believe that climate change is threatening the economy, national security, and the health and future of children. They also discuss the need for coexistence of clean energy and a major creation of good-paying jobs. They set specific goals for clean energy sources in the next ten years. They call on farmers to be partners in ensuring a nation invested in conservation and stewardship.

The mere number of times the phrase “climate change” is mentioned on each party’s platform page says something about their stance. Where the phrase is mentioned 25 times on the Democratic Party’s platform, it is only mentioned 7 times in the GOP platform. Their stance is the polar opposite (pun intended) of the democrats. They clearly state that climate change is not a pressing issue, nor should it be priority. They call out the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for being biased and unreliable. The Republican Party’s platform on the environment mainly focuses on agriculture, uncovering and harvesting all fuel reserves in a cleaner manner, giving control of these resource-rich lands to states, and reversing much of the environmental legislation created by the Obama Administration.

What can we do to ensure the priorities of our country include climate change and its disastrous effects?

 

– Chelsea Walters

 

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Greenwashing of Fossil Fuels

It is almost unbelievable that we fall for some greenwashing marketing techniques. For example, green washing of fossil fuels blows my mind. Coal, oil, and gas, three of the most environmentally-detrimental resources are being framed as ‘cleaner’ or ‘more green.’

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One example of a “Deadly Sin” of greenwashing in this sense is the Sin of Hidden Tradeoffs. Some producers claim that Palm oil is extracted in a sustainable manner, but what they don’t tell you is that to continually harvest palm oil, environmentally sensitive forests will be destroyed, along with their biodiversity. In the long run, this will drastically increase carbon in the atmosphere.

Another example is ‘clean coal’ from GE. This exemplifies the Sin of Lesser of Two Evils. While 1. increasing efficiency from the same amount of coal, or 2. capturing gases that would normally escape to use for energy, or 3. washing fuels to make them ‘cleaner’ all sound like a better way to burn coal, it takes away from the point that they are still burning coal. The extraction of coal is the worst for the environment of any natural resources. The burning of coal is one of the worst for the environment of any natural resources. The fact that a company could make it slightly less worse does not take away from the damage it is already doing.

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This piece of art is called “The Fossil Fuel Greenwash” which features David Koch, climate change denier and oil billionaire, who is also one of the board members and the biggest sponsor of the American Museum of Natural History.

 

Chelsea Walters

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Why don’t we hear about industrial disasters???

In class we watched the documentary about the Union Carbide Industrial disaster in Bhopal, India in 1984. According to Greenpeace, it has no parallel in human history. I was shocked when we watched the video because of the actual event, but also because I had never heard of this disaster before. I thought, “If I have never heard about the worst industrial disaster of all time, what other monstrous events am I missing?

Should I know about these types of events from my own research? Should the media discuss topics of this manner more? Should I have learned about it in school or another class in college?

The question: Whose responsibility is it to spread information about this?

In this case, it is not just the unjust and heartbreaking nature of how it was dealt with, but also the horrendous ways Union Carbide, the Indian Government, and now Dow Chemical have dealt with it.

This got me thinking about other huge disasters that are unknown to me.

Here are few more I found:

Minamata Disease: Methylmercury was released into wastewater from Chisso Corporation in Japan from 1932-1968. Over 1,700 deaths occurred near Minamata Bay – exposure presumed from eating fish.

Benxihu Colliery: Coal dust explosion in an iron and coal mining project in Benxi, Liaoning, China in 1942. Japanese guards prematurely closed the entrance of the mine, locking in many workers. Initial press releases reported only 34 workers dying, when in reality 1,549 (34% of the miners working that day) were killed in the accident.

Rana Plaza Collapse: Structural failure in Dhaka, Bangladesh because of improper usage of a building and addition of building levels without a permit. Cracking was ignored by the building’s owners. Many were trapped in the rubble, but were eventually rescued. 1,129 were killed.

– Chelsea Walters

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Can Disneyfication and Environmental Consciousness Coexist?

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Disneyfication – the transformation (as of something real or unsettling) into carefully controlled and safe entertainment or an environment with similar qualities (M-W)

Theming – the use of an overarching theme to create a holistic and integrated spatial organization of a consumer venue (Lucas, Scott. The Themed Space)

The term Disneyfication originated from the environment of Disney theme parks. These parks are highly controlled, made to appear natural, but they are actually mostly artificial. There are robotic animals, electronic nature sounds, smellitzers, fake rain, and life-like nature components (grass, trees, and rain cycle). The thing about all of this is not that Disney is fooling us into “purchasing” this outdoor experience, it is that we don’t care that we are being played. By doing this, they establish nature as a commodity to serve human needs.

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To rope us in, Disney incorporates all aspects of entertainment into their parks, including amusement, food, drink, lodging, and merchandise. This represents how commodification and consumerism have crept into all parts of our society. Shopping, in these instances, is seen a play or recreation, rather than essential acts. Other entities besides Disney have started using these techniques to provide a ‘full experience’ for their consumers. When you go to many outdoor stores, you will find much more than products – you will find ‘nature’ displays sometimes even including real animals. Just look at Bass Pro Shops, REI, L.L. Bean, or Cabela’s.

What I find interesting about this concept is that Disney promotes both conservation principles (messages in Wall-E, their website, Disneynature) and mass consumerism. These two principles cannot coexist in an entity’s mission. Every Disney film and show has hundreds of pieces of merchandise than can be purchased and which Disney markets toward children who then beg their parents to buy it for them. The actions of Disney make it clear that they believe human advancement of technology can save the world from the detriment it is facing environmentally.

 

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Environmental Literacy Rising in Younger Generations?

We have been discussing the different environmental ideologies in class and reading about it in Communicating Nature. Even the more ‘environmentally-friendly’ people in our society (preservationists) are extremely Anthropo-centered. It is interesting to me to see how ideologies differ between generations. It seems that there is more emphasis put on the importance of the environment in academia.

Eco-literacy (Ecological Literacy) “is the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible.” Fortunately, many schools seem to be adopting a curriculum that explores this topic in more depth.

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For example, many grade and high schools across San Francisco have been teaching their students more about recycling, reusing, composting, etc. The students are also learning about alternative energy sources.

One resource, from the Centre of Global Education, says it is important supply students with knowledge and skills but also with the ability to develop an attitude about these issues. The Development Education Review also discusses the problematic nature of how we interpret media. It suggest demonstrating the importance of respectfully questioning all texts the students are consuming.

We also talked in class about how inaccurate the media can be, often without consequences.

Do you think schools are doing enough to help children fully shape their thoughts about the environment? Are they encouraging them to question what they read adequately? Were you taught to fact-check texts you consume from the media?

-Chelsea Walters

P.S. Check out the second source – it is really interesting!

 

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Compensation: who deserves it?

In class we learned about Agent Orange, a mix of defoliants the U.S. military used to strip trees of their cover to expose the N. Vietnam and Viet Cong troops during the Vietnam War. While Agent Orange succeeded in this, and in destroying crops used to feed the Vietnamese troops, it also created many health problems for all of the soldiers, people living in Vietnam, and even family members of U.S. soldiers.

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Because Agent Orange contains dioxin, it can cause tumors, birth defects, rashes, psychological problems, and cancer. Naturally, when these health problems began occurring, the U.S. soldiers and their families were upset about the negative effects on their health. In 1979, a lawsuit was filed against the manufacturers of Agent Orange, demanding compensation to the U.S. soldiers and their families. In five years, they were granted $180 million from seven of the manufacturers.

Millions of Vietnamese have also had detrimental health problems as a result of the exposure to Agent Orange.

  • 400,000 people were killed or maimed
  • .5M children were born with serious birth defects
  • 2M people in Vietnam suffer from cancer or other illnesses

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Many of these people had nothing to do with the Vietnamese militaries, but still suffered from the effects of Agent Orange. I think is interesting that many times, the people who are involuntarily forced into a situation are NOT the ones compensated. A group of Vietnamese citizens also filed a lawsuit against the same chemical companies. However, in their case, the suit was dismissed.

Other cases where compensation wasn’t granted:

  • United States Slavery Reparations
  • Henrietta Lacks Immortal Cells
  • Tuskegee Experiments

 

Chelsea Walters

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