Over this past semester I have learned a lot. This was a very different class for me. Even though I am in environmental studies, I still gained knowledge and insight into the environment in a new way. This class has taught me to try to look at things from every perspective and to try to see who is benefiting from different situations. It may seem like this class has made me cynical or at the very least skeptic but the class made me this way for good reasons.
The different sections of this class has showed me all the different ways that people will exploit communities in order to get a profit. The health section showed that a health of a person can be completely determined by the zip code he or she lives in. This could be easily prevented by creating equal health care, fast food zoning laws, or supplemental education in the longer income areas. The science section showed how corporations will exploit peoples’ lack of science literacy in order to give people the idea that climate change science or other research isn’t accurate. The final section of this class showed how corporations will use lack of laws or regulation against pollution or waste disposal as a way to receive as much profit as possible. The movies and videos we watched in the class were very informative as to the topics we learned about.
All of these topics that we went over in class have helped me to see the world through a more questioning lens. I think that this class has been beneficial to me because of that fact. This new insight into the world will follow me throughout my life and help me to see how people and big corporations truly act and think.
The past week discussing climate change was really nothing new for the majority of us. We have all seen the charts and read articles about how badly humans are effecting the environment. We all know that if society continues with the practices we do now, we will likely see something similar to the apocalypse happening. What people don’t think about is how quickly climate change has effected human health.
A direct product of climate change is people dying of heat strokes. In India, over 1000 people died in one week from a heat wave in 2015. The heat was so intense that it caused the streets to melt. This is also happening in the United States with 13 people dying in one week in 2013. There have been a total of 7,233 heat-related deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2009. Those most effected by heat waves are those who work outside, the elderly, and the homeless.
Heat waves are expected to become common as the earth’s temperature continues to rise. These heat waves will also cause flooding and other intense weather phenomenon that will lead to more deaths.
This past week we discussed greenwashing. Greenwashing is when the public relations department of a company depicts their products as environmentally conscientious. A problem with greenwashing is that you expect to see it in certain places but not in others. One places I haven’t thought to look until recently was my makeup bag. Being the environmentalist that I am I tend to gravitate towards products that promote the environment or use words such as “natural” or “clean” and marketing agencies know this. Companies target my demographic of twentysomething environmentalists who want the products they consume to have the least amount of an effect on the earth.
The issues with cosmetic products is that the greenwashing cannot be regulated as easily as food or some other products. The words “clean”, “natural”, and “organic” are not regulated unless certified. And even if they have a certification, it could come from an unreliable source. Some cosmetic products have the word organic on the packaging if they have a single drop of organic essential oil. Organic certification comes from the Department of Agriculture but there is no legal division of the United States Department of Agriculture for the organic certification of cosmetic products. Some brands emphasize an organic or natural ingredient within their product to distract the consumers from the other products.
According to a study by Intelligence Group “nearly three-fourths of millennials do online research before buying a product”. This study also said that millennials buy only products that we deem necessary. The more research we do on products before we shop, the less likely we are to be fooled by greenwashing. It is important to not be fooled by greenwashing so that consumers can support companies that are actually making a difference in the world and have truly “greener” products.
In the past week we have discussed the issues with companies “greenwashing” their products to come off as environmentally friendly. As Corbett said in Communicating Nature “the only Green product is the one that is not produced”. While is can certainly be true, but some product are better for the environment than others. Where greenwashing is really dangerous is when the “green” product is worse for the environment than the original product.
Volkswagen has been trying to make their products appear “greener” than other companies’ products for years and almost successfully did. Until the Volkswagen emission scandal came to light. In 2015, Volkswagen said that 11 million of their cars were appearing more environmentally friendly then they actually were. The millions of diesel cars had a “defeat device” which would register when testing was taking place and portray the cars as having less emissions then when they weren’t running a test.
Volkswagen cheated on the tests in order to pass US emissions standards and to sell what appear to be a “greener” car. This “greenwashing” was worse for the environment than a regular diesel engine because people felt they were emitting less than they would have in another car. Public health researchers at Harvard and MIT have found that 59 Americans will die prematurely from the excess emissions that the cars have caused.
The past week’s in-class discussion has been about consumption. A problem with the current way we consume goods is that it’s a linear system. We are using resources in a way that is not sustainable. We are depleting the environment of its resources while also littering the world with toxins and waste. A problem with the current linear consumer system is how much waste it produces. A way to fix this linear system would be to utilize the waste we produce as a potential resource. Reusing “waste” or products that no longer work will enable us to minimize the amount of resources we consume and would decrease the massive amount of goods that goes into landfills or other disposals around the world.
Recycling is a great way for “waste” to reenter the consumer world and is better for the environment than using raw materials. Recycling aluminum requires 5% the energy needed to create new aluminum from mining raw material. Creating plastics from recycled plastics takes two thirds the energy needed to make new plastic. An interesting way to recycle plastics yourself is the ProtoCycler. The ProtoCycler by ReDeTec will shred plastic and create filament that can then be made into anything using a 3D printer.
Biodegradable products would help prevent products from entering the landfill and staying there for potentially thousand or even millions of years. Products can even benefit the environment, such as the Saltwater Brewery’s edible six-pack rings. The rings solve the problem of plastic rings killing marine life and benefit them by being food for those animals.
These options aren’t going to solve all the problems with today’s consumer system but they are good options to start addressing the issue.
In 2005, Bobby Henderson wrote an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education on his opinion of teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. He argued that if religion was going to be taught at school, than his satirical belief of a Flying Spaghetti Monster should also be taught. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a satire of creationism. Henderson used the arguments that creationists use such as saying that carbon-dating cannot be proved. Instead of trying to debunk the science, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster says that carbon-dating is false because “every time [a scientist] makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage” (Henderson). Justin Pope of the Associated Press called Henderson’s open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education a “clever and effective argument”. Jack Schofield of The Guardian said that “the joke, of course, is that it’s arguably more rational than Intelligent Design”.
Henderson also said in his letter that he “think[s] we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence”. Henderson was trying to show that Intelligent Design should not be taught at schools because of the overwhelming agreement within the science community about the theory of evolution. While there should be religious freedoms within public schools, religious views such as creationism should not be taught as historical facts. There is already science illiteracy growing throughout the world. Allowing religious opinion to be taught in public shows will only further this illiteracy by causing conflicting stories. Schools that do not have a religious affiliation should only being teaching what the consensus of scientists is.
Today’s society is not as interested in science as they once were. As explained in Unscientific America, most Americans only come in connect with science in science-fiction movies, books, and television shows. This creates a need for the science that people are seeing to be accurate. If people are only shown false or exaggerated science, then they will have a false understanding of the world. More and more, screenwriters see the need for the science of their work to be accurate. The Science and Entertainment Exchange allows screenwriters to connect scientists in the desired field to get plausible science for the work. Jessica Cail, a Los Angeles psychopharmacologist, consulted for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and says that her goal isn’t to make the scripts worthy of peer review but to find a middle ground between fantasy and realism. Many projects go to the Science and Entertainment Exchange now and have not completely accurate science but plausible science in order to not completely misinform the public.