Final Blog

By Ethan Whiteford

I had a lot more fun in this class than I expected to. I originally thought that this class would be really boring, as it was one my adviser strongly suggested I take, now I know why. This class was very interesting and covered many topics that relate to my major, which I thought was a bit weird, considering I am an Environmental Studies major and this is a Communication class. But as we progressed through the material, I found myself being more and more interested and having a lot of fun.

Overall, I thought this class was a very good one for me to take. I would also recommend this class to anyone who is looking for a fun and engaging class to take or someone who is on the fence about taking this class as well.

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Climate Change Affects all Life on Earth

By Ethan Whiteford

article link: Earthsky.org

A new analysis of hundreds of studies says that almost every aspect of life on Earth has been affected by climate change. More than a dozen authors from different universities and nongovernmental organizations around the world have concluded that almost every aspect of life on earth has been affected by climate change in some way. In more scientific terms; genes, species and ecosystems now show clear signs of impact.These responses to climate change include species’ genome, their shapes, colors and sizes, their abundance, where they live and how they interact with each other. The influence of climate change can now be detected on the smallest, most cryptic processes all the way up to entire communities and ecosystems. A couple of examples would be of butterflies and salamanders. Butterflies in Europe are changing from darker colors to lighters because they fare better in warmer climates. Salamanders in North America are becoming smaller because it is more-favorable to be small in hotter temperatures. This may not seem like a huge deal, but these small changes can quickly add up and decimate an ecosystem.

So why should we care? Well this basically means that the near future is going to be much more unpredictable than in the past. We, as in scientists, aren’t 100% sure what will happen in the coming years, which means that more research needs to be done on the topic of climate change. Only one thing is for certain, and that is the world is changing.

Greenwashing in the City of Portland

By Ethan Whiteford

article link: oregoncatalyst.com

In 2001, the city of Portland, Oregon decided that by 2010, all electricity used would be from renewable sources. When 2010 came along, it was found only 9% of electricity was from renewable sources. Undeterred, in 2012 Portland leaders again declared that city agencies would achieve 100 percent renewable energy. This time they managed 14% renewable energy. Today, Portland has magically declared victory, claiming that municipal electricity use is 100% renewable. However, this is a blatant case of Greenwashing. Portland is currently generating only 9 percent of its electricity from city-owned bio-gas and solar facilities. Another 15 percent is claimed from “green power” sold by Portland General Electric. The remaining 76 percent of city use comes from a conventional mix of coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro. Portland then pretends to offset this by purchasing so-called “Renewable Energy Certificates” (RECs) which do nothing but “represent the environmental amenities.”

Portland is guilty of committing several of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Greenwashing.” They would be the Sin of Hidden Trade-Off and the Sin of Fibbing. Portland fibbed about its energy being 100% green, when only 9% of it can actually be traced back to being green. They also did not mention that the RECs are literally nothing. You can’t do anything with them because they don’t exist.

How Much Arctic Ice Melt are we Personally Responsible For?

arctic

By Ethan Whiteford

Article Link: Inhabitat.com

Last week in class, we talked about Advertising and the Natural world, and how “green products” are an oxymoron and that the only “green” product is the one that is not created. This week, I am writing my blog post just to show the accumulative affect of our consumerism on the “Earth’s Refrigerator.”

In a new study done by Science(the magazine), they estimate that for every ton of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere, we lose about 32 square feet of Arctic sea ice.The EPA estimates that total US emissions in 2014 was 6,870 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, so that would have caused 219,840 square feet of Arctic sea ice to vanish. Not to mention that the average American emits over 16 tons of carbon dioxide each year, which amounts to 512 square feet of Arctic sea ice lost.

This helps put into perspective how we all contribute to climate change, whether we buy “green” or not.

Religion May be the Key for Humanity’s Future Expansion into Space

By Ethan Whiteford

Article link: space.com

Since it’s been more than 40 years since we have stepped onto a planetary body other than our own, there has been little motivation to do much of anything space-related. However, religion may just be the new motivational force according to some experts. Last month, Washington D.C. held the annual Mars Society convention, where various experts talked about reasons humans have explored outer space, including religious and social motivators.Paul Levinson, a science fiction writer and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University, suggests that we should take the idea of interrelationship of religion and space travel further. He also noted the lack of motivation for spaceflight since the 70s citing that “we had already beat the Soviets” and that “science is a weak motivation.” He also went on to say that the SpaceX program has had some success, but doesn’t see a fleet of spaceships travelling beyond the solar system. This led to him think that a religious motivation, based on wonder, might be the way to go.

This relates to class because we talked about science and religious faith, and how they affect each other. I found this article to be really interesting as it somewhat bridges the gap between the extremes of both sides. I also never really thought of religion being a motivational factor for space travel. I mostly chose this article to write about this week as it shows that science and religious faith aren’t quite polar opposites of each other as one might think.

Profiting from Health

By Ethan Whiteford

Article Link

Recently, Bloomberg published an article highlighting the FDA process of  approving a treatment created by the company, Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. The approval has sparked fierce debate within the Food and Drug Administration. Sarepta’s drug is called Exondys 51 and it is used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is a rare, genetic disease that essentially “wastes” muscles. It happens to boys in their youth and it kills within years. Until recently, there was no cure. Exondys 51 will cost $300,000 a year after discounts. FDA Director Robert Califf expressed caution about reading too much into the decision. He is quoted saying: “Our  understanding about how to include patients in the regulatory process is evolving. Serious shortcomings in the eteplirsen (the drug that Exondys 51) is development program should not be allowed to establish broad precedent for therapeutic development in rare diseases.” The FDA’s chief scientist, Luciana Borio, said that if Exondys 51 did not get accelerated approval, Sarepta would not have sufficient funding to continue to study eteplirsen.

This relates heavily to what we talked about last Tuesday. We talked about profiting from health and this article is a perfect example of the debate going on currently about drug prices in the US. On one side, you have the patients and their families being unable to afford such a high price for treatment. And on the other side, you have the company, which without the price being so high, are unable to provide the life-saving drug and are also unable to research it to make it better

Why Eating Fat is not Bad

By Ethan Whiteford

An article on the Business Insider website is going over the “demonizing of fat” of recent public health. The nation decided to shift from fats to sugars back in 1967 when a food industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) bribed three Harvard researchers $6,500 to shift the blame from sugar to fat for causing heart disease. Their final paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and from then on set the diet for the US. The article then goes on to say how there was never enough evidence in the first place to curb our consumption of fatty foods. A recent documentary “Fed Up” goes to show this as well.  Fed Up also makes the argument that sugar is much worse than fat in today’s obesity and diabetes epidemic.

This article to me was very interesting. I was always very skeptical of being told not to eat fat-rich foods because it was “bad for me.” There are a few examples of foods that are rich in fat and still healthy for you and also many examples of foods that are fat free which are not particularly healthy for you. One example of the former is the avocado. The avocado is a fruit which is extremely fatty( 21 grams in one cup) but is very rich in vitamins and minerals. No one has ever told me to eat less fruit. On the flip side, for example, we have Coke. Coca Cola has zero fat in it but lots of artificial sugars. According to past US diet, coke should be good for you because it is fat-free when in reality, it is the opposite. The article then links sugary sodas to the increasing obesity and diabetes rates in the US. This article relates to class in that we talked about diabetes and public health last Thursday.