Climate Change around the Dinner Table

this-shit-is-dopeI come from a primarily blue collar family. My Mom and Dad were the first people in their respective families to graduate college and my immediate family has it pretty well off. But when the cousins and grandparents and aunt and uncles come over for dinner, like they did this past week for thanksgiving, we get a hodgepodge of different professions ranging from construction workers to hairdressers to butchers. Being in college, the views and opinions of people in that work these jobs are usually discounted and their careers are usually looked down upon by my fellow peers. I for one love these family dinners gathering with people of all different ages, professions and world views that have been formed over a longer time than I have been alive for the most part. Family dinner at the Moss household is very different from the echo chamber that many of my college classrooms have become. In class we talk about climate change and how its a terrible thing and what we can do to combat it and we kinda shame and put down the “unnamed” climate change deniers without really looking at the reason why they don’t believe in global warming when the science to prove its existence is there.

While the topic of climate change never came up explicitly, I could totally pick out who was a climate change denier and who was not. Most of the men on my dads side of the family are staunch republicans and about half of the women are republicans as well with the lot of them denying climate change. The remaining three or four people are liberals who really don’t know enough science to have an intelligent conversation on the subject. It seems as if my family kind of just blindly follows the policies of elected officials without reading the science behind climate change. Honestly I don’t blame them, if your not interested in the topic then the science and charts and info is pretty boring. The main problem with having a conversation on climate change is that the science has become politicized. Just like the process of bringing evolution into schools, people weren’t and still aren’t ready to trust the science instead of the words from their elected officials. This makes it increasingly difficult to not only carry a conversation on the subject but on a higher level pass legislation and start making an actual change in what is as President Obama said, “No greater threat to future generations than climate change”. If there was a way for both sides to lay down their shields and overly aggressive tactics to have a bipartisan understanding that climate change is a serious issue that won’t be solved overnight and cutting out fossil fuel jobs immediately isn’t the solution either, we as a human race would be in a much better place moving forward.

My family isn’t doesn’t read a whole lot about science but they do stay informed on whats going on around them. Unfortunately we don’t all believe the same things regarding climate change but we do all believe that Thanksgiving spent with each other is the best!

 

Grant Moss

On the Fossil Fuels Dilemma

coal

 

Over the past few weeks I personally have been overloaded with information and opinions on global warming and climate change. Whether it be in my Intro to environmental science class where we brake down the different types of greenhouse gasses and what they do to our atmosphere. Or in my Communicating Health, Science and the Environment class that I share with you all. Or on social media with how “Trump’s cabinet picks will singlehandedly increase global warming tenfold and kill us all in the next four years”. I’m kidding on that last topic but some of these headlines that I see on Facebook and Twitter are often grossly hyperbolic. While being bombarded with messages about the environmental effects of climate change and the 101 reasons that it is bad and needs to be stopped, I have yet to read an article that gives a reasonable solution to all of the negatives that come with moving away from fossil fuels instead of the overarching theme that all fossil fuels are bad and we need to get rid of them.

My biggest concern with moving away from fossil fuels is the loss of jobs in that industry. Of the fortune 500 top ten companies fossil fuel companies make up half of that list. Hundreds of thousands of Americans rely on Fossil fuel companies to provide a paycheck for them working in all of the different aspects that come with coal, natural gas and oil. Over the summer I had the opportunity to visit rural parts of West Virginia and Kentucky that have seen better days in the past. These towns have relied on coal for decades if not centuries for jobs and economic growth. Though my view of the state of those places may have been skewed due to mass flooding the week before, the towns and cities that I visited and drove through reminded me of some of the towns that I have visited in Mexico, a third world country. Many of the houses were abandoned and boarded up while a lot of the towns have lost a lot of population over the years due to the decline in the use of coal mandated by the federal government. Even though coal accounts for the majority of electricity in the United States, the country is importing more coal from overseas than using its own supply of coal with more than two thirds coming from Colombia. It is sad to see that American men and women losing the jobs that generations of people worked in only for the US to import their coal from overseas.

The Coal and Fossil fuels dilemma is an interesting dichotomy between wanting a brighter more sustainable future compared to economic security and comfortable lives today. There is no one way to solve this issue but I believe that cutting off all fossil fuel usage and production is not the right solution until we have a better infrastructure in obtaining renewable resources. The fight against climate change isn’t going to be won overnight by trying to convince skeptics through debate and rhetoric but it will be won when the economic factors of sustainable energy surpasses those of fossil fuels.

Advertising of Adventure on Social Media

When I log on to Instagram I am immediately reminded of how little I actually do compared to the facade of how much everyone I follow do and I honestly feel a little bit depressed. Brandon from High school was in the Smokies this past week and Gregg from freshman year went to Big Bear? How the heck did he get to California? In between me feeling like I am sedentary loser I see an ad for REI or Nike, and man the people in those ads are always having more fun than me. Maybe if I bought a new pair of wool socks and a new backpack I could be having as much fun as them or maybe even make an Instagram that would make Brandon and Gregg jealous! It’s almost as if advertising on Instagram and other social media was meant to attach on to your emotions of wanting to have as good of a time as everyone else. I made an Instagram account a little bit later to the party, around six months ago and have noticed this tactical strategy by marketing departments to make me want to buy a product for the sake of adventure and the illusion of in buying this product, people will be jealous of my page or something like that. These advertisements often use nature as the back drop when selling a product. While the people in these ads are probably not actually doing something more exciting than a photoshoot, It sure fools me into thinking that if I had a new pair of nikes that I would get outside more and it would be good for society if I were to buy a new pair of shoes. These ads aren’t like the ads that I grew up with. The ads of old were mass produced, trying to evoke a reaction from a certain demographic that may or may not stumble across that advertisement and weren’t always effective even if they were seen by the right eyes. The new ads that we see on social media are specially tailored for us and put right in the middle of the feed that we are almost emotionally attached to and when we see an ad we sometimes glance over it and think of it as something that a friend of ours might have posted or recommended to us at one point in time. Advertisers can take the metadata of our accounts and what type of people we follow and put in the ads that we “want” to see. And for a person who is trying to save his money, like me, these ads are exponentially more tempting than the tv commercials or catalogs that I go in the mail as a kid. By advertising in the middle of feeds and using nature as the backdrop of the ads, it not only gives us the illusion that the product is beneficial to the environment but will somehow allow us as consumers be more connected to the planet we live in.

Predatory Problems with the Endangered Species Act

alaska-grizzlies-kodiak-katmai-1-bears-wolfThe 2010 US census stated that 80% of all Americans live in an urban areas which was up one percentage point from 2000. The urbanization of American life has lead to a detachment between man and nature which directly affects the laws that are passed in how our country handles wildlife and nature. Most Americans get their understanding and love of nature from a trip that they took to a national park or from how specific animals are portrayed in the media which has led to problems with how certain species are handled on a federal level. One source of continual problems with how the US as a country handles it’s species is through the modern interpretation of the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) that was signed into law by one of our most environmentally conscious presidents, Richard Nixon, who was also responsible for the Clean Air and Clean Water Act which is arguably the most important law for the environment in US history. The problem with the ESA is that it puts specific animal populations under federal control that would be better serviced on the state level by fish and game agencies. Two of the species that are causing the biggest problems that arise from the ESA are the grey wolf and the grizzly bear, two predators that often times cause more damage to society than they benefit society. Grizzlies and wolves are the culprit behind loss of agriculture and property damage in the communities that they reside in. The ESA subjects a fine up to 100,000 dollars and up to one year in jail to anyone that harms an endangered species even when they propose a threat to ones property. The ESA has been unchanged since 1973 before both Grizzlies and wolves were endangered or threatened species and  congress has not been proactive in modifying the law to better govern how best to deal with these predatory species that are on the list. In 2007 the Grizzly Bear was delisted from the endangered species list but is still listed as threatened and action cannot be taken against the animal if being a nuisance on privately held land. If property is damaged by any animal governed by the ESA the federal government is not responsible for the damages and the land owner has to cover the costs of the damaged property on his own dime. This is detrimental especially when agriculture like chickens or cows are eaten by these predatory species on the list. In the state of Wyoming, the department of natural resources realizes that the federal government should be held responsible for any damaged property by animals on this list but doesn’t, so the state is forced to foot the bill as a courtesy to the landowner. What needs to be done instead of continually using this outdated law is to have each state govern their wildlife population, at least be able to govern predatory and nuisance animals on this list. What is being done by the federal government is that they are allowing the romanticization of these animals to set the agenda on how to best manage them instead of using common sense laws that benefit the less than 20% of American people that don’t live in cities and deal with these everyday. While I don’t believe that these animals should be eradicated completely, there needs to be better laws in which property owners don’t have to be subjugated to these laws which put their livelihood into jeopardy.

For more information on this subject check out the National Center for Policy Analysis’ journal on the subject (http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/st303.pdf) and check out Steven Rinella’s podcast with Wyoming legislators (http://www.themeateater.com/podcasts/episode-047-laramie-wyoming/)

Grant Moss

Marketing Conservationism

I’d say around 2008 or maybe before that, conservationism became en vogue. All of the practices that I grew up around in Boy Scouts and in my family life were now not only being taught to the masses, thy were being popularized by the masses. There was a point in this time where the mainstream conservationists went way overboard. Not only were different groups trying to outdo each other, it seemed like some of the companies that were the source of many of the environmental problems that we were having started to claim to be eco-friendly and earth conscious when they were clearly not. While the companies using these tactics are far ranging in what they sell and how egregious their claims of being environmentally friendly seem to be. I can think of two specific industries that were the most off putting to me, one being the fast food industry and the other being the oil industry.

The layman’s definition of conservatism is putting aside resources now so that we, as a society, may have them in future generations. The fast food industry thinks nothing of the future generation or putting anything aside. In advertising for the largest fast food dynasty in existence, McDonalds, you see words like “Artisanal” or “Hormone Free” all words that the average american consumer thinks of as healthy. In reality McDonalds is the largest purchaser of Beef and Potatoes in the United states and looks for the lowest possible margins to buy on and not look out for sustainable growing practices or purchase only grass-fed beef. The modern farming of beef has led to an increase in methane gas that is directly tearing away at the ozone causing climate change, which as we know is the source of many of the problems that we as dwellers of the earth are facing today. While McDonalds and other fast food providers are under scrutiny for their farming mandates and the overall nutrition of their food, another less talked about problem coming from their products is the paper and plastic waste that each consumer is given, often to be thrown away on the street causing problems for the local eco-system by littering.

As fossil fuels begin to dissipate from our planet, oil providers are looking for other methods to fuel the earth through the cheapest and easiest way possible. Through directional drilling, pipelines and other methods of extraction and transportation, Oil has become a huge burden on the earth. I remember after the massive BP Oil spill advertisements such as the famous sorry clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AwD_7yNzKo) as well as the South Park parody of the commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D01NHPnLrVs) which went to show that BP was less concerned with how their catastrophe affected the gulf shores and more concerned with losing customers and their bottom line.

At the end of the day, major corporations that claim to be environmentally conscious and act as if they actually care about how their production methods actually affect the biosphere are more worried about their bottom line and making money compared to actually making a difference and conserving our resources so that our future generations may be able to use these resources instead of being doomed to live in a dystopian Mad Max style dust bowl depleted of resources.

Sugar Crazed

Tobacco Science is the name given to any scientific research that was done by major tobacco companies to “prove” that smoking cigarettes and using tobacco products were not detrimental to your health. While millions of dollars were poured in to paying off scientific institutions to prove the tobacco companies were right while the U.S. government was wrong about the effects of tobacco, not much has changed in the public perception of tobacco since the surgeon general listed tobacco as an extremely high risk for cancer. Today, we understand that tobacco is not a component of a healthy lifestyle, yet we still fall for the new “tobacco science” of today. I believe that the “tobacco science” of my generation is sugar. Before you dismiss this article as a conspiracy theory that has no basis in actual science, just listen to some of these facts. Since the 1980’s to now, obesity rates have doubled to 600 million worldwide and those with diabetes has tripled to 347 million worldwide. The late 1970’s was a real boom in the use of sugar in processed foods and since then we can see an obvious increase in sugar related heath conditions. While a sedentary lifestyle that has increased due to new technologies, it is not hard to believe that the increase of sugar in foods has also led to the rise of these weight and diet related health conditions. In the past 30 years, the world daily consumption of sugar has increased by almost 50% which is very hazardous to the health conditions of future generations if that number keeps increasing.

The Legality Of Marijuana

Before the rest of this blog post I would like to preface that I do not smoke marijuana either recreationally or medicinally and will continue to follow the laws regarding all controlled substances in the United States.

Marijuana as we know it comes from the cannabis plant, what is commonly smoked and used for medical purposes around the world comes from the flowers of it. Some cannabis plants are used primarily for the cultivation of it’s flowers and the THC and CBD oils that can be derived from them, while other cannabis plants are used for a material called hemp. Hemp is a super durable and cost effective alternative to many different products such as paper, cotton and other popular goods. Unfortunately the legality of growing cannabis of any kind, for hemp or for flowers, is outlawed by the US government. While the government still stands by the reasoning that all forms of cannabis will lead to memory loss and crime (see 1936’s “Reefer Madness” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjHOBJzhb0), the true reasoning behind this policy is rooted in special interest groups and lobbying. In the 1930’s William Randolph Hearst, the owner of a large chain of newspapers and paper mills, felt threatened by the prospect of a new crop (that product being hemp) that could be used to make a better stronger version of the product that he had the market virtually cornered on. Now good ole’ Billy Hearst did not want for his massive investment in the timber and the timber industry to go to waste. So using his power of the press, he published articles about the dangerous side effects of consuming marijuana. Most of his claims had zero basis in science and some were outright racist and inappropriate. In doing this the public now looked at marijuana with a negative light. All the while William Randolph Hearst was turning the literate masses against marijuana,  Harry J. Aslinger was named the head of the new Federal Department of Narcotics. Instead of doing his job of keeping dangerous opiates and narcotics out of the streets, he focused on pushing his own racist agenda. According to him, the primary users of marijuana at the time were black people who went to jazz clubs and hispanics. In the act of criminalizing marijuana, people of these races and ethnicities, could put these people in prison based off of one man’s racist ideas!

Since the 1930’s Marijuana laws have been left virtually unchanged on a federal level. Regardless of what laws that each individual state passes, marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug. While states like Colorado, Washington and Alaska have legalized marijuana for recreational use and many more states adopting medicinal marijuana, the federal government can send in the FBI, DEA and the ATF to arrest any one who sells, grows, buys or uses marijuana regardless of their states laws can be put in federal prison. The support for the legalization of marijuana on a federal level has never been as popular as it is today. With newfound medicinal uses for the drug and the success that legalization is having in recreational states people want legalization and they want it now. But because of big tobacco, alcohol and prison guard lobbyists, it is more profitable for congressmen and women to keep the drug illegal so that they can line their pockets with dirty political money.