So this is the end I guess

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Reflecting on the past is probably the easiest yet hardest thing to do. Especially when it comes to this class. There were some thing I never knew while some things I knew but never really thought about it. I want to say this class was not some much learning new material but more or less thinking about the world we live in and looking closer at the things that occur in our everyday lives that we don’t think too much about.

One good example from the health module was how much our family influences our beliefs on health. I never really thought about it before, but I do see how it has influenced me. Also I did not realize that only the US and New Zealand had Direct-to-Consumer advertising for medication as I originally thought that was a global thing. Since I was exposed to so much environmental information due to my major, the health module was very interesting just to discuss and think about.

That isn’t to pull away for the environmental module at all. I did know the majority of the information coming in, but the way it was approached and thought about was interesting as it dug deeper into even the most simple message of a company. It perhaps showed me a side of the issue I had not seen too much before.

This was one of the most thought-provoking classes I have taken. I originally just took it for a 2000 level requirement, but I am glad that I took it because of what I learned and now think more critically about.

  • Josh Obermeyer

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Making clean water from…a rather unconventional source

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So one issue that a lot of people will be facing, if it isn’t already an issue, is the availability of clean water. Numerous places will experience drought while some will see catastrophic floods. Other places, such as Kiribati, are already seeing some of their only sources of clean water being intruded upon by salt water from the ocean.

But why don’t we just take the salt out of the ocean water?

Desalinization is really energy demanding. Typically it takes between 7-18 kwh per cubic meter of sea water to make desalinated water. So you want to desalinate 100 cubic meters of water? 700-1,800 kWh of energy (700,000-1,800,000 watts/hour). The maximum wattage of my refrigerator is 400 watts/hour. That could run my fridge for 1,750 hours or almost 73 days at lowest necessary energy of 700 kWh.

Let’s use Ethiopia’s freshwater withdraw as an example: it was 10.6 billion cubic meters in 2014. 74,200,000,000,000 watts (185,500,000,000 hours or 7,729,166,667 days for my fridge) at least. Now obviously it wouldn’t rely only on desalinization, so if it is only 10% of the total water withdrawals it would require 1,060,000,000 watts (110,417 days of fridge operation).

So maybe that example was a bit absurd, but the point is that desalinization requires a lot of energy to make drinkable water. Transporting water from elsewhere isn’t exactly a green solution or cost effective…or a permanent solution. We can’t keep pumping water out of the ground because it will run out eventually.

We could either think of another solution or we could just wait for the end. While thinking of solutions like fusion energy to produce tons of energy or making desalinization more efficient, some guy decided to throw poop into a machine and make clean water out of that.

Bill Gates helped to fund the project by Janicki Bioenergy. Not only does the machine (called the Omniprocessor) they made produce clean water from poop, but it also produces more energy than it uses so it can produce power. So this magical machine makes poop into clean water and energy and solves sanitation issues. Hopefully it makes it into real world use and doesn’t just stay as an odd machine that worked but was never used again.

It is slated for a test run in Senegal, so hopefully it works as well as the one in the video (first link).

  • Josh Obermeyer

Links:

Bill Gate’s Experience with the Omniprocessor

Desalination FAQ from a Company that Produces the Technology

World Bank Data for Ethiopia’s Water Withdrawal

Green Works cleaning products…are they actually green?

So here we have a line of products called Green Works. Go to the website and the homepage has a sunflower flexing and other forms of colorful and eco-centric images. All the products are bright and cheery colors with a flower on each one. Look at a few of the products like compostable cleaning wipes or chlorine-free bleach. Without looking deeper you can already see that the environment is to be your main focus.

Green Works products are another line of products from the Clorox company. They are essentially the same products that Clorox already makes, but more “natural”. Some are even less harsh than their current ones because some consumers didn’t like the smell that was created after using the product (which is more subjective than objective in a sense).

So first let’s look at the environmental track record of the Clorox Company. The company itself recognizes that it does have issues with past performance in regards to the environment. They started in 2008 to look at way to reduce their impact with one such effort being Green Works. Other efforts include using recycled materials for packaging.

Green Works itself is considered green. It is backed by the EPA getting the award/recognition as being a Design for the Environment and supported by green groups such as the Sierra Club. 99% of the products are natural or a derivative that is not harmful to nature (the 1% is a preservative and green dye that they are working on fixing). The only issue that came from Green Works was a claim that the product was not as effective as their normal counterparts. This was proven for some and the formulas were re-worked.

So instead of another bashing, I present a product that seems like it is lying by presenting a product with colorful, natural images but has the natural ingredients to back it up. This is maybe an uncommon example where the product that appears to be green actually is.

  • Josh Obermeyer

Links:

EPA Design for the Environment (PDF)

Green Works website

Clorox Company Website

Another View on Green Works

Fiji water is an eco-friendly gift from nature

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The title is heavy sarcasm in case you couldn’t pick up on it.

Fiji water is actually bottled in Fiji. This surprises people. The water comes from Fiji and is shipped around the world. Some people thought it came from Cleveland. Water testers from Cleveland tested their water compared to Fiji water that came in the bottle.

Cleveland had better water quality in their public tap water than the water in the Fiji bottle. But the water is pure, straight from nature in Fiji! Well yeah it might be, but the tap water in the US is more heavily regulated than bottled water.

I can’t even be sarcastic anymore. Watching Fiji’s commercials after thinking more critically about them have me laughing. Let’s take for example the one titled Nature’s Gift. To take a direct quote from the ad itself:

“Fiji water is a gift from nature to us, to repay our gift of leaving it completely alone”

Now this could be a double meaning. After this it talks about how they didn’t touch the water itself so it is “directly from nature” implying that it is better for you since it is natural. This would make sense if it was only the audio of the ad being played. Adding the images afterward blurs this meaning slightly. A Fiji bottle contains the standard, glorified images of a tropical paradise while outside the bottle is the usual concrete jungle. Pairing the images with the audio gives an image that Fiji water is green and pure compared to everything else in the environment that is man-made and unnatural. It even has a moment where a helicopter crosses into the Fiji bottle and becomes a butterfly. Another ad with a similar structure titled Deep Below does a similar thing where a plastic bag becomes a butterfly.

I was inspired to go back and watch some ads after seeing the ones in class. I remembered how bottled water is always sold as this natural, pure, whimsical experience. Some will look at this ad and it might get a chuckle, others won’t care. All that matters is the bottom line. So what you have to ship water in from Fiji? People will buy it just for reasons of status or because it “tastes better than the other stuff”. In all honesty I couldn’t care less where my water came from so long as it is purified and safe to drink.

  • Josh Obermeyer

Links:

Other Interesting Things About Fiji Water

Nature’s Gift Fiji Ad

Deep Below Fiji Ad

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Existence Within the Buyosphere

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The buyosphere. Google it right now. First you’ll see a fashion website/store that closed. How about “define buyosphere”? You get a wonderful result from Urban Dictionary: “The complete collection of places online where you can buy stuff” (Credit to user Jiffer). Scroll further down from the Urban Dictionary result and you’ll get a master’s thesis. Reading it will give you basically what we talked about in class with more detail.

When it comes down to it, all three of these are basically one in the same.

We have evolved, if you would call it evolution, to the point where we are consumed by what we buy to consume. I am currently running an ad-blocker, but for the majority of the internet users they will see pop up ads on nearly every site they visit now. Then we have delivery services that can bring it to our door that same day or the next day. I got something from Japan in three days and they apologized for it being late. We have the power to buy almost anything on the internet.

So did the buyosphere just envelope us recently? No. It has been around since the dawn of advertising; it has increased in size with each advancement of advertisements. Radio and newspaper ads were common before TV stepped in. Once TVs became an integral part of the home, ads saw the opportunity for profit. This is the main goal of an ad: Even if you don’t like or want the product/service, you at least associate their name with the product/service.

Then the internet came along and the buyosphere grew even larger.

No longer were you limited to local or regional ads. Now you could get an ad from another country. Italian River Cruises! Buy German Beer! Ads were not limited to just your local area, but they could now reach a global audience faster and more effectively. Add the recent targeted ads and you get ads that are put specifically before you so that you see them and want to buy into them.

Then certain websites come along that allow you to ship to your house next day. Others where you can look at unusual and interesting things that make you want to buy it. The world of options expand and with it so does the wallet. You have to work to buy the weird fluffy thing you saw on your Facebook feed for your dog to bite through in a matter of seconds. A fluffy dog toy costing $25 would require a minimum wage worker to work at least four hours to cover (assuming an $8 min wage and no taxes).

We have gotten to the point where we work four hours for a fluffy dog toy.

Then we feel guilty about the splurge, but you see your dog happily annihilate the toy. Then you see some giant hamster bubble thing that you want. $689. That would require at least 87 hours of work to pay for it. But you really need the bubble. You need to feel the rush as you topple over yourself rolling down the hill.

Now we work 87 hours for a human hamster ball.

The cycle would repeat again. You want something. You work for it. You buy it. Now you need more money for more stuff. The endless cycle of needing, working, and buying. Only way to escape the cycle is to either drop of the grid and live off the land. Or you can always die. That’s a little bit too drastic though. So how do we escape the cycle? The best way to put it is to quote Hotel California by The Eagles:

“Relax said the nightman

We are programmed to receive

You can check out any time you like

But you can never leave!”

 

  • Josh Obermeyer

Sources:

Master’s Thesis

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I will now proceed to become enraged over the Wise Use movement

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In class we talked about various environmental ideologies that were both ecocentric and antropocentric. One of the names that struck me the most was the Wise Use movement. I mean it just sounds so pro-environment until you realize that that is just an ironic way of saying wise; as a matter of fact they are very anti-environment.

First some history. The group at the center of Wise Use is the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE). CDFE was founded by Alan Gottlieb on July 4th, 1976 and was originally a group that was established to combat possible gun control measures but later shifted to the environmental movement. Wise Use was created by Ron Arnold who is the Vice President for CDFE in the late 1980’s. The Wise Use movement as a whole is not as organized and is mostly a mix of different groups with similar agendas within Wise Use.

Ron Arnold created a 25 point agenda for Wise Use in how to combat environmentalists. You can take a look at all 25 points, but here are a few that really stuck out to me. I’ll take a closer look at them after the list:

  • Develop the petroleum resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
  • Change the Endangered Species Act to pick and choose which species are protected and the cost of protecting them
  • Fight all naturally caused wildfires

Petroleum in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States. This would open up the entire area to drilling which would directly threaten the species that live there as well as Native Americans in the area. There have been pushes to open certain sections up to drilling, but most agree to keep some of it as protected wilderness. Except Ron Arnold and Wise Use. An actual quote from Ron Arnold in a January 1992 article in the Boston Globe:

“We are sick to death of environmentalism and so we will destroy it. We will not allow our right to own property and use nature’s resources for the benefit of mankind to be stripped from us by a bunch of eco-facists.”

Protection of wilderness is critical for species that are only found in that area. Considering that there isn’t that much wilderness left, the more that can be preserved is even more crucial. Or you could just tear everything up and drill for the oil so you can line your pockets.

Change the Endangered Species Act

This change would allow a further classification of the species. For example, a species that was in decline before humans could have caused it would not be protected and allowed to die out. If their decline was due to humans,  then the economic costs would be weighed out to see if there would be any benefit or use in helping them survive.

So allowing species to die out just because it would cost money to protect them and they aren’t worth the cost…once again a problem the encompasses the world boiled down to money. Maybe we can’t save all of them, but we need to do something since we are directly or indirectly the cause of most of these extinctions. Or you can just keep watching your bank account rise as the natural world falls.

Fight all the wildfires

Now this one on a superficial level might seem somewhat rational. I mean think of all the habitat that is destroyed by wildfires. People and animals alike are driven from their homes as the wall of fire moves in. Don’t we already do this though?

Well it is true that we do fight wildfires whether natural or unnatural. The ecosystems that the wildfires occur in are actually accustomed to burning. What happens is that these ecosystems gain a layer of organic leaves and other materials that accumulate on the ground. This, in combination with dead brush and other small plants as well as high winds and low precipitation, make for a high fire hazard. Fires occur naturally in this area, but the severity of these fires have gone up considerably. This is a combination of global warming and not allowing the fires to burn.

Let me preface this by saying I am not a pyromaniac and in no way do I believe that we should deliberately burn these areas. The problem is that the ecosystem would burn off the ground clutter and the surviving vegetation would become more resistant to future fires which is not happening with human intervention. These areas are allowed to build the ground clutter more and more so when a fire does come through it is massive.

Now I am not saying that we should let it all burn, but artificial intervention in all wildfires is not the best route. I believe that we should control it if it is near a human population, but if it is in the middle of the wooded area then it should be monitored for spread and allowed to continue under close watch so that catastrophic wildfire chances in the future are reduced.

The overall problem that I find with Wise Use is that it is at its center mostly anti-science as their interests are in private control and monetary gain and try to combat experts in the field with money funneling in from interest groups like fossil fuel companies. It seeks to directly counter environmental regulations for profit at the expense of nature.

Josh Obermeyer

Sources/Links:

Overview of Wise Use

Small profile on Ron Arnold

More in-depth look at Wise Use

25 Wise Use goals/agenda

Another look at their goals and agenda

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How Star Trek May Have Influenced Science Today

We all see the Enterprise shooting off at warp speed, the crew beaming down to a planet, and even hear them talk about stuff such as dilithium matrices or baryon accumulation on the hull of the ship. Most of this sounds like bloated scientific words (and most are), but some of these ideas did spark further research into other areas. In fact, some of the technologies that were in the original show as well as The Next Generation have already shown up today or is in testing/theoretically viable.

Antimatter

Antimatter itself is not a new concept. The interesting thing that Star Trek did was use it as a source of fuel. Every particle is physics has an antiparticle. For instance, anti-hydrogen has a positron (think electron but positively charged) circling around an anti-nucleus (negatively charged). When a particle and antiparticle touch, they become pure energy through a process known as annihilation. This was discovered or in current research while the show was airing, so the show did not influence the research. What was interesting was seeing if it could make a viable fuel.

The amount of energy released is staggering. The reaction of one kilogram of antimatter with one kilogram of matter would result in roughly 180 petajoules of energy (compared to .63 petajoules predicted from nuclear fusion).

Even NASA has stated that the basic physical principle used in the show to generate the energy made sense. The only caveat: we currently cannot produce enough stable antimatter to be used as fuel. We have created antimatter in the lab though. We have even created anti-hydrogen which is the antimatter fuel source in the show. This could be viable with time.

Handheld computers/devices

As I type this right now, my iPhone sits besides me. I can go on there and call my mom upstairs, have a video chat with a friend in England, manage my schedule, even cram for an exam with the slides I have saved to it. Back in the 70’s, this was way beyond the technological possibilities at the time. We barely could reach a couple hundred megabytes in terms of hard drive space where now I have over a terabyte in my computer. Even my phone now has more computing power that the rocket that put the men on the moon.

So when the crew would carry around a device that could access the main computer on the ship, it seemed like some weird form of magic. Not only could it access data, it could tell possible hazards nearby, energy readings, even do a scan for life in the area. The iPad of today even looks similar to the PADD used in The Next Generation (see picture below).

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Shields/tractor beams

A recent grant in 2011 was given to a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to research the possibility of tractor beams. There is a current technology known as optical tweezers that has a similar effect in that they trap a particle in an optical trap so that it can be moved. This has not be replicated on a large scale for moving objects larger than particles though.

Shields are possible in theory considering a strong enough magnetic field could deflect energy similar to how the magnetosphere operates. Generating such a strong field is the obstacle though since a current magnetic field could not even start to deflect an energy weapon like a laser, although it is possible to deflect particles in space that could be damaging.

-Josh Obermeyer

Links/Sources:

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NASA’s grant on tractor beam research

NASA discussing some of Star Trek’s technologies

List of real-life examples of Star Trek technology

A Wikipedia entry on antimatter in case I made no sense, or if you want to read more about it