A Concise Rant on How to Move Forward

Environmental issues are multidisciplinary.  You can’t talk about expansion of industry without talking about rights of workers, where you get materials, how those materials will be sustained, and even women’s rights (if you include the pay difference and maternity leave).  The thing is, climate change is the same way.  Everyone will be affected by it, but not everyone sees it in the same way.  A person whose family has relied on the coal industry for livelihood will look at things differently than the indigenous people fighting for their land will look at it.  Our differences in environmental ideology help frame our perspectives, what we care about, and how we move forward in our lives in the context of what is happening around us.

A big issue that I have encountered myself is getting people to care and realize that it is happening, it is faster than we think, and it will cause major repercussions.  For another class, I had to teach someone a topic that I had learned about this semester in class.  I was fairly comfortable with the person I picked, but, nonetheless, I was nervous and unsure of my facts and how to explain things in a way that would make sense.  I have always believed that education is a crucial step missing from other’s understanding of climate change.  If people knew the science, understood what all will change and who all will be affected their mentality will change (at least that is what I had hoped).  Despite knowing this, I found it difficult to explain what I had written and my beliefs of this into convincing words.  Teaching this person I cared about that what I was saying mattered proved to be more difficult, and slightly discouraged me.  How can I explain to strangers that this issue is a problem if it was challenging to talk with someone that I am comfortable with?  Is the reason that it was so hard because I was so used to talking with them, and changing my mentality to teaching them created a barrier?  For whatever reason, it does not change the fact that there will always be issues talking about things that are politically charged.  We can choose what we want to see on social media by unfollowing those who don’t agree with our views, and we can agree to not talk about politics at family events.  But where is this getting us in the grand scheme of things?  Growth is built on differing opinions and compromise, and if we choose to shut off others because we feel they are wrong, then I don’t think this climate change issue will get anywhere.  To be plastic mentally is to be willing to see that things aren’t going to happen over night, but that we can continue to make changes in our lives that can encourage changes in policy.  I think this class has taught me a lot, but one of the biggest things was to be aware of what is out there and to come at things critically but openly.

Annelise Wilimitis

Blog #10

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Greenwashing Through Politics

Candidates Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Hold Second Presidential Debate At Washington University

Yes, technically this is not greenwashing because a product is not being sold, or a company is not behind the messages.  However, I firmly believe that we are being more influenced by celebrities and politicians than we were in the past.  Just look at this year’s election.  The people voted based on whose thoughts aligned with theirs, who said that their lives would change for the better if they were voted for.  It is obvious that the majority of the people who voted were doing so because it is “their party,” or they were voting on specific issues that Clinton had opposing views on.  But, despite Trump’s flip flopping on the issues, he still has great power of influence for the people.  He has said businesses will improve, he has said he will be more restrictive on immigration, and biggest of all he said climate change is a hoax.  Now, who is going to believe that climate change is real and happening when a powerful, popular man that will soon run our country said it is not?  Yes, Obama has done much with Obama Climate Plan in setting up what we needs to be done, but Trump will not follow through with this, and may even try to reverse it.  We already know that he appointed Myron Ebell, someone who does not believe in climate change, for the transitioning of the EPA!

Okay, maybe I got off on a tangent, but the main point is summarized well by a classmate from my other environmental class, “It used to be that politician’s thoughts and actions were controlled by the people, but now the people’s thoughts and actions are controlled by politicians,” (I forget his name or else I would’ve cited him).  How did this transition happen?  Maybe that is not really the issue we should be focusing on, but instead looking toward the future.  Yes, not everyone wants to or can be an activist, but even if all of the laws go through that Trump is hoping for, we can continue to live as sustainably as we can and encourage others to do the same.  We have grieved as a community of people who care about the environment, but now is the time for action.  It is clear how many people out there are in disbelief on climate change, because of the way the voting went.  Now is the time to show them that they were wrong.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/leading-climate-change-denier-among-those-on-trumps-environmental-team/

Annelise Wilimitis

Blog #9

Greenwashed Products

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I am guilty of playing into greenwashed products.  I had heard of the term greenwashing, but before this class I was not sure exactly how it was advertised to people.  I would say that I like to do my research on the products I use, but honestly most of the product choices that I make are because my parents use them and I’ve grown up using them or eating them in my household.  Since I have become more invested in environmental issues and now that I live on my own, I have been trying to buy ‘organic’ and I’ve been trusting the labels just because they seem to be “better”.  I am probably guilty of the feel-good-feelings I get from buying these products, as many other people do as well.  Take organic, for example.  Some people see the stigma with it, and just see it as extra money for the same types of goods.  Vegetables, for example, are highly advertised as organic.  I personally have tried to find the better products in the grocery that I feel come from more honest companies, or the food was made in a way where everyone (and everything) was treated fairly.  But, according to an article titled “The Top 25 Greenwashed Products in America,” these products range from air travel to toys and beauty products.  It is not just food, which is what some people automatically think of.

The first product that I would like to look at is household cleaner.  In the past, I have always used the same brands my parents use, but I got a coupon for this brand and, hey, it is called Simple Truth Organic so it must be better right?  The label is green and says things like “Non-toxic,” “USDA Organic,” and “Non GMO.”  Why would household cleaners be genetically modified in the first place?  Maybe this is just the company’s way of getting people to buy this product, since it is right next to the label for organic.  The label also claims “No animal testing or ingredients” and “Simply free from parabens, sulfates, triclosan, phosphates, and ammonia.”  Though this product seems to be reliable and truthful with its ingredients and labels, there was a lawsuit with the same company’s meat.  The lawsuit talked about how the poultry was raised in close confines, despite talking about a ‘cage free and humane environment.’  Though this source might not be as reliable, I was curious about the meat that I buy.  Miller Amish Country Poultry is a company that uses phrases like “All Natural,” “Home Grown,” and “Hand Trimmed.”  On their website, they claim they are now GMO free, organic, and antibiotic free.  Again, this company seems reliable, but it is difficult to find anything that really talks about the processes of production.  In that article from the first paragraph, meat is one product that is said to be highly greenwashed because of factory farms and saltwater plumping, as well as feeding the animals GMO corn.  Another product that I use, Horizon dairy, was downgraded from organic to “natural”.  This term is highly unregulated, because there is no common definition for what this should include.  Though the cows themselves, just like the meat, might not be directly injected and be GMO, what they eat can be.  I was not as savvy a shopper as I thought I was, and being able to navigate through the grocery with all false labels just means that doing your research can be more beneficial than anything else.  How to avoid it when it is everywhere, especially when text on processing is difficult to find?  Maybe, again, shopping local will provide you with the opportunity to talk to those who grow, make, care for the products that you buy.

Annelise Wilimitis

Blog 8

http://althealthworks.com/2127/buyer-beware-simple-truth-similar-products-often-include-hidden-gmos/

http://millerpoultry.com/antibiotic-free/

http://www.businesspundit.com/the-top-25-greenwashed-products-in-america/

Refugees, Drought, and DAPL Put Aside for Presidential Elections

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One of the biggest hot topics of the day is obviously the Presidential Election.  With it being so present in our minds (and maybe fears), it is easy to get caught up in the nonsense media about it.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that this media is overshadowing the other current disasters happening all over the world.  Though some of the issues are brought up in the debates (the Syrian refugees for example) the background issues and war are not the topic, it is whether or not we should accept immigrants into the country.  It is not talked about that 1.5 million Syrian farmers are being displaced because of drought and water shortage and are forced to flee because they cannot sustain themselves (Wendle).  Instead we are talking about how ridiculous the candidate’s debate tactics are.

It is true that there is not always accurate information about other stories from around the world.  This could be because of government restrictions or biased stories, but what about issues happening in our own country?  The Dakota Access Pipeline is not being talked about as much as it should.  Like we talked about in class, this pipeline was rerouted to not go through a 90% white populated town of Bismarck, but instead goes through sacred ground on a reservation.  How can we condone this kind of behavior or ignoring the pleas and protests of the Native Americans?  We were once the immigrants coming in and now we won’t let other immigrants come in, and we don’t value the rallying against the pipeline.

These two instances of issues that are being largely ignored just show how strongly the media follow the topics that will sell.  The more controversy, the better.  People are strongly triggered by the comments Trump says about women or immigration, and those are the stories that are told between classmates and between people at work.  Topics like that are repeated.  Topics that are less “interesting” or are more depressing aren’t going to be talked about as much.  After a while, talking about the stories about disasters can tend to get “old”.  The public is guilty of wanting the information that is more focused on celebrities and election mumbo jumbo, and while their wants are being attended to there are so many things that are forgotten about.  Hardly anyone knows about the China’s drought and expanding issue of deserts and resettlement (Wong), no one is keeping up on how Haiti is doing after the hurricane, and we still don’t have a solution for the lead tainted water in Michigan.  The ongoing scientific stories get boring or keep changing and that doesn’t make for good news.  Why do you think the only pictures or things that people remember from the Syrian crisis is of a child with a shocked face sitting waiting for medical care?

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ominous-story-of-syria-climate-refugees/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/25/world/asia/china-climate-change-resettlement.html

Annelise Wilimitis (Blog 7)

Boycott Black Thursday

boycottblackthursday

Consumption has enveloped so much of our mentality, that we no longer cherish time with family over going out to get Black Friday deals and purchasing stuff that we don’t need.  How did this tradition even start? In the 1960’s this was started to kick off shopping for the Christmas season.  “Black” is used, because when businesses used to keep accounting records by hand, black was a profit while red was a loss.  Though this term was officially coined in the 1960’s, since 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.  Retailers found out by discounting prices, they could get customers to come out and spend money early on Friday morning (and now on Thursday night).  Every year, it seems that the time that stores open are getting earlier and earlier.  It was appalling the year that stores opened at midnight, then actually on Thanksgiving, then even around the time that dinner is usually served!  There has been so much negativity with this “holiday” that many stores are boycotting Black Thursday, like REI, Costco, and Nordstrom.  There is even a Facebook page that is labeled “Boycott Black Thursday #keepfamilyfirst.”

Not to say that I’m innocent, in the past I have also tried to take advantage of Black Friday deals.  But recently, this activity has lost its luster.  My mom pointed out to me last year that these “deals” they supposedly have are only on a few key things per store, and everything else is discounted like it normally would be. Granted, this is not the case everywhere.  What I am concerned about is how much this actually improved the economy.  Yes, holiday shopping overall is the most productive time of the year, but does one day really help that much?  And stores don’t necessarily need this spike in revenue.  Also, how can people be so brainwashed by $30 less on a TV, toaster, or other “big” appliance, that they don’t want to spend time with their families?  There have been injuries and fights and riots over instances that go wrong, so why aren’t we stopping this?  Why isn’t the police stopping it, or even the government?  Because, for one, the government is funded and largely controlled by big corporations.  These corporations, like Walmart and Target, are so big that they can get away with stuff like this.  Also, this is what the people want because we are told that we NEED this stuff.  We need to keep buying to be on top of trends, to be important, to keep with the times.  Another issue is that some retail workers are asked to work on this day, and give up their Thanksgiving as well!  There will probably never be a time when all businesses will #keepfamilyfirst, but maybe we need to look internally when we make our own decision about it this year.  We can change the fad if we, as a people, want it.  If you do feel the urge to give in to consumption, maybe look at local stores and businesses first (and go ON Friday)!

https://blackfriday.com/pages/black-friday-history

https://www.facebook.com/boycottblackthursday/?fref=ts

Annelise Wilimitis (Blog 6)

Is Becoming Ecocentric Possible?

earth-day-vs-every-day

It seems that today many environmentalists think it is best to become as ecocentric as possible.  As we learned in class, Native Americans and Eastern Traditions are the closest examples we have of it.  They are very concerned with essential sameness which means that everything has a reciprocal and equal relationship.  Both humans and nature are inextricably intertwined.  Though some of their practices may be unsustainable today with large population sizes, it is still important to learn from them.

One concern people not as aware of the environment might have is that changing our ideologies from anthropocentric to ecocentric is not possible to be able to keep advancing with technology, medicine, and civilization in general.  If we succumb to living with the land and being more conscious, we may have to largely revert our ways.  We would have to largely redo the economic and political system, and this would take decades.  Ideologies are deep-seated, and to be able to change them much work need to be done.  It is possible that the public will never think differently.  The question is, is this even possible?  It would be great to say that everyone wants to live sustainably, but with the American-way we are so obsessed with materialistic culture and being better.  We are an individualistic culture, where Native American and Eastern cultures are largely collectivist.  We are so fast-paced and preoccupied with “success,” making this ecocentric type of lifestyle would be quite challenging.  How could we even approach this change?  I have already seen some small changes toward being more sustainable just on campus, like more recycling opportunities as well as groups rallying against investment in fossil fuel companies.  The thing is, these things are miniscule compared to what would need to be done nationwide, and a college campus is quite contained and easily influenced (compared to the federal government at least).  Would incentives, subsidies, or just straight up changing of laws be best?  We have to look at people’s motivations, whether by reward or punishment, and make sure these actions put forward can reach and affect everyone in a positive way for the environment.

Annelise Wilimitis (Blog 5)

Miscommunication Within Science and Advocacy

cartoon-global_warming_politicsShould scientists be tooting their own horns?  In the past, scientists were much more involved in the public side of their research.  As we learned in class, those scientists involved in the hot science topics of the day would be responsible for explaining their progress.  They would be responsible for explaining their new findings to the public, or at least having someone compile work for them to explain to media, boards in charge of funding, or just on television or in newspapers.  Today, with the innovations of new technology this role of scientists has basically become obsolete, as well as the ideas about science all together.  The internet in now a much more accessible area for news and the changing ideas about scientists, and the public finds these sources increasingly reliable, despite their decreasing factuality.

Without the need to be their own spokespersons, it is now the job of another outside party, advocates, to go around goading people to understand the importance of innovations.  With this “middle” from the research to the public eye there is some area for confusion.  A sort of scientific telephone, you could say.  With implementing others to be activists for the work you do, you are allowing the possibility for different interpretations of your work.  The advocates might take your research and come to a different end or find a different side to your argument made with conclusions of your studies.  This could compromise the way the public sees you, and science in general.  The other side of it is that now scientists are less equipped to “deal with” the media and the public.  How is it possible to play the game of getting your point across while making it seem important and relevant?  Advocates are seemingly much more qualified for this position.  Would it really be better for scientists to stay in the lab, and trust those more knowledgeable about the media and public relations to convey your point?  Or is it better to bridge the gap between advocacy and science, and have both of these groups working together, or cut out advocates all together and have scientists know how to communicate as well as they know how to perform experiments and field work?  This is a growing issue in science today, and the answers to these questions could give insight to the future of those in majors related to science, with increasing reliance on the humanity side of study.  For now, we are stuck where there is so much false information out there, and so many people assuming everything they read is true.

Annelise Wilimitis (Blog #4)