Minimalism Documentary

While watching the documentary called Minimalism, I think it is very important for people to realize how sustainability connects with the ways people over consume with materialistic things in our society. Having the mindset of someone that overconsumes, seems to be more of an increased trend here in America. While watching this video, I realized that sustainability can become a complicated to achieve when one does not know the idea of Minimalism. Not being able to know that, means one can never appreciate the minimum, there always has to be more. Therefore, having the most eventually becomes their minimum making that individual want more and more of what they already have. In the film, a great example were people who go out and buy these extravagant homes and barely use the spaces. Then they fill the spaces they do not use with items that are a waste of money. In other words, this is land that is being used for a big home that is actually not needed. These are resources that are already scarce being used more and more for these big homes. This means less land for sustainable agriculture. There were a few people in the film who had a great solution to this. That was to live in tiny houses. They require less resources, they are inexpensive, and they are created to help sustain the environment more.  Individuals need to begin to realize the more important things in society and that is not going out and buying lavish, materialistic items. Materialistic things are not going to help make the Earth more green or sustainable. But the problem is that there are not enough people caring about the environment like they should, but instead, putting their time and money into stuff that takes away from sustaining resources and also takes away a healthy lifestyle for those who are trying to be minimalists, so there can maybe one day be an efficient amount of resources that exist.

Ocean Acidification

I recently stumbled upon something that I had not heard of before called “Ocean Acidification”. It was something that I had no idea about but after reading a few articles on it I was hooked. One article I read that can be found here called it “climate change’s equally evil twin”. (Bennett) A basic summary of it is that it is a “significant and harmful consequence of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we normally don’t even see it coming because its effects are happening under water.” (Bennett) The ocean is absorbing an excess amount of CO2. Scientist thought that it may have been a good thing at first because it was leaving less CO2 in the air but have learned that it is costing the ocean dearly by changing its chemistry. A number that really stood out to me was that in the past 200 years, ocean water has become thirty percent more acidic… wow. A cool video that kind of explains a little bit more about ocean acidification and the impacts of it can be found here Ocean acidification impacts many things, some of which include coral reefs, oysters, mussels, urchins, starfish and basically anything found in the ocean. Acidic oceans affect the development of ocean creatures, especially ones with shells as the added acidification cause shell building problems. I’m definitely interested in learning more about what ocean acidification actually is as I have only scratched the basic surface. I’m also interested in learning how we could better cut carbon emissions in the future in order to help stop or at least slow down the process of ocean acidification. From what I have gathered, a few of the things that we as humans can do now is to just try and lower our daily carbon dioxide use. Recycle, turn off unused lights, walk/bike instead of driving and really just supporting clean energy as much as possible are all things we can work on now to slow this down. Ocean acidification isn’t something I had ever heard of but is something that I think is important to be educated about after reading up on it and is something I would love to research more.

Emissions Cheating

In 2014 researchers at West Virginia University discovered a software in Volkswagon automobiles that could distinguish between when the car was being tested from when it was not.  When in test mode, the automobiles preformed up to 40 times better on emissions tests than normal.  In 2015 the EPA did a study and announced that Volkswagon had cheated on emissions tests, the company immediately conceded that they had rigged 500,000 vehicles to bypass emission laws.  It came to light that the cheating software had been implemented worldwide in 11 million cars all over the world.  VW stock plummeted, CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned, and they were forced to recall defective vehicles.  Lawsuits piled up from people whose cars had lost value due to the software.  In October of 2015 Volkswagon offices in Germany, Italy, and France were raided by police in search of incriminating documents.  VW set up a fund to compensate people for lost car value, and agreed to fix or buy back 500,000 cars in the US.  In total, the scandal cost Volkswagon about $18 billion.  Although the company says that senior executives knew nothing about the software, several more resignations occurred.  The emissions scandal was a direct violation of the Clean Air Act.  The Clean Air Act signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1963 is meant to reduce emissions on a national level.  One executive was recently arrested for conspiring to defraud customers, impede regulators, and violating the Clean Air Act.

My Urban Garden Experience

Lately, I’ve been contemplating ways that I can contribute to making Charleston a ‘greener’ city. My passion for sustainability as well as plant life- and frankly, food- has lead me to many of the various community gardens all over Charleston. MUSC’s Urban Garden is by far the most impressive and extensive, and it’s so easy to help out! I got certified to become a volunteer there so I may garden as I please. I believe that the garden is a great way to create a natural habitat for all sorts of critters while providing fresh, seasonal food for the community!


The typical volunteer activities include planting seeds, such as carrots and greens at this time of year, weeding, tilling the soil, and harvesting! The best part is, all participating volunteers get to take home whatever they want. It’s a great way to build community ties and introduce the joy of gardening to all who are willing to participate.
Like many college students, I do not have a backyard or any other way to grow food for myself, so I am very grateful that the urban garden provides an outlet for anyone who loves to see things grow. I believe that the urban garden is a wonderful example of what can be done with an empty lot. Can you imagine if there were gardens like this scattered throughout all major cities? Fresh, local fruits and vegetables would be abundant, and free to all who are willing to lend a hand to make it happen! I encourage all of you to give it a try if you haven’t already, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Deforestation in Guatemala

Recently, deforestation has caused a lot of destruction to the natural environment of Guatemala. Logging, forest fires, and agriculture are the main causes of the deforestation, and the issue is difficult because it’s hard to pinpoint any one effective solution. Illegal logging is a major problem, because many of the rural indigenous people live off the land and cut down trees for firewood. People also cut down trees to sell for the quality of the wood, and this occurs on protected land and national parks as well as non protected lands. There have been programs implemented in attempt to reduce this problem, such as educating indigenous people on how to harvest wood sustainably, however the problem remains.

Forest fires are another major cause of deforestation. Drug cartels have been burning large areas of land for landing strips and trails near the borders of Mexico and Belize in order to traffic the products. I was recently in communication with a woman who lives in Guatemala, and she said that gangs often start fires and raid houses for valuables when the surrounding area is evacuated.  Not only is this a wicked crime to commit, but it is also detrimental to the natural environment of the area, which leads to much bigger problems.

Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation in Guatemala, as many of the indigenous and rural people are farmers. All forms of deforestation cause a decrease in soil stability in mountainous regions, but agriculture has the greatest impact because it is so widespread and not illegal. Many people farm on steep slopes in the mountain, and the lack of trees to hold the soil together makes the area much more prone to landslides. Guatemala has suffered from multiple tragedies in the past due to the deadly combination of hurricanes and weak, unstable slopes.

While there are many initiatives being taken to mollify the impact of deforestation in Guatemala, the government has neither the will nor the money to put effective strategies into practice to reverse the impact of deforestation. However, awareness is the first step towards taking action to resolve a problem, and educating people on the impacts of their way of life and how it can be made more sustainable is becoming more widespread. Much of the natural environment remains pristine in Guatemala, so there is definitely hope for the future!

Environmentalism Below The Surface

For a while now I have considered myself environmentally conscious, I took an environmental studies class in high school and the subject immediately caught my attention. Since then I have always tried to keep myself educated on environmental issues, and I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I would read news articles, research environmental issues, and watch documentaries on environmental problems. But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the movie Racing Extinction that I had fully understood a large area of the problem. Racing Extinction discusses and investigates illegal and detrimental activity in oceans. Whether this be unsustainable mass fishing, or poaching endangered animals.

This movie not only discusses the problems with these environmentally, but why it is that very few people know this problem. When it comes to environmental problems people tend to care about problems they can see,  such as deforestation and habitat destruction. But very few people are able to get an up close look at what is happening to our oceans, and due to this lack of education they don’t understand the consequences of these issues.

I can say that I was one of these uneducated people. I considered myself well versed in environmental issues and yet I didn’t know the environmental problems in the ocean, which make up 71% of our earth’s surface. I was a proud “vegetarian” because I understood and had researched the issues with the agricultural industry and what it is doing to the environment, but I continued to eat fish without being educated on how that choice may impact our planet. All and all this movie opened my eyes to a whole new side of the environmental movement, and educated me on very important issues that need to be brought to light.