When I was around 7 years old, my sister and her son moved in with us. One thing that my sister did on a regular basis was to give things to “charity”. This meant going through toys, clothes and whatever else and giving away the old things we didn’t need or simply didn’t use. The first time she approached my room with a giant black trash bag, I definitely freaked out internally. Less stuff?? What if she gave away my favorite shirt with that beautiful horse or my favorite stuffed dog from Build-a-bear! She, in fact, did not get rid of those things but she did give away the things at the way back of my closet that I never used. Over the years, we made this a yearly routine, going through our closets and giving bags away or simply passing them to our younger friends. Though it was annoying sometimes, and sometimes I didn’t want to give up something, even though I hadn’t used it in years, I am incredibly grateful for my sister’s ways. Now, I continue this tradition and it greatly helps, especially with living in a very small apartment downtown. I have grown less attached to my stuff and it greatly cuts down on clutter, which is definitely a stress reliever. I think that it has also cut down on the amount of clothes and other things that I buy. If I know I am only going to wear it once, I’m not going to buy it. To me, the movie Minimalism was simply on cutting down on the amount that we buy. I absolutely love this idea, and though I am not perfect at it, I try to buy less and have less clutter. It’s not only helpful to our environment, but also to the level of stress I have (plus, it’s a lot better for moving).
Recently I have watched a two part documentary about fracking called Gasland.
This documentary focused on one man who lived on land that companies wanted to frack on. They offered him money and hounded him about allowing them to frack on his land. When this was going on, he set out across the country (mostly in the west) to see what he could dig up about fracking.
The things that he found out were extremely alarming. Understanding how fracking can be seen as beneficial (technically easier to extract natural resources while providing usually technically economic benefits for small towns) still does not justify its negative impacts. This documentary showed many environmental and social impacts that fracking has on the communities that it borders on. Environmentally, fracking is alarming. It involves forcing water, sand, and a multitude of chemicals under the ground to force natural gas and oil to the surface. These chemicals are often unregulated, and find their way into the environment. Runoff of these chemicals are shown to be stored in shallow man-made ponds that are lined by nothing stronger than a tarp to keep the chemicals from leaking back into the ground. Fracking can also cause seismic activity. (This is currently important because there have been large earthquakes in the midwest lately, but a large one was during the election on the same day that Trump said yet another ridiculous thing – so it took the media’s attention away from the earthquakes- subsequently causing a lack of coverage so it was not as big of a story as it should have been)
Socially, fracking is shown to cause a lot of problems. These documentaries showed how people in the midwest had their tap water polluted by fracking companies, and how it was both undrinkable as well as flammable. It showed how people were able to turn there water on and then light it on fire. It caused illnesses and conditions in people who drank it and were unaware that it was contaminated. Fracking also caused fumes that made people sick. Another thing it did was (because a lot of people in the midwest raise cattle) was kill or cause illness in those cattle. These factors drove people from their land, even if the fracking was not going on directly on their property.
From these two films, I have learned a lot more about fracking. Even though it has the potential to wean the US off of our dependency on foreign oil, the destruction it causes is not worth it. Fracking companies fight hard with very powerful lawyers to protect themselves as well as deny any responsibility for the environmental and social damages that they cause. They hide what they are actually doing, and in the film, they refused the man who was making these documentaries from filming a lot of what was actually going on both near the rigs as well as in the courtroom. Overall, I believe that we should end fracking and place both the monetary aspect as well as our energy as a nation into focusing on renewable resources.
A hearing was held today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to hear arguments by Republicans who support fragmentation of the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides federal protection for wildlife organisms which are deemed “endangered” or “threatened.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has more information about the legislation on their website.
The Endangered Species Act allows the federal government to protect species through various involvements in business, agriculture, private property, and other aspects of life. Some of these encroachments are what is making Republicans in Congress have the desire to strip back the Endangered Species Act. Many voice their concerns over business and economic inhibitions, while others are more concerned over property rights. For example, one lobbyist argues that it is difficult for farmers to meet demands when wildlife populations exist (which are protected under the Endangered Species Act) in areas where they need to conduct agriculture. Others argue that the ESA is limiting natural gas production, as well as other industries such as mining or logging, in this country.
More Republican Congressmen and women also believe that the federal government should not be allowed to tell private citizens what to do with their private lands. Under the Endangered Species Act, the government can protect endangered populations on private property which is seen as infringement by those who do not support the bill.
Republicans are arguing for these drawbacks of the ESA under the guise of “modernizing” the bill. However, this is just a ruse for wanting to strip away protection for thousands of animals in order to protect personal interests in the businesses and people it would benefit.
Others who took the stand during the committee hearing included environmentalists who do not support the “modernization.” One such individual, Jamie Rappaport Clark, pointed out that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the list due to the protection the ESA offers.
The ESA is a critical piece of legislation to save animals around the world who face extinction.
Until watching Chasing Ice I never had a complete grasp on how global climate change affects the environment. Chasing Ice is a documentary that beautifully showcases environmental photographer, James Balog’s, works and talents in a way that puts the destruction of the environment due to global climate change on display. The documentary is terrifying and sad, yet incredibly beautiful and breathtaking.
James Balog captures visible evidence of global climate change by creating time-lapse videos of glaciers around the world over long periods of time. When watching the finished time lapse of each glacier it was shocking to see how far the glaciers had receded and how quickly they are melting. I think using a time lapse is the most effective way to show how quickly our environment is being destroyed by our own actions because it shows a beginning and an end point, but you can see all of the time between those two points as well.
Chasing Ice permanently changed the way I view global climate change. I used to think that climate change was something that would not have a huge affect on my life and I never took into consideration that it’s not just me having an effect on my environment; it’s me along with billions of other people that are more than likely living a life similar to mine. Chasing Ice, unlike other some environmental documentaries, shows viewers the right now effects of our actions instead of telling viewers how climate change will affect the Earth in the future. This documentary is powerful and gives real evidence that our actions have already made a massive impact on the world we live in.
To Watch Chasing Ice: https://chasingice.com
The topic that had interested me the most from a previous class discussion, was the closing of the Bi-lo grocery store located on Meeting Street. The closing of this grocery store was more detrimental than one would think. For starters, the individuals living near the grocery store were put into a food desert. Everyone does not have the capabilities of getting to a grocery store whether it is merely just not having a vehicle, having the sufficient amount of time to set aside time for grocery shopping, or money. The closing of this grocery store put people in great inconviences. I do not think that when stores like this make a big decision to go out of business, the needs of the community are not thought about as greatly as it should. An article from the Post and Courier stated that there could possibly be another supermarket, apartments that may or may not be affordable for people that already live in the area, and a pharmacy. These proposals are not that great in my opinion because they are most likely not going to be very unaffordable for the community that lives near the formally closed Bi-lo. I believe that if you are going to take away something that was beneficial to the Charleston community, at least make sure what is planned to be implemented is affordable for the people that is actually in the neighboring community. The Post and Courier also states that there is no concrete plans made to make sure this plan is implemented, which is steady keeping people in a food desert area. I believe that the property owners, which are McAllister Development, have to set in place a more concrete plan to do something about the lack of a grocery store for the community because the proposal they have now is only giving people false hope.
Believe it or not, obesity can be in direct relation to specific environmental issues that we may experience on a daily basis. Along with the long list of chronic diseases associated with obesity, public education, healthcare, land use, and the location of restaurant and food stores can have a lasting impact on our health. An unhealthy economy is bound to boom, where portions are increased, quality of products are decreased, and you get more bang for your buck if you take the unhealthy food route oftentimes.
In my free time, I watched the film “Fed Up” written and produced by Stephanie Soechtig. This movie was certainly eye opening in the fact that we are raising our new generation of children to know nothing other than sugar and fatty foods. Not only are chronic physical diseases bound to happen, but mental, emotional, and spiritual health may be compromised. This documentary honed in on the sugar industry specifically, arguing that they are legally sickening and killing people simply through such a toxic ingredient. Just to name a few facts directly from the documentary, 80% of 600,000 food products in the United States contain added sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is almost unheard of these days. Food companies continuously insist on dumping loads of added sugar into our food products, simply because they know we like how it tastes and we will continue to buy it.
What was once thought of as a reward every now and then has now turned into something that is just as addictive as cocaine. As stated in the video, sugar is, if not more, addictive than the harmful drug cocaine. Yet, we let our children consume oftentimes triple or quadruple our daily recommended serving of sugar. With more than 70% of Americans being obese at the time this video was made, my guess being that number has risen since, something must be done to stop this quick spreading epidemic dead in its tracks. Healthier alternatives, along with the complete disposal of high fructose corn syrup and other harmful cheap sugar alternatives, must be put in place to save our future generations before it’s too late.
Recently a video has been making its way around Facebook that features a group of people helping a sea turtle that has unfortunately gotten a straw stuck deep inside of his nostril. The heartbreaking video shows the people pulling the straw out of the turtles nose. The turtle is obviously in severe pain and he is bleeding. But on the bright side, this turtle was able to get help. These kinds of instances are the harsh reality for our wildlife in the ocean. This is now a video that is a couple of years old, but many people, such as myself, are just now seeing it. I am sure that we have all heard of the trash pile accumulating in the ocean that has now grown to be bigger than the state of Texas. At first thought we think that this cannot possibly be true and we wonder how we could have let this happen. But unfortunately, this is a reality that we need to face. This pile of trash is refereed to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch of garbage has accumulated into the same area due to the ocean currents. This is a huge problem and many of us do not know where to start. However, everyone can take part in prevention. One of the biggest things that we can all do is reduce our plastic waste. One of the biggest things that contributes to plastic waste is water bottles. Bottled water has become more common than ever. According to Ban the Bottle, Americans use over 50 billion water bottles in a year and almost 80% of those water bottles end up in landfills. What we can do as individuals to help this is to start recycling these plastic bottles or invest in a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles can not only help save the environment, but also help save you some money in the long run. Another thing that we can do to help prevent more trash going into landfills is to stop using plastic ware like plastic forks and spoons, paper plates, solo cups and paper towels. As college students, these things are almost essential to us. We rarely think about the impact we have on the environment by using plastic ware and paper ware. We also think that our efforts may not matter. But everyone’s efforts make a difference and if we all turn to reusable items instead of disposable, it could make a huge difference on our environment.
Watching the movie FoodInc., was an eye opener to how disgusting it is to the way our meats are produced. Not just that, but how entirely unethical food production can actually be. Our food industry is something that all Americans need to be concerned about. Not only are we putting foods into our bodies full of antibiotics, meats that are cloned, foods consisting of chemicals, but we are supporting these companies for the unethical things that they are doing by buying a pack of meat at the grocery store. I myself have bought chicken and beef at the grocery store. I have even bought Tyson chicken nuggets, which completely grosses me out to know that I have consumed these food items after watching how the animals are so poorly treated. Chicken growers who work for companies like Purdue can only afford usually like two to three poultry houses and they cost a couple hundred thousand dollars each. This is where overproduction comes into the picture and makes it observable to the viewer how overproduction leads to unethical issues. There are chickens in these poultry houses, not able to walk around due to so many piled in there. They pretty much have no area to walk in so they are walking and laying in their own feces. Then they are just grabbed and strangled, with their heads chopped off. Furthermore, for the housing of cows in the production of beef, they are not allowed to venture out into pastures, they are not allowed to live their lives freely. They are barely able to breathe. I think it is crazy how animals cannot have some of the same rights as humans do. For example, if a human treated another human like that, they would be imprisoned. So my question is, how and why is It okay that humans can do that to animals in the unethical ways that they do without being punished?
My favorite channel to watch is TLC. While turning to the station I came across the TV show Tiny House, Big Living. At first I thought these people were crazy for wanting to live in such tiny spaces so I turned the TV and did not think twice about it. I just thought that people wanted to live like that only because they wanted to travel more. By not having to pay for an expensive house they would have more funds for travel but what I came to discover is that they wanted this lifestyle for something much more. After watching Minimalism I finally understood the reason why people would want to live that way. People want to live that way because they are happy and content with the little stuff that they have. They do not need money or items to make them happier. It is because we live in a world where people are constantly focused on what items or materials they have. I can say that I am quite guilty for this. I am the type of person who likes to keep up with technology and fashion. In the documentary they talked about how we will never be satisfied with what we have. I took a step back and actually realized how much stuff I have that I do not need. I decided to take action on this addiction. I went into my closet and took out all of the clothes that I have not worn in a year. I then put them in a bag an donated them to goodwill. The documentary also talked about two guys who both quit their jobs to become minimalist. I do not think that I could just up and quit my job like they did. I believe that you can be a minimalist with your job that you have with whatever amount of money you make. I do not think that I could be a minimalist but I applaud people who do. It’s amazing how such little things can mean the most.
I have never been one for jumping on a bandwagon, and I am not one to change my lifestyle based upon what I saw in a biased documentary. I, like most of you, am a pragmatic and educated individual; who makes decisions based on fact, status quo, and what I would deem as being the most logical choice for living a life a true as possible. So when we began to watch the documentary Food Inc., I knew deep down I wasn’t going to like what I saw, but I figured that I would shrug it off and continue on… Not the case.
After watching this documentary in class (in two stretches, both on empty stomachs and right before lunchtime), I began to think a little harder about the food that I ingest. Walking through the meat department at every supermarket since then, I am reminded about how this industry skewed to fundamental concepts of food production; maybe out of necessity, but certainly out of greed. It began to feel uneasy looking at all the meat that I would normally cook in second; and although I cannot say I am even close to giving up meat, the idea of eating most of what is offered to me by the food industry grosses me out.
With this, I think about the optimistic organic farmer who believes he is fulfilling his duty to the highest standard, and I think about the small price differences in his products.. It feels good to say now that I would seek his product before the mass-produced, standardized product, and I do my best each time to do that, but I will not stop eating meat. What Food Inc. did for me was inform me that those around me who push for organic food are not pompous urbanites who try to find reasons to critique the lifestyles of others, but rather people who understand the established system which most of us have subscribed to, and what it would take to change that system.
Because of all of this information and the ideas that it has developed, I have now begun to filter my fresh-food (juices, meats, dairy, etc) to organic products only. the quote: “people freak out when organic eggs are $3 while they sip on a $1.75 coke” resonated with me. Why wouldn’t I support organic farmers anyways? The food is almost as good as their character!