Ferropolis, Photo by: Brian Carmen
Brown Coal in Germany
Being in Germany for the past two months, we have seen many different sources of energy while traveling throughout the country. You can see solar energy with the solar panels, wind energy with the windmills and fossil fuel energy from burning coal being used for many different purposes, no matter which direction you travel. Even though there are many different sources of energy being used throughout the country, the most important source of energy in Germany right now is coal. In Germany there are two significant types of coal. These two types of coal are hard coal and brown coal (“Germany”). Traveling to Ferropolis, an old brown coal mine museum, with our class allowed us to have a first hand view of what goes on at such coal mines.
Brown coal, or lignite, is a combination of coal and peat. The coal is yellowish in color and has a woody texture (Tyler). Brown coal beds are very large and are close to the surface. With the beds being so close to the surface, they are more easily worked. This leads to a very low cost in the production of brown coal. Lignite also contains a lot of moisture. Due to this, it supplies less energy per kilogram than other types of coals. With the large amount of water brown coal contains, up to 75 percent, it makes it very hard to transport long distances because, if it is exposed to air, it will begin to dry out and could eventually crumble (Kopp). Many power stations were built near mining sites to take out long transportation times in order to make sure that the brown coal would not dry out and crumble. Out of all of the coal production, 80-90% of the coal is being used in electricity production (Tyler).
Brown coal mines in Germany can be found from Koln in the west and throughout the country as you move eastwards. A lot of coal mines in eastern Germany have closed down though due to the fact that lignite in eastern Germany is less profitable than the brown coal in western Germany. Most large brown coal mines can have a life of up to 50 years. These brown coal mines target coal seams of around 50 to 75 meters thick. To get to these brown coal seams, most mines go down 300 meters and from time to time will go down to 400 meters. However, in western Germany to get to these large lignite seams, the mines go as deep as 800 meters. Most of the seams that are of this size are located at the center of Tertiary basins. The struggle with these large mines is that they have to relocate communities in order to get to these large seams of coal (Tyler). Once these mines close, the land becomes almost useless. Ferropolis is a great example of taking advantage of exhausted coal mine.
The City of Steel
Ferropolis, located in in city of Gräfenhainichen, used to be the center of brown coal mining in the Golpa-Nord open mining space. The work in this area began in 1957, with extraction beginning seven years later. This field of work became huge, as brown coal was the main energy resource during these days in East Germany. After much expansion, there were 20 operating mines with 6,000 employees. Every year approximately 100 million tons of coal was extracted (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”). Although the mining grounds were a great way to provide work for people in the area, the mining took a toll on the land. Deep holes were created in the ground, and although the Golpa-Nord holes were smaller than holes in other locations, the earth was still greatly affected. Additionally, resources needed to get brown coal was not an environmentally friendly process. To gather one bucket of brown coal required sick buckets of water to be sent in and five buckets of unusable resources to be sent out and dumped (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”). Using this much water to get a much smaller amount of coal was an ineffective way to use resources. Mining in Ferropolis was controversial because it had “secure jobs and excellent performance by workers and engineers,” but it was also “a place of unbridled industrial power and environmental disaster” (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”). These environmental impacts were stopped when, after decades of work, brown coal mining was suddenly halted and became a thing of the past in Saxony-Anhalt and the rest of East Germany.
The brown coal mining industry was close to collapse in Germany in 1991 after almost 40 years of mining. With this change in plans, professionals had to decide what to do with the land. Should everything be torn down and scrapped or should the tracks be covered up? The answer was given by the Bauhaus Dessau. Today Ferropolis has been turned into an area offering “a museum, an industrial monument, a steel sculpture, and event location and a theme park all at the same time,” in addition to being set next to a beautiful lake with picturesque scenery (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”). This solution has given the land a second chance and has set a new, positive example on dealing with nature. The museum of Ferropolis is an open-air museum with five excavators that were used during the mining times. Tours are offered at the museum and visitors can even climb the 2000 ton, 60 meter long machine nicknamed Gemini (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”). These five steel monuments serve as a reminder to the environmental consequences that resulted from exploitation of the land (“Ferropolis: City of Iron”). Ferropolis has thrived as an event destination, hosting international festivals and concerts in its 25,000- seat venue (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”).
Mining excavator, “Medusa”, Photo by: Alyssa Lane
Gremminer Lake, Photo by: Jamie Pence
Ferropolis is the perfect example of how innovators created a new perspective of landscaping in an extremely environmentally friendly way. It would have cost thousands of dollars to get rid of all the old mining machinery. However, instead of trashing all the material, money was saved and the area has turned into a beautiful space with green trees and a clear lake. The lake is located on top of what used to be the coal mine. Flooding this area and creating a beautiful space has helped to drastically increase biodiversity of plants and animals in the area. Turning Ferropolis into an environmentally friendly area has turned this area of disaster into a location of celebration for all kinds of life. The hopes for future ecological practices are reflected in the Ferropolis. This area “has become the symbol of a path chosen for this century” (“Ferropolis: City of Iron”). Looking to the near future, Ferropolis hopes to further their environmental practices by becoming completely powered by renewable energy, mostly solar power (“Ferropolis: City of Steel”). Despite this wonderful landscaping that has benefited the environment in many ways, there have been consequences of the long-time mining, as there have been all around the world.
Effects of Brown Coal Mining
Brown coal plays a huge role in air pollution with high emission levels of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide. The problem with these gases is not just the effect on the environment, with rising temperatures and increasing smog levels, but is also the negative impact it is having on the human population. The air pollution that comes from brown coal is massive compared to other fuels such as black coal or natural gases. The United States primary fuel sources consist of coal, oil, and natural gasses, and are estimated to be at roughly 85 percent of current fuel use ("The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels."). A few years ago, along with the Canadian Province Victoria, Germany had one of the highest known percentages for the emission of greenhouse gasses due to the burning of brown coal. However, Germany is also one of the few countries that has since then lowered their percentages. ("The Problem with Brown Coal | Environment Victoria.").
Chancellor Merkel has proposed to lower emissions by 22 tons with having a ‘climate fee’, along with energy efficient and green buildings. The only issues expressed about these plans has come from coal miners and major utility companies. This fee “would have forced operators to buy extra certificates for their emissions from the European Trading Scheme for CO2 emission allowances, thus making electricity from lignite less profitable” (Schwagerl). To help solve this problem, they have come to the conclusion that they will not shut down all brown coal companies, but will decrease the size of the coal mining industry by taking away the three largest coal companies in the country.
The problem that humans face with the burning of coal is the lack of fresh air that is constantly being breathed in. There are growing concerns about the expansion of coal mining and medical experts are being asked about coal and its effects on health. In the United States and all over the world there are indications that coal mining and the burning of coal has increased the risk of people having cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, respiratory issues, in addition to other medical issues ("The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels."). The rates for the diseases are more common in coal mining areas. Therefore, in regions where brown coal is in high demand, rates for the diseases are also high. Processing chemicals and toxic impurities in coal and dust from uncovered coal trucks also increase the likelihood of health issues. Lessening the use or completely abandoning the use of brown coal as a resource would help lower the possibilities of these medical issues occurring (William, et al). Though global climate change has been a constant problem over many years, doing away with the burning of all brown coal would help to level out temperatures, smog in the air, carbon dioxide, and greenhouse gas emissions more so than they are now. Due to levels already being so high, there could be a drastic decrease in the percentage of toxic emissions. Though there is considerable evidence regarding the safety for our environment and the health of people, agencies are still wanting to monitor and assess safety protocol of mines and the uses of the source.
With all the negative effects brown coal has had on the environment, shutting down the mining in the West of Germany was a good way to start reversing the harm that had already been down to the land and the atmosphere. Ferropolis is a prime example of how to be resourceful and eco-friendly. It has shown how to preserve history while also helping and improving the future of our earth. The disaster that used to be here is now a beautiful gathering place for all to enjoy.
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“Before and after: entire colonies of bees have collapsed in the US”
Can you imagine a world without millions of different species and ecosystems: without rainforest, prairies, wetlands, and forests? This will be our world if we, as humans, continue to tear away at the biodiversity we know today. Biodiversity is the “variety of living organisms that exists in an ecosystem or on the planet as a whole, being the biological wealth of the earth” (Clowney, 514). The decisions and actions of humans not only impacts the species, but affects the health and well-being of mankind as well. The benefits of biodiversity are “providing chemicals, energy, fibers, food, medicines, raw materials, and wood… and helps with the quality of air and water, the fertility of soils, the degradation of wastes, and the control of pest population” (Clowney 514). One of the main ways in which humans are destroying the world’s biodiversity is by stripping the species’ habitat from them, the elimination of pest species, pollution, introduction of exotic species, overexploitation, and climate change; therefore, causing the species to go extinct (Cowney 516). We are eliminating forests through deforestation, slowly wiping out the bee population with pesticides, and over fishing and hunting certain species. We are forcing these species to adapt around our selfish wants by finding new food sources and trying to survive their new predators. We are beating biological extinction (the natural process to the evolutionary process) to the punch and cutting the rope by introducing artificial extinction. An extinction where species have no chance of adapting, no chance of living. As Holmes Rolston III states, “Our duty is ‘not to play the role of murders’” (Clowney, 532). We are thinking of only our needs and wants, and not taking into consideration the lives of others, even if it is a tiny insect that we have never seen in our life. Nevertheless, the destruction of such species for our own personal benefit, at the end of the day, is still considered “murder”. We have a duty to consider and protect as many species as we possibly can, which may involve thinking outside of the box and putting the needs of these species before our own. After all, we must not forget the golden rule: do to others as you would want done to you. When humans ignore this rule, species and ecosystems suffer. According to discovery.com, humans have caused 322 species of animals to go extinct within the past 500 years. And on top of that, according to endangeredearth.com, 41,415 species are on the IUCN Red List, with 16,306 of those species on the verge of extinction. Some may think that 41,415 isn’t a lot of species in comparison to the millions of species on the earth, but many forget that the extinction of one species can alter our ecosystem. Life works in a cycle, and when one of the components is missing, the chain is greatly impacted.
The relationship among biologically diverse ecosystems in nature are very complicated and delicate. Each part of nature has another part or three (or more) with which it is intertwined. Bees are a small link in the chain of life; however, they fit into the delicate balance and play a very important role. There are around 250,000 species of plants currently known, and of those 250,000, around 130,00 of them are dependent upon the pollination of bees. Among those 130,000 are alfalfa and clover, which the beef and dairy industries rely on as well as many fruits and vegetables. In fact, nearly one third of all fruits and vegetables depend on the pollination of bees. This means that about one bite of fruits and/or vegetables of every three is the result of a bee pollination; in short: bees are essential to maintaining biodiversity. However, as early as the mid 1990s, reports began surfacing that showed massive declines in bee populations. It was not until the mid 2000s that this began to become a serious issue as the consequences of this decline began to be realized.
One serious indicator of this problem is seen among beekeepers’ hive populations. It is what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Hive populations are on average around 30,000 bees, but more and more recently beekeepers have come to find the bees missing or dead, losing anywhere up to 90% of the hives. This massive decline is primarily caused by the use of pesticides such as Neonicotinoids on crops. Neonicotinoids are insect neurotoxins which cause death, memory loss, and/or effect the bees’ sense of smell causing them to be unable to find their way back to their hive. In much the same way that canaries in a coal mine forewarned impending danger to the miners, the massive decline in the bee populations should be a flashing red light to our world regarding many of the harsh agricultural practices present in today's society. Studies have shown that should an entire bee population that focuses on pollinating one species of plant die out in an area, the remaining bee populations will take over the pollination of the plant; however, it will result in a one third decline in seed production. In a world where most of the crop yields rely on the pollination of plants via bees, this is a future we do not want to see come to light. Environmental scientists and bee activists have been keeping a close eye on this problem for more than a decade, but it is still a big problem. Despite being informed of the problem, little has happened to change practices, which begs the question: can this problem be fixed now that scientists are urging a precautionary approach or is the problem too far involved to be rectified without a mass overhauling of the agricultural practices? This is a problem that is bigger than just the United States, it is an international problem.
So what impact could you possibly have with such a big problem? The answer is that you can start small. Start by calculating your carbon footprint or your footprint on the world (http://www.myforest.co.in/offset_your_carbon_footprint.php ). Secondly, researching different organizations that help fight biodiversity like Applied Environmental Research Foundation and WWF Global can give you a better understanding of the issues surrounding biodiversity. Applied Environmental Research Foundation is a “registered non-governmental organization that aims to demonstrate the conservation of biological diversity through the active participation of local communities combined with the use of research techniques” (AERF.org). AERF has numerous supporters and collaborators that aid the organization with research and activism; for example, German Mission India, University of Kent, BGSU, University of Miami, etc… With the help of this organization, funding goes into applied research in order to “ to produce knowledge that will help find real solutions to problems” (AERF.org); meanwhile, you can contribute to this research by volunteering and interning with this organization. You can also, help this organization’s mission by sponsoring a forest, in which you choose a form of membership and the amount of acres you wish to help. In addition, there are many small changes you can make to your lifestyle that seem small, but can contribute greatly. For example, buy “good wood” (wood that is sustainably legal), avoid endangered fish and focus on fish labeled with MSC (due to the fact that 80% of biodiversity is in the sea), buy organic products, plant a variety of vegetables/trees/flowers in your lawn to make it more diverse, stop killing weeds, and conserve your consumption.
One specific way to contribute to fighting the big problem of biodiversity is to focus on the declining population of bees. You can start with signing this petition (http://avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees_global/ ), which is to stop the use of the Neonicotinoid based pesticides, and you can also stop using it yourself. Another way to help is to plant bee friendly plants (asters, wild flowers, goldenrod, sunflowers, and even dandelions), buy or plant organic goods, research more about bees (http://www.helpsavebees.co.uk/bee-family-tree.html ), use bee friendly hygiene products that support and help bees http://www.beefriendlyskincare.com/pages/about-us , help make bee roads (which are a series of wild flowers http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/12/bee-road-pollinators ) , support your local bee keepers, or even become a bee keeper yourself. You not only should educate yourself about biodiversity and the current state of the environment, but also inform those around you. Whether this be a colleague or even your children there are documentaries and even movies like the Bee Movie that anyone can watch. Helping the environment isn’t just researching and being knowledgeable, one needs to change things in their day to day life, even if they are minute. In the end these small contributions are helpful to the big picture of biodiversity, and not just with bees but with so many other things. Do we really want to live in a world where we destroy nature? It’s our duty to use the earth wisely, and by deforesting and using pesticides we are doing the exact opposite. So the next time you spray weed killers and pesticides, buy lumber, or even plan the layout of your garden or lawn, think about how this could affect the environment and in the end biodiversity.
Clowney, David, and Patricia Mosto. Earthcare: An Anthology in Environmental Ethics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Print
Located on the southeastern part of the Polynesian Triangle in the Pacific Ocean is Easter Island. To the general public, Easter Island is famous for the 887 stone heads that populate the landmass (Tilburg). It is also the home of some 6,000 citizens that belong to the country of Chile. In the world of anthropology, archeology, and environmental studies, Easter Island is greatly known for its cultural past that would later lead to the near destruction of the native population. Easter Island serves to many scientists, anthropologists, and environmental alarmists as a case study that shows the dangers and consequences of overpopulation.
The island was originally inhabited by the Rapa Nui people who were traced back to areas in Asia. They would then be integrated with the Polynesians when settlers arrived. The Rapa Nui that occupied the island had a lush vibrant forest at their disposal. From studies gathered from the pollen on the island the palm trees reached as tall as eighty-two feet (Earthcare). The natives would use the trees to build canoes, tools, and to use as fuel for fires. Though, the destruction of the forest is cited to have started around 400 C.E. As the human population grew the deforestation grew until the palm population what completely extinct on the island by 1500 C.E. When settlers first arrived on Easter Island they found a devastated population with the plant life only starting to come back. Though, the trees did not reach any higher than ten feet (Earthcare).
The animal population was also once a thriving community that lived alongside the humans. Only they too would see a brutal devastation due to the human activity. Birds such as albatross, petrels, terns, and other tropical birds called Easter Island their home (Earthcare). These animals were a large part of the Rapa Nui diet. As the population grew and the forest declined so did the animal population. Eventually, the entire animal population on the island would go extinct. With having ve
As mentioned by the authors of Earthcare, the rise and fall of the Rapa Nui “may be a cautionary tale for our world today” (Earthcare 613). Upon examination, it is easy to see the ways the problems of Easter Island are parallel to the problems of the world population.
Paul and Anne Ehrlich state, “the key issue in judging overpopulation is not how many people can fit in any given space but whether the population’s requirements for food, water, other resources and ecosystem services can be met on a sustainable basis” (Earthcare 617). This link between resource-use and overpopulation is striking when one examines the decline of the Rapa Nui. It is important to recognize that the issue in this scenario wasn’t that there was too little space. Rather, it was that the resource use by the population proved unsustainable. The global population and its overall resource use is alarming in its likeness to the history of Easter Island—although on a much grander scale. For this reason, it can be difficult to see clearly the realities of the population situation, and its possible effects. This is seen in the attempts to deny overpopulations or its problems. The reality is that overpopulation is real, it is happening now, and the consequences are dire.
Like the Rapa Nui, the global population has been overusing its supply of resources at an alarming rate. Easter Island was once a place with fantastic natural resources—it was a rich, sub-tropical forest of trees, bushes and shrubs. (Earthcare 613). The available resources were slowly, but surely, used up entirely. First the palm tree became extinct, then the hauhau tree, and later the entire forest. Native animals soon followed, including every species of native bird and porpoises. The miracle of life on earth is seen in the amazing resources this planet has, but these resources are being plundered. It has taken the earth as long as a millennium to produce inches of mere soils; today, they are being eroded at inches per decade (Earthcare 615). Over thousands of years during glacial periods, freshwater sources were created and expanded; now, “[they] are being mined as if they were metals” (Earthcare 615). The Ehrlichs stress that biodiversity is being destroyed “…at a rate unprecedented in 65 million years” (Earthcare 615).
It is food, water, and biodiversity that are our most important resources—they are the pillars of human existence. By the time of their decline, the Rapa Nui were not prioritizing the conservation of these resources. Instead, their continued lifestyle was given the most weight. “Perhaps any islander who tried to warn others about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by the vested interests of those whose jobs depended on continued deforestation” (Earthcare 613). Similarly, the world has prioritized the economy. Our governments, especially at national and international levels, have failed to incite change when it comes to resource consumption, overpopulation and other environmental issues. Prominent economist Pavan Sukhdev has said: “The rules of business urgently need to be changed, so corporations compete on the basis of innovation, resource conservation and satisfaction of multiple stakeholder demands, rather than on the basis of who is most effective in influencing government regulation, avoiding taxes and obtaining subsidies for harmful activities to maximise the return for shareholders” (The Guardian). Our system is money-minded, and hinges on perpetual overuse of resources. The Rapa Nui had such a system, and when they did not change their ways, faced dire consequences. They were forced to radically change their lifestyle (by becoming cannibals). In order to avoid such extremes, we need to create change ourselves. As Stephen Emmott put, “The behavioural changes that are required of us are so fundamental that no one wants to make them. What are they? We need to consume less. A lot less.”
A Global Environmental Threat
Overpopulation has been argued as the largest threat to our existence. Part of the issue is our problematic mindset: we don’t see continued expansion as an issue. It is not well understood that if we continue to expand at this alarming rate that we will soon run out of natural resources. Fresh water is a serious concern with overpopulation. With the amount of water that humans are using and consuming, it is not being replaced fast enough. Consuming too much water results in dried lake beds that turn into dust particles. These dust particles are then polluting the air. One issue easily snowballs into many.
As mentioned, the decrease in biodiversity is one of the more disastrous consequences of overpopulation. As the population continues to increase there is a higher demand for certain types of plants: plants for clothing, trees for paper, food, etc. We have a misconception that qw can re-plant whatever we consume. The problem with this is that if the plants and crops we are planting come from the same genetic makeup and age then this leads to problems, such as diseases and pests. The more demand for certain crops the less biodiversity there will be.
Another environmental issue related to overpopulation is waste. Landfills have been an issue for decades now because they are running out of space. It follows that the more our population grows, the more waste there will be. Some of the waste is toxic which is leaching into the soil and groundwater supply. When toxic waste leaks into the groundwater it creates more of a risk for the freshwater supply as well and leads to the annihilation of certain types of species (Plant Save).
It can be difficult to decipher the impact that humans have on the environment when it comes to the environment. In Earthcare it is stated, “Assessing the environmental impact of the growing human population is complicated by the fact that the impact of each human on the natural environment is not equal” (Earthcare 609). Population growth is not equal throughout the world. Less developed countries are growing at a higher rate than in most developed countries that are growing at a steadier rate. The increase in population and in the rate of urbanization and mobility that is happening, is a very serious threat to the environment. There are scientists that warn that if we wait for the carrying capacity to limit the population size naturally then we would need to be willing to accept famine, low living standards, unemployment, political instability, and ecological destruction. Naturally scientists and economists find this unacceptable and believe that we need to find a different route to curb population growth.
It is a misconception that overpopulation does not affect our environment as significantly as it does. The current population will use up the natural resources and continue to decimate biodiversity. The overpopulation is eradicating many species and plants, it is draining the freshwater supply, and filling the landfills with toxic wastes. The human population is growing so much that we do not have the supplies such as crops to sustain the population. It seems that the only option humans have is to make enormous lifestyle changes.
Clowney, David, and Patricia Mosto, eds. Earthcare: An Anthology in Environmental Ethics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009. Print.
The out of sight, out of mind philosophy, unfortunately, can be applied to the care of our Earth. Often seen as a simple and cheap solution to various problems, including waste disposal, this method our world has adopted has led to potentially one of the most dangerous phenomena on our planet. 54% of the waste produced in America is “disposed in some type of landfill.” What would typically come to mind is an image of a “dump,” in which garbage is deposited into a man made hole in the ground, but landfills can come in another form: our oceans. The threat of groundwater contamination from landfills has always been an issue at hand, so imagine what devastation and impact that could mean for the countless life forms found in the ocean (Clowney and Mosto 363).
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. It is considered the world’s largest landfill, and it floats in the ocean. The garbage patch spans the water from the west coast of the United States to Japan. Two separate patches have formed, the western—near Japan—and the eastern—located between Hawaii and California. The area is a slow-moving, clockwise spiral of currents created by a high-pressure system of air currents. By nature of the gyre, they accumulate plastic, other trash and natural parts of the ocean such as seaweed (National Geographic).
Scientists consider the specific area as an oceanic desert. It is filled with tiny phytoplankton but contains very few big fish or mammals. Due to this fact fisherman and sailors rarely travel through the area. It is estimated that millions of pounds of trash, mostly plastic reside the waters. It is anticipated that plastic comprises about 90 percent of the trash in marine waters. In 2006 the United Nations Environment Program reported an estimate that claims that in every square mile of ocean 46,000 pieces of floating plastic is present. In some areas the amount of plankton is outweighed by trash by a ratio of 6:1. In a given year the world produces more than 200 billion pounds of plastic, scientists believe 10 percent ends up in the ocean (5 gyres). 70 percent of the plastic sinks to the bottom of the ocean resulting to in damage to life on the ocean floor. The remaining floats. The main problem with plastic is it does not biodegrade. The durability that makes it useful to humans causes the harmful effects to nature. Plastic over time will break into smaller pieces of plastic without breaking into smaller compounds. A single plastic microbead can be 1 million times more toxic than the water surrounding it (National Geographic). The smaller parts of plastic ultimately get ingested by filter feeders or other marine animals and result in serious damage to their bodies. The effects are cascaded and cause threats to entire food chains. Filter feeders and smaller marine animals will get eaten and the poisonous effects of the plastic within their bodies are passed onto the predator.
The garbage patch presents several threats to fishing, marine life and tourism. The LA times estimates that 80 percent of ocean trash originates from the land (5 gyres). Scientists that study the effects of trash in the ocean nearly all conclude that searching and eliminating the ocean of its trash is impossible. Experts believe the solution to managing the trash within the ocean can be traced back to trash management on land. We must tackle the problem at its source (National Geographic).
The world’s waste is disportationally placed. Peter Wenz discusses environmental racism, which is the disproportional distribution of the burdens of waste unto the weakest and poorest of a nation and ultimately the world. The population makeup of the weakest and poorest populations tend to be nonwhite minorities. Throughout his essay “Just Garbage” he brings up several points that show how unevenly the burdens of waste are being distributed, and how current practices are only worsening the situation with an “out of sight out of mind”/ “as long as it’s not in my backyard” mentality. Wenz examines our consumer-oriented society, which puts high value on throwing away the old and replacing it with the new. Humans within industrialized countries focus on the newest and most improved products, hence their old products are thrown out to make room.
Despite his anthropocentric view within his essay, his theory can be connected to all species. As with The Great Pacific Garbage Patch it is evident that the poorest and weakest species is being left with the burden of human waste. The native sea life is being drastically affected by humans’ “progress” and material lifestyles. All the waste that is disregarded to allow new materials ends up somewhere, and with many people fighting to keep it away from themselves, it sometimes ends where there are no voices to be directly heard.
Wenz is a strong believer in those who reap the benefits of waste should equally share in the burdens of waste, instead of one group (a certain race or species) gaining all the benefits while another struggles to keep up with the burdens. Just like the minorities of a human society, the inhabitants of the ecological society are currently suffocating under the tax of waste. Wenz proposes a solution, LULU, which is a plan to evenly distribute the burdens of waste. With this plan different communities would be examined and each community would then be give the amount of waste it can handle. If Wenz’s LULU plan is followed all types of minorities would benefit. By switching from one group taking on all of the burdens, to all groups equally sharing the distribution of waste minorities will have greater opportunities to prosper. The plan Wenz puts forward to help humans can be generalized to the environment as a whole. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch doesn’t have to exist, and its inhabitants don’t have to struggle under the weight of waste alone (Clowney and Mosto, 368-376).
Bluntly, we have to clean this up. We must adapt our actions and mentality on our own waste. The problem however, is that the patch is located so far away from any national coastlines that no countries want to claim responsibility for it. Charles Moore, the discoverer of the patch, has stated that the cleanup process would bankrupt any country that attempts it. However, there are many international organizations and individuals who are actively pushing for awareness of it (The Ocean Cleanup).
Also, to simply just pick up the amount of trash that is currently in the Patch would take, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, 67 ships a total of one year to clean up less than ONE percent of the North Pacific Ocean.
Fortunately, there is a better and more efficient solution than going out with boats and picking up the trash out of the ocean or using nets that can capture other sea life. The Ocean Cleanup company is planning on using the oceans own currents to solve the problem. They plan on setting up a 100km-long v-shaped barrier that the ocean currents will pass through. This will form a screen that will collect the plastic. The screen will be short enough in design to allow for neutrally buoyant marine life to drift through, lowering the impact the cleanup would have on ocean life.
The Ocean Cleanup’s feasibility study indicates that one 100 km long barrier “could remove 42% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over a period of 10 years” and they also claim that their most conservative measurements amount to 70 million kilos of plastic at 4.53 Euros per kilo. This is expensive but a lot quicker and cheaper alternative. It has passed model tests, and a 4 m long model that confirmed computer models. A coastal 2000m long model will be put to the test off the coast of Japan this year. If all works out for them they could be able to put the full scale model in the pacific in 2020.
Recycling. We currently only recover 5-10% of the plastics we produce worldwide.The environment lacks the ability to speak for itself. The result of our human waste has presented environmental dangers. The development and growth of the Great Pacific garbage patch presents an extremely difficult challenge. Our current generations have increased awareness of preserving the environment and protecting it for future generations.The increase of recycling, biodegradable product demand, and other steps we have implemented to reduce waste has made it possible to slow the growth and has even begun to reduce the size of the world’s largest dumping ground. In a broader and more preventative sense, the problem we currently face with waste disposal can be tackled with waste management. Many believe if we continue returning to the good old-fashioned 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, a large impact can be made. One of these approaches is described as industrial ecology, which turns the relationship between industry and manufacturing into its own ecosystem. In other words, the “waste products of one industry become the raw materials of another.” (Clowney and Mosto, 365). Scientists agree: if the oceans die, we die. The underlying problem with environmental pollution is the constant increase industrialized countries produce annually. We must change our economic practices and cognitions in order to preserve the environment. We can fix the world’s largest unintentional dumping ground.
Clowney D., and Mosto P. Earthcare: An Anthology in Environmental Ethics.
Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield; 2009. Print. 363-
The Ocean Cleanup. Technology. Website. 2015.
National Geographic. Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Website. 2016.
5 Gyres. The Plastic Problem. Website. 2016.
(Picture with man in canoe)