All posts by hustona

The Chaos Theory of Geoengineering

In the classic movie Jurassic Park, a man named Mr. Hammond decides to build a grand theme park full of dinosaurs on an island. The scientifically engineered creatures eventually get loose and cause havoc on the island, to no surprise of the audience. One of the movie characters named Ian Malcolm was a skeptic of this theme park and knew it was doomed to fail from the start. His quote questioning the morality of cloning dinosaurs give us a great life lesson to learn from today. “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Ian Malcolm.

This same question can be applied to most scientific advancements in current events. If we have the capability to clone humans, or colonize mars, or even change our own climate, should we? What are the benefits, and what could be the potential consequences? The last thing you want is a bunch of hungry dinosaurs chasing you around an island. It’s probably best then to discuss the potential threats of an idea before jumping in head on. I think this certainly applies to our topic of focus in geoengineering.

The climate of the Earth is REALLY important. I think everyone can agree upon that. It’s what allows us to live on this planet. Without the planet’s atmosphere and its properties, we would not be able to exist. Even the placement of the Earth with respect to the sun is very favorable for us. So, it is essential that we make sure our actions don’t ruin our own lifeline, so to speak. While humans do currently influence the environment more than one would like, the Earth still appears to move along with its natural cycles. We are not going away anytime soon. That could all change if we shoot a bunch of chemicals into the sky for a long period of time.

Could it slow down human induced climate change? Maybe, but it could also cause some unknown damages that we might not know how to fix. The overall idea of compensating human pollution with even more human pollution just seems counterintuitive. In my opinion, I think it’s best to let nature run its course. The global climate system may warm as a result of our actions, but it will eventually balance out like it always has. This Earth has seen global ice cover, zero ice cover, and everything in between. I think it can handle the heat we’ve placed on it. To end with another Ian Malcolm quote, “Life finds a way.”

SHHHHHHH! Mother Nature Is Talking!

While the science behind how sound transpires in nature completely went over my head, I could at least relate on a personal level to the beauty of natural sound in my own life. There are two locations I have visited in my lifetime that I will never forget, in part due to the visual amazement, but also the incredible sounds associated with them. The first is located at The Inn at Spanish Bay, which is right in between Monterey Bay and Carmel Bay California. Here, there is a fancy golf resort perched on a cliff overseeing the Pacific Ocean, as well as a 17-mile scenic drive known for its majestic cypress trees. My family visited this resort to eat at a restaurant for a birthday celebration. Afterward, we walked to a bench overseeing the incredible sunset as it was slowly swallowed up by the sea. Even though the image of a beach sunset usually takes the spotlight for most people, it was the sounds associated with the setting that blew me away (literally!). On that particular evening, the winds were strong, and the waves crashed onto the sand with such an aggressive force. Seagulls were traveling back and forth to muster up any meal they could find. When food was found, their excitement was not lost in the crashing of waves. Their voices would sometimes echo louder than the waves themselves. The overall contrast between a tranquil setting and a bellowing orchestra was an event you would have to witness firsthand to understand. The second location I alluded to earlier was located at the heart of The Yosemite Valley. This National Park located in California is well known for its astounding views overlooking its valleys and peaks, including the iconic Half Dome and El Capitan. However, it was my visit to the bottom of the valley that truly resonated with me. Sitting in a patch of grassy brush, I marveled alone at how beautiful this valley was. It is humbling to say the least when looking up at the towering granite walls surrounding you on both sides. With the valley acting almost like a bowl for sound to travel around, you never missed a beat. The simplest bird chirping for its friends or deer stepping on a branch did not go unnoticed. I was very fortunate the other people in the park with me were respectful and quiet, as to not overshadow the sounds this cathedral of nature made, as John Muir once described it. After reminiscing my past travels, I definitely have a much larger gratitude towards the sounds nature provides us each day. The science behind it all still remains a mystery to me, but I can at least appreciate the impact sound has on the world we live in.

Are we guilty until proven innocent regarding environmental justice?

I was born and raised in the state of California, but “indigenous” isn’t a word people would use to describe my birthplace. That’s understandable, considering my family did not originate on the west coast of North America. They came from Pennsylvania, and before then Ireland, then Scotland, then Norway, and so on. The point is, it’s been a long time since a member of my family could say they were natives of the area. Back then, the Earth was coming out of an ice age, allowing humans (including my ancestors) to migrate north to places once covered with glaciers. There is no denying the climate changed in the past, causing native peoples to move around the globe. Many people benefited from the change in scenery, but others certainly got left in the dust. If my understanding of environmental justice is accurate, this “injustice” of displacing indigenous peoples has been taking place since our origin. The only reason people are even on the American continents to begin with is because they came from somewhere else. So why is this phenomenon suddenly a crime? Is someone, or something, to blame for recent climate change? We typically only seek justice against those guilty of an offense, but how do we decide whose guilty and whose innocent? What if the climate were changing without human influence? Would environmental justice still be sought after today?

All of these questions were addressed, or at least touched upon, in the chapter reading. However, I’m still left with a feeling of skepticism. Yes, we know the climate is changing, and humans had their role in the matter. Specifically,  humans who had the technology and resources to produce heavy amounts of carbon and methane into the atmosphere are to blame. Indigenous peoples should not be held responsible for the actions of more developed nations. And yet, they are the ones left feeling the heat (literally!). So, what do we do with this information?

Giving aid to those cultures in need is a great idea. Supporting nonprofit organizations that help these people is a nice start. But what about after that? Which countries in particular should get involved? Who is ultimately held responsible for problems induced by climate change? America is typically the go-to nation for these sorts of matters. What about China, or Europe, or Russia? Who is going to make them chip in? Suddenly this becomes a game of politics and instead of helping the people in need, we are left fighting with one another. Guilty fingers will be pointed in all directions, and where will we be then? The climate will change with or without our successful pursuit of environmental justice. Just like with the ice age, some people will come out on top, and others left in the dust once again. Will the ones left standing be guilty by default? Even if they tried to help, could they prove themselves innocent? At the end of the day, the pursuit of environmental justice is a difficult task when any one of us could be guilty or innocent.

Water rights from a Californian’s perspective

Water has been a touchy subject in California long before anyone was worried about climate change. A state that deals with yearly wildfires and a massive population in desert like environments (SoCal) needs more than just the rivers and reservoirs confined to its borders. California has relied on exported water from outside dams, and most importantly, the great Colorado River, for quite some time. Even if there are periods without drought, fire, or population growth, California is still a global agriculture juggernaut that uses water to essentially fuel its own economy. The same states that give up water rights to California receive a bounty of fruits and vegetables in return. This might not seem like a fair deal with current climate conditions, but it certainly worked back in the “good ole days”.

With all that being said, California deserves all the blame that comes with fictional stories like The Tamarisk Hunter. California has taken no prisoners with regards to its many water wars with land owners, corporations, and the government. Not even the iconic Hetch Hetchy Valley was safe from the never-ending liquid greed. For those unaware, the Hetch Hetchy Valley once rivaled the Yosemite Valley in its majestic scenery. However, the entire valley was soon dammed and filled to the brim with water after the big earthquake of 1906. The earthquake caused the city of San Francisco to go up in flames as the buildings back then were made primarily of wood. The city was unprepared for a crisis like this, which made the damage toll unusually high.

To make sure something like this would never happen again, the city of San Francisco decided to create a large nearby water reserve. Hetch Hetchy was the victim to this human solution. Can you imagine if Los Angeles faced a similar event, and turned the Yosemite Valley into a water jug as their countermeasure? It wouldn’t surprise me, since California has clearly shown it will go to any lengths in order to stay hydrated. California is even willing to fight itself when it comes to water. Southern California consistently steals water from Northern California to compensate for the uneven population distribution. If you drive down Interstate 5 on your way to Disneyland, you’ll see a large channel moving water across the state. With the state still recovering from the 2015 drought, the channel will continue pumping water for the foreseeable future.

So, on behalf of all Californians, I’ll end with this: Do you have any water? I’m thirsty! 🙂

Can a tipping point be found on a circular system?

“Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state.”

The quote above does a good job at summarizing the paper’s overall message. The argument presented states that the Earth is reaching a tipping point of climate change that will be irreversible due to damaging human influences. If we as a society want to prevent this, the paper suggests major economic and social changes in the near future, so the Earth’s climate can be “stabilized”. Not only do I think the concept of a tipping point in the Earth’s climate is wrong, but I also think the paper’s solution is misguided. Do they really think we can control and maintain a climate system that has been constantly changing since the planet’s birth? It sounds to me like there is a lot of paranoia being created for a “threshold” that really has not proof of existing in the first place. I’ve pulled two quotes from the paper below as examples to this suspicion.

“Where such a threshold might be is uncertain, but it could be only decades ahead.”

“The door to the Stabilized Earth pathway may be rapidly closing.”

The metaphorical door is apparently closing on all our hopes of a decent climate, or is it? I’m not a geological expert, but I at least know the Earth has gone through much harsher changes than the present day. There was a point in Earth’s history where the entire globe was covered in ice, the whole thing! You would think of all scenarios, that one would have at least passed the so called “threshold”. As it turned out however, even that dramatic event came to an end. This is because the Earth’s climate system has the ability to fluctuate over time, even if it seems stuck in one particular spot for a while. Humans are certainly thankful for this, as we’ve experienced some preferable climate conditions for our species. If those conditions were to change in the future, and they certainly could, then we would have to change as well. I simply disagree with the idea that the Earth’s climate now has a tipping point that wasn’t there before. And even if there was a threshold, I think it is very bold to suggest that we have the power to control the climate at will and keep it “stabilized”. Nature changes with or without our permission. I’m all for encouraging proper stewardship of the environment, but I think its best if our motives are based out of good values, rather than the fear of some door slamming in our faces.

An example of our fear driven culture to change environmental habits.

 

If you didn’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it… but did you kill those vegetables?

The freedom to choose what I eat is awesome. I can eat foods I like, avoid the foods I don’t, and try new things at any time. If I’m worried about my money or my health, I can even plan my food intake to meet my daily needs. What if I didn’t have this freedom? What if someone else was in charge of what I ate? Would I be better off? If the person controlling my eating habits had my best interests in mind, there probably wouldn’t be any issues. However, who is the judge of what my best interests truly are? I personally wouldn’t trust anyone to dictate what food I consumed. I am always open to suggestions, but at the end of the day, what I eat is my decision and no one else’s. That’s how a free society ought to be.

The concept of “killing at a distance” does catch my attention in this paper. As a meat eater myself, I understand that while I’m not the guy who kills the animals on my plate, I am held just as responsible from a capitalistic perspective. I, the consumer, drive the production of goods, which is meat in this scenario. If I had to personally go out and kill all the meat I wanted to eat, chances are I would change my diet a bit. This isn’t because of a new sense of guilt or shame, but rather a result of my laziness. I’ve never been interested in hunting big game animals as I prefer everything I eat to be in moderation. I have friends who hunt elk and deer, and can you guess what they have to eat for months on end? I would rather eat no meat at all than have to eat the same thing for three months strait as to not waste the meat.

In the end, I think people should eat less meat in general. It’s better for their health and its better for the environment. A dinner plate balanced with fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy, and fats sounds perfect. However, I don’t think anyone has the right to tell someone else what they can or cannot eat. Unless it’s medically required or cannibalism, I think people should just mind their own business. You never know what people are going through. Chances are, they might not be able to afford the utopian diet nutritionists agree on. So while it’s important to keep an open mind on better eating habits, don’t forget that your right to eat vegetarian does not infringe on my right to eat meats, and visa versa.

It’s human nature to think we are unnatural

The 22 theses of nature revolve around the concept of how human beings perceive themselves as a product of the natural world. Some teachings believe humans are separate from nature since our conscious thinking and ability is far above anything else. Logically, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than any other creatures due to our influence and impact around the globe. I side with the author, however, who declares that humans are a part of nature. We are bound by the same natural laws and carry the same physical limits a natural being would have. Humans are certainly unique and have a special origin, but they belong on this Earth just as much as the grass beneath them. That doesn’t mean people should act entitled to the environment and abuse it however they see fit. Overall, people should act with conservationist mindsets, using the environment as a tool for survival and well-being, while at the same time respecting its longevity. I don’t think people should feel guilty that we have taken ownership of the planet as a species; only that we have been very irresponsible in taking care of our “kingdom”.

The second half of the paper discusses the idea of thinking of natural life as information or energy. It is a very interesting debate, especially as we advance further and further with our scientific knowledge. While science has certainly taught people immense truth, I still believe there is much we do not, and may never understand. This “energy”, as the author names it, represents the miraculous odds life had to overcome to even be possible. It is hard to believe the stars aligned perfectly, merely on accident, so things could be the way they are today. So as society continues to advance in its technological strength, it is important to keep a sense of humility when uncovering the mysteries of our amazing universe.

A Great Economy – If you can keep it

My title is a spinoff of a well-known quote by Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers. After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman walked up to Mr. Franklin and asked if they had established a republic government or a monarchy. Franklin then wisely said, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

One of the blessings of this new Republic, one of which the World had never witnessed before, was the incredible amount of freedom ordinary citizens had. Now, it took many years before EVERYONE enjoyed those freedoms, and there are still those who face challenges with injustice today, but the foundation for those freedoms remains. That could change if our economy, and its capitalistic ideals, were altered.

The concept of Degrowth, in an ideal setting, is very convincing. Our current economy is consuming products that will eventually run out and will be very difficult to replace when they are gone. Additionally, the impact an expanding human population has had on the environment will continue to be traumatic if we don’t change many of our polluting habits. It is not surprising for people to conclude that the problem is our way of business.

However, the capitalistic “problem” is actually the solution. Instead of taking the free market away from the people (which doesn’t usually work out – see Soviet Union), we should let the market fix itself like it always has. When coal became too inefficient, we as a society turned to gas. Now, oil is the resource that is becoming scarce and costly. When there becomes a better option, like solar, wind, or electric energy, the market will follow accordingly.

Leaning towards a government regulated economy that sabotages its own growth and dictates what you can and cannot consume based on what a group of people thinks is “good” or “bad” is very dangerous. Ever since becoming the lone superpower on this Earth, American has inherited a responsibility to help and defend its allies. How can we do that if we limit our own abilities?

Only a free capitalist economy can ensure a fair and successful marketplace. Implementing Degrowth would certainly help preserve selected resources and limit the damage to certain ecosystems, but we would no longer be “keeping” the freedoms our first leaders established.

It’s not my fault I litter. Blame God!

“Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.” – Lynn White

Lynn White states throughout his essay that blaming technological growth or using Band-Aid policies alone won’t stop our current ecological crisis, but he does a pretty good job at throwing Christianity under the bus for an acceptable solution anyway. Not only is this way of thinking unproductive, but it really disregards all of the good environmental missions Christian groups or anyone else with the same Judeo-Christian values take part in on a daily basis. Have people, including Christians, hurt the Earth more ways than we can keep track of? Of Course! To say that is simply a product of Christianity or even scientific advancement, however, is very lazy. I would guarantee a pagan dominate modern civilization would exploit the Earth’s riches just as much as we do now for its own personal benefit and security. My reasoning has nothing to do with ideologies either. No matter the belief system, humans will do whatever it takes to ensure their well-being. That’s what makes us apart of nature; our never-ending drive for survival and success. I’m not saying humans are completely innocent of their actions like a litter of golden retriever puppies, but people certainly have an edge in acting as conservationists. Does any other animal on the planet go out of its way to aid an ecosystem on the other side of the planet simply because it’s the right thing to do? Humans can cause a whole lot of damage, but their ability to consciously act in good stewardship without any personal gain is unparalleled. At the end of the day, I believe that, like all species on this planet, humans will do whatever is necessary to keep their ecosystem intact. In my opinion, that natural instinct is there, but pointing fingers and blaming faiths will only slow down the process. I’ve never read the Bible front to back before, but I’m pretty sure God isn’t to blame for that stray candy bar wrapper wondering the grocery store parking lot. With that being said, I certainly don’t have an alternative solution or answer to the world’s environmental mess. I just know that nature will run its course, even if people continue to back seat drive.