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GLOBAL TRANSITIONS: A VISUAL PORTRAYAL OF ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT BY DEANNA ERICKSON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Environmental Studies New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Prof essor Margaret D. Lowman Sarasota, Florida May, 2009
Table of Contents Foreword i. Chapter 1: Introduction 1. Chapter 2: Forests 3. Forest Photographs 10. Chapter 3: Biodiversity 13. Biodiversity Photographs 18. Chapter 4: Water Resources 23. Water Resources Photographs 30. Chapter 5: Agriculture 33. Agriculture Photographs 38. Chapter 6: Energy 39. Energy Photographs 50. Chapter 7: Global Climate Change 54. Global Climate Change Photographs 59. Chapter 8: Conclusion and Discussion 63.
GLOBAL TRANSITIONS: A VISUAL PORTRAYAL OF ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT Deanna Erickson New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT The Earth has been considerably altered by human influence with serious environmental consequences. Increasing populat ion and consumption rates are depleting forests, oil, and freshwater resources. Land converted for agriculture and urbanization degr ades essential natural ecosystems. Water and air pollution are destroying habitats and endangeri ng the plant and animal species that depend on them. Huma ns are intentionally altering sensitive cycles, ignoring the important services provided by maintaining balan ce in atmospheric, hydrologic, and terrestrial cycles.
These alterations are increasing the severity and impacts of climate change for the future. A combination of changing policy and enhancing personal responsibility c ould benefit the world by mitigating damages. Actions must be ta ken now to prevent further destruction. Visual media accompanying written informati on has the ability to enhance and promote science. Environmental photographs can appeal to different audi ences by attracting attention and creating a lasting memory. In the most basic sense, environmental photography incites an appreciation for the beauty of th e natural world. The most imperati ve message of this thesis was to combine photography and written information to explain how each person can shape the environment and the necessity involved in ta king personal responsibil ity for actions and changing habits to create a more promising future. Margaret D. Lowman Environmental Studies
i Foreword Societies around the world face serious issues everyday including poverty, war, famine, and disease; however one dilemma th at all humans should be concerned with and affected by is the condition of our planet Earth. We currently live in a time where advancements are rapidly progressing in ma ny areas. Unfortunately, concern and care for protecting our environment is often not a high pr iority. It is absolutely essential for more people to educate themselves about the myriad issues facing our world today. I had a troublesome time choosing a topic for my thesis. My past four years of college have opened my eyes to countless issues facing our world, making it impossible to focus on just one. Instead, I combined the knowledge gained from my education with my life experiences through photographs to produce my senior thesis for an environmental studies concentration. During college I have become increasi ngly passionate abou t understanding the diverse ecosystems of our world. Simultaneousl y I began to portray the worlds diversity through photography. This thesis represents the integration of my two passions and presents an opportunity to share this combin ation with others. The process of educating myself about the world that I love and creati ng the art that I love to produce this thesis project has been a truly insightful experience.
1 Chapter 1: Introduction Throughout my life, my interest in the environment and photography have developed and been influence by a variety of ev ents. As a Florida native, I have spent my life surrounded by beautiful environments and nature. My childhood ac tivities included building sandcastles at the beach, explor ing the woods around my house, and hiking on vacations to Georgia. I could often be f ound outside with neighborhood friends collecting nature ingredients for making potions. As a teenager I began travelling and experiencing different environments. After visiting and comparing European cities and small towns to areas of North and Central America, my aspiration to experience and understand the world intensified. In my third year of college I had th e amazing opportunity to study and live in Australia for a semester. I enjoyed experien cing a new culture and different ecosystems while traveling around the coast of Australia and New Zealand. Traver sing pristine areas in New Zealand opened my eyes to the massive impacts humans have had on the natural environment. At a very young age I developed an appreciation for photography and was determined to pursue the art. I feel it is an excellent medium that can record events and changes that might otherwise be forgotten or pass by unnoticed. My most influential inspiration was attend ing the Earth From Above exhibit in Sydneys Darling Harbour. Earth From Above is a series by photographe r Yann Arthus-Bertrand that uses aerial images to illustrate environmental issues f acing the planet. Majest ic landscapes captured by Ansel Adams and Clyde Butchers depict ion of the Everglades are additional
2 inspirations. Chris Jordan transforms unfat homable global consumption statistics into visible numerical representations that shocks viewers. On one occasion, I was fortunate to hear Gary Braach speak about climate cha nge at New College. His innovative work compares old photographs to his recently ca ptured images of the same location to effectively illustrate the reality of climate change. The approach these photographers use of promoting environmental awareness thr ough art is extraordinarily effective in educating a diverse audience about the issues facing our planet.
3 Chapter 2: Forests "Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping rese rvations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong." George Garlin Forests are an essential component to maintaining the health of global environments and the human population. Current threats to forests are disrupting the sensitive balances of the atmospheric, hydrol ogical and terrestrial systems. Any alteration in these balances could result in drastic im plications for humans and plant and animal species around the world. The environment depends on forests. Forests serve as a carbon dioxide sink that regulates atmospheric gases. Forests contai n high densities of trees and other plants which accumulate carbon by absorbing atmosphe ric carbon dioxide and transferring it to biomass. Carbon is stored in biomass on the forest floor and in the soil. Throughout the past couple of decades, it has become increasingly evident that high levels of anthropogenic carbon emissions mu st be lessened and/or captur ed to reduce the effects of climate change. Healthy, functi onal forests keep civilizations healthy and sustainable. Forests play an important role in ma intaining the Earths hydrological cycle. Deforestation disrupts the ways in which fore sts naturally maintain climatic balances. Spaces that have been cleared in forested ar eas allow more sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor. This changes the rate of evapor ation and alters pattern s of precipitation and temperature. In some forests, higher temper atures initially increas e growth, creating more
4 leaf surface area off of which precipitation can evaporate before reaching lower levels, causing the forest floor to become drier. Deforestation in conjunction with changes in the water cycle also has a significant effect on forest soil. In forests, root sy stems hold soil in place and regulate moisture. Depending on the climate and biome type, when trees are removed l oose soil can either become oversaturated with water, causing it to wash away, or it can become very dry resulting in wind erosion. Over saturated soil flowing into nearby water bodies increases turbidity, which decreases photosynthesis of organisms in the water, and endangers fish populations. When the natural rate of soil to water exchange is disrupted, it can cause nearby streams to have periods of flood and drought. Cl eared areas are often prone to tree deaths. The dead trees and their litter combined w ith dry soil create favorable conditions for rapidly spreading forest fires. When forest fires burn trees, evapotranspiration rates are reduced, aerosol particles releas ed into the atmosphere allow clouds to hold more water, rates of rainfall are reduced, drought increases and forests become even more prone to fire. This negative feedback loop can devastate forest ecosystems. Forests, especially rain forests, also provide habitats for a cons iderable portion of the worlds terrestrial plant and animal species. The importance of rain forest habitats in maintaining biodiversity will be discussed later. Although preserving the quantity and quality of forests is essential for the planet to maintain hydrologic, atmospheric, and terr estrial balances, deforestation has been a global environmental challenge for centuries. The economic value of a pristine forest is
5 often not recognized; their economics need to be accounted. Societies such as Easter Island, Ethiopia and Madagascar have overlook ed this value, with dire consequences. Estimates show that the largest proportion of deforestation has occurred in Asia and Africa, with South America not far behi nd. Unfortunately, these are only estimates, and an accurate method of measuring deforest ation has yet to be found, allowing different groups governmental, environmental and industr ial -to skew their es timates in order to benefit their cause. There are many incentives for deforestat ion. As previously mentioned, forests provide necessary environmental services, but th ey are also used in many other ways that are essential to humans. The most significant cause of deforestation is the conversion of forested land for agricultural purposes. Pr ior to technological a dvances, subsistence farmers used large areas of land for the sole purpose of feeding their families. Improvements in transportation allowed consumers in areas such as New England to ship grain from large farms in the Midwest. Initial technological improvements increased yields and made farming more efficient. Developing nations are currently facing the problems similar to growing America in th e mid 1800s, an increasing demand for food and a lack of efficient technology. As a result of this scenario, the c ountries of Nigeria, Madagascar, and Rwanda are now 90% deforested. An additional driver of deforest ation is logging. Wood production and manufacturing make up two percent of the worlds GDP. Th e timber industry contributes to deforestation in a multitude of ways: sel ling timber, building roads, harvesting wildlife for food, and creating infrastruc ture that attracts agriculture. Developed nations are
6 highly dependent on forests mainly for producing wood products, while developing nations rely on wood for fuel as well as for building materials and everyday furnishings. Despite new technology advocating a paperless lifestyle, paper consumption continues growing globally. While a significant porti on of deforestation occurs in developing countries, consumption rates of European and North American markets drive the timber industry, creating controversy about nations blamed for deforestation versus those responsible for finding solutions. In many cases, developing nati ons have few options other than utilizing their limited supply of natural resources. Faced with the op tion of preserving forested land or providing sustenance for their families, many cannot afford to protect their environment. Some support their families by se lling timber, while others clear forests to create agricultural land. Some simply need wood to use as fuel to cook food or heat their homes and others use wood and other forest resources to build their homes. While poverty and environmental degradation are correlated, it is much more difficult to eradicate world poverty in order to preserve forests than it is to alter the attitudes and consumption practices of wealthier nations. Reducing excessive consumption would be an extremely beneficial step towards solving most environmental problems the planet currently faces. Unfortuna tely, there is no easy way to alter the mindset of consumerism regardless of the fact that human existence depends on it. The protection of forests provides a slight but very necessary mitigation for excessive reliance on fossil fuel based en ergy, which emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The absence of this critical carbon sink would create an atmosphere with
7 approximately double the curren t carbon dioxide concentratio n, a level that would be devastating to the planet s current ecosystems. Deforestation correlates with water c onservation, severely impacting human populations. The transformation of forested land s alters the water cycle. Forests serve to prevent droughts by storing water. Also, the roots of trees and other plants filter and purify water. A dense forest with strong root systems secures soil, preventing erosion and sedimentation in nearby water bodies. In ex treme cases of erosion, a combination of loose soil and flowing water can result in landslides that decimate land and habitats, destroy infrastructure, and cau se human injury or death. While the burning of forests is a natural process, the frequency and intensity of recent fires can be attributed to human actions. Forests that have lost moisture burn much more easily and quickly and have become a seri ous problem for residents of areas such as California and Australia, where entire citi es have rapidly burned to the ground. Natural forest fires in areas with a healthy moisture level tend to be much less destructive to contiguous ecosystems and urban areas. Many forests, especially rain forests, have yet to be exte nsively researched. Scientists are attempting to study the coun tless undiscovered areas and unidentified species that could possibly benefit the medical community. Many of the current medicines and cures for diseases come from pl ants in the rain forest; however once these forests disappear, so will the possibilities of using their specie s to make medical advances.
8 Reducing deforestation require s creative thinking. One me thod is to raise the price of wood to account for its environmental valu e, however this is difficult because the market may never accurately price the value of a healthy forest in monetary terms. Another method is to use more sustainable pr actices. It is also problematic because the definition of sustainability varies widely among different cultures. Ecosystem management is a more in-depth approach to sustainable forestry that requires balancing the needs of consumers of all financial levels, indigenous groups living in forests, biodiversit y, and soil and water quality. Unfo rtunately there is no simple method of determining exactly how to produce a balance between such divergent areas. One relatively successful method is the repl acement of clear cutt ing with selective harvesting. While this creates open spaces and usually eliminates the largest, healthiest trees, it is nonetheless a cons iderable improvement over clea r cutting. Another successful method is creating consumer demand for produc ts that are certified as environmentally friendly in one way or another. While this system fosters dishonesty since consumers have very little chance of knowing if their product really is less harmful to the environment, the evident demand for these products encourages producers to use more sustainable forestry practices. Although forests provide countless essential benefits to humans and the environment, their destruction continues. A significant threat to forests is deforestation, which occurs because forested lands are ofte n not considered economically viable. As a result the land is transformed into someth ing more profitable. It is important to understand that intact forests are valuable to global ecosystems and to the human population. In order to preserve these ecosystem s, societies must adjust their ideas and
9 values to appreciate forests as they are, instead of the viewing them as an economic opportunity or resource.
10 Palm Oil Plantation Parrita, Costa Rica Native to West Africa, African Palms ( Elaesis guineensis ) are used to make edible oil, manufacture soaps and cosmetics and in the production of biodiesel. Recently the demand for palm oil around the world ha s greatly increased. Palm oil currently accounts for twenty-one percent of the global edible oil mark et. In order to meet this rising demand, many countries around the worl d are clearing their rain forests and replacing them with palm oil plantations. While some palm oil producers have small farms and practice sustainable methods, many such as this one are contributing to massive global deforestation and use pois on to clear the crops of insects.
11 The Everglades For fifty years, Smokey the Bear informed his nature loving audience about the importance and personal responsibility each pers on has to prevent forest fires. After he developed quite a following, his teachings were discovered to be inaccurate. While forest fires caused by reckless campers or extreme drought can be detrimental, natural forest fires are necessary to maintain the health of a forest. Eventually the Forest Service discovered the importance of small scale forest fires and in stituted a program of forestry management that used prescribed burns to prevent forest fuel buil dup that can lead to massive, uncontrollable forest fires. The River of Grass Prescribed Fire Plan uses fire to restore and maintain wet prairie and sawgrass marsh ecosystems in the Everglades.
12 Mount Aspiring National Park South Island, New Zealand Hiking is a common activity in New Zeala nd, a small country with a large amount of land that has been left untouched by humans. The natura l environment attracts many tourists desiring to enjoy a piece of nature that remains intact. Mount Aspiring National Park was established in 1964 as New Zealands 10th national park. It covers 3,555 km2 of the southern end of the Southern Alps and is very popular for hiking, walking and mountaineering. The New Zealand Conservati on Authority denied a recent request to construct a road and tunnel to transport to urists easier. The area will remain protected without an amendment to the Mount As piring National Park Management Plan.
13 Chapter 3: Biodiversity If all of mankind were to disappear, the worl d would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos. Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity describes the quantity a nd variety of living organisms including plants, animals, microorganisms and their ecosystems. Biodiversity is measured and determined by diversity of genetics, ecosyst ems, and species. Maintaining biodiversity levels based on these determinants has bi ocentric and anthropocentric benefits. Biodiversity is necessary to maintain sp ecies interaction and ecosystem functions. A keystone species is a species that contributes to the biodiversity of an ecosystem and if the species becomes extinct it could cause ot her extinctions of dependent life. Keystone species control and determine ecosystem health and survivability. The loss of just one species can substantially impact other memb ers of that functional community and the environment. Keystone species function as eith er predators or ecosystem engineers. A sea otter is an example of a pred ator. Sea otters prey on sea ur chins, herbivores that feed mainly on kelp roots. The absence of the keystone otter increases sea urchin population and destroys kelp forests. Grizzly bears, beavers and elephants are examples of ecosystem engineers. Each plays an essential role in shaping its ecosy stem. The grizzly bear catches salmon from rivers and transport nutrients from fish car casses or feces to the forest, changing the composition of the soil. Beavers build da ms converting streams into stagnant pond
14 habitats. In Africa, elephants feed on trees allowing space for grass and creating savannas. Biodiversity also provides a form of insurance to ecosystems by protecting against disease and pest deva station. The Great Famine, also known as the Irish Potato Blight, is a disastrous example illustrati ng the high costs of monocultures lacking biodiversity. Between 1845 and 1852, one m illion people died and another million emigrated to search for food. The Irish popul ation depended on two varieties of potato that were both susceptible to the blight, called Phytophthora infestans. Crop yields were nonexistent at times. Famine combined with political, social and economic factors caused great suffering for the Irish people. The futures of other aspects of the environment depend on a high level of biodiversity. Biodiversity stabilizes climat e and pollination. Intact ecosystems control and regulate carbon and water cycles. Rainfore sts transpire precipitation and hold water and nutrients in soil, purifying and maintaining natural water flow. Pollinators are also necessary for preserving ecosystems. Without bi rds, insects or bats pollination is less likely to occur. Approximately 70% of agricultural crops depend on pollinators. Population declines of native pollinators for ce farmers to purchase pollinators to sustain crop yields. From an anthropocentric perspective, biodi versity stores genetic information that ultimately expands scientific knowledge. Scientis ts use research findings in plant genetics to create chemical compounds, especially medicines. Over half of the medicines currently
15 prescribed in the United Stat es contain either one or mo re compounds derived from or patterned after organisms. Scientists study genetics to understand evolution. Unfortunately, the benefits of protecting biodiversity are not sufficiently recognized or understood in many societies, causing population decline and extinctions. The current rate of extinction is faster than historically measured rates and is progressing more quickly than speciation rates. In only 400 years 1,000 species extinctions have been recorded, while an incalculable number have vanished with no documentation. Extinction rates are partially attributed to anthropogenic environmental changes. Humans alter habitats, introduce non-native sp ecies, change biogeochemical cycles, and overharvest plants and animals. Habitat conversion is the greatest thr eat to biodiversity. Deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, dese rtification, and convers ion to agricultural lands transform complex habitats into simple ecosystems that cannot support the same species. Similarly, plants and animals seldom successfully adapt to non-native species introductions. Trade and travel foster species invasions that impose on sensitive ecosystems. Invasive species compete with native plants and animals for energy and nutrients and lack population control mechanisms including predators, parasites and disease. The cane toad was introduced to Au stralia in 1935 as a predator for the Cane Beetle, an agricultural pest. Cane toads mu ltiplied rapidly with no predators and led to declines in native biodiversity. The biogeochemical cycle refers to the flow of matter among storages in the biological, geological, and chemical systems of Earth. Changes in this sensitive cycle can
16 increase energy and disrupt the balance betw een plant and animal species. Unbalanced systems provide resources for some species to prosper, while others must compete and struggle to persist in a new environment. Th e biogeochemical cycle is frequently altered by fossil fuel use that contributes nitrogen or phosphorous, changing the natural balance of nutrients that species are sensit ive to or require for survival. Unsustainable hunting and harvesting practices where rates exceed maximum yields contribute to biodiversit y loss and extinctions. Resident s of developed nations that willingly pay high prices for exotic imports from developing nations encourage unsustainable business practices. Exporters tend to use the least expensive method to obtain profitable resources, i gnoring environmental effects. While biodiversity continues to declin e as population and affluence increase, strategies need to prioritize future sustai nability. The first step to preservation is determining which species should be protecte d. The process of choosing species is based on a set of criteria. First, the uniqueness of a species is determined and ranked by potential contribution to geneti c studies. Another criterion is the commercial value to humans, especially monetary value. Las tly, a comparison of the conservation costs compared to the biodiversity gains is critical. Once determ ined that a species should be preserved, legal protect ions are instituted. The Endangered Species Act protects endangered and threatened species by banning hunting and commercial harvesting and pr eserving habitats that are necessary for a species survival. The 1973 Convention on In ternational Trade in Endangered Species is similar, except it includes 160 parties that ag reed to monitor and re gulate trade in order
17 to stop illegal poaching and exportation of e ndangered plants and animals. Biodiversity can also be preserved through habitat protecti on. Sensitive, unique or critical habitats are often chosen as sites to be legally protected and managed. Als o, the introduction of ecotourism as a viable approach to balanc ing ecological and economic needs encourages economic growth, the appreciation of nature, environmental awaren ess and education, ecosystem management, and the preservation of biodiversity. Biodiversity preservation is essential for sustaining functional ecosystems. The extinction or relocation of one keystone sp ecies could devastate an entire ecosystem. Diversity in agriculture as opposed to monoculture can prev ent diseases and slow the evolution of pests. Natural, stable ecosystems also serve to maintain current climatic conditions and natural water flow. Scientif ic knowledge gained from studying plant patterns contributes useful me dications for humans. For the human population to continue enjoying the benefits and services provid ed by biodiversity, th e current rate of biodiversity loss and extinctions must be slowed and species preserved.
18 Global Biodiversity Every animal and plant species exists for a reason and serves to enhance or stabilize ecosystem interactions. Biodiversity preservation can ensure a more sustainable future by maintaining balance in nature. The loss of one species or a significant portion of a population can devastate an entire ecosy stem. Biodiversity benefits the human population by ensuring agricultural productiv ity, protecting human health, and providing resources that promote business and industry. Species that exist toda y have evolved over billions of years and abundan ce is rapidly declining. It is essential to act now and place precedence on global biodiversity conservation.
19 The Stromatolites of Shark Bay Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve is located in the Shark Bay World Heritage Site in Western Australia. It is one of onl y a few places in the world where living marine stromatolites can be found. Stromatolites are layered accretionary structures that are produced in shallow water when sediments are trapped and cemented. They are the first living examples of structures built by cyanobacteria, disc overed by scientists in 1956, and are one of the earliest records of life on Eart h. They provided the early Earth with much of its oxygen atmosphere billions of years be fore plants appeared and are evidence of early prokaryotic life. Stromatolites are the si mplest life forms to use photosynthesis as a source of food and oxygen.
20 Pinnacles Sunset The Pinnacles in Nambung National Pa rk, Western Australia are limestone structures that were formed from seashells in an earlier epoch rich in marine life. The Pinnacles have been preserved and protected from human influence and only the natural elements of wind and rain have changed these structures over the years.
21 Lupins: Introduced or Invasive Species? Lupins were introduced as an ornamental plant to New Zealand and have since spread and grown in large numbers in the wild. Seeds are carried by car tires and rivers. Lupins enhance scenery and revegetate mount ain slopes, but also compete with native plants for water and nutrients and ca n threaten riverbed bird populations.
22 Ecotourism in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica Ecotourism comprises a substantial porti on of Costa Rican economy. The country is rich with biodiversity and c ontains many natural resources to attract tourists interested in nature. Ecotourism can lead to damaging environmental and socio-economic impacts, but Costa Rica has become a leader in the business by minimizing negative impacts and striving to successfully balance environmenta l, social and economic needs. The main intentions of ecotourism are to promote cons ervation, supply local residents with income, serve as an economic justification for preser vation, and generate financing for parks. Costa Rica is one of the only locations to successfully incorporate these four goals, producing a sustainable industry and an environmentally conscious culture.
23 Chapter 4: Water Resources How inappropriate to call this plan et Earth when it is clearly Ocean. Arthur C. Clark Water is an extremely important component of the Earths surface. Although simply an abundant compound composed of hydrogen and oxygen, a multitude of complex issues are associated with wate r ranging from scarcity to pollution, and governance to temperature changes. Because plants, animals and humans each require water for survival, the concern for its qua lity and quantity beco me comprehensible. Similar to many ecological resources, water moves through the environment in a cyclical pattern. The hydrologic cycle refers to the flow of wa ter between the ocean, atmosphere and land. While the description of the hydrologic cycle implies that water may be prevalent, freshwater sources are limited. One source of freshwater is groundwater that is extracted from aquifers. Surface water ru noff is the primary source of freshwater for humans. The majority of preci pitation that falls to the ground evaporates or is transpired by plants, leaving the rema inder for humans to contain before it flows back into the ocean. Surface water runoff s upplies require consistent precipitation; however weather patterns vary by season and area. The quality and quantity of salt water a nd freshwater impact the environment considerably. When healthy, th e ocean is a balanced ecosyst em that maintains specific salinity, acidity and dissolved oxygen levels and temperature. Alterations can also displace ocean currents and destabilize w eather and climate patterns. The current chemical composition and thermal conditions of the ocean creates a significant carbon
24 dioxide sink. Changes could reduce absorpti on efficiency or release carbon into the atmosphere, intensifying climate change. Much of the biodiversity of the large and diverse ocean ecosystem has yet to be explored, but it undoubtedly supports immeasurable fish, mammal, bird and plant populations. Similarly freshwater serves as habitats for fish, provide animals with dri nking water and food, and promote plant growth and health. Beyond providing environmental services, wa ter is an essential resource that benefits humans directly. According to 2002 data, over half of the United States population lives within 50 miles of an ocean or Great Lake. Humans utilize salt water resources to enhance economy and produce food. Goods are shipped long distances by boat, an economical alternativ e to other transportation mode s. The fishing industry is often an imperative economic sector and fish are a vital component of diets worldwide. Fishing and other aquatic activities that pr omote tourism boost the economies of coastal towns. Throughout history, civilizations have settle d near sources of freshwater because it is the most essential resour ce humans need to survive. Without freshwater access, food productionincluding agriculture and fishingwould be impossible. The ability and ease to which areas can access freshwater also im pacts local economies. Scarcity reduces the profitability of recreational, ag ricultural and fishing industrie s. Property values tend to be lower in areas farther from freshwater resour ces. Human health is directly dependent on quality fresh water for drinking and food pr oduction. Water is also used as an energy source in the creation of hydroe lectric power and is a key component in many industrial processes.
25 Freshwater scarcity generate s negative social conseque nces. The prosperity of a society requires healthy members with suffi cient access to nutritional food and quality drinking water. Economic development and pr ogress also depend on water availability. Societies lacking clean water are much less likely to prosper. Despite the exigency for water, supp lies are being danger ously threatened. Governance, ownership and barrier issues create contr oversies regarding rights and responsibilities of different groups. Overfish ing is difficult to su ccessfully monitor and restrict through governance. Pollution, sedimentation from er osion, offshore oil drilling, and dredging processes destroy sensitive ocean habitats. Polluted surface water runoff changes the chemical composition of ocean wate r, forcing species to adapt, relocate or die. Coral reef systems are extremely sensitive to small changes in temperature, salinity and acidity. They are nicknamed the rainforests of the sea because of the high levels of biodiversity they support. The lo ss of this habitat would devastate numerous ocean species. Climate change will also a ffect ocean stability, causing mass extinctions. Warming surface temperatures will alter the flow of major climate controlling ocean currents. Although seventy percent of the Earths surf ace is covered by water, ninety-seven percent is salt water, and of the remaining freshwater portion two th irds is trapped and frozen in glaciers, ice caps and permafrost. Over six billion humans animals and plants on the planet must share the remaining 0.007% accessible freshwater. Of course, these fractions do not account for the large amount of freshwater that is contaminated. Sewage
26 containing microorganisms or organic wastes entering water supplies spreads disease, and salination and acidification create undrinkable water. Pollu tion destroys fish habitats, harming birds, mammals and humans that re ly on fish as part of their diet. Projections suggest that gl obal water shortage will only be exacerbated in the future. As climate change continues to progress, drought freque ncy and severity will increase, devastating areas that are alr eady experiencing adverse effects of water shortages. Population growth is another threat to water supply. And worse, humans consume considerably more water than ever before. In the past century, the human population doubled while water usage increased six times This is partially explained by current agricultural practices, which ar e reliant on excessive water us e. Agricultural irrigation accounts for 2/3 of human water use globall y. Large farms, inefficient irrigation technology, and unsustainable farming practices create an excessive demand on the water supply. Excessive water use in certain societies al so creates social problems with respect to unequal distribution. Although water use has increased considerably, many areas of the world lack access to fresh water. Over 1 billion people have inadequate access to safe drinking water. The water footprint of a nation is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the people of the nation. The American per capita yearly water footprint is 2,483 cubi c meters, twice the global average, while Chinas footprint is only 702 cubic meters. The average American
27 single family home uses sixty-nine gallons of water per capita pe r day, whereas in the Sudan 12.3 million people drink contaminated water. While the problems of water scarcity ma y be acknowledged in affluent nations, the severity is rarely understood, and consum ption habits are excessive. Americans use water to irrigate lawns, wash cars and f ill pools that could instead provide developing nations with water for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene. Unfortunately water distribution is based on infras tructure and affluence. Freshwater scarcity is enhanced by wast eful usage practices The best solution would be to promote conservation; however, th is relies on unrealistic cooperation of the global population to work toward a common goa l that will not benefit all people equally. While Americans may benefit from water cons ervation monetarily or by increasing their water supply for the future, but conservation e fforts will be recognized in a society where people are dying of dehydration and water born diseases. Governance is one method of reducing thre ats to salt water ecosystems. Regional, national, and international agreements can impose strict regulations and controls to protect the environment. Marine Protected Area s (MPAs) are instituted to protect critical habitats or certain species and increase the fish stock for surrounding areas. Improving the quality of marine areas is beneficial to fishermen, divers, eco-tourists, scientists, conservation groups and government agen cies. Unfortunately there are unknown variables involved with protecting and monito ring the ocean and MPAs are not always as successful as they strive to be. Monitori ng success is expensive and difficult. MPAs can
28 also have social consequences, taking away the rights of fishers and transforming economies from fishing to tourism. Another method of preserving fish stocks is the introduction of Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs). IFQs function by allocating exclusive rights of a percentage of the total allowable catch within a time period to cer tain fishermen. Ideally, IFQs reduce overcapitalization, promote conservation, im prove market conditions, and promote safety. However, IFQs can lead to inequ itable rights, debates in privatization of publicly-owned fisheries, and negative environmental impacts. In times of scarcity, freshwater can be captured and contained by diverting surface or groundwater, mining groundwater, bui lding dams, or desalinating sea or brackish water. Desalinization is the proce sses of purifying seawater by removing excess salts and minerals. In theor y, desalinization seems like a pe rfect solution. The abundance of salt water on the Earth and technological advancements encourage transforming saline water into potable water. Fresh water is b ecoming scarcer and more expensive to collect, while technology makes the desalinization pr ocess more efficient and inexpensive in comparison. Infrastructure, maintenance, energy requi rements and transportation of water are very expensive. Desalinization destroys ha bitats and pollutes gr oundwater. Leftover brine containing chemicals from cleaning proce sses and an unnatural amount of salts and minerals is discharged back into the ocea n. Desalinization plan ts disrupt tourism, recreation, and fishing businesses. Water di version, mining and damming similarly have negative consequences on freshwater supply.
29 A better solution is to institute a management system that focuses on fair and equal distribution, improved technology in deve loping nations, consum ption restrictions in developed nations and incr eased efficiency globally. Po llution can be controlled through economic incentives, tec hnological advances, and qu ality standards and laws. Humans, plants, animals and environmental systems depend on a steady supply of water. Marine and fresh water are under threat. It is important to manage water now and in the future by improving distribution and access, redu cing pollution, and setting restrictions to promote conservation.
31 The Everglades National Park The River of Grass is pa rt of a large watershed that begins in central Florida and empties into the Gulf of Mexico a nd Atlantic Ocean afte r flowing through the Everglades. Nineteenth-Century Floridians vi ewed the Everglades as a piece of nature that should be conquered and developed. For decades, different groups of people unsuccessfully attempted to drain the Everglades by building canals. After consistent failure the dangers of transforming an unc ooperative wetland into property to be developed were realized. Throughout the drai nage attempts, areas around the Everglades were developed into cities and agricultural areas using water diverted from canals. Fertilizer runoff from agricultural areas ente red the water, changing nutrient levels and causing large algal blooms and widespread competitive cattails. The Everglades have also been polluted with dangerous chemicals emitted from power plants. The Central and Southern Florida Flood Cont rol Project was formed in 1947 to try to restore the Everglades back to its natural state. As time passed and multiple restoration attempts failed, the Everglades became inte rnationally recognized for its environmental importance. The park consists of numerous eco systems that are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. Envi ronmental conditions are high ly dependent on fluctuations in the water cycle. The Everglades Nationa l Park has been threatened by development and failed restoration attempts could ultimately result in the loss of a valuable, unique, and globally recognized ecosystem.
32 Lido Beach Expansion Dredging is the process of collectin g sediment from water body floors and transporting it to another location, a technique frequently used in beach nourishment. Dredging causes significant disturbances to aquatic and coastal ecosystems. Mixing settled sediments increases turbidity, slowing species metabolism and disrupting reproductive patterns, and releas es toxic chemicals into the water. Chemicals can persist through bioaccumulation and contaminate humans and animals higher in the food chain. It is difficult to find replacement sediment that is similar to the original sand. Nesting sea turtles and other coastal animals are unable to adjust to such changes. Aquatic life can become captured and killed in dredging pipes. While dredging to restore eroded land may protect against storms and future sea level rise, negative environmen tal impacts reduce its practicality.
33 Chapter 5: Agriculture You cannot eat apples planted from seed s. They must be grafted, cloned. Michael Pollan Agricultural practices have been transf ormed over thousands of years to meet increasing demands for food. Humans in itially obtained food by hunting and gathering; however population growth and te chnology advances have created societies sustained by agricultural produc tion. Different theori es explain the rise of agriculture, associating the amplificati on of agriculture with tec hnical capabiliti es, population growth, and coevolution with humans. It is likely that each contributed to shape the agriculture sector that exists today. Agroecosystems are simplified ecosyst ems established to yield food for humans that are produced by clearing land, planting seeds, ferti lizing and irrigating, suppressing succession and pests, and harves ting crops. Yields are determined by disturbance, succession, the biogeochemical cy cle, and energy allocation strategies. The economics of agriculture combine land, la bor, machinery, energy and materials to produce food. The Green Revolution transf ormed agriculture by introducing highyield varieties of crops and increasing wate r, fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide inputs to enhance food production. New fuel powered machinery amplified productivity and reduced land and labor requirements. The Green Revolution provided necessary food supply for a growing population, lowered the price of food, and allowed countries to grow their own food rather than relying on imports.
34 Social and environmental costs of the Green Revolution are considerable. Small-scale farmers that are unable to comp ete with high yields and low prices of large farms are put out of work or lose th eir land. Poverty prevents them from buying food from large farms, and the landless farmers go hungry. Although food production is sufficient to feed all people, distribu tion is uneven and hunger is increasing. The environment is negatively impacted by en ergy, material and machinery intensive practices. Declining supplies of oil a nd gas will make energy and food production more expensive. Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers pollute the atmosphere and water, causing eutrophicati on, phytoplankton blooms, clim atic warming, and ozone depletion. Land is degraded through deforest ation, desertification, soil erosion, mineral depletion, and chemical degradation. The Green Revolution also greatly increased water required for irrigation. Monoculture is an agricultural method of growing one crop in a large farm that increases machinery and material input effici ency and lowers costs, but the process is highly risky. Monoculture provides a breeding ground fo r diseases and pests to flourish and outbreaks cause massive econom ic and production losses. To prevent losses, pesticide, herbicide and fungicide us e is increased; howeve r over time targeted pests and diseases build a resistance to the chemicals while other beneficial insects are killed by nonspecific chemicals. Genetically modified crops are genetically altered through engineering to create a more desirable crop. Herbicide-tolera nt and pest-resistant crops are created to increase yields and reduce inputs. The cost s and benefits of ge netically engineering crops are highly controversial. Debated t opics related to genetically modified
35 organisms, or GMOs, include the use of term inator seeds and seed patents that give power and ownership of the global seed mark et to a small number of seed companies. Laws restrict farmers from using patented seeds for multiple seasons, forcing them to purchase new seeds for every harvest. Geneti cally modified crops can potentially cross pollinate with native plants, destroying biodiversity and creating new species. Intensive livestock production has nume rous negative environmental impacts. Livestock occupies 70% of agricultural la nd and 30% of the Earths surface. Livestock production contributes more greenhouse ga ses than transportation and releases acidifying ammonia, drives deforest ation, and reduces biodiversity. Agricultural practices enhance global c limate change and will be disrupted by it in the future. Wet soil releases methane fr om decomposing organic matter and nitric oxide into the atmosphere, intensifying greenhouse gas concentration, while land conversion reduces carbon sinks. Temperatur e, moisture and atmospheric composition changes will alter agricultural productivit y, decreasing yields in some areas and increasing yields in others. Agricultural processes are highly dependent on fossil fuels to produce pesticides and fertilizers, power farm mach inery, and transport harvested crops to be sold. Each unit of energy in food grown using petroleum intensive methods requires ten times the energy to produce and deliver. Most food is shipped an average of 1,500 miles before reaching its final destina tion. Decreasing oil supplies will either substantially raise food prices or cause a large food shortage.
36 Recently farmers have begun growing corn to produce ethanol and mitigate oil shortages and foreign dependence. This incr eases oil but lowers food supply and raises the costs of both. Petroleum supply declin es will limit fertilizer production and use and reduce food production. Effects of petroleum shortages can be mitigated by increasing organic agriculture and consuming locally produced foods. Organic farming is more labor intensive but uses no petroleum-based chem icals and can potentially produce yields comparable to conventional farming. Cons uming locally-grown food greatly reduces fossil fuel requirements in agriculture. On av erage, local food supplies travel less than 50 miles, much less compared to conventiona lly shipped food that is transported over 1,500 miles. The goal of precision agriculture is to in crease yields and reduce environmental impacts of fertilizer and wate r inputs. Precision agriculture farmers aim to determine the exact amount of inputs needed to produ ce a sufficient crop without wasting excess fertilizer and water. This agricultural method requires farm ers to be highly informed about the ecological characteristi cs of their land and the need s of their crop. Integrated pest management reduces pesticide, herbic ide and fungicide use by using pest control methods and information to prevent crop damage. This method protects consumers, property, and the environment fr om harmful chemicals by usi ng biological controls to integrate a pest, its food sour ce, and potential predators. In conclusion, the transformation from sustainable hunting and gathering methods to intensive agriculture has crea ted a society dependent on excessive energy
37 and resource use for food production. It is impe rative for societies to revert back to more sustainable agricultural practices to reduce air, water and land pollution and degradation and contributions to global climate change while ensuring future food supplies.
38 Camoflauged Corn "So that's us: processed corn, walking." Michael Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma American society has become dependen t on corn as a product used in the production of nearly all commonly used products. Farmers are encouraged to produce more corn that the country can use, reduci ng prices, profiting from exports, and raising subsidy payments. Over one quarter of items sold in a grocery store use corn for production or processing. Government-funded corn is used to manufacture a surprisingly wide variety of products, includ ing but not limited to food, automobiles, tires, whiskey, carpet, shoe polish, soap, wallpaper, l eather, paper plates and explosives.
39 Chapter 6: Energy Resources and Efficiency The use of solar energy has not been ope ned up because the oil industry does not own the sun. Ralph Nader Nearly all aspects of society and economy require energy to foster progress. Population and affluence increases will amplif y consumption rates, only to further the demand for energy. The majority of daily ac tivities and future development rely on energy from fossil fuels, finite resources st eadily declining in supply. Advancements in alternative, renewable energy technology le ssen fossil fuel demand while potentially benefiting the environment, government a nd economy. The many forms of renewable energy have dissimilar costs and benefits, maki ng research and planning essential steps in the process of determining appropriate energy sources for specific areas. Conventional fossil fuelsincluding coal oil and natural gasare the least expensive and most commonly used fossil fuel s. Coal was popularized during a European wood shortage in the sixteenth century and wa s used heavily during the first century of the Industrial Revolution. The following cen tury amplified crude oil demand as the supply of whale oil for lighting decrease d. Technological advan ces, especially car production, cemented our thirst for oil. Natura l gas consumption also increased because it is easier than coal or oil to obtain, transport and store a nd produces less pollution (and burning coal creates noxious smoke). It is difficult to predict the remaining quantity of fossil fuels for future demands. The reserves to production ratio is used to compare oil quantity in proved reserves to the
40 rate of oil production. It estim ates how long oil supplies will last based on demand rates, but can be misleading by excluding undiscovered reserves and the time required to obtain and process oil. This ratio only remains c onstant if enough oil is found to replace oil produced. Yield per effort measures the success rate of drilling by determining the quantity of oil found for every foot drilled. Th is ratio illustrates the exponential decline of oil; the first fields drilled contained the larges t quantity of oil, and as available reserve quantities decline and fields get smaller, su ccess rates and yield per effort diminish. Fossil fuel production will decline over ti me with gradual resource depletion. The oil production peak will be determined by unforeseeable economic and institutional factors, after which production will become less economical and oil prices will rise. The positive and negative aspects of energy independence are frequently debated in politics. Some believe that eliminating foreign de pendence will enhance economic and military stability, while others recogni ze the interconnectedness of o il resources as a global pool and the economic benefits of importing less expensive oil. The economic, environmental and social costs of fossil fuel use are encouraging technological development and renewable ener gy use worldwide. In 2005, nuclear power provided five percent of the worlds energy and generated 15% of global electricity. The positive characteristics of nuclear power as an energy alternative are its renewability, abundance, high energy potential, and ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But negative environmental, economic and social issues are substantial. The process of energy production, from uraniu m mining to waste disposal, has severe environmental impacts. Uranium mining destroys habitats and contaminates the air, water
41 and soil with radiation. Determining the prope r procedure for radioa ctive waste disposal is the most controversial asp ect of nuclear energy use. Every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle produces different types of radioactive wastes that require unique management techniques determined by the time period of radioactivity, th e concentration of radioactive substances and heat involvement. High-leve l wastes (reputably the most hazardous) entail disposal methods that will isolate substances for long periods (i.e. radioactive waste remain dangerous for thousan ds of years). This is usually accomplished through geological disposal, encasing and buryi ng waste in geologica lly stable locations. It is extremely difficult to predict the changes that may affect wa ste security over 10,000 years; therefore extreme caution mu st be taken with disposal. Environmental hazards associated with nuclear power often create controversy among societies potentially affect ed by radiation or areas locat ed near a nuclear facility. When the Three Mile Island plant in Penns ylvania experienced technical failures, precautionary evacuations were ordered for nearby pregnant women and children, while other were simply advised to stay inside w ith the windows closed. Af ter thirty years and numerous studies, the accidents health im pacts are still debated. A more recent and detailed study revealed a correlation between wind patterns and cancer rates. Chernobyl, a much more severe acciden t, involved nuclear power plant explosions that released eight tons of highly radioactive fu el into the atmosphere. Wind dispersed particles for over ten days and deposited them through precipitation, contaminating over 77,220 square miles. Thirty -one rescue workers died immediately and severely contaminated regions correlate with hi gh cancer rates, especially in adolescents.
42 Many people were relocated. Agriculture and forest economies were destroyed and costs of attempting to repair damages are estim ated at hundreds of billions of dollars. Possible disastrous nuclear meltdowns are not the only economic drawback of nuclear power. While operating costs are compar ative with fossil fuels, building nuclear power plants is expensive given all the sa fety concerns. Subsidies provide insurance liability, but if damages surp ass subsidy amounts tax payers must cover the extra costs. Proper waste disposal can cost tens of billi ons of dollars. Until re search and technology progress, nuclear power as an alternative to conventional energy remains unfavorable in the United States. Wind energy is the fastest growing energy technology worldwide, particularly in Europe. It generates 10% of Denmarks electr icity, but less than one percent in the United States. Competition for more ecological technology in the elect rical industry and subsidies that lower produc tion costs and encourage investment and technology are driving growth. Electricity is created when kinetic wind energy is converted to mechanical power. It is a product of Earths rotation, irregularitie s in its surface, and solar energy and depends on the amount of wind energy, the density of air, and wind speed frequencies. Based on these factors, six pe rcent of the continental United States is suitable for wind energy production, enough to generate 50% more electricity that the United States consumes. North Dakota alone could provide on e third of the electr icity supply for the continental United States. Complications that threaten the success of wind energy include strong winds, storms, freezing, lightning, hail, and vegetation, and animal habitat needs.
43 Feasibility depends on the distance from a power grid and supply needs of nearby grids. While wind energy produces much less pollution th an fossil fuels, it disturbs ecologically sensitive ecosystems, causes erosion, and di srupts bird and bat migration patterns. Solar energy is abundant, but it does not produce energy efficiently and is unevenly distributed in the United States. The cost of generating so lar energy is higher than fossil fuels, but would be more economi cal if fossil fuel subsidies were removed. Environmental externalities are minimal, in cluding extracting and processing materials. Despite environmental benefits and declining cost with technology improvements, some still prefer less expensive conventional fossil fuels. Photovoltaic systems convert light ener gy into electricity using photovoltaic molecules, a battery charge controller, batteries, an inverter or power control unit, safety disconnects and fuses, a ground circuit, and wiring. Efficiency depends on light reflection and absorption and has increased from about one percent to 15% sin ce early technologies in the 1880s. The photovoltaic industry a nd the Department of Energy are sponsoring research and development to reduce cost s and increase efficiency. Photovoltaic technology is used in products that require small amounts of direct currents including calculators, watches and battery chargers. It is also used in orbital satell ites, cell phones, and lighting signs and security systems. Photovoltaic systems provide energy for residential uses in remote areas that lack other energy sources. The challenge with photovoltaic energy is the cost of pr oducing large scale electricity. Bioenergy is the conversion of bioma ss, harvested vegetation and converted materials made of vegetation, into energy. Biom ass resources are distributed more evenly
44 than fossil fuels, allowing equitable access and opportunities for lo cal control over energy supply. Bioenergy accounts for 14% of global energy consumption, with low usage in oil rich regions and significantly higher reliance in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Biofuels are popularized as economica lly and environmentally beneficial alternatives to fossil fuels, however benef its are highly debatable. Biofuels require 600 million bushels of corn, financially suppor ting farmers while reducing foreign oil dependence and carbon dioxide emissions. The biofuel industry would not be economically possible without substantial corn subsidies and tax credits for ethanol. Critics have reported that etha nol has a net energy return on investment of less than one, meaning it requires more energy to produce th an it ultimately provides. Others, assuming a higher corn yield and agricultural efficienc y, argue that the energy return on investment is larger than one, and focus on emission reduction, domestic s upply, and agricultural profits. Determining the environmental and economical viability of ethanol as a renewable replacement for conventional gasoline requires all direct a nd indirect costs and benefits to be revealed and compared. Growing corn uses fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals, machinery, labor, and water for irrigation, each demanding fossil fuels for manufacture and transp ortation. After corn is grow n, fossil fuels are used to transport it and to build, operate and mainta in the production facility. Biofuel and other biomass use cause habitat destruction, lo ss of biodiversity, pollution, erosion, and disturbances in the soil and water cycles. Land conversion for harvesting biomass reduces carbon stores and burning biom ass releases carbon dioxide.
45 Geothermal fields are areas with concentr ated heat from geological cycles that can be used to create geothermal energy. Geot hermal energy is converted into electricity by using steam to power a turbine generator, and unused water is injected back into a reservoir to be reheated and reused. Geotherm al energy is used directly in space heating, industrial processes, greenhouses, aquaculture and spas. Geothermal power has no fuel requi rement, produces no emissions, and is insusceptible to fuel cost fluctuations. En ergy production is sustainable because it uses a small portion of the water suppl y and returns unused water for future use. Geothermal power plants require much less land use than other energy plants. Large plants produce large amounts of power, while smaller ones can provide energy to remote areas with limited energy supplies. The environmental costs of geothe rmal energy production are relatively insignificant compared to other energy forms. Power plants can reduce land stability if water is injected into areas that do not naturally support re servoirs. Some power plants emit very low levels of carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and sulphur, but most use emissionscontrolling systems to eliminate emissions. Waste water disposal, the most significant concern, can contain trace amounts of harmful elements such as mercury or arsenic and disposal into rivers destr oys potable water supplies. Ov er long periods of time, geothermal sites can cool down, reducing productivity; however if abandoned their original heat returns. The ocean contains a vast amount of energy obtained through various methods. Ocean thermal energy utilizes the temperatur e gradient between deep cold water and
46 warm surface water to generate electricity. Beneficial byprod ucts of this method include freshwater, chilled water for space cooli ng, aquaculture, and mineral extraction. Tidal energy uses tidal force energy from the Earth-Moon-Sun system to generate inexhaustible, renewable energy. Tidal stream systems use kinetic energy to power turbines, while barrages convert potential energy of tidal changes into electricity. Barrage infrastructure is expensive to build but ec onomical to maintain. Governments are often hesitant to provide infrastructure funding because financial returns on investment are delayed. Tidal power is an environmentally vi able alternative to fossil fuel energy with few negative environmental impacts and le ss greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, little energy is produced, supplies are not constant, and the technology only works in areas with large tidal ranges, often sensitive coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Wave power captures potential and kinetic energy of ocean surface waves and converts it into electricity. Deep water energy sources ar e substantial as well, but technical issues reduce the f easibility of wave energy as a prevalent alternative energy source. Efficient energy generation demands co nsistent water flow that does not occur naturally, salt water corrosion and storms can damage infrastructure, electricity is expensive, marine ecosystems are disturbe d, and wave farms are socio-economically damaging to beach and fishing industries. Hydropower, the most common renewable ener gy form, generates electricity from gravitational forces of falling water. After infrastructure is built, hydropower emits very low levels of carbon dioxide. Production and efficiency depend on turbine size and quality and the available water supply. Hydroe lectricity generation disrupts ecosystems
47 through flooding, sedimentation, erosion, migrati on barriers, and alterations in dissolved oxygen content and water temperature, harm ing sensitive fish populations. Social disadvantages include populati on relocation, loss of fishing zones, and reduced drinking water supply. Rare incidences of dam failure have caused human fatalities and residence destruction. Hydrogen, a simple, abundant element, can potentially provide en ergy that can be stored and transported through several methods. Hydrogen is used to generate electricity or power automobiles with no fuel burning. With current technologi es, energy density of hydrogen is low and production is expens ive, but research and technological improvements could potentially generate high power, affordable energy. Approximately 99% of electricity genera ted in Costa Rica uses renewable energy. Hydroelectric dams provide over 82% of the electricity demanded, while the remaining is generated through geothermal, solar, biom ass and wind energy. Negative consequences include displacement of indigenous peopl e and habitat flooding for hydropower. Also, future changes in rainfall patterns caused by climate change could reduce the ability to consistently produce electricity. Primary energy demands are transportation, commercial, residential, and industrial and manufacturing processes. Transportation is the largest energy consumer, comprising 30% of global energy use and 95% of oil use. Demands are growing as reliance on private cars in large developing na tions increase and affluent residents in developed nations practice unsustainable drivi ng habits. Residential demands are rising in developing nations and account for 20% of energy consumption in developed nations.
48 Developing nations use energy pr imarily for cooking, while developed nations use it for space heating, water heating, lighting and powering appliances. Commercial uses of energy are significant because over half of the human population resides in urban areas that use energy principally for retail, se rvice and office buildings. Industrial and manufacturing processes account for one-third of the global energy used, mainly in refining petroleum and producing chemicals, paper and metal. There is no energy shortage when all sources are included. Renewable options provide necessary alternatives to fossil fu els and their demand is growing globally. Economic and environmental viability depe nd on location and energy needs. Bioenergy necessitates land, fuel and wate r and produces solid waste and air pollution. Photovoltaic and wind energy require land, but no fuel or water inputs and produce no solid waste. Geothermal commands little land and no fuel or water inputs, but can pollute water sources. Generating wind energy is material-intensive and ma terial extraction disturbs ecosystems, but resulting energy is estimated to be economically comparable to fossil fuels. While market prices do not include externalities, rene wable alternatives have much less hidden costs than conventional fuels. Demands are increasing for both renewabl e and conventional energy. Government and consumer demand encourage research and development in alternative energy forms, which is promising for the future of ener gy. It is important for public policies and individuals to reduce consumption and alter en ergy intensive habits to decrease damaging environmental impacts. Reducing consumption, establishing new ways of designing, manufacturing, purchasing and using materials to prevent waste, and incorporating
49 renewable energy will benefit the environment by reducing th e effects of global climate change, ultimately contributing economic and social benefits.
50 Wind as a Renewa ble Energy Source Wind power has progressed considerably si nce its initial use thousands of years ago. Development and improved technology ha ve increased efficiency, making wind power the fastest growing renewable energy source. Electricity produced by wind power doubled between 2005 and 2008. Nations worldwide are discovering the benefits of using wind to generate energy and electricity. A transition from subsidizing fossil fuels to renewable energy would provide the necessary support to fund costs and give wind power the potential to satisfy a larg e portion of the Earths energy demands.
52 Modes of Transportation Transportation utilizes a significant portion of the worlds energy resources. Energy is at the base of ma ny important issues in differe nt societies. The price and quantity of remaining oil reserves is creating serious international conflicts. As this finite resource is depleted, conflicts may increas e and oil dependent so cieties will have to redesign their energy use. Denmark is a global leader in sustainabi lity. Travelers utilize a combination of transportation options includi ng bikes, cars, buses and pedestrian paths. Reducing reliance on private cars is an essentia l step towards limiting energy consumption, minimizing the ecological footprint, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand uses different building methods to reduce their ecological footprint. The transit department works closely with the Department of Conservation when constructing roads to ensure minimal a dverse impacts on sensitive ecological and geological areas. Roads are designed to follo w natural paths as opposed to bulldozing through forests and mountains. Keystone tr ees and wildlife species are given special priority throughout the planning proc ess to reduce biodiversity loss. Bridges in New Zealand are often narrow, one-way streets, requiring automobiles traveling each direction and trains to alternat e crossing times. This is possible because of the small amount of traffic due to low populat ion rates. Small-scale bridges and road systems demand fewer building materials and are less disruptive to the environment.
53 Finally, hiking produces no emissions, degrades ecosystems only by making a small path, and allows for a much more thorough experience for viewers. This is a popular way for tourists to experience New Z ealand, a nation filled w ith nature paths and trails. Numerous transportation options are less environmentally damaging than the use of private cars. While more efficient vehi cles are being developed, lessons can and should be learned from sustainable modes of transportation and road construction methods of other countries.
54 Chapter 7: Global Climate Change Torture the numbers and theyll confess to anything. Greg Easterbrook, in The New Republic Global climate change is one of the twenty -first centurys most controversial and debated environmental problems. Natural green house warming is essential to life, but increased warming may alter all climatic pr ocesses and the species dependent on them. The most significant dilemma associated with global climate change is scientific uncertainty. Without accurate predictions understanding, and proven solutions about future climatic conditions, government groups and members of the human population will remain skeptical preventing worthwhile changes from occurring. Temperature is determined by heat balan ce, the difference between the amount of energy entering and leaving the atmosphere Human activity is steadily increasing radiative forcing, or the amount of energy ab sorbed by the atmosphere above the Earths surface, by emitting greenhouse gases. Humans release greenhouse gases by disrupting biogeochemical cycles. Alterations accelerate carbon flows, creating atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane. Large amounts of carbon st ored in fossil fuels are released through combustion. Methane seeps from coal mines and releases sulfur that creates clouds when burned. Clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere have a climatic cooling effect. Conversion from forests to agriculture releases carbon and stores less efficiently in the future. Anaerobic bacteria release methane wh ile decomposing waste in landfills. The future levels of greenhouse em issions depend on population growth, economic development, energy prices and ch anges in efficiency. The human population
55 is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. If economy and technology remain the same, carbon dioxide levels emissions could incr ease by 50%. Economic development and increasing affluence encourage and allow popul ations to emit more greenhouse gases. Efficiency will have to increase consider ably to counteract population growth and development to stabilize emissions. Key to a more sustainable future is de tection and development of scientific evidence. Several indicators support the ex istence of anthropogenic climate change. Scientific studies have found that current ch anges are larger than previously measured natural fluctuations and there have been a greater incidence of recent warm years. Sea level is rising as glaciers and snow cove r melt and water molecules in the ocean expand with increased temperatures. Growing seasons are fluctuating in length and time, and species are moving to adapt to climate changes. Computer models are used to simulate climate and predict atmosphe re and ocean circulation. Despite thorough scientific evidence and an overwhelming consensus among scientists, climate change skeptics remain. It is difficult to reach an agreement that emissions must be slowed in a world reli ant on fossil fuels. Research funding also complicates scientific experiments by skew ing information. Often the results of an experiment conveniently benefit and reflect the views of the or ganization funding the research. The media also plays a role in unde rmining evidence for anthropogenic climate change. Regardless of intentions, media can often overdramatize future projections and the effects of climate change. Overestimati ons publicized and proved wrong only create doubt and reassure skeptics th at scientific evid ence and predictions are inaccurate. Many nonscientists do not fully understand the comp lexities of global climate change. Two
56 types of gases humans emit have different climatic effects; greenhouse gases cause warming while sulfur and other particles ha ve cooling effects. Many also misunderstand the term global warming, believing that th e entire globe should be warming. In reality, some areas will get warmer and others cooler. Various predictions can be made based on available evidence. Temperature or climatic changes will probably result in biome movements. Some plant and animal species will move to new locations that are ecologically suitable, while mass extinctions for species unable to adapt may occur. Food supplies will shift as pr ecipitation patterns, solar energy rates, and growing seasons are altered. Some areas will become more productive and others less. Water dema nd for irrigation may increase with less precipitation and drought. The frequency and intensity of floods, droughts and severe weather events are likely to increase. Sea level rise is a critical climate cha nge issue plaguing coastal areas. Florida in particular has more coastline than any other state in the continental United States, and much of the land is threatened by the possibility of even a small rise in sea level. The future could hold massive devastation for Flor idas ecological habitats and the diversity of flora and fauna as well as its economy, which is highly dependent on the condition of coastal environments. The entire Everglades Nati onal Park and all of its biodiversity will disappear when sea level rises, with mass extinctions ensuing. Tuvalu, a small Polynesian island nation, has an even more dire future than Florida. The highest peak of Tuvalu is only fi ve meters above sea level, and an increase of 20 to 40 cm will cause more frequent saltwater flooding and coastal erosion. This
57 small rise is already threat ening food and housing, forci ng residents to relocate, and separating them from their families and traditional culture. Moving towards a more sustainable future requires immediate policy changes. Cooperation between states, regions and nations is necessary for humans to work together towards a common goal of sustainability. The Kyoto Protocol, an international environmental treaty, was one step in this pr ocess. Its main objective was to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions to lessen the eff ects of climate change. Unfortunately, the treaty was not as effective as planned because there is no penalty for nations that do not comply with their commitments, and major industrial nationsincluding the United States refused to ratify the agreement. Another method to mitigate future climate change is the creation and use of new conservation technology. Developed and de veloping nations should increase energy efficiency in their machinery to conser ve energy and slow emissions. One way of reducing energy use is through emissions tr ading, a process where developed nations invest in energy efficient equipment in devel oping nations in excha nge for the right to emit more. This tactic only lowers emission rates minimally and should be combined with other methods to make a significant difference. Policy is difficult to determine and implem ent because climate change is a slow, delayed process. The costs of changes will affect future generations notably while the costs of preventing changes will be felt imme diately. The complete elimination of carbon dioxide emissions is impractical because life as it is known relies on fossil fuel use and land conversion. The social and economic co sts of eliminating fossil fuel use and
58 conserving land are unfathomable. No fair policy exists that can be imposed on developing and developed nations. As developed nations are mainly to blame for the current environmental state, why should de veloping nations have to concede to unfair policies and why should their chances at an industrial revolution be prohibited? While there is no easy solution or policy to satis fy all parties economically and socially, something must be done to ensure an environmental future for all nations of this planet.
59 The Future Climate Global climate change predictions suggest that a future increase in temperature will warm glaciers and ice caps, altering surrounding habitats. This additional melted water will contribute to sea level rise. Si multaneously, warmer ocean temperatures will increase frequency and intensity of storms and destructive weather events. Dunes serve humans and the environment by providing a barr ier that protects inland areas from sea level rise and the devastati on of severe storms. Dune sy stems should be preserved if humans hope to protect coasta l properties and ecosystems.
60 Carbon Country American culture can often be associ ated with consumerism and wasteful practices. Americans waste food, water, elec tricity, gasoline, money, clothing and other necessities. The amount of m oney spent on pet food in the United States and Europe could provide basic education, wa ter and sanitation to the en tire world. It is common for Americans to drive unnecessarily large and fu el inefficient automobiles and boats. While this may stimulate the economy, those who can afford to are degrading the environment by polluting the air and water, consuming re sources wastefully, and contributing to climate change. Consumption practices en courage development where new roads are constructed that lead to suburban sprawl and limited sustainable options. Countless industries are beginning to produce more e fficient products to satisfy customers; nevertheless, producing a hybrid Cadillac is not a particularly si gnificant improvement.
61 Sea Level Rise The Everglades National Park consists of a series of interdependent ecosystems including sawgrass marshes, mangrove fore sts, cypress swamps, tropical hardwood hammocks, pinelands and marine environmen ts. Each ecosystem provides habitats for diverse plant and animal species. Ecosystems are unlikely to successfully adapt to water level changes based on the consequences of past human-induced changes and the ecosystems proximity to sea level. If climate change alters sea level minimally, it co uld cause extreme drought throughout the Everglades, or ecosystems could become a flooded extension of the ocean.
62 The loss of habitats and biodiversity caused by climate change would be devastating in the Everglades, one of the first places that will be damaged by sea level rise.
63 Chapter 8: Conclusion and Discussion The Earth has been considerably al tered by human influence with serious environmental consequences that dese rve recognition. Increasing population and consumption rates are depleting the worlds forests, oil, and freshwater resources. Land converted for agriculture and urbanization de grades essential natu ral ecosystems. Water and air pollution are destroying habitats a nd endangering the plant and animal species that depend on them. Humans are intentiona lly altering sensitive cycles, ignoring the important services provided by maintaining balance in atmospheric, hydrologic, and terrestrial cycles. These alterations are increasing the severi ty and impacts of climate change for the future. A combination of changing policy and enhancing personal re sponsibility could benefit the world by mitigating damages. Actio ns must be taken now to prevent further destruction. Visual media accompanying written information has the ability to enhance and promote science. Environmental photographs can appeal to different audiences by attracting attention and creati ng a lasting memory. Using vi suals creates an opportunity for personal and creative expression of factua l and ordinarily impersonal topics. Images can also benefit science by clarifying co mplex information and encouraging further interest in education. They serve to portray reality as seen through the eyes of the artist and capture events and changes as they are occurring. In the most basic sense, environmental photography incite s an appreciation for the be auty of the natural world.
64 It is important to note that all references were placed at the end of this paper to maintain the aesthetic aspect of the thesis and to avoid disrupting the readers train of thought. This project could have been more thorough with additional field exploration. Many biomes and ecosystems were not include d in the photographic collection, resulting in an incomplete survey. More travel c ould have benefited th e written portion with enhanced knowledge and understanding of the world gained through valuable life experiences. It would have possibly been mo re effective to include images portraying negative environmental changes and visually unattractive scenes, su ch as a clear cut forest or a landfill. Of course, additional years of research, writing and editing images would improve the final project. It was difficult to discuss environmental issues affected by multiple influences while maintaining a focus. Including more information about political and social interrelationships with the environment would have resulted in a much more extensive project. Social aspects were only minimally discussed because views can be distorted by preconceived ideas and opinions of the reader Political discussions were limited because environmental policy is controversial and debated. The ineffectiveness of unsuccessful policies aspiring to improve the environm ent provokes feelings of frustration and desperation. Instead, the projects primary intention was to create a broad but thorough overview of the central topics in environmen tal science. The most imperative message of this project was to explain how each person can shape the environment and the necessity involved in taking personal responsibility fo r actions and changing habits to create a more promising future.
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