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ENVS 102: Technology & The Environment
Transcript of ENVS 102: Technology & The Environment
Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.
Why's it so hard?
The causes and effects of freshwater resource degradation.
What is a
The land area drained by a river system.
Water is removed from an aquifer or surface water body, and is not returned.
Does not remove, or only temporarily removes, water from an aquifer or surface water.
Uses of Water
You will be asked to vote on dam removal.
What should we consider when making our decisions?
Where's it all come from?
Algae evolved under nutrient limitation
Excess nutrients in a lake, river,
or wetland can throw things out of wack.
Which type of pollutant is more difficult to address?
What is the most widespread non-point source pollutant?
What can you do to prevent overuse?
Who is really to blame in the U.S.?
Low nutrients, low productivity, clear water, high oxygen.
High nutrients, high productivity, turbid water, low oxygen.
How do humans accelerate this process?
Can address supply or demand
Politically difficult in the short term
Offers better economic returns
Causes less ecological and social damage
Water can be transported through pipes and aqueducts
It can be forcibly appropriated from weak communities
Reduce Agricultural Demand
Lining irrigation canals
Low-pressure spray irrigation that spray water downward
Drip irrigation systems that target individual plants
Match crops to land and climate
Selective breeding and genetic modification to raise crops that require less water
Reduce Residential Demand
Install low-flow faucets, showerheads, washing machines, and toilets
Water lawns at night, when evaporation is minimal
Eat less meat
Gray water recycling/resuse
Reduce Industrial Demand
Shift to processes that use less water
Excess surface water runoff used for recharging aquifers
Patching leaky pipes
End government subsidies of inefficient practices
Let the price of water reflect its true cost of extraction
Industrial uses are more profitable than agricultural
Less developed countries suffer
Privatization of water supplies
May improve efficiency
Firms have little incentive to provide access to the poor
Decentralization of water control may conserve water
Shift control to the local level
Prevention is better than mitigation.
Removing just one herbicide from water costs $400 million
Pumping, treating, and re-injecting it takes too long
Restricting pollutants above aquifers would shift pollution elsewhere
Consumers can purchase environmentally friendly products
Become involved in local “river watch” projects
Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1972)
Renamed the Clean Water Act in 1977
Illegal to discharge pollution without a permit
Standards for industrial wastewater
Funded sewage treatment plants
Because of legislation, the situation is much better than it was.
Other nations have also reduced pollution.
Some gas companies are exempt from this.
Legislate clean water!
"In each fracking, 2-9 million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are forced through the well into the formation at high pressure to fracture, or crack, the shale. Roughly half the fracking fluid remains in the ground. The rest of it (1,000,000 to 4,000,000 gallons) comes up out of the well and is considered industrial waste and must be disposed of. Each well may be fracked up to ten times during its productive life." (shaleshock.org)
Most of our energy comes from the sun.
CO2 + H2O --> C6H12O6 + O2
Fossil fuels are ancient solar energy.
Energy from Hell.
Fossil fuels have replaced biomass as our dominant source of energy.
The high-energy content of fossil fuels makes them efficient to burn, ship, and store.
These fuels generate electricity = a secondary form of energy that is easier to transfer and apply to a variety of uses.
Energy returned on investment (EROI) = energy returned/energy invested.
Higher ratios mean we receive more energy than we invest.
Ratios decline when we extract the easiest deposits first and now must work harder to extract the remaining reserves.
Coal Contains Impurities
Sulfur, mercury, arsenic, and other trace metals
Mercury can bioaccumulate.
Strip mining causes severe soil erosion and chemical runoff
Acid drainage = sulfide minerals on exposed rock surfaces react with oxygen and rainwater to produce sulfuric acid.
Mountaintop removal causes enormous damage.
Subsurface mining = underground deposits are reached by digging networks of tunnels deep underground
Strip mining = heavy machinery removes huge amounts of earth to expose and extract the coal
Mountaintop removal = in some cases, entire mountaintops are cut off to obtain the coal
The fastest growing fossil fuel in use today
Provides 25% of global commercial energy consumption.
World supplies are projected to last about 60 more years.
The first gas fields simply required an opening and the gas moved upward.
Most accessible reserves have been depleted.
Gas is accessed by sophisticated techniques such as hydrofracking.
Some scientists anticipate damage if ANWR is drilled.
Degraded air and water quality.
Roads fragment habitat.
Prospecting and drilling disrupts wildlife.
Other scientists say little harm will be done.
ANWR will be developed with environmentally sensitive technology and approaches.
The causes and effects of marine resource degradation.
Movement & Zonation
A tough place to make a living.
But they have remarkable diversity
Rocky shorelines, crevices, pools of water (tide pools)
Anemones, mussels, barnacles, urchins, sea slugs, starfish, and crabs
Temperature, salinity, and moisture change dramatically from high to low tide
Tides wash over gently sloping, sandy, silty substrates
High primary productivity
Critical habitat for birds and commercial fish and shellfish species
Stabilize shorelines against storm surges
Climate change, pollution, or unknown natural causes
Nutrient pollution causes algal growth, which covers coral
Divers damage reefs by using cyanide to capture fish
Acidification of oceans deprives corals of necessary carbonate ions for their structural parts
Even into the mid-20th century, coastal U.S. cities dumped trash and untreated sewage along their shores
Oil, plastic, chemicals, excess nutrients make their way from land into oceans
Raw sewage and trash from cruise ships
Abandoned fishing gear from fishing boats
Gulf Oil Spill
"The worst environmental disaster the U.S. has ever faced."
White House energy adviser Carol Browner
Humans have interacted with oceans for thousands of years
Moving people and products over vast distances
Accelerated global reach of cultures
Has substantial impact on the environment
Moves resources around the world
Ballast water transplants organisms, which may become invasive
Industrialized fishing has depleted stocks, global catch has remained stable for the past 20 years
Fishing fleets travel longer distances to reach less-fished portions of the ocean
Fleets spend more time fishing and have been setting out more nets and lines, increasing effort to catch the same number of fish
Improved technologies: faster ships, sonar mapping, satellite navigation, thermal sensing, aerial spotting
Data supplied to international monitoring agencies may be false
Several Factors Mask Declines
Figures on total global catch do not relate the species, age, and size of fish harvested
As fishing increases, the size and age of fish caught decline
10-year-old cod, once common, are now rare
As species become too rare to fish, fleets target other species
Shifting from large, desirable species to smaller, less desirable ones
Entails catching species at lower trophic levels
We are fishing "down the food chain"
Great Barrier Reef coral will be functionally extinct by 2030.
The causes and effects of toxins in the environment
How have humans affected the rates of infection?
Likelihood of transmission?
Every human carries traces of industrial chemicals.
Learning and behavior issues, organ damage, death.
Scarred lungs may cease to function
Causes lung cancer
EPA accepatable dose
KJW 4.5 mg/day
We don't know the effects, if any, they have.
Sperm counts have dropped!
Studies reporting harm are publicly funded.
Studies reporting no harm are industry funded.
What can we do about these problems?
The whole is worse than the parts.
Let's remind these jokers who works for whom!
Very few of these have been tested.
What's more important: Genes or environment?
Testicular cancer and genital birth defects are also increasing.
To fossil fuels
Three alternative energy sources are currently the most developed and most widely used: nuclear energy, hydroelectric power, and energy from biomass
These are all “conventional alternatives” to fossil fuels
They exert less environmental impact
Each has benefits and drawbacks
These are best viewed as intermediates along a continuum of renewability
The 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine caused the most severe nuclear power plant accident the world has ever seen
For 10 days, radiation escaped from the plant while crews tried to put out the fire
The Soviet Union evacuated more than 100,000 residents
The landscape around the plant for 19 miles remains contaminated
The accident killed 31 people directly and many became sick or developed cancer
Three Mile Island
Meltdown = coolant water drained from the reactor vessel, temperatures rose inside the reactor core, and metal surrounding the uranium fuel rods began to melt, releasing radiation (but ‘not a lot’)
Three Mile Island is regarded as a near-miss: the emergency could have been far worse
The event raised safety concerns for U.S. citizens and policymakers
It is 14 miles to the nearest year-round residences
It has stable geology, with minimal risk of earthquakes that could damage the tunnels and release radioactivity
Its dry climate should minimize water infiltration, reducing chances of groundwater contamination
The water table is deep underground, making groundwater contamination less likely
The pool of groundwater does not connect with groundwater elsewhere, so any contamination would be contained
The location on federal land can be protected from sabotage
Some argue that earthquakes and volcanic activity could destabilize the site’s geology
They also fear that fissures in the mountain’s rock could allow rainwater to seep into the caverns
Nuclear waste will need to be transported to Yucca Mountain from the 120-some current storage areas and from current and future nuclear plants and military installations
Why Yucca Mountain?
It is essentially carbon-neutral, releasing no net carbon into the atmosphere
Only if biomass sources are not overharvested
Capturing landfill gases reduces methane emissions
Economic benefits include
Supporting rural communities
Reducing dependence of fossil fuel imports
Improved energy efficiency
Reduces air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide
Health hazards from indoor air pollution
Rapid harvesting can lead to deforestation
Growing crops exerts tremendous impacts on ecosystems
Fertilizers and pesticides
Land is converted to agriculture
Biofuel is competing with food production
Substantial inputs of energy are required
Hydropower has two clear advantages over fossil fuels for producing electricity:
It is renewable: as long as precipitation fills rivers we can use water to turn turbines
It is clean: no carbon dioxide is emitted
Hydropower is efficient
It has an EROI of 10:1, as high as any modern-day energy source
Damming rivers destroys habitats
Upstream areas are submerged
Downstream areas are starved of water
Natural flooding cycles are disrupted
Thermal pollution of downstream water
Periodic flushes of cold reservoir water can kill fish
Dams block passage of fish, fragmenting the river and reducing biodiversity
Sun provides energy for almost all biological activity on Earth
Each square meter of Earth receives about 1 kilowatt of solar energy = 17 times more than a lightbulb
There is great potential in solar energy
Passive solar energy = the most common way to harness solar energy
Buildings are designed to maximize direct absorption of sunlight in winter and keep cool in summer
Active solar energy collection = uses technology to focus, move, or store solar energy
Passive vs. Active
Benefits & Drawbacks
The Sun will burn for 4 - 5 billion more years
Solar technologies are quiet, safe, use no fuels, contain no moving parts, and require little maintenance
They allow local, decentralized control over power
Developing nations can use solar cookers, instead of gathering firewood
Net metering = PV owners can sell excess electricity to their local power utility
New jobs are being created
Solar power does not emit greenhouse gases and air pollution
Wind turbines = devices that harness power from wind
Windmills have been used for 800 years to pump water
The first windmill to generate electricity was built in the late 1800s
After the 1973 oil embargo, governments funded research and development
Today, wind power produces electricity for the same price as conventional sources
New Nuclear: +15
Cents per KWH
American Council for an
Energy Efficient Economy
Wind produces no emissions once installed
It prevents the release of CO2
It is more efficient than conventional power sources
Turbines also use less water than conventional power plants
Farmers and ranchers can lease their land
Produces extra revenue
Landowners can still use their land for other uses
Advancing technology is also driving down the cost of wind farm construction
We have no control over when wind will occur
Causes major limitations in relying on it for electricity
Companies have to invest a lot of research before building a costly wind farm
Good wind sources are not always near population centers that need energy
When wind farms are proposed near population centers, local residents often oppose them
Wind turbines also pose a threat to birds and bats, which can be killed when they fly into rotating blades
Where does the energy come from?
“In nature there is no such thing as a waste problem…”(1)(3)
Facilitating ecological interactions works to our advantage.
And the associated problems...
We must return to solar powered farming!
vs. Natural Systems
Technology and the Environment
U.S. = 13
Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/science/study-ranks-countries-on-nuclear-security.html
In many cases, the value of the subsidies exceeds the value of the power generated!
Safety History of Fukushima Daiichi
Changed layout of emergency cooling system without reporting it.
Falsification of safety records
Backup generator of #1 reactor flooded and not moved to higher ground even though they were warned of a tsunami.
Japanese gov't opposed a court-order to close a nuclear plant over doubts about its ability to withstand an earthquake.
Tsunami study was ignored.
IAEA expressed concerns about the ability of Japan's nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity.
Could this have been prevented?
We face both too little and too much food
Dramatically increased per-acre yields
Spread to the developing world in the 1940s with wheat, rice, corn
Depended on large amounts of
The green revolution (It wasn’t green!)
Pest = any organism that damages valuable crops
Weed = any plant that competes with crops
Pesticides = poisons that target pest organisms
Insecticides = target insects
Herbicides = target plants
Fungicides = target fungi
400 million kg (900 million lbs.) of pesticides are applied in the U.S. each year
75% of this is applied to agricultural land
Usage is increasing in developing countries
Pests and pollinators
Some individuals are genetically immune to a pesticide
They survive and pass these genes to their offspring
Pesticides stop being effective
Evolutionary arms race: chemists increase chemical toxicity to compete with resistant pests
Resistance to pesticides
Within 4 years of using IPM in Indonesia, rice yields rose 13%, and $179 million saved by phasing out subsidies
IPM uses multiple techniques to suppress pests
Chemicals, when necessary
Crop rotation and transgenic crops
Alternative tillage methods
Mechanical pest removal
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Between 2003 and 2005, the British government commissioned three large-scale studies, which showed
GM crops could produce long-term financial benefits
Little to no evidence was found of harm to human health, but effects on wildlife and ecosystems are not well known
Bird and invertebrate populations in GM fields were mixed; some crops showed more diversity, some less, depending on the crop
Studies on GM foods show mixed results
Supporters make the following points:
GM crops pose no ill health effects
They benefit the environment by using less herbicides
Herbicide-resistant crops encourage no-till farming
GM crops reduce carbon emissions by needing fewer fuel-burning tractors and sequestering carbon in the soil by no-till farming
Critics argue that we should adopt the precautionary principle = don’t do any new action until it’s understood
Supporters maintain that GM crops are safe
As GM crops expanded, scientists and citizens became concerned
Dangerous to human health
Escaping transgenes could pollute ecosystems and damage nontarget organisms
Pests could evolve resistance
Could ruin the integrity of native ancestral races
Interbreed with closely related wild plants
What are the impacts of GM crops?
Genetic engineering = laboratory manipulation of genetic material
Genetically modified organisms = organisms that have been genetically engineered by …
Recombinant DNA = DNA created from multiple organisms
Genetically modified organisms
The GM industry is driven by market considerations of companies selling proprietary products
Ethical issues plays a large role
People don’t like “tinkering” with “natural” foods
With increasing use, people are forced to use GM products, or go to special effort to avoid them
Multinational corporations threaten the small farmer
Research is funded by corporations that will profit if GM foods are approved for use
Crops that benefit small, poor farmers are not widely commercialized
The GM debate involves more than science
Traditional breeding changes organisms through selection, while genetic engineering is more like the process of mutation
Artificial selection has influenced the genetic makeup of livestock and crops for thousands of years
Proponents of GM crops say GM foods are safe
Critics of GM foods say:
Traditional breeding uses genes from the same species
Selective breeding deals with whole organisms, not just genes
In traditional breeding, genes come together on their own
Genetic engineering versus agricultural breeding
90% of energy is lost every time energy moves from one trophic level to the next
The lower on the food chain from which we take our food sources, the more people the Earth can support.
Some animals convert grain into meat more efficiently than others
Energy choices through food choices
Debeaked chickens spend their lives in cages; U.S. farms can house hundreds of thousands of chickens in such conditions
Feedlots (factory farms) = also called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
Huge warehouses or pens designed to deliver energy-rich food to animals living at extremely high densities
Over ½ of the world’s pork and poultry come from feedlots
Domestic animal production for food increased from 7.3 billion in 1961 to 20.6 billion in 2000
As wealth and commerce increase, so does consumption of meat, milk, and eggs
Global meat production has increased fivefold
Per capita meat consumption has doubled
Eating animal products has significant impacts
When we choose what to eat, we also choose how we use resources
Land and water are needed to raise food for livestock
Producing eggs and chicken meat requires the least space and water
Producing beef requires the most
Environmental ramifications of eating meat
A recent study conducted in France estimates that counts have dropped by 33%.
4.9 million barrels (April-Sept 2010)
4.6 million lbs. cleaned up in 2013
Devastating ecological and economic costs
35 permanent jobs (US State Dept)
3900 temp jobs vs. 40,000 green jobs in 2Q 2013 (Environmental Entrepreneurs)
Most oil would be exported.
Energy efficiency stinks
79% of energy put into transportation is wasted.
Transportation is our biggest issue.
Burning petroleum is our biggest single source of C emissions.
More total is created by making electricity (primarily for cooling buildings!)
From the Livermore Report (2014)
“So basically it's the car, driving to air conditioned sprawl, that's responsible for as much as 71% of our carbon emissions. Changing light bulbs doesn't fix that. Really, we have to do everything we can to get people out of their cars, and into walkable communities in temperate climates. Everything else is just gnawing around the edges.”
Environmental Health &
Believe it or doubt: We need to move to small scale, organic farms to feed a growing population.