With every passing season the threats that climate change presents become more evident. The Baruch community itself experienced the devastating effects of climate change when Hurricane Sandy ripped through the streets of New York. Hurricane Sandy left hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes and amounted to an estimated death toll claiming over one-hundred and eighty lives. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-sponsored committee that informs the government on the latest developments in climate change, warned that unless appropriate measures are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, irreversible climate change could occur in a matter of decades. The consensus amongst scientists is that the safe amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 ppm. A report by the Scripps CO2 Program at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, advised that as of September 2013 the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 393 ppm. The consequences of the erratic weather patterns that accompany climate change, don’t just stop at a loss in comfort – they have the potential to manifest into survival threats in the form of drought, flood, and heat waves, that have the ability to impact our food and water supply, and consequently our well-being. Accompanying the New York Times article below by Justin Gillis, about the IPCC’s latest report on climate change, is Vicki Arroyo’s captivating proclamation on the need for action to address climate change; both pieces paint a telling picture about the severity of the situation.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 26 percent of the world’s ice-free land is utilized for livestock grazing, and 33 percent of its pastures are used for the production of livestock feed. Consistent with the narrative portrayed in the “Tragedy of the Commons,” progressively as a result of the increased concentration of animals per area, 20 percent of the aforementioned 33 percent of grasslands are ruined. In addition to its adverse effects on croplands, the intensification in the production of livestock for feed depletes water resources, damages soil fertility, and negatively impacts biodiversity, climate change, and animal health; which in turn, can adversely affect our health as well. Multiple sources, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, site livestock as a top contributor to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain that the greenhouse gas emissions of all forms of transportation combined, don’t equate to the greenhouse gas emissions of raising livestock for feed. Living sustainably can take on a multitude of shapes and sizes, could vegetarianism be your contribution to the environment? Read Kathy Freston’s witty and succinctly informative take on the matter in the article below.
Bio-accumulation is, like the tragedy of the commons, a major theme that keeps re-occurring within sustainability. Most of us whether or not we are sustainability minded have heard that eating fish can cause higher mercury levels in humans and possibly lead to health problems. Though many do not realize that higher mercury levels in fish this is mainly a product of bio-accumulation. The video below was made by researchers at the University of Miami who are studying bio-accumulation in sharks, who are apex predators in the food chain. Possibly the biggest lesson we can learn from bio-accumulation is that in nature everything is connected and even the smallest action can have a ripple effect throughout an ecosystem and a food chain. It is important to remember that even with all of our advances in the past few centuries we are still part of nature and the food chain. When watching this video think about how bio-accumulation may impact humans.
Imagine that you are just one of five farmers that raise livestock in a village. In order for your livestock and the livestock of your fellow farmers to survive they must eat grass so you and the other four farmers share a field for the livestock to graze. This arrangement has been beneficial to you and the other farmers for years and you each make about the same amount of money selling your livestock for slaughter. One day you get the brilliant idea that you could make some more money by increasing the number of your livestock by one. What you don’t realize is that by increasing your livestock the amount of animals grazing on the field has also increased by one, putting added pressure on the common resource you and your fellow farmers use to keep your livestock alive and growing. Your fellow farmers noticing that you have increased your number of livestock decide that they want to make a little extra money as well and also increase their livestock. So now instead of just five cows grazing on one field there are now ten. You and your fellow farmers seeing that your profits are increasing and, acting rationally, keep on increasing the number of livestock you own. Soon there are twenty cows grazing on the field and each farmer brings four cows to graze on the common grass. Business is great but you and your fellow farmers start to notice that the once lush green pasture you all brought your livestock to is now growing brown as there is now more dirt then grass. The next thing you notice is that your livestock which was once fat and healthy are growing skinny and sickly. Soon there is no grass for your or your fellow farmers’ livestock to graze on and all the livestock dies of starvation. This narrative outlines one of the major dilemmas that is a constant theme throughout environmental issues from global warming to over-population. This is the tragedy of the commons and a more simplified history of and definition of this dilemma can be found in the link below.