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The land down under

Australia is a cool place. I went there once, as a student ambassador during the summer after sixth grade, on a trip with a week and a half in New Zealand and a week and a half on the east coast of Australia. It absolutely was a formative experience in my life, and i got to to cool things like this and this and even a home stay with the aboriginal New Zealanders. I have such fond memories that it really hit home when Dr. Szulczewski said that alot of Americans look at Australia as a kindof modern “pioneer west” – because I literally was talking about how i would like to study abroad there and on top of that dream of moving there when I’m done with school. So yeah, It totally is the pioneer west for me. But I definitly did know about alot of the environmental issues going on there – like the flooding in brisbane due to deforestation, the cane toad infestation (every single one of you should watch this whole thing. as in all five videos. it is quite possibly the funniest learning i have ever done – and I grew up on Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Magic School Bus). Anywho, the big issue that i didn’t know about already was salinization, which is crazy.
But, the answer is simple. stick to what we’ve got, Australia. I know its a big switch, but its all about shifting the focus to things like wines and nuts and kangaroo meat (which is really good btw – I swear to god rooburgers are delicious). Thats obviously the most difficult and farthest-out goal, but utilizing the naturally occurring plants and animals is the real solution to this problem, and any other objectives merely serve as stepping stones, means to this end. Of course, there are a lot of issues that make this transition difficult. Vineyards are difficult to set up, and the lag in production means that there would be some very rough years ahead for farmers who convert directly to wineries –  which is not at all to say that there arent hard hard times already between drought and salinization. Kangaroo meat has a very distinct stigma surrounding it to most of the world, and that’s probably why most of you cringed when you saw the image in the middle of that last article. But Australia and the world need to overcome these issues in order for Australia to become sustainable again.
And i sincerely hope that they do, otherwise i will not be able to move there and live like this. Except that i want nothing to do with this.
Love,
Zach.

So, last time I was a little less than friendly-sounding, and I want to formally apologize to everyone for my jerk-y comments – although if you really were shocked and appalled, you probably aren’t reading this follow-up post, but being upfront about it makes me feel better so HA ALL OF YOU HAVE TO READ MY RECOMMITTMENT TO NOT BEING A JERK… or at least scroll down through it.
Sorry i was a jerk about China, it’s totally everyones’s problem and very rude of me to point the finger at them the way that I did. I merely intended to highlight the confluence of issues all workin’ their wily ways on China, and say that it’s a big deal. the “get your rear in gear” retort was a slip up caused by my inexperience with blogs and my stretching of the colloquial nature of the format – I keep forgetting that you guys can’t see my face right now, so like sarcasm and facial expressions and stuff are no bueno. So I’m reforming. from now on call me Mr. Politically Correct.

Ok, now that we have got our hard bop bopping away (if you closed that tab or didn’t click the link, shame on you) time for le blog post.
what to write about…. lets seeee… depressing, wuttt crazi, ahhhhh here we are. Last class we broke into groups and talked about this stuff. I was surprised to see that my group was kind of a minority in that we were anti-nuclear power, but Dr. Szulczewski told us that most “expert” predictions have us investing pretty heavily into nuclear power…. but I mean lets all remember the lessons we have learned from these guys and these guys (don’t wanna end up like this). So I did some research, and thats what we gonna blog about tonight.
Ok, so this dude agrees with me, and has some pretty legit sources, albeit two years old, and brings up some really good points that I hadn’t even thought about – like the idea of increased terrorist targets. I was focused mainly on the fact that nuclear fuel is also unsustainable since we still just dig it out of the ground, and that the waste is toxic and impossible to get rid of – but I think that Al Qaeda or any other terror organization might think of that as a moot point compared to the fact that we have all these things that look like this if you blow em up. but then again, Barack Obama is kind of a trump card….
But I think that the point that Dr. Szulczewski was really trying to make was that its really going to be tough for us to make the transition from our current ridiculous coal power structure, and that we are going to need nuclear energy to sort of wean us off of our old ways – and this article makes that point, although i’m weary of his confidence in the waste containment aspect, but its a really good article. Actually, that’s just a really cool website – there are a whole bunch of cool articles up there and its a great resource.
Anywho, I’m just gonna be perusing this world nuclear news site, so its time to wrap this bad boy up. Later guys
-Zach.

EDIT: Wait does anybody know why there’s a link to this page on the main class site? There’s not even like 10 of those up there and I’m the last one…. does that mean that I’m getting a lot of hits or something? It might be randomly assigned, but thanks anyways everybody!

Up in the Air

China. Communism aside, less-than-airtight stance on human rights notwithstanding, and disregarding any cyber-attacks on Canada, the thing that really worries me about China is the sheer number of humans there. There are SO MANY CHINESE PEOPLE. and they all drum together. Its really, REALLY hard for that many people to live together in a highly advanced society that specializes in manufacturing all of our little knick-knacks for a sliver of the price and remain free of pollutants. What really drove this point home for me was back in 2008, before the Olympics. I row pretty avidly, and one of my mentors was (and is currently) on the US national team, and actually competed in the Bejing Games. What he – and of course many of the coaches and speculators were really worried about was the smog. (TL;DR – coaches, athletes, and the I.O.C. weigh the pros and cons of wearing masks for the Olympics) So, needless to say, I was unsurprised when Jared Diamond started talking about China’s air pollution in Collapse. When I realized how MUCH air pollution China is bringing to the party, however, THAT’S when i got surprised. Not only does China have all of its impossibly cheap manufacturing plants clogging up the air, but it has to contend with crazy dust storms from the insanely fast desertification that is rampant over there, as well as a massive dependence on coal, and what is possibly the world’s largest population – who all want cars. Together, that makes Chinese air significantly more polluted than is safe for humans….. except they still have ridiculous overpopulation. whoops.
So, in a rather obnoxious manner, I deliver the following manifesto:
Earth to China – please get your rear in gear. Its my air too. kthxbai.

Zach

The Shrinking Aral Oasis

So this week we started talking about modern environmental problems – namely the Aral sea in the middle east. The Aral sea used to be one of the largest bodies of water in the area, but when the Soviet Union occupied the area during the cold war they diverted the river feeding the Aral from the north and used it for irrigation – making the deserts bloom and growing cash crops to export, feeding their ever expanding standoff with the United States. What they didn’t realize, or maybe didn’t care about, is this. The people of kazakhstan, who made their livelihood off of the abundant Aral sea, were left miles from the sea. How do we solve this? Well, there are a couple of ways we could do that – send the rivers back to the sea, filling it up, or suck the water from the nearby Caspian sea via a pipeline. Both of these are extremely costly, and there are many inherent problems with both of them – like the fact that the population of Kazakhstan has become dependent on their new farmland since the agriculture boom lets them feed the ever-growing populace. So they can’t just go back to the way things were, and they can’t move forward without causing the exact same issues to the Caspian sea and the surrounding lands. The part that absolutely killed me is that its in no way the fault of the people of Kazakhstan, they just happened to get their sea messed with by the Soviets. There’s no finger-pointing, no idiots that they shouldn’t have voted for, nothing. they just were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now they have to clean up this mess. The Soviet Union is like that bad party guest who knocks over the TV and then says “Oh hey I had a great time and all but I’m thinkin’ its time to roll out my man. Had a blast tho bro!” The USSR basically were this guy, thats the real heartbreaking issue here. I’m kindof at a loss for comments here, since my standard “How could they be so stupid!” response doesn’t apply here like it did with Easter Island or the Mayans….. This is just a bad luck kind of situation.

-Zach

Post Number One!

So for my inaugural post, I wanted to talk about something we went over last week – the Anasazi indians of the american southwest. It kindof blew my mind to be talking about them as an environmentally destructive civilization, and only part of that is because they lived before New Mexico was really a desert… the real brain-bender here is that as a culture, we are almost trained to believe not only that modern civilization has some inherently bad and destructive traits (which it most certainly does) but also that the native people of any given land really did a much better job in “living with the land” so to speak – that they were far more environmentally sustainable than we are now. Basically this is a complete sham. Oh, cool. But seriously, this movie and this book and really even this movie too totally had me brainwashed. “Savages” is code for “they do it better than us and we’re too dumb to see it,” right guys? I feel like thats how every single environmentally conscious  anything in popular culture plays out – although i guess thats probably just the story that moves the most units, since these Anasazis really dropped the ball on this one. not to mention the Mayans and the Polynesians. Oh and the Easter Islanders. The thing is, I feel like i would totally go see a movie about Easter Island – although it would have to be shot super dramatically and then i would get to laugh at the idea of filmmakers trying to make me become emotionally involved in a story that essentially just this – “H@Y EV3RYB0DY!!!11!!!!  BU!LD THE5E G00FY ST@TUES TILL WE DIE!!!!!” Maybe I’m a jerk but i feel like knowing the punchline to any given Easter Island movie means that any attempt at serious character development beyond “My name is Easter Islander Mike, and I enjoy building statues!” will be met with the lolz. Regardless, and all lolz aside, I feel like I have been lied to by everybody. The Anasazi pueblos are a huge tourist attraction – people come from all over to see them, and for good reason. They are waaaay cool, and definitely very advanced. The thing that nobody mentions is that like……. their lust for pueblos literally destroyed their civilization, turning their forest into a desert, turning them into cannibals, and honestly? nobody likes a cannibal.
I guess thats today’s fun fact – nobody likes cannibals.
Gonna have to bear that one in mind, kiddos!
Love, Zach.

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