Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hope or despair?

Reading Page 305 -351 “Geography of Hope” by Chris Turner

Hope or despair…. that is the questions. When it comes to these two words, and relating them to sustainability, I am on both sides of the fence. I am very hopeful for sustainable development now and in the long term, but I feel in the short term sustainable development will not be implemented into our society sufficiently or quickly which puts me on the side of despair.

With these different opinions that I have, I believe that change will occur and hope that it does and try to make a difference everyday with all aspects of my life. Only being one person in such a vast world it is hard to make a difference and this is what leads me to despair which is defined as a state in which all hope is lost or absent. A change in our basic way of living and producing products must change in order for sustainability to fully take charge. With being in a society of people with such a vast array of knowledge and experience, we are noticing day by day of new ways that we are harming our world. Instead of sustainable development sounding like a priority we need it just to be a way of life. This would help drastically towards long term thinking and will likely no happen anytime soon, considering the current situation. I believe when the world starts to actually see major crisis’s and disasters start affecting each family, something will be done to save the world, but it will be too late in my eyes.

After taking this sustainability class and reading the book the “Geography of Hope” by Chris turner it has truly opened my eyes to many vast aspects that I have never realized are going on and makes me want to tell others so that we can make a change before disaster occurs. In today’s world I hear so much talk about making a change for a better world and cleaner environment, but it makes me wonder how much of this is actually happening and not just being spoken. Chris Turner outlines many different types of positive change in his book that makes me hopeful, we just need people today to implement these aspects and turn the idea into reality. In order for all countries and people make a change in the world for a more sustainable world we need to implement change now. Don’t get me wrong, I see lots of people and companies making changes for the better which is a step in the right direction, but it also takes a long time to get more people on board. If we start getting more governments on board and implement stricter laws or set goals it will help in this process. We need governments to try and accept all of these external environmental impacts into their economic assessments and start to show some plans for long term thinking.

I understand that this is all a bit farfetched, but I do see a change in the world slowly happening right before my eyes. Things such as plastic bags not being used anymore which helps eliminate garbage in our landfills and in the oceans. It might be a small step to this major problem of ours, but every little change for the better will help in preserving the amazing world we live in today and will ensure that our children will have good healthy lives as well.

My stuff and consumption habits

This week’s blog post is on “My stuff and consumption habits” and a reading of the sermon by William Mcdonough titled “The design, ecology ethics and the making of things”. After reading the sermon by William Mcdonough it showed me that when many products are manufactured they do not necessarily reflect sustainability. This is why companies have to start looking at and taking the quote “cradle to cradle” in to mind so that the materials and energy that is taken from the earth to produce their products is then returned in one form or another, so that anything that is taken from the earth can be given back or put back without any harm to the environment. If companies can stick to this, then it would help eliminate potential problems such as creating extra sewage or emitting green house gases.

Every day, every hour, every second companies come out with new and improved products that influence society today. I am not going to lie, I am pretty influenced by new technologies and product as I am very good with using these new technologies and they interest me. When a new product comes out, I am never the one that is there first to buy it, I usually wait for a year so that all the bugs and errors can be fixed and the price drops and then I usually buy the product after I do research and really want it. The thing wrong with this is big box stores such as Wal-Mart’s, Superstores, and Costco’s produce the cheapest product and prices to the buyer to buy and everything works all fine and dandy for the first while but usually breaks after a year. Then it just has to be thrown away and people go right back to that big box stores and purchase the same thing over and over. This creates massive amounts of unneeded garbage going to the landfills, and is a never ending cycle. This is especially true with electronics as there has not yet been much of a recycling program set up for these products so our landfills just keep piling up. I have realized that after moving out to Victoria B.C and living on my own as a student big box stores like this appeal to me a lot more because as a student I am on a very tight budget and therefore usually go to the Wal-marts and superstores to save my money. If I wasn’t going to school and had a steady good income I would probably care a little bit more of what I am buying and do extra research on it to see what I am getting out of the product I am purchasing. I know that I am just one person in a world of many people, but for the most part the people I talk to do exactly the same thing. After class today, it opened my eyes; I had no idea of all the things that go on behind closed doors. I am defiantly going to start checking into and researching products a lot more before I make purchases so I can help in the process of helping with sustainability. I know this is just a small step in making a big change but I will do what I must. If we want a big change to our environment we need a huge shift to happen, which is not very likely, unless we do it a community at a time and influence others to do the same. In the time of a recession, I don’t see this happening very quickly as everyone is always looking for the best bang for their buck.

ReferenceMcDonough, William. (1993). A Centennial Sermon: Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things.

Synthesis of presentations

After the 9 groups presented their presentations of the different chapters of “Geography of Hope” by Chris Turner, we are suppose to write a blog wrapping all of this fantastic information in to a summary of all the presentation. The presentation topics were energy, transportation, urban planning, green buildings, international development, smart design, making change, economics, and sustainable communities. Although, all these topics are different there was a lot of overlapping in the ideas presented towards sustainability. The main points that I will be touching on are power, housing, transportation, design, urban sustainability, and economics and how they are all related to sustainability.

In the book “Geography of Hope” by Chris Turner, each chapter heading refers to different ways to become more sustainability and goes over different aspects and environments and explains ways to improve on the living in these places or what to do if you are starting from scratch. I’m going to dive into these ideas and summarize them so that we get a better understanding of what we have to do to be more sustainable to make for a more efficient world. The next six topics are the main topics that we must focus on as a community, city, province, or even country to make a major impact today.

Power is a crucial part in the starting process of being more efficient. I never realized it till my power went out the other day how much humans now a day’s rely on power for everyday living. When our power went out for 2 days we felt like we couldn’t function properly, we had no internet, TV, microwave, or lights. It was awful, but it made me realize how bored or screwed the world would be without power. To help in conserving power we need to come up with alternative energy sources, a few of the alternate energy sources mentioned in the presentations were mainly solar panels and wind farms. These are great idea’s and are starting to get used more and more places which I hope is a step in the right direction.

Transportation is a huge part of society today; we need transportation of some sort to get from place to place in our everyday lives. With all the different ways to get around, it is hard to steer away for the fastest and easier way of getting around, the automobile, the automobile is a major contributor to green house gases and as we learnt in the presentations there are many other modes of transportation which are not harmful to the environment at all and are starting to be implemented and encouraged more. The use of buses, carpooling, biking, and walking are starting to be used more by everyday people. The galloping goose trail is a good example of how different ways of transportation are being encouraged. A case study that our group presented was on a building in Sidney B.C. that was LEED certified. The way that this business encouraged more environmentally friendly modes of transportation are that they had a parking lot for the employees with only 15 parking stalls for 65 employees. This encourages car pooling or taking other ways of transportation. They also supplied a car that run strictly on electricity to people that need a vehicle, the business is also on a main bus route, which encourages bus transportation.

Housing/Design – when starting with the design of a new building or house it is important to try to make a building or community that provides its own energy and wastewater treatment plant. A local example that was shown in the presentations was Dockside Green, this is a new community of condos that is pretty well self sufficient. Dockside green creates its own energy and has their own water treatment plant. Each of the units is equip with monitors that tell the tenant exactly how much energy or water they are consuming at any point in time. Dock side green is platinum LEED certified and always striving to get better. The use of “Green Roofs” was also mentioned a number of times, green roofs are roofs that have vegetation growing on them to help in the cooling and heating of the buildings by natural occurrences. I believe that green roofs will be seen more and more throughout the world in the next number of years.

Urban sustainability is important because it the backbone to making a community come together and working as a team towards a sustainable community. Urban planning helps keep money within the community and helps with the design of sustainable living in mind. Some things that were mentioned in the presentations for urban planning were to build everything that is needed within a community as best as possible so everyone can support the businesses within the community and not have to venture out of the community to get supplies, this also helps in the transportation aspect as people would not have to travel far places to get what they want or need.

Economics is starting to be a new line to achieve when it comes to building a new building, improving the efficiency of an existing building or just want to continuously improve. As Royal Roads, Dockside Green and other major organizations here about all the different models, they want to strive to be the best so people will see they are trying to do better and thus might get more credit and sales. It also helps in the social aspects of the reputation of the business or building. Bigger businesses might be more know to do this to help improve sales but letting the community know that they are the greenest business but still give you the best product, lots of big businesses just to this so they look better.

All of these topics and examples encourage sustainability or a sustainable environment in some way or another through alternative ways of approaching regular everyday topics such as power, transportation, and development, urban planning and economics. The different ideas are a good start towards more sustainable solutions and hopefully more great ideas are still on the horizon.

Sustainable Design A Little Closer to Home

Today were presented with listening to a variety of different presentations on sustainability. My group was given the privilege of presenting on “Smart Design”. The presentation went well and we talked about two different case studies about smart design, one from the book “Geography of Hope” and a local case study. After researching and finding information on the local case study which was the “Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Operations Center” in Sidney, B.C. it caught my attention and made me super interested. This building has been designed to be very efficient and LEED certified. LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system that promotes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The “Gulf Islands National Park Operations Center” is a first of its kind that I have seen with my own two eyes that blows me away. This three story building located on the water front of Tsehum Harbour houses many remarkable features for sustainability in conserving water, saving energy, materials and resources, sustainable site, and indoor environmental quality. This outstanding building is Platinum LEED certified, which is one of the highest certifications that can be achieved. The innovative features that this building has are as follows:
Site considerations:
• Close to public transit system
• Limited Parking - 15 parking spaces for 60 employees to encourage carpooling or other ways or transportation to help decrease carbon emissions.
• Native Garden - was designed with drought resistant plant species which do not require irrigation

Conserving Water:
• Rainfall Collection - Rainfall is collected on the roof and drains into a storage tank underneath the building. The rain water that is collected is then used in the bathrooms for the duel flushing toilets and for use in the marine operations area for washing equipment. Surplus rainwater passes through a sediment and oil separator before being discharged into the ocean.
• Permeable parking lot - which would consist of paving blocks or cobble stones to help water infiltrate back into the ground so that there is no stagnate water pooling on the surface.

Saving Energy:
• Windows and skylights - for natural lighting, the building is designed so that natural light shines in on every work station in the building.
Heating and cooling system - The only heat source for the building is the ocean. Ocean water is piped to a heat exchanger and heat pump system, Heat is then extracted from the water and transferred by the heat exchanger to the buildings heating system and to a domestic hot water tank.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Natural ventilation, and each employees working spaces have a thermostat to control the temperature in that space and have access to open the windows for a breath of fresh air.

Overall, the “Gulf Islands National Park Operations Center” was build and designed with sustainability of all aspects in mind. The development and design, has a cradle-to-cradle mentality in mind for the site, with using environmentally friendly building materials and supplies and incorporating efficiency of water and energy into their building design, they all contribute to a cleaner and greener environment. The limited parking spaces for the mass amounts of employees and the close proximity to the bus routes has helped in carpooling and promoting greener solutions. This design and development of this building is a great example of sustainability within a community and business area and will be a new standard or leader for when future developments are in the planning stages, these considerations should be taken into mind to help in a more sustainable world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Social Capital and what affects it

The basic principal behind social capital is that investment in social relations will yield expected returns in many different places such as, the community, economy, and politics. Individual people interact and engage in social networking bonds, and trust which creates expected returns which in turn profit the community of those individuals. With all of this social networking going on it helps build a stronger and better community and thus there is more social capital within the community and therefore the community function better. After watching a few videos on social capital it was shown that communities with higher social capital tend to be a more desirable place to live. This is also show because the level of the community’s education and learning is higher, kids are skinnier and more active, there is less poverty, crimes rates tend to be lower, and there is a higher tolerance for gender.

My social capital includes various networks that I am connected to and in some way or another they all affect each other. The networks that I am currently connected to would be school, family, and friends for the most part. With being connected to these networks I feel that I benefit from them, but they also benefit from me as well in some way. There can be positive and negatives with being connected to these networks. I have found that since I have been going to school and working really hard with tests, homework, and studying all the time that it puts a negative outcome on my relationship with my family and friends because I am always busy focusing on school. That is why it is best to find a balance between school and personal time. School might negatively affect my relationship with friends and family, but if my friends and family understand the circumstances I am under. They can act as a positive influence on me by showing support and helping me through the program so I can have a successful outcome.
When I look at my social capital I find that on a personal smaller level that I can appreciate social capital more through my family and friends because they can relate to what I am doing and what is important to me. At the same time on a larger scale there are things out of my control that impact my social capital and might not be noticed or appreciated by me and in turn might contribute to how the community I live in functions and lives.

Royal Roads University Sustainability Plan

I go to Royal Roads University in Victoria B.C. and therefore we had to do a blog on the sustainability plan of Royal Roads University. I am not going to lie and beat around the bush, I have not read the Royal Roads University Sustainability Plan but will have to in order to make this blog post accurate. We had various speakers/employees of Royal Roads come and talk to us about where Royal Roads is on sustainability now, where they want to be, and a vision on how to get there.
According to the Royal Roads University Sustainability Plan, the university’s policy has had sustainability implemented since It opened in 1995. Many policies that have to do with sustainability have been made and passed throughout the years such as: Environmental Stewardship Policy and a sustainability plan. The university also has set many goals in addition to these policies. The main focus of the university at the moment is to become carbon neutral by 2010; this is because in B.C. all of the Public services need to become carbon neutral by this time.
According to Mr. Steve Grundy of Royal Roads University, the university’s goals and plans for the future are to become Grid positive or “off grid” by 2018. A big part of reaching this goal that is being implemented today is the preservation of using less energy. The university’s computer labs have energy star computers which help save energy, and they also are programmed to self turnoff or sleep at night. In order to reach their goal by 2018 many other plans need to be implemented, for this goal to be reached the university must introduce different sources of energy, heat and water. One idea that was broght up was the use of burning the methane gas that is produced by we organic waste to heat the campus buildings and being self sufficient.
The part about the university that impresses me, it the wonderful recycling program that is put in place. It consists of, compost, bottles, plastic, paper, juice boxes almost everything is being recycled. The supervisor of the janitorial staff talked to us about the recycling program and how they accumulated $11,000 in five years by recycling bottles alone. This money is then used to implement more recycling bins and also gets donated to The United Way Charity. Some of the janitorial staff were allergic to cleaning with chemicals and now use a micro-fiber cloth and water which actually works better. The micro-fiber cloth can then be washed and re-used up to 50 times which eliminates the amount of paper towel going in the garbage. In 2003 the janitorial staff came up with the idea to start using compostable paper towels in the bathrooms. By doing this the janitorial staff realized that they were eliminating 10 tons of paper towel going to the garbage per year, which is now recycled. The cafeteria at the university is also putting in their two cents about a sustainable campus by having a recycling program as well. The cafeteria’s plates, coffee cups, coffee sleeves, cutlery and plastics are made of a compostable corn material which helps eliminate unneeded wastes going to the landfill as these items can be composted.
The Royal Roads University Sustainability Plan is in full effect and is going to expand and excel through the upcoming years. The university is well aware of the changes that need to be made to meet these goals and by making small changes will reach their goal of being grid positive by 2018.

Royal Roads University Sustainability Plan, December 2008.
http://www.royalroads.ca/NR/rdonlyres/E50DE048-206F-433A-AD1D-9EAEF 6B4F4A7/0/SUSTAINABILITYPLAN4.pdf

How can I tell what is sustainable?

From my previous blog posts I ranted about what sustainability was and the cost of climate change. Now the question in the back of my mind is how can I tell what is sustainable in the world today. When deciding if something is sustainable or not, I think of the bigger picture, the future and the non-renewable natural resources. As non-renewable resources are used up, more energy is required to extract these resources, which in turn would create greater and greater release of emissions for less use of the resource being extracted. What I mean by this is all or most cars run on fossil fuels, which are non-renewable natural resources, one day they will eventually depleted and be gone forever. This is why we have to find a way to make a change now, before it’s too late.

The reading for this blog post from the book “Geography of Hope” by Chris turner talked about a small Danish Island of approximately 4,400 people are pretty much running on self sufficient energy. This means that they are utilizing all of the natural energy that is produced by the sun. This community is using energy sources such as wind power, wood chips, and solar straw. For this community to sufficiently run and come together as one in the beginning had to all have the same idea and feeling of having a community of self sufficient energy. These changes had to take place in order to create a paradigm shift in the energy production on a community scale. This evolution of how a small community can come together and make major changes for a stable environment represents a shift towards a more fully functioning system. Each and every individual had to strive and commitment in order to help eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn helps in cost savings. When you combined all of these factors together, it makes for a very stable environment.

When we talked about what sustainable in class a good example was brought up about a company which looks at the energy and materials that is need to satisfy the production of their products, while also taking into account the waste that they are producing to do so, and trying to find a way to reuse this waste that was created to help in the process of producing their products needed. This would be classified as a closed system because the company is trying to take care of the waste produced internally and reducing the need of bringing materials in from an outside source.

The most interesting part that I learnt in class was “Bio-mimicry”, which is the replication of ecosystems in the design of human infrastructure. What this means is the way society is building things today they take into account the animals in nature. An example of this was the speed train that was designed after examining and looking at a certain bird that can dive into water and not even make a splash. A speed/bullet train was formed and designed to the same degree of the birds beak to help lessen the wind resistance.
In order to justify what is sustainable and what isn’t sustainable, the environment that we live in as humans needs to be re-examined. What is sustainable in the world today might not be sustainable in the future. What is sustainable to one person probably is not sustainable to another, so as a community on a lower lever we all need to try to get together to make a difference and a more sustainable future for others.

ReferencesTurner, C. (2007). The geography of hope: a tour of the world we need. Toronto: Random House.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Climate Change: The Cost of Inaction

How do we get all of the countries on board to help eliminate or reduce all of the harmful emissions and damage that we are doing to our world. This is nearly or almost nearly impossible, a large global plan should be put into effect in order to tackle climate change. The Stern Report claims that a global effort which can span the next 10-20 years will have a large effect on the rate of climate change occurring. The only way I feel that something to this magnitude will happen is when a world disaster disrupts and affects everyone in the world. If something this big happened I believe that it would possibly push all the world leaders to want to make a difference and get on board on saving the world. I know this thought is farfetched and unbelievable, but I believe if we could all just work together the world would be a better place.

I have always been interested in a more sustainable development plan in our world. Since starting this class of sustainable development with Chris Ling, it has finally fully opened up my eyes to all of the different aspects and ways that we as humans, help in destroying our own planet in our everyday lives. There was so much new information presented to me in today’s class relating to air pollution, food, forests, water, ecological footprint, and loss of biodiversity. I have never realized how sever our actions would be. In the last few years, I have always tried to make a difference in my adventures and have always thought about what I can do as an individual to help in lessening environmental impacts. I have now been recycling, everything that I can for the last few years to cut back on wastes going to the landfill. After sorting through waste and breaking the different wastes into categories at my previous school. I realized how much of the things that go to the landfill can actually be recycled and how not many people were recycling and therefore our landfills are growing rapidly. Just recently I have purchased a bike to help cut down on my fuel emissions and air pollution that my car would put out every day on my way to school and back.

The main point from today’s lecture that really got my mind racing was that every year the United States and Europe top priorities for the most part are spending billions of dollars on things like ice cream (11 billion), pet foods (17 billion), cosmetics (8 billion), and perfumes (12 billion). They should stop spending all this money on things that are more of a want then a need. They should cut back on some of these not so important necessities and should focus some of that spending money on helping people in less fortunate countries for a lot less of the cost. To help give everyone in the world the basic necessities to live, it would only cost 40 billion dollars instead of 48 billion on the previously mentioned things. I don’t know how I can personally make a difference in this matter but, I can start by looking at all of the different parties, and vote for the party that I believe has the right budget for helping the less fortunate out and vote for that party at election time.

I am going to be stating some other interesting facts that I have learned today and found very interesting and have inspired me to do some more in depth research and reading. If we keep living in the world we live today at the same rate and pace we are living at we are destine for some major changes in our future. If change is not implemented soon, the minor things will slowly start to escalate. The history of things such as the forests around the world shows that over time things slowly diminish if the problem is not solved. The amount of forests that use to cover the land was 50%, since the 90’s; 9.4 million hectares of forest were lost. If the sea level rises 1m due to climate change over 40 million Bangladeshis will be without homes. 1m doesn’t seem like a lot, but look at the massive change it could make if it happened. Canadians consume the most amount of water per day per person at 350L; this statement amazed me as a Canadian myself. I would defiantly cut back on water uses to help save a child, or to give a village water for a day. What will you give up to help make a change in the world today?

Monday, October 12, 2009

What is Sustainable Development?

The definition of sustainable development is best put in these words: “Meeting the needs of today’s population without harming the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

An example of sustainable development is:

The people in the forestry industry cut down trees everyday to make various products such as wood and paper. To sustain the trees I feel that the forestry industry has to plant seeds or plant trees after they are done clear cutting a section of land, so that the trees that they cut down can grow back and therefore, be used again in the future.

Sustainable development to me is renewing the resources that we are using on an everyday basis, to help further our children in the future. This can be accomplished by using natural sources for energy instead of oil and diesel, finding different ways of transportation, and how to use electricity effectively.

In the world today, many industries rely solely on oil and diesel products. These two energy sources are a main cause of carbon emissions that lead to the green house gas effect.

I believe that if we implement more renewable energy sources that occur naturally we will have a more sustainable environment. These natural energy sources never run out, and help to decrease many of the emissions that are destroying our environment. With the many natural energy sources that we have such as the sun, wind, and water we could produce mass amounts of energy without contributing carbon emissions. The sun can be used to give energy to solar panels which in turn could be turned into electricity or it could also be used to heat up water. The wind is a natural source that is all over the world at any given time, the use of wind turbines can produce mass amounts of energy to help in powering entire cities, communities or towns. The use of water can be used by dams; large amounts of water are forced through turbines which are connected to generators that produce electricity.

Fossil fuels such as gas and diesel are not a very efficient way for sustainability in our world today; they may be a good source of energy in today’s world but are slowly destroying our ozone layer over time. These fossil fuels also take a long time to reform and once they are used up they cannot be replaced or replenished. The process of making these energy sources uses up a lot of energy itself and emits large amounts of green house gases that are depleting the ozone layer. A few examples, that we can exhibit in today’s society would be to use public transportation such as buses, trains, cycling, walking or even bio-fuels in our vehicles to help cut out the emissions going into the atmosphere. The demand for fossil fuels can also be reduced by programs such as: recycling glass bottles, plastic containers, paper and plastic bags. These processes have made a huge impact, not only on producing new materials but also in eliminating the capacity of garbage in our landfills. As I have been growing up and in the last few years, society has been making a huge transfer on improving such things to save our environment. Many grocery stores have stopped giving away plastic bags and now make you buy other bags that are reusable. New ideas like LED light bulbs, cuts the use of electricity substantially compared to a normal light bulb. If we don’t take care of the problem at hand now, it will only keep getting worse and make it harder for our children in the future to resolve the issues that our society has made. The question now is what will you do today to help change the world for the future?