In-Class Blog Questions

  1. What future would you like to see for the Alberta Tar Sands Project?

I believe the Alberta Tar Sands Project should stop the development entirely. Although this would be ideal, I think it is reasonable if there is a transition period, where the Tar Sands continue with some modifications. These modifications can be decreasing the size of the Tar Sands extraction location, which is greater than the UK island. Decreasing the amount extracted, and having policies on the distance they have to be regarding the rivers leading to indigenous towns.


2. Consider your food system : What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? Consider taste, nutrition, cost, equity, and environmental.

What I like about my food system :

I like tomatoes grown in my family’s garden, fresh basil and mint also grown in my family’s garden, locally grown squash, cucumbers, carrots, beets and zucchini. I like manitoba pickerel that a family friend sells us. I like berries picked in the forest close to my cabin. I like naturally raised chicken my family buys from a farm close to Winnipeg. I like how my family has decreased the amount of meat we intake, and when we do, it is usually local meat. I also like how my family composts all fruits, veggies, egg shells, etc. Therefore having little food waste.


What I dislike about my food system :

Being a university student, it is difficult to afford these local organic foods, and it is sometimes easier to eat cheaper food that is easily accessible during busy study times. It is also difficult to find local fruits and vegetables during the winter season in Winnipeg, which means buying imported fruits and vegetables is usually the only choice. Also, cost is also in the question when buying meat. My family and I try to buy all local meat, but sometimes it is just easier to buy meat from the supermarket that is not naturally raised because it is more affordable. It is much more nutritious to be eating locally grown foods, and home cooked meals. With that being said and being a university student, it is not the most doable option because of busy schedules and going out to eat with friends.


3. What role, if any, should zoos play in conservation/education?

Zoos should be playing a lead role in conservation/education regarding wildlife. Having all these different species in showcase to the public, it is important to have the public gain knowledge on those different wildlife species. The patrons coming to the zoo should not leave the zoo with only the experience of seeing those animals, but they should also leave with a broader understanding of the wildlife species in the zoo. These facilities should also have a big role in educating the public on conservation because in the long run, wildlife and conservation go hand-in-hand. One cannot succeed without the other.


4. Is it ethical to keep animals in zoos? If so, what size/type of animal or zoo?

I believe it is not ethical to keep animals in zoos whether they are big or small. I do believe that for rehabilitation purposes, animals can be kept in a zoo or rehabilitation/conservation centre for a short period of time before being let out in the wild again. By understanding the fact that zoos will keep existing for a long time, the size of the enclosure of animals should be more accurate. For example, polar bears are used to travelling on average 30 km a day in the arctic. If the facility cannot reach those measures of enclosures, I believe they should not be allowed to keep the polar bears for long periods of time. If a polar bear’s health is in danger and needs medical assistance and rehabilitation, it is ethical to keep the bear until he is ready to go out in the wild again. For smaller animals, such as bats, I think facilities should adhere to the same measures. For rehabilitation purposes and medical purposes, it is ethical to keep the small animals only for a short period of time, enough for a full recovery.


5. Do you enjoy visiting zoos?

I do enjoy visiting zoos when they have proper measures of enclosures. I do not like visiting zoos where exotic animals such as elephants and giraffes are held because they are not acclimatized to canadian weather. Also because they do not have the same native plant species, and terrain they would in the wild. It is very sad to see, and it usually leads to early death in those animals.


Ted Talk : Rob Hopkins


Rob Hopkins starts his speech by introducing what he does for a living. He is very involved with the educational system in third world countries, and he has travelled several different countries to help others, by either teaching, or building schools, houses, etc. After his introduction, he starts off by saying one litre of geologically distilled oil, is worth the energy of 35 strong people put together. Hopkins says our lives are based on oil, and it will not be at our disposal forever. Decarbonization of the world is needed, meaning we need to cut our carbon emissions because if we keep living this way, there will be severe consequences, such as there will be no ice in the Arctic in 5-10 years. He explains how there are three choices in our society. One being, buisness as usual, which is clearly not feasible. The second one being, hitting a wall, which means our society will collapse by doing nothing. The third and final one is the impossible dream, which is using new technology to discover new ways of using renewable energy and to be dependent on those energies. The third one is the clear choice. Hopkins then tell us how there needs to be a transition response, which entails people to share their ideas, work together to make innovative solutions, and to look at is as a historique opportunity. Hopkins says we need to look at the resiliance of our society and ecology as well. Which means how a system can hold up when a shock hits it. Will is crumble, or thrive? He explains what is his transition project, which is already put in place in several countries. The project is, doing sustainable things in a local scale. For example, local community gardens so people can enjoy local food close to home. This will attract the local government’s eye, and soon after will be an attraction to the country’s legislative to make bigger concrete changes in societies sustainable energy sources.


I believe this is a great project because it will certainly catch the legislature’s attention. We are waiting for a big transition to happen, and this will certainly be it. If more communities get into this transition project, the faster this project will grow nationally, which means the construction of renewable energy plants can commence.



Rob Hopkins with a litre of oil.                                              Image taken from :

Resources :

Ted Talk : Rob Hopkins

Women’s Indigenous knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation


Vandana Shiva writes that women are there reason there is biodiversity in this world. In the text, she talks about the important yet invisible role of women in agriculture, raising farm animals, the dairy industry, forestry and much more. Their work is invisible because of the gender bias in society. She says women in India have so much knowledge on the growth of different seeds. They know everything from the way they need to be grown, to the cooking of that seed. It is known by women that crop uniformity is not good, because there is no diversity in the plants, which is essential for the soil and for the plants to grow healthy. It is also mentioned that women conserve diversity. Third world country women are the root of their county’s health and well being. At the end of the text, the author talks about how so many toxicants are put into the growing of GMO’s, and it is not good for the diversity of plants, or the health of the animals and humans eating them.


Question : What is an “ecofeminist”?

Based on the text “Women’s Indigenous knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation”, an ecofeminist is a person”… who sees the important connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature under the patriarchal social and political framework that characterizes most of the world’s human cultures.” They are different from environmentalist because their principles are not the same. An ecofeminist has two main principles, according to Vandana Shiva. The first one being, they do not agree with women having an intrinsic feminine perspective on the relationship between humans and nature. The second one, being in a patriarchal society made them have a different way of thinking about environmental issues.


Resources :
VANDANA SHIVA, from “Women’s Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation,” in Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, Ecofeminism (Zed Books, 1993); T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 200-203). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill

Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?


In the text, the main ideas talked about is the effect of environmental decline and population growth on food supply, and the political stability. Lester Brown has studies global agricultural, population, environmental and economic trends and their interactions. He says in the text, the combined effects of those trends and the political tensions they generate point to the breakdown of governments and societies. He says maintaining food supply at current level is threatened by shortages of freshwater, loss of topsoil and global warming. Cutting carbon emissions, stabilizing population, eradicating poverty, and restoring forests, soils and aquifers is the answer. He says many third world countries are so corrupted, which brings international concerns, and once those countries fail, no other country will assume responsibility for their debt. The author talks about how grain crops are going down every year, because of the environmental degradation. This means grain and other produce will become more expensive. Also, the author talks about how 70% of the world’s freshwater is going to irrigation. In India, there is not enough freshwater supply for everyone to have a healthy amount everyday. He mentions that there are two plans in the world which we can take. Plan A, which is to continue business as it is. Plan B which is to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2020, stabilize world’s population at 8 billion by 2040, eradication of poverty, restoration of forests, soils and aquifers. The author talks about solutions to these ideas, and explains how meeting these goals may be necessary to prevent the collapse of our civilization.

Question : According to Lester Brown, demand for food is growing faster than the supply. What are the effects of this trend likely to be? How can we prevent the worst effects?

The effects of food demand growing while the supply is diminishing, are very serious and in the end it comes down to the collapse of our society. According to Brown, the effects leading to that, will be more poverty, more starving countries, increased population, depletion of freshwater, depletion of topsoil, therefore nowhere to grow crops of food. Depletion of all resources. We can prevent the worst effects by  : cutting carbon emissions, by investing in the renewable resources sector, having other sustainable and cost effective sources of energy. Banning deforestation, as well as replanting the ones that have already been cut down. The switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy can be made with carbon tax. Having smaller families to stabilize the world’s population will naturally decrease the amount of poverty. To restore the earth’s natural systems and resources, we need to raise water productivity with (for example) water efficient crops.

Resources :
LESTER BROWN, from “Food Scarcity: An Environmental Wakeup Call,” The Futurist (January / February 1998);T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 139-143). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill

A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030


The main message of this text is to demonstrate the feasibility of changing the world’s energy systems of today, meaning fossil fuels,  into alternative energy sources which would be using natural perpetual resources. Mark Z. Johnson and Mark A. Delucchi have a plan “to determine how 100% of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030.” The best energy systems according to a Stanford University study in 2009, are wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and hydroelectric power, all driven by wind, water or sunlight. The two authors have come up with several different options for all energy purposes. Their plan entail only clean technology, meaning having technology that is already working, or that is almost up and running, so they do not have to wait another decade for a machine. The technology they will be using need to have zero emissions of greenhouse gases. Another idea that they have is to use hydrogen, produced by WWS electricity to do electrolysis, and this hydrogen would power fuel cells and be burned in airplanes and industry. For example, an electric car uses 75-80% of its electricity to move, whereas gasoline only uses 17-20% of its energy to move, while the rest is let off as heat in the atmosphere. The authors mention how their plan would work, with all the details, such as how many wind turbines and photovoltaic power plants they will need to have enough energy for the whole world.  It is said in the text that the obstacles for their plan are primarily political. Ideally this plan can take place in 10-15 years, but with politics, it will be more like 40-50 years.


Question : What is the most effective way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions?

Based on the text “A  Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030”, the most effective way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, is to eliminate all fossil fuels. Therefore, using alternative energy sources. A transition to eliminating these fossil fuels, is having a carbon tax, and having electric cars be more available to the population. The alternative energy sources are powered by wind, water and sunlight. The authors plan to have sustainable energy by 2030 indicate that there needs to be 3.8 million large wind turbines, 89,000 photovoltaic and concentrated solar power plants, 900 hydroelectric stations to fuel the world’s population energy demand. This is very achievable if the politicians would agree and invest in the very near future, and not wait until the very last minute when it is too late.

Resources :
MARK Z. JACOBSON AND MARK A. DELUCCHI; A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030; Scientific American (November 2009); T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 72-75). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill

Climate Change 2007 : The Physical Science Basis


This 2007 report written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has made it clear, we need to act now if we want our world to be livable, and not a complete catastrophe in the near future. Many statistics are shown in this report, with very high numbers in increasing temperatures, natural disasters, acidity in the oceans rising, intense precipitation and intense droughts, etc. For example, the average arctic temperatures increased at almost twice the global rate in the past 100 years. Temperatures of permafrost has been rising since the 1980’s in the Arctic. The area covered by permafrost has decreased by 7% in the Northern hemisphere since 1990 with a decrease in the spring of 15%.  Arctic sea ice has shrunk by 2.7% per decade, and 7.4% decrease in the summer months since 1978. The IPCC has also reported that there has been heavy precipitation in the Eastern parts of North and South America, Northern Europe and Northern/Central Asia. While these places are getting intense precipitation, the Sahel, Mediterranean, South Africa and parts of southern Asia are drying out. Another data point in the report, is that the total global sea level rise in the 20th century is estimated to be 0.17 metres. All of these examples from the text are due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.


Question : What consequences can we expect from global warming?

Some of the consequences, based on the IPCC report, are the slowing down of the meridional overturning circulation of the Atlantic ocean during the 21st century. It is estimated that in 2100, the global temperature will increase by 4 degrees celsius. With increased CO2 concentrations, the acidity of the ocean will increase even more, which will kill all the coral reefs and kill many aquatic species. If the sea level keeps rising for a millennia, there will be no more Greenland ice sheet. More consequences, are intense winds in both hemispheres, more intente and longer droughts, changes in wind patterns, increased frequency of heavy precipitation because of increased water vapour. There will also be an increase in tropical cyclones, which are devastating for communities as well as their home land. All in all, the consequences we can expect from global warming are nothing but tragic to our earth.

Photograph by XL Catlin Seaview Survey


Resources :
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change; Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis: IPCC Forth Assessment Report (February 2007); T. A. Easton (Ed.); Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 169-172); New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill
 Photograph  : XL Catlin Seaview Survey;Warming Threatens the Great Barrier Reef Even More Than We Thought;

A Sand County Almanac


The author, Aldo Leopold was “…one of the most influential American preservationists of the first half of the twentieth century.” He became very worries about the wilderness, because lots of commercial activities were happening, and he saw that it was taking a toll on the land. Leopold talks about hunting wolves, as one of the commercial activities. He explains how the wolves are such an important part of the wilderness, more specifically in the mountain regions. These top predators hunt deer and other animals for food source, which in return naturally manages the deer population. They are a keystone species, therefore without wolves, the wilderness in the mountain region would not be healthy and major changes would happen in the diversity of the wildlife. The author realized this after his past experiences of killing wolves himself. Later on in his text, he says that there is no ethic that binds humans to land, animals and plants because humans see these things as economic resources. He suggest having a “land ethic” which would make humans include the land, animals and plants as another important part of their life, not just an economic opportunity. He understands the economic standpoint will determine how far and how much we can protect, but he does know a social change is much needed.


Question : What is the basic lesson of Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain”?

The basic lesson of Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain” is to start seeing the land as our ancestors did before. He mentions that today, our educational and economics system is not going in the right direction, which would be towards a way of thinking that implies a conservation and consciousness towards the land. Instead of having an educational and economic system that can repair and restore our crops, wilderness, forest, and all our land, our system is corrupted with physical materials and concrete jungles that keep getting bigger and bigger. The author also mentions how the “modern man” has outgrown his land, meaning original natural products do not suit him anymore. Leopold wants us to use his land ethic which simply means to incorporate soils, water, plants, and animals to our communitie. Living together with the land.


Resources :
ALDO LEOPOLD, from A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University Press, 1977);T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 22-25). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill

Ted Talk : Fragile Earth


A Wide-Angle View of Fragile Earth by Yann Arthus-Bertrand is an eye opening video with breathtaking photography. The purpose of this video is to make people realize we are all living together on this Earth. Even if we share different religions and cultures, we share the same basic needs, which rely on Earth’s resources.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand shares many informative facts about our environment such as how our oil sands are not a long-term solution. We are using three times more oil than we can find every year. One hundred percent of coral reefs in North California will be depleted by 2050 because of global warming. Oceans and all the life that inhabits these vasts water basins are highly affected by global warming. He also shares how there is a corridor between the Atlantic and the Pacific that was not there before, 15 years ago. Here is a picture taken from Yann Arthus-Bertrand himself, showing the boat crossing between the crackled ice in the sea, in Nunavut.

Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Canada. Photo : Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Bertrand also shares the devastating fact that Mount Kilimanjaro has lost 80% of its ice. Glaciers will not exist anymore in 100 years. Seventy-seven percent of fish stocks are overexploited. One in six people have not enough to eat, which means one billion people do not have enough to eat everyday. Ninety percent of corn in America is used to feed livestock, or used to produce oil. There will be an increase in refugee camps by 2050. These are all tragic facts that are hard to believe because we are so technologically advanced, but it feels as though we are failing and going back in time with the way we are treating other people in different continents.

After Bertrand shares these informative facts, he explains what he is doing and explains why he is here. He sends six cameramen around the world to film interview of people across the world to see what its like to live in their shoes, to find out what love means to them, to find out what happiness means to them. In those interviews, we see that connecting to nature is one of the most important and prominent aspect that came across. Connecting with nature is a mutual connection shared by everyone in the world. Yann explains that he is here to send the message, that we need each other to survive. There is six billion others on the planet to live with. Our lives are tied with the well-being of the planet, and we are in danger because our planet cannot sustain any longer. He finishes the video by saying “It is too late to be pessimistic.” He is right, it is too late to be pessimistic and to be judgmental of others that have different cultures than the people you are used to be living with. We are in a world that is so technologically advanced, advanced in research and so many different aspects, that we need to learn to put our differences aside and work together to make this planet sustainable again, and trade our goods and services.

Tragedy of the commons


Garrett Hardin was a professor of biology and human ecology at the University of Santa Barbara. This selection is a part of his most famous writings The Tragedy of the Commons.

Hardin starts off by saying there is no technical solution to problems. In this case, he is making reference to the over-populated world we live in, as being the problem and how there is no technical solution. He gives an example of a problem which a herdsman has encountered, which is: Is it worth it to add another animal to his herd? Hardin comes up with one  pro and one con to the solution to the problem. The positive outcome is the animal will be a utility to graze the crops, and he will receive all the proceeds from his sale once he is ready to sell it. The negative outcome is overgrazing. It is called the Tragedy of the Commons because all the herdsmen will end up adding one animal to their herd, making the commons overpopulated and therefore there will be overgrazing happening, which is the tragic part of this whole situation. Hardin presents another story to show how to work out the tragedy of the commons. In National Parks, he suggest many things, such as being a first-come first-served basis to enter the parks. The author then talks about how pollution is getting worse and worse with the population rising. After talking about pollution, he explains how people are not welcome to have as many children as possible because there would be not enough resources for their generations to come. Years back, it was encouraged to have as many children as possible to keep their family name going, and having many descendents. Nowadays, it is very hard to have many children, not only because there will be not enough resources, but because it is economically and financially expensive to have many children. To finish the excerpt, Hardin talks about how we have to realize what is happening to our population, and our environment due to its size in human population. “Every new enclosure of the commons involves the infringement of somebody’s personal liberty.” (p.28). This citation is expressing how everything that is done these days will be hurtful for someone in the population, because they will find a way to express how it is a violation of their freedom, for something that is not controllable, such as human population.



  1. Why should people not have as many children as possible?

People should not have as many children as possible, because if we live in a world that is overpopulated already; if everyone in the commons were having as many children as possible, there would be not enough resources for everyone on earth. Garrett Hardin makes an interesting statement involving humans and birds. He says if humans were like birds, we would have to have as many children as possible because some of the chicks die, depending on harsh weather, or starvation, or simply getting eaten by another animal. If human babies could die in those ways, the parents would want to reproduce as much as they can to have at least one successful birth. We live in a world where with this many people causes big problems to the Earth, such as polluting an enormous amount, and depleting our Earth’s resources to satisfy the human population.

Resources :

Hardin, G. (2012). The tragedy of the commons. In T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 24-28). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill
Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. In In T. A. Easton (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 184-189). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill

Human Carrying Capacity


Human Carrying Capacity is a selection taken by the book How Many People Can the Earth Support? by Joel E. Cohen who was a professor and head of the Laboratory of populations at the Rockfeller University and Columbia University. Cohen has a trend in his novel to depicted in the Classic Edition Sources : Environmental Studies, Fourth Edition text, to express the carrying capacity as being able to balance itself out. This will be further discussed in this summary.

The excerpt of his novel starts off with a case study of the Easter Island. He describes this mystical island and explains its history based on scientists and explorers. It is said to have had a human population situated on the island during the year 690. Cohen says “The islanders were probably isolated form out-side human contact until the island was spotted by Dutch sailors in 1722.” It is also said that forests and freshwater sources were scarce by 1400, making the population decrease. Although, the population started to increase slowly during that time, it reached a maximum of 10,000 people in 1680. 100 years later, the population decreased to 2,000 people because of smallpox disease that came from returning Islanders that were slaves in Peru. Cohen suggests that the more the population grows, the more resources will be limited and the more the living conditions will worsen. He also says that the human carrying capacity is “conditional on current choices and on natural constraints”, meaning it could change every time we measure it because the earth is a biological ecosystem, meaning it is always adapting and changing. The excerpt finishes with a metaphor of the human carrying capacity on Earth, which is expressed with the physics of walking. Your legs and muscles are always in equilibrium with each other, Cohen describes. This is a metaphor for the Earth’s resources and the human population. They are both always in equilibrium; if one changes, the other one will change in consequence to the other. For example, if the population increases, the environment will become less sustainable. If the environment undergoes a severe weather storm that kills a certain amount of people in that area, the population will then decrease.




  1. What is carrying capacity?

Based on the book How Many People Can the Earth Support? by Joel E. Cohen, carrying capacity is a measuring tool to find out what is the limit population, or number, of something in particular. This can be the human population in the world for example. The carrying capacity will take into consideration the crops needed to feed the people, the freshwater necessary to hydrate these people, and the amount of land they need to live on in the world, and all other necessities in life. This measuring tool takes into play all these aspects because the carrying capacity is a measure of sustainability; therefore it will measure what is the maximum people there can be on this planet, to be fed and hydrated while making sure no resources will run out. The world has to be able to sustain the maximum of people calculated. The number can change, depending on the state of the earth’s resources. It will decrease when the earth’s resources are depleted, and it will increase as the earth’s resources are plentiful.



Bibliography :

Cohen J. E.; How many people can the Earth support?;  T. A. Easton (Ed.); Classic Edition Sources: Environmental studies (4th ed., pp. 169-172); New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill