J500 Media and the Environment

Costa Rica: a small country with a big environmental impact by bpirotte

To fight the harsh Kansas winter, my family decided to pack up and leave for sunny, warm Costa Rica. Known around the world as an eco-paradise, this tiny, Central American country has a lot to protect.

Papaya and cocktail shrimp--a meal of local flavor.

Fresh food, especially fruit, is an important part of Costa Rican’s “Pura” lifestyle. At the hotel, shrimp cocktail fills a papaya bowl. The shrimp was caught off Costa Rica’s coast, and the papaya was also grown nearby. Talk about eating local! As a plus for living in this tropical environment, locals pay significantly less for their products. A pound of bananas at a local market only cost 19 colones  (that’s only 3 cents!), compared to the cost in the US of an average around 30-40 cents.  However,  is that the true cost of a banana? Unsustainable practices in Costa Rica’s banana industry include heavy use of pesticides, deforestation, and improper treatment of many banana harvesters.

Tourism is booming in Costa Rica, which claims to be one of the most eco-friendly tourist destinations in the world. However, places like Costa Rica’s North Pacific coast, in the state of Guanacaste, are sometimes trading tourist dollars for safe environmental practices, as resorts and the winter homes of rich migratory North American retirees flood the landscape.

Hotels and resorts in the Guanacaste region could threaten Costa Rica's eco-attitude.

Biodiversity is an incredibly important part of Costa Rica.

A howler monkey hides in a tree in Costa Rica’s rainforest.

Tree root forms interesting shapes in the Costa Rican rainforest.

Comparable to the size of West Virginia, this small tropical country contains five percent of all of earth’s species. However, pressures from population growth and development from tourism are a constant threat to Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife.

An aloe plant blooms in the rainforest.

While there, I learned this tiny country is a big player in environmental sustainability, despite its miniscule size. However, no country is perfect, and Costa Rica is no exception. With the tourism industry booming, and a global desire for a tasty banana, this Central American country has to deal with some difficult choices.

Hopefully the sun isn't setting on Costa Rica's eco-friendly practices.

Photos and text by Ben Pirotte

The Color of Money by jasonmer
New York Stock Exchange

New York Stock Exchange

Do you want to save your environment or do you want to save your money?

Depending on your answer to this question you will find the answer to your shade of green.  Like many concepts in life we operate on a linear continuum of advocacy or disparagement.  Intersecting at the middle of the “green continuum” you will find two competing points of influence—they are green and green value.  Movement either direction from this fulcrum demonstrates the influence of money on your green identity.  Beliefs, sacrifice, and the ability to stand alone are variables as well.

Green is a belief system not rooted in financial gain or loss.  Our modern foundation for green was born in the early 1960’s with Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring.  Man’s coexistence with nature versus man’s disdains for the costly nuisances and need to control nature were at odds.  Money mattered then.

Green is an ideal built on sacrifice.  If being green was simultaneously undemanding, straightforward, and relevant more people would be inclined to engage themselves with green ideals.  Ironically we are culturally adept at sacrifice.  Failure to adopt green strategies has allowed climate change and loss of biodiversity to be sacrificed for future generations – they are the inconsequential pawns in a catatonic chess game with the planet.  Money mattered then.

Green is lonely.  Dialogue around environmental responsibility is analogous to a politician running an election campaign.  Corporate leadership on the environment takes a profit first and beliefs later strategy.  Environmentalist in the dell…the green stands alone.  Money mattered then.

Green isn’t the color of money.

 I am not green.  I respect and admire the self discipline required to be green — over the last two weeks my perspective on green has changed and it is a title worth having and pursuing in its purest form. 

Jason Merckling

The Ax in My Side by alyv

I’m so glad my TV got fried during that electric storm.

Now I don’t even have to cr1546_deforestationoss paths with that horrible excuse for “entertainment” on the History Channel: Ax Men.

You know, that show that paints loggers as these heroic, last frontiersmen who brave the elements of nature for their high-risk job.

What a bunch of crap. Ax Men no more promotes American heroism than Stephen Colbert actually supported George W. Bush.

Do you know what the catch for this season is? It’s a competition between five logging companies in the Northwest to see which one can tear down the most trees. Yeah, real heroic, guys.

Here’s what the show fails to mention:

  • More than 1.2 billion people across the world rely on forest resources to survive.
  • About 70 percent of the planet’s plants and animals live in forests. Some forests – such as the old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest where our friends the Ax Men are so happily chucking away – are the only places where certain animals live.
  • Every two seconds, a forest the size of a football field is cut down – now for our viewing pleasure. Eighty percent of the planet’s ancient forests are gone forever.
  • Because of the vast number of harvested trees, deforestation contributes 20 percent to 25 percent of all carbon emissions.

But the craziest thing about all this is?

Most of the information I cited is on the History Channel Web site.

Here’s an organization that loyally promotes deforestation, but has an entire Earth at Risk package describing the main factors of the earth’s destruction, highlighting deforestation as one of them. The channel also cites global warming as the cause of two “Mega Disasters” that could wipe out large portions of the human population.

I mean, are these people idiots? Do they actually watch what they expect us to? Is this some sad attempt to “show both sides of the story”?

Or is it a way to justify the money they make by destroying the earth?

I’ll let you be the judge. But as I said, I’m just happy I don’t have a TV.

Which one is it, History Channel?


Thanks to YouTube (2) for the videos.

Thanks to Brockernation for the picture.

Humans’ environmental interaction: Part 1 by jjdesimone
May 9, 2008, 11:17 am
Filed under: Nature + Travel | Tags: , ,

As humans, we collectively tend to be self-absorbed and not think outside our sphere of influence. More specifically, if something in the world doesn’t directly affect us we give little or no attention to it (I’m one of the worst culprits, myself). As such, it’s very easy for us not to think about what human wastefulness and global warming are doing to our plant and animal life. However, losing our earth’s bio and eco-diversity has frightening ramifications for humanity.

Photo credit: Adam Bowman

Taken in the Uintah Mountains, this photo illustrates what humans could lose unless they act to preserve open spaces.

According to Baker University Biology Professor and Natural Areas Director Roger Boyd, said biodiversity is the amount of species in a given area. More broadly, eco-diversity refers to the number of ecosystems there are on the planet. If eco and biodiversity continues to decrease on the planet, then less food is available to sustain life. In essence, all of the earth’s biological life is interconnected; if our furry and scale-covered brethren run out of food, so do we.

But food purposes aside, bio and eco-diversity are extraordinarily important for several other reasons. Species contribute ingredients to human medicines. Less species means less potential lifesaving medicines.

“There are many species we aren’t aware of yet that could help us cure cancer,” Dr. Boyd said.

Additionally, we derive most of our industrial materials from biological life. Finally, biological life helps to moderate our ever-increasing carbon emissions. There are hundreds of additional benefits to maintaining eco and biodiversity, but you get the picture.

Scientists have concluded humans are changing the earth too quickly without taking time to understand or even become aware of all we’re doing. Needless to say, this is bad news.

Although there might not be a true panacea to our problems, we can act at the individual and governmental level to lessen our impact. Dr. Boyd said we do have the scientific prowess to protect our diminishing species. Unfortunately, the U.S. federal government has cut funding to multiple species protection acts. We have the obligation to ourselves and our longevity by informing our senators and representatives that decreased funding for these important acts is inexcusable.

It’s inevitable; if we can’t make the earth habitable for organic life, what chance do humans have in the long run?

J.J. De Simone

Livestock’s Long Shadow by dshawla

Recently, I discovered a report from 2006, entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow, which is an assessment of global livestock’s impacts on the environment. The report was produced by the Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) Initiative. This is not an animal rights group, or a band of hippie vegans, but rather a sub-committee of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

I’m well aware of many of the report’s findings, but there is much in the report that I never knew. It’s troubling that livestock is rarely addressed by leading environmentalists and environmental groups. Especially because, as the report states, “the livestock sector emerges as one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale from local to global.”

Based on recent posts about the impact of food on the environment, I highly recommend at least skimming through the report. Here are a few highlights I’ve taken directly from the report’s executive summary:

– Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agriculture land and 30% of the land surface on the planet.
– 70% of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures (in other words, livestock is the biggest contributor to Amazon rain forest loss)

-Livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (higher than transportation)
– Livestock emits 37% of anthropogenic (resulting from human activity) methane, which has 23x the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2
– Livestock emits 65% of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, which has 296x the GWP of CO2
– Livestock is responsible for 64% of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.
Waste Laggon at NC hog farm

(photo: USDA. Waste lagoon at a hog farm in North Carolina)

– Livestock accounts for over 8% of global human water use
– Livestock is probably the largest source of water pollution
– In the US alone, livestock is responsible for an estimated 55% of erosion and sediment, 33% of pesticide use, and 50% of antibiotic use

– Livestock now account for 20% of the total animal biomass, and 30% of the earth’s land surface they now inhabit was once habitat for wildlife
– Livestock may be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity (due to deforestation), as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of invasions by alien species.

The report details many more facts about the negative environmental impacts of livestock. It concludes that if, as predicted, the production of meat will double from now until 2050, the impact per unit of output must be cut in half, simply to maintain current levels of environmental damage caused by livestock. Recommendations for reaching this goal include a sizable reduction in meat consumption from those in developed nations.

If awareness of this issue does not move from the fringes and into a front and center issue for the environmental movement, it is difficult to think the problems will not become significantly worse. This isn’t an opinion, it is a fact. Yet, one of the simplest things an individual can do to have a personal impact is reduce his/her meat consumption.

The sooner people overcome their belief that a vegetarian diet is radical or extreme, but instead is a very positive step toward improving the health of themselves and the planet, and at least reduce their meat consumption, the sooner the problems associated with livestock can be seriously addressed and overcome.

– David