Crazy Environmentalists

Melinda Markin, 08-09 EC Intern, making cardboard angels.  EC file photo

Melinda Markin, 08-09 EC Intern, making cardboard angels. EC file photo

People are always trying to find ways around “primitive” environmentalism – primitive as in trying to reduce waste and emissions, planting some vegetables, stop killing everything and overall trying to make the world a better place. They’re the “futurists,” the “creative” ones who really think they have the answer. And they’ve come up with some pretty crazy solutions to global environmental issues. The earth is getting too hot? Hmm, I know, let’s pump sulfur clouds into the sky to reflect the sun’s rays out of the atmosphere! Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Rather than reduce emissions, we can just bury it, or dump iron into the oceans to promote the growth of phytoplankton!

I have a very serious problem with these so called “alternative answers” to environmentalism. Sure, it’ll work in theory, but all we’re doing is fighting fire with fire. Sulfur clouds can reflect the sun’s rays and reduce the greenhouse effect, but have you considered what the large scale effect might be on any organism that uses the atmosphere (such as for breathing)? Or the fact that sulfur is the main component of sulfuric acid, and sulfur clouds might possibly lead to acid rain which damages not only the natural environment but urban areas as well? Maybe it’s not such a good idea to combat problems caused by pollution with more pollution. Burying carbon could have a devastating long term effect on bacteria that live deep under the ground or water and rely on extreme conditions. Many species of bacteria are vital for nutrient recycling – even those that live far away from what most people consider “life.” Underground pockets of carbon could even cause tectonic disturbances, i.e. earthquakes. A boom in phytoplankton growth will throw off the entire oceanic food chain, and extra iron in the water can poison fish and mammals. These quick fixes and short term solutions will only cause more damage in the future.

The solution to global environmental problems doesn’t require sulfur clouds or giant storage facilities underground. We can’t hide from our destruction. We can’t change the world to suit our needs. We need to change ourselves. We need to become less selfish, reduce our carbon emissions, reduce our waste, and give something back to the earth for a change.

Liz Grogan

Eat Your Dog?

photo by Liz Grogan

photo by Liz Grogan

Earlier this year, two sustainability advocates in New Zealand released a shocking new book: Time to Eat the Dog: the Real Guide to Sustainable Living. The authors, Robert and Brenda Vale, don’t actually condone eating our canine friends; the book merely assesses the huge impact they have on the environment. A medium sized dog, for example, has an ecological footprint of 0.84 hectares, more than twice that of an SUV (although the book does ignore the fact that most dog foods are made from the leftovers of ordinary meat and grain processing, which would otherwise go to waste). The authors propose that in order to be sustainable we should focus our resources on “useful pets” such as chickens, and ditch our relatively useless dogs and cats.

While it is undeniable that pets can have a negative impact, many people like me find it impossible to imagine living in a world without them. Over the years, we have bred dogs and cats to rely almost entirely on humans, and we now have an obligation to care for them. Pets are also beneficial for humans, providing services such as guarding houses and livestock, aid for the disabled, and, most importantly, companionship.

Eating our pets seems like a radical idea to me. Fortunately, it is easy to make your pets environmentally friendly. Here are just a few of the ways to reduce the ecological footprint of man’s best friend:

1) Choose your pet’s diet carefully. Most cheap dog foods contain waste meats and grains, and are extremely unhealthy for the animal. Instead of buying processed food, you can feed your pets a “raw diet,” just like their cousins dine on every day. Your dog will require a lot less food, because he won’t be eating fillers. If you buy local meats, you will be supporting the economy as well as the environment. Just don’t forget that dogs also need plant material – vegetables, fruits and calcium – in order to stay healthy. Consult your veterinarian to ensure your pets get the nutrition they need.

2) A raw diet is not for every dog. Animals with compromised immune systems, for example, cannot handle the bacteria in raw meat. If you are concerned about health, or unwilling to feed Fido raw meat, look for a local or green pet food business. For more information on buying environmentally friendly pet food, visit The Green Guide. In Durango, Zuke’s offers a wide variety of healthy and all-natural treats for dogs and cats.

3) Toys, beds, blankets, shampoos, and everything else your dog needs to be happy are also available in environmentally friendly forms. Some online lists of green toys are GreatGreenPet.com and OliveGreenDog.com. Better yet, find a local store that makes and sells dog toys, or make your own.

4) Adopt pets from animal shelters, and always spay or neuter them. There are millions of animals in shelters around the country, and although puppies may be adorable, breeding your animals just contributes to the pet overpopulation problem.

5) Pets can be devastating for local wildlife. Teach dogs not to attack small animals, and keep them on a leash whenever they’re away from the yard. Clean up after your dog on walks, and dispose of the waste in biodegradable bags. Finally, bells attached to your pet’s collar work as excellent intruder warnings for small animals.

Dogs may have a negative impact on the environment, but that’s no reason to go out and destroy them. Even a dog, at 0.83 hectares, has a smaller global footprint than a human – the average estimate for the United States is 9.7 hectares per person!

– Liz Grogan

Gloom and Doom

One of the problems with most environmental news and documentaries is that they present all of the negative aspects of our lives. They show us how we have destroyed the earth and tell us all is lost. Some may present methods for us to clean up our act but most don’t even worry about that. Many documentaries and authors tend to focus on the past and the present, not the future. They show us how in the past the people were one with the land and then somehow in the present we have lost that and have begun to destroy the land for our own needs.

Many of these documentaries tend to present the past as being the ideal. A time when humans and the earth lived in harmony, well that is a lie. Humans have always changed their environment to better suit themselves. From the construction of shelters to the creation of fires, humans have always left an impact on the Earth. We evolved our hands and feet and bipedalism so that we could better grasp tools, to better manipulate our environments. Even nomadic people impact their environment, albeit less than their capitalist neighbors, but they still create shelters, and hunt and gather. The past is not full of answers, it is full of questions. History and archaeology are fields of study that attempt to interpret the past but they cannot predict the future.

We should look at the past, not for answers, but for examples of what has been done. We can find new ways, we will adapt. Humans have always been good at adapting to our environments. If we do cause the ice caps to melt then we will adapt to that new climate and will be able to survive. All of the gloom and doom environmentalists are just scared that they will not be able to think up a new way to save us, and therefore have decided that it would be better to lay down and acknowledge how bad the world is. In one film, The End of Suburbia, all of the experts that were interviewed were white, middle aged, men. This does not represent the present, let alone the future. There are new thinkers and therefore new ideas being developed. If the world was over and there was no way to fix it, don’t you think we would have realized it by now?

– Ben Rogers