October 18, 2002
Biology 110 - Lab 1

Perspectives on the Environment

1. Population: I think that the ever-expanding population in the world could pose a genuine threat. There are nearly six billion people alive, and the population is expected to more than double within a few decades. One of the big problems is people who go and, you know, have kids. There’s no real soft way to put it, but if you’re “doing something” with another person, it’s a likely chance that said woman will end up “with child.” Going and having a couple kids after getting married is certainly fine, but people seem to think that they can just go and have a fling. “With any luck the girl won’t be on the way to motherhood, and even if she is, she can just get an abortion,” they figure.

Additionally, it’s hard to say whether or not there’s enough space. China is well overcrowded with about a billion people, for example. Sure, when you’re taking an airplane trip somewherebe it within the States or internationalyou see lots of wide-open fields and terrain and wonder why it’s almost completely empty. Truth of the matter is, though, much of the land is unsuitable for living, especially for farming. The Sahara Desert is wide-open enough, but you can't exactly live there.

Another big problem, which I won’t go into as much, is just the fact that it would prove unfathomably stupid to try to populate every little area in the world, even if it all were suitable. If you went and chopped down every forest, rainforest and all those other billions of acres of land throughout the world, you would have ecological disasters multiplying exponentially. You can’t just go and give Mother Nature her eviction notice everywhere!

I think that how I formed these opinions is more obvious than not. Obviously overcrowding is a problem and also obviously, you can only use up and develop so much land on the earth for living. The more people there are, the more resources of all kinds will have to be used carefully or else there might well come a day when there’s almost none left. What I’ve said above isn’t hard to figure how I got it; look at the world around us and I think I’m more accurate than not!

2. Oil Dependency: This one, I’ll be honest, I don’t have quite as much to say. Oil is certainly a resource which is not unlimited, especially when you consider just how much is used in a single dayimagine how much has been used in the last few thousand years! I don’t know how much we depend on oil compared to how much we used to, and I don’t know which countries/continents have the largest dependency; I’m not familiar with that kind of thing.

What I do know for one thing, however, is that oil has always been considered exceptionally valuable, even in biblical times. It always seems to cause problems, thoughtake the Middle East, when Iraq invaded Kuwait for example. The Middle East is rich in oil deposits, and once someone has shouted “I’ve struck oil,” there’s always going to be competition and fighting over who gets it. Bully-country Iraq went after the basically-defenseless Kuwait. Like uranium hunters and gold prospectors, almost everyone sees dollar signs and hears cash registers ring sooner or later.

As I see it, oil dependency could go down for one of two main reasons: either we ultimately run out of it, or a more efficient energy source becomes prominent. Perhaps solar energy or hydroelectric, or whatever else. Car manufacturers, such as Honda and Toyota to name a couple, are coming out with hybrid cars which use fuel cells, or half-gas-half-electric energy sources, or whatnot. Either that or one day everyone will realize they’ve used up the oil.

So maybe this topic has been more about opinion for me than factsbut I take what I know and expand on it. The fights over oil as a resource are real, and the new technology which is emerging is real. Just because a person can’t predict the future doesn’t mean they can’t take an educated guess.

3. Global Warming: Great, another topic on which I have limited knowledge. Some people say in a lighthearted tone, “We’d all be fine if the cows wouldn’t burp so much.” Even the comic strip “The Far Side” once made an “ozone layer” parody called “the bozone layer” with a bunch of clowns in the atmosphere, forming a barrier of sorts. Some people take this topic very seriously, and some people take it about as seriously as [insert clever remark here].

I’m not sure where I stand on the global warming topic. Probably I’d say that I think it could be a potential threat, though not as much as some people would like to believe. I once saw some manner of comic, or short kids’ magazine story (or something), when I was much younger that talked about global warming. I remember being rather horrified at the images they made it out to be: a group of people look outside one day, and the skyline is a deep orange, the landscape was barren and the environment dying, as if it were the aftermath of a thermonuclear war of sorts.

Of course, the ozone layer is our biggest protection against the harmful ultraviolet radiation emanating from the sun, and it seems that it [the ozone layer] is being constantly reduced. Sure, the threat of UV rays is real -- they’re harmful -- and potentially, so is the threat that too much sunlight might cause overheating and all sorts of nasty problems in turn. I just don’t think that we’re all in danger of turning into over-baked french fries in a matter of days.

Do I really have to explain what I’ve written any further?

4. Toxic Waste: It’s a darn good thing this is all about writing one’s “gut reaction,” otherwise I’d be in trouble… OK, getting back on track. I know that when it comes to movies and TV shows, they like to depict various ways in which the earth could have Big Trouble, and toxic waste is certainly a favorite. We always see ridiculous cartoons about a Big Evil Chemical Plant that drops barrels of glow-in-the-dark toxic goop into the conveniently placed nearby river, causing people to turn into mutants, fish to grow extra eyes, and other such outrageous (though mildly amusing) ideas.

But to be realistic, toxic waste is a genuine problem. Not everywhere, but in some places it really is a matter of concern. I don’t know that much about it all, but with so many elements of the Periodic Table containing high radiation levels and other such dangerous properties, almost any chemical can be a potential threat. It can be hard to clean up such spills (if you get too close you could get affected); some of the elements’ isotopes have such a long half-life that even after being cleaned up the effects are still lingering; and after all that, we don’t really have that many good disposal methods. What are you going to do, blast off a dumpster into space? Sure, let that orbit with us -- maybe we can just aim for the sun, instead. A likely possibility.

Toxic waste really can be a big problem, and they wreak nothing less than havoc on animals, plant life, insects, water, and the environment as a whole. I just don’t think it’s going to quite have the wild effects that most cartoons and movies predict. Of course, who does take TV seriously anyway?

5. Endangered Species: Many species are endangered. In fact, a number have gone from endangered to extinct. There are many factors that contribute to the endangerment of a species, whether it be plants, insects, or animals. For one thing, when it comes to animals, we have veritable armies of hunters coming in and shooting anything that movesit’s a wonder they haven’t killed each other off yet! I could go on for a really long time to talk about all the animals hunters go after. Most of them go after it for the sport, at least around here. Of course, in the jungles of Africa, remote tribes only have a McDonald’s about once every six thousand miles, so the rest of the time, it’s hunting, fishing and farming. But around places like the U.S., though, even the most thoroughly lost hunter can walk for 20 miles and still eventually bump into a drive-thru window, so around here, it’s safe to say people do it mostly for sport.

Toxic waste spills, deforestation, natural disaster, these are just a few examples of the hundreds of things that could potentially happen to endanger a species. Generally, all we can do, it seems, is breed the animals in captivity until they have reproduced a bit and can be let back out into the wild. Laws have been passed, as well, working to protect the animals on the endangered list. The danger with species becoming endangered is that it takes very little to upset the whole ecological process (and the food chain), so once you push one domino over, the rest are soon to fall.

What can I say about why I wrote what I did here? A little humor to lighten the mood? Sure, why not. Maybe I take a funny stance towards it all, especially the obviously parodied situation of the Stereotypical Hunter, but hopefully it’s obvious that I still “get it” when it comes to some of how these things work and why. Just because you joke about something doesn’t mean you don’t care.