Society & Environment, Research Paper Example

Entry 1: Web site

Source: Earth Day Network, Ecological Footprint Quiz, retrieved on February 4, 2012.

Word Count: 293


The taking of the ecological footprint quiz provided surprising results. It provided an insight into the effect of how one’s life impacts on the environment. Until participating in the quiz and viewing the results, I had no idea that what I ate, where I lived, and how I lived had as significant an impact as it did. I had always felt that I made a conscientious attempt at living frugally and in an environmentally sensitive manner. The ecological footprint quiz proved otherwise. The footprint produced by my quiz answers indicate that if everyone lived my lifestyle the world would not be able to sustain itself and that it is incumbent that I change my lifestyle so that I can curtail my contribution to the ecological imbalance that presently exists.


In this regard, there is a need that I reduce the consumption of animal based foods, begin purchasing products that use less packaging or are made of recycled material, and curtailing, as much as possible, my traveling long distances. Surprisingly, even after making these changes my ecological footprint remains substantial. Due to the nature of how our lives have developed, there are certain effects that cannot be minimized no matter what adjustments are made in one’s life. As a result of this, it is important that research continue to effectuate methods of reducing the ecological impact that each individual has on the environment. Presently, even the most basic lifestyle still has an impact on the environment that is not acceptable and not sustainable. The steps toward reducing the ecological footprint of everyone is a formidable task but one that must be encouraged in order to sustain the world’s environmental health.

Entry 2: Professional Journal

Source: Brereton, Finbarr, and J. Peter Clinch, Susana Ferreira. Ecological Economics,   “Happiness, geography and the environment.” (2008): pp.386-396.

Word Count: 254


In an article written for and presented in the professional journal, Ecological Economics, three Irish professors from University College in Dublin examined the influence of geography and the environment on the personal happiness of individuals. The article entitled, “ Happiness, geography and the environment[1],” begins by being critical of past studies on this subject because of their failure to include all the variables and in their weighing of the factors that they did consider. The authors of this study argue that their methodology has satisfied these failures and, therefore, more closely reflects the actual situation.


The results of this study indicate that the climate has a significant influence on the emotional and physical well-being of residents living in a particular area. The proximity, however, to certain features affects the level of happiness enjoyed. For instance, proximity to certain transportation advantages increases happiness while proximity to other transportation sources decreases happiness. In the study it was found that proximity to airports increased feelings of well-being while proximity to major roadways decreased well-being. Other amenities, among others, that were considered were proximity to waterways, landfills, and mountains. Each of them had differing effects but what the authors considered important is that their study demonstrated that environmental factors play an important role in determining happiness much more than was originally believed and that governmental officials and city planners should utilize the results of their study in making policy decisions.


Entry 3: News Article

            Source: Niquette, M. Bloomberg, “Ohio Tries to Escape Fate as a Dumping Ground for Fracking Fluid.” February 1, 2012. Retrieved on February 3, 2012 at html.

Word Count:365


A little know technical process used in the removal of oil and natural gas from the ground has generated a major controversy in the State of Ohio. Hydraulic fracking, most often called just fracking, is the means by which the oil industry extracts natural gas from deep gas wells. The process involves drilling a well and then pumping millions of gallons of water, sand, and proprietary chemicals into the well under high pressure. The goal is to fracture the shale and open fissures to develop that allow the natural gas to flow more freely out of the well.


The problem is that the water and sand used in the process has to be disposed of properly and the oil industry is struggling to find sites willing to accept the by-products. Over the past few years the State of Ohio, fighting the effects of a declining economy has been victimized by the companies looking for willing disposal sites.


Mark Niquette of the Bloomberg News Agency conducted research on the effect that these disposal efforts are having on the economy of the State of Ohio and the balancing act that the State is being forced to consider. The article details how the State government is attempting to allow farmers and other land owners in the State to profit from the opportunities available for providing disposal sites while still safeguarding the State’s environment. The concern is that the storage of fracking waste may be affecting both the ground water in the State and escalating the likelihood that the State may suffer from earthquakes. Environmentalists are arguing that the proliferation of these disposal sites in the State is disturbing the environmental balance in the State but the entrepreneurs and the politicians in the State are arguing that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that there is any substantial environmental risk to cause concern.  At the present time, Ohio remains a primary disposal site and, despite the cries of environmentalists, the State is taking no action to forestall the activity within the State’s boundaries.


Entry 4: Speech

           Source: Edwards, M. Sustainable Fossil-free Foods with superior Nutrition and Taste; Less Pollution and Waste, CreateSpace: Seattle (2010).

          Word Count: 321    



A professor on the campus of Arizona State University is actively engaged in the subject of sustainable food and energy. This professor, Mark Edwards, has recently offered a speech on this subject. Specifically his speech was entitled: Abundance: Sustainable Fossil-free Food. The main focus of Dr. Edward’s speech was to discuss how society can manage to grow healthier food, feeds, and fertilizers while simultaneously reducing or minimizing environmental harm. Currently the world’s population is increasing exponentially and, as a result, there is a corresponding increase in demand for food products. Unfortunately, the present methods of food production rely heavily upon the depletion of non-renewable resources such as ground water, oil, gas and minerals such as phosphorous and potassium. The problem facing farmers, nutritionists, and government officials is how to feed the growing population in a healthy manner against the background of decreasing space in which to grow products due to urbanization and without depleting the environment more than is absolutely necessary.


Dr. Green in his speech, and more fully in his book entitled, Abundance: Sustainable Fossil-free Foots with superior Nutrition and Taste; less Pollution and Waste (The Green Algae Strategy Series), details how the world needs to begin cultivating the sea and other sources as a means of producing food products. He emphasizes how the increased production of Algae and its subsequent use as a food product could enable the world to feed masses of individuals with minimal damage to the environment.


Although Dr. Edwards is largely apolitical in his approach he does draw attention to the fact that hunger is a social issue that if not addressed can quickly, and violently, develop into a major social issue with drastic consequences. Dr. Edwards advocates that feeding the world’s population is a major concern that must be afforded priority by all nations and international organizations.


           Entry 5: Film

           Source: Garcis, D.K. The Future of Food, Lily Films. (2009).

Word Count: 368


The documentary film, The Future of Food, details how the large corporations have taken over the food industry not only on the production level but also on the packaging and distribution levels. The focus of the film is how these major corporations have, in the process of taking over the food industry, negatively affected the quality of the food consumed by the America public. The film spends a great deal of time detailing how these corporate moguls have prioritized their pursuit of profits and that, in the process, the health and financial interests of the consuming public has been disregarded.



The content of this film is quite disturbing. It calls into question the American value system and exposes the callousness of corporate America. Because of recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, corporate America yields considerable power in the area of agricultural and many fear are in the position to completely control the future of food production in the country. The film not only paints a horrible picture as to the present state of the food producing industry in the United States it also has placed the entire future of the human race in jeopardy as well. The producers of the film paint a picture where the food products available for consumers are highly abundant but highly limited. Diversity among product lines, due to the genetic engineering used by the big food producing corporations, is in danger of being eliminated and the consuming public is being forced to be exposed to increasing amounts of pesticides and synthetic chemicals that are not only present in the food that is being produced but is also being allowed to pollute society’s rivers, wetlands, and oceans.


The film makes it clear that the problem lies with the corporate farms that have displaced the family farm as the prime source of the nation’s food supply but the film also places considerable blame in the lap of the government. It is argued that the government agencies that are supposed to oversee the activities of the farming and food producing industry have failed miserably in their responsibilities and have actually begun to function as marketing branches of the very organizations that they were supposed to be regulating.


            Entry 6: Professional Journal

            Source: Jackson, R.B. and Stephen R. Carpenter, “Water in a Changing World,” Ecological Applications: pp. 1027-1045 (2001).

Word Count: 308


Water is one of nature’s renewable resources but its availability is varied and limited[2]. Many areas in the world are deeply affected by periodic drought conditions while some other areas are blessed with abundant supplies of water. The factors affecting where water is abundant and where it is lacking include rainfall, temperature, evaporation, and natural environment. These natural conditions have been present throughout the history of man and have greatly influenced how and where mankind has decided to live but newer factors such as population growth and industrialization also affect the availability and quality of water. As population and industrialization has increased the availability of water has become a serious worldwide concern.


Water as a resource has widespread uses. It is important for providing drinking water for both humans and livestock. It is an essential element in the operation of the world’s factories and in the production of the world’s agricultural products and as an energy source as well. Few natural resources have more practical uses and none is more valuable to the sustaining of life.


The availability and quality of fresh water is developing as an international problem. A battleground is developing between those countries and areas that are blessed with adequate supplies and those countries and regions which lack such resources. Because water is such a vital resource it is essential, the world community has attempted to adopt a united approach to conserving it but has met with mixed results. Recently, global warming has intensified the problem and demanded new solutions. Global warming cause changes in rainfall patterns and more rapid evaporation which has contributed to shortages in areas already suffering from severe water needs. These new problems serve to intensify the need for the world community to develop a comprehensive conservation program that serves to satisfy everyone’s need for clean and readily available water.


            Entry 7: News Article

              Source: Jervis, R. and William M. Welch, Richard Wolff. “Worth the risk? Debate on offshore drilling heats up. USA Today, (July 14, 2008).

Word Count: 334


Probably few issues have been more controversial in recent years than the benefits of off shore drilling. In an age characterized by ever increasing needs for energy sources, offshore drilling is viewed by many as an answer to fulfilling those needs, however, such process is also seen as a severe environmental hazard. Therein lays the controversy.


There is no shortage of media articles, professional journal studies, or political discussions relative to the issue of offshore drilling that explore both sides of the issue but, to date, the issue remains hotly debated and there is no resolution on the horizon. Like most issues involving the environment, there are benefits and costs that must be considered and there is no clear and correct answer.


An article published in the USA Today is a typical depiction of the problems presented by the possibility of offshore drilling. In the article the journalists explain the differing points of view relative to whether or not offshore drilling should be allowed and, if so, under what conditions? The article clearly sets forth the different points of view that have grown up over the discussions on this issue. On the one side are those who argue that the United States has to minimize its dependence on foreign oil and develop its own dependable source and that offshore drilling offers the country the best chance of doing so. On the other side are those who argue that the environmental risks are not worth the benefits. These individuals point out the environmental damage caused by potential oil spills and the fact that the presence of oil rigs is disruptive to the ecological system. In essence, the issue is whether offshore drilling is an environmental hazard or energy bonanza. Like the underlying debate giving rise to article, the journalists offer no resolution but do offer clear insights into why the controversy exists.


            Entry 8: Professional Journal

            Source: McMichael, A.J. and John W. Powles, Colin D. Butler, Ricardo Uauy. “Food, livestock production, energy, climat change, and health. The Lancet: pp. 1253-1263 (2007).

Word Count:181




Few know or care about the environmental effects of food production. Unfortunately, despite this lack of knowledge or concern, there are harmful environmental effects and these effects are approaching serious levels. According to agricultural experts, food production plays a critical role in land degradation, climate change, and water pollution. In regard to climate change, livestock raised for meat production causes carbon dioxide emissions that are dangerously high and which are not easily balanced. Additionally, fertilization and the chemicals used in the production of grains, vegetables and fruits also serve to pollute the ground water. These are problems that contribute to the costs of food production but, more importantly, contribute to the eventual destruction of the world’s environment.


It is not only the production of food but also the processing, transportation, packaging and disposal of food that impacts on the environment. Each of these activities requires energy expenditure and, due to the importance of food, a careful balancing of these energy expenditures against society’s nutritional needs is required. As the world’s population increases, this balancing becomes more imperative and more difficult.


Entry 9: Book

Source: Harrington, W. and Virgina McConnell, Winston Harrington. Automobile  Controlling Air Pollution.Ashgate: Surrey, UK (2007).

Word Count: 322


The importance of the automobile to American society is considerable but the environmental effects of its use are often overlooked. Listed among the different negative effects are a number of chemical emissions that singularly cause environment concerns but, when considered together, are a major problem. Whether it is carbon dioxide, particular matter, hydrocarbons, or lead, the emissions from the use of the internal combustion engines that presently power our society’s motor vehicles are destroying our environment.


The effects of the different pollutants that are created by the internal combustion engine differ both in scope and importance. For instance, carbon dioxide is the dominant gas that causes the present problem with global warming. Although the issue of global warming remains an debatable issue and the precise effects are uncertain there is considerable evidence that it causes disruption in global weather patterns and ecosystems, possible flooding, severe storms, and flooding. Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, directly affects every human being by impairing the flow of oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. Motor vehicles are the primary source of carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide emissions are considered one of the leading causes of increased heart disease in today’s society. Other polluting emissions from motor vehicles such as sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides are also identified by health care professionals as lung irritants and, therefore, contributing to a rise in respiratory problems among segments of society. Particular matters, those tiny particles of smoke, soot and dust that emanate from motor vehicles are estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency as causing the death of more than 60,000 people in the United States every year.


In essence, whether inside or outside one’s automobile, the pollutants created by the operation of motor vehicles cannot be avoided. Anyone on the streets of America is exposed to the effects of motor vehicle pollution and inhaling what is, in effect, a lethal cocktail of air pollution.


Entry 10: Law Review Article

Source: Purdy, J. “The Politics of Nature: Climate Change, Environmental Law, and Democracy, Yale Law Journal. pp. 1122-1209 (2010).

Word Count: 212


Since its enactment the Clean Air Act has been the source of controversy. The purpose behind the Clean Air Act was to control the effects of nearly 200 toxic chemicals such as benzene, mercury, and arsenic. The Act has undergone a number of amendments and additions over the years which has resulted in increased controversy and debate. Despite the existence of the Clean Air Act and the fact that air in the United States has improved substantially there are still millions of individuals who have been exposed to toxic air pollution and suffered a number of health risks as a result. The realities of politics are that the Clean Air Act has not been uniformly applied throughout the various Presidential administrations. Pollution as a matter of public policy is subject to the up and down nature of political priorities and the agency responsible for administering the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the victim of these changing policies.  The EPA has suffered for years from being underfunded which have resulted in staff layoffs, less monitoring, and fewer inspections. This is a situation that is likely to continue until such time as pollution becomes a public policy priority for both parties and ceases to be a political talking point.