Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Human Evading and other Big Ecological Issues

Today we started the ecology unit (2 weeks) in Bio 101. I usually spend most of my time doing completely academic ecology (interactions, population growth, succession, energy flow, nutrient basics) but it occured to me recently that if I don't talk to these students about environmental issues from a scientific standpoint, nobody ever will.
So today I asked them to write the "Top 5 ecological or environmental issues facing teh planet in your lifetime" (and the "Top 5 ecological or environmental issues facing you in the next year" which were shockingly similar-- need to discuss scale). We're going to play family feud on Monday (top answers on the board) and I thought I should have a separate list of issues from ecologists or ecologically interested (yes, you too Abby). Please post your list in the comments. I'll put mine there and invite discussion (but don't look until you have a list in mind).

At the risk of spoiling your list, here are my favorite responses from my students for problems facing the planet: "deer use to humans" "change in daylight saving time" "people feeding deer" "E. coli" and "humans evading"


Sally's sister said...

facing the planet:
1. potable water
2. people being stupid and wasting water
3. food going to fuel rather than to people
4. species extinctions
5. melting of the arctic circle and penguins and polar bears in peril

facing me:
1. gasoline prices or availability
2. water if I lived in the ogallala aquifer or atlanta
3. rising food prices
4. people rioting over food and keeping me from visiting their countries
5. feeling guilty for not recycling enough and wasting water, when I probably do more than the average person.

Elizabeth said...

These are all related, really. It all boils down to "humans."

1. climate change
2. human overpopulation
3. overconsumption of resources by world's wealthy
4. availability of clean fresh water
5. ecological functions lost through species extinction

Sparkling Squirrel said...

My list: (ack, I couldn't limit, not that these are not interrelated)
-climate change
-habitat destruction (including deforestation, desertification, soil degredation, urban sprawl)
-size and amount of consumption of human population
-fresh water (including disease transmission, sanitation, eutrophication, pollution, draining of aquifers)
-food supply (goes with most of above)
-waste (including nuclear and pollution as well as just landfill junk)
-biodiversity crisis
-invasive species
-alteration of N cycle (which fits in with most of the above)

Sally's sister said...

SS hit on the answer - consumption of humans aka soylent green

Jennifer said...

1. Loss of biodiversity due to
- habitat destruction
- invasive species

2. Global warming
3. Availability of food - especially with the current push to produce fuel instead of fuel from our agricultural system.
4. Major epidemics due to continually increased antibiotic resistance coupled with a populace weakened by lack of food and clean water.
5. Dealing with all kinds of wastes and hopefully the general public coming to the realization that we do live in a closed system, and the oceans are not an unlimited place to dump wastes.

Tucson Trekker said...

Do I still remember how to log in?

Tucson Trekker said...

Guess so!

Well, no time to come up with a complete list and you've got some really good ones already. I'd like to add:
Mass colapse of marine ecosystems/loss of food from the sea and other services of the marine ecosystems
Dependence on highly polluting and non-renewable energy sources

Basically all the ways I am more wasteful than I have to be
Wanting to drive when I could walk/take the bus
Wanting to let the shower warm up before I get in it
Wanting to buy prepared/packaged food and bottled water
Wanting my house to be warmer/cooler than I probably really need it to be
Wanting cheap goods from massive international conglomerate companies that don't come from local sources and haven't been produced in environmentally and socially responsable ways

Anyway, 'Hi' everyone!

Tucson Trekker said...

I can't spell, can I?

Tucson Trekker said...

I do realize that my personal ones are not really issues facing me as much as things I can/should do to address the issues that I didn't actually name. I like Sally's Sister's list of personal issues.

I suppose I could add expecting that soon I will not be able to experience the wonder of a coral reef.
Funny, I seem pretty insulated so far from actual issues caused by environmental problems.
Expensive salmon?
Fewer places to go hiking?
Fewer comfortable days weather-wise?
Most personal issues are things I expect to be coming down the pike, rather than things I actually notice now. Guess that's largely due to living in an advantaged country.

Sparkling Squirrel said...

Welcome back TT!

Sparkling Squirrel said...

From my TA: 1) Human overpopulation 2) loss of habitat 3) increase in greenhouse gas emmissions 4) soil salination 5) reduction of fresh water production/filtration to aquifers

Beth said...

facing the planet
1. biodiversity loss
2. fishery collapses
3. global warming
4. water to drink/food to eat
5. major health issues due to viruses or other microbes (i.e. bird flu, ebola, HIV)

facing me
1. gas prices
2. recycling issues (chicago blue bags and their issues)
3. trying to lower my carbon footprint but personally liking it as is
4. puppy poop (we use biodegradable platic bags)
5. trying to lower my consumption of heavily packaged foods, etc (i.e. need to go to Costco more)

Anonymous said...

Hey Beth, why don't you go to the farmers' market more and Costco less too?

Thanks for all of your replies.

Beth said...

Well for the farmers market question - the one near me is very small but I do shop at the local produce mart as often as possible. And as for Costco - we tend to get bulk foods which helps us eat in more often.