Apr 23 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Last but not least….

Over the past few months I was able to gain a better understanding of the widespread environmental problems our world is facing. The world is not ever going to get any bigger and with a growing population of over seven billion people and counting, there is reason to believe that maybe it is time to stop acting in our own self interests and begin to cooperate in order to continue living on this spinning ball in space. I was not very surprised to learn that most of the problems we are facing today are the result of  years of careless regard towards the planet.

Easter Island is useful in explaining how growth without respect to sustainability can lead to the collapse of a society. Our whole planet is essentially an Easter Island in the solar system and if we don’t start to act in a sustainable manner, we may be a casualty to the next mass extinction, only this time it will be brought about by us rather than a big bang.

I came across this class after I took interest in the sustainability minor. I am a business major but I believe in order to find success in this changing environment, substantial knowledge about sustainability is a must have. I am very fortunate to have taken this course and from it i will take a significantly better understanding of the consequences of our actions in regards to the environment of our local region as well as the whole planet. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “every generation needs a revolution,” and our revolution can be the one that will redirect the destructive course our planet is on and turn it towards sustainability and future prosperity.


Apr 15 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

The Puerto Rican Parrot

Once native to the entire island of Puerto Rico and many other surrounding islands, the Puerto Rican Parrot is now limited to about 30 birds in national rain forest park of El Yunque. (The only national tropical rain forest in the US) The destruction of habitat led by the expansion of agriculture on the rain forests is the number one cause for the parrot’s decline in population but also hunting and capturing for the pet industry is to blame. Upon the arrival of the European Settlers in the 1490’s, the Puerto Rican Parrot lived alongside the native Taino residents. Since then, about 3/4 of the old growth forest on Puerto Rico has been converted into agricultural lands, destroying the bird’s natural habitat. Not only does Puerto Rico not have abundant populations of the parrot, but also it no longer has any old growth forests.

Conservation efforts like that of the Luquillo Aviary have allowed the bird to reproduce in captivity and then be released back into the wild. Even if conservationists can increase the population of the parrot, the population growth will be seriously hindered by the lack of nesting areas and natural habitats. Hurricanes are also a major threat to the bird as the frequency of stronger hurricanes in the Caribbean is on the rise. Also, other non-native species have been introduced to the area and are a threat to the bird because they may carry diseases that can harm the Puerto Rican Parrot.

The species has been on the critically endangered species list since 1994 and has only seen minor improvements in population growth. It is the only native parrot to the United States and it is up to us to ensure its existence and hopefully we will see a major increase in its population. The problems associated with the destruction of this species are all too common and the Puerto Rican Parrot should serve as another example of how human interaction can wipe out a species. Biodiversity is a serious issue and there should only be efforts made to preserve it rather than destroy it.


Apr 08 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Tilapia Aguaculture

With all this talk of fish farms and the ecological sustainability they can include, I became pretty interested and decided to check it out for myself. I’ve never been a fan of Tilapia and it actually a quite unattractive fish but it can offer a greener solution to the fishery industry, I can take another look at it.

Tilapia aquaculture is a particularly easy method of producing fresh fish without having to play the guessing game of where your mystery fillet came from or how it was caught. This way, you can track your fish from birth to the oven. I do caution however, that the farms need to be cloesly monitored and separate from any open water because of the invasive nature of the Tilapia species. If raising fish isn’t your thing and you’d rather buy it at a restaurant or a supermarket, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch suggests that the best choice Tilapia is from farms in the US and to avoid any Tilapia from China because of the pollution involved with their production.
The reason the fish are packed in so close together is to prevent any unnecessary breeding which will result in overpopulation and stunted growth. The males do not have enough room to set up breeding territories and therefore breeding is limited. The only other alternative is to use sex reversing hormones on the fish which will disqualify the farm from being labeled organic.

Another great alternative to aquaculture is the implementation of a hydroponic system using the fish waste as nutrients to feed the plants. This method will require more energy to run pumps and lights but as time goes on I believe more efficient technologies will surface. Once again, the method of closely packing the fish is the solution to keeping the unnecessary newly hatched fish from entering the plant growing areas and feeding on the roots. It looks like the tightly packed fish are a must have in order to have a successful aquaculture system.


Apr 07 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Local Headlines

Troutville, VA

Comments Off on Local Headlines

Mar 18 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Broken Bow, Nebraska

Right smack down in the middle of Nebraska lies the town of Broken Bow. A simple Google search will reveal it as a typical small mid-western town with school pride and local diners. However, a more in depth search will reveal the largest feedlot cattle operation in the world! The images you can find of this place are unbelievable and you can even see the masses of cattle from satellite images on Google Earth.

Growing up, I was exposed to the “business” side of raising cattle and my family always had about 20 heifers in  our field. I knew cows were raised, slaughtered and then butchered for meat and I never really had a problem with it.  Raising Angus beef was a way of life for my community and I don’t imagine that it will ever change. The one thing that sets the farms around my home apart from these industrial farms in the Midwest and other parts of the country is the size and amount of livestock involved in the process. Not to mention there isn’t a speck of green pasture to be found in any of these feedlots. I can’t even fathom a lot packed full of more than 80,000 cattle let alone that many cows in all of the farms around my town!

Berryville, VA Angus Farm

Immediately after glancing over the images of the Adams Land and Cattle Company (doesn’t there site look so nice and harmless?), I noticed a few major environmental concerns. First the air must smell atrocious and with 80,000 cattle, the methane emissions must be extremely high. Also,  There is a stream running right through the middle of the lot and so a large portion of the manure is flushed directly into the water system and could potentially be used to irrigate the large cornfields that appear to be used for feed. Is it not enough that the cattle are eating corn but corn that is irrigated with their own manure slurry?

I do not have anything against the raising of livestock for meat and in fact I believe it is a necessary part of human life. I do however, oppose the industrialization of the livestock to meat process.these animals are essentially being “grown” and not raised and the scale of these operations allows for plenty of things to go wrong.  I’m not suggesting that everyone go buy a calf and raise it in their yard but maybe we could steer away from fattening our cows up with corn to earn an extra buck and instead, invest in organic grass fed beef.  Just like the movie Food INC said, “your grocery choices are a vote” and with that vote we can inflict change to our agricultural system. Trust me, small scale farmers would love it if the demand for grass fed beef rises and they are able to raise a few more cattle, but there is no way those farmers can survive when the demand for beef is all going to these huge cattle factories.


Mar 11 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Cannabis Sativa

***This is in no way shape or form a pro-drug post***

Recently in class we discussed options for Australia’s failing agricultural production. I was surprised at the amount of cotton being produced down under in the arid conditions. Cotton is native to tropical and subtropical climates and requires A LOT of attention, most importantly, water. Irrigation to supplement the lack of precipitation in Australia’s climate has led to the drying of many rivers and reservoirs and increased the ill effects of droughts. But… What does this have to do with the title of the post?

Well thanks for asking!

Cannabis Sativa or hemp, is an extremely versatile plant and also happens to produce fibers that trump those of cotton. Hemp fibers are some of the strongest (about 8 times stronger than cotton) and longest fibers in the world and also contain no psychoactive chemicals. The early copies of the Declaration of Independence are written on hemp paper! When pondering over the options for what plants were best suited to introduce in Australia, industrial hemp was the first thing that came to my mind. It requires very few pesticides and no herbicides due to the fast growth of the plant. Hemp also grows in almost every climate or soil condition. What not a better plant to cultivate than hemp in an otherwise failing agricultural climate? Hemp is a great solution to moving towards more sustainable ecological agriculture.

Hemp field

A few uses of hemp include paper, textiles, oils, food, and various other fiber related products. Hemp fibers are also a valid replacement of current fiberglass materials whose production involves environmentally damaging petrochemicals. Oil from hemp seeds has even been used to create bio-fuels. Here are a few more fun facts about the versatility of hemp. Climate change has put Australia with their backs up against the wall and introducing hemp cultivation to the region is a viable option for economic progress. There is a bill right now trying to be passed to allow the cultivation of low THC hemp to proceed without the drug law enforcement coming down on farmers.

I came across a few really interesting sites when I was doing my research and I would like to share these with you. Take your time and enjoy reading about this highly useful yet illegal plant.

Hemp Down Under

Industrial Hemp in Australia


Hemp Surfboards


Mar 11 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Blowing away our need for fossil fuels

Last night’s Fredericksburg Sierra Club meeting was a pleasant reminder to the for all of us to get out and make our voices heard about the necessity of investing in our future and making the switch to clean, renewable energy. Two presentations were heard, the first being about the negative impacts that we would see if offshore drilling takes place off the coast of Virginia. The second was about the benefits offshore wind farms would bring to the Virginia economy. Both presentations were very well spoken and informative and they are a great resource to bring to any discussions regarding the debate over offshore drilling.

When it all boils down and we look at the basics, it is all in the hands of the major utility companies, and in our case Dominion Energy. These energy utilities are the only thing we have standing between us and the switch to clean energy. It is up to the communities of Virginia to speak up and lobby for Dominion to invest in clean energy resources because once they have a stake in clean energy, they can effectively lobby legislators to create laws to promote clean resources.

The best point I heard from the two presentations was that the oil reserves off of the entire East Coast are so minimal that they would only support our current energy consumption for about 7 days! Conversely, in the long run, wind is never going to quit blowing so the energy possibilities are immense. Also, in the short run, when the wind is not blowing, its usually due to sunny forecasts and it doesn’t take a genius to realize solar panels will work great on those sunny, low wind days.

I was very pleased with the presentation because finally I heard an economic argument rather than just a “coal and oil are ruining the environment” argument. Offshore oil wells are in federal waters and Virginia will only see revenue if the Federal Government decides to give it to us. However, a spill would jeopardize a 19 million dollar tourist industry in Virginia, and not to mention completely wipe out any chance of restoring biodiversity in the Chesapeake Bay. On the other hand, wind energy will lower the demand for coal energy along the East Coast because wind farms are a more local source of electricity and they are conveniently located next to more than half of the US population.

If you are concerned with this issue, please go to this link and sign the petition to Dominion to invest in our future and switch to clean renewable energy.


Feb 25 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

Efficient Homes and buildings

Ok, I know most of us who live off campus have experienced the pleasure this year of opening those winter utility bills and gasping at the much higher than usual prices. I myself had a meltdown every time I had to fork out all of my spending money to the gas and electric companies. I just did not enjoy paying for my bills so I decided to take action. Just by applying a thin sheet of plastic over my windows, I reduced drafts and was able to hold in so much more heat! What I am getting at is the same efficiency measures being applied to buildings today can also be applied to your home and not only will it reduce your carbon footprint, but it will also keep your wallet fat.

Just this past week we talked of energy efficient buildings to lower the carbon emissions into the atmosphere from energy production.  Green buildings are a great  solution in our move towards sustainability. The building practices include: reducing the environmental impact of construction and limiting waste, engineering a sound lasting structure, and increasing the energy and water efficiencies of the buildings. One of the more interesting methods to reducing energy usage is passive solar building design. This design situates the home and its windows in the direction where it will receive the best sun during the winter months for natural heat and more shade during the summer months for optimal shade. It is a simple technique but very effective because it utilizes the energy of the sun, energy we dont have to create or pay for.

The homes work in the same way that the greenhouse effect is currently warming our Earth. The suns radiation passes through the glass and becomes trapped inside the house, making it warmer. Solar panels can even be easily placed on the sun facing side of the house to  create and store energy from the sun, again saving carbon from the atmosphere and saving you money in the long run. Not to mention these homes look very cool!

I think that energy efficient buildings are one of the most important technologies when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and solving the energy crisis. We orbit around a huge ball of burning gas every day and so far it has only been causing us problems, but don’t you think it is time to make it part of the solution?


Feb 17 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized


Louisi? Is this what we will have to rename the state of Louisiana when its oil contaminated wetlands (making up 1/3 of the state) are lost to erosion and become part of the Gulf of Mexico? Louisiana currently holds up to 40% of the country’s wetlands and they are at serious risk because the minute plant growth hindered by the oil leak is causing the valuable soil to be at risk to erosion.

These wetlands are not just an important part of our national environment but also our economy and politics. More than 12 million Americans live in this fragile ecosystem and they depend on the wetlands for a storm buffer, flood control, and fresh water. Wildlife uses the wetlands and marshes to nest, spawn and also for fresh water. I don’t know about you, but losing 30% of our seafood would certainly make me an unhappy camper. Action needs to be taken now before this vulnerable economic, environmental, and political wetland is forever lost to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

FORTUNATELY, a new campaign has been launched (Check it out!) to take swift action in the conservation and rehabilitation of the Gulf Coast. I found it particularly alarming that the Gulf Coast has an asset value of nearly $2 Trillion and is expected to be $3 Trillion by 2030! The goal of the “Blue Ribbon Resilient Communities” (BRRC) is to work towards sustainability as well as resilience for the Gulf Coast region.

Wetlands are an integral part of our ENTIRE country and it is up to us now to take care in preserving these resources to remain and produce for many generations to come.

Make sure you take the time to visit these sites regarding the conservation of the Gulf Coast and get involved!


Feb 07 2011

Posted by under Uncategorized

VA Energy

This just blew into my inbox today.

1 Comment »

Next »