Friday, November 18, 2011

Conservation in the United Kingdom

Studying sustainability while abroad has probably amplified my awareness of how human impact on the environment is dealt with here. In general, the cars are smaller and therefore more fuel-efficient. The only person in my building who has a car drives a mini cooper. Supermarkets here charges extra if you do not have reusable grocery bags. My flat is right next to a nature preserve and near a wind turbine. The public transportation infrastructure is pretty good. There are even more bicycle paths than I original noticed. The cycle share program in London is rather popular. The recycling program at my university is rather through and the administrators support other initiatives that encourage us to reduce our residences’ carbon footprint. The flat that turns their light off the most often and therefore uses the least energy gets some reward at the end of the semester. I got a pamphlet and pens made of recycled plastic from the Environment Team the first week I was here. Castles, Roman sites, Stonehenge and other similar historic sites are my only experiences of preserved areas though. I signed up to do volunteer restoration work at a near-by park, but the project doesn’t start until December. 

Other than the difference in average car size, I’m still not exactly quite sure how conservation here differs greatly from in the States. Recycling efforts are implemented all over the West nowadays and college campuses in the states also generally have a great presence of environmental awareness development programs. It’s not as if the plants and animals differ much from the variety in New York. The only place I saw an electric car was in Norway. No aspect of environmental conservation seems drastically different yet.

The sustainability class I am in here discusses how society sustains itself, the options society has to effectively use resources and develop agriculture and industry in light of the green movement’s goals. The goals being to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I was surprised to find that even in a European class rooms, discussions of the development of environmental concerns often references the States, but that is where the green movement and organizations like the Sierra Club first gained ground. Plus, U.S. organization like the Environmental Protection Agency often still are the first to set standards which then are adopted elsewhere in the West. A film screened in one of the workshops actually went over each American Presidents’ approach to environmental issues. The overall issues seem to be the same. Water depletion, fossil fuel use, and pollution all need to be reduced in the States and here, but this has proved easier said than done. The decision of whether it is better to invest in more efficient and environmentally friendly new technological developments or to just cut costs is common to not just the UK and the US, but all people.

Spending extra money and time on evaluating the ways each new construction affects the local ecosystem. Consulting sustainable development firms and securing environmental services cuts into investment capital. However, it is taught that short-term cost cutting can have major long-term consequences. Plenty of examples, such as the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, demonstrate how clean up costs far exceed the cost of preventative measures. Some new research and theories under the title of “ecological modernization” even suggest that sustainable development investments will actually stimulate the economies by creating a new green collar job sector as well as maintain long-term economic stability and growth by preventing environmental disasters. Also, technological innovations and environment-informed design are leading to more efficient solutions to the need for sustainable development.

It will be interesting to see which countries make the most progress redeveloping sustainably. As of right now the direction is up in the air so future elections will determine which nations either further invest in their environmental agencies or slash their budgets. Who knows, if the EPA gets defunded in the states, majoring in environmental chemistry may one day mean having to looking in Europe  for a good job.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A weekend holiday in Norway

A plane ticket from London to Norway is only £12 (~$20). It was a sort of random choice, but I am really glad that I had and took the opportunity to go. One of the great things about my school’s location is that it’s near a lot of airports. London is the cheapest city in Europe to fly in and out of. The Ryan Air plane my new friends and I took was so small that we had to walk out onto the tarmac to board.

Arriving at night, the fog, candles burning on the sidewalk at night, the most amazing sculpture park, metal music, some sort of waffle bread snacks, buildings older than my country, graffiti, lots of playgrounds, a white granite opera house that seemed to rise out of the water, lots of walking with a heavy backpack, kroner, the Viking ship museum, patties of meat for lunch, bands marching in football pep rallies, mystery meat stew, three foreign letters (æ ø å), and the view of a lake from the train back to the airport all made for a very interesting break from school work.

In three days we saw Rggye, Friedrickstad, and Oslo, the capital. The locals assume anyone with blond hair and blue eyes speaks Norwegian so I got to hear a lot of the language. The only bit I remember though is “takk” means thanks. It confused me at first since I was just getting used to “cheers" and also becasue“tak” means yes in Polish. Just about everyone in the capital spoke decent English so it was easy to ask from directions and advice on where to go. There were a lot of other tourists there the same weekend as well since the World Music Festival was going on.

Norway was a place I never would have thought to of have gone unless I was already near-by in England, but the sights were so much more captivating for never having know of them before. It wasn’t much colder and I had such a great time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stonehenge kind of blew my mind in the sense that you could tell that the spot and the huge rocks were important. The effort and time it must have taken for a primative society to bring the rocks from far away to this one spot had to be for a reason. It all means something, but we don't really know exactly what. Only guesses can be made and there's never a way of knowing for sure. It's mysterious. Mystery still exists.