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EVSP508 Forum Week 8 – Economics, Sustainability and Response

EVSP508 Forum Week 8 – Economics, Sustainability and Response

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Published by: mark_cave on Jan 31, 2012
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30 January 2012
American Military University - EVSP508: Environmental Ethics
Week 8 Forum Topic: Economics, Sustainability & Response
 
The Assignment
With the current global media circuits and the immediacy of information pouring in through the internet,email, and smart phones, we are more aware then ever of the ecological consequences of natural andanthropogenic disasters. In recent years we have been presented with the consequences of engineeringdesign in Hurricane Katrina; drought and irrigation needs in the U.S. west; an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after the loss of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform; the implications of urban living in theearthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand; and the double implications of living in an active earthquakezone and following tsunami in Japan involving massive loss of human life and radiation exposure. And,on a more national or local scale we have heard about solar farms replacing desert habitat in thesouthwest, implications of an offshore windfarm on Cape Cod . . . What other situation have you heardabout involving the ecological consequences of natural or anthropogenic activities?After reviewing readings in the final chapter of the text, what are the ethical challenges of the ecologicalconsequences of these incidents? Select one incident or situation. Explain it to the class, and then presentyour well-developed thoughts on the topic. Which of this weeks readings support or contradict yourthoughts. Explain why. Think back on some of the topics we have discussed or that the readingshighlighted. Do you see connections between the more theoretical foundations of the course and real-world applications?
My forum posting
 
I’ve been stewing for a good five years over one activity of severe ecological and public health
consequence, one which has been driven by corporate creation of a wholly fictional need and contrivedconvenience. That activity is the bottling, marketing, and sale of drinking water in single-serve plasticwater bottles (SSPWBs). While there are very legitimate concerns about the propriety and impacts of companies claiming ownership of and then selling drinking water, containerized or not, I am focusingthis forum posting on the SSPWB industry.At every stage of their life
 – 
manufacture, filling, transport and delivery, and end-state (disposal,recycling, even reuse)
 – 
SSPWBs impose several severely deleterious impacts on ecologies and on thehealth of humans.
 
There are unsustainable, concentrated drains of drinking water sources for communities andmunicipalities where bottling plants operate. In 2007, in Raleigh, NC, in the midst of a draught, thePepsi plant there continued its bottling operations
, despite municipal authorities’ pleas to the
contrary, to the tune of around 400,000 gallons of municipal water per day. (Mercola, 2011).
 
Per Gleick & Cooley of the Pacific Institute, “Combining all of the energy inputs totals, we estimatethat producing bottled water requires… as much as 2000 times the energy cost of producing tap
water. Given an annual consumption of 33 billion liters of bottled water in the US, we estimate thatthe annual consumption of bottled water in the US in 2007 required an energy input equivalent to
 between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil.” That’s a lot of oil, and the study doesn’t factor in the
energy costs of waste disposal. (2009)
 
Per the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), approximately 144 billion SSPWBs were thrown away,requiring the use of about 18 million barrels of crude oil to replace their manufacture (CRI, 2009)
 
 
Also per the CRI, it takes twice as much water to produce 1 SSPWB as it does to fill it. In other
words, there’s a net cost of 3 liters of water to fill a single 1
-liter bottle. (2009)
 
There’s the
human health degredation and environmental injustice. The Flint Hills oil refinery (aKoch Industries entity) in Corpus Christi, TX, is the
country’s (world’s?)
largest manufacturer of paraxylene, a primary ingredient in SSPWBs
. In Corpus Christi the “air is polluted, the water is polluted, and birth defects… are 80% higher than in the rest of Texas.
Sadly the citizens are unableto sell their houses and move elsewhere because no one wants to buy a house that close to a refinery(most of the residents there moved in before the refin
ery was built).”
(Soechtig, 2010). That quote isfrom the Tapped movie website blog. In the movie, a significant block of time was spentinterviewing Corpus Christi residents either made sick by, and/or related to others made sick andkilled by, plant toxins released into the air. In a study of bottled water use among parents of childrenfrom different racial and ethnic groups, it was found that minority children were given bottled water3 times more frequently than non-Latino white children, with the parents stating their belief thatbottled water is cleaner, safer, better tasting and/or more convenient (Gorelick, Gould, Nimmer, etel., 2011)
 
There are the Great Pacific and Eastern Garbage Patches, also talked about a lot in the Tappedmovie. They are 2 gargantuan vortexes of garbage, composed in majority of disposable plasticsincluding SSPWBs, swirling in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The Pacific patch is estimated to betwice the size of the continental U.S.
“Plastic is believed to cons
titute 90 per cent of all rubbishfloating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of 
ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.” (Marks & Howden, 2008). While the plastics don’t
biodegrade, they do break down to tiny sizes and in that size and larger ones they are ingested bymuch of marine life. The plastic leaches chemicals into the bodies of whatever ingests them, andthose chemicals accrete up the food chain. (Soechtig, 2010)
 
Speaking of chemical leaching,
there’s growing scientific concern that plastic bottles le
achbisphenol-A into the water in the bottle, which is then ingested, builds up in the body and causesproblems like hormone disruption, insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. (Priebe, n.d.)I could go on and on about the horrendous, accreting 2
nd
, 3
rd
, and 4
th
effects of all that completelyunnecessary plastic, which has been manufactured and dumped as a toxic scum on and into the world forthe insatiable greed of corporate executives.Clearly, almost the entire bottled water industry is condemnable as ethically wrong and unsustainable.The only reason that bottled water, especially in single serve plastic containers, should exist is as anemergency supply in times of natural disaster, when the provision of clean and safe tap or municipalwater cannot occur. Water should be a basic life element to which all people have a right to access atthe same low to no cost. In an effort to move toward an end state where water is not a commodity thatcompanies can claim to own any portion of, the first thing to do is exact very large fines on them forfalse-claim and tap water-comparing advertisements and other shenanigans that have created a fictionalneed for water they bottle rather than water from the tap. This issue of inundating society withadvertisements to manufacture needs and thereby cause great damage to our world, is well covered byDurning (2009). I love the end of his essay:
The premier spot in the Media Foundation’s “High on the Hog”
campaign shows a gigantic
animated pig frolicking on a map of North American while a narrator intones: “Five percent of 
the people in the world consume
one-third 
 
of the planet’s resources… Those people are us.” The
pig belches.Imagine a message like
that 
broadcast simultaneously to every inhabited part of the globe! (p.734)

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