Earth Hour

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Last year, when Earth Hour came rolling around, I was criticized for supporting the cause/initiative/date/event. Here’s why:

  • Even if every person in the entire world turned off all residential lighting, it would be the same as China stopping its CO2 emissions for less than four minutes
  • Earth hour causes emissions to increase because any significant reduction in electricity demand will result in a surge from firing up coal or gas stations to re-establish electricity supplies later
  • Using one candle for light cancels out any CO2 reduction you saved from turning out the lights and using two candles means that you effectively emit more CO2 due to the fact that candles are 100 times less efficient than incandescent light bulbs
  • Electricity has reduced indoor air pollution from stoves and electricity has created a vast amount of benefits by mechanizing the world

But alas after hearing these great arguments I am still on the Earth Hour bandwagon.

Earth Hour is not about cutting a significant amount of energy through encouraging people and companies to turn off their lights for an hour. No, it is an awareness campaign. The World Wildlife Fund even shows right on their Earth Hour website page by not keeping track of how much energy is saved. I have been reminded a couple of times by my Marketing Professor that an event is not necessarily a waste of time because it loses money, but rather if it raises significant awareness for your cause, then it can be priceless.

Awareness campaigns can often seem like a complete waste by making you spend time and money on telling people about or convincing people to support your cause, instead of actually doing a concrete something. Earth Hour is a great example of this as its value is in making people aware of earth’s environmental crisis. Earth Hour aims to unite people to protect the planet by asking them to commit to reducing their environmental impact by doing something that isn’t overwhelming: turning off a light. Small steps can lead to big change.

Now that we are all aware, we have another 8759 hours left to, little by little, reduce our environmental impact. HERE are nine way to reduce your impact.

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

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Exxon Valdez-25 Years Later

Twenty five years ago today, the super tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. The result? Oil covering over 1,100 miles of Alaska`s coastline. To put this into context, that is the equivalent of covering everything from Atlanta to Boston. Nothing has been the same since.

A few quick facts:

  • Approximately 11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels or 35,000 metric tonnes of oil spilled (roughly equivalent to 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools)
  • Widely considered to be one of the biggest spills worldwide in terms of damage to the environment
  • It took more than four summers of cleanup efforts before the cleanup stopped. Not all beaches were cleaned and some beaches remain oiled today (Winter storm wave action is believed to have done more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved)
  • The ship went back to work under various new names

The evidence of lingering effects is clear. Rough estimates pin the deaths of 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters and 300 harbor seals directly on the oil spill. Two groups of killer whales swam through the affected parts of the Prince William Sound, and a study found that these pods experienced population losses around 41 percent in the year after the spill. The sea otters populations have only just-25 years later- recovered. Three species of cormorant, the common loon, the harbor seal, the harlequin duck, the pacific herring and the pigeon guillemot never fully recovered.

The BP oil spill in 2010 demonstrates that these oil disasters will happen again. Many of you will have probably visited a beach in your recent memory. My family, for example, visits the beaches in Maine (the photo above) nearly every year and would be devastated if they ever experienced an oil spill. The countless environmental, political and social implications that oil spills cause calls for a plan of action.

Generally oil spill cleanup will rest on a large, organized incident management group, but the first responders will most likely be the closest locals who have the most knowledge of the natural resources, and have the most at stake in relation to the spill. The Arctic, where the Valdez spill occurred, is an area that has a large amount of risk of oil spills occurring as Arctic waters are full of shipping activities. Giving the people who stand to lose the most to an oil spill event should be provided with training and equipment that could help them play a role in responding to any future environmental disaster.

The cheapest option available is to hope for the best, but with the amount of devastation an oil spill can cause, the value of prevention and preparedness is priceless.

Photo Cred: Tricia Skorupinski

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Encountering Racism Abroad

In Ethiopia the most dominant skin colour is black. Therefore, when I traveled there, naturally my white skin stuck out and I was an easy target for a variety of things.

1. Everyone stared at me
-No matter where I was going or what I was doing my skin was different, and that made me funny/interesting/something new to look at. The picture above shows a market that I was trying to take a picture of, while instead, a couple of friends stopped to stare me down.

2. White skin means I must have money for everyone
-Absolutely every single time I walked out of the hotel I was at some point approached by a stranger and asked to give money for a special cause. Examples of special causes include money for university books, money for food, water, food, or money for practically anything else you can think of.

3. Other white tourists are instantly your best friend
-As you walk down the street other white tourists will smile, nod or wave at you even though you have never met them before. They are also quick to come over and talk about anything that might be on their mind.

4. White means you can be taken advantage of
-I was mugged 4 times in 2 weeks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (luckily I was never harmed probably due to the fact that locals, in general, are fairly nice people and as I was told countless times by locals, stealing is okay, hurting someone is not). In addition, prices seemed to be triple what any local would pay which led to an exceedingly annoying amount of haggling.

Encountering racism abroad is also not just specific to Ethiopia, or Africa even. I was well prepared for these sorts of activities as countless travel guides all describe different racist events that can occur when you choose to travel. People of Asian descent travelling to Asia from North America and being treated differently than white Westerners, African American woman travelling alone through Europe being believed to be prostitutes, African Americans travelling to Africa and still being considered as ‘white’, and once I even traveled with my French teacher to Paris and he wasn’t considered french there because he was from Quebec.

Side Note: This is not always a bad thing as my friend from the Philippines is able to use her Asian looks to fake being foreign and consequently skip airport lines in American airports because the attendant doesn’t want to deal with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Now none of these things, to me at least, were ever that bad. I mean I don’t mind being stared at, talking down prices is not that harmful and I managed to foil all mugging attempts, they were more just annoying. But seeing as there are different levels of harm that are being caused (being thought of as a prostitute does not sound fun), I can see how this can escalate into a problem quickly.

The best advice I can give while travelling is to not fret over these small issues, but rather to be prepared enough to be able to handle it if the situation arises and otherwise, enjoy your travels!

I would just like to make sure that everyone knows that I am never trying to sound racist and if this post comes off as racist in any way please let me know so I can fix it.

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Santa’s Revenge

Santa's Revenge

Santa’s Revenge is the theory that persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude areas, such as this extraordinarily long, harsh, record breaking snowy, and freezing winter that we are experiencing in Southern Ontario, is a result of climate change warming the Arctic.

The picture above shows me on February 26th, in downtown Toronto beside Lake Ontario braving the -16 degrees Celsius weather mixed with extreme winds to make it feel like negative 1 billion (an exaggeration due to annoyance). In fact, it was so cold that the Great Lakes were more frozen than any other time in the past 35 years (92.2 percent ice coverage).

An article has now been published which gives new evidence to suggest that the link between the Arctic getting warmer, and the mid-latitudes experiencing persistent weather. This theory has been debated time and time again, but the fact is that it has extreme implications for severe weather occurrences, food security, and water use in the northern hemisphere that would have large economic impacts.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

-“It’s starting to get harder to say that something isn’t happening”

-“Events like the extended cold spell… are very consistent with the kind of pattern we expect to see related to the Arctic warming so fast.”

-“Potential to drastically affect international food supplies and prices”

-“We produce the bulk of our crops at that mid-latitude area”

Climate change is extremely worrisome. With 7 billion people in the world we cannot afford to experience food security issues as many people will be left without access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. An increase in severe weather occurrences will cause more damages, more serious social disruption and more loss of human life. The economic impacts of climate change will leave many economies around the world in disarray as they try to cope with its negative effects.

“The real question is whether we can adapt and change faster than the climate.”

Photo Cred: Flavia Craciun

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Apex Predators

One species of animal can greatly influence an entire ecosystem. This cascading effect that can occur can even change the geography of an area, showing the extent of influence an animal can hold in an ecosystem.

A video has recently gone viral which shows how the introduction of wolves into an ecosystem actually changed a river’s path. This video is entitled How Wolves Change Rivers. In this video a man describes how wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and, through this reintroduction of a species into an ecosystem, how the wolves led to an increase in vegetation, and the eventual change in course of a river. Although many people are aware that wolves kill other animals, most are unaware that they can give life. Yellowstone Park was overpopulated with deer and these deer had grazed all of the vegetation, leaving bare flat lands. In this case study the wolves ate the dear in the park, which led to less deer, and made the remaining deer avoid the wolf populated areas. These avoided areas then experienced a rapid increase in vegetation growth, creating forests in places which once only held grass. Due to the increase in trees there was an increase in beavers because, well, beavers like trees. These beavers are ecosystem engineers and they in turn built dams which provided shelter for countless other species. The wolves also killed coyotes and this meant that there was an increase in mice, rabbits, hawks, weasels, foxes, badgers, ravens, and bald eagles. Now not only was there a massive increase in species throughout the park, but the river running through the park experienced less erosion, the channels narrowed, and pools formed due to the increase in vegetation and the stabilization of the river banks that this vegetation provided. The river itself changed. This process is known as a tropic cascade.

The concerning issue about this case study is the fact that wolves are only one apex predator in the world: lions in Africa, tigers in Asia. Sharks, bears, and wild dogs are example of species at the top of their particular food chains, stabilizing the ecosystem and species they live and prey on, and influencing the health of plants and animals all the way to the bottom of the tropic ladder.

The truly disturbing part is that a majority of these apex predators are facing a decline in population numbers, potentially endangering the ecosystems where they reside.

This calls for change. It’s time for us, as humans, to change our overall perception of predators. We cannot condone the mass culling of sharks as has recently been approved in Western Australia. Stop the poaching of Tigers in Asia. No more habitat destruction in Sub Saharan Africa that decimates lion populations.

Human/wildlife conflict is going to occur as population growth happens around the world. Humans need to change and start living with wildlife if we want to protect the beautiful, useful, and essential ecosystems around the world.

FYI: The picture is of a river that runs through my cottage a.k.a. The Farm, in Elphin, Ontario

Photo Cred: Anton Holland

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

That’s a-moray!

There are over 200 species of moray eels around the world and for the first time ever a species of moray, the Black Ribbon Moray, has been bred! This is a great step forward in protecting and improving biological diversity throughout our marine ecosystems.

Biodiversity is more and more recognized as essential to human life, but many species are jeopardized by urbanization, habitat destruction, climate change, overexploitation of the world’s fisheries and marine ecosystems, and other human activities. The diversity of life on earth is essential for preserving the basic planetary life support systems humans require every day.  Ecosystem services, or the resources nature provides, like drinking water, crop pollination, nutrient cycling and climate regulation, all rely on biodiversity. Biodiversity is also crucial for sustainable development as all the resources and ecosystem services which nature provides contribute directly to human well-being in multiple ways. As development occurs, biodiversity needs to be monitored and protected as many economic sectors depend on biodiversity, particularly poor and vulnerable people are more severely impacted from a loss of biodiversity and biodiversity can provide solutions to societal challenges. The fact that the world’s poor rely on biological resources for up to 90% of their needs such as food, fuel, medicine, shelter, and transportation illustrates how important biodiversity if for development.

The picture displayed for this post was taken on my scuba diving trip in the Turks and Caicos islands. The diversity of animals I was able to see on my diving trips, including this beautiful fish, will no longer be there if development does not account for loss of biodiversity. The first time breeding of moray eels is a great way for humans to combat the loss of biodiversity occurring around the world and throughout marine environments. Governments around the world need to build on this initiative and integrate biodiversity considerations into their policies and strategies.

H2NO

While volunteering in Ethiopia I stayed in the capital city Addis Ababa. Addis is at an altitude of 2400 meters above sea level, which typically can cause a person to feel tired, sleepless and out of breath as you try to acclimatize to the elevation.  I was staying at Cheshire Services for the week which is surrounded by mountains making for a ton of walking. The combination of acclimatization and physical activity made me very thirsty. The only problem? The water is not safe to drink.

As you can see, I ended up drinking A LOT of bottled water during my one week stay. In this particular case I was forced to drink bottled water, which I am normally highly against. I agree that the market for bottled water in Ethiopia and countries with unsafe water should exist, but I am opposed to this market in Canada, as you should be as well.

Here are some not so fun facts that have dissuaded me from drinking bottled water in Canada.

  • It takes 3L of water to produce 1L of bottled water
  • Tap water is tested at least once a week whereas bottled water is only tested around 3 times a year
  • To meet North America’s water bottle ‘needs’ more than 17 million barrels of oil a year are used (that can fuel 1.3 million cars for a year!)
  • Bottled water=garbage: 1.5 million tons of plastic are created from bottled water each year; or that is to say 75% of bottles end up in a dump
  • In the U.S. it would cost $0.49 per year to consume the recommended 8 glasses of water a day from the tap, whereas it would cost around $1,400 to consume the same amount in bottled water
  • The big name companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCO and Nestlé have all faced legal cases regarding their water quality

Almost all Canadians have free access to water that comes from taps through our homes, jobs, and recreation facilities. Bottled water costs more, pollutes more, and exploits more, yet many people, including my roommates, insist on only drinking bottled water. Corporations have for a long time been linked to many issues regarding bottled water. An example of this is seen through Coca-Cola’s H2NO campaign. This upselling campaign aimed to dissuade consumers from drinking tap water, but instead point them towards Coke’s more profitable options including soft drinks, juice, or even bottled water. As a result people were sold previously free water, and sold unhealthy options.

I would like you all to join me in saying H2NO to bottled water.

Comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

My inspiration, idea, hope, and desire for this blog

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Even if the only reason for this blog being created is primarily for the purpose of getting a good grade in one of my classes, I have decided to make an effort to get inspired and actually try. That being said, as I do not consider myself an exceptionally talented writer, I have decided to share a photo I have taken or been a part of at the beginning of each new post, and describe the story, the lesson learned, or even the thought that is associated with it. This way half of the post can be appreciated even if my words fail to grasp your attention.

To start things off I have shared a map of the world (if it can be described as a map) where various travel routes can be seen. This picture is a good way to get things off and running for a variety of reasons. First, this picture relates to my blog title. I am the 21st Century Explorer and I live to travel the world. Second, I would be considered by some as well traveled (although I myself believe I have a ways to go before this statement can describe me) as I have traveled to 36 countries in my lifetime. This is relevant to this blog as a majority of the posts will revolve around my travels. Third, the class that necessitates I start a blog is a class that plays a part in leading me to volunteering on the other side of the world for 8 months of my life. And finally,  it’s a really cool picture so why shouldn’t I include it in this really cool blog?

Comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!