Archive for April, 2011

Eco-tourism and our National Parks

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

The International Ecotourism Society defines eco-tourism as, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”  They set forth six principles of eco-tourism including minimizing impact, building environmental and cultural awareness, providing positive experiences for everyone involved, providing direct financial benefits for locals, and raising awareness to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.  However, as visitor numbers increase, eco-tourism can become destructive to the environment if measures aren’t taken to prevent it.  This discussion made me think of my experiences with the National Park Service, where with my family I have visited around 100 National Parks and Monuments, camping in many of them.

While all National Parks try to minimize impact, the most vivid example I recall was in Denali National Park where there is only one road into the interior of park (the area of the park where Mt. McKinley is).  While many parks have a shuttle bus system of some kind, in Denali this is basically the only option for exploring the interior of the park.  The 92 mile road, pictured below, is closed after mile 15 to private vehicles, although you can walk or bicycle in and some exceptions are made for campers.  Day visitors can buy shuttle bus tickets to various stops along the road.  The decision to close the road was made in 1972 after a major highway near Denali was completed, making it much easier for visitors to come to the park.  Now, around 400,000 visitors come to the park during its short summer season each year.  I really liked the bus system.  It not only allowed a lot of people to visit the park with minimal pollution and harm to the environment, but the lack of traffic also made for a better, more peaceful environment in which to observe and enjoy nature.  When I go to National Parks, it is to be closer to and appreciate nature, not to be interrupted by the heavy traffic and pollution I could get anywhere and Denali was definitely a great place for this.  Another cool thing, I noticed while on the road was the eco-friendly bathroom design, pictured below.

This has been a very interesting and eye-opening class.  It was slightly depressing to learn about the extent of all of the problems in the world; however, it was refreshing to discuss possible solutions and measures we could take as individuals to help.  As we discussed in class yesterday, the world is currently facing problems such as deforestation of half of its forests, draining of over half of its wetlands, damage to over 1/3 of its corals reefs, the decimation of its fisheries decimated, and suffering of biodiversity.  Human population is quickly approaching 7 billion, which will put even more strain on the already strained resources on the world unless we step in and make some changes that will result in long-term solutions.

The resiliency approach to solving problems that we learned about in class gives us a great start for working on these problems and creating a more sustainable society.  Some facets of the resiliency approach include promoting biodiversity, working with economic variability, and fostering creativity and innovation.   It was helpful to see applications of these principles in action through the case studies we looked at and to look at possible solutions in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, and coral reefs.  I really enjoyed digging deeper into some of the subjects we talking about in class for my blog and finding helpful solutions, such as eating less meat or only specific kinds of fish.  Not only has this class opened my eyes to the many problems of the world today, but it has also prepared me to think critically to help solve these and other problems.

Activity Blog 2: River Cleanup

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Last Sunday, I went to Old Mill Park along the Rappahannock River to pick up trash through Circle K’s river cleanup.  After an hour, we had a two big trash bags full- one of recycling and one of trash.  Among the trash we picked up, I noticed the two biggest types seemed to be plastic bags and aluminum drink cans.  Both of these have numerous environmental effects.  According to the Environmental Literacy Council, “Stray plastic bags, which have been estimated at one to three percent of the hundreds of billions that are produced each year, are now found almost everywhere on the planet.”  Plastic bags are dangerous to marine life animals as they can mistake them for food and ingest them, which causes stomach blockages and eventual starvation.  Plastic bags have also been known to clog pipes and drains, which leads to backed up water that can cause health problems.  Unfortunately, this excess of bags is not going anywhere anytime soon as scientists estimate it takes at least 400 years for them to biodegrade.  They can be recycled, and you can help by clicking here to find a drop off location in your area.

Aluminum cans are recyclable; however, more often than not they aren’t recycled.  According to International Rivers, “More than half of the 99 billion cans sold in the U.S. last year were landfilled or incinerated….A similar amount wasn’t recycled in other countries, for a global total of about 1.5 million tons of wasted cans.”  This causes companies to have to manufacture more cans, which causes environmental pollution.  Remember to recycle and together we can keep our rivers from looking like this.


One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

This week with our discussion about overfishing and collapsing fisheries and the need for more sustainable fishing practices, I decided to look into “environmentally friendly fish” and where to get them.

Walmart is in the process of making itself a sustainable business.  They have set several goals relating to their business practices, including the commitment to sell products that sustain people and the environment.  In the United States they have successfully met their goal to “work with the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and Aquaculture Certification Council, Inc. (ACC) to certify that all foreign shrimp suppliers adhere to Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standards in the U.S. by 2011.”  BAP certification outlines standards for different facilities and include regulations on conservation of biodiversity, soil and water management, and drug and chemical use.  Shrimp, tilapia, channel catfish and Pangasius are currently eligible for BAP certification and soon salmon will be included as well.  Besides Walmart, BAP certified fish can be found at Bottom Dollar Food, Food Lion, Giant, Kroger, and Target, among others.  Just look for the stamp.

Another goal Walmart is still working on is “purchasing all wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for the U.S. from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries by 2011.”  Their website cites them as having 55% MSC-certified fish as of January 2010.  MSC certification is based on adherence to sustainable fishing and seafood traceability standards.  Besides Walmart, MSC-certified fish can be found at Kroger, Harris Teeter, Target, and Whole Foods Market to name a few.  The complete list along with specific products can be found here or while grocery shopping you can look for the blue oval on seafood products, as shown below.

One great tool to use while dining out or grocery shopping is the FishPhone.  iPhone users can download a FishPhone app for free.  This app not only provides information about the sustainability of the fish in question, but also provides sustainable alternatives based on taste and suggests recipes and complementary wines.  For those without an iPhone, you can text FISH and the name of the fish to 30644 to get information about the environmental sustainability of the fish you want and good alternatives if it is a fish associated with environmental problems.


Monday, April 4th, 2011

On Thursday, I went to the Eco-Palooza, which was part of the Eco Club’s Green Week.  The Green Boys, a local band, provided music for the event.  According to their online bio, The Green Boys, sing only what they know and have a sound similar to that of the music of the Appalachian Mountains many years ago.

Besides music there was a clothing swap, a recycling box decorating station, and letter writing to Congressman Wittman and Senator Webb questioning their support of mountaintop removal coal mining.  According to the template letters provided, Wittman supported three amendments to the budget bill H.R 1 that took protections away from Appalachian mountains, streams and communities and made it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency.  Appalachian Voices, an environmental non-profit organization, says “These were revenue-neutral amendments, meaning they weren’t aimed at reducing the federal budget deficit, but were designed solely to prevent the EPA and other government agencies from updating and enforcing clean air and clean water laws.”  Besides the environmental effects of mountaintop removal coal mining, there are many health risks.  Mountaintop removal mining also employs fewer people than traditional mining.  Last fall Senator Webb spoke about jobs at a rally supporting this type of mining.  However, according this template letter asking for his support of the Appalachia Restoration Act, “Coal mining jobs in Virginia have declined by 65% in the last 25 years in large part because mountaintop removal has replaced miners with machines.  Mountaintop removal also greatly diminishes prospects for future economic diversification by irreparably destroying mountains, burying headwater streams and negatively impacting human health.”  The benefits of mountaintop removal mining are greatly outweighed by the costs.  It’s time to step up and take a stand — let your local representative know your views on the issue.