Global Sustainability

Comments from 9/20/19


Just a few comments about our experience on 9/20/19.

World Population

There are 7.5 billion people on earth. The earth has never had this many people. This is a new experience for all of us. Today's younger generation has to think about issues that their parents and grandparents never had to face.

In 1950, there were 2.5 billion people.

In 1990, there were 5.3 billion people.

By 2030, we are expected to have 8.3 billion people.

By 2050, we are expected to have 9.4 billion people.

We are in the midst of a huge population boom. We are the first to experience this.

And this is great. Humans have value and we must cherish each and every one of them.

BUT . . .

Can the earth handle 9.4 billion people?

Answer: I study Earth Science and I say YES, but we have to plan ahead. We can't just sit back and relax simply thinking that it will all work out. The United States plays a leading role and we need to set the example. This is a democracy and you have a voice. What you say and do affects so many people across the globe. They are relying on you/us to get it right. No pressure!

"It's no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money." - from Citizen Kane, 1941.

If I am a business owner in the United States, I can make more money if I work to get rid of pesky environmental laws that limit how much money I can make. I need to be able to dump this chemical or emit these pollutants into the air because it currently costs me a lot of money to dispose of it properly. Once we get rid of these environmental laws, my profits will go up. "It's no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money."

In 1969, the the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland caught on fire. It was so loaded with chemicals, that the river itself caught on fire. This was a wake-up call for the country. We needed to pay attention to our natural environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was established under President Richard Nixon in 1970. The economy in 1969 was booming. The U.S. manufacturing sector was doing better than at any other time in history. Many blame the EPA for its demise. Many today want to go back to this great era in manufacturing. The economy will grow if we get rid of environmental laws. This we know. But it seems very selfish. It's not admirable. Was 1969 great?

Climate Change

No one is arguing whether or not the climate is changing (or they shouldn't be). The temperatures are going up and the glaciers are melting. The numbers cannot be refuted. What people are arguing about is the cause for the temperature change. Is it something humans are doing or is it something natural? At least we should understand the debate.

Here are the basics. Carbon in the atmosphere absorbs heat and re-radiates that heat in all directions (both up and down). However, carbon is invisible to sunlight. Sunlight passes through the atmosphere and heats up the surface of the earth. The atmosphere is heated mostly from this heat rising off the surface of the earth. The carbon absorbs that heat and re-radiates that heat in all directions some of which comes back down to the surface. This is what we call the greenhouse effect and we need some greenhouse effect in order to survive (we would all freeze otherwise). But we do not want too much greenhouse effect. We currently have more carbon in our atmosphere than in any other time in Earth's history and we have a good record of this in the form of tiny air bubbles from past earth atmospheres (bubbles locked up in glaciers). More carbon equals higher temperatures. Carbon in the atmosphere comes from burning gasoline and coal and many other fossil fuels. We are doing more of that than any other time in human history.

Earth has undergone many ups and downs in terms of global temperatures, but never have we experienced a change in temperature so quickly (the last 30 years). It is unprecedented! For instance, the most recent glacier in Michigan melted away over the course of about 5000 years (14500 years ago to 9500 years ago). The animals and plants were able to adapt and change over many generations. Today's polar bears might not be able to adapt quickly enough (or humans).

To say that humans are not causing climate change is a huge gamble that will only pay off for those business owners who make more money today ("no trick", but they are tricking us). It's like putting a million dollars on the roulette wheel. It's incredibly risky. But we are betting way more than a million dollars on this. It is everything we have ever known. All the great artists and scientists from Michelangelo to Leonardo DaVinci to Shakespeare to Galileo to Thomas Edison to Thomas Jefferson to Albert Einstein, etc. etc. etc. None of their work will matter if we don't get this right. Think of all of the other people who have worked hard to bring you into the world and give you great things. Think of all the people you have loved in your family, your friends, your kids. Everything will be meaningless if we are simply driven to make more money at any cost. I think the chimapanzees could even make sense of this situation and make better decisions than humans seem to be making.

Just because I am a teacher doesn't mean that I have all the solutions. In fact, I am in the same boat you are in and I am relying on you to speak up. "Little ol' me?" - Yes, little ol' you! Share your ideas. Share your viewpoint. Stick up for those who are not as fortunate as you. Stick up for those who may not have as much education as you. Your college education is not just about getting a job. A college education places a responsibility on you to do the right things. Make a stand! Don't just sit by and watch things happen around you and fool yourself into thinking that you can't change things. And most importantly, don't just sit around putting a million dollars on the roulette wheel.

I'd love to hear back from you on all of this. I am happy to discuss it with anyone (including any friends or family members who may not agree).

Ventower Industries

What we saw at Ventower Industries in Monroe was truly amazing. Given the shear size of the steel plates and the assembly process, it all seemed very complex. But the workers made it seem very easy and simple. There was nothing top secret about what we saw, but the average person on the street doesn't get to see these manufacturing processes. Wind turbines are amazing and they are getting bigger and bigger each year.

I have the e-mail address for Devon Weber who was leading us on our tour (along with P.J.). If you have questions about the facility, let me know and I can forward them on.

Take a look at the Ventower website to see what else they do:

Ventower Industries

The science of connecting wind turbines to our electrical grid is not anything magical. We know how to do it and the investment companies who are building the wind farms are making money. The industry continues to grow and the amount of our electricity coming from wind continues to grow. The last 10-15 years has seen tremendous growth in the wind industry. China is going even further with wind. They have surpassed the United States in wind turbine installations (solar too). They know that it works well.

Recycle Here! Detroit.

I had not been to this facility before. I love that a group of people in Detroit just decided to set this up and make it happen. Truly "Grass Roots". The city government came in afterward and offered funding.

What we didn't get to see or hear much about was the work that they are doing with local K12 schools. It is tremendous! Be sure to check it out at the following URL:

Detroit Public Schools & Recycle Here!

I have the e-mail address for Mary Claire who was leading us on our tour. If you have questions about the facility or the program, let me know and I can forward them on.

Central Christian Detroit Farm & Fishery

Providing fresh food to the city of Detroit is the mission of the CDC Farm & Fishery. In doing this, they accomplish five of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (goals #2, #8, #11, #16 and #17). See if you agree and see if you think there might be more.

Sustainable Development Goals

I have the e-mail address for Catherine and Evan who were leading us on our tour. If you have questions about the facility, let me know and I can forward them on.

The link below shows some photos from the CDC Farm & Fishery from 2014 when they had about 10,000 fish in the basement (tilapia). They also had a little different growing system for the plants (suspended). This link also shows a hydroponics system at Henry Ford Health Center in West Bloomfield (no fish at this facility). Aquaponics includes plants and fish. Hydroponics has just plants.

Farm & Fishery 2014