Chapter 12 – Pollution, Waste, and Industry
Changes in land use & Novo Progresso, Brazil
Leyinzca Bihlajama, Advertising and Public Relations, Strategic Communications, Donald P Bellisario College of Communications
The Amazon Rainforest is home to 25 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity and is a crucial component in the fight against climate change, absorbing about 5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions (Rice, 2019). However, the rainforest is more fragile than ever due to prolonged dry seasons, a result of warmer waters in the north Atlantic, and mass deforestation. At the forefront of destruction is Novo Progresso, a town in the Para state described in RollingStone as “the lawless frontier” of the Amazon.
In the early 1970 the Brazilian government sent people from other regions to the state of Para, spreading the paranoia that if they did not occupy the Amazon, foreign powers would. Lands were given away despite them already being occupied by indigenous tribes. Settlers quickly cut and burn their way through the jungle, killing dozens of tribes and spreading malaria (Hyde, 2019). Standing their ground were the Kayapo people of Novo Progresso.
Today the Kayapo people still face many of the same struggles they did back in the 70s and 80s, however, they have modernized their defenses (Hyde, 2019). After trying to negotiate with settlers with no success, they were forced to adapt. Essentially creating their own militia, they have strategically defended their land, which stretches into Novo Progresso, with the help of nonprofits and celebrities who brought awareness to conservation efforts (Hyde, 2019).
Nonetheless, the 2019 election of extremist President Jair Bolsonaro and the most recent pandemic has increased threats to their way of life. Since Bolsonaro took office, all initiatives of preservation, regulations for farmers, and initiatives against illegal loggers have been burned to the ground, quite literally. In September of this year satellites revealed 32,017 hotspots in the Amazon, a 61 percent increase from the devastating fires the previous year (Reuters, 2020). Brazil signed the Paris Accord, agreeing to cut its emissions by 37 percent by 2025, but this year Brazil is nearly 10 percent over in emissions than their projected trajectory (Brazil off…, 2020). The Amazon is facing the greatest destruction it has ever seen, and with all eyes on the pandemic, the current government has slashed the country’s main environmental protection agencies and given power to the agricultural division.
Novo Progresso, which once was a dense jungle, has now become a savannah and served as the gateway for 20 percent of all the deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest (Goodman & Giles, 2020). Although many foreign nations including the United States have made threats of forceful action if conservation efforts are not reignited, the Brazilian president has shrugged them off and staged “seize burning” orders as a superficial attempt to ease international tensions (Goodman & Giles, 2020).
To tell the story of Novo Progresso is to tell the story of Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax.” A man (President Bolsonaro) is putting the potential for economic expansion above all else, in denial of the consequences. With a corrupt government and the current pandemic state of Brazil, the Kayapo People and regional wildlife face a prolonged uphill battle.
Reuters in Brasîlia. (2020, October 01). Brazil’s Amazon rainforest suffers worst fires in a decade. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/01/brazil-amazon-rainforest-worst-fires-in-decade.
Brazil off to bad start on Paris climate deal: Watchdog. (2020, November 06). France 24. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201106-brazil-off-to-bad-start-on-paris-climate-deal-watchdog
Goodman, J., & Giles, C. (2020, August 28). Amazon fires: Are they worse this year than before? BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-53893161
Rice, D. (2019, August 28). What would the Earth be like without the Amazon rainforest? USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/28/amazon-rain-forest-what-would-earth-like-without-it/2130430001/
Hyde, J. (2019, September 17). The Lawless Frontier at the Heart of the Burning Amazon. Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/amazon-burning-bolsonaro-novo-progresso-deforestation-885114/.
Ski Resorts in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Leigh Puchalski, Energy and Sustainability Policy, Penn State University
I’ve always loved all things snowy, icy, and cold. One of my favorite memories is ice skating on a frozen lake near my hometown. But as global temperatures rise and we top high temperature records year after year, winters cold enough to freeze lakes are becoming less common in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the two states I have called home.
In the Pocono Mountains, in northeast Pennsylvania, much of the economy revolves around winter recreation at ski resorts, which bring in business from nearby Philadelphia and its suburbs, New Jersey, and New York City. The resorts, restaurants, and the people who work in them are dependent on winter tourism to stay afloat.
As I am recording this, it is forecast to snow later today in the Poconos, but last winter there was no measurable snowfall in the Philadelphia region, and recent winters in the Poconos have been an average of 6 degrees warmer than normal. As average temperatures climb and weather patterns change, snow producing storms are becoming less and less likely. Resorts have the option of making snow, if the temperatures are cold enough, but it is more expensive and not as desirable as the real thing. And if temperatures are too high, as they were much of last winter, even the fake stuff won’t stick. Skiing in non-ideal conditions, such as in rising temperatures, can also be dangerous and increase the risk of injury.
To counteract the downturn in winter business, resorts are trying to boost summer business by adding more warm weather activities, but the only chance at saving the winter season in the long term is global action to reduce emissions and halt the warming trend. The changing climate threatens the livelihood of people who have lived in the Poconos for generations, as well as a winter tradition in the tri-state area.
Kummer, F. (2017, March 3). Mild winters: A blip or troubling sign for Pennsylvania skiing? The Philadelphia Inquirer. https://www.inquirer.com/philly/health/Mild-winters-blip-or-troubling-sign-for-Pennsylvania-skiing.html
Sadowski, M. (2011, April 30). Climate change’s effects on Pocono ski slopes topic of seminar. Pocono Record. https://www.poconorecord.com/article/20110430/NEWS/104300331
Scott, M. (2018, November 19). Climate & skiing. Climate.gov. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-skiing
The World’s Plastic Dumping Ground in Jenjarom, Kuala Langat, Malaysia
Jasmin J. Johnson
Jenjarom, Malaysia can be considered the world’s biggest plastic landfill. As of May 2019, the small town has accumulated 19 thousand tons of plastic, most of it imported illegally worldwide after China banned the import of “foreign garbage” in 2018.
Jenjarom is strategically located 15 miles southeast of Port Klang on Malaysia’s west coast. Locals in Jenjarom saw an opportunity to make money by establishing illegal recycling facilities that either burned or buried China’s recently rejected foreign garbage. This term included 24 different types of plastic that are hard to recycle.
Second and third-order effects of burning or burying the plastic waste include releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere, which has already impacted Jenjarom residents who’ve reported skin and upper respiratory complications since the illegal landfills were established.
Malaysia has admitted that it is reluctant to forbid the import of plastic. Instead, the Malaysian government has taken measures to implement laws slowly. In July 2019, the Malaysian housing authority certified that only eight of the 114 permitted recycling centers met formal requirements and safety measures. The permits for all 114 factories were suspended and required to be reapplied under stricter criteria. The Malaysian government has also pledged to return over 6.6 million pounds of plastic waste to their countries of origin, including the U.S., France, Canada, the U.K., and Australia.
Personally, solving illegal plastic import and export will be the burden of larger developed countries. For example, countries like the U.S. and the U.K. will have to show a higher commitment to reducing plastic waste. This is very likely why in January 2021, amendments were made to the Basel Convention of 1989. The amendments prohibited Basel Convention members from importing plastic waste originating from the U.S. unless it was pure and unmixed. Unfortunately, as of March 2021, the modifications have made minor impacts as there have been no reductions in U.S. plastic exports.
Bendix, A. (2019, May 28). Staggering photos show one small town covered in 19,000 tons of plastic waste. Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/malaysia-town-plastic-waste-china-photos-2019-2?IR=T
Malaysia declares reported shipments of US plastic wastes to Asia are illegal. (2021, March 25). Recycling Magazine. https://www.recycling-magazine.com/2021/03/25/malaysia-declares-reported-shipments-of-us-plastic-wastes-to-asia-are-illegal/
Murgese, E. (2020, April 2). Illegal Trafficking of Plastic Waste: The Italy–Malaysia Connection. Instituto Affari Internazionali. https://www.iai.it/en/pubblicazioni/illegal-trafficking-plastic-waste-italy-malaysia-connection
Southerland, D. (2020, September 11). Illegal Plastic Waste Takes Many Routes to Southeast Asia. Radio Free Asia. https://www.rfa.org/english/commentaries/asia-plastic-09112020142248.html
Is Pittsburgh being overtaken by plastic?
On the Northern bank of the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh, there is a huge mass of debris floating in one of the city’s rivers. The large mass consists of tires, tree branches, water bottles, soccer balls, and more. Evan Clark, a boat captain with Allegheny CleanWays, takes out volunteers and they use large nets to collect the debris that has fallen from the banks into the river; other volunteers collect trash from the river’s banks. While Clark and his volunteers do their best to clean up the debris around the river, each day, more plastic appears in places where river water levels have changed, and new deposits of plastics appear in places the group has recently cleaned.
To a lot of people, recycling appears to offer a “green” solution to get rid of plastics that typically would cause pollution such as that seen by Allegheny CleanWays when it is thrown away. But lately, that has not been the case. Instead, while most people believe that recycling will eliminate pollution caused by plastics, unfortunately a lot of plastic materials that are “recycled” ultimately get sent to landfills where they just sit, eventually get burned, or otherwise make their way back into environments such as Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River.
A huge reason why recycling is not such an eco-friendly way of disposal anymore is because of China’s decision in 2018 to stop accepting garbage, including plastics, from other countries. This has put a major strain on the idea of recycling, as it is not cost effective in the United States to sort recycled materials from other garbage that is regularly mixed with recyclable materials. Thus, as long as people keep buying plastics, the plastics continue to accumulate, and are not being effectively recycled in U.S. communities such as Pittsburgh, and often make their way into environments such as Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River. While Justin
Stockdale, western regional director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, has come up with a few useful ways that may help to temporarily ease the amount of debris entering the Monongahela River. In addition to curbside recycling – the idea of people putting their recyclable goods in bins and the garbage companies pick them up and sort them out – Stockdale said he believes that recyclable drop-off centers should be built to accept materials that are difficult to collect and manage: glass, chemicals, tires, computers and possibly even No. 5 plastics, which are things like medicine bottles, straws and bottle caps.
Unfortunately, there are no permanent solutions to eliminate plastic waste in environments such as Pittsburgh’s. While ideas such as Stockdale’s provide temporary solutions that could lessen the amount of plastics directly entering the environment, without a sustainable and cost-effective solution to actually recycle plastic that consumers have placed into the recycling stream, damage to the environment is certain. Changing the environmental damage caused by plastic will likely require changes to recycling systems that enable the cost-effective recycling of plastics.
Zuidema, T. (2019, June 18). Many Pittsburgh-area plastics end up in landfills or the environment. Is recycling a solution or only a patch? Public Source. https://www.publicsource.org/many-pittsburgh-area-plastics-end-up-in-landfills-or-the-environment-is-recycling-a-solution-or-only-a-patch/
Air pollution is becoming a rising threat across the globe, especially in dense cities. Delhi, India is considered to have the worst air pollution on the planet. India also has the second largest population with a large amount of economic activity. In India and Africa population growth will spike during the next century. The world needs to be focusing our attention on helping these two communities transition to sustainable energy. If shifting to sustainable energy does not occur before economic growth rapidly rises, devastating issues will arise in cities, as seen in Delhi India. Delhi, India has horrible air pollution, killing over 50,000 people in 2020 alone (Air pollution led…, 2021). Jahangir puri Delhi is considered a hot spot for air pollution in Delhi (Babu, 2020). Jahangir puri, located in the northern parts of Delhi and is home to almost 200,000 people (Bhalswa Jahangir…, 2021). This industrial town is considered one of the worst parts of Delhi for air pollution due to the lack of wind and high amounts of biomass burning (Babu, 2020). Biomass burning happens during October through November by farmers in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, counties neighboring Delhi (Save the Air, 2021). Biomass burning is when farmers decide to burn every remaining plant after harvest to prepare for Spring’s planting. Burning these remaining plants is an easy and effective way to control pests and diseases while preparing the ground at ease (Treatise on Geochemistry, 2003). This smoke then becomes trapped over the city of Delhi due to the colder and wet atmosphere in Delhi during the winter months directed by wind patterns toward Delhi (Save the Air, 2021). Jahangir puri has especially bad biomass burning due to the high concentration of poor people living there who need an easy way to maintain their fields (Babu, 2020). This smog concentrates over areas where winds are not as prevalent, such as Jahangir puri. This added smog is on top of car pollution, building pollution, and non renewable energy production in Delhi. The smog and air pollution in Jahangir puri will only become worse if the government does not establish harsh restrictions on greenhouse gas production. Therefore, switching to renewable energy sources, coupled with the banning of biomass burning country-wide, would cause a big change in air pollution in the right direction. The Indian government is the main culprit to why Jahangir puri Delhi has horrible air pollution. The lack of regulations and education of the communities, especially the farmers, is causing millions of people to perish. Farmers country-wide need alternative solutions to burning their fields. Having programs to assist their farmers and the communities hard hit with pollution, like Jahangir puri, would drastically reduce air pollution in Delhi. The Indian government may need assistance in helping its communities to stop burning biomass. Establishing policies worldwide, like the Paris Climate Accord, can help Jahangir puri and the whole Delhi area reduce its pollution, saving millions of lives.
Air pollution led to around 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in 2020: Study. (2021, February 19). Channel News Asia. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/india-air-pollution-54-000-premature-deaths-in-new-delhi-14229512
Babu, N. M. (2020, December 24). Jahangirpuri, Bawana most polluted areas in Nov. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/jahangirpuri-bawana-most-polluted-areas-in-nov/article33406008.ece
Bhalswa Jahangir Pur City Population 2011 – 2021. (2021). Census 2011. https://www.census2011.co.in/census/city/53-bhalswa-jahangir-pur.html
Save the Air. (2021, February 21). Air Pollution in Delhi | Causes, Effects, Stats, Pollution Level & Control Measures Essay & Articles. Save the Air. https://savetheair.in/air-pollution-delhi/
Treatise on Geochemistry. (2003). Biomass Burning. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/biomass-burning
Pollution has detrimental health impacts on humans, and it also has dire consequences for the climate. New Delhi, the capital of India, is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Severe air pollution has afflicted New Delhi for a long time, and it becomes worse at the end of the monsoon season (October) each year, which brings warmer temperatures and fewer winds (Masih, 2019). The thick film causes a multitude of health problems and halts the everyday life of New Delhi residents. In just 2021 alone, as of today, New Delhi has lost 22,000 people to air pollution. The current air quality index is 174, in contrast to a good AQI of 50 or less. An AQI of 150-200 is unhealthy, while anything above that will affect all people (IQair, 2021).
A variety of sources contribute to the dense gray smog that lingers over the city. The population in New Delhi and the surrounding metropolitan area is 31 million people. Overcrowding in New Delhi in the form of vehicles is a contributor to pollution, and so are emissions from factories and fires. In New Delhi and surrounding areas that add pollution, there are no federal policies that intervene on behalf of halting high emissions from factories and agriculture practices. The lack of control over polluting industries has kept New Delhi residents facing toxic air conditions for years (Masih, 2019). And India’s main source of energy is coal, making up 45% of its fuel, with 96% of other fuels contributing to CO2 emissions and other deadly pollutants (EIA, 2020). Going outside without a filtered mask can cause serious issues, and so can the inability to afford air purifiers for one’s home. As with most other environmental issues, poor communities are hit the worst. Thousands of homeless people are at the mercy of air pollution in New Delhi, unable to escape the suffocating conditions.
The number of cars allowed on the road during extremely hazardous conditions is limited, which can affect the residents’ normal routines. Schools and factories shut down as well, keeping residents from their education and jobs (Masih, 2019). But the worst is the health implications; 54,000 last year died from air pollution in New Delhi (IQair, 2021). Long-term health effects include lung damage, lung-and other types of-cancer, and even heart attacks. Without a hasty plan to ensure clean air by altering emissions, thousands of people will continue to die in New Delhi (Mackenzie, 2021).
Management strategies have been put in place to increase the safety of residents. Filtered masks are distributed, and personal habits are recommended by the state. Groups of inspectors are sent to monitor practices in New Delhi, imposing fines on construction sites if they are not meeting environmental standards, and industries are stopped on especially polluted days (Masih, 2019). All of these are just band aids, however. The only way to stop unnecessary deaths and damage in New Delhi is to crack down on industrial emissions and convert to lower-emitting energy alternatives or clean energy (Mackenzie, 2021). This will be very difficult to do, and will cost billions of dollars, especially with the high energy demand due to a high population. However, it is the only way to create a cleaner New Delhi (Masih, 2019).
EIA. (2020, September 30). U.S. energy Information administration – eia – independent statistics and analysis. https://www.eia.gov/international/analysis/country/IND
IQAir. (2021, April 29). New Delhi air Quality Index (aqi) and India air Pollution: AirVisual. https://www.iqair.com/us/india/delhi/new-delhi
Mackenzie, J. (2021, April 15). Air pollution: Everything you need to know. NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know
Masih, N. (2019, November 05). India’s losing battle against Pollution: Delhi air quality reaches toxic levels, again. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/indias-losing-battle-against-pollution-delhi-air-quality-reaches-toxic-levels-again/2019/11/04/0901f378-fecc-11e9-8341-cc3dce52e7de_story.html
Sinking due to groundwater depletion in Mexico City
Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, is one area that is constantly in need of water to quench its citizens’ thirst due to the arid climate of the land. With climate change, this is causing deadly effects on the city’s people. Groundwater is already becoming depleted in even the places with the most water, and the worst in places where rainwater is scarce. As droughts and heat are intensified due to climate change in Mexico City, the demand for water intensifies as a result. Mexico City receives 40 percent of its water from outside sources, but due to old and ill-made pipes, it wastes 40 percent of the total water that runs through. Currently, 20 percent of Mexico City citizens do not have water flowing through their taps. This leads to drilling deeper and deeper into the groundwater reservoirs and depleting them, which in turn is causing the city to sink. Many of Mexico City’s buildings have crumbled down due to the lack of foundation underneath. The surface resembles an eggshell with many cracks, one which swallowed up a young boy. As many as 15 elementary schools have been reduced to rubble.
Mexico City lies on top of porous clay beds and volcanic soil, which the city relies on to absorb rainwater and deliver it to aquifers for citizens. Because of urban development, however, the soil is covered with nonporous concrete and asphalt, inhibiting water from seeping into the soil. This causes floods and ‘heat islands,’ which raise the city’s temperature even more. As the water table moves down, the clay and volcanic sheets sink and crack, but this is made even worse by the clay and volcanic soil not sinking at the same rate. This uneven sinking causes huge fissures in the area.
Poor neighborhoods are hit the hardest by the water problem, so at the moment, not much is being done about this crisis. According to Tanya Müller García, Mexico City’s secretary for the environment, the statistics about the water crisis are exaggerated, but there are programs in place to help the area. One plan is to create a water fund for corporations that use up the water supply. Another plan is to have a public park that doubles as a rainwater basin.
Kimmelman, M. (2017, February 17). Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/17/world/americas/mexico-city-sinking.html.
Relationship Between Climate Change and Fisheries in Jumunjin, South Korea
Jiho Park, Psychology, Penn State University
The Community, Jumunjin, is a small rural town in South Korea. The town is located near the sea. A decreasing population of young adults is related to decline in this town. According to the Korean Statistical Information Service, the population in Jumunjin has constantly decreased from 2001, while the proportion of elderly people, which means aged 65 years old or more, is constantly rising. To prevent the decline of the town, the Gangwon-do provincial office has been trying to develop tourist attractions, revive the local economy, and increase population since the early 2000s.
The threat is fisheries changing in the town. Climate change affects the temperature of the ocean and it changes the catch of fish and even changes fish species in that area. Jumunjin’s tourism is based on fishery and food businesses. Gangwon Province has been planning to spend 27 million dollars to make a tourism specialized district in Jumunjin Port by 2024, and the town holds a festival by using regional products such as squid to gather tourists. The problem is that Jumunjin’s tourism is only concentrated in the fishery business. If climate change affects this area’s fishery, their business will suffer heavily, and it will damage the local economy and local development.
According to MBC News in 2018, due to the decrease of squid in the East Sea, the Jumunjin Squid Festival committee decided to revoke a squid stand and substitute it with different species such as red snow crab or flatfish. Also, Statistic Korea announced that the amount of squid caught was reduced by 52.2% from 1970 to 2017.
To respond to climate change and fishery change, Juminjin needs to change their tourism business system. They need to examine fishery change and reorient their specialties to different species. Also, the town needs to develop new tourism which is not only limited to fishery business. According to Gangwon Media Group, Jumunjin is now developing night tourism and renovating some famous filming locations in the area.
Hwang, B. C. (2018, September 21). Reduced catch, changes to Jumunjin Squid Festival. mbceg.co.kr. https://www.mbceg.co.kr/post/60224
Eup, Myeon, & Dong. (2020, August 25). Household and Population. kosis.kr. https://stat.kosis.kr/statHtml_host/statHtml.do?orgId=211&tblId=DT_A22A&dbUser=NSI_IN_211
Hong, S. B. (2020, June 5). Jumunjin Port invested KRW 30.7 billion to foster tourism base port. kado.net. https://www.kado.net/news/articleView.html?idxno=1025801
Lee, Y. J. (2008). A study to foster a cultural tourism market: Jumunjin Market, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do. rig.re.kr. http://www.rig.re.kr/front/report/paper/beforePaper/boardView.do?board_key=1008SU025&use=0
Zachary Plunkett, Software Engineering, Penn State Behrend
In many parts of the world, commercial fishing has put a heavy burden on traditional fishing communities. In the past fifty years alone, the world’s fish consumption has doubled. This massive amount of commercial fishing is depleting the ocean’s resources, leaving the traditional fishing communities at a significant disadvantage. Overfishing can lead to communities having reduced hauls, leading to economic and nutritional hardships.
Sainte Luce, Madagascar is one of these small fishing communities that is facing economic hardships due to overfishing. Sainte Luce is a small village in southern Madagascar that relies extensively on lobster fishing. Lobster fishing provides for over 80 percent of the community and makes up most of the region’s economy. Another issue Saint Luce is facing is a decrease in crop yields due to climate change in recent years. The weather patterns are not as consistent as they used to be, and this rapid fluctuation in weather has led to entire crops being lost. This is forcing the community to rely even more on the lobster fishing to provide for importing food to the village.
For many years now, the village and surrounding areas have been seeing decreased yields in daily hauls, primarily believed to be due to commercial fishing operations. For example, the ancestors of the village used to routinely pull in 100kg hauls, but today, the fishermen are lucky if they pull in 20kg’s of lobsters. Compounding the issue of smaller hauls, the aggressively changing weather is forcing the fishermen to fish less, and more commonly during poor conditions. In the past, the sky was usually overcast, which makes for better conditions when fishing lobsters. The lobsters do not like to hunt when they are in full sunlight as they are easier targets for predators. However, villages note that the weather seems to be either an aggressive storm or perfectly blue skies. This has led to fishermen going out in dangerous conditions since they are able to pull in good numbers at those times.
In response to the low crop hauls, the village of Sainte Luce along with some help from SEED Madagascar put into place a protected marine area to help restore the local lobster population. An area of about 8 square miles has been established as a no-fishing zone for the majority of the year. This marine sanctuary is showing promising results in not only preserving the current lobster populations but in reviving to better numbers. The strategy is working so well that it is also being adopted by other nearby villages.
Commercial Fishing. (2020). Food Empowerment Project. https://foodispower.org/animals-of-the-sea-2/commercial-fishing.
Cumming, V. (2019, March 11). The Community Battling Overfishing. BBC Earth. www.bbcearth.com/blog/?article=battling-climate-change-and-overfishing.
Bangladesh’s fishing Ban Hits Fishermen in Coastal Town
Xiaoyu Qiu, Division of Undergraduate Studies, Penn State University
On May 20, 2019, Bangladesh announced its 65 day national ban on coastal fishing for saving fish stocks in the Bay of Bengal. This ban prohibited any size of boats from fishing near the country’s coastline. In 2015, a similar ban was announced by the Bangladesh government banning commercial fleets from fishing along the country’s 400-mile coastline. This new 65-day ban had a great impact on Mohammad Shamsuddin, a fishman who lives in a coastal town called Bhola district. However, the impact was not inevitable for Mohammad and other fishermen like him.
Mohammad Shamsuddin is an ordinary fishman living in Bhola district whose only income comes from fisheries. During the normal fishing period, Mohammad earns about $120 a month fishing on a boat in the coast area of Bangladesh. Due to the ban, Mohammad soon lost his income. To prevent running out of cash too quickly, he had to cut out one third of the food that he buys for his family of five. Though cutting out the food supply saved some money, the 65 days fishing ban still gave him great challenges on how to feed his family during the ban period without any income.
The purpose of the government imposing this ban was to use the country’s fish resources in a sustainable way, which was a wise decision on the policy itself. However, the policy makers seemed to have less consideration for people who depended on fishing. For many other fishermen like Mohammad in Bhola district, fishing is their only income, and some of them are indebted. They are particularly vulnerable when they lose their income. To prevent those people from suffering financially from future fishing bans, the government should provide compensation in cash or food and find them alternative jobs during the ban period. Besides making fishmen’s life easier during the ban, the compensations and alternative jobs also prevent illegal fishing during the ban period, which makes fishing bans more effective.
It seems to be logical that fishmen’s life standard and the sustainability of fisheries are conflicted, but that is not correct. A well-considered policy and plan should not let this conflict happen. Simply considering who would be affected by a new policy and how to deal with the impact would make people’s lives easier.
Manik, A. J., & Ives, M. (2019). Bangladesh’s Fishing Ban Leaves Coastal Towns in ‘Nightmare Situation’. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/world/asia/bangladesh-fishing-ban.html?referrer=masthead.
Elizabeth Raifsnider, Civil Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg
Jola is a town populated with about 46,000 people, located in the Thiés Region of Senegal, south-east of Dakar. The main income of Jola is fishing, followed by agriculture, and tourism. Overfishing has become a major issue in this town. Overfishing occurs when too many fish are taken at once. Commercial fishers take massive amounts of fish at a time, depleting the population enough that they can no longer populate. Without sustainable fishing practices, ocean ecosystems are at risk, and the people who rely on them as a food source may face food scarcity. Villagers that were once able to turn a profit from fishing are now struggling to even feed their families off the fish they catch. In these villages, about 75 percent of their protein comes from seafood. Not only are these families struggling due to overfishing, but also because of climate change reducing the amount of food grown. These two issues increase malnutrition and lack of food for many. One way that some are trying to get around the fishing problem is by traveling to neighboring waters. Even after Mauritania put a stop to people coming into their waters, people continue to risk their lives for their families.
There are a few solutions that may help alleviate the stress of overfishing. Better fishing management and regulations could help lead the villagers to more sustainable fishing practices. A community in Jola formed an association together to begin working towards these better management practices. A code of conduct was created to divide up the channels in the Casamance River. There are sections of the river reserved for residents only, with only one section open to all. Another practice that they implemented was banning nylon fishing nets and the use of motors to reduce the overfishing and disruption of species living in the river. Educating the village people is also a major component of the solution. They have asked the women to only cut the mangrove trees for use in the village and not to be sold for profit. They have also begun to limit their collection of other species in the river, such as oysters, to allow repopulation. Six years after these restrictions and regulations were created, the fish populations increased and many other species that have not been seen in many years returned. With just these few steps, the town has seen a major change in the fishing industry.
Beatley, M., & Edwards, S. (2018, May 30). Overfished: In Senegal, Empty Nets Lead to Hunger and Violence. Global Post Investigations. gpinvestigations.pri.org/overfished-in-senegal-empty-nets-lead-to-hunger-and-violence-e3b5d0c9a686.
‘Fish Are Vanishing’ – Senegal’s Devastated Coastline. (2018, November 1). BBC. www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46017359.
O’Mahony, J. (2018, October 10). Senegal: After Reviving Fish and Forests, Jola Villages Tackle New Threats. Mongabay. https://news.mongabay.com/2018/10/senegal-after-reviving-fish-and-forests-jola-villages-tackle-new-threats/.
Elizabeth Raifsnider, Civil Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg
Tons of recyclables are shipped out of the United States to developing countries to be recycled. These facilities are poorly regulated, labor intensive, and dirty. One town in particular that is greatly impacted by this import is Guiyu, China. Until recently, Guiyu, China was the largest electronic waste dump in the word. About 70% of the electronic waste produced globally ends up in China. This town used to be filled with small recycling workshops, most family owned. Here men, women, and children work to take apart electronics. These parts are then sorted into large piles that line the streets and fields. Most of these parts are salvaged in some way to re-sell to manufacturers. The work conditions of these recycling workshops are very poor. They wear very little, if any, personal protective gear while disassembling these parts by hand and working with very strong chemicals. Not only is this primitive recycling affecting the families who work here, but also the local environment.
As the scrap pieces are being sorted, they are placed into large piles in fields and on the street. Many of these parts contain toxic materials such as mercury (found in flat screens displays). As the livestock grazes among the fields and ponds, these toxic chemicals soak into the ground and their food sources. Scrap parts containing copper and steel are also burned or washed in hydrochloric acid to recover the valuable metals. In doing so, the air, water, and soil are being contaminated with toxic heavy metals such as lead, beryllium, and cadmium. The release of all of these toxic chemicals can bioaccumulate into the food chain in high levels. Townspeople will not drink the well water or eat the rice that they farm.
On January 1, 2018, the Chinese government placed a ban on the import of 24 kinds of solid waste. This ban forced recycling towns, like Guiyu, to transform their family workshops into more formal, regulated, and environmentally friendly facilities. While this has helped to clean-up the city center streets of piles of electronic waste, it has not solved all issues at hand. Large industrial hangars are now filled to the brim with waste. Inside, workers are still working in poor conditions. In poorly ventilated rooms, they work with strong chemicals and wear very minimal PPEs, like gloves and a cloth mask. As they dismantle the electronics, they work with basic tools such as pliers, hammers, and screwdrivers. Despite the poor working conditions, many townspeople say that the living conditions have improved. Streets that used to be flooded with trash and the river that flows through the town are now being cleaned up. While most welcome the cleaner environment, there have been some struggles with the new enforcement. Without the floods of foreign trash coming in, it is getting harder for smaller facilities to make money. Companies that have moved into the new recycling parks set up by the local government receive the high-end electronic and metal waste while the smaller family operated workshops are limited to the low-end plastics. The ban on imported wastes has helped China to regulate the fast-growing pollution problem and while most appreciate the improvement to the local environment, many are concerned with their decrease in waste products and income.
Mujezinovic, D. (2019). Electronic Waste in Guiyu: A City under Change? Environment and Society Portal. www.environmentandsociety.org/arcadia/electronic-waste-guiyu-city-under-change.
Watson, I. (2013, May 30). China: The Electronic Wastebasket of the World. CNN. www.cnn.com/2013/05/30/world/asia/china-electronic-waste-e-waste/index.html.
Fisheries in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
In the small, quaint New England town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, lobster is caught daily and sold throughout the world. Maine lobster has become world renowned and is imported to many places both near and far. For small towns and local fisheries, fishing for lobster and crustaceans are not only a career, but a livelihood. They bring in an enormous amount of money for fishermen, the communities, and the state as a whole. With warming waters and hypoxia in the possible near future, these communities are extremely vulnerable.
The Gulf of Maine has been warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans and this has had a drastic impact on the marine creatures that live within. For the last twenty years, the warm water has had an impact on the local lobster community with populations booming at a surprisingly high rate (See Fig 1). This has turned lobster into a half-billion-dollar industry for the state of Maine. However, as these waters continue to warm at the current rates, the ocean levels will lower, resulting in less and less amounts of lobster and seafood. The industry will collapse. Fisheries will close and the economy will be hugely impacted.
It is noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council that these crustaceans thrive in temperatures between 61 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer of 2018, average temperatures in these waters [Gulf of Maine] reached 68.93 degrees Fahrenheit (See Fig 2). Once the waters get to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, oxygen levels will decrease and the onset of rapid decline of lobster may begin. This has already been seen in surrounding areas in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island where the lobster industry has always thrived. Unfortunately, in some of these places, the industry has declined by almost 70% within the range of just ten years.
Efforts have been made in preparation for the future decline. The small port cities, including Boothbay Harbor, are looking to their southern neighbors for solutions to the problem. In Rhode Island, fishermen have agreed to reduce the number of traps by 50%. In the Gulf of Maine, fisheries have flagged pregnant female lobsters to ensure they are not harvested by other fishermen to help with the population. However, while these are great for immediate results, long term solutions are most important.
Short term solutions will not reduce the warming of our oceans. Sustainable fishing is a great start for many, however, wild fishing will need to be taken on land with sustainable lobster farms. Long term solutions also include creating agreements with other fishermen, not only in the local areas but regionally, nationally, and eventually globally. Overfishing and over pollution will only cause the ocean to become warmer and less hospitable for all marine creatures. State legislations, especially those that are in coastal states, will need to implement mass change in the reduction of waste to affect their waters directly.
Albeck-Ripka, L. (2018, June 21). Climate Change Brought a Lobster Boom. Now It Could Cause a Bust. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/climate/maine-lobsters.html
Carlowicz, M. (2018, September 12). Watery heatwave cooks the Gulf of Maine. NASA Global Climate Change. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2798/watery-heatwave-cooks-the-gulf-of-maine/
Greenfield, N. (2019, August 19). Could the Climate Crisis Spell the End for Maine Lobster? NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/could-climate-crisis-spell-end-maine-lobster
Murphy, Z., & Mooney, C. (2019, September 26). Gone in a Generation. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/gone-in-a-generation/fishing-climate-change.html
Sambides Jr, N. (2020, May 7). Maine fishing industry to get $20M in coronavirus bailout, 5th largest in nation. Bangor Daily News. https://bangordailynews.com/2020/05/07/business/maine-fishing-industry-to-get-20m-in-coronavirus-bailout-5th-largest-in-nation/
Stancioff, E. (2020, February 10). A heat wave, a huge catch, and a market crash. U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. https://toolkit.climate.gov/case-studies/maines-lobster-fishing-community-confronts-their-changing-climate
Sustainable Lobster Fishing in Maine. (2021). Maine Lobster Now. https://www.mainelobsternow.com/sustainable-lobster-fishing
Plastics in Jenjarom, Malaysia
Not all plastic is recyclable. Plastic that cannot be recycled, whether it be due to the plastic it is made of or due to what it is covered in when it reaches facilities, must be disposed of. While environmentally destructive, the cheapest way to dispose of plastic that cannot be recycled is by burning the plastic. Until 2018, much of the western world—especially the United States— sent their plastic scrap to China to be dealt with in this fashion. However, a series of environmental policies have slowly put out the plastic-fueled fires that came from China being the top recipient of plastic scrap globally. Now, to the dismay of villages such as Jenjarom, the island nation of Malaysia has become the new top recipient of plastic scrap. Malaysia is now seeing an influx of people illegally taking in plastic scraps and burning what cannot be salvaged—many of whom arrived as China’s new policies began to take effect. In the small town of Jenjarom, the consequences of plastic burning have already become detrimental. The air quality has deteriorated significantly, and many of its 30,000 residents have cited having trouble breathing with the toxic chemicals in the air.
Jenjarom is especially vulnerable due to its location—both physically and governmentally. The small town is located less than an hour away from one of the world’s busiest ports, Port Klang, which is the main port connecting the South Pacific to the rest of Asia. The town’s proximity to the port and cheap land makes it a convenient option for those looking to set up a factory where they can ship in plastic, recover what will make them money, and burn off the rest. While the practice itself is technically illegal in Malaysia, the lack of policing surrounding this practice has resulted in it becoming commonplace. Many residents of Jenjarom and surrounding villages have spent countless hours tracking down places that are burning plastic and reporting them to government authorities, just to see the factory reopen shortly after being shut down.
Reporting these burn sites is not only expensive and time-consuming for those doing so—it is dangerous. Many voluntary reporters who have provided evidence to the Malaysian government against plastic-burning factories have been threatened, some even receiving messages indicating that there are bounties against them worth tens of thousands of dollars. The largest reason for the volunteers’ persistence is the impact that the continued burning of plastic will have on Jenjarom. Fumes coming from burning plastic can be cancerous, not to mention making it incredibly difficult to breathe. The smoke that these fires create are terrible for the environment, both on land and in the air. If something is not done soon, the impact on Malaysia’s people and environment will be grave.
Jenjarom’s activists have successfully pushed out many of the illegal plastic burners by repeatedly reporting them, but this is not a sustainable solution. The Malaysian government can be a part of the solution by creating legislation that gives local authorities the ability to punish those who improperly dispose of plastics. However, this does not solve the issue entirely. Nations like the United States, which send much of their plastic waste overseas to be dealt with by towns such as Jenjarom, need to take responsibility for their practices. Programs must be created which push for the proper disposal of plastic scrap, and pressure must be placed on plastics manufacturers to make containers that are entirely recyclable. Plastic waste is a global issue, and sending it to other places to be improperly dealt with is not an acceptable solution.
Winn, P. (2019, June 13). America’s grungy ‘recycled’ plastic is creating wastelands in Asia. The World. https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-06-13/americas-grungy-recycled-plastic-creating-wastelands-asia
Caitlin Ruiz Jimenez, Labor and Employment Relations, College of Liberal Arts
The town of Tombwa, located on the Western coast of the African country Angola, is a nearly barren fishing town that was once teeming with opportunities for fishers. The town has little to offer it’s 50,000 residents in the way of jobs or sustenance, so residents have become dependent on fishing for both income and food. Unfortunately, foreign fishing companies have driven the local species to near-extinction and climate change has plagued the town with oxygen-depleted water and rising water temperatures. The waters off Tombwa’s coast have risen almost two degrees Celsius since 1982 (over 3 times the global average warming of ocean water). Tombwa is a prime example of the unfair and indiscriminate nature of climate change and global warming, as the country is responsible for only 0.1 percent of the annual global CO2 output. Blacktail seabream, dusky kob, and cunene horse mackerel, three of Angola’s most valued species of fish, are experiencing altered migration patterns, reproductive difficulties, and plummeting numbers as a result of global warming. The fish that remain in Tombwa’s waters are being rapidly depleted by large Japanese, Italian, and Spanish fish factories and are subsequently exported, leaving Tombwa’s still-growing population with few means by which to survive.
In the near future, Tombwa is predicted to experience bouts of alternating flooding and droughts, which will undoubtedly result in soil erosion and an even further limiting of natural food sources for its inhabitants. Angola will need to utilize creative approaches to problem solving that must involve both government officials and local citizens. The country’s government will need to quickly develop an early warning system for major weather events, so that those who are able may relocate to safer areas. Unfortunately, this will not be an option for many that reside in Tombwa. For those that do not have the means to migrate, Angola’s government will need to develop strategic drainage and water diversion systems. Most of the fishing along Angola’s coast is unregulated; this is a major factor in the country’s worsening food crisis. Strict regulatory limits on foreign fishing are an urgent requirement to protect both the local fish species and the food security of residents.
Bearak, M., & Mooney, C. (2019, November 27). A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing town. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-change/.
Carosio, D. (2020, October 6). Rapid warming is decimating the fishing industry in Angola, a country with low carbon emissions. Sustainable Value Investors. http://en.sustainablevalueinvestors.com/2019/11/27/rapid-warming-is-decimating-the-fishing-industry-in-angola-a-country-with-low-carbon-emissions/.
Newbound, M. (2021). Tombua Desert Sea Town, Angola – Heroes of Adventure. Heroes of Adventure. https://heroesofadventure.com/listing/tombua-desert-sea-town-angola/
Ethan Ruschman, Political Science BS, College of Liberal Arts
Cape Town, South Africa used to be a huge tourist destination. Then, a crisis emerged. In 2018, the city almost completely ran out of water after three years of droughts. This really hurt the tourism industry and crime started to spike with shooting occurring over a bit of tap water. Eventually they recovered, but not before they had to temporarily implement a seven gallon per day ration on its citizens. Just as they were recovering from that, a new crisis emerged. An energy crisis. Despite Cape Town having the only nuclear reactor in South Africa, constant black outs have been appearing with more and more frequency thanks to the national energy provider Eskom being unable to generate enough power. No tourist wants to spend time in a place where rolling black outs are a regular occurrence. Adding to that is the fact that COVID struck and the tourism industry (one of the biggest industries in Cape Town), is greatly suffering. This community is especially vulnerable because of their overreliance on tourism, which definitely suffers whenever a crisis strikes the town, and because as South Africa further modernizes and her population grows (Africa is the fastest growing continent in terms of population expected to surpass Asia before 2100), the energy demand grows faster than Eskom can grow their energy production. If the energy crisis isn’t resolved soon, Cape Town will collapse into an economic recession with only a fraction of the normal amount of funds being available due to the lack of tourists. Additionally, energy in today’s world is critical. Without it, communication fails, supply chains fail, and health related technologies fail. If a town goes through an energy crisis, a drastic decrease in quality of life is expected. The main way to solve this energy crisis is to invest in renewable energy. Renewable energy is cleaner than non-renewables such as coal, which is a large benefit to tourist centric towns that don’t want smog in the air. Renewables, long-term, are ultimately cheaper than non renewables because of the lack of having to consume fuel which will allow the town and country to build more without worrying as much about upkeep.
Sanderson, S. (2019, March 21). One year after the water crisis, Cape Town recovers from tourism drought. DW. https://www.dw.com/en/one-year-after-the-water-crisis-cape-town-recovers-from-tourism-drought/a-47966335
Von Oehsen, S. (2019, April 15). ‘It’s a crisis,’ says Helen Zille about SA’s electricity situation. Times Live. https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2019-04-15-its-a-crisis-says-helen-zille-about-sas-electricity-situation/
Sydney Wilson, Biology, Penn State University Eberly College of Science
In the city of Chennai, India, a case study was conducted by environmental researchers to determine what risks and effects BTEXN has on human health. BTEXN are a combination of 5 distinctive pollutants: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and naphthalene that can be found in groundwater contaminated with petroleum. The study site was closed off to Tondiarpet, the northern part of Chennai. From June 2016 to June 2018, groundwater samples were taken from 5 monitoring wells (MW1, MW2, MW3, MW4, and MW5) located near regions that were experiencing oil leakage. These samples were analyzed by using both Gas Chromatography and Mass spectrometry to detect/define BTEXN pollutants within the contaminated groundwater. The risk was determined by the concentration levels of benzene, ethylbenzene, and naphthalene compounds known to be cancer-causing. As well as the non-cancer-causing compounds xylenes and toluene. Furthermore, the US EPA method was used to determine what specific concentration of a pollutant would produce a certain type of risk (what limit/concentration of pollutant is safe?). This is called the preliminary remediation goals, and the US EPA method helped establish an estimate for a single system but not a multi-system. As a result, an equation was created that calculated the risk of both oral (drinking) and dermal (bathing) exposure. Lastly, the Tondiarpet population was split into 4 age groups: 0-5, 6-10, 11- 18, and 19-70 years.
The results showed that the groundwater samples exceeded the US EPA BTEXN limit for drinking water from the 5 monitoring wells. But, monitoring well 2 (MW2) had a higher level of BTEXN compared to other 4 wells. Also, benzene had a higher concentration compared to naphthalene, and is very toxic compared to the other compounds. For health risk assessment, both cancerous and non-cancerous risks that were calculated using the US EPA method and equation showed an increase in all age groups. It was seen that oral exposure increased the risk of health problems by 60-80% compared to dermal exposure. If monitoring wells continue to be contaminated by diesel fuel and oil, then more than 98% of groundwater will be risky to use. In order to reduce the risk of cancer, people need to stop drinking the contaminated water and lessen their exposure to BTEXN.
Chennai’s citizens are drinking and using groundwater that has been contaminated by fuel and oil leaks from pipelines that contain BTEXN. BTEXN contains compounds that are cancer causing like benzene, ethylbenzene, and naphthalene. All age groups are exposed to large concentrations of benzene, ethylbenzene, and naphthalene that have exceeded the appropriate US EPA limit. As a result, more individuals are getting cancer from mainly oral exposure from drinking the contaminated water. Experts suggest that citizens avoid drinking the water, reduce dermal exposure, and eliminate pollutants from the water. The process of SEAR, or Surfactant enhanced aquifer remediation, needs to be applied to this situation. A surfactant would be injected underneath the surface to help reduce absorption of hydrocarbons.
Rajasekhar, B., Nambi, I. M., Govindarajan, S. K. (2020). Human health risk assessment for exposure to BTEXN in an urban aquifer using deterministic and probabilistic methods: A case study of Chennai city, India. Environmental Pollution. 265: 114814.
Environmental Remediation. (2020). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_remediation.
Gasping for Air: El Paso, Texas
Emma Cox, Earth Science and Climatology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Oftentimes, climate change is depicted on a global scale with discussions of rising sea levels, increased storm frequency and ferocity, etc. with respect to entire nations. Though it is crucial to have these internationally wide discussions, the past and current devastation of various communities has proven that conversations on local climate change effects also need to be had. El Paso is a city in Texas that is considered to have some of the worst air quality in the entire United States, so it would be a good place to focus on momentarily to see the effects of the city’s air pollution.
According to various research facilities, El Paso’s air quality is in serious jeopardy because of the amount of air pollutants the industrial city releases every day. This is visible to the naked eye in the form of smog, or more scientifically known as ozone, which is the hazy polluted air that the sun casts light on (Pskowski, 2021). This is from the excess volatile compound emissions and small particles that enter the local air from factories and power plants (Ahmed, 2021). There have been excessive amounts of emissions violations found in the last several years, of which the main violation is a lack of reporting of significant amounts of emissions (Williams, 2019). Martha Pskowski of the El Paso Times (2019) explains that many scientists like the University of Texas: El Paso’s Thomas Gill claim that the wildfires from the west have only exponentiated the air quality problems through residual smoke that travels far across the U.S.
Not only does the air pollution create an unappealing sight to the residents and tourists, but it has already started to have adverse medical effects on the locals. Though the main people at risk are children and the elderly, no one is safe from lung problems that many locals are now facing due to poor air quality (Ahmed, 2021). Unfortunately, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) seems to have turned a blind eye to the violations that were broken in the last several years (Williams, 2019). However, this year, because of the continually lowering air quality, the EPA is supposed to analyze El Paso’s ozone levels and determine actions that needs to take place (Ahmed, 2021). This, hopefully, will force the TCEQ to take actual action against the companies that are wrongfully producing excess volatiles and pollutants.
Ahmed, A. (2021, March 02). The Sunniest City in Texas is Expanding … Natural Gas Production. Texas Observer. https://www.texasobserver.org/the sunniest-city-in-texas-is-expanding-natural-gas-production/
Pskowski, M. (2021, September 15). Wildfire smoke, smog cause hazy and potentially hazardous conditions in El Paso this week. El Paso Times.
Williams, S. (2019, February 01). Report: Air pollution threatens El Paso air quality. CBS. https://cbs4local.com/news/local/report-air-pollution threatens-el-paso-air-quality
Cutting off the Roots of the Indigenous Baka
Emma Cox, Earth Science and Climatology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Countless indigenous groups from around the world have faced hardship in the face of imperialism and agro-business invasion of land. The Congo Basin tribe of the Baka are no exception, as their very way of life has been uprooted. The Baka tribe has been in the area of Cameroon for an immeasurable number of years, using knowledge passed down through generations to thrive in their hunter-gatherer society. However, as various organizations are set on modernizing, or simply colonizing, this area for economic gain or using force to ‘protect’ the forests, the tribe has been forced to change their very way of life that has kept the forest and themselves living successfully for so long.
Logging and deforestation for mineral extraction is a growing problem in this area of Cameroon as it is trying to modernize itself with the rest of the world. The Congo Basin has some of the most important biodiverse carbon-storing forests in the world, so protecting this land is crucial for the future of global climate (Ngalame, 2017). Deforestation has increased significantly here in the last several decades, which has destroyed parts of the land that the Baka use for hunting and gathering. A large part of the Baka culture is derived from the interaction of the people with the natural world around them including the sounds of animals (Chimtom, 2012). Cameroon’s increasing deforestation for economic gain has caused much of the area the Baka used to travel to for hunting to become much less resource abundant (Pemunta, 2018).
Simon Hoyte and Catherine Clarke of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs describe part of Cameroon’s efforts to protect the land has actually posed a threat to the indigenous Baka. The Baka are now being forced from the places they call home in order to make way for protected land areas for biodiversity conservation. Instead of accommodating the tribes and communities that have thrived there for millennia, some international organizations are deploying armed guards to stop poaching and illegal deforestation, which can include keeping the Baka from areas that they used for sustainable harvesting and hunting (Clarke et al, 2020). These communities have been forced to migrate towards the outskirts of the forests to move into villages where they struggle to integrate, miss their land, and even experience violence.
Chimtom, N. K. (2012, December 07). Ancient Baka culture in Cameroon under threat. DW. https://www.dw.com/en/ancient-baka-culture-in-cameroon-under-threat/a-16088853
Clarke, C., & Hoyte, S. (2020, June 26). Violence, corruption, and false promises: Conservation and the Baka in Cameroon. IWGIA
Ngalame, E. N. (2017, March 29). Cameroon steps up reforestation efforts – but forest loss continues. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us cameroon-forest-environment/cameroon-steps-up-reforestation-efforts-but-forest-loss continues-idUSKBN170393
Pemunta, N. V. (2018, July 25). Fortress conservation, wildlife legislation and the Baka Pygmies of southeast Cameroon. GeoJournal, 84, pp. 1035-1055. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10708-018-9906-z.pdf
Water pollution in Teviston, California
Mike Johnson, Energy and Sustainability, World Campus
Living in the northeast, it’s never been an issue for me to access water in my home, other than during the occasional power outage caused by a storm or an accident. The water that flows from the taps in my house is clear, abundant, and safe. Typically, when we think about water pollution, we don’t think about places within the United States, but rather impoverished foreign countries. However, there are many places in the United States that are experiencing water quality issues, and Teviston, California, located in the San Joaquin valley, has a major problem with contaminated water.
Teviston is a small, rural town that has about 400 residents and only two wells. Years of pesticide use has caused the groundwater to be polluted with harmful concentrations of TCP, and the only drinking water wells the city has access to are polluted with it (Trotta, 2021). Because Teviston is essentially in a desert, it doesn’t have access to water sources that we typically take for granted here in the northeast, such as abundant rivers and lakes. Teviston only has its two groundwater wells, and not even a water treatment plant to purify the water. Teviston also suffers from the over pumping of the underlying aquifer by neighboring agriculture fields. As droughts increase, and water supply is decreased for farmlands, the farms begin to pump the groundwater, which lowers the water table and decreases supply for towns like Teviston that don’t have access to water supplies other than the wells. If those wells are then tainted with harmful chemicals, the residents have no choice but to consume the tainted water.
As climate change progresses and the earth warms, droughts are projected to become more severe for the San Joaquin valley and greatly impact small towns like Teviston. As the water supply decreases to the entire area, groundwater will become increasingly decreased as well due to the agricultural demand, leaving towns like Teviston pumping dry wells, and relying on outside sources of water to be transported in, or solely buy bottled water, which is more expensive. Rises in extreme heat days will exacerbate the issue by increasing the residents’ need for water as well.
Truckloads of water are currently brought in to supply the wells during droughts, and bottled water has been provided for residents to avoid the polluted well water. A lawsuit against two major chemical companies has resulted in them paying for the construction of a water treatment facility, which will allow Teviston to at least treat the well water they have. California will need to figure out a way to supply more water to the area though, and will most likely have to truck in supplemental water for the foreseeable future. This has the ironic effect of increasing the emissions that are exacerbating the problem in the first place! While Teviston is small, the threat facing the San Joaquin Valley is serious as global warming progresses. Water scarcity will become an increasingly prevalent issue in the coming decades, and a systematic approach will need to be utilized to save small towns like Teviston. The harsh reality is that people living in the area will most likely not see a drastic improvement to their water situation in the future, and will probably need to re-locate or face a harsh existence if they remain.
Trotta, D. (2021, November 2). California farm town lurches from no water to polluted water. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/california farm-town-lurches-no-water-polluted-water-2021-11-02/.
Jenny MacDougall-Jeffery, Digital Multimedia Design, World Campus
For this report, we will focus on the fisheries of Tarawa, Kiribati, which is the main island within the Gilbert Island group of Kiribati, with an approximate population of 40,000 people (Kiribati population…, n.d.). Tarawa’s fishing industry is changing, resulting in new and unresolved social challenges. To fully understand why they’re experiencing these challenges, we should first look at the structure of their fishery sector. Tarawa has two main categories of fisheries. The first being coastal, subsistence and artisanal fisheries located within lagoons, reefs, reef slopes and nearshore ocean areas. These practices are undertaken by individual fishing households, and employ low capital, low-technology fishing methods. These methods include canoes, sail and paddle, often made out of plywood. The second category is offshore fisheries, which are industrial-scale commercial fisheries. Due to the sophisticated technology of these commercial fisheries, a vast majority of the fish is captured by these vessels and are delivered directly to neighboring countries (Part I..., n.d.).
Next, let’s consider some key factors that put their community at risk. They have not reached economic maturity, and remain a cash-oriented economy. They’re experiencing a general trend of exploitation of coastal resources, from both commercial and artisanal fisheries; i.e. in 2005- 2010, they experienced an increase of 90 percent in boat-owning families (Part I..., n.d.). Tarawa is very reliant on tuna for economic development and food security; they are “tuna dependent”. Fish is the central part of the Kiribati people’s diet, providing a nutrient-rich source of protein and micronutrients. They have the highest per capita consumption of fish of any country in the world, and are considered the most productive at tuna fishing in western and central Pacific (Part I..., n.d.). With this in mind, we should now look at the forecasted impacts on the community.
Tarawa faces many critical challenges with respect to the future of its fisheries and community. These challenges include an increase in nutritionally vulnerable groups, risks of perinatal and maternal mortality, cognitive deficits and reduced immune function. Current and potential declines in valued marine species are due to the concerns around sustainability and the changes in oceanic conditions related to climate change, i.e. ocean temperatures, acidity, and rising sea levels. The degradation of marine life is also due to destructive fishing gear and practices (Part I..., n.d.). All of these impacts are exacerbated by a weak government sector, which is responsible for fishery management, development and conservation (Campbell & Hanich, 2014).
There are solutions to this threat, but they won’t come easy. First, Tarawa needs to manage tensions between artisanal and commercial fishing interests. They need to enforce regulations, reduce competition, and ensure that fishing is limited to sustainable levels across all sectors. They need to improve fishery management and marine conservation, while considering human health. Another consideration is to farm species lower in the food chain to reduce dependency on wild caught fish. The undeniable global demand for wild-caught tuna makes Tarawa uniquely positioned to seek out resources and support to address sustainability and livelihood concerns. With future climate change projections in mind, it is critical that Tarawa get in front of these concerns sooner than later.
Kiribati population 2021 (live). (n.d.). World Population Review. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/kiribati-population.
Part I overview and main indicators. Fisheries & Aquaculture – Country Profile. (n.d.). FAO. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://www.fao.org/fishery/facp/KIR/en.
Golden, C. D., Allison, E. H., Cheung, W. W. L., Dey, M. M., Halpern, B. S., McCauley, D. J., Smith, M., Vaitla, B., Zeller, D., & Myers, S. S. (2016). Nutrition: Fall in fish catch threatens human health. Nature 534, 317–320. https://www.nature.com/articles/534317a.
Campbell, B. & Hanich, Q. (2014). Fish for the future: Fisheries development and food security for Kiribati in an era of global climate change. WorldFish, Penang, Malaysia. Project Report: 2014- 47.
The Deteriorating Health of the Nile in Cairo, Egypt
Joseph McManus, Political Science, Penn State University
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is a sprawling metropolis home to more than 10 million people. The epic Nile River winds through the heart of the city. The Nile is Cairo’s lifeblood; its water and famous yearly floods have sustained the Egyptian people for millennia. In the 21st century, though, a host of anthropogenic challenges have arisen to threaten the health of this mighty river, and the outlook is grim.
First among these issues is rampant, unchecked pollution. Testimonials from Cairene farmers allege that water is scarcely flowing to their land, as canals have been completely blocked with garbage (Rashad, 2018). By the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency’s count, 150 million tons of industrial waste are dumped into the river annually (Farid, 2020). The water is becoming increasingly toxic, with concentrations of toxic materials like lead vastly exceeding safe levels (Abdel-Satar, 2017; Egyptian Streets, 2018).
Saltwater incursion poses another serious threat. Over-pumping for agricultural irrigation may be the cause, as drained aquifers are contaminated with saltwater inflows. Many confluent factors can influence this process. As Nile waters become increasingly unusable, farmers resort to wells. This can contribute to the overuse of groundwater. Furthermore, officials at the Egyptian Shore Protection Authority point to rising sea levels from climate change which consume freshwater areas needed for irrigation (Rashad, 2018).
A third factor inhibiting Cairo’s water supply is the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, some thousands of miles away. When the GERD goes online in a matter of years, water flows to Cairo stand to be reduced severely (Bearak &Raghavan, 2022).
The multitude of challenges facing Cairo in the near future call for a strong response. Unfortunately, the government has been found wanting in this regard. Though they’ve been bellicose in negotiating over their water rights with Sudan and Ethiopia during the construction of the GERD, even threatening a military strike on the facility (Dunne, 2020), a blind eye has been turned to sewage disposal and river pollutions. These are issues that affect ordinary citizens of Cairo the most. In fact, a popular Egyptian singer was arrested for “insulting” the Nile by suggesting it wasn’t safe to drink (Egyptian Singer…, 2018).
This case study of Nile water in Cairo illustrates the challenges that developing countries face in dealing with climate change. In many cases, they are under-resourced and face political challenges that inhibit their ability to tackle these issues. This reality places a greater impetus on developed countries to control their emissions and shoulder their share of the burden of protecting the planet for the future.
Rashad, J. (2018, March 22). The world’s longest river is in trouble. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/03/22/egypt/
Farid, F. (2020, March 20). The mighty Nile, threatened by waste, warming, mega-dam. Phys.org. https://phys.org/news/2020-03-mighty-nile-threatened-mega-dam.html
Abdel-Satar, A. M., Ali, M. H., & Goher, M. E. (2017). Indices of water quality and metal pollution of Nile River, Egypt. The Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Research, 43(1), 21-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejar.2016.12.006.
Egyptian Streets. (2018, December 15). Just How Polluted is the Nile? https://egyptianstreets.com/2018/12/15/just-how-polluted-is-the-nile/
Bearak, M. & Raghavan, S. (2022, October 15). Africa’s largest dam powers dreams of prosperity in Ethiopia — and fears of hunger in Egypt. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2020/grand-ethiopian-renaissance-dam-egypt-nile/
Dunne, C. W. (2020, June 30). The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Egypt’s Military Options. Arab Center Washington DC. https://arabcenterdc.org/resource/the-grand-ethiopian-renaissance-dam-and-egypts-military-options/
Egyptian singer jailed for insulting the Nile. (2018, February 27). Deutsche Welle.
Zaher, H. A. (2015, September 18). The Nile, a vital source of water, turns into source of disease. The Arab Weekly. https://thearabweekly.com/nile-vital-source-water-turns-source-diseased
Mahmoud, A. (2019, October 2). The Nile River in Egypt. Fanack Water.
Air Pollution in Lahore, Pakistan
Matthew Roberts, Civil Engineering, Penn State University
In November this year, Lahore, Pakistan was declared the most polluted city in the world. Air quality is determined on a scale called the US Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures the amount of pollutants in the air. According to the scale, any number above 100 is unhealthy to the people and animals breathing it. Lahore’s AQI has scored at a whopping 397 since the winter months began. Due to this amount of pollution, the citizens of Lahore are speaking up to the Pakistan government to try to reduce the pollution. Lahore is the second largest city in Pakistan and 26th largest city in the world, with approximately 11.1 million people. This means that 11.1 million people are subjected to this level of air pollution daily, which can have many adverse health effects. Breathing in the smog can increase the risk of throat, mouth, and lung cancer. This can also affect people who have asthma, causing more attacks. The smog can also cause irritation of the eyes and skin, which residents are told to wash their face and hair as soon as they return home. Some other effects of the smog are low visibility while biking and driving, which causes an increase in road accidents. So, where is all this air pollution coming from?
When the winter months start to approach, the farmers around the city start their annual crop burning, which is the leading cause of smog in the city. Other factors that contribute to the smog in Lahore are an increase in fossil fuel burning from cars and trucks, which have no regulations on emissions. Factories in the city are also under no restrictions on what they can put into the air. If the city wants to see real change, regulations are going to need to be put in place to reduce emissions in the city. Right now, the government of Pakistan does realize the problem in Lahore and is trying to take steps to clean up the city. Reforestation of the city is underway to help filter out the already smog-covered city. There has also been a ban on open crop burning, and they are planning on cracking down on industrial emissions. Since transportation in the city is also a problem, the government has stated that vehicles must be compliant with the Euro 5 standard. Now, these strategies will be effective if the government will be able to enforce these standards, but at the state they are in right now, I can see that taking some time. Hopefully, for the health of the citizens, these plans will be put into effect to reduce the amount of smog in the most air polluted city in the world, Lahore, Pakistan.
Lahore. (2021). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahore
Malik, P. (2021, December 10). Smog in Lahore: Find Out What’s Causing It & How To Protect Your Health. About Pakistan. https://www.aboutpakistan.com/news/smog-in-lahore-find-out-whats-causing-it-how-to-protect-your-health/
FP Staff. (2021, November 18). Lahore beats Delhi as world’s most polluted city: Here’s why it has poor air quality and what Pakistan is doing about it. Firstpost. https://www.firstpost.com/world/lahore-beats-delhi-as-worlds-most-polluted-city-heres-why-it-has-poor-air-quality-and-what-pakistan-is-doing-about-it-10146181.html
Chaudary, S. (2020, October 27). Smog and its Effects on Lahore. Locally Lahore. https://www.locallylahore.com/smog-and-its-effects-on-lahore/#:~:text=Smog%20in%20Pakistan%20is%20a%20significant%20environmental%20problem%2C,on%20the%20road%20due%20to%20the%20thick%20smog.
Porto Velho, Brazil – Deforestation
Michael Taradash, Supply Chain and Information Systems, Penn State University
Situated in the upper Amazon River basin lies the city of Porto Velho – the capital of the Brazilian state of Rodônia. Porto Velho is home to approximately half a million people who rely heavily on the land in order to make a living as farmers and livestock ranchers. Unfortunately, as a result of the major deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest that began in the 1960s, Brazil has become a much larger emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. According to NPR, an increasing portion of the deforestation in the Amazon can be attributed to the agricultural industry, where landowners illegally burn the land and use it for crops and livestock. There are a multitude of reasons why the deforestation of the Amazon is bad for the climate, such as how certain areas now output more carbon dioxide than they absorb, but the main issue in Porto Velho is how lawmakers are passing laws that incentivize the clearing of the rainforest. Economically, at least in the present and near future, it is understandable why lawmakers and citizens would want to clear the rainforest. The rainforest can be cleared for lucrative cattle ranches and crop farming. The Brazilian government desires a future where the Amazon is privatized and developed. However, the issue is that Brazil’s government has ignored the obvious, albeit illegal, clearing of the Amazon, and now is pardoning the people responsible for the damage by granting legal ownership of the land to them. Millions of people migrated inland in order to capture profit from the opportunity of clearing the Amazon. In the future, a cleared Amazon, especially in Porto Velho, makes the people living there vulnerable to climate change and increasing carbon dioxide levels. According to Bloomberg, it is likely that 10,000 species may be eliminated as the area transitions from rainforest to savannah, and this is likely an underestimate. The dying off of that many species will be devastating for the local food chain and ecosystem, posing unique threats to the stability of the lucrative livestock farming that many Porto Velho citizens are such fervent supporters of. In the past, INCRA, or the National Institute for the Colonization and Agrarian Reform, attempted to divide up the Amazon into smaller lots, including places like Porto Velho, into places suitable for subsistence farming and give them to Brazil’s poor in one of the largest social welfare giveaways ever. The problems arose when the government couldn’t enforce the rules of the giveaway anymore and people started claiming any and every lot available (Brice & Smith, 2021). In Porto Velho, the effects of this program are still felt today as many of the city’s residents, including poor people, take any land that seems available, burn or cut it down, and then convert it into some sort of lucrative farm. The forecasted impact to Porto Velho includes decreased rainfall due to fewer trees grabbing moisture in the air, and ultimately, drought. Thirty percent of Brazilians live in poverty, and less than one percent of residents in Porto Velho have access to clean water and proper sewerage. In the future, Porto Velho’s conditions are only primed to worsen because of the clearing of the surrounding rainforest, less moisture which will eventually lead to drought, as well as greedy politicians that incentivize the deforestation of the Amazon. Possible solutions include a greater American and worldwide effort to protect the Amazon and stop deforestation. The only way to really make a change is to vote for politicians and lawmakers who have environmentally friendly beliefs.
Pruitt-Young, S. (2021, July 15). Parts of the Amazon Rainforest Are Now Releasing More Carbon than
They Absorb. NPR.
Brice, J. & Smith, M. (2021, July 29). The Amazon Is Fast Approaching a Point of No Return.
Fernandes, E. R. (2020, August 8). Blame Poverty, Not the Poor, for Covid-19’s Spread in Brazil’s
Amazon. Scientific American.
Jessica Barth, Philosophy & Biobehavioral Health, Schreyer’s Honors College, Penn State University
Grays Ferry, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is threatened by nearby toxic facilities that degrade the environment and in turn, the air and water quality. Such noxious facilities release toxic particles and carcinogens into the air and groundwater, threatening the health of neighboring residents who have no choice but to breathe the air and drink the water. These industrial operations and their subsequent environmental impacts increase respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal illnesses, asthma rates, cancer rates, and other health ailments experienced by community members. Like many communities facing poor water quality due to industrial pollutants, Grays Ferry is predominately an underepresented Black community, leaving them particularly vulnerable to unfavorable neighborhood conditions. Grays Ferry and communities like it are susceptible to these harms due to the systemic and environmental racism that disproportionately places hazardous facilities in minority communities, largely due to their lack of bargaining power. Furthermore, the long and dark history of racially biased real estate practices still have lasting impacts on where minorities reside. Practices such as redlining (i.e., the refusal of home loans to minorities in certain outlined areas) have left communities segregated and disenfranchised even to this day. Because of this entrenched racism, communities such as Grays Ferry are left vulnerable to the introduction of toxic facilities. Beyond locality, systemic racism exists within healthcare systems, creating a situation where Black residents are less likely to receive quality care in the face of adverse health outcomes. In the city where Grays Ferry exists, Black patients seeking care are fifty percent more likely to die than white patients—revealing just how stark this racism is. As a result, the pollution that drives poor water quality paired with entrenched racism creates a double jeopardy scenario where Black individuals are both more likely to be exposed to pollution and more likely to have severe consequences from it. If such systemic racism is not addressed, Grays Ferry will likely continue experiencing increased rates of negative health outcomes and will continue to be selected to host toxic facilities. While systemic racism is impossible to address in a short amount of time, solutions do exist for Grays Ferry. Most notably, minorities must be represented in the political sphere of this neighborhood and surrounding area. Gerrymandering is one of the biggest barriers to this. Representation allows for minority voices to be heard, and for their experiences to be brought to the forefront. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency must increase their restrictions on industrial facilities that release pollutants. Additionally, public health departments must also view this issue as a priority and implement policies that protect Black communities such as Grays Ferry. Although these solutions do not address all the root causes of systemic racism, they can ameliorate some of the disproportionate consequences of environmental pollution shouldered by minorities.
Villarosa, L. (2020, July 28). Pollution is killing Black Americans. this community fought back. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/28/magazine/pollution-philadelphia-black americans.html
Overfishing and Local Economics in Ōma, Japan
Anton Fatula, Environmental Resource Management, Pennsylvania State University
Located at the northernmost point of the Shimokita peninsula is a five thousand resident town named Ōma, Japan. There’s a botanical garden, some night life, and some breathtaking coastal views, but what Ōma is really known for is its fishing port. Specifically, Ōma is internationally recognized for its export of Pacific Bluefin tuna (kuro-maguro in Japanese) and the traditional fishing practices it uses to catch said tuna. This practice (known as pole fishing) has recently gained media attention, becoming the focus of multiple documentaries and tv specials; however, this recent fame is not the result of a generation of unique sustainable fishing practices finally being discovered by the public. We’ve known about this for a long time. This newfound attention has instead developed from a more ominous situation: the struggle of local fisheries against the overfishing of larger corporations and climate change.
Overfishing is a broad term that encompasses all harmful fishing practices exercised by industrial fishing companies. Traditional techniques (like those used in Ōma) limit the rate at which fish populations are depleted and ensure that only the largest and healthiest adult fish are taken, giving the population adequate time and resources to recover. In comparison, commercial fishing employs a range of tactics such as trawling, purse seine, and other techniques that aim to maximize yield with little to no regard for environmental and ecological repercussions. Commercial fishing has been around and unregulated for over a century and, as a result, has depleted our ocean’s food supply immensely while destabilizing marine ecosystems.
This goes hand in hand with changes in our climate, as global warming negatively impacts zooplankton biomass, migration patterns of important species, and ecosystem dynamics all the way up to the highest biological levels.
Shifting our focus back to Ōma, we can see this issue become evident though the increasing difficulty of traditional commercial fishing. The average yield of one boat from fifty years ago is now the average yield for an entire fleet of local fisherman (based on Japanese fishing record from the 1940s), whereas foreign corporations are using advanced technology to scoop up entire schools of fish, leaving behind waste from their fishing vessels and an unstable ocean ecosystem.
Hirofumi Hamahata, president of the Ōma fishermen’s co-op, has been fishing sustainably in Ōma for nearly fifty-five years. When asked about the industrial fishing industry, Hamahata said that he is “furious at Tokyo’s bureaucrats for failing to protect our tuna.” He goes on, saying, “They don’t lift a finger against the industrial fishing that just sweeps the ocean clean.”
Cleaning up the fishing industry is easier said than done, though promising sustainable fishing methods have been introduced over the past few decades. Leading practices to consider include hook-and-line, turf reserve, and stakeholder fishing. These are all similar in that they emphasize localizing the industry, regulating levels of take, and minimizing the economic incentive to catch more while boosting the incentive to catch sustainably.
Commercial fishing methods. (2019, August 8). Sustainable Fisheries UW. https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/seafood-101/commercial-fishing-methods/
Fackler, M. (2009, September 19). Tuna Town in Japan sees falloff of its fish. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/world/asia/20tuna.html
Momoko Ichinokawa, Hiroshi Okamura, & Hiroyuki Kurota. (2017). The status of Japanese fisheries relative to fisheries around the world. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 74(5), 1277–1287. https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsx002.
OTA. (n.d.). Oma Tuna. Oma Tourism Association. https://oma-wide.net/en/oomatuna/.
Sumaila, U. R. & Tai, T. C. (2020). End Overfishing and Increase the Resilience of the Ocean to Climate Change. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, 523. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00523
Industry in Bristol Bay Watershed
Marley D. Turbett, Finance and Economics, Penn State University
The Alaskan native communities of the Bristol Bay Watershed have long been under attack due to the bounty of natural resources found in the surrounding area. Over the past several years, developers have tried to push for a gold and copper mine to be constructed at the base of the watershed (The Pebble Mine Project) (Puko, 2021). This new mine proposal would cause additional tensions in a community that is already under stress, including deforestation, excavation, and increased CO2 emissions from trucks and loaders (Puko, 2021). Copper specifically is in high demand because of its use in renewable energy projects and electric vehicles (Smith, Tsai, & Morganteen, 2021). While the world transitioning to renewable energy is a great thing, the communities negatively affected by this transition must be kept in mind. Additionally, the Bristol Bay Watershed is home to the salmon run in Alaska, which becomes the largest wild salmon population in the world from September to November (EPA, 2021). If the watershed is converted into a mine, approximately 25 Alaskan native tribes will either be displaced or have a significant decline in natural food sources such as sockeye salmon and moose (Puko, 2021). These Alaskan communities, specifically the Yup’ik and Dena’ina, are already in distress because of climate change affecting the melting of glaciers earlier in the season, which means that the rivers become drier and warmer (Chung, 2021). Drier and warmer rivers mean that salmon are deterred from spawning or are killed before they can spawn. Any additional stress on this diverse ecological community will directly affect the native peoples that depend on the health of the ecosystem. The building of a mine will surely decrease salmon populations and interrupt the communities that thrive because of them. Just like a lot of other communities at risk in Alaska, the Pebble Mine Project has heated political debates surrounding it; one side argues the world needs the resources and the other says the ecosystem is too precious to destroy. President Trump withdrew protection from the area in 2019, however in September 2021, the Biden Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency passed protections to permanently block further development in the watershed (Puko, 2021). While earth wide climate change is difficult to tackle, the Alaskan native communities and Bristol Bay Watershed need permanent protection from further development, mining or not. This might only be achievable through political means, but the importance of the watershed goes far beyond just the copper or gold that can be mined from it.
Puko, T. (2021, September 9). EPA Moves for Permanent Block on Pebble Mine Project in Alaska. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/epa-moves-for-permanent-block-on-pebble-mine-project-in-alaska-11631207144?mod=Searchresults_pos6&page=1
Smith, J., Tsai, K., & Morganteen, J. (2021, July 30). Why a looming copper shortage has big consequences for the green economy. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/07/30/why-a-looming-copper-shortage-has-big-consequences-for-the-green-economy.html
EPA. (2022, February). About Bristol Bay. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/bristolbay/about-bristol-bay.
Chung, E. (2021, July 23). Salmon are getting cooked by climate change. Here’s how they could be saved. CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/salmon-climate-change-1.6114328.
Allison Welch, Earth Sciences, College of Earth and Mineral Science, Penn State University
Georges Bank is a highly productive area of the Atlantic. From Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Nova Scotia, Canada, the area is productive due to an elevated sea floor. Because of this, there were thriving populations of cod and a productive fishing economy for over 400 years (Georges Bank, 2021). Over 100 million pounds of cod were caught per year by US fisherman in the 1980s (Associated Press, 2022). Severe overfishing has caused the cod population to plummet, with 1.6 million pounds of cod caught in 2020 (Atlantic Cod, 2021).
The dramatic drop in cod populations has left fisheries dependent and communities very vulnerable. When the fishery industry crashed in the 1990s, about 30,000 people were left unemployed in Newfoundland, Canada alone (Higgins, 2008). Many citizens of Portland, Maine were left unemployed as well.
Tony’s father was an Italian immigrant who worked and relied on the highly profitable fishery of Portland in the 1900s. Tony started fishing at 12, fell in love with it, and never finished high school because he could make $100,000 in a summer fishing at 16. His family was supported well, but in the 1980s, fewer and fewer fish were caught in nets. Like many of other fisherman in the area, he soon couldn’t afford to pay for fuel. Tony, just like the many communities affected by this disaster, was losing money. He ran a small business until he died of a heroin overdose (Ropeik, 2014). There are countless stories just like this from Portland and the other affected areas.
The ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ is the mindset of “if I don’t do it someone else will.” One can argue that Tony and his father were partly responsible for this overfishing disaster, but if they decided not to fish, someone else would have. The economic state of America supports profits over the environment, and small-scale workers, like Tony, become the victims.
The obvious solution to this problem is to stop fishing cod, but that would continue to have negative effects on small-business workers. Plans have been put in place to continue the fishing of cod but to do it in a safe way that promotes healthy cod populations. The Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan includes permits for commercial vessels, management for recreational vessels, closures to protect habitat and spawning, minimum fish sizes to protect young, annual catch limits, and more (Atlantic Cod, 2021). These efforts have not been helping in the way they were meant to, with other species coming into the ecosystem now that cod population levels are down (Ropeik, 2014). Whether the ecosystem can return to the way it was is unclear, but efforts like this are vital.
Associated Press. (2021, December 14). Cod fishing limits to be slashed again, regulators say. Spectrum News. https://spectrumlocalnews.com/me/maine/news/2021 /12/14/cod-fishing-limits-to-be-slashed-again–regulatorssay.
Atlantic Cod. (2021, August 30). NOAA Fisheries. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/atlantic-cod
Higgins, J. (2008). Economic impacts of the Cod Moratorium. Heritage. https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/economy/moratorium-impacts.php
Ropeik, D. (2014, December 3). Atlantic cod and the Human ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. Cognoscenti. https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2014/12/03/overfishing-georges-bank-david-ropeik
Georges Bank. (2021, June 30). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Bank