Environmental Problems

A. Tamashiro, M. Figueroa, N. Nourigat, Z. Zhou

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Global environmental problems HD

Aaron Tamashiro

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Ever since I was a kid, I grew up hearing about pollution and global warming. The issue of environmental problems is everywhere and it doesn't have to be just pollution. I watched many national geographic shows that talk about deforestation, desertification, and more. Animals are affected and by our trash, I see that they could just eat them without knowing the consequence. I have seen this on beaches in Hawaii and it is sad to see birds, turtles, and fishes taking the consequences of our actions to litter. Even if we were to fix our littering actions, we may have trouble with our sewage system. Hawaii has a really terrible sewage system that is always breaking. You would hear about a water main break every week on the news and traffic would have to be diverted. The effects of our poop could create a smelly situation. At one point, Waikiki had a sewage problem to the point where sewage had to be poured into the ocean. That was very bad for the environment and made the beach in Waikiki unsafe to swim in. On top of the pollution in our waters, as a kid, I would hear about global warming, so this sparked an interest in alternative energy. I saw that nuclear energy would be the future if we want to go for a greenhouse gas free world. This allowed me to pursue my dream to be a nuclear engineer.

My personal experience with the sewage system failing could be viewed through functionalists, conflict, and interactionists perspectives. From the functionalist’s perspective, the sewage system played a role in our society by transporting waste water out of people’s homes. When the sewage system broke, there was nothing to fulfill its role and ended up having an environmental mess. From the conflict perspective, the fact that the sewage had to be dumped into a canal near homes caused people to complain about the smell. Then, the interactionist’s perspective says that this event was indeed a social problem and everyone in Hawaii viewed this sewage bypass as a big problem to the environment.

The actions of the city and state to dump the overflowing sewage into the ocean affected the environment, but the people around the dump location as well. One can view this as unfair to the local residents in that area, but was there much of a choice? There were no back up plan and it was either the ocean that takes the beating or the homes that will have overflowing sewage water in their bathrooms. Who is responsible for this? The city of Honolulu had to take action quickly and their best option was to dump the sewage into the ocean. Nearby homes had to take the smell, but that is nothing compared to a huge mess in their bathrooms. At this moment, the city had the authority to go with their ways and the people had to trust their decision on this issue. Now, Hawaii has a sewage bypass system that actually saved them from a disaster recently (hawaiinewsnow)

These experiences with environmental issues are connected to inequality and discrimination of all aspects in the United States. All social groups face this problem. The environment is where all social groups reside and all will face the environmental issues. The differences would have to be found in each group’s culture. I say this to compensate the different reactions. A person of high class may not care too much, since they have a lot of resources. The old age may not care as well, since this environmental issue is for the future generation. Certain religions that keeps the environment sacred would care for the environment and be totally against pollution. Different ethnic groups may have different attitudes toward pollution. This could be the fact that different parts of the world handle environmental issues differently. Some groups are poor and would need to use cheap resources to gain money faster. The cheaper option may not be the most environmental friendly. Overall, this issue impacts everybody in every class and their attitudes may be established by the culture of their classes. The response to environmental issues may be different, but that doesn’t change or solve the problem. Everyone lives in this environment that we are polluting ourselves. The resources that provided is depleting and we will have to see where society is heading to actually solve this problem.


Martin Figueroa

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Growing up in Los Angeles, exposed me to many environmental problems that impacted me directly. From terrible air quality, pollution and water droughts to climate change impacts driven by human choices. The entire world is impacted by the irresponsible actions and decisions taken by leaders of countries and all humans. Environmental problems don't just impact the poor, or certain parts of the world, but those who are greatly impacted are those who live in developing countries and/or are poor. Spending time in the Central Valley of California exposed me to experience first had terrible air quality, water pollution and water droughts. Water pollution is a critical problem that impacts many people all over the world. According to the EPA around 70% of the industrial waste is dumped in water bodies where they polluted usable water suppy. There is at least 320 million people in China that do not have access to clean drinking water. This is critical because the lack of clean usable water results in the pumping of ground water. Heal the bay estimates that 14 billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the ocean. This not only impacts our water supply but impacts and kills many organisms and plants. Many people die because they get diseases from the water they drink. Air quality is also another threat.

Due to the terrible air quality, there are higher rates of asthma victims. About 1/3 of California residents live in communities with terrible air quality. Air pollution is derived from pollutants generated by vehicles, factories, pesticides and many other ways. Air pollution is a serious threat that threatens human health by provoking asthma, bronchitis, heart and lung diseases. California is not the only place that has a serious air pollution problem. China has one of the worst air pollution in the world. China has had the worst air pollution that has caused the closure of schools, factories and construction cites, and forcing the temporary removal of cars off the road. The EPA estimates that we breathe over 3,000 gallons of air each day. Air pollution doesn't just impact human health but also damages trees, crops, plants, and impacts animals.

It also damages buildings, monuments and statues. Air pollution chases acid rain. Acid rain causes acidification of lakes and streams. It decays buildings, statues and sculptures.

Solving environmental problems are critical for the survival of humans and the preservation of out environment. People should care about having a clean environment because it is essential for healthy living. There are many environmental problems, which all impact not only humans and their lifestyles but also animals and other species living on earth. It is crucial that we adopt sustainable lifestyles and make better decisions, so that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy a healthy, rich, and biodiversed planet. We all have the power to make a difference in conserving our planet, some lifestyle choices include: conserving energy, using energy efficient appliances and electronics, driving less or using public transportation/ biking/ walking, conserving energy, eating and shopping locally, wasting less water, taking shorter showers, consuming less, recycling, reusing, composting, and growing your own food are just a few ways we can all make a difference.

Everyone is impacted and affected by social problems, that affect and damage society.

No matter where you live in any part of the world, we are impacted by these factors.

It is evident that we have all experienced the impacts of racism, social injustice, environmental problems, equality, discrimination and freedom. There are many more social problems that impact us directly. It seems that everyone has experience if not one, many of these problems.

The class is formatted to answer the reasons and the factors that create social problems and how people are impacted. The units discuss every social problem and factor discussed above. We learned about discrimination, social justice, and inequality of rights. We learned about environmental problems and how they impact human health, the economy, and the planet. We learned about how racisms and discrimination lead to negative emotions that lead to negative actions/responses. During the course we discussed how these social problems create a society that struggles and seeks change.

We see the inequality in power in every aspect both the structure of government, to the power of large corporations and their influence on policies and laws. The inequality in power, is what sparks a lot of social problems.

Social problems have a significant impact based on race, class, gender, and many other criteria. Is is evident that those who fit certain criteria are the ones that are heavily impacted. For example, environmental problems, people who are low income, lived in third world countries, are impacted by the lack of clean water, lack of health services, and the inability to move to adequate areas. Another example is people who are minorities, low income tend to be impacted more by discrimination, racism, lack opportunities to grow, lack better jobs, education, lack equality of rights, and many others.

Neil Nourigat

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The Willamette River

The Willamette River flows through Portland, with a large majority of Oregon’s population living within a close proximity. The river has seemingly always had a problem with pollution although the amount has decreased in recent attempts to clean it. One of the sources of the pollution came from all the industrialization that has happened close to the shore. A lot of the modernization has left soils contaminated which then affects the river from rain runoff. I think a functionalist perspective was best to describe the way cultures looked at industrialization. The book defines a functionalist perspective towards the environment, “As mentioned, an important part of the system is made up of the human cultural beliefs and values that fuel behavior. If cultural values encourage people in a careless use of the environment, then this may lead to serious environmental problems.” (pg. 380). People weren’t thinking about the environment as much and were excited to see advancements in technology. In the video interview for environmental problems Professor Lowe and Lori Cramer talk about looking at the bigger picture, which is something not very many people did. There is this unknowing, unawareness of how we consume and dispose that creates this environmental injustices and racism that we don’t know we are contributing to. Breaking it down and asking yourself questions of why we do what we do and how we came to be this way can help us resolve the problem. Figuring out what we can do to change our place in the system is a great start to doing this.

Along with modernization polluting the river, several different sewage overflows have increased bacteria in the river. I believe this has to do with certain values as a culture, the book states, “In many nations, a constellation of cultural values exists that supports practices that are damaging to the environment, or at least the values do not discourage such practices.” (pg. 379) The idea of not caring to clean it up, or that it’s so polluted there’s not much we can do. The idea that we can keep building and modernizing with little damage, or to leave it for next generations. The idea that it’s not important enough to really care about or put the effort to cleaning the river has strain from past values and not enough awareness of the harm it is doing. In the interview Cramer talks about values being there, people know that clean air and clean water is important, but because it isn’t convenient for them to work and use means to prevent pollution, people still don’t do it. She answer’s a question saying, “we are a bunch of crazy people.” And it is so true. We are really hurting ourselves when we know the differences between right and wrong but still don’t do the right things. This is disrespectful to the environment and not healthy for the population of Oregon.

Living close to the river and having a couple friends with boats gave me a better look at the concern of the cleanliness of the water. One of them liked to take their boat out to wake board and tube. They would usually take it to a lake, but occasionally they would go out on the river. There are certain times that get worse than others but you always know that it’s not the cleanest place for recreational activities. I remember there being warnings in the summer of last year and the year before about toxic parts of the river. The Public Health Division advised river users to stay away of certain areas of the river. It’s a constant battle to keep it clean and although it may be safe to use in certain areas and at certain times of the year, we need to do a better job of decreasing the ongoing pollution. I really enjoy recreational activities like tubing, fishing, paddle boarding, and it would be so much better to have a clean, worry free environment to do those. We need to do our part to clean up what we pollute. Not only for the health of Oregonian’s but the wellbeing of wildlife that live in and around the river as well. We have the ability as humans to do what other living things on this earth can’t. This is a value that a lot of humans take for granted. In the book they state, “…the notion that human beings are superior to and have mastery over the earth and its creatures.” (pg.379). We may be superior in some ways but that doesn’t mean we are masters of the earth. If anything it means we have a responsibility to clean and take care of the other earth and life that we pollute and can’t do it for themselves. Pollution is a huge problem that many seem to not grasp the importance of decreasing. We take for granted the areas we live in and should take better care of the environment we have forcefully placed ourselves.

Portland is not a very diverse city and we have unfortunately let ourselves subdue to some environmental racism. According to an article in the Cascadia Times, “The area, which the city historically treated as a toxic sacrifice zone, is also home to one-fourth of the state’s African-American population. Studies show that non-white people are significantly more likely than white Americans to live near toxic hazards – a pattern of racism that spawned the “environmental justice” movement in the 1990s.” (Koberstein). It may not have been something we were really aware of but due to where most of minorities live in Portland, they are in an area where there happens to be the majority of pollution. This could have happened from many reasons. The areas where minorities tend to live aren’t the best and there may not be as much active cleaning going on. Not being a very diverse city not only is there inequality among minorities but class differences as well. The areas where minorities are living are shared with those that cannot afford a home in an environmentally safe place. Not having the ability to live in other areas that are cleaner, along with the awareness of the problem in the first place.

The book talks about new cultural values that have risen throughout the years. “This environmental ideology emphasizes that human beings should live in harmony with their environment rather than ’mastering’ or ‘ruling over’ it; that people should serve as stewards who protect and conserve the environment so that it will be available for future generations to use.” (pg. 400) Thankfully this is a much more prominent attribute of humans today. Although it awareness and knowledge of being environmentally sustainable is growing it still needs to increase. Along with increasing there needs to be more action. We know what we should be doing but there isn’t enough of it going on overall. Even if it is doing things like walking more, driving less, not using plastic bags when grocery shopping and using re-useable ones, or making sure to recycle everything you can. These are simple daily things that people can do to help.


Zhenhua Zhou

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Personally I have experienced the effects of deteriorating air quality in my neighborhood, which is beside busy roads with heavy traffic. Air quality is affected to a large extent by growing population and vehicular traffic. Vehicular emissions contribute to global warming, and lead to serious human health impacts such as respiratory disorders, Asthma, heart disease, cancer etc. Vehicle exhaust usually contains green houses gases such as CO2, NOx, SO2, and pollutants that pose high health risk such as ozone, particulate matter, 1,3 butadiene and formaldehyde. Ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emitted from vehicle exhausts react in presence of sunlight. Cars and trucks are the largest source of smog , and photochemical smog forms several secondary air pollutants such as ozone and peroxyacetal nitrate , which affect human vision and pulmonary function. Diesel emissions and fine particulates of size less than 2.5-micron pose serious risks to those with Asthma, and vulnerable population comprising of children, elderly as well as those with compromised immune system.

High air pollution episodes occur frequently in areas such as mine, adjacent to roadways on days with high traffic, and poor whether conditions lead to concentration of pollutants in the area. Also, air quality monitoring is difficult in case of vehicular pollution, as the sources are moving and the concentration of pollutants vary instantaneously in some locations. Hence, average concentration of emissions measured across a specific time period, which is used by regulatory agencies, to determine air quality in a region might not be relevant at all. Vehicular air pollution is a serious environmental problem and growing cities need to focus immediately on this issue. CDC has estimated about 13% of children in US below 18 years have Asthma, and its prevalence has almost made it an epidemic. Ways to minimize vehicle air pollution is preventing traffic congestion, preventing urban sprawling and commutation over long distances, siting residential areas, schools and parks away from major high ways, developing more green spaces, car pooling etc. Thus urban air pollution contributed by poor management of vehicular movement is a serious issue that has adverse local as well as global environmental impacts. Controlling vehicular pollution is a challenge, and it needs the combined effort of governments, regulatory agencies and common people.