Despite the potential benefits of this new technology to increase in world food supply and lower the cost for the farmer—public and scientific concerns have been raised about the environmental and food safety of genetically modified crops. GMOs only entered supermarkets 20 years ago, but the history of GMOs dates back to the mid 20th century with the advent of the biotech industry.
Scientist at Calgene with the first Genetically Engineered crop, the Flavr Savr Tomato. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
Huge scientific breakthroughs in genetic engineering were made in the early to mid 20th century. The discovery DNA, the double helix structure, and other discoveries in the genetics field served as the foundation for the future success of genetic engineering. In 1972, Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen used the recently discovered recombinant DNA by joining DNA from different species, usually a bacterium, and inserting the hybrid DNA into a host cell. Their discovery of inserting rDNA into a living cell began a new age of technology, and solidified the foundation the biotech industry. An industry that is now multibillion dollar industry and has been responsible for producing new chemicals, enzymes, pharmaceuticals such as insulin, and genetically modified crops. Continue reading
The Cuyahoga River Courtesy of Noah Wilson/ Flicker Creative Commens. The Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 helped to ignite the environmental movement of the late 20th century.
For many people, the financial bottom line is the only bottom line that counts. Today, more so than ever before, political figures, industry leaders, business owners, and individuals are beginning to understand that without a healthy and sustainable environment, economic prosperity is impossible.
Jack Oswald, CEO of SynGest, member of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and a self-proclaimed, “clean energy entrepreneur and a staunch capitalist,” declared in 2011, “I’m going to say what you don’t hear nearly enough – advancing new clean energy technologies while cutting global warming emissions will be very good for business.” Oswald’s company, SynGest Inc., has revolutionized the way that nitrogen fertilizer, used by American farmers and made from dirty fossil fuels, is produced. SynGest uses homegrown renewable materials such as crop waste to make the fertilizer at a lower cost, while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere. His company also creates jobs. Building his first operating plant will cost about $130 million and provide work for 350 highly paid construction workers. Furthermore, 200 permanent jobs will be created to operate and support the facility. OnEarth Magazine notes, “over 20 years, one SynGest biorefinery would generate a positive economic impact of $300 million, much of that in the local economy.”
Green action and sustainable decisions have the potential to promote great economic prosperity, if only given the opportunity.
When asked about the most quintessentially “New York” experience, Manhattanites will likely rave about some swanky rooftop club on top of a hotel, running along the Hudson through Riverside Park, or the amazing chocolates that can only be found in Chelsea market. To an outsider, however, “New York City” can be represented with one image—Times Square. Massive skyscrapers that are relentlessly lit up with mega television screens, large crowds of people, and traffic littered with taxicabs.
Each of the former images seems to represent the vivacity of the city; however, each also requires an excessive amount of energy.Taking the Manhattanite’s second suggestion to run along Riverside Park, visitors may be taken aback by the wide-open horizon sprinkled with sailboats. Within the juxtaposition between these two contrasting images of New York, it should be noted that that latter features a primitive technology that could be very relevant for powering the former—in this case sailboats harnessing wind for energy. With improvements in technology, harnessing energy from renewable resources to help alleviate the impact of fossil fuels seems attainable.
The Impact of Fossil Fuels
The progress seen in the developed world in places like New York City has been driven by a dependence on coal and petroleum-based fuel sources. As these energy sources are continually depleted by the comforts of the modern world, nations have felt the need to form alliances and wage wars in order to gain access to these valuable remnants. While these nonrenewables have indeed allowed for major technological advances including fast and easy transportation, readily available entertainment, indoor plumbing—in essence all the comforts afforded by the average American lifestyle—they have been exploited to an extreme degree. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that coal consumption for 2012 reached 889,185 thousand tons and natural gas reached 25,533 billion cubic feet; similarly, Americans consumed approximately 18,877 thousand barrels of petroleum per day. The massive consumption of these fossil fuels has contributed to over 6,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being released annually from the U.S. alone. The abuse of fossil fuels has had a significant negative effect on the global climate. The burning of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide as a by-product, which increases the concentration of the greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere, and raises the earth’s temperature.
Larry Payne was a sixteen year old black boy who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. In March 28, 1968,
Striking Sanitation Workers and their Supporters surrounded by National Guard. March 29, 1968.
Payne was marching in the streets of Memphis in a protest led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of sanitation workers who were part of an ongoing strike, as they were asking for their environmental and economic rights. After clashes with the police broke, Payne was shot dead by a Memphis police officer. The Second National People of Color Summit cited this series of strikes by sanitation workers as an important milestone in the history of the Environmental justice movement. Around 1970, over ten years before the term “environmental racism” was first officially used, the United States Public Health Services acknowledged that lead poisoning was more common among Black and Hispanic children than among white children. A year later, 1971, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued its annual report which acknowledged discrimination against the poor and how that impacts the quality of their environment. In 1979, Linda McKeever Bullard filed a lawsuit against Southwestern Waste Management, Inc. which was seeking to build a solid waste management facility in Northeast Huston siting that the decision to build this facility is racially discriminating, since the neighborhood targeted is a predominantly black neighborhood. These events as well as many others made the general public more aware of a pattern showing that poor communities and communities of color are targeted locations for building polluting industrial facilities and siting dumping toxic waste. More importantly, these events have made more and more people of color conscious of the injustices and discrimination committed against them. The Protests against a PCB landfill in Warren County, North Carolina in 1982 were one of the major milestones for the Environmental Justice movement, and it was then that Dr. Benjamin Chavis, civil rights activists and leader, coined the term “environmental racism.” In his book, Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots, Dr. Robert Bullard, environmental justice researcher and activist, defines the term as: “Racial discrimination in environmental policy making. … enforcement of regulations and laws. …deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste disposal and the siting of polluting industries… racial discrimination in the official sanctioning
of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in communities of color. And, it is racial discrimination in the history of excluding people of color from the mainstream environmental groups, decisionmaking [sec] boards, commissions and regulatory bodies.”
Monkeys in the Amazon Courtesy of Angelo DeSantis/ Flickr Creative Commons
From the dense, green rainforests of Costa Rica, to the humid, lively Amazon of South America, to the hot deserts of Kenya, to the colorful, warm Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. These natural beauties have been sites to see for generations. People travel thousands of miles to see these natural wonders of the world. And it is these sorts of natural marvels that gave rise to the movement the world now knows as ecotourism.
Ecotourism is not a new concept. For decades, people have traveled around the world looking at the beauties that this planet has to offer. John Muir, for example, ventured into the Sierra Nevada mountain range and fell in love with it so much that he put it on himself to protect the land that would later become Yosemite National Park. Though the term wasn’t coined yet, Muir’s trip into Yosemite Valley is a form of ecotourism.
Photo courtesy of Chris M Morris/ Flickr Commons