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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Habitat Destruction

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A simple concept with big consequences, habitat destruction/degradation is what it sounds like, destruction or degradation of a habitat or ecosystem so that it is no longer habitable by the species that rely on it for survival. The result is a loss of biodiversity in the area, which may not seem like a big deal to some people, but when there is no where else for those animals to go, nowhere that is suitable for them to live, then what happens? Species loss occurs, populations decrease because animals that are displaced from their natural habitat tend to not live for very long, either because of competition or simply because they can no longer get their needs met by whatever has replaced their habitat or wherever they were displaced to.

How does it happen? Urban development and infrastructure are obvious and visible causes, we can literally see it happening right in front of our eyes. Expanding metropolitan areas, most notable sprawling suburbs, have taken over much of what was once dense forests in the Eastern United States, and desert in the west. Just think of the areas around LA or Las Vegas. In addition to urban development there is agricultural development. Land cleared for conversion into agricultural land, big industrial farms popping up in an effort to feed the growing number of people that inhabit this planet and live in those urban areas and can’t grow their own food. Deforestation is another big cause of habitat destruction. It can be the first step in urban development or agricultural land conversion, or it could be for logging or other industry. Pollution, air and water pollution and even acid rain can render a habitat unfit for a species survival, and the leading causes of pollution come from some of our use of pesticides and herbicides especially in the agricultural industry. A lesser known cause of habitat destruction is the introduction of alien species, also known as invasive species, which can alter their new habitat or out compete a native species, which ultimately results in species loss and alteration of the habitat.

In the natural world everything is interlinked. Ecosystems and species do not exist independently of each other. They interact with and depend on each other in extremely complex ways that not even scientists completely understand. The uncertainty is the scary part. We don’t know exactly how the loss of one organism, plant or animal or fungus or whatever, will effect other organisms or to what extent. Hell, we haven’t even identified all of the species that live on this beautiful sphere.

Unrelated to biodiversity and the ecological consequences of habitat destruction and degradation, there are also cultural, spiritual, recreational, and aesthetic affects. The most basic statement I can think of making is that nature, untouched and pristine nature, is beautiful. Much nicer to look at than concrete. Humans use the natural world for a variety of reasons; sports (skiing, hiking, water-skiing, mountain climbing, mountain biking, boating, running, etc.), spiritual practices, and some cultures are intimately connected with nature (people of the Amazon, Native American tribes, etc.). So, in a purely selfish, human interest point of view we should conserve nature because of our own interests. (I will probably expand on any or all of these topics in other, individual posts depending on my mood, current interests, or how pissed I am about something related to them).

There’s also a human health and well-being aspect to biodiversity preservation, which is dependent on habitat preservation because the biodiversity has to live somewhere, but that will be a different post.

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There is no denying that there are A LOT of people on this sphere we call Earth. And the number keeps growing. There are now over 7.1billion people living on this planet (there is at least one website that is dedicated to keep a running count of the world population).

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

The problem is we only have one planet. One planet that is suppose to supply our food, water, shelter, and whatever else we need; because, believe it or not, the milk and eggs don’t just appear magically on the shelves of Wal-Mart. 7 billion plus people are a lot of mouths to feed, not to mention housing, drinking water, clothing, etc.

The Earth is made up of complex, interconnected ecosystems, forming the biosphere. Ecosystems provide services to the organisms that call them home; providing food and water, regulating floods and other natural disasters, maintaining soil stability and fertility, nutrient cycling, climate regulation, and cultural services such as recreation and spiritual benefits. Many factors contribute to the degradation of ecosystems and there failure to provide the services that we, as organisms that interact with various ecosystems, rely on. Being human, and therefor being in the “dominant” position of life on earth, are not above nature, no matter what we’ve done to try and make it so. All of our efforts to make nature our bitch (sorry for my French) it could only last for so long before it came back to bite us in the ass; which it is doing, by the way.

The other thing about ecosystems, they have a carrying capacity. This means that they can only support the lives of so many organisms before things start to fall apart (usually involving mass die-offs because of a loss of resources until the ecosystem recovers enough to allow the population to grow again).

So, the question for everyone, especially policy makers, scientists, environmentalists, etc., is: what’s Earth’s carrying capacity? How many people can Earth support? And since humans aren’t the only organisms that call Earth home, how many animals in general?

Are we approaching carrying capacity? Or have we already surpassed it? Some say we’re past it, living on borrowed time thanks to modern technology that allows us to pull far more from the earth than we should be able to. Whether they are right or not, we are certainly approaching a critical point. Besides a population explosion, or perhaps in part because of it, we are facing additional damage to the systems we rely on for life. Habitat destruction and degradation, pollution of our air and water, climate change, food and water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity all directly affect human health and well-being.

So, what do we do? How can we create a world that can support the population?

Education is always important, really in any issue not just the environment. Knowledge really is power. Know the issues, know the problems, and know the challenges and the ability to work through them and come up with potential viable solutions become yours. Share your knowledge, teach others, be a rolling stone and gather some followers. There really is strength in numbers, a group can speak louder and do more than just one person, and besides, movements don’t gain followers on their own. Be passionate, be curious, be active in your cause, and do the research (Google is a wonderful invention). Live what you preach. Change how you do things, “reduce, reuse, recycle.” No, seriously, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 

Took a bit of hiatus, it was definitely not a vacation. A lot has happened. I stopped writing because I felt I had nothing to write about…and, frankly, I forgot about this entirely for a period. Life, got boring, then it got just a little depressing (and depressing, angsty posts would be rather annoying to read), and then life got crazy and shit hit the fan.

I moved to St. Louis in January. I have a lot of opinions about St. Louis, and few of them are favorable. Don’t take it personally if you’re from St. Louis or love St. Louis, it’s just me and my experiences here that have shaped my opinion. Some people just don’t mesh well with some towns, and apparently St. Louis and I don’t really mesh.

In the beginning I lived with two friends, who will remain nameless, and, while I knew that STL was not going to be a permanent home (I was 21 after all, and no one should decided where they will spend the rest of their life when they’re 21), I was okay with staying for the next 2-3 years. For a few months things were looking good, and I was satisfied with my life trajectory. Then, in May, it all went to hell. A roommate meeting, late at night, (because who wants to deal with that shit at a reasonable hour?) made it clear that I was no longer welcome in the apartment. An apartment, by the way, that I had qualified all three of us for by means of a co-signer. I was out, no second chance, no negotiating, and I had a week to find a new place to live. The last part pissed me off. I found an apartment but because I needed a co-signer I had to be off the old lease to sign a new lease and my ex-roommates refused to sign the paper that would let my co-signer off the hook. A war began, over texts, it was ugly and unnecessary, all they had to do was prove they could afford the apartment on their own or move to a two bedroom in the same complex.

The angry texts were followed by one or the other ex-roommate lying to me about signing the document, resulting in several trips back and forth from Chicago’s suburbs (where I was staying at my parents house) and St. Louis, lasted for nearly three weeks. I almost lost the apartment that I’d applied for when the hold date started rapidly approaching. There was also an incident where one of my ex-roommates went into the room that was still technically mine and removed all of my belongings without my permission (more angry texts). In the end I got the apartment and lost the only two friends I had in St. Louis. Not a great start to, well anything.

Moral to the story: never sign a lease with three twenty-something girls who all think they are far more mature than they actually are. In fact don’t sign a lease with anyone unless you know for a fact you can get out of it, and fast.

So, maybe my opinion of St. Louis is colored by my experience here.