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Canada’s Athabasca tar sands are a boon for Canada’s economy and represent a large chunk of the oil that America uses today, yet the process of extracting this oil is quite possibly the largest environmental disaster of all time. With the U.S. buying nearly 1 million barrels per day from Canada, you’d think the general public might know the implications, but the tar sands have stayed relatively under wraps. For those that don’t know, this process requires extracting millions of tons of bitumen and burning huge amounts of natural gas to gain small amounts of usable oil. This is not the simple oil wells you find in Arab countries, this is a massive energy user and land destroyer. These open pit mines are, in my opinion, some of the ugliest scars on earth that I have ever seen. Besides the loss of land, huge amounts of water are required to mine these substances. This water comes from a variety of sources including lakes, rivers and even ground water and this has even further reaching effects on the ecosystem. Why on Earth would anyone want to dig up tens of thousands of acres of pristine land? Greed.

With rising oil prices, this has become an economical practice and everyone nowadays seems to want the highest profit margin. While I like the fact that the United States is thinking of getting its energy from closer sources, this is a horrible idea and it baffles me that this is allowed. Tens of thousands of acres of pristine muskeg and Boreal forest have been lost including countless species of fish and animals that inhabited these areas. Why doesn’t Canada look into other sources of energy? Although not a great source environmentally, Canada could easily develop massive hydro power projects that would be carbon-free and not destroy the landscape. I understand its implications on fish species, but it surely is a better alternative to this open pit mining. Canada surely has ample wind at times and there could be development in that sector as well. If you look at the United States, we could easily power our nation on wind and solar, but that is expensive at this point. My point is that the reasoning behind destroying huge portions of Alberta for tar sands makes no sense in my view. There’s a plethora of more environmentally friendly alternatives for energy here and the biggest problem is finding out how to convince the public that we need to make a change in the way we get our energy.

Just a little over a year ago, on April 20th, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill began. What seemed to be a somewhat minor spill soon turned into the worst environmental disaster in American History. Incompetence, arrogance and a desire for oil all were contributing factors in the spill which has caused billions of dollars worth of damage and has killed tens of thousands of birds, dolphins, fish and countless other marine organisms. After three months and nearly 5 million barrels of oil had gushed into the all important Gulf, the well was finally capped, but not before permanent damage was done. The oil does not simply go away over time, instead it sticks around in the environment for decades regardless of its visibility. Not only did the oil effect the environment, but so did the chemicals that humans used to disperse it. In order for the sticky, gooey substance to not be seen, BP applied a toxic chemical Corexit which did even further environmental harm. This makes no sense to me! Why would BP introduce even more chemicals into the ocean when it has already dumped millions of gallons of oil into it? The main reason is for the ocean to look cleaner.

As we have constantly talked about, people sense risk and worry about it much more when they see the actual effects when compared to something invisible. Are people worried about the Gulf still? Yes. Do most people know or even think about the side effects of Corexit and oil that are rapidly building up in the oysters, shrimp and fish they eat? Probably not. Just like the readings from earlier in the week, humans don’t often know about all the chemicals they are ingesting as a side effect of these oil spills, industrial factories, etc. and it often comes back to haunt them in the long run. People don’t worry too much about small doses over long periods of time even though it may have a high risk of becoming ill from it. Will future generations feel the repercussions of these spills? Only time will tell, but I would have to say it seems likely when comparing the release of toxins here to other case studies we have read about in this class. The thinking behind some of these actions seems completely absurd to me, but not everyone shares the same viewpoints. Until our nation decides to completely get rid of the use of toxic chemicals and especially carbon powered electricity, our globe will continue to slowly die. The negative health effects of industry are obvious and while regulations have become much more strict, we are constantly facing the effects of past policies. If we don’t change our current actions, the Gulf will almost surely be destroyed by our greed and addiction to oil.

As we talk about introducing chemicals into our body, I found this interesting article about a potential cure to some forms of cancer. Whether this will come to fruition or not is to be seen in the future.

Just in case our children’s brains weren’t flooded with enough drama about oil shortages, a fear of foreigners and now a real nuclear disaster, big companies are now inundating them with video games full of destruction. In the popular game Fallout, China and the US go to nuclear war as gas runs out in the not so distant future, resulting in catastrophic nuclear warfare. Even as technology increases in its scope and power, so does humanity’s ability to destroy itself. In the nuclear fallout after the war, common people turn into murderers, robbers and military people who use up what scarce resources are left. While entertaining our youngsters, are games like this indoctrinating our youth with the idea that a nuclear war is something that is inevitable?

Surely, one would think the game would promote some form of salvation of the human race and the globe, but instead it leads to the complete destruction of nearly everything. If we are encouraging our youth to be spending large amounts of time away from reading books, being outside and learning about the real world while playing games like this, how will our society turn out down the road? Hopefully we can incorporate more learning into game play instead of simply slaughtering people and destroying everything around us. Instead of buying your children one of these games, get them a book, take them fishing or go camping and ensure that they learn about the wonders of nature.

In Don Delillo’s White Noise, Jack and Babette live lives built on fabrication and denial. Jack, one of the most prominent Hitler Studies professors in the world, lives under a false name, can’t speak German and lies to his wife and family about his lack of a fear of death. Babette on the other hand, who claims to have an extremely open and healthy relationship with her husband is caught taking Dylar; a trial drug believed to get rid of the fear of death after sleeping with her doctor. In both of their cases. the characters project a false image of themselves to cover up their fears which, in the end, leads to further mental and physical problems. In this novel, Delillo seems to be acknowledging the fact that our society is becoming increasingly disconnected with reality and is finding more enjoyment in falsified, copied versions of the world.

Throughout the course of the novel, reality and the artificial are blended. In modern society, people often take reality T.V. seriously while idolizing “Snookie” and “Pauly D” on Jersey Shore. Is that how most people from Jersey are? Of course not. These people have created fake personalities for the public to see so they can gain a profit for themselves. In all likelihood, they are going through the same identity crisis and feeling of guilt that Jack went through in his life as he hid behind his professional looking robe, name and title while feeling a deep sense of guilt and insecurity.Putting up a facade is only a sign of inner weakness, the likes of which will lead to further insecurity and problems.  The same train of thought applies for the idea of images being reality. In a sense, people have lost a sense of what is actual reality and what is just an image on a screen. These electronic images are more and more often replacing the actual real life experience of say being in the rain forests of Kauai feeling the heat and humidity, smelling the aromas and actually interacting with wildlife. Instead of an artificial experience brought to one’s home or a zoo, people need to experience the outdoors and real life. Once people reconnect with reality, like when Jack was shot, maybe they will come to their senses and realize that being completely open and truthful is the way to live a happy and fulfilling life.

In a day and age in which even the most trivial information is seemingly limitless on the internet, access to vital information about environmental health is being suppressed. Barbara Allen’s Environment, Health and Missing Information illustrates the irony of undone science and knowledge gaps supported by the government while the public living near potentially harmful sites is left in the dark to deal with potential health problems down the road. The question here is whether it is more important to protect the public from probable long term health effects due to their living conditions or is it best to protect against a single, acute event like a terrorist attack? Regardless, it is obvious that the government does not wish to fully open up access to the data about these factories, refineries and products that could save lives.

The problem here is that people are often much more worried about the potential of a catastrophic singular event even when the long term health effects of something that happens slowly are much more likely to have an effect. This is enforced even more so by the media as they pick up on and subsequently blow out of proportion, the fears of the people. The media sensationalizes the random events and avoids the long term events because people often can’t see what is actually happening. In effect, we as average citizens tend to not realize slow changes over time, whether it be a change in the environment, increased sickness or something else. When people don’t have access to the data about the negative health effects of pollutants, they might not even know there is anything wrong and that’s where “the right-to-know” is so important (661). It is essential that all data related to the health of the consumer and those affected by a plant be released in order that the correct decisions may be made saving both lives and money that may be otherwise spent on research that is covered up.

Instead of limiting investigations to specific questions, they should be inclusive, allowing for a full body of knowledge to be developed answering all questions. Having this type of information could help solve whether or not “there really (is) a higher incidence of cancer in people living near industry” (663). Although it is believed that places like cancer alley are directly affected by industry, there hasn’t been enough research on it and other places like it to fully determine the negative health effects on both humans and the environment of present day industrial practices.

In order to fully protect our environment, we need to have full access to all data available. This extra data will help scientists better understand the effects of industrial pollutants on people, as well as foe the public to understand the environment they are living in. If the data can directly correlate negative health effects to industrial locations like cancer alley, we could see a major change in the face of industry and see a positive change in the environment and the health of citizens across the globe.