Environmental Science has been an interest of mine since high school. I originally planned on studying environmental science upon graduation, but my life took a different turn when I went straight into the workforce and actually ended up in the construction industry. However, I chose this course in the hopes that not only would I fulfill my science credits, but I would take something away from it that I could apply to my everyday life, and I believe that I have come to have a deeper appreciation and desire to make postitive decisions to keep this planet and the environment that we live in as healthy as possible for future generations.
More than simply applying moral principles, actually learning about environmental processes will help keep me better informed and be able to assess motives and economic factors when I read or see reports from environmental impact naysayers. I will be better able to act and teach environmentally sound principles, and will hopefully be a positive example of how one can make environmentally sound decisions. Food My diet consists of meat, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.
I would say that I strive to follow the new FDA recommended guidelines of dividing up my plate – half vegetables & fruit, ? meat, and ? whole grains, but I definitely am not perfect. I am not a vegetarian, but I can appreciate the ideals that a vegetarian holds with regards to the humane treatment of animals and the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I actually took it upon myself to watch the documentary Food, Inc. while I was taking this course to learn about the “big business” of the food industry.
The most eye opening aspect while I watched the movie was learning that the growth of the fast food industry, driven by McDonald’s invention of the “assembly line” of fast food production, was really the catalyst to our modern food production methods, and how much control only a handful of companies really have on our entire agricultural industry. Honestly, it was an eye-opening experience to see how cattle, chicken, and pork are being subjected to horrid conditions prior to slaughter, fed hormones and antibiotics with their un-natural corn-based diet, and then processed in gigantic factories.
Because of this, I am seriously reconsidering how and what types of food I consume. I don’t think that I would eliminate meat from my diet, but I would like to take a closer look at free-range, grass-fed meat products. I realize that these products are more expensive and I would have to examine how I can try to fit them into my budget, but by supporting these types of products I can do my small part to take business away from the large processing facilities.
Also, I would like to learn more about how I can incorporate organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables in my diet. Giving my daughter a “fruit cup” with processed, packaged fruit, while convenient, is not the best decision from an ecological standpoint, nor will it teach her to make better decisions as she grows, so I will begin choosing products with little or no packaging as alternatives to the canned & processed foods that I have been feeding her for convenience sake.
Energy My family and I currently live in an apartment building with electricity as our only source of energy. We do not have any sources of renewable energy available to us and are completely reliant on our local utility company for electricity production, which primarily uses coal and natural gas, both non-renewable resources. The major appliances we use nearly every day are our oven, television, community washer & dryer, and, in the winter, our electric baseboard heating source.
We don’t have a lot of options available to us other than to save electricity by replacing incandescent with fluorescent bulbs, blocking drafty windows and doors as best as we can, and turning off appliances and lights when not in use. However, I am very familiar with the rebate and incentive programs offered by Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program that are available to homeowners for installing energy efficient products and renewable energy, as I worked for an electrical contractor who designed and installed photovoltaic systems for homeowners, as well as worked with businesses to conduct energy audits to replace ld-technology HID (High Intensity Discharge) lighting with fluorescent and LED industrial-type lighting. My current employer actually built a wind turbine in Minnestota this past year for our customer as a prototype for what could potentially be a revolutionary technology for wind energy production. The erected turbine utilizes new technology to capture wind energy in a steel funnel, just a bit smaller than a water tower, and concentrate it into a turbine that is located below ground.
This technology can potentially produce more energy than a conventional wind turbine with propellers. Once I am able to purchase a home, I believe that because of my construction background I can be proactive on ways that I can make my home energy efficient by installing different types of insulation, doors, windows, appliances, and mechanical and electrical systems in my home. Transportation I feel that I do not have a lot of choices when it comes to transportation, other than my own personal vehicle, to travel to and from work as well as perform errands.
I live about 10 miles from work, and I commute from the city where bus service is available, to a suburb west of the Milwaukee area, without bus service. Also, it is not feasible for me to use mass transit to travel to and from work because I have a daughter whom I have to drop off at a babysitters’ house every day. I feel that I can do a better job of walking to go to the grocery store for small trips, which I have done maybe once or twice in the 4 years I have lived here. My vehicle gets around 19-22 miles per gallon as I drive a small SUV/Crossover.
I know that my driving habits probably have the most negative effect on my carbon footprint, as I am one of those people who always “guns” it at a stoplight and frequently travels over the speed limit; this most likely lowers my fuel efficiency by 2-5 MPG. Because of this, I am probably contributing higher than average greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide and Nitrous Oxide to the atmosphere, which further magnifies the greenhouse effect by trapping the long-wave energy waves in the atmosphere.
If I were to change my driving habits and increase my bicycle and pedestrian activities, I would be able to decrease my contribution to air pollution and decrease the size of my carbon footprint. Waste The major components of my household trash are leftover food, disposable diapers, pet waste, and food containers and packaging. We do out separate plastic, glass, and paper from the trash for recycling. Our landlord does pay for a separate recycling dumpster where we can intermix all of the recyclables and is picked up for processing & separation at our local recycling facility.
Where I live, wastewater is managed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD). According to their website, www. mmsd. com[->0], the sewage and wastewater goes through a primary treatment in large settling tanks, and then passes through a secondary treatment which is a “breakdown (of) the majority of organic material that remains in the wastewater. ” Finally it is processed by a disinfection stage where disease-causing organisms are killed by chemicals. The water is then discharged to Lake Michigan at the Jones Island and South Shore Water Reclamation Facility.
Population According to the US Census Bureau website, www. quickfacts. census. gov[->1], the population of West Allis was estimated at 60,714 in 2011 and grew 0. 5% from 2010 to 2011. In Wisconsin overall, the estimated population is 5. 7 million with a growth of 0. 4% from 2010 to 2011. It seems as if the population growth has leveled off in the community, but it is becoming evident that there is a growing household income divide in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, with a large segment of the low income and poor populations being concentrated in certain areas of the city.
This is causing specific areas of blight and a lack of development / new businesses which further depreciates the economic value of these locations. Because of this businesses do not want to develop in these areas, and without businesses there is a lack of jobs which further deepens the cycle of poverty. I don’t think that there is an issue in the Milwaukee Metropolitan area with regards to population control; if anything, the city and suburbs should be focused on development and retaining tax-paying residents and business owners within the county instead of forcing them to leave because of the high taxes and crime levels.
Local Ecosystem According to the website, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center of the U. S. Geological Survey (http://www. npwrc. usgs. gov/) the regional landscape of Southeastern Wisconsin is dominated by “sugar maple-basswood forest” with lakes and streams such as the Rock, Crawfish, Beaverdam, and Fox Rivers“act(ing) as fire barriers. ” It is also noted that much of this area is “intensely farmed, but many of the wetlands remain dominated by native vegetation. ” Milwaukee County is bordered by Lake Michigan on the east, with the Milwaukee River running through the city and depositing into the Lake.
Much of the metropolitan area is dominated by urban development. Extending out from the city, there are areas of suburban sprawl interspersed with areas of agricultural development. There is not a lot of land in its natural state; one must travel outside of S. E. Wisconsin to reach relatively untouched areas. According to the Wisconsin DNR (www. dnr. wi. gov[->2]), our state is “blessed with abundant biodiversity” due to our proximity to the “junction of the eastern deciduous forest, northern boreal forest, and temperate grasslands. The DNR also notes that there are “approximately 1,800 species of native plans and 657 species of native vertebrates” identified in the state. Environmental Problems In the DNR’s publication entitled Wisconsin’s Biodiversity as a Management Issue, the three main threats to Wisconsin’s biodiversity are ecological simplification, fragmentation, and pollution. Environmental simplification is characterized by a loss of habitat, loss of species, and disruption of chemical and physical processes by pollution.
Fragmentation is defined by the breaking apart of ecosystems by human interference, such as the creation of urban or agricultural areas from a natural forest or prairie. Both of these situations cause loss of genetic diversity and reduced populations of species. Environmental pollution is also a major concern, especially water pollution from both industrial sources and agricultural runoff. After doing some research on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website, I did find a Superfund site that is located within Milwaukee County called the Moss-American site.
It is located in the northwestern section of the City of Milwaukee, and was the site of a wood treating operation that heavily used creosote in its production facilities from 1921 to 1976. The main concerns about the presence of creosote in that area is that the waste contains a major source of contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The wastes were discharged to settling ponds which then discharged into the Little Menomonee River.
The main focus of the project was to remediate “groundwater aquifer to the Little Menomonee River surface water or sediment and to remove contaminants from groundwater such that concentrations don’t exceed applicable State groundwater standards. ” They built a Groundwater Treatment System consisting of a funnel and a gate to capture groundwater flow and treat the contaminants prior to discharge into the aquifer. Analysis of the project over an extended time period resulted in suggestions by the EPA to optimize performance and to “fill in data gaps. ” Environmental Hazards
As far as risks that Southeastern Wisconsin is vulnerable to, the most common weather phenomenon is tornadoes during late spring through early fall, although I have never had personal experience with one. It appears that our risks of floods and earthquakes is relatively low, but we have been recently experienced a drought last summer, causing damage to many of the local agricultural crops. The City of Milwaukee was built up through industrialization, including foundries and manufacturing facilities which were highly productive during the boom era of industrialization.
Although there are highly industrialized areas in the city, according to the Milwaukee Water Works web site, Milwaukee has one of the highest quality drinking water supplies in the United States. In 2011, there was no record of the presence of lead in the water, per their consumer confidence report. (http://city. milwaukee. gov/ImageLibrary/Groups/WaterWorks/files/11_ConsumerConfidenceRptEnglis. pdf) Overall air quality was reported at 4. 2 on a scale of 10, with 10 being the highest potential air quality per the Home Facts website (www. homefacts. com[->3]). The ozone levels are somewhere in the middle, with a score of 5. . Our sulfur dioxide levels are above average, with a score of 6. 2, but our nitrogen oxide levels could use improvement with a record of 3. 6. Awareness I expect that as my generation moves into its prime and our parents’ generation moves to retirement, we will be more aware of the environmental issues that we face and are poised to face the challenges of improving our conditions head on. I think that the majority of us do believe that action needs to take place now, and that we are on the brink of major technological and ideological advances, similar to the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
I think that our dependence on oil definitely needs to be solved within my lifetime, especially as we are placing more demand on this dwindling resource as countries such as China and India are rapidly developing. As a parent, I believe it is important to teach my child by example that making environmentally sound choices is a necessity to preserve this planet for future generations. It is my responsibility as an inhabitant to take action to recycle, reduce, and reuse, plant a garden, walk instead of drive, and foster general awareness of the ecosystems around us so that she can act similarly as well as she grows and becomes a parent herself.