Dr. Laura Johnson
Amazon Prime and the Impact of Two-Day Shipping
It’s that time of the year again. It’s the holidays where we plan to sit down with family, eat a filling dinner, and exchange a bunch of gifts. However, you just realized that you forgot to order that toy online for your little cousin Timmy and Christmas is only a few days away. Don’t worry though you’re in luck because you only need two days. So, you log onto some site like Amazon, you put the item in your cart and place the order. Your job is done and all you must do is wrap it when it gets to your home. We’re a creature that likes immediate gratification, such as when you push the crosswalk button and hope that it will change the light immediately. The same thing applies to clicking the order button. We don’t want to have to wait that whole week, we want that four-day delivery, but why stop there why not two- or one-day delivery. With a service such as Amazon prime it makes all your shopping and shipping problems things of the past. I believe there is nothing wrong with wanting to be able to get your packages in two days, because in all honesty it is a nice luxury to have. The only issue that I find is what happens in the process for your package to get to you. The process of two-day shipping has a toll on the environment because of all the driving and flying and other tools it takes to get to you. It also causes a toll on the people that are required to get your package to you, especially during this season of high demand.
It wasn’t so long ago when I remember quite a lot of shopping was done in stores. It wasn’t until 2005 that Amazon released their “Amazon Prime”. Before it has provided everything that it does now such as video streaming, music, books, etcetera, it provided free two-day shipping. This two-day shipping started out in the US at first and in 2007 is when they made the jump to the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. Since then Amazon has spread its horizons expanding to a total of 17 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia as of 2019. Before 2019 Amazon started having more bonuses for Amazon prime members. If the wait of two-day shipping has become too much to bear it was in 2015 where for certain metropolitan areas Amazon started to offer one day delivery. In 2016 they continued to expand the horizon of one day delivery offering it in a total of 27 metropolitan areas. In 2019 one-day shipping is providing all it can with one-day shipping on being available on over 10 million items. As well in Amazon reports of 2016 it says that nearly half of all U.S. households have a membership of Amazon prime. I believe that now it has probably grown and half if not more U.S. households have Amazon prime. Amazon prime is now much more than just a luxury but a standard commodity for most households.
Lens / Framework 1:
When we’re looking at the environmental impact that quick shipping causes it adds lots of CO2 emissions to our atmosphere. We can see from graphs that with the rise of CO2 within our atmosphere we also see a trend of increased global average temp as well as sea level rise. In the article, The Role of International Policy in Mitigating Global Shipping Emissions, authors James Corbett, and James Winebrake state, “Each freight mode carries the cargo for part of the distance; for most international trade, no single mode can successfully deliver door-to-door” (Corbett & Winebrake, 144). To receive any item, it takes a lot of modes of transportation to get from the factory to your home. There are statistics that have shown that when someone delivers your package it can be a bit less environmentally damaging in terms of emissions when compared to you driving to the store. We usually will see this in the best-case scenarios though with optimized routes, and when you have all the packages in an area ready. When it’s not optimized it can emit more fuels, and it is not optimized with prime only quickened. For example in the news article The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime’s Free, Fast Shipping, by Nicole Nguyen she explains that with two-day, one-day, and even two hour shipping “[Amazon] increasingly relies on hundreds of thousands of independent contractors with passenger cars to make those deliveries” (Nguyen). When left to independent contractors it mostly goes through regular people in standard passenger cars who are making these deliveries. A standard car of course has standard emissions, but often these cars aren’t filled with packages like other delivery companies. As well we see that these independent cars must return to the main hub to get more packages once they deliver the first ones, causing them to go back and forth often. Another issue that we see is that with things needing to be delivered within two days is that it requires a lot of modes of transports including planes if need be. In the article Trade Costs, CO2, and the Environment author Joseph S. Shapiro states, “Airplanes emit nearly 100 times as much CO2 as ships do to move one ton-km” (Shapiro, 234). When consumers are selecting their two day shipping Amazon has a guarantee to get it there in two days, preferably they’d like to use ground shipping because of its cheaper cost, but planes have to be used when getting shipment from far distances in the U.S or even from other countries.
Lens / Framework 2:
All these things point towards a viewing Amazon in a political economy perspective. The textbook Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction explains this, “In a modern economy very few people own their own business and equipment, and very few have access to raw materials like oil or iron” (Robbins, 101). Many people in this world don’t have the means of production so one of the only things that people can do is provide their labor. Even though there is a lot of automation at the Amazon warehouses it does come down to the people to be able to get you your package. Without providing the workers better wages or better working conditions I do believe that a strike of sorts would be possible from the Amazon workers.
When it comes to getting your package, it must pass through the hands of workers of the company and many other delivery services most of the time. It’s often that the people who handle your package are working with long hours and poor conditions that almost seem like a dystopian world. One example of the dehumanizing conditions comes from the article Surviving the Amazon, by Nichole Gracely. She says, “Everything had a barcode – even me”. (81) This is just the start of the conditions in Amazon, it really dehumanizes a worker when they are labeled by a barcode necklace which is how they keep track of you, and your work progress. Along with the barcode it’s printed on a white ID badge, the white signifies you’re a temp worker and one thing they tempt you with to work harder is a blue ID badge showing permanent worker status. It’s a terrible stunt to get the workers of Amazon to almost be competing against one another to be able to get this job. To add on to the idea of the badge our other examples comes from the article, Stop Treating Us Like Dogs! Workers Organizing Resistance at Amazon in Poland, by Jake Immanuel Ness, talking about the Amazon warehouse conditions in Poland. Ness says, “workers log into a system that monitors each workers performance, and the data is used to set their obligatory work rates, such as the demand of the number of products scanned per hour”.( Ness, 98) This is unfair because unfortunately the demand of packages scanned doesn’t compare to the actual workload since scanning packages is only one part of the process that actually gets logged. When they aren’t scanning the system logs it in as “time off task,” and when they accumulate enough time off task it logs in as taking an extra break. Enough of these extra breaks and it’s possible for a worker to be fired, simply because they were too slow to keep up with Amazon’s requirements.
If one is able to keep up with the high demand that it takes to work at Amazon with the long and constant hours on you might end up getting sick or getting some other workplace injury and you’ll need some time off. That all sounds fine, but not when you hear what happens when you get sick leave such as, “To bring down the sickness rate, Amazon Poland hired a company in Spring 2017 which checks whether workers are at home during sick leave” (Ness, 99). This right here is without a doubt invasion of privacy. To call in sick and to have to have someone check that you’re home almost makes it feel that they don’t believe you’re responsible enough. It’s like when you were in elementary school and the school had to get a note or call from your parents if you were sick. It’s especially terrible that it’s possible to lose your job for not being home too, like if you had to call in sick to get important things besides work done for that day. Another complaint is the lack of openness in the schedule when the holidays come around. One ex worker says, “Peak season officially started in November and, during this ‘blackout’ period any absence was inexcusable. Doctor’s notes were not accepted” (Gracely, 81). “Blackout” periods are something that occurs in all of retail, where you can’t ask for days off since more workers are needed for the holidays. However, to not be allowed sick days and get your schedule changed around to meet Amazon’s needs is completely unjust to workers. It shows that Amazon values the businesses among all else and that workers are replaceable.
Living in a country that we are in it’s easy to get lost in all the luxuries that we are accustomed to. Having easy access to get something that you want delivered to your house with just the click of a button or even by using your voice now is so convenient why would you not do it? I hope that I have clearly provided some reasons to think twice when you put in your online orders through Amazon. There are many other websites where you can buy what you want and maybe you’ll have to wait a little longer to get your package, but how much of a rush is it to get your package in all honesty? Until Amazon I feel starts to provide a better work environment for all of its employees and they move to greener options for their shipping, I suggest that you try and find other companies that have standard shipping or take the bus to the mall to get your Christmas gifts.
By: Olivia Dorenkamp
We see chopsticks being used all over the world in millions of restaurants mostly Asian cuisines that use wooden disposable chopsticks. Those chopsticks that are thrown away cause a huge threat to our environment. Not all disposable chopsticks present a hazard but most do. Many different types of chopsticks are made from wood, plastics, even bamboo that when thrown away is considered unsustainable. Millions of mature trees are cut just to have those single-use chopsticks that end up in the trash. ”According to a 2008 United Nations report, 10,800 square miles of Asian forest are disappearing each year, a trend that must be arrested to fight climate change, given the vital role trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide” (Nuwer). Disposable Wooden Chopsticks are not only made of wood but some contain industrial chemicals that get into our bodies and when thrown away it creates chemical runoff that leads back into our bodies. Wooden chopsticks require a whitening process where they are dipped in sulfur, leading to the sulfur getting into the pores of the wood. When the chopsticks are heated the sulfur chemicals get released with heat ending up in places we don’t want them. With the health risks and manufacturing of these disposable chopsticks it posies a terrible threat to our environment and future generations.
Chopsticks are considered to be pretty ancient they have been around since 1200 B.C in Asian continents(Butler). In the beginning, Japanese chopsticks were viewed as precious and only used for religious practices. In China, it is said that confusion played a huge role in the rise of chopsticks. The Chinese philosopher mentioned that anything sharp on the table while eating will remind people of slaughterhouse violence. Chopsticks were first used to cook and then eventually turned into an eating utensil. Having ivory, jade, coral brass or agate versions of chopsticks you were considered privileged. This was because wealthier people were able to afford those expensive materials. There are many different chopstick styles used for a specific purpose when eating sweets, meals, cooking, and even funerals. In 1878 in Japan is when and where the first disposable chopsticks were made. (Butler) To this day we are seeing disposable chopsticks across the globe that have a life cycle of baggage deteriorating ourselves and our home. Once we break the two wooden pieces we are committed and are apart of the disposable chopstick’s life cycle. These chopsticks already take a lot to be made by taking land for manufacturing and also making. The beginning of the life cycle starts within a single mature tree that gets taken of its life for the benefit of one meal. Then these toxic chemical chopsticks are being used by consumers of some restaurants who offer them. After the use, they are thrown away and their chemicals end up in our bodies and in our soil. This does not have to be the case if we use reusable chopsticks.
Lens framework 1: Social Construction of Nature
In the text-book ‘Environment and Society’ we have learned that deforestation is an abrupt action caused by corporations who are carefree about sustainability. Trees are what give us oxygen, clean our soils, produce shelter so how could we not care for them? The main environmental cause of disposable chopsticks is deforestation. We are seeing deforestation happening all over the world for a long term sacrifice for a short term gain. “At 4,000 chopsticks per tree, that's roughly 80 billion chopsticks per year -- far more than the 57 billion estimated by the country's national forest bureau’ (Dewey). China is where most of the manufacturing is occurring with wood products. ‘China and Japan are the world’s biggest producers and consumers of disposable chopsticks, with an annual rate of 80 billion for China alone. This requires 200 million trees a year” (Song). This leads to other problems, deforestation not only harms mature trees but it also affects and destroys ecosystems, killing most of the biodiversity in that area. During the time disposable chopsticks started manufacturing is when major deforestation started happening all over Asia. Wooden or bamboo chopsticks are more accessible and inexpensive so they get used more. This caught the government's attention that this is unsustainable with the amount of deforestation required.” In 2007, China imposed a tax on wooden chopsticks with the goal of helping the environment” (Nuwer). However, the increase of disposable chopsticks could have gone up in recent years. Deforestation affects climate change on a large scale, trees are our insurance (Bennett).
Lens framework 2: Risks and Hazards
Usually, when getting take out at Asian restaurants we pick up disposable chopsticks to eat at home and then throw them away after eating. However, when sitting down at an Asian restaurant they usually have plastic reusable chopsticks for you. Why is this? Well, disposable chopsticks are considered to be easier as they are known as single-use chopsticks. What are the risks of using disposable chopsticks? Wooden chopsticks cannot be washed and reused due to the chemical called sulfur dioxide that is released when they get hot for example when being used to cook, eat hot foods, or like being washed. Most chopsticks are used when eating a hot bowl of pho when the sulfur is transparent so consumers are unaware. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas that forms when sulfur is burned in the air. In addition to that, when consumed it can cause a lot of health risks. “In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems” ( Rodgers ). If the sulfur is released and consumed it can cause major health problems for an individual that leads to trouble breathing.
When these easily thrown away disposable chopsticks end up in the trash and the streets of our neighborhoods they create a chemical runoff. This runoff affects our whole environment due to the single use of disposable chopsticks. The toxic chemicals get into our streets by naturally occurring processes. With these naturally occurring processes, it can affect our soil where we get most of our food and destroy drinking water. So it is understandable and easy to simply just throw them away without knowing how much impact they have on the environment not to mention all the trees being used.
Looking at the overall manufacturing and disposing of the product, there can be multiple effects on the environment. Chopsticks are not only utensils they hold a lot of baggage, baggage that fills the world with health risks and environmental problems. We are seeing deforestation happening leading to wildlife and global warming, chemicals leading in our bodies and streets, for the cost of one meal. It’s important to use reusable chopsticks and understand the effects of disposable chopsticks. This one product is affecting our entire planet and takes part in global warming that affects every living thing on Earth and it must be stopped. Many industries are hurting the environment and the disposable chopstick industry is one of them. No one would have anticipated the use of chopsticks having so much background in essentially hurting the environment. So what can we do? A small difference can make a large effect and we can make one if we start by buying reusable chopsticks.
Bennett,lauren. ‘Deforestation and Climate Change’Climate Institute, 18 April. 2017, http://climate.org/deforestation-and-climate-change/
Butler, S. (2019). A Brief History of Chopsticks. [online] HISTORY. Available at: https://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-chopsticks [Accessed 17 Dec. 2019].
Dewey , caitlin. ‘China's disposable chopstick addiction is destroying its forests’The Washington Post,WP Company, 29 April. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/03/14/chinas-disposable-chopstick-addiction-is-destroying-its-forests/
Nuwer, Rachel. “Disposable Chopsticks Strip Asian Forests.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Oct. 2011, https://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/24/disposable-chopsticks-strip-asian-forests/.
Rodgers , greg. “Watch Out: Those Disposable Chopsticks May Be Poisonous!”TripSavvy, TripSavvy, 08 Jan. 2019, https://www.tripsavvy.com/disposable-chopsticks-may-be-poisonous-3976797
Song, Juliet. ‘5 Reasons Not to Use Disposable Chinese-Made Chopsticks”www.theepochtimes.com, 05 Feb. 2016, https://www.theepochtimes.com/5-reasons-not-to-use-disposable-chinese-made-chopsticks_1958401.html
By Diego Juarez
When Apple’s AirPods first came out in 2016, it seemed as though it would be a failed project on Apple’s part. They were ridiculed all over the internet and its spawned thousands and thousands of memes, implying that they’d all get lost or that some sort of “string device” would be needed for them. Surprisingly, in the present day it seems that AirPods have not suffered any ill effects from all the ridicule, as it’s quickly become a status symbol and a sign of wealth. In fact, it almost seems as if jokes regarding AirPods and their price being reserved for the wealthy elite made them coveted by more people overall, especially when there are more expensive wireless headphones on the market that haven’t received the same attention. Chrissy Teigen came under fire after tweeting that “[her] mom treats her air pods like they’re disposable. Buys a few a month. She says they would be easier to not lose if they had… a cord.” (Teigen) This tweet was treated as tone deaf and it brought up discussion on wealth inequality and how rich individuals are out of touch with the reality many people face.
2. A Short History of AirPods
Despite the AirPods debut in December 2016, the first mention of them can be traced back to 2011. On March 29, 2011, Jorge S. Fino filed a patent for earphones that could work without wires. While Fino was listed on many Apple patents, it seemed as though wireless headphones would never be a reality for Apple due to Steve Job’s stance on Bluetooth which he had mentioned as early as 2005. He reportedly told the media that “There are quality issues – the bandwidth isn’t high enough, and even if it does get there someday, people don’t want to recharge their headphones.” (Jobs) While these may have been seen as valid concerns in 2005, advancements in technology have made Bluetooth bandwidth strength a non-issue, and in regard to charging; it seems that people have simply gotten used to charging so many devices, that adding one more to the list is acceptable. After the trademark and sufficient reasoning to introduce wireless headphones, Apple decided that they would have to do one more thing before announcing AirPods. They announced with the launch of the iPhone 7 that they had removed the headphone jack on iPhones, and it was all tech enthusiasts could talk about for weeks. After this, they released AirPods and were met with mixed responses, but the tune has changed, and Apple has sold millions of AirPods since. Including the new AirPods Pro, its estimated that Apple has sold over 3 million AirPods over the 2019 Black Friday weekend alone.
3. Lens/Framework 1: Environmental Ethics
In the textbook we’ve learned that environmental ethics consists of competing ethical systems regarding humans and their treatment of non-human nature. We usually tend to look at nature from an anthropocentric view, and it’s shown not only in the materials used to make AirPods, but in the design itself. Each pair of AirPods comes with three Lithium batteries, one in each pod and one in the charging case. The process of getting Lithium is difficult in itself, and it uses up a vast amount of resources. Due to recent efforts to clean up the planet, including China’s push towards more electric vehicles in 2015, the demand for lithium has skyrocketed and the price of it has doubled in just two years. While this is all in effort to use less fossil fuels, the process of getting Lithium has become an issue of its own. For example, Wired UK states that “in Chile’s Salar de Atacama, mining activities consumed 65 per cent of the region’s water. That is having a big impact on local farmers – who grow quinoa and herd llamas – in an area where some communities already have to get water driven in from elsewhere.” (Katwala) In addition to that, Lithium mining includes a process where the minerals are pumped to the surface and left to evaporate so the remaining Lithium can be mined. Unfortunately, this means that toxic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid can make their way into a region’s water supply. This is only one aspect of the materials used within AirPods, and the worst is that it can’t even be replaced. AirPods are glued together, so when it stops working, they must be thrown out. Since Apple has decided to make these Lithium batteries impossible to remove, it unfortunately isn’t as simple as throwing them in the trash. The product itself becomes next to impossible to safely and profitably recycle. This leads to further issues because it disincentivizes the recycling of materials, it simply isn’t worth taking apart a gadget when it has the potential to blow up if one isn’t careful enough.
4. Lens/Framework 2: Political Economy
When it comes to things like AirPods, its effects are unfortunately not limited to the wealthy. Electronics are the product of labor from countless people, all the way from the mining of the materials, to the assembly of the products, and even to the product’s inevitable disposal. This means that not only are people affected globally by the production of these products as they become commodities, but it means that the poorest nations end up taking the brunt of all its negative effects. From the very beginning of the process we know that poorer nations suffer for our technology. For years Apple’s source of cobalt came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it was only after several reports of child labor, worker injuries, and worker deaths that Apple stopped sourcing materials from the DRC specifically. Likewise, Luxshare and Investec are the companies responsible for the assembly of AirPods and they are based in China and Taiwan, respectively. Companies like these are known for employing masses of people and paying them the smallest amount they can. In fact, one of Apple’s manufacturers, Foxconn, was accused by the Chinese Labor Watch in September of 2019 for “a litany of labor violations, including withholding bonus payments, rolling back safety training and employing more temporary workers than China’s laws allow.” (Nikkei Asian Review) Even at the end of its life, the AirPods pose issues for people, though not necessarily the people who can purchase them. Due to its design that includes a glued-in lithium ion battery, workers at recycling plants must perform the risky task of separating the battery from the plastic. It unfortunately seems as though AirPods were designed to eventually be discarded, but they weren’t designed to be safely discarded.
When it comes to the environment-society relationship we have, it’s disheartening to see that even as motivations for products change, the method always consists of exploiting resources, from minerals to manual labor, with no regard for the treatment of humans or the sustainability of the Earth. AirPods perfectly exemplify this form of thought, because it exhausts plenty of resources in order to be a little bit more convenient than conventional earbuds, while bringing in a huge profit margin for Apple and being discarded in less than two years. The lithium batteries alone show how something could be meant to help, like using less fossil fuels, while just taking from another aspect of the Earth. It’s interesting to think that people think they could save the Earth by simply exploiting its resources from somewhere else instead of trying to solve the issue at hand.
Ahlgrim, Callie. “Chrissy Teigen Apologizes for 'Super Tone Deaf and Icky' Comments about Her Mom Treating $159 AirPods as 'Disposable'.” Insider, Insider, 14 Nov. 2019, https://www.insider.com/chrissy-teigen-apologized-for-tone-deaf-disposable-airpods-joke-2019-11.
Albergotti, Reed. “Apple Accused of Worker Violations in Chinese Factories.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 9 Sept. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/09/09/apple-accused-worker-violations-chinese-factories-by-labor-rights-group/.
“Apple Supplier Luxshare Plans Camera Module IPO as next Leap.” Nikkei Asian Review, Nikkei Asian Review, 17 Aug. 2018, https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Apple-supplier-Luxshare-plans-camera-module-IPO-as-next-leap.
Gallagher, William. “The Surprisingly Long History of the Apple AirPods.” AppleInsider, 7 Sept. 2018, https://appleinsider.com/articles/18/09/07/the-surprisingly-long-history-of-the-apple-airpods.
Haskins, Caroline. “AirPods Are a Tragedy.” Vice, 6 May 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/neaz3d/airpods-are-a-tragedy.
Katwala, Amit. “The Spiralling Environmental Cost of Our Lithium Battery Addiction.” WIRED, WIRED UK, 3 Aug. 2018, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/lithium-batteries-environment-impact.
Mayo, Benjamin. “Analyst Estimates Apple Sold 3 Million AirPods over Black Friday / Cyber Monday Weekend.” 9to5Mac, 2 Dec. 2019, https://ww.9to5mac.com/2019/12/02/apple-airpods-pro-big-hit-black-friday-cyber-monday/.
Wiens, Kyle. “Try to Dissect Apple's New AirPods and You'll Shed Blood.” Wired, Conde Nast, 3 June 2017, https://www.wired.com/2016/12/recycle-apple-airpods/.
Palm Oil-By Courtney Ramos
An emphasis on the extinction Orangutans
Sumatran orangutans are only found in in Indonesia, and Bornean orangutans are only found in Indonesia and Malaysia. These countries are also the biggest producers and exporters of palm oil. The beloved orangutan is intelligent, strong, and live a semi-solitary life in the trees. “Like all great apes, orangutans have long lifetimes and low reproductive rates which makes it difficult for them to recover when large numbers are killed” (1970). The biggest threat to orangutans is illegal logging of the tropical rainforest for palm cultivation. The Bornean and Sumatran orangutan are both listed as Endangered and Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). “It is estimated that between 1,000 to 5,000 orangutans are killed each year in oil palm” (Sataksig 2018). “Deforestation, largely for palm oil in Indonesia has contributed to 3,000 orangutan deaths. At this current rate of destruction, it's predicted orangutans will face complete extinction by 2050” (FOR THE WILD, 2019). Development for palm production annihilates wildlife population and also displaces indigenous people. Not to mention exploitation of workers and child labor. The loss of forests that store carbon contributes to climate change causing up to three times the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels. “The use of bribery or armed force by logging companies is commonly reported” (1970). Green washing palm oil as EU Renewable Directive has also help accelerates destruction. Palm oil monoculture has destroyed precious dense ecosystems; environmental justice is critical.
A Brief History of Palm Oil
The African oil and fruit palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) are a versatile oil and has been utilized for thousands of years; it is native to Africa and was brought to South-East Asia. Its oil is derived from the mesocarp of the fruit. In the last 50 years there has been a remarkable expansion in cultivation and is now the world’s leading source of vegetable oil. Palm oil products are used in nearly everything’ most popular consumer products ranging from cereal, cosmetics, to cleaning products, and biodiesel. It is desired for products because it increases the consistency, and acts as an occlusive agent (keeping your ice cream and lipstick the perfect texture). It also is resistant to oxidation therefore it gives products a longer shelf life. Palm oil is the second most demanded oil after petroleum used in the world it’s also stable at high temperatures, colorless and odorless. “Indonesia and Malaysia produce and export 85% of palm oil making these countries the world's largest producers” (FOR THE WILD,2019). Palm oil is extremely efficient, “35% of all vegetable oil on less than 10% of the land allocated to oil crops. Alternatives like soybean or coconut oil would need between four and ten times more land to produce the same amount. This would just shift the problem to other parts of the world, threatening other people and wildlife” (Ending deforestation for palm oil, 2019). Although, Palm Oil is an incredible product, and still less of a threat than other hypothetical oil cultivation; I believe the problem lies in mass production and globalization.
Lens/Approach 1: Environmental Justice
Almost all of Orangutan habitat has disappeared because of the heightened demand and its low prices for palm oil, point to continued growth in production and cropland area in the near future. “Production is centered in Indonesia and Malaysia because they are the most cost-efficient for setting up and running oil palm plantations: wages and production costs are low and ideal ago-climatic factors deliver high per-hectare (ha) yields” (Clay 2004; Basiron 2007). The orangutan is a charismatic, arboreal primate that depends on the lowland rain forests and peat forests of Borneo and Sumatra. Unfortunately, these lands are claimed for establishing oil palm plantations. Orangutans are tree-dwellers and depend on the canopies of trees where they find food playing an important role for the health of the rain forest climbing from branch to branch dispersing seeds. This makes them responsible for maintaining the ecosystem. They are not knuckle walkers, but are forced to the ground after the forest is demolished leaving them vulnerable and starving. Even worse, they are a protected endangered species yet they are hardly protected at all. They are shot as agricultural pests, and are often poached in the illegal pet trade.
Lens/Approach 2: political economy
Capitalist agriculture expansion is one of the biggest problems for the environment. Deforestation is a symptom of inevitable crises in capitalist agriculture. Globalization is the driver for illegal logging and palm oil cultivation. Production not only affects wildlife but it also affects the people who live there. These forests provide livelihoods to people, many of whom have suffered displacement at the hands of dishonest palm oil companies. These companies find loopholes to increase production ignoring social responsibility to the rights of the local communities and wildlife. It’s sad that we live in a time that we can’t trust that so called, “legitimate” organizations are for the best interest of the planet. For example, The RSPO (Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil), which the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) helped create, charges companies ranging from growers of palm oil to cosmetic brands a fee in order to make a claim that, “sustainable palm oil” is being produced and used. This is controversial because the palm oil value chain has grown and in the hands of a few private sectors. It’s also sad that climate change and environmentalism have been hijacked for a means of “Eco-imperialism”. The demand for sustainability measures pressures corporations and growers to do whatever they have to keep making money. “By setting up "round tables" of industrialists on strategic commodities such as palm oil, timber, sugar, soy, bio fuels and cocoa, WWF International has become a political power that is too close to industry and in danger of becoming reliant on corporate money” (Vidal, 2014). You can bet that money collected for orangutan conservation campaigns was not utilized for their best interest. Essentially, the WWF has sold its soul to corporations and is now helping to “green wash” operations.
Unless bold and courageous action is taken now, we would have stood by and watched one of our closest relatives go extinct. “There are over 200 names for palm oil and ingredients derived from palm oil. In 2014 the European Union made palm oil labeling compulsory, but in the United States, it is legal, and common for companies to use the term “vegetable oil” when they really mean palm oil. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any products that have ingredients with the word “palm” in it, i.e. palmitoyl, palmate, palm kernel etc. Another trick you can use is by looking at a product’s saturated fat content, if it makes up more than 40% of its total fat content, it will almost always contain palm oil.” Reluctant to any label claiming palm oil to be sustainable is not true. Conservationists doing the actual studies will tell you that it’s not possible, there is no such thing as sustainable palm oil. “Less than 7% of the total production of palm oil is certified sustainable” (FOR THE WILD, 2019). This is another reminder how everything we do matters and is interconnected. Food wise, it is best to consume locally to help reduce environmental impact. The take away from this paper is to be more aware of what we are doing and what we consume, especially palm oil. Ways to participate in facilitating change is to write officials in both cabinets of Malaysia and Indonesia of our global concern for wildlife. If you learn that a product company is not being transparent of their ingredients, let them know your disgust of palm oil in the product. There also needs to be strengthening of initiatives of protection and security of the forests and wildlife including surveillance and legitimate programs. I believe in what Philosopher Arne Naess who coined “deep ecology” that “once an individual realizes that he or she is not a narrow-enclosed self and properly identifies with all of nature, anthropocentric thought or action becomes-simply -illogical” (Robbins, Hintz, & Moore 2014).
Geography 300: Global Awareness
Object of Concern Paper: Vaseline
It’s a cold windy day, and your skin and lips are getting chapped by the harsh winter weather. Many people might think to use lotion and chapstick. However, Vaseline is both of those in one. In fact Vaseline helps heal wounds, burns and chafed skin. Vaseline doesn’t actually add moisture to your skin it just seals in the existing moisture. It is also commonly used as a lubricant. It is also often used as a makeup remover as it dissolves most types of makeup gently and is safe to use around your eyes. Many people use Vaseline to style their eyebrows. It is commonly used as a chapstick as they have flavors such as Rosy Lips, cocoa butter and creme brulee for use on the lips. Vaseline is even safe and recommended for people with skin conditions such as Rosacea and Psoriasis and helps with aging. (Watson and Cobb, 2019) Beyond skincare uses, Vaseline can also be used to shine leather shoes, remove lipstick stains, remove gum from surfaces, lubricate old or rusty hinges, protect chicken combs from frostbite, stop fungal growth on turtle shells, prevent corrosion in car batteries, control split ends and moisturize dog paws. (Ganninger, 2014)
What are the drawbacks to using Vaseline on your skin? For starters, Vaseline does not actually moisturize your skin or infuse it with anything. It simply locks in what your skin already has. That being said, it can also lock in dirt and oils present your skin if you don’t apply it to clean skin. It is also thick and might lead to breakouts in people with acne prone skin. If your skin is oily Vaseline is most likely not going to be a good moisturizing option for you. It also absorbs into your skin much slower than many other moisturizers and a layer of it will always remain on top of your skin. (Watson and Cobb, 2019)
Personally I used Vaseline Rosy Lips everyday as a chapstick and it is my favorite chapstick. I have very sensitive skin and my lips used to peel off when I used Burt’s Bees Pomegranate chapstick. I loved the little bit of color that came with it but hated the reactions I would have. When I found the Rosy Lips Vaseline it was amazing, a little touch of color and moisture that really lasted. I never actually knew it doesn’t add moisture to your lips until I started researching for this project.
A Short History of Vaseline
Petroleum jelly was initially a byproduct of oil production. It was discovered by Robert Cheseborough in 1859. (Ganninger, 2014) Oil workers in Titusville, Pennsylvania were using what was known as “rod wax” at the time to heal cuts and burns. The wax was removed from oil rig pumps. The wax caused equipment to malfunction so Cheseborough began collected the unwanted substance. By 1872, he had created and patented a process of distilling the thinner and lighter oils from the mixture. As a result of this he created a light colored gel. The whiter jellies have been refined more.
To demonstrate how his product worked, he would travel around New York and burn his skin with acid. He would then show how he could heal himself using the new petroleum jelly. He opened his first factory in 1870 and called the product Vaseline. Vaseline is a mix of hydrocarbons with water-propelling properties which make it extremely effective at sealing in what it is put over. Cheseborough believed in Vaseline’s healing properties so strongly that he advocated for eating a spoonful of it a day. (Ganninger, 2014)
On Vaseline’s website they have a timeline of their company. This timeline notes important events in the products history. For example, the first ever successful North Pole expedition where Vaseline was thought to play a very crucial role. They also state that their product was essential in World War II. They then joined forces with Ponds, created lotion and launched a “Healing Project” which provides dermatologist care, Vaseline and other medical supplies to people in need. They hope to aid 5 million people by 2020. (Vaseline.com, 2019)
Lens/Framework 1: Environmental Ethics
Is dry skin an environmental issue? It is the result of environmental conditions and most people spend any range of money on products to combat their dry skin. Therefore the first lens I am going to approach Vaseline with is that of environmental ethics. (Robbins, 2014) Vaseline is a special product as it is made from refined petroleum. Is the simple moisturizer that most people in the world are familiar with, a result of a process causing so many of the environmental hardships we face today? The simple answer is yes, but is its role big enough to say the product is unethical? Luckily someone has already asked this question which lead me in the right direction to finding the answer.
When asked the question “Are Vaseline and other Petroleum products environmentally sound?” The Guardian answered that not all Petroleum products are environmentally sound and we should move away from our dependency on them. However, they place Vaseline at the bottom of the list of byproducts to be concerned about. That being said, they do point out that if the woman who asked the question is concerned about putting petroleum jelly on her face that there is a growing portion of the cosmetics industry that is creating products free of petrol carbons. For the most part, the Guardian does not seem concerned about Vaseline depleting the world’s oil reserves but recommends that if you are worried about impacts on your skin that you should switch to a different product.
The “Healing Project” in which Ponds and Vaseline are working together to offer aid to survivors of natural disasters and those in need, also plays a role in their environmental ethics. These two companies have joined together to help combat the human health crisis. Vaseline is also a byproduct of an already existing mining process. If the “rod oil” was not made into Vaseline it would be disposed of some other way. The process of turning “rod oil” into Vaseline is itself not very harmful to the environment. There is minimal packaging on most Vaseline and it is much more affordable than many other products, making it accessible to the masses for all of its various uses.
Lens/Framework 2: Risks and Hazards
What are the risks with using Vaseline? Like most things, this will depend on your culture’s way of looking at it. (Robbins, 2014) For the most part, I have not found a lot of risks or hazards that are associated with the production or usage of Vaseline. However, the obvious environmental hazard that is associated with the production of Vaseline is where it originates. Oil extraction can be extremely hazardous to the environment that it is being rigged out of. When oil spills onto water, it does not allow oxygen to get through to the plants which stops photosynthesis. It also harms and kills animals and insects, disrupts the food chain and takes a very long time to recover. (Oilcare.com)
Oil spills can also have severe consequences on the human environment as they can destroy drinking water and are very expensive to clean up. They can also make water unsuitable for irrigation and damage the effectiveness of water treatment plants. (Oilcare.com) If oil spills occur next to buildings the vapors can make the building uninhabitable. This can be very expensive and in some cases if there is too much damage, the entire building may need to be demolished.
Oil and gas drilling have serious consequences on the environment even beyond spills. These include disrupting wildlife habitat, species like Antelope and mule deer in Wyoming have been dramatically affected by drilling. Water and air pollution also harms local environments. More than 12 million people in the US live within ½ mile from oil production or processing plants. Their emissions contribute to climate change and ruin gorgeous landscapes. Extraction also turns away visitors because people don’t want to see or hear drilling when they go into the wilderness. (wilderness.org)
All things considered, I think Vaseline is an environmentally sound product. While it is a by product of an extremely destructive process, this process does not exist solely for the product of Vaseline. In fact, when the process originated the “rod oil” slowed down oil production and was a nuisance to the process. Vaseline has also launched the “Healing Project” in order to give back to the global community. While this does not lessen the effect that oil production has on the environment, it does make it easier to feel okay using the product and in turn supporting the company responsible for it. Vaseline is a fairly inexpensive product that works wonders on the skin, lips and has many other uses, bodily and elsewhere. The next time Humboldt has a cold and windy day, you burn yourself, or you get gum on your clothes, you can feel okay about reaching into your backpack or medicine cabinet and pulling out your Vaseline. However, I do not recommend eating a spoonful of it a day.
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Watson, K. and Cobb, C. (2019). Vaseline on Your Face: What to Know, How to Use It, Pros & Cons. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/vaseline-on-face [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].
“7 Ways Oil and Gas Drilling Is Bad for the Environment.” The Wilderness Society, 9 Aug. 2019, https://www.wilderness.org/articles/blog/7-ways-oil-and-gas-drilling-bad-environment.
Sharks are often portrayed as sea monsters thirsty for human flesh, but in reality humans are the ones hungry for shark. Shark trade has been on the rise due to the high demand for shark related products. The global shark trade is valued at nearly one billion USD and it is estimated that one hundred million sharks are caught annually. Sharks are valued for their meat, skin, liver oils and above everything else their fins. Shark finning (the harvesting of the shark’s fins and discarding the carcass at sea) is the most exploitive act of shark killing due to the process of only using 6.5% of the shark’s body mass. The reason shark fins are valued so much is because they are used to make traditional shark fin soup, a rare delicacy in Chinese culture. Though many countries are involved in the shark fin industry the biggest producers annually are Indonesia, India, and Spain. The main importers of the shark’s fins are mostly Asian fish markets such as China and Singapore. In particular though Hong Kong has historically been the global hub for trading fins, which acts as a mass importer and re-exporter for international markets. These shark markets have little to no regulations put in place, causing there to be a big gap in information on the number of sharks being harvested. A modern day tragedy of the commons may be upon us if the shark industry isn’t seriously monitored.
In Chinese culture shark fin soup has been around for centuries, first originating popularity during the Song and Ming dynasties. In earlier decades’ wealthy individuals were the primary consumers of shark fin soup, only accounting for a small percent of the population. Often the consumption of shark fin soup indicated wealth and social hierarchy. This all changed though when China’s economy opened in the 1980’s pulling thousands out of poverty and throwing them into a new growing middle class. This new found wealth among the middle class meant more people in demand of shark fin soup. As more Chinese citizens gained higher social status through wealth, the more the demand for the delicacy grew. The relationship between consumption and Chinese culture plays a big role in global shark exploitation. With a ten-centimeter dorsal fin selling for about four hundred and fifty USD this makes the shark finning industry a very profitable business. Money means nothing though for marine ecosystems.
Sharks have been around for millions of years and have evolved to match the environmental pressures put on them, that all changed though when shark fins became popular. Having a very slow growth rates and producing few young means shark population can’t be sustained to meet the economic demand of them. Due to poor regulations sharks aren’t given enough time to replenish their populations. An ocean without sharks mean trouble for the rest of the marine ecosystems. It has been reported in the pacific that long line fishing bycatches of apex predators such as sharks has fallen about 9% each year and more increasingly other fish species, not commonly caught are becoming more abundant. This may indicate that exploitation of sharks may be starting to shift the community structure in oceans. Sharks maintain community structure by feeding on many other species lower in the food trophic levels, which in turn prevents one species from over monopolizing a limited recourse. If sharks were taken out of the picture it could mean a potential collapse in the marine environment.
The exploitation of sharks can’t continue sustainably, other options though are available that benefit humans and these creatures of the deep. The shark watching industry currently generates up to a little over a quarter billion in USD a year, and supplies over ten thousand jobs. With the industry expected to double within 20 years it means it has the potential of coming more valuable than the shark fin industry. Many developing coastal communities use shark finning as a way to support themselves, but with proper planning and development they can double their earnings through ecotourism. This also benefits conservation scientists giving them ability to study shark’s roles in ecosystems. Implementing shark tourism means economic prosperity for generations to come, compared to the shark fin industry, which at the rate its going will only lasting a couple more decades. Also education among the Chinese citizens of the practices that go into harvesting fins could slow the amount of consumption and inspire people to ban the delicacy. Lastly governments from around the world need to set global regulations and monitoring of fisheries so that scientists can get accurate data that could help lead to better conservation efforts of sharks. With just a little effort two of the earths top predators can live in symbiosis together.
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