Final Object of Concern
December 11, 2017
Throughout this global awareness course, we have followed the life cycle of many everyday objects from small, to larger scales. Natural resources are becoming scare and are being over used and consumed for pure financial gain. This includes items such as trees, waters, land, food, animals, and basic produced items. From our materials and discussions, it has become apparent that the way humans impact the world is a grave issue that only continues to get worse. Humans have started to sperate the line between human and non-humans creating a divide in the world. Mass production of all materials is starting to deplete resources as we always consume and produce more than is needed to sustain the population that we have. Over population has started to become one of the main issues. The world in which we live is only able to benefit so many humans and animals. Climate change is the after affect of these issues and it is starting to be a global issue we see in everyday life in forms such as earthquakes, heat rising, tsunamis, and so many other tragic events. One way in which people try to fix these issues is by making processes and items more sustainable and environmentally better and crafting the term “going green”. Loop holes of these processes are what we are starting to see, huge companies and people in power are making the public start to believe that the way in which they are growing crops and producing things will be okay for the environment and coining them as green. This fails and they still over produce and send things overseas, but the people, natural resources, animals, and the world still gets hurt in this process. My object of concern focuses on bamboo and the materials that are created from it to be alternative greener products. As stated before this sounds and looks great and even has great qualities but still in fact is falling short as it gets corrupted in many ways.
Bamboo is an evergreen perennial flowering plant meaning that it is green all year round and it lives for several years. It’s in the subfamily of Bambusoidea the grass flowering family Poaceae. With over 400 known species of bamboo the few top known are balcooa, bambos, blumeana, and polymorpha all within in the Bambusa family (Bamboo and Chinese Culture, 2016). Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world as it has a rhizome-dependent system (Bamboo Plant, 2015). Bamboo is known to be one of the easiest growing plants as it grows in diverse climates ranging from cold mountains to hot tropical regions (Bamboo and Chinese Culture, 2016). It is often mistaken for a bamboo tree as it appears to look more or a tree than a plant. The stems are called culms and can range from centimeters to meters 1mm to 30 cm (Bamboo and Chinese Culture, 2016). Bamboo originates from China (specifically Asia) back over 7,000 years. China is known as the kingdom of bamboo. The oldest archaeological finds of bamboo were found of remains in China in Hemudu, Yuyao County, Zhejiang Province (Bamboo and Chinese Culture, 2016). In the early times Shang Dynasty about 16 to 11th century B.C these people used bamboo as arrows, weapons, and household making materials. Bamboo was used in strips to make writing paper prior to its existence, they claimed it was better than silk as it was less expensive, easier to procure, and more resistant to corrosion (Bamboo and Chinese Culture, 2016). Bamboo was then used in China (Song Dynasty 960-1279) as firewood to make tiles, rafts, hats, rain capes and shoes. Today and back in that period they also used bamboo as food sources eating the shoots as they were rich in vitamins, sugar, fats, and protein. Today in China bamboo is used as mats, pillows, beds, benches, chairs, chopsticks, buckets, baskets, handheld fans, and spoons. China is also known to make many delicate music instruments today out of bamboo such as flutes and reed instruments. The baskets and craft they make today come from heritage projects that span from over 2,000 years ago (Bamboo Plant, 2015). In the Chinese culture spreading from many centuries ago to present day bamboo is used as a cultural medicine healing issues such as phlegm, the juice has been known to cure a stroke, insanity, and asthma (Bamboo and Chinese Culture, 2016). The root is also known to cool vocal chords and promote lactation. Bamboo all around the world today is used for building and construction as bamboo is known to stretch and be resistant to weight (Bamboo Plant, 2015). This makes it appealing for items such as pillars, scaffolding, and world sheds.
The first lens I see fitting to tie into my object of concern bamboo would be the commons. Commons are the natural and cultural resources available to all members of society human and non-human that include items such as air, water, and all habitable parts of the world (Paul Robbins, 2014). Commons are not privately owned and are places that groups use to survive, meaning that the government should have no political gain when it comes to these places and resources (Paul Robbins, 2014). Bamboo forests in China and elsewhere are considered commons for many animals in the wild; these forests provide shelter, homes, and habitat for many animals. These animals are mainly red pandas, giant pandas, mountain gorillas, lemurs, and the smallest known bat species Tylonycteris pachypus (Pilcher, 2004). Not only does the bamboo provide shelter it is also a huge main source of food for these animals, hence why they reach for shelter in it (Pilcher, 2004). For the mountain Gorillas bamboo makes up 90% of their daily food intake (Paul Robbins, 2014). For the pandas in Asia woody bamboo is their food sources munching through 38 kilograms a day. Without the bamboo Pandas will most likely go extinct. The bats use the bamboo to nest in holes in the shoots made by beetles, this is where they roost. Animals such as the gorillas, lemurs, tortoises, bamboo frogs, bongos (a type of antelope) all use bamboo for shelter. On a lower scale there are a lot of bears and birds that also need bamboo in their diet (Pilcher, 2004). Without the bamboo forest to serve as a common area that these animals use to survive on they are forced to flee to other areas to find warmth and comfort. This will not last long for them as they have been in this areas dependent on these living conditions for hundreds. With the mass production of bamboo materials recently the bamboo forest is starting to be over harvested and up to half of the worlds woody bamboo species are in danger of extinction. Bamboo has habitat in remote locations, which is why it’s considered a common area. The deforestation is caused by the distinctive cycle of mass flowering and death. The species flower together once every 10-100 years and then die, if the forests are harvested at this time the bamboo does not grown back, causing a huge threat to this common area that so many species rely on (Carter, 2008). This primarily focuses on non-humans but in the cycle of life we are all dependent on each other. The panda’s presence in bamboo forest helps it to survive and continue to thrive as it helps the vegetation and spread seeds, so it can continue to replenish. Humans also depend on bamboo for food and materials, without these common areas being taken care of we will in the end hurt from this tragedy. Organization like the world wildlife foundation have been trying to save these common lands and get the animal into protective places when they are fleeing but it still poses a grave issue to interference with a Lifecycle (Pilcher, 2004). Famers and other people that have previously protected these lands around the world are now being forced to sell them out due to survival in the world or forced to work on these mass productions to feed their own families.
The second lens I found fitting for bamboo would be population and scarcity. The meaning of this is that the world is so overpopulated with people we worry that we as humans won’t have enough to survive (Paul Robbins, 2014). In return we always do, grow, take, or produce more then we need. Even though we have the capacity now to have enough we reach for the future and take more, this creates a lack of or scarcity for many natural resources and products in the world. This is happening and has been occurring over time when it comes to bamboo forest and the resources we create out of them. Bamboo is something that humans and non-humans rely on as part of a daily life cycle for survival. Bamboo was recently looked upon as a green alternative source for items such as clothing, food, housing materials, and other things. Being as bamboo isn’t as regulated as ordinary tree production is the rate at which we stated to grow and harvest it quickly become out of control and a far stretch from being safe or sustainable, counteracting the whole fad of being better (Bowyer, 2014). Bamboo became popular for growing as it grows quickly without a lot of water or pesticides and it pulls carbon dioxide out of the air (Bowyer, 2014). As the demand for bamboo continues to grow the supply need grows quickly with it, resulting in over harvesting and unsustainable practices. Bamboo can only be harvested every 5-10 years, which is faster than traditional trees, the rate at which it is being cut is unhealthy as it is unable to recover and too much cut in one area can damage a wider stretch (Bowyer, 2014). It more than 30% of an acre is taken together it affects the root system making it unlikely to replenish. Bamboo plants take 60-100 years to flower making the amount of seeds that the farmers can get very unlikely, making the life cycle fall apart (Bowyer, 2014). The monoculture plantations have been more common among the high demand for bamboo specifically in China making a great deal of negative effects for the ecosystems in this area (Bowyer, 2014). Other areas of plants and wildlife have been cleared to grow solely bamboo, making a wide change in the environment. The main problem with this trend of over population causing a higher demand and the end result of not having enough ruins it. The biodiversity of bamboo is starting to be ruined and you can see this in the eco system, too much is being planet as opposed to trees because farmers are getting more money for bamboo. In order to make a higher yield they are using chemical and fertilizers to make the bamboo modified, the animals, soil, and habitat is being negatively effected by this (Bowyer, 2014). The products made from the bamboo are starting to be cheesier such the flooring is selling for more money when its actually thinner then it ever has been in the past. If this trend continues how it has we in a short amount of time will have taken what could have been a great alternative to deforestation and have turned it into the extinction of an ancient piece of the environment. If we learn and watch how history runs its course this can easily be avoided if only all humans take enough to survive.
The next lens I see fitting for the topic of bamboo would be risks and hazards. This includes items that affect the world in negatives ways or taking the choice to risk the environment. This can include things such as toxic materials that get put into the world or the events that make them harmful on the environment (Paul Robbins, 2014). In the past in Asia and recently in the united stated the technology has developed to make fabric out of bamboo, this has been popular as the trend is eco-friendly and a sustainable method of clothing. Claims have been made that it’s antimicrobial and protects against UV lights, in return the argument stands to prove itself that all clothes can protect you from UV light and there is no proof of the microbial effects (Keenen, 2011). It’s crafted from the bamboo stem which is ground apart and split into different fibers and then washed to remove natural enzymes and things such as sugars (Lacoma). It is then bleached to remove the color and sewn or bound to form yarn (Keenen, 2011). Items are sometimes added in such as wool (Lacoma). In the start bamboo was thought to be a high end product being compared to cashmere as it was soft and delicate. Spanning from 2004, mind you the clothing was only started to be made in the United States in the early 2000, to late 2010 the market for these clothes expanded massively its noted to be close to 5,000 percent higher (Keenen, 2011). At this point in time the materials were being mass produced and we had leaned a way to ruin the healthy process. In order to stream line it modern chemicals and harmful bleaches are used to make it white and solvents are used to remove the glue. These chemicals usually are sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide; both are harmful to human health and to the aquatic animals when the chemical are washed into the water stream (Keenen, 2011). Most company’s claim these are not toxic or a small amount of them are used making it okay for the environment but these procedures have no standards or regulations making it a basic free for all. There are two processes of how the clothing can be made from bamboo one is chemical as I’ve talked of before and the next is mechanical. Mechanical is the process of crushing the plants into a mush using natural enzymes and breaking it down and then combing out the fibers and spinning them into yarn, this more closely resembles a linen material (Lacoma). This process would be more environmental friendly but the draw back uncloses the amount of labor and the machines used to make this process. The truth behind the bamboo fabric is that it can be considered more environmentally friendly or ethical as it grows faster and replenishes itself, but at the mass production rate this is arising undermines that. The fabric process is cleaner and better for the environment based off of the processes but as the demand is higher the chemical and machinery will have a negative impact as well (Lacoma). This remains to be known as an alternative, not making it 100% the best choice but a better one. If we could keep down the demand it would have a greener footprint on the environment.
The next lens and the final one I see well for topic of bamboo would be environmental ethics. The definition of this means the part of environmental philosophy which considered extending to the traditional countries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non human world. It’s the process of making good or bad choices with respect to the environment (Paul Robbins, 2014). This relates to the lifecycle of bamboo products and the carbon footprint it leaves on the environment and how much of this we should endure as humans on this planet. Bamboo is said to have a carbon negative or carbon neutral effect on the environment (How green are bamboo products, 2015). From the start without being mass produced or tying on monoculture system bamboo grows fast and is renewable on its own. If we as humans let it grow and replenish itself naturally its very appealing to have. But once it’s produced into other items that make it seem less and less attractive. The machines and chemical used to turn bamboo into clothing, fabric, flowing, chopsticks, and all the other things are very bad (How green are bamboo products, 2015). This is a large cost of production not to mention that basically all bamboo is grown in Asia and China. Once the materials are made then they are shipped across the world to be sold in the United States and other areas (How green are bamboo products, 2015). This defeats the greenness of it as the trucks and cost of transport is sky high and takes so much fuel and time. It been talked about a few time of trying to produce bamboo in areas such as the united stated. This would cut back on shipping cost and help it replenish itself. The factor in which holds this from happening would be regulation on how invasive bamboo is and what it will do to the current environment of these areas.
At the end of the day can we argue that bamboo is a good alternative to things such as natural trees and cotton? Can it be the nest green product? Or is it just another fad that large cooperation is looking at to gain financial gain. My personal though and conclusion is that as all items on this earth, they have good and bad part in them. Bamboo has more great qualities when it comes to producing and naturally renewing itself. I think that as humans as we always do we take and take and take all the good things away because we find ways to make money. This is the part of the class that was so surprising to me; we will destroy something past the point of being able to fix just to make money. This has negative effect on the world we live in and the animals that we need and share it with. Bamboo is just an ordinary object that had a great historical story that happily thrived on its own until us way what we can do with it. We have manipulated it to grow aster and stronger genetically modifying its natural form. I think that without the exploitation and the mass production bamboo could be a great alternative for certain items. This was all put to an end once we started commoditizing it and ruining it for all species. It has great factors such as growing fast in a versatile of climates, it naturally renews itself. It produces carbon and helps soil erosion. It provides food and shelter for both human and animals. The negative effects that we see with it is the fact that once its gone we can ruin it to the point of becoming extinct and the world is already starting to witness this. It has the same negative qualities when it come stop producing things from it the systems and material used to do this are very labor intensive and will contain harsh chemicals that can hurt the environment and people as a whole.
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