9. Acknowledge Surroundings and Consider Them

This week, on our own time, we were to watch five TEDTalks of our choice. Going through the options, I picked the ones that sounded the most interesting to me and provided a synopsis of parts I saw important or particularly interesting within each one.

Life Lessons From Big Cats

Beverly and Dereck Joubert, conservation filmmakers, study the ways big cats interact with the lands, weather, and other specifics in their surroundings. I had seen clips and news related to their documentaries in the past that were fascinating to watch, so I was curious to hear their presentation. They followed a leopard from young age for four and a half years, studying how she deals with the environment while growing up and how she lives. These cats, just as many other specifics, have established behaviors and ways of living that they`ve followed for hundreds of years and should be respected as the way they do things, rather than try to change them to fit our agenda as humans. When I think of this in a more relatable situation, it reminds me of the issues that are discussed about pet cats and vegan owners trying to cut meat out of their diet. Cats are initially carnivorous, and trying to change their diet to fit the owner`s beliefs can possibly seriously affect or endanger their life as certain things are needed in their diets to survive.

Through their observations, we see there is a will within everything, whether it is an outnumbered animal fighting for survival in the wilderness, or people trying to find ways to continue living without impacting the future generations negatively. We need to appreciate things that may be different from what we do and respect those differences and try to learn from them.

What stuck out to me in ‘Life Lessons from Big Cats” was the impact of hunting just one male lion, resulting in 20-30 more most likely dying when another male takes over the pride and kills the previous cubs and some females. Such a small change from human interact ends up causing a huge impact in the environment and the decline of this specific alone.

Greening the Ghetto

This TEDTalk discusses the troubles in largely urban areas and their ways of being sustainable. The problems are there and very clear, but are often overlooked and neglected. In South Bronx, there are growing numbers of obesity and asthma in children because of living in lower class areas that are surrounded by pollution. Racial and economic discrimination over years have led to these ghettos developing into these unhealthy locations and to this day they continue to have problems that are not being dealt with. Without realizing it, not helping these areas can indirectly cause problems for everyone else outside of it. However, programs such as Majora Carter`s and Bronx Ecological Stewardship Training are contributing to help teach less fortunate people about sustainability and turn around the quality of living in sustainable ways in these areas, helping those that are living there. We tend to think about how rough the conditions are in these areas, but my first thought- and I know it is the same for many others- isn`t about the sustainability of these areas, yet changes can make a huge impact in the health of those that are in these situations growing up (e.g. better practices lead to less pollution and less crime), but more attention needs to be brought to problems.

When briefly discussing Greening the Ghetto in class, it was recommended to watch the TEDTalk “Ron Finley: A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA” to see another perspective of sustainability in these urban areas.  Similar to the issues that were stemming in the Bronx, the obesity rates in South Central LA were estimated about 5 times higher than those in Beverley Hills, only 10 miles away. There is a problem of the area being overpopulated with cheap, unhealthy fast food which happens to be almost all that is available and affordable in the area. To combat that problem, Finley started planting small gardens within areas of the city. There are miles of empty lots left unused in the city, which leaves plenty of opportunities to starting the growth of better quality food on those lots. Beyond the ability to gain more food for those that are hungry, the act of teaching people in those areas provides them other things to focus on as a therapeutic activity as well as an opportunity to teach them how to grow up living a more sustainable life. It shows that on the other side of the country from the Bronx with Majora Carter, there is just as much concern and lack of attention towards helping improve the health in these less fortunate societies, yet there are people that are trying to change that.

The World’s Oldest Living Things

Looking at species that have lived for 2,000 years or older and their ability to have such longevity can help with understanding what ways we can manage our ways of living to be able to maintain quality of life for long periods of time, just as these species have done for years. Some examples displayed in the presentation are Armillaria fungus (2400 years old), Brain Coral (2000 years old) under the water, and Quaking Aspen trees in Utah that is 80,000 years old. This also can make us think about how our ways of life are affecting these species that have survived for so long. Due to deforestation, pollution, and other means caused by humans not needing direct contact, species are going extinct daily that without our intervention could possibly live on to be thousands of years old just like the examples shown.

The Tradeoffs of Building Green

In daily situations, while there are a lot of things that have been questioned about regarding their green-ness, sometimes the replacement of those products is far less important than other factors we tend to disregard. The things we least expect to make a change can sometimes be the ones with the largest impacts. In the example used, when wiping up a spill, Mohr compares the energy and water usage of paper towels, cloths, and sponges and while there are differences, the biggest factor ends up being which temperature you turn on in your faucet and how long it is running in the process, not the item used for the spill. She then compares this to larger scale practices, such as building a house. Just something as simple as deconstructing an old building rather than demolishing it allows the reuse of some of those elements and reduces the amount of embodied energy spent. The type of concrete, a tank for rain water, materials for windows, and insulation (cellulose), sheetrock, and flooring are things that often are overlooked in press when it comes sustainable building, but have the biggest impact.

We’re Covered in Germs. Let’s Design for That.

This TEDTalk was about the possibility of designing microbial ecosystems. Our bodies are home to trillions of microbes and can affect mood, health, cleanliness, etc. These microbes interact with other microbes through any contact. In a study of the Lillis Building, by measuring dust, it showed that there are different types of bacteria that are prominent in different locations such as bathrooms having the same types or offices having the same types. Without realizing it, we are already creating these types of microbial ecosystems in types of locations. Just like we do it with contact, we can also control what microbes are filtered into spots through means like air conditioning. Knowing that there is a possibility of being able to control these environments, it has the ability to assist in reducing rates of infections that are caused in hospitals.

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