Ashley Garla ScrapESbook Project

This right here is my Environmental Science Scrapbook, or ScrapESbook, which I will update each quarter with interesting news articles that relate to our environment, as well as experiences I have while interacting with nature and exploring themes we discuss in class.

Fourth Quarter

It has finally come time for the last entry in my ScrapESbook journal. As sad as this is, fourth quarter has given me two wonderful experiences that have expanded my environmental awareness and interest.

Experience: We Planted a Tree!

Planted a tree at Marist. April 21, 2015. 1-2 PM.

Trees are seen as the strong guardians of nature, with unshakeable trunks and sturdy roots. However, when I saw our tiny hackberry tree waiting to be planted, I was reminded how everything big starts out as something small. It was insignificant and scrawny, and as we carefully began the preparations to ease it into its new home in Marist's soil, it made me realize how much control we now have over the environment, and how much responsibility we have to ensure that nature is allowed to thrive in a world choked by humans. As Daniela dug up the ground in a practiced and meticulous way, I marveled at how she made sure to take care of the grass so that it was not killed as it was pulled from the soil. Everything in nature has a place, and it deserves that place. I had no idea that there was a certain way to dig up the ground, and that there was a certain way to water and mulch trees. Trees dot our neighborhoods and inhabit our backyards and line our streets, yet very few people truly understand how carefully they must be tended in order for them to thrive from the very tips of their leaves glistening in the sunlight to the base of their roots hugging the soil. While on the topic of roots, I also had no idea that roots aid in the process of photosynthesis and therefore require sunlight like the rest of the tree. The most important piece of information that I learned during this experience is that trees never heal; they only seal. This means that our actions are permanent; when we carelessly clip an exposed root with the lawn mower, the tree will suffer the consequences for as long as it lives.

I was deeply enlightened during the planting of our little hackberry tree, and I learned so many smaller pieces to the big picture of trees. I will carry this information into my daily life. When I see that mulch or dirt is covering too much of the tree, I will push it aside to allow the roots to soak up some sunlight. I will stay clear of the roots when I mow the lawn so as not to cause permanent wounds to the tree's bark. I will pass on what I learn to others who can also apply it to their daily routines, and I will strive to make it a priority to learn as much as I can about trees. The poem that the Treekeeper read to us so beautifully reminds us that trees are a creation that only God could have crafted, and that nothing we make can compare to its splendor. For this reason, I will never again look at a tree with anything less than pure respect and astonishment. I hope that our hackberry receives all of the care and conditions from the next generations of Environmental Science students to reach for the sky and join the proud legacy of trees on which our planet depends.

Experience: Friends of the Chicago River Field Trip

Took a field trip to McClaughry Springs in Palos. April 27, 2015. 8:30-2 PM

I was a bit hesitant when I heard about our field trip, as wading in a probably polluted stream to pick up bugs is not really my cup of tea. However, the trip turned out to be more fun than I could have imagined!

My group started the morning with a hike through the hilly forest preserve dense with trees and ended up getting ourselves lost. However, the weather was nice and the walk was peaceful. It was enjoyable to just walk without a destination (because we had no idea where we were going) with some cool people. We paused on a bridge to answer questions and reflect on our walk, and some nice man walking a dog offered us directions on how to get back to our starting point.

After we returned from our little hike, we performed the water chemistry experiments that we had practiced in class. We were nearly experts by this point! The water's pH was at the favorable level of 7, and the nitrate, phosphate, and turbidity levels all suggested good water quality. I had been afraid to get near any water that might run into the Cal Sag, so I was surprised that Palos boasted such a clean stream.

After we put away the chemistry kit, we pulled on waders that were so big we all waddled like penguins into the stream. I was dreading participating in this activity, but once I was in the water, I had a lot of fun. McKenzie and I teamed up to catch a few clams and sowbugs. I refused to touch the sowbug but it was interesting to hold a live clam. I was really enjoying turning over rocks and forging further downstream to hunt for macroinvertebrates, and to my surprise, I was very reluctant when it was time to return to land. When we observed all that we had caught, we found that the water quality was good. I was reminded of how every tiny creature is important in maintaining balance in the world, and that what appears to us to be simply a tiny stream is actually home to a thriving ecosystem of its own. Even though the stream received a grade of "B", I still was very generous with the amount of hand sanitizer I used to clean my hands afterwards.

We finished the day with one last trek through the forest preserve and a quiet reflection. As I sat beside the stream, the sun was warm on my face and the breeze gently rustled my hair. I could feel the life-giving ground beneath me and see the vibrant blue sky above me. As time stretched on, tiny sounds that had simply been background noise earlier became louder, and I was aware of more and more sounds until I was witnessing a symphony of rustling plants, a babbling stream, singing birds, and buzzing bugs. It was peaceful, and I tried my hand at drawing a dandelion to capture the beauty of something so minuscule. I too often look at the big picture because it always seems so urgent and important, so when I stop to observe the small details, I am reminded of how beautiful the world truly is.

All in all, our field trip was a relaxing yet awakening experience. It was a culmination of everything we learned in class this year. We saw how the water chemistry of the stream related to the ecosystem that lived within it. We watched phenology in action as buds and new leaves adorned sleepy trees stretching their branches after a long winter. We observed how people had left an impact on the forest preserve with trails, bridges, and parking lots. We witnessed food chains and saw firsthand the components of an aquatic ecosystem. It is one thing to learn all these things in a classroom and take notes on them, but it is another to actually get hands-on experience and apply these concepts in real life. This trip enriched my class experience with a deeper appreciation for nature, a more nagging curiosity about how the environment works, and a further understanding of science and how it can be applied.  

This year has taught me so much that I will carry with me into the future, and I know that my impact on our environment will be a much more positive one because of all the enriching opportunities I have experienced, such as planting a tree, learning to test water chemistry and identify macroinvertebrates and applying it to an actual aquatic ecosystem, composting with worm bins, observing and tracking phenology, constructing light fixtures for indoor gardening, and caring for my own plants. Thank you, Mrs. Coy, for a great year!

Third Quarter

*Controversial Spanish Mine to Reopen*

Bryce, James. (February 25, 2015). Controversial Spanish Mine to Reopen. Retrieved February 25, 2015., from the Guardian website:

After 17 years, a mine in the Andalucian region of Spain is set to reopen. The problem is that this mine dumped five million cubic meters of toxic waste into a river after a dam burst. This disaster almost affected one of the most important wetlands in Europe. Even though this cost millions of dollars in clean-up and has easily become one of the most horrendous ecological disasters in Spain's history, the government has announced that the mine is set to reopen. Environmentalists are fighting against this legislation with the claim that the government is rushing their decision to make this an appealing item on the ballot for next month's elections. Even though this mine will open up approximately 450 jobs in a region of Spain harshly affected by unemployment, any further accidents could hurt a river that provides water to a UNESCO world heritage site. The  government is looking to open up the future, but those who care about the environment can see that this would only be a repeat of the past.

It seems absurd to me that the Spanish government wants to invite a disaster waiting to happen just so that it would look good in the approaching election. It is hard to believe that a decision like this could be rushed, and that more focus is being placed on the economy rather than on the environment, which most likely will be negatively affected once again. I understand that the mine has advantages for the people of Spain; for example, the mine would open up jobs where there otherwise would be none. Many people would be able to support themselves and their families, and that is always a good thing. However, the negative aspect of this situation definitely outweighs the good. The government is setting itself up for disaster, as the same ecological crisis could happen, leading to the same--or possibly even worse--results. A very important river could be contaminated, and the places that rely on it for a water source would be greatly harmed. In addition, the wetland mentioned previously could easily be affected, as the disaster 17 years ago narrowly missed contaminating it with toxic waste. We learned from Bill Nye's lesson on the subject that wetlands are very important to the environment, and that we need them. It is strange to think how easily people forget, as 17 years should not erase one of Spain's greatest environmental disasters from memory. It is up to the government to not only make decisions that better their people, but the environment as well. Those in power need to use that power to make a positive impact on the world, not just in the economy or with other nations, but with the ground beneath their feet and the water they drink and the air they breathe. Laws and government policies should be beneficial for the environment and never harmful, and politicians need to start stepping up to this challenge.

(Photo source: The Guardian)

*Lester Brown: "Vast Dust Bowls Threaten Tens of Millions with Hunger" *

Goldenberg, Suzanne. (February 24, 2015). Lester Brown: "Vast Dust Bowls Threaten Tens of Millions with Hunger." Retrieved February 24, 2015, from the Guardian website:

This article discussed Lester Brown, former junior analyst for the US Department of Agriculture, founder of Worldwatch Institute, and current founder and president of Earth Policy Institute. He has written many books and is known for his accurate predictions on the environment and its effects on humans and food sources. His most recent prediction is particularly gloomy, as it warns that hunger will strike harder than previously imagined. Currently, dust bowls are occurring in China and Africa that make America's infamous 1930s Dust Bowl seem small. Over-farming is destroying land and causing it to go to waste, and farmers are running out of land to plant food. As a result, people in countries like Peru, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan are often only able to eat about five times a week. Unfortunately, Lester Brown predicts that this trend will only become increasingly worse if we continue with our methods of planting and resource use.

The idea that the world is running out of land and food is terrifying. It is hard to believe that currently people are living in places where the land simply can no longer grow food. When it comes to farming, it at first seems very positive to plant as much as one can, so as not to waste any land. By doing this, a farmer can yield a successful harvest that not only puts dinner on the table for his family and money in his pockets, but feeds the entire world as well. Farmers are depended upon to provide each harvest, and for this reason, it is implied that constant farming and making full use of the land are pros. However, this could not be farther from the truth. When farmers over plant on the same land, the land loses fertility and becomes barren. Not only will it not yield a bountiful harvest, but it will cause the farmer to be responsible for a desert rather than a life-giving field. The cons of over-farming certainly outweigh whatever pros appear to exist, and this is evident when we look at events like the Dust Bowl. In class we recently watched a documentary that discussed the Dust Bowl that harmed United States agriculture and economy in the 1930s. It is hard to believe that these disasters are springing up in other places around the world as we speak, and that they are ravaging land even worse than ours did. They serve as a reminder that the Earth needs to be taken care of just as much as it is used for our benefit. God gave us so much beautiful land to earn a living from, but he also gave us the responsibility of being stewards over all that he has created. Sometimes it takes a disaster to realize what needs to be done, and in this case, a prediction of global hunger and loss of land needs to be met with heavy action that starts right now.

(Photo source: The Guardian)

Experience: Donating to Goodwill

Donated to Goodwill. February 26, 2015. 7:30 PM

For my Experience this quarter, I chose to donate old clothes to Goodwill in Orland Park. My mom and I gathered five bags of clothes from my closet, her closet, my sister's closet, and my grandparents. We decided to give away lots of clothes that were too small and too young for my sister and me, as well as some interesting outfits that my mom had but I had never even seen her wear. We also included some old blankets and sheets that we had replaced. It was surprising how easy and quick it was to fill five garbage bags with clothes we no longer need when so many people in the very city of Chicago barely have a single outfit to wear.

We loaded the bags into the car and drove to Goodwill, where we handed them over to the worker who then brought them into the store. As we were finishing up, another car was pulling up with donations, and it was wonderful to see that Goodwill was having a busy night.

I have been into Goodwill before to look for odds and ends for a costume for a musical or Halloween, but I know that many people shop there for the clothes they put on their backs every day. It was gratifying to see how I was directly making an impact on the lives of local families who will purchase and use what I have given away. However, it is also a bit unnerving to think how so many people have to live off of hand-me-downs from strangers. Because of the unstable economy and the inflation of prices for basic necessities like housing and food, so many people just do not have the money to afford the things my family can luckily afford. Everyday things in my life are luxuries in the lives of others, and I so often forget that. I will need to consciously keep it in mind, and to remember to be grateful for all of the wonderful things that I have.

It makes me angry to think how so many people live in poverty. No one deserves to not have a fair share of resources. God created this planet so that we may all live as brothers and sisters as well as stewards to the Earth who take care of one another. In this modern day, that concept is just about nonexistent. Affluent countries take all of the Earth's resources, sucking up water until the land is parched, farming the land over and over until it has nothing else to offer, choking the air with pollution until the sun cannot even break through the smog, cutting down trees and mining for resources until all of the fossil fuels burn away. Today in class we watched "Dirt! The Movie," and one line really stuck out to me. One of the scientists explained how only a very small percentage of the world has access to the majority of  resources, and that we are using up too many of these resources in "a tiny slice of the human journey." It is scary to think of what will come in the future if we cannot even provide enough resources to everyone within the affluent nations.

The donation of old clothes not only relates to environmental science in the category of resource use, but with the very important category of recycling as well. We are always told that it is important to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" as much as we can, but I don't think that very many people really take this philosophy to heart. I am guilty of often putting the health of the Earth to the side, and I realize that it should be a top priority. It would be easy to just throw away clothes that are no longer wanted, but the Earth--and its people--need us to recycle them instead. By passing on a shirt to someone less fortunate, the life of that shirt is significantly expanded. Whereas it would just sit in a landfill if it were thrown away, it would provide clothing to a second person if it were recycled rather than just one. That person would in turn not need to spend money and buy a shirt at a store, and a company would not need to produce another shirt to replace that, and at the end of the line, factories would not need to use resources like cotton, which require farming--and often destroying--the land. Overall, this process would benefit both someone who cannot spare money as well as the Earth as a whole. This seems like it might have negative consequences for the economy and industry, but this small change would benefit the environment much more than it would harm the economy. And, quite frankly, the environment should be given top priority sometimes.

Donating clothes is such a simple act that is very easy to put off. It not only fulfills our humanitarian duty to help others who are less fortunate than we are, but it also fulfills our obligation to the planet, as recycling has endless benefits for the Earth. Not only does it conserve resources that are quickly running out, but it also saves the land and water from pollution that seeps from factories. It eliminates portions of landfills and gives the Earth space to breathe. I am glad that my homework allowed me to be kind to people that need a helping hand, as well as to embrace this beautiful world that encompasses us. We need to be gentler with our brothers and sisters and the world that God has placed us on, and that journey can start by simply filling up a bag with clothes and donating it.

I will definitely be doing this again, and soon.

Second Quarter

*Killing Wolves Increases Cattle and Sheep Deaths, Study Finds*

Worland, Justin. (December 5, 2014). Killing Wolves Increases Cattle and Sheep Deaths. Retrieved December 8, 2014, from the Time website:

This article discussed a topic that has been making life harder for farmers and ranchers. New studies are showing that controlling wolf populations has led to decreased populations of livestock. It has always been thought that less wolves would equal safer livestock, but it turns out that this may not be the truth. By killing off wolves, the natural behavior of wolves is disrupted, leading them to prey on livestock, which is an easier meal than their regular diet of deer and elk. As a result, the death rate for sheep has risen 4% and the death rate for cattle has risen 5-6%. The only way to help protect livestock through the killing of wolves is to decrease the wolf population by 25%, which is something that environmentalists will fight against.

I find this to be a very complicated situation. It seems that farmers just can't win, as attempts to protect their livestock have backfired and left them with higher death rates than before. This reminds me of the activity we did with the reindeer of Saint Matthew's Island. One would think that eliminating a predator would be beneficial to the preyed-upon species, but in reality, the lack of a predator led to a faster death due to overshoot and dieback. Even though that dealt with a different secenario, the message is still the same: ecosystems should be left to work as they are, as they are made by nature to run efficiently. I think that perhaps this is Mother Nature's warning to us to not mess with the ecosystem, as every component is valuable. When one part suffers, all the other parts suffer as well. The simple action of trying to protect cattle and sheep could lead to an environmental unbalance that causes livestock and wolf populations to go down, while populations of elk and deer skyrocket because of a lack of predators. This could decrease plant biodiversity because of over-consumption, and these populations could experience a dieback after reaching carrying capacity. Basically, there is no perfect solution to this problem, and the man-made answers will just make things worse. It is crazy to think that the only plausible answer that has been presented is to kill off a quarter of the wolf population, as it is absurd and an abuse of power. We are only one part of an incomprehensibly bigger whole, and our actions could spread like wildfire to hurt other creatures that we should protect. Even though I have outlined the many disadvantages that come with controlling the wolf population through extermination, I can see the other side. Wolves present a danger to livestock, and loss of livestock equals loss of livelihood for farmers. By controlling the wolf population, farmers can ensure that they make enough money to support themselves and their family, while providing to countless others and contributing to the economy. I hope that scientists can come to an agreement on how to fix this problem in a way that is mutually beneficial to all parties involved, animals and humans alike.

(photo source: Google Images)

*Puerto Rico Debates Who Put Out the Lights in Mosquito Bay*

Alvarez, Lizette. (June 4, 2014). Puerto Rico Debates Who Put Out the Lights in Mosquito Bay. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from the New York Times website:

Something strange has been happening in Puerto Rico's most famous bioluminescent bay, and it's not looking bright. The dinoflagellates (which are shimmering plankton) responsible for the bay's glow-stick sparkle mysteriously dimmed, to the surprise of the locals and tourists. Scientists frantically analyzed Mosquito Bay's salinity, clarity, pH level, temperature, and many other factors in order to find what was causing this disturbing darkness, but it appeared that everything was normal. Mosquito Bay was closed to tourists for a while to allow scientists to work diligently on finding the cause for this problem, but to no avail. The blame was placed on many different environmental factors, but scientists were not able to pinpoint an exact culprit. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico's tourist-based econony began to suffer, as "bio-bay" tours rake in a lot of cash. Upon further research, I found that the bay has managed to recover its glow, and is once again open to tours. This mysterious absence of light happens periodically in bioluminescent bays due to different factors, though this instance was disconcerting due to the scientists' inability to find a specific cause for the blackout.

I had no idea that these bioluminescent bays even existed. While researching for an application to study culture in Puerto Rico, I stumbled across this lovely display of God's beauty in the world. I was instantly captivated, and when I learned that something was up with Mosquito Bay, the most famous bio-bay tourist destination, I wanted to learn more. The most descriptive article I found was a few months old, but I researched more to fill in the missing pieces. I feel that tourists may be contributing to the harming of these bio-bays, and that their natural beauty is becoming their downfall. Tours consist of people kayaking in the darkness on a guided expedition, and a number of things could go wrong. A careless tourist could spill something in the water, create litter, and disturb the natural flow of the organisms through movement. For this reason, I believe that tourists should not be so involved in the bays, and that all measures should be taken to optimize the health of nature while providing an enjoyable tourist experience. However, the ecotourism that results causes awareness about these beautiful places, and possibly raises the need for conservation efforts to be made. In addition, Puerto Rico should be able to boost its economy by using the immense natural resources that they have, including the bio-bays. I think that this blackout serves as a reminder that the world is a fragile place, and warns us to take better care of these postcard-esque places with which God has entrusted us.

(photo source: Google Images)...IT'S SO PRETTY!

Experience: Nature Journals

Observed and reflected at the Naperville River Walk, Lake Katherine, & my neighborhood. October 13, November 10, & December 7.  3 PM-4 PM, 2 PM-2:30 PM, &  3 PM-3:30 PM.

As we were off on Columbus Day, my family decided to do something fun and different for the day. We often enjoy visiting Naperville because it is a cute little town with a lot of cool stores, but we also enjoy walking along the river that winds through the town. It was very relaxing to walk along the river that day, as my fears about a long, stressful week ahead were washed away. The weather was rather warm but damp, which was a nice combination for mid-October, when often it can be uncomfortably cold. The river was alive with rapids and several families of ducks, which created a very soothing sound of rushing water and happy little animals. The trees along the river burned bright with red, orange, yellow, and green leaves, and only a few were bare. All of these sensory components contributed to my relaxation and positivity, which is sometimes hard to find, as nature is so big and we are so small. Why worry and worry when there is so much beauty to experience and let move us? Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and this experience along the river helped to reiterate all of the reasons that I love it: comfortable weather; a sky promising a soothing, rainy afternoon; beautifully-colored foliage and trees; and the congregation of animals preparing for the winter ahead.

When I had Veterans' Day off, my mom and I spent a little time at Lake Katherine. She was just getting over being sick, and I was pretty sleepy myself, so it was nice to sit on a bench and observe. Lake Katherine is one of my favorite places to run because of the diversity of plants and animals and the fresh atmosphere but it was also nice to sit back quietly and just watch. We sat right by the lake and watched as a flock of maybe thirty geese landed in the water. It was really cool to see that many geese in one place at one time, and watch as they interacted with each other and with the ducks already swimming in the lake. The weather was very warm for November, and the sun was shining brightly in a clear blue sky, so it was easy to relax. The trees were in varying stages of coloring and leaf loss; some were deep green while others were bare. I thought that it would be pretty boring to just sit and observe, but just being in nature was actually a very nice experience. It forced me to be quiet and to just focus on my thoughts and on the beautiful things before me. I even had the chance to see a few ducklings, which was a nice reminder of how life begins and thrives even as the world begins to look so bare in the winter months.

This past Sunday, I took a walk in my neighborhood. It was much less interesting than Naperville and Lake Katherine, but it still was a nice, soothing time away from the regular stress of the day. It was a cloudy day, and the sky was already beginning to grow dark rather early in the afternoon. It certainly felt like December, as the air was still and cold. Most of the trees in my neighborhood had lost their leaves, and it was cool to see the dark, bare deciduous trees against a canopy of pine trees. I looked more closely at the pine trees and found some of them to be brittle and brown, while the rest retained their dark green hue and waxy exterior. I never really noticed how even coniferous trees lose needles at some point. I also made a disturbing discovery: several of the maple and oak-like trees had dropped leaves with large black spots all over them. These spots certainly did not look healthy. I know that many of the trees in my neighborhood had to be cut down a few years ago due to infestation of an invasive species, and I hope that this will not be the case this time. Even though it was cold and I know my neighborhood well, it was nice to stop and look more closely at things that I normally pass by.

I really enjoyed making this nature journal, as it is so easy to forget how beautiful and diverse nature is when we are so preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of our materialistic, stressful lives. I really do intend to spend more time in quiet contemplation outside so that I can constantly remind myself of how lucky we are to be living in such a beautiful world. This was a fun assignment that didn't even feel like schoolwork, and it was actually pretty exciting to be able to apply things that we had learned about in class, such as biomes that include coniferous and deciduous trees, to what I was seeing.

First Quarter

*Scientists Trace Extreme Heat in Australia to Climate Change*

Gillis, Justin. (September 29, 2014). Scientists Trace Extreme Heat in Australia to Climate Change. Retrieved September 29, 2014, from the New York Times website:

This article began by discussing how the abnormally and dangerously hot weather that Australia was subjected to last year had clear links to human-induced climate change. Five research groups analyzed and published data claiming that this heat wave would have been less severe had there been no signs of climate change. This decision was made public on Monday. Also on Monday, researchers revealed that they could find no definite evidence to prove whether or not a drought in California is a product of climate change and human emissions. The article then took a turn and delved into the ongoing debate as to whether it is true to say that extreme weather patterns have been caused by global warming. Two sides were created: those who attribute drastic weather changes and extreme weather patterns to climate change stemming from humans and those who believe that there is not always a discernible link between shifting weather and the pollution created from humans.

I personally believe that the climate is changing due to global warming and other obstacles that humans have set in the way of the flow of nature, and that this change is leading to a chain reaction affecting the weather. Over the past few years, Illinois has experienced crazy weather that can be compared to Mother Nature having intense mood-swings, as some summers have been unbearably hot, while others ranged from mild to eerily chilly. Illinois is such a tiny fraction of a corner of the planet that I can only imagine how greatly the rest of the world is affected by climate change. Even though I think that weather is shifting because of the damage that humans have caused, I also believe that not every abnormality is a direct product of humans. From the research cited in this article, it is easy to see how climate change could be responsible for so many of the strange occurrences in nature. There are computer programs that allow researchers to analyze the presence of human interference and its consequences, and they are able to see how different things would be if humans weren't contributing to these problems through pollution and by cultivating global warming. It is a mark of intelligence to be able to acknowledge and accept that humans have to take some responsibility for the crisis that the environment is facing and embrace their role in helping to slow and hopefully reverse the repercussions that they have caused. I believe that this article illustrates this point nicely with a broad range of information from various sources. On the other hand, there is also room to say that we cannot blame every strange occurrence in weather on climate change. Just as there is evidence to prove that weather changes are man-made, there is proof against it. For example, extreme rainfall in Colorado was blamed on climate change, but as a matter of fact, climate change would make rainfall like this less common rather than more common. Other natural disasters, such as floods in central Europe, a blizzard in North Dakota, and a cyclone in northwestern Europe have been blamed on global warming, though there are no concrete facts to support these links. In addition, scientists have admitted that the software used to track these patterns and simulate scenarios to compare human interference is imperfect. All in all, it is easy to see both sides of the argument. There is a lot of proof to show how climate change is linked to crazy weather like the aforementioned heat wave in Australia, but it is also justifiable to say that many of the things we blame on humans and global warming are just abnormal due to natural conditions. This article introduced me to this debate and interested me in learning more about each side.

(photo source:

*U.S Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California*

Howard, Brian Clark. (September 24, 2014). U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California. Retrieved September 30, 2014, from the National Geographic website:

Barack Obama has made fish friends and not food by establishing the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. It is absolutely huge; its 490,000 square miles take up more space than all of the United States National Parks combined, and it is also three times the size of California. In this protected space, commercial fishing, dumping, and mining is prohibited. This conservation project, which is actually the twelfth opportunity that Obama has taken to exercise his power to protect land, will provide safety to several types of whales, sea turtles, sharks, manta rays, seabirds, and corals. Obama has stated that he wants to take initiative in protecting the oceans just as we protect the land, so he has made this reserve six times larger than its initial size. Countless organizations have commended the president for this groundbreaking act of marine conservation, though his actions have also sparked a feud with fishing companies that will be affected by the no-fishing policy. Despite the controversy, the myriad of unique and breathtaking aquatic species that he is helping to save will thank him.

I applaud Obama for taking a huge stride toward saving the oceans. The oceans take up the majority of our planet, and are home to some of the most splendid and unfathomably beautiful creatures known to man. Every time commercial fishermen claim the lives of excessive amounts of fish and tangle animals in their nets, or miners who are drilling damage coral reefs or spread pollution, the ocean suffers as a whole. Even though the United Sates is faced with a surplus of problematic issues, Obama chose to place some focus on environmental issues, which seem to pass under the radar most of the time. This article pointed out how there are so many advantages in this situation, such as how countless species will be preserved, the ecosystem will thrive undisturbed, and the oceans will remain pristine and untouched. However, the article also introduces the counterargument, which is that fishing industries may suffer. Even though hundreds of thousands of square miles have been closed off, fishermen still have quite a lot of other places to fish. Humans need to start realizing how their needs are sometimes excessive when one considers how much harm is being done to nature. This marine preserve is a very positive thing, and hopefully it will be the catalyst for greater things to come.

(photo source:

*Success Story: Blue Whale Population Rebounds*

Viegas, Jennifer. (September 5, 2014). Success Story: Blue Whale Population Rebounds. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from:

Something amazing has happened in the whale world. This article discussed how California blue whales are making a comeback. Whaling had almost driven these majestic creatures to extinction, but conservation efforts have helped to cultivate a population of 2,200 whales. Even though this number is relatively small, these Eastern Pacific natives  have a population that is 97% of their initial population before whaling began destroying their ranks. Now conservationists are faced with another obstacle in the path of the recovery of these beautiful mammals: an increased amount of ships in the waters. These whales measure 100 feet and weigh in at 190 tons, yet boats manage to hit and kill about eleven whales a year. Scientists estimate that there will be an increased amount of whale deaths resulting from accidents such as these, and that this may cause populations to drop dangerously low once again. A battle for whale conservation has been won, but the overall war is not yet finished.

I was very excited to hear that the California blue whales essentially came back from the dead. It is too often that the oceans are negatively impacted by humans, so it is wonderful to have some good news from down in the deep blue sea. I recently watched the documentary Blackfish, which deals with the heated controversy over orca whales kept in captivity, and I have a deeper respect for whales now. They are highly intelligent and social, and it is sad to think that they are being deprived of a proper habitat both in the wild and in captivity. Hopefully articles like this and media like Blackfish will shed light on the injustices that whales so often face. This article was obviously pointing out many pros in this matter, since California blue whales are once again beginning to thrive. Because of this, the ecosystem will be balanced once again, and any loose ends in the ocean food web can begin to be restored. However, the article also had its fair share of cons. For example, the prediction that a higher amount of vessels passing along the breeding grounds of these whales will most likely drastically harm the newly-recovered population is alarming. All in all, this article was meant to celebrate the comeback of the California blue whales, as well as to deliver a haunting prediction so that we may do everything we can to protect these gorgeous creatures with which God has blessed the oceans.

(photo source: Google Images)

*Half of world's animals have disappeared since 1970; A shocking report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that 52 per cent of the world's animals have vanished in 40 years.*

Knapton, Sarah. (September 30, 2014). Half of world's animals have disappeared since 1970; A shocking report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that 52 per cent of the world's animals have vanished in 40 years. Retrieved October 2, 2014,  from GREENR database:

This article delivered alarming news: researchers have discovered that the populations of many animals have decreased more drastically than what was previously thought. Since 1970, half of the animals in the world have been killed off. Half. The World Wildlife Fund has reported a fifty-two percent decrease in the populations of several fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammals. This horrific decline in animal population is a result of human expansion because, as is commonly known, the more people there are, the more resources that are taken away from the other creatures of this Earth. The article focused on how humans have caused this destruction, and focused specifically on species that are affected in the United Kingdom, which gives a small glimpse as to how tremendous the problem is as a whole. However, there is hope. The article referenced the Living Planet Report, which urged people to do everything they can to slow the loss of animals. It encouraged people to only consume sustainable food and wood products, recycle more, rely more on public transportation, and cut back on the consumption of meat and dairy. Even though this article has given us a lot to worry about, it has also provided options for alleviating this burden in the future.

Reading this article was upsetting to me. I've always known that humans are causing a lot of trouble for other species, but if I were asked to name a percentage of the decrease in animal population over the last forty years, I would have never guessed anywhere near fifty percent. It's sad to think that so many of God's beautiful creatures are suffering because of our carelessness in their protection. This article was good because it listed ways to improve the environment so that animals can once again thrive. There are many things that are easy to do, such as increasing recycling and decreasing the use of motor vehicles. However, this article was very abrasive, as it harshly lashed out at people for allowing the world to fall into this troublesome state. Even though humans need to be aware of their potential to harm the organisms around them, pointing fingers is not the proper way to get the attention that is so desperately needed at this point. In addition, asking people to attempt to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets is bordering on extreme. I think that the points brought up by this article were thought-provoking and informative, but the approach was slightly ineffective. However, I got the message, and I will try to work on doing my part in the conservation effort in my personal life. I also hope that throughout the year we study and discuss different conservation methods in class so that we can all become informed, proactive citizens.

(photo source: Google Images)

*Wind and solar energy catching with nuclear power*

Jordan, Amman. (October 1, 2014). Wind and solar energy catching with nuclear power. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from GREENR database:

This article discussed how alternatively producing energy through wind and solar routes has been generating results similar to those of nuclear power. As the use of nuclear power is beginning to dwindle, the dependence on solar and wind energy has skyrocketed. Our fixation on harnessing nuclear power as a means of "green energy" has skidded to a halt due to worries about safety and proper disposal of waste. These statistics have shown that we are on our way toward diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels and converting to renewable resources.

I'm not entirely informed on the process of generating and using nuclear power, but I do know that it has proven to be quite dangerous, and even disastrous, at times. I believe that relying more on wind and solar power is positive for the environment and society as a whole because of its elimination of nuclear threats and waste. However, I can see how people would be wary of abandoning pursuits of harnessing nuclear energy because of how powerful and efficient it can be. This issue is rather black and white, though the overall goal remains the same for both sides: to reduce the consumption of our rapidly-depleting supply of fossil fuels. Analyzing and testing different methods of alternative energy generation is a big step toward achieving this goal, and both those who support nuclear energy and those who condemn it can benefit this cause through their actions. I hope to learn more about this issue in class this year.

(photo source: Google Images)

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Great articles Ashley! Nice job! :0) 50/50

3 years ago

Great reflections Ashley! Keep up the great work! 50/50!!!

2 years ago

3rd Quarter = WOW! Great reflections Ashley! You were so thoughtful and really connected everything to class. Awesome job! 50/50

2 years ago

Way to wear your gear proudly!! Thanks you, Ashley, for a great year! I love your thoughtful reflections. Way to connect everything we did during the year together! It's just like nature- everything is connected!!! 50/50