Thank you!

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this class! Each of you made valuable contributions to the community of learners we formed this summer. This blog was an experiment and I’m happy to say I would do class blogs again. There are small things I would change in the class for next time, but, over all, I think everything went quite well. There’s no better way to learn then to teach, especially with all the new material, archives, and affects students brought to each class, so I am grateful to have been given this class to facilitate. I hope there were good seeds planted over this summer that will grow for students (and myself) in the years to come.

This blog will stay up indefinitely as an archive and record of the class. New comments may accumulate, as wonderers on the web find there way here, and conversations can continue.

May all be well,

-Seth

Bernard Stiegler

Bernard Stiegler, the French theorist, was one of the most interesting people for me that we studied in this class. He was the leader of the technogenesis movement. One of the most interesting facts about Stiegler was he was incarcerated in Toulouse, France for armed robbery at the Saint-Michele Prison. The prison held many Germans post WWII before it was reestablished into what it was during Stiegler’s time. He did much of his studying and thinking during this period alongside that of Gerard Grenel at le Universite de Toulouse le Mirail. 

What is interesting about all of this is the fact that I lived by this prison for three months while I interned in the U.S. Consulate In Toulouse, France. This internship was with the United States State Department. A lot of the work we did involved public and economic diplomacy in the South West region of France. Everyday I hopped on the metro right in front of the to get to work

It is no longer used as a prison and every week there is an article in the local newspaper of how they were going to repurpose it. The popular idea was turning it into a music school/ theatre because of its large walls. It would be able to echo the music that was being play all throughout the city. You can see its large walls would be perfect for the echo effect. The prison basically never gives tours of the prison because of his Nazi Germany history.

 

I did a lot of work with the Universite de Toulouse le Mirail also. In the consulate we gave many grants for students to study in the United States. We also gave a lot of grants for American professors to come and give conferences at the University. One of the most populous Universities in Toulouse, it plays an important role in the city. We have many relationships with the University. There international business school is rather large with students from America specifically with the University of Cincinnati. Recently the name of the School has changed to just the University of Toulouse. The reason with this is because the name “Mirail”has a negative connotation attached to it. When people thing of le Mirail, they think of poor people at Gypsys or Romanians. So the city voted on changing the name in hopes of making the school more of an International hub.

France and the city of Toulouse specifically has an interesting political sphere when it comes to Romanians. There is a large portion of the city that is somewhat racist towards the Romanians. They have a movement that is particularly popular in Toulouse against the Romanians called the Front Nationale.  This group is somewhat similar to our Tea Party in the sense that it is very Nationalistic. It wants to keep everyone that is not French out and protect its borders just like the Tea Party wants to keep illegals out. 

Final Project: Energy and Ecology – Tying Everything Together

For my final project, I am taking a look into the relationship between humans and the environment through the lens of our pursuit of energy. I was first interested in this kind of topic even on the first day of class. At one point, the harm and potential harm fossil fuel corporations impose on the environment was being discussed. Some of the things other people said made me really interested in the topic and it made me look into some of the things energy corporations did. Later on in the class, we discussed the relationship that humans have with animals. In the class text, Why Look at Animals, John Berger discusses the break between humans and animals that was expedited mainly through corporate capitalism.[1] Berger’s article inspired me to look into the break between humans and animals through energy corporations. When I started to research more and more into the topic, I realized that the break was not just between humans and animals but the environment as a whole. However, I did not want to just bash bad energy corporations for advancing the break, but I wanted to see if there was a way where energy corporations could amend this break between humans and the environment. I dedicated a series of five blog posts that try and capture this idea. This essay is an examination of those blog posts and provides a dialogue for moving into the future.

E&E Part 1: The World’s Most Dirtiest Oil is a great example of how detrimental energy corporations can be on animals and the environment. I was first brought attention to this topic through Garth Lenz TED talk on the subject. The Alberta Tar Sands cover an area of 142,200 square kilometers which is roughly the size of the entire state of New York.[2] All of this land once belonged to the Boreal Forest, the largest terrestrial biome in the world. But besides from using that much land for oil, the environmental effects caused by the Alberta Tar Sands are almost inconceivable. The oil is called the world’s dirtiest oil because the oil obtained produces the most greenhouse gases in the world.[3] The impact, however, that comes from tailing ponds is what I thought to be the most devastating. Tailing Ponds contain the leftovers from the oil refining process and are considered highly toxic. Birds that land in these tailing ponds are not able to get out and soon die there. What is worse is that these tailing ponds leak into the Athabasca River contaminating the entire ecosystem. Fort Chippewa is the home of 800 Aboriginal people and is down the river from the Alberta Tar Sands. In that area, cancer rates are ten times higher than they are anywhere else in Canada.[3] The industrialization of the area is planned to continue and will take on the size roughly the size of the entire state of Florida. I found this incredibly alarming and it made me wonder what impact other fossil fuels had like Natural Gas.

I was gladly surprised when I first started looking into Natural Gas. Natural Gas pales in comparison to the harm that oil causes and actually has a promising future. I detail this further in E&E Part 2: Natural Gas – A Bridge to a Cleaner Future. It is obvious that the United States has a debilitating dependence on oil. We use 25% of the oil consumed daily yet we only constitute 4% of the population.[4] The United States needs to switch to another source of energy, but renewable resources are not viable enough to fulfill all of our energy demand. T. Boone Pickens believes that Natural Gas can fill the void until renewable sources of energy become viable and he makes some good points. Here is his TED Talk about Natural Gas and the energy market right now. After watching his talk, I thought that Natural Gas is a great solution but I had always believed that Natural Gas was dangerous, especially fracking. The more I looked into fracking the more muddled the topic got. There was no conclusive evidence that pointed to the method of fracking that directly caused water contamination.[5] This gave me hope that Natural Gas can and should be used as a sort of bridge fuel until other sources of energy are good enough to fully take over. After this, I looked into what renewable source of energy is the closest to replacing fossil fuels, which as I found out was hydroelectric power.

Hydroelectric power accounts for 80% of all renewable source energy.[6] This got me excited because if it accounts for so much it must be a very viable source of energy, which it is. However, hydroelectric power, at least on a large scale, is actually quite problematic. Obviously building giant dams is a difficult task but what I didn’t foresee was how many problems reservoirs have. The details of this are much more discussed in E&E Part 3: Hydroelectric Power, but for now I will give a brief overview of them. Reservoirs are needed basically to control the flow of water through the dam. If the water levels are controlled well, plant and animal life downstream can experience dry-outs which can kill them. The decomposition of the plant life actually causes a substantial amount of greenhouse gases. Additionally, the water in the reservoir is stagnant so algae and other aquatic weeds often crowd out other plant and animal life.[7] The worst problem, however, comes from the actual formation of the reservoir. These reservoirs are made by flooding large areas which kills a large amount of plant life. As mentioned earlier, the decomposition of plant life produces a substantial amount of greenhouse gases, but in this case it is done on a much larger scale. In some places, the flooding of certain areas causes so much greenhouse gases that the life cycle emissions of that hydroelectric plant is comparable to that of a fossil fuel plant.[7] Up until this point, my research has only shown me that energy corporations struggle with not having a serious impact on the environment and animals, some more than others. What I really wanted to find was an energy source that didn’t just minimize the environmental impact but actually supported it. I found that energy source when I stumbled upon offshore wind farms.

Offshore wind farms was the first topic I found that on top of producing clean energy, it actually promoted life instead of harming it. In E&E Part 4: Offshore Wind Farms, I discussed the benefits of offshore wind farming such as more wind, less impact on birds, and they are away from human populations. But the most interesting benefit from these offshore wind turbines is that they can act as artificial reefs. An artificial reef is a man-made structure that attracts barnacles and mussels which attracts fish which attracts even more animals like seals. I thought that this was so cool because it shows that in our pursuit of energy we can actually help animals. Additionally, if we were to take this idea even further, we could design wind turbines as habitats for even more marine life.[8] This idea of integration is key to moving forward into the future if we as humans want to amend this break that we have with the environment and animals.

An even better example of amending this break can be found in E&E Part 5: Floating Algae Ponds. The OMEGA project is a NASA sponsored project designed to find a way to implement a system for biofuels that doesn’t compete with agriculture for water, fertilizer, and land.[9] OMEGA stands for Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae.[9] Out of all the biofuels right now, microalgae is the most efficient at producing fuel for the amount of land it takes up.[10] Microalgae also has virtually no carbon footprint since all of the carbon dioxide released from it was already in the atmosphere in the first place. Microalgae need four things to produce biofuel which are sunlight, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and temperature control. What is amazing about microalgae is that all the nutrients they need can be found in wastewater. So this prompted the brilliant idea by OMEGA scientists to make these offshore enclosures near water treatment facilities. By doing this, not only do you get clean energy but you reduce water pollution at the same time. However, the economics of these systems are still not that great, but Jonathan Trent brought up the idea of integration in his TED talk.[10] When making these systems, we should look how we can integrate other sources of energy as well as helping the environment. Wind and solar energy sources can easily be incorporated into these OMEGA systems. Furthermore, since these systems are offshore, we could turn them into artificial reefs that promote marine life just like the offshore wind farms mentioned earlier. To go even further, these OMEGA systems could be implemented in the reservoirs used for hydroelectric power. I believe that this idea of integration is vital for humans as we move forward and not just for our own energy purposes but for the environment as well.

Berger was right that corporate capitalism is expediting the break between humans and animals but it is not too late for energy corporations to reverse this break. The energy crisis is going to get worse in the near future and we will soon face hard decisions in the energy sector. It is my hope that as we push forward, we focus on not just minimizing environmental impact but how we can produce energy that stimulates life and aids the environment.

Sources

  1. https://carmen.osu.edu/d2l/le/content/11361862/viewContent/6898917/View
  2. http://www.oilsands.alberta.ca/FactSheets/AlbertasOilSandsTheFacts_Oct_2012.pdf
  3. https://www.ted.com/talks/garth_lenz_images_of_beauty_and_devastation
  4. https://www.ted.com/talks/t_boone_pickens_let_s_transform_energy_with_natural_gas
  5. http://energyindepth.org/national/how-anti-fracking-activists-deny-science-water-contamination/
  6. http://ecoble.com/2009/09/10/alternative-power-hydroelectric-potential/
  7. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/environmental-impacts-hydroelectric-power.html
  8. http://coastalenergyandenvironment.web.unc.edu/environmental-stressors/physical-dynamic-presence/habitat-enhancement-and-loss/
  9. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/OMEGA/index.html
  10. https://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_trent_energy_from_floating_algae_pods

We are all cyborgs!

 

This was a big part of my final project but I felt it deserved its own blog post instead of being crammed into my earlier outline post. One of the sources I used for my final was a TED talk by a Cyborg Anthropologist and Amber case. She states the traditional definition of a cyborg in the video as an organism “to which an exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments.”   She then goes on to describe how we have made technology a part of our selves. We rely on these devices we carry with us everywhere to hold our information and to give us instant access to it. We use these devices to communicate with each other and to allow us to do things we could not do before. She stated that all of these things are not an extension of our physical selves but our mental selves. I found this extremely interesting because it means that my cellphone is a part of me, a part of who I am. Maybe not the phone itself, because I do get a new one every two years, but the ability to access information through it and to connect with others. In my project I cited a study that found that 79% of people 18-44 have their phone with them 22 hours a day and that that fact was true of me too. I’ve always thought of my cell phone as a device that I happen to be extremely attached to but I never really thought of it as a part of me, but it is. I feel completely lost without it. Aside from my summer without air conditioning, for my journal I also wrote a short entry of my day without my cellphone. Only one day and there wasn’t a whole lot for me to write because I didn’t do much. I didn’t even really leave the house because I didn’t know what I could do. I also stayed off of my computers so I couldn’t message my friends. I mostly just watched TV. I am completely attached to my devices and without them I wouldn’t know what to do with my life. I use them for work, for school and for my social life. If I were to be without them for an extended amount of time I don’t know what my life would be like. I’d say I’d read a book but all of my books are digital now and on my computer or tablet. Amber Case also states in the TED talk that we have a second self, and that that second digital self is being interacted with even when we aren’t there, which is very true for me. I can barely think of a day where a friend or family member didn’t ask me “did you get that link I sent you?” or “did you see the invite?” Thinking about this is kind of amazing, I now feel like there is this whole other “me” and I have to figure out who that person is, because if I lost that person (lost my devices) and couldn’t interact with them I would “totally freak out.”

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now

Temptation in Advertisements

Every day we see and hear ads for any and everything. There is advertisements for new foods, clothes, toys, and of curse new technology. I do think advertising is a good thing but I also think it is what leads us toward new items. The advertisement tells up how we need this new version of an old item. Sometime the item itself is brand new and the advertisement tells us how much we need this new item that we never needed before.  If we did not see the new ad for the new items we may not want them. But put something new and shiny on TV and people will buy. The growth of technology is not bad but the effects of being too consumed by it are already in effect. We cannot love without cells phones. Who seriously would voluntarily live in a house with no air conditioning? Heck I do not even want to give up my cable. Aside from my rent cable is the next highest bill I have to pay. Even cable comes out with new technology. When I first heard about DVR I thought okay something new. No one I knew had it so I did not think too much about it. I even saw ads for it but still did not feel the urge to get it. Then someone I know finally got it and I tried it out. Once I used it I was hooked and had to have it for myself. Now it part of my regular cable lineup. I moved and had to keep it on my bill. I do not want to go back to watching live TV. I like to avoid as many commercials as possible. I do not need to be tempted to buy anything I do not need just because a TV commercial told me how great it was. When I am in the car again commercial after commercial telling me what new items I need to buy. Thank goodness for music downloading. Technology is helping me avoid new technology. I do not like the way google and other online spies monitor what I am doing online. I do not like that I can visit a website one time then next thing I know I am seeing that site advertise on my computer. I just want to say stop it but I can’t because I like using the internet and new technology.  Like most people I feel the need to have new things. Even if I did not want to I am forced to in society. At work I have to use the computer so I see different advertisements whenever I get online there. Even for school I have to have and use technology so there is no real way to avoid advertisements that lure us in with the new item shine.  I will have to continue to take the few steps I do to avoid temptation. No car radio commercial breaks and keep DVR to avoid as many commercials as possible.