Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Driftwood at Dusk

  Wow, what a wonderful world. These photos were taken back in August at Sycamore Cove Beach in Point Mugu State Park.  I always talk about how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful environment where I get to experience a variety of biomes like the chaparral and marine biomes like the intertidal zone (thank you IB Biology). However, now that school has started my new favorite class has got to be AP Environmental Science or APES for short. Within just three days of this class (my school has a block schedule), my views about the relationship between humans and nature have been dramatically expanded. Now I haven't exactly undergone the normal science route at my school; under my belt I have both Honors Chemistry and Biology, along with a more in-depth beginning course of IB Bio/Chem. So going into AP Physics and APES this year I feel like I have a bit of an advantage with all the interconnected information I have gained from my past three years of high school science. I love taking my knowledge of science and applying it into my writing. I feel that it gives it a little something extra. However those who aren't so keen on such topics, I will try not to bore you to death as long as you try to hear what I have to say. 

The first thing we have learned about in APES is called "The Tragedy of the Commons" a principle made famous by Professor Garrett Hardin. The Tragedy of the Commons has to do with resources. Resources that no one can regulate, resources that we all share. Like the fish in the ocean, grass for grazing, and the very air we breathe. However, with our ever growing population, we are in constant demand for such "common" resources. Say the carrying capacity or the capacity an area's resources can sustain, of a particular ocean community was 2500 fish. Obviously, fishermen are out in the ocean trying to make a living to feed their families and earn their livelihood. In an ideal world if everyone took as many fish in order to support themselves while still leaving enough in the ocean to be replenished, then the world would be fine and dandy. People unfortunately do not work that way. Some are greedier than others, more ambitious, or simply unaware or have no regard for the fish. So they are the ones who take more than they need out of the ocean in order to reap enormous gains for themselves. While there is nothing wrong with a little ambition, those who only took their share might feel cheated and in turn start to do the same. So then fish are harvested until the supply has been depleted and people are left without a livelihood. That my friends is the Tragedy of the Commons. Common resources come to tragic ends. 

Another example Hardin used in an essay was National Parks. Visitors are free to come and go in order to experience the "preserved beauty and wildlife of nature." Even though these places are protected, just by visiting we erode the very soil that is integral to that ecosystem. The soil might have been compacted in order to keep roots of plants down, and now it isn't. This past year my community experienced a raging fire that burned from the city of Camarillo all the way to Malibu. Driving down the PCH, the fire is still a fresh presence in the charred hills and skeletal shrubs. Wildfires are actually essential to ecosystems like the ones here in Malibu. Fire actually helps some seeds open to reproduce and they also clear away bad weeds that compete with the native plants. Even though the blackened hill sides are depressing to most, it makes me happy to know that the Earth is just back in a cycle of renewal and rebirth. The reason the fire actually got so bad here this past June was most likely because it had reason to keep burning. Despite our ignorantly sincere efforts, we sometimes need to know when our actions are hurting instead of helping. 

Surely people are becoming more aware, and we can stop fishing or overgrazing or cutting down trees. However awareness is not the only factor. I have always thought, when discussing politics, that as much as I would love for the United States to convert over to more eco-friendly forms of policy, we cannot get to that unless we fix other problems with the system*. Other problems that jeopardize our basic needs as humans. If people are starving and need the fish, their needs will be put before the wildlife's. It is human nature, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. People who have stable conditions of life have amazing luxuries. I am not just talking about material luxuries, but of ethical luxuries. We have the time to be able to think about helping the environment and the time to stand on a sidewalk protesting or writing petitions to save the environment. Some people are not so lucky. 

So how do we take such a luxury and make the most of it while still keeping society in mind? I honestly have no clue. But it is something for all of us to think about. For one day, I do believe we can figure it out. While at this moment, I am quite disgusted by humanity's degradation of the earth and the role I play in it, I cannot change what I am. And because of that we need to use things unique to our humanity to change the future. Things like the ability to think logically and critically but also the ability to have heart and empathize. Humanity has had some great moments, but some of its greatest are yet to come.

* This view was also shared by my teacher who reminds us to constantly keep in mind other workings of society while approaching this subject, as both are intensely intertwined. I think this is very wise, and I think I shall apply it to other areas besides his class.

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