production and consumption

planned obsolescence

This is a means by which companies create products which are design not to last so that the consumer is forced to buy the new, improved, longer lasting version. The product I have noticed that this occurs is razors. Every 3 or 4 months there is a new razor brought into the market and the old blades are no longer available for sale, and the new blade attachment is different to the last razor attachment, this is very frustrating but there is little we can do about it. I’ve found a way to overcome this problem the last razor I bought, I planned in advance for the change in blades, so I bought 20 packs of the blades to suit my razor. This hopefully will save me a lot of money in the long run.

I’m sure that this occurs for many other products such as computers. I believe that planned obsolescence should be prevented by government if at all possible laws should be implemented to prevent companies to do this. This practice costs consumers a lot of money and also creates a lot of waste when the old products are disposed. Companies must realise that this practice is harmful to the planet and should no longer continue. If the government is unable to implement laws banning this then they should impose heavy taxes on companies which have products designed for planned obsolescence.

Companies have been too greedy for far too long now and this has contributed to the current economic mess we are currently facing. Consumers are forced to buy products which are not necessary. There is too much waste due to planned obsolescence. As consumption increases we should evaluate our impact on the environment, and only buy products which are durable and necessary for living. We need a major change in attitude to the consumer lifestyle which we have become accustomed to. We can no longer sustain this level of consumption.

I believe that companies should live up to their corporate social responsibilities and only produce good quality, durable products. if they do this I believe that a lot of waste will be saved. Consumers must also reduce their consumption if we are to get to a sustainable level of production and consumption.

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Critical Thinking.

This weeks lecture we looked at critical thinking. My preconceptions on this topic turned out to incorrect. I never really considered the real meaning of critical thinking. I had always thought of it as people just complaining about things which are happening around them. That it was all about being critical in the sense but the true meaning is much more than that. The best definition I found on critical thing was “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action”.

I’ve never really looked at how critical thinking may be important in relation to sustainable development but I know realise that it will be a very important attribute which will be beneficial for people on this energy course. When we graduate and find employment we will need to have good critical thinking skills if we are to address the causes of climate change. We will need to be able to apply the knowledge we will gain throughout this course to be able to interact constructively with people from various viewpoints such as the government, business and the general public. We will need to be able to convince all these groups that certain steps and approach to tackling the cause of climate change.

The key concept of critical thinking is to consider all viewpoints and respect others viewpoints. The main thing I took from this weeks lecture was that I must not rush to conclusions about nuclear energy. I never really gave nuclear a chance for a number of reasons including, my bias for wind energy as my dad is heavily involved in wind energy production, I have always been concerned over the safety aspect of nuclear power after hearing about the tragedy of Chernobyl from a young age ive had reservation about the construction of nuclear power stations in Ireland, also I’ve been concerned from a young age about the threat of nuclear radiation, from Sellafield, living approx 120km from the plant. The tragic events in japan has again raised fears, but I did learn at the lectures that modern nuclear power plants are much safer, this is reassuring yet I still have reservations over nuclear power. The cost and length of time to construct a nuclear power station cannot compete with the speed of constructing wind farms.

Also I now see that I must recognise that different stake holders will present various viewpoints which may contradict each other. I must take into account the sources of information which will build my viewpoints on various topics. This will be important in this course as there are many groups of people trying to transfer their viewpoints onto us. We must not just accept these viewpoints as fact we much inform ourselves to make our own viewpoints.

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A sustainable future.

In this weeks lecture we were forced to look at how the world around us may change. By 2050 Ireland will indeed be a different place. we were given an assignment to try to imagine how the UL campus will have changed. We must first look at the history of the campus, then we must look at the current campus and we can then decide how the campus will need to develop to meet its future needs.

The past: http://ulaa.ul.ie/?page=TheEarlyYears

The University was founded in 1972 on the edge of limerick city. There was little infrastructure in place at this time, but its attractive river side location made it ideal for a centre of learning.(http://ulaa.ul.ie/?page=TheEarlyYears) The campus has expanded greatly over the past 4 decades from the construction of the physical education and sport sciences building in 1972 up to the commencement of the school of medicine in 2011.We have seen great improvements in the campus buildings and grounds. This development has only been possible by the huge investment and donations from a number of sources, the most interesting donator to the campus development is Chuck Feeney. Here’s a link which will give you a background about his role in the founding and development of UL.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMcjxe8slYI

current campus:

The university has a huge role to play in limerick. It is a hub for innovation in the region, it attracts large amounts of international investment. There is also the benefit to the local economy which depends greatly on the university to sustain jobs and infrastructure in the region. With an expanding student body of over 17,000 we need to address the issues which will arise in the next 40 years. Issues such as increase in demand for energy, courses provided and method of teaching.

future campus:

I believe that the university will see huge expansion over the next number of years. we need to look at the implications of a growing campus. As the number of students increase we will need more buildings for lectures and labs. This will come at a huge cost both financially and socially. As we start to destroy our campus grounds which have always attracted appreciation, we will see the environmental impact in destroy natural habitats of local flora and fauna. Therefore we must recognise that any expansion of the campus must consider its effects. if further building projects or undertaken we must ensure that it is done to the highest standards in a way that will minimise environmental impacts. Materials for construction should be chosen based on their ability to reduce energy use in heating and running the university. Buildings should be constructed using materials like hemp which has a good U value.

The university will need to adapt to socities needs in terms of the courses it provides and the methods of teaching. I believe that there may be a need for more people skilled in sciences and that more courses and positions should be made available. also there is the possibility of elearning, this would greatly reduce the need for building space for lectures and tutorials although labs would still required for practical experience. im not sure how plausible and successful elearning would be, it would have various environmental benfits including reduction in waste(notes online), we would not need to build more to meet increase student numbers (work at home), reduce cost of lecturers (less lecturers could teach more students). although there are many problems including

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Project: Electric Car Poster

poster

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Project: Electric Cars

sustainable development project

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CSR- Corporate Social Responsibility

This week’s lectures looked at the responsibilities of the corporate sector. There has been little investment by large corporate bodies such as Dell, Facebook and Apple to make the changes necessary to be more sustainable. Large companies are unwilling to invest the huge amount of money required to undertake these energy saving systems. The large capital cost and slow returns on the savings of the initial investment act as a deterrent to the investors of these companies. There is little incentive to switch to more sustainable business practices.

 

We are starting to see steps being taken by large companies to reduce they’re energy usage and to become more energy efficient. Although we must recognise that this is not on the bases of being more environmentally friendly but merely to reduce their cost and therefore increase profits. This smoke and mirrors act by these companies must be seen for what it is. This is the common method by companies to try to be seen as giving back something to society. We have seen this before when companies donate to local clubs/schools and end up increasing their profits. Still we must acknowledge that measures are being taken by some companies such as   to address and tackle the causes of climate change.

The smoke and mirrors effect

Government must continue to ensure that companies are paying their share in addressing climate change. Strict laws must be implemented in dealing with company’s waste disposal, environmental impact and energy use. We must try to build an economy which is not just sustainable economically but also environmentally. Government is doing little to encourage real change by these companies to address their environmental impact. We need the large companies to make commitments to reducing their energy usage, carbon footprint and making the switch to a cleaner form of energy to run the companies. We need companies to see the benefits of becomming more sustainable, a viable alternative to the current way of doing business must be presented. The government must provide the infrastructure and financial assistance to companies who wish to make a real commitment to be more socially responsible. By making consumers more aware of the environmental impact of various companies, companies who are more socially responsible would see the return on the investment in becoming more green by increase in consumer. I believe that companies which do become more socially responsible will benefit greatly as we all start to look to reduce our carbon footprint.

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Food sustainability

The true cost to the environment in food production…. from air miles and pollution form fertilizers…

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Climate Change

Which side of the fence do I fall?

This week’s lectures were based on defining the numerous viewpoints on climate change. I got a great understanding of the environmental movement and the history of its foundation.

The main concept was the effect industrialisation had on the requirement for environmental movements to be established. Since the advent of the industrial revolution there has been a major effect on the environment, caused by increases in CO2 emissions and intensification of farming practices. There was great pressure to produce more for a growing population. We can see how this affected our planet, the effects of burning coal was immediately visible due to the great smog which loomed over a highly populated London. The change from a rural lifestyle to the urban lifestyle which was brought about by industrialisation led to a dissociation with nature. Environmental movements have been established to tackle the growing problems such as air pollution and deforestation.

“A concern for environmental protection has recurred in diverse forms, in different parts of the world, throughout history. For example, in the Middle East, the earliest known writings concerned with environmental pollution were Arabic medical treatises written during the “Arab Agricultural Revolution”. They were concerned with air contamination, water contamination, soil contamination, solid waste mishandling, and environmental assessments of certain localities.

In Europe, King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea-coal by proclamation in London in 1272, after its smoke had become a problem. The fuel was so common in England that this earliest of names for it was acquired because it could be carted away from some shores by the wheelbarrow. Air pollution would continue to be a problem in England, especially later during the Industrial Revolution, and extending into the recent past with the Great Smog of 1952.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmentalism)

The industrial revolution was brought about by a huge improvement in technology with the invention of the steam engine which facilitated a faster supply of cheap energy which powered the factories, transport systems, electric supply. This energy and natural resource was exploited and used excessively, without real understanding of the impacts burning fossil fuel had on the planet. They didn’t have the knowledge about the environmental impact they were causing which is now readily available. This new understanding is due to the huge amount of research which has been carried out in the past century by environmental scientist. Yet even today we are still not making the required changes to tackle the problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which I believe to be the cause of climate change.

We can see how extreme weather events have become more common yet our greed an unwillingness to change our reliance on fossil leaves this planet on a road to destruction. We must assert pressure on our governments to act more decisively to tackle this problem before it’s too late. I feel there is an immediate need for a massive switch to a cleaner, safer and more sustainable lifestyle which will preserve our planet for future generations. The problems of food shortage, peak oil, water supply and climate change have been growing rapidly over the last 2 centuries and will continue to do so as our population continues to soar. As we approach a global population of 7 billion we must evaluate our impact and responsibility to use our current wealth of knowledge to tackle the climate change problem. If we work together, in a balanced and effective manner, I believe we can overcome this problem.

So there are many ways in which we can tackle this global problem of climate change. Whether we follow the views of deep ecologist or to the other extreme the free market system a solution must be found. I personally follow the sustainable development viewpoint. I think an even emphasis should be placed on economic, social and environmental development. This balanced approach would create an incentive for people to live more sustainably yet minimise the impact on their standard of living. The deep ecologists plan to withdraw from the international market system, which provides vital produce which can’t be produced in certain regions, is unsustainable if we are to improve our standard of living. I don’t believe that the self-reliant communities, proposed by the deep ecologists, could support themselves in the long-term. They would be very vulnerable to extreme weather events which could have catastrophic impacts on food production, energy supply and transportation systems. The free market system is not doing enough to tackle the problem of climate change. This is for a number of reasons the main reason being greed. For the last two centuries the free market has help us in the western world to develop at the cost of poorer countries. Natural resources, such as coal and oil, have been exploited so excessively that they are now running out with the effect of rising oil prices and increased political turmoil, such as has been seen in the past few weeks in the Middle East. The disregard of the environment by the free market system has undoubtedly contributed to climate change.

The unconvincing attempts by world leaders to tackle the problem of climate change is greatly lacking in magnitude and conviction if we are truly serious about addressing the causes of climate change. There is still no clear and decisive plan to come out of these talks between leaders of the developed and developed countries. Both sides are reluctant in giving any compromises which may have a negative effect economically and socially. These failed conferences inspire little confidence that we will overcome the looming problems associated with climate change. A system of capping CO2 emissions and trading carbon credits seem to be favourable by both sides but we must question whether this will be enough. (the video below is worth watching)

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Energy

This week’s lecture gave a great insight into our consumption and the sources of energies currently being used globally and nationally. We first looked at where our energy comes from mainly oil and gas. We saw how little energy is generated by renewable sources. Our dependence on oil is obvious, this has left us in a situation where we are now realising the implications of peak oil. We can see how we are at a tipping point if not gone past it.

what happens when china takes our oil?

Global oil production will never be at the level it currently is, this worries me greatly as rapid economic development and population growth in countries such as China and India put a strain on dwindling oil supplies. They’re demand for oil will rise dramatically over the next 10 years  as the workers aim to have the western lifestyle of excessive consumption of all goods, including oil.  We have seen in the last number of week’s oil prices rise to their highest level recorded yet. Surely this increase in demand and decrease in supply will lead to even higher prices and possibly to wars. As the Chinese and Indian economies continue to grow and the wests economy, coming out of recession, seems fragile to further weakening, my fear is that the east will have the greater economic power to buy oil from the oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia. This will lead to political turmoil in many European countries and more importantly the US, our ability to continue to use oil at the current level in unsustainable. Our economic vulnerability to oil price rises and disruption to supply is alaraming as we have seen with events in Lybia and Egypt.

Have we passed the tipping point?                

 Unless real decisive action is taken on a global level we will face many problems brought about by a scarcity of oil including; increased cost of “filling up”, long queues at filling station, cost of goods which have oil in them (medecine and plastics etc.), cost of all other goods due to incresed cost on businesses (ie. heating, transport, etc), impact on tourism and industry as costs escalate up to possibly war! That is how serious this problem could become within our lifetime. The west must be the driven force to bring about a global consensus to address to fact that peak oil has been passed. Europe and America must lead by example by investing in new technologies and decrease our reliance on oil.

 I see great opportunities for Ireland to be leaders in tackling the problem of a more sustainable energy supply. We have made great strides for a small nation having invested in research into green technologies which will help reduce our national dependence on imported fossil fuels. We still have a lot more to do such as increasing our production of renewable energies such as wind and wave/tidal. We are in the perfect location to harness the power of the huge wind and wave natural resources which are readily available. I believe wind energy is the best option for Ireland, we have some of the highest wind speeds in the world – we must exploit this cheap source of energy. In the current economic climate we could create employment in the construction sector, which has been almost obliterated, if we were to invest in building wind farms throughout the country. I do realise that a number of issues arise with the adoption of large scale wind energy production such as consistency of supply, long term employment opportunities and environmental impact. So to tackle these problems we must invest in research into energy storage, this would ensure that energy is available when required.  Employment in energy production in Ireland is quite low anyway as we import most of our energy, jobs in the ESB would still be maintained for the up keep of the grid system, new job opportunities would arise in areas such as wind turbine monitoring, maintenance and repairs. To overcome the problem of objections in a numerous locations we should designate 2 or 3 hubs for wind energy production in the country.

 

So a balanced global approach to reducing consumption of fossil fuel and the implementation of renewable energy sources is needed if we are to ensure a sustainable supply of energy with minimal environmental impact. I am strongly apposed to nuclear power I don’t think it would ever be accepted in Ireland  in my lifetime. Its high initial cost of production and the dangers assosiated with nuclear meltdown are still srongly etched in our minds.

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What is Sustainable Development?

Well to be honest I’ve got as much of an idea as you. When I first saw this module on my timetable I was unsure what to expect. I had little understanding of  the true meaning ofSustainable Development and what topics I would cover. The vast array of topics which will be covered goes far beyond my previous belief that sustainable development was just focused on decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and making the switch to renewable energies. Within the first lecture it was clear that that was only a small but important part of sustainable development. It also includes other topics such as Food Supply, Economics and Climate Change.

I learnt how connected all the topics in sustainable development are. In a very interactive lecture which involved splitting up into groups, showing the connections which exist between different aspects involved in climate change. We were shown how fragile these connections are and the impact which cutting certain connections has on the whole system. This clearly relates to the global situation which is much more complex and vulnerable than the system which our class created. My group was given the subject of fossil fuels. We had connections to all the groups but the main connection I noticed was the connection to renewable energies, this connection is very important in relation to Energy. The conflict between these two topics arises from a strong opposition from rich powerful countries to switch from fossils fuels to renewable energy. This connection and interaction is vitally important if we are to overcome the global problem of a decrease in fossil fuels. We need to increase our production of renewable energy, if we are to meet our energy needs into the future. Although there are problems associated with over reliance on renewable energies which were highlighted in this lecture such as deforestation which occurred when forestry was logged and used for biofuel production. We must ask is the trade-off worth it? Here’s an interesting article on the topic that I found http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/08/biofuels_not_enough.php.

This module is unlike any other that I’ve come across so far. It’s clearly a very interesting and interactive module which will really give me a broader range of the various aspects and viewpoints of people on the topic of Sustainable Development. In just the first week I have a much clearer understanding of what Sustainable Development is. It is best summed up by the United Nations Brundtland Report, which defines sustainable development as ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

I’m looking forward to the next 12 weeks of this module. It looks to be a very exciting module which I can really start to crystallise my views and get to see other peolpes views.

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