If Food Is Mandatory To Survive, Then Why Is It Killing Us? If Technology Is Meant To Extend Our Lifespan Then Why Is It Depleting It?

The term sustainability is commonly defined as “the capacity to endure; is the endurance of systems and processes.” ( Wikipedia, 2015). The term food is defined as “any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism and assimilated by the organism’s cells to provide energy, maintain life, or stimulate growth” (Wikipedia, 2015). Although both are used in separate context, they share a common purpose; To preserve and prolong life through stimulation and maintenance, therefore our group was confused as to why technology has had such a negative impact on the food industry. We keep about technology improving our quality of life and it’s main purpose is to enable us to live much longer and endure more, but this is simply not the case. Although in the beginning everything feels good, that feeling is temporary and we keep returning back to the same place we started, and in some situations, we end up worse than we began. The food industry began implementing technological advancements since the beginning of time, as people were always looking for a reason to make the food industry more convenient and faster. Everything from the way vegetables are grown and the way cheese is processed for preservation, to the way Kool Aid is manufactured, technology has left its footprint. It was Albert Einstein who so popularly said, “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal” (Brainyquote, 2015). Half a century later and his views still prove true.

einstein quote
Fig 1: Technological quote from Albert Einstein ( Brainyquote, 2015).

In the past two decades there has been a significant increase in obesity amongst both adults and children. “More than a third of adults were obese as of 2011 to 2012. More than two-thirds of adults were overweight or obese…Approximately 17% of children and teenagers (ages 2 to 19) were obese from 2011 to 2012, and 31.8 % were either overweight or obese” (TSSO, 2013). This epidemic is mainly the result of technological advancements in the food industry as people have turned to processed, pre-packaged and fast foods as an alternative to whole, fresh foods due to their busy lifestyles. Chemicals are pumped into various types of food to prolong their lifespan. In addition, materials used in the packaging and storage of these foods such as aluminum, silicon and other metal materials have a negative impact not only on the environment, but also on our bodies. Studies have also discovered the significant depletion of nutrients in pre-packaged food vs. whole foods (Villamizar, 2011). Only recently have scientists began discovering new ways to increase the sustainability of food packaging by altering the materials used for certain preservatives and introducing edible packaging ( Albright, 2015). Nonetheless, these advancements are mere drops in an ocean of problems.

obesity chart

Fig 2: Percentage of adult vs. children obesity rates as of 2013 (TSSO, 2013)

gain 24 by 2014
Fig 3: The average weight is 24 lbs heavier in 2014 than it were in 1960 (TSSO, 2013
)

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO foods) are another misinterpreted lifesaving technology that has taken over worldwide. It was established to increase food production, and provide shoppers with a more attractive product. Instead of getting a small bruised tomato, people now have the option of getting multiple shiny, large, and perfectly rounded tomatoes. Its main concept stems from the ideal of extracting high qualities from one organism and injecting it into another organism that needs a makeover. The issue with this is that most people do not realize, that they could be eating a tomato that has a tuna fish’s DNA in it.
gmo fish
Fig 4: Image of the concept for Fish DNA injected into a GMO tomato (Ardent, 2007).

This 7 billion dollar industry is cutting as many corners as they can to keep up with the hype and demand of GMO foods ( Mercola, 2011). On the outside, everything looks great, but in reality this is just another way the government is trying to make more money off their citizens’ livelihood. First we saw how they used the price of solar panels to capitalize in the energy industry, then we discussed how particular governments are trying to control their individual countries population by enforcing population/gender caps, and now they are controlling the type of food we fuel our bodies with. They are indirectly contributing to the decline of the quality of life as they purposely choose not to use their resources to help us, but to help their pockets. GMO foods are more expensive, but people still choose them because the government allows these companies and the media to promote these products as the only option for a healthy lifestyle. So unless people make a special effort to educate themselves on the difference, they are left in the dark. GMO foods make sense except for the chain of negative events that follow. Beginning with the pesticides that are sprayed on the plants and the foods themselves, to the leakage of these pesticides into nearby bodies of water that not only contribute to water population, but also leads to water-life harm in itself. Pesticides also have a negative effect on the people who depend on that body of water for survival. There have been countless class action law suits on pesticides companies being careless with their products and people developing cancer, deformities and other medical conditions as well as death in newborns ( Mercola, 2011). Instead of using technology to promote healthier lifestyle options with respect to our food choices, the government and media has forces the GMO option onto us through the “wow factor” of technology. If they take the time to educate us on a wider variety of choices, we could use technology to improve the quality of food that we ingest, not decrease it. We are trying to save our lives, not lower our population. The problem with society is everyone is too concerned with satisfying their current needs and wants, not their long term ones. If we take a minute to re-evaluate our choices, we can decrease our health risks and improve the quality of our life. Technology should help us grow towards a sustainable future on this planet, not cut corners to satisfy our current needs.

gmo
Fig 5: GMO foods impact on various sections of the human body (Ardent, 2007)

The TBL Simulator was very challenging with respect to food supply, which did not come as a surprise to our group. To maintain a society, it is mandatory that you provide your population with their basic requirements to survive, or upheaval and riots will be the result. This will in turn lead to a decrease in the economy and an overall fail in the game. With food, there is a system of checks and balances and whether it is in the game or real life, there will always be an imbalance if necessities are not provided. While playing the TBL Simulator we realized the importance of food sustainability in a society. We also noticed that population and food supply are linked together. As the population increases, so does the need to more local food resources to keep the society sustainable. A strong local food system not only supports small farms and independent grocery store owners, but it also creates steady jobs. If the population has access to healthier food options, than health costs go down as people are healthier and energetic. Naturally they will be in a better condition to participate at work more efficiently. If the government could help with this, it would benefit them in the long run as people would have more money to reinvest into the economy.

We are trying to save our lives, not lower our population. The problem with society is everyone is too concerned with satisfying their current needs and wants, not their long term ones. If we take a minute to re-evaluate our choices, we can decrease our health risks and improve the quality of our life. Technology should help us grow towards a sustainable future on this planet, not cut corners to satisfy our current needs and wants.

SHOUT OUT

Matt Damon is not only a global top-paid celebrity, but he is also a philanthropist and one of his greatest accomplishment is his water.org charitable foundation. Water. org provides various water and food and toilet solutions for malnourished nations across the world. Initially he began this project focusing on water supply, however he has recently introduced a whole foods program as well. His most popular project is the “water credit” program which provides loans to people to have access to water wells and toilets. His other notable idea was the instant water purifier which can purify water from any well, stream, lake etc. instantly. We give a big shout out to Matt Damon and the entire water.org organization for their positive use of technology to benefit, not hurt people. Check out the short video clip below.

DIY: “There are more people in the world who have a cellphone, than who have access to a toilet” (Water.org/Damon, 2012).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdwinEmUqF0

Population Should Equal Sustainability…But Does It Really?

The term “Mother Earth” has been dangerously misinterpreted by the people who purposely meant to do so. In fact, we are the adopted parents and the planet is our aging child, that we have not done a very good job of raising or nurturing. If there was a social services, or some type of child protection service for planets, Earth would have been taken away from us by now for being abusive and irresponsible guardians. The previous parents who were responsible for the planet such as Dinosaurs, Bipedal Apes, Homo Habilis and the rest of the Homo species ( ignoring ours, being the Homo Sapiens sapiens) were responsible and took very good care of Earth. They did not abuse the Earth’s natural resources, or exploit the planet for what she offered them. Instead, they were grateful to be apart of the Earth’s story. Somewhere along the line, roughly between 1770-1840, the Industrial Revolution gave human beings the idea that they could play God to planet Earth (Wright, 1995), and only within the past decade, have we started trying to play God to planet Mars as well. When technology took over the planet, everything changed. The irony is that technology was born to improve our quality of life, however it has in turn, ended up contributing to the decline of that quality. The concept of people always wanting more and something better has morphed technology into an enemy of the planet. Obviously the ideal of erasing the damage already done is impossible, hence we must ask ourselves, how can we as parents of the planet, improve this issue? Before we do that, we need to specifically identify what negative impact technology has had on our population.

evolution lazy
Fig 1: Image displaying how technology made human immobile and lazy ( Pinto, 2000).
The term population has different facets to it, but can generally be defined as “the summation of all the organisms of the same group or species, which live in a particular geographical area, and have the capability of interbreeding” (Wikipedia, 2015). It was announced in 2012, that the estimated world population exceeded 7.2 billion, therefore as of today, that number has significantly increased and cannot represent a specific number, as various countries including Nigeria, India and China have not been able to release exact data related to this (Wikipedia,2015). Different scientists with a variety of research backgrounds all seem to have a holistic conclusion about the population; They feel that “In the future, the world’s population is expected to peak, after which it will decline due to economic reasons, health concerns, land exhaustion and environmental hazards. According to one report, it is very likely that the world’s population will stop growing before the end of the 21st century. Further, there is some likelihood that population will actually decline before 2100. Population has already declined in the last decade or two in Eastern Europe, the Baltics and in the Commonwealth of Independent” (Friedman, 2015). The reality is that people want to blame the growing population on the problems related to environmental and social issues such as landfills and exploitations of various fossil fuels, however it is mainly due to the technology being abused by this population, not necessarily because of the  amount of population that now inhabit Earth. More people should mean more brains and more hands to heal the planet, but instead, people have become infatuated with satisfying their personal needs, instead of the needs of their planet that is providing them with the necessities to live. People stack up landfills with toxins and waste, however they do not stop to think how their food will grow in the soil if the soil continues to get poisoned with these toxins. Sure the invention of GMO products is a bonus, but is it really, when the chemicals being used to produce those GMO products are more harmful then helpful to a person’s health as well as the oceans and the air we breath? Technology has also made people lazier and has led to increased obesity as you can see in the video link below (ISD, 2015). Therefore we are caught in a vicious cycle of misinterpretation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eqjech_6dc0

Notice that scientists claim that the world population decline will be the result of 4 things, however those four things, really stem from one thing; Technology. Let’s break it down in the following flow chart:

good flow
Fig 2: Flow Chart displaying the connection between technology and a declining population. Diagram Credit: Iheanyichukwu Obia

Overpopulation is a disease currently plaguing Earth, and people are quickly trying to find any solution to this issue, as they have always tried to find the fastest way to fix problems. Nonetheless, the fastest solution is not always the best solution. Some nations including China feel that it is necessary to implement a one child policy, which only allows some citizens to have one child for up to 3 decades (Gander, 2015); This it is morally wrong. Justification for these policies stem from “one of the ideas most emphasized by the Stockholm Resilience Centre is the susceptibility of key Earth System processes to ‘tipping points.’ They believe that exceeding these thresholds risks triggering abrupt environmental change” (UNEP, 2012). Environmentally, it makes sense to have more people populating the planet, because it would lead to more hands and brains to help with sustaining not only the human race, but the planet as well. However technology has made people lazy and has given them an excuse to blame their problems on irrelevant factors. The TBL Simulator is a good example for this as it is very difficult to maintain a successful and profitable city in the game. As a group, on many occasions trying to play this game, we ran into the issue of using too much money to build our cities. This was great in the beginning and our cities looked great, but we quickly lost a large part of our population to homelessness (which in the real world could lead to an increase in crime as well as social support). With a lack of housing and necessities in response to the growing population per year in the TBL Simulator, the overall city revenue decreased as it became too difficult to keep everyone safely housed and social support funding increased. As we experienced with the TBL Simulator, once the population goes out of control, it is too difficult to save the city and continue on in the game. A contributing factor to this was obviously the decrease in city revenue, as this caused an imbalance with the bottom line. If there was a way to begin the game by using low cost energy, housing and other basic necessities in order to establish and maintain a community, then we could gradually increase the revenue over time and there would be a good chance of keeping the balance in the game with an over population issue. Larger commercial buildings need to be built and this will create move jobs, thus maintaining a good employment system. Through this, homelessness could be lowered, if not erased. Our group found it very difficult to maintain a decent score and to keep our balance in the game due to over population. With over population comes the need for more buildings and more resources being abused. However once we figured out how to evenly distribute those resources, and how to reuse those resources, we were able to maintain a good balance. This showed us that overpopulation really isn’t the issue, but how we use our resources, and how we use technology to our benefit truly matters.

If we, the population, attempt to educate ourselves on this issue, we can change things for the better for not only ourselves, but for Earth as well. Instead of finding easier, fast methods, we need to re-evaluate our lifestyle choices and understand how we can use technology for our benefit in sustaining our population. Whether it be on a personal level through household decisions, or on a larger scale, across the globe, through implementing a system that is available for everybody. The infamous statistic that our population will drastically decline in the upcoming years in simply unacceptable, especially for such a technology induced society like the one we live in toady. We need to start utilizing technology for what it was originally create for- to sustain and improve human’s quality of life, not deplete it.

SHOUT OUT

This week we are giving a BIG shout out to National Geographic for profiling a few new companies that are taking food packaging to the next level by allowing people to either eat it. They also profiled some companies that are creating packaging that will alert you when your food is actually spoiling, and containers that can self decompose into the soil ( Albright, 2015). Check out the link below.

http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/21/food-packaging-have-your-cake-and-eat-the-wrapper-too/

Renewable Energy vs. The Bad Guys

We can all agree that technology is apart of our daily lives in some way or form. Whether it be with work, school, communication, interpretations and even understandings, some form of technology is present. Technology first began mobilizing towards the new age due to a reliable need for simple things such as food, shelter and protection. Although that ideal has been significantly manipulated over time, technology advancements are still a vital factor with helping the human race obtain and utilize resources to sustain the success of our species. Its main objective is to replace the excessive work of humans and to make things more easier for us. However, to create and maintain these technologies, it takes up too much of the wrong types of energy, in our opinion. Other species before us were afraid to excessively use basic energy such as fire and water for the fear of it running out, or too much of it hurting them. Cavemen were scared of wells running dry and their simple cooking fires taking over the whole forest and destroying their communities. Therefore everything was in moderation. The homo erectus species were the first species to have controlled use of fire. They developed methods such as rubbing stones against each other to create sparks that would develop into fires for basic survival essentials such as cooking and shelter.  This idea stemmed from their creation of stone tools to use for hunting etc. and they did this with a brain 2/3rd the size of ours (Smithsonian, 2015) Now, millions of years later, flames are lit all over the world carelessly for any reason, almost every second of the day. Instead of spending a good portion of our day creating sparks to cook food, we now rub our thumbs against a piece of metal that creates a flame from a lighter. These lighters are now used for much more then cooking and shelter. We smoke, we light chemical induced candles, fire crackers or burn garbage and fuel factories etc. By abusing the use of fire, we add to air pollution due to the high levels of carbon monoxide released with each flame lit. Instead of technology finding ways to minimize the use of fire. it has found ways to abuse fire as well as a variety of other natural resources. How is it possible that 71% of the earths surface is covered  by water, with 96.5% of that being strictly from the oceans (Smithsonian, 2015), yet year after year in Los Angeles there are droughts causing residents to limit their use of water and not be able to hydrate their plants, tress and grass; Keep in mind, this is one of the most celebrity populated regions of the world.

Fire and water are just the nutshell. Technology giant Apple Inc. has consistently undergone various lawsuits as well as environmental violation cases regarding the impact their products have on the environment. Most recently, various Apple Inc. factories in China had to be closed down due to their ” environmental violations including significant amounts of aluminum-magnesium alloy shreddings on their floors and surrounding areas outside the factory, which are being consumed by wildlife in the area as well as being absorbed into the air due to the humidity levels along with dust particles in the air, lack of proper ventilation, inadequate personal protective equipment for handling toxic materials and dumping of industrial fluids and waste into groundwater and nearby rivers(Purnell, Dou, Wakabayashi, 2014). On the outside, Apple Inc,. presents itself as an organization meant to supply technologies to improve a persons daily life through Macbooks, phones, Ipads, digital and more. They popularized themselves off their cloud sharing inventions and sleek designs containing such massive digital capabilities, however the only thing they are sharing is their waste. Fossil fuels were established to flourish and sustain that flourishment through technological advancements, but in turn, it has contributed significantly to pollution, excessive use of electricity due to the amount of power that is required to use their products and the deterioration of earth, that people are so dependent on these technologies, they don’t know anything else. They can’t picture a life without it. People now feel it’s the norm to use electricity to light their houses in the night, as oppose to the “trendy new way”, through solar panels. Celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady have more recently began promoting energy efficient methods such as renovating their houses to run on complete solar power and have also visibly reduced their excessive overuse of water (Collman, 2012).

jessica simpson
Fig 1: Jessica Simpson and Eric Johnson’s property still gets hydrated regardless of the city issuing fines for overuse  of water due to droughts. Notice how green their property is vs. the surrounding property land (Collman, 2012).

jennifer aniston
Fig 2: Jennifer Aniston has pulled out a water-sucking vineyard on her property and planted succulents across
          her lawn which thrive in the arid Southern California climate (Collman, 2012).

julia roberts
Fig 3: Energy-efficient solar panels on Julia Robert’s roof blend well with her architectural designs (Collman, 2012).

The true wicked problem with this situation is that politics are always involved with technology, because technology requires money and power. If the government doesn’t think there’s a problem, then they don’t focus their energies on it. Politicians enjoy flying in private jets, staying in exclusive villas, and only signs bills and acts with thousands of dollars worth of whiskey and champagne, therefore they increase various citizen taxes so they can enjoy these luxuries. Instead they offer a tax rebate amounting to a minimal fraction of the total cost of solar panels to only home owners that qualify, therefore not everyone is guaranteed a rebate. What about people who rent, since renters make up a larger portion of our population, or condominium owners? The installation of solar panels is expensive and it’s just more feasible to the government on both a home front as well as on a global platform, to exploit the use of fossil fuels. If they made certain cut backs in certain areas, in the long run, more funds would be available to invest into renewable energies such as solar power and promote it as the new norm. However, with over 66 million tones of coal produced yearly (Stone, 2012), Canada is making way too much money to consider this right now.

The following news link entitled The fight over the future of renewable energy in Ontario” explains the pros and cons as well as the government’s influence on renewable energy, what they have done to show their doing something as well as the reality of what they really are doing (Brady, 2011).

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/the-fight-over-the-future-of-renewable-energy-in-ontario-1.1054614

So how can technology be used to help us sustain life instead of deplete life?

As we noticed with the TBL Simulator game, it can be difficult to maintain and sustain a regular life based of our current habits in the environment. This game is very interactive, however not as user friendly as we would have liked as it did take all of us a while to understand how to progress and not die. After we got the hang of things and started playing the simulator we realized how difficult it was to balance the Triple Bottom Line. This week’s main topic was energy and it took a lot of tools and patience in order to find an appropriate medium, as energy is a main tool in both the simulator and our real lives. To produce energy you must create various factories and other pollutant producing industrial units which takes a toll on the environment. We all consistently ran out of money in the beginning we each ran out of funds very quickly while playing the simulator as we couldn’t establish balance for too long and found it very challenging with the budget and planning aspects. This is obviously the harsh reality of things. Games like this are not only important, but can be very profitable as it directs awareness to a specific area as oppose to the environment overall.

The TBL Simulator is a real eye opener and the correlation between keeping your balance in the game vs. keeping balance in your everyday life, with energy being a need not a want in today’s techno-infused world. Trying to build nuclear power plants and set up industrial power stations while balancing the ratio of how many you build and how you build it with the budget you’re provided with, could have an effect on your ecosystem. The general consensus is that although fossil fuels are more readily available, opting for energy produced from renewables such as wind turbines and solar panels would be a cleaner option. Playing this game made us realize that there are always better options. This simulator really compliments the general notion about renewables and the first axiom of sustainability stating that “Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse. Exception: A society can avoid collapse by finding replacement resources” (Heinberg, 2012). It also showed us that if we make forward choices and make a serious effort to improve our daily habits, energy savings realities are very possible. We might not be able to save our planet completely, but we can get back to that mentality that other human species first introduced us to; That it is possible to use our natural resources to sustain our energy levels on this planet, and still be happy and content.

The following link entitled 10 things you should know about investment in renewable energy” have experts sharing their thoughts on how to increase investment in renewables amid falling prices, policy uncertainty and emerging technology (Paddison, 2014).

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/investment-renewables-10-things-climate-change

SHOUT OUT:

Nike, Inc. is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services (2015, Wikipedia). The link below is a video explaining how they plan on transforming their entire functionality and production to renewables by 2025 (Jones, 2014). We give them a big shout out for their efforts in recognizing their carbon footprints and doing something about it!!!!!

http://www.complex.com/sneakers/2015/09/nike-renewable-energy-2025

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