Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Unit Four, Solutions and Solubility: Fertilizer and The Environment. Is Nationwide Vegetarianism the Only Option?

There are many different kinds of solutions, and many different factors that affect solubility such as temperature and energy. Whether or not chemicals are soluble in water can affect how they interact with their environment. This is especially important when discussing pollution; different types of chemicals can pollute the environment in different ways, such physical pollution or water contamination.

For example, the use of fertilizer for lawns and agriculture has a detrimental impact on waterways. Nitrogen, one of the components of fertilizer, is extremely soluble, so it can leach downwards through the soil and contaminate groundwater. When there is an excess of nitrogen in water, an excess of algae and other sea plants grow. When these plants die, the suck all the oxygen out of the water, and make it hard for fish and other organisms to survive. This results in “dead zones”— massive stretches of water that contain no life, and are getting increasingly larger as agriculture grows. Water with over 10 parts per million nitrate-nitrogen can cause a disorder that inhibits the ability to use oxygen as infants

The interesting part about this whole thing is that recently in the U.S government has begun to push for the increased production of ethanol fuel, made of corn, in an attempt to cut down on greenhouse gases. However, the increased number of corn crops could increase the nitrogen pollution in water by up to 34%. Scientists have said that the only way to both increase ethanol fuel production while reducing nitrogen pollution would be for Americans to stop eating meat.

This is a bold statement—But the damage caused by fertilizer is too obvious to ignore. So what’s the next step? Is there a middle ground between having nitrogen pollution and greenhouse gases? Though it may seem bizarre now, at what level of environmental damage would banning the consumption of meat be a realistic and reasonable measure? How far is far enough to force a whole country to make such a dramatic lifestyle change?


Charlotte J. said...

Hi Maia! I thought this was a very interesting post - I had no idea that "dead zones" existed. I looked up a few pictures and found lots of photos of "fish kills" which was pretty unpleasant. I would love to know more about how these plants and algae suck up all of the oxygen with them as they die. The whole thing sounds almost like warfare (If I die, you die with me). I am a little bit confused about how Americans ceasing to eat meat will solve this issue, though. How does that work?
I think that a middle ground on these types of issues will never be found. As long as we humans have been on this Earth, we have been messing up the environment. I cannot picture a day when we will not, in fact, I think that this will be our demise. Banning the consumption of meat would not only mean Americans not eating meat, but would mean Americans would need to quit meat production and the selling of meat products. This step would put thousands of businesses out of business and would leave a countless number of people out of a job. I think we need to use our incredible resources to attempt to come up with an easier solution.

- Charlotte Jory

Maia said...

Hi Charlie,

Sorry, must not have made that clear enough. As a separate topic, the U.S government has begun to push for the replacement of fossil fuel with biofuel made of corn. This related to the issue of fertilizer and deadlines, though, because although biofuel is meant to help the environment, the environmental damage that the enormous amount of fertilizer that will be used to farm these corn crops will be huge! So it is counter productive to use biofuel, because it hurts the environment through the creation of deadlines and nitrogen pollution. But at the same time, we need to cut down on our greenhouse gas emissions.

So scientists have said that the only way to 'have our cake and eat it too,' i.e. cutting down on GG emissions with biofuel while shrinking dead zones would be for be for all Americans (as this article is from an American perspective) to stop eating meat, because so much of the crops we produce are used as feed for livestock. If America was vegetarian, it would minimize agriculture and thus the environmental damage caused by fertilizer enough to prevent the damage that biofuel would cause, while also taking advantage of this greener alternative to gas. Hope that cleared it up!

Unknown said...

*deadzones not deadlines haha!