Assignment part 2

20 Apr

project part 2


Week 10

16 Apr

What surprised me most about this week’s lectures was the vast amount of products we consume daily. From mobile phones to shoes to food, almost everything we interact with has a carbon footprint of some sort. From their sourcing to manufacturing to their disposal, many goods have a disastrous effect on the environment.

I’ve learned from the first lecture how our society has become almost obsessed with goods. We all want the best shoes, mobile phones, cars etc. and in turn we don’t even think of the consequences for the planet. The lecturer told us that households contain over 1000 goods nowadays compared to 300 just 25 years ago. That’s an incredible increase in just 25 years.

All these extra goods require energy to create and transport. Some of these goods needn’t have been bought in the first place, just purchased because of its cosmetic appearance. For example, some people may throw away their perfectly working blackberry to buy an I phone 4.

If we in the first world continue to consume as many goods as we are now, we will deplete the planet of its resources in a short time. And with an extra almost 2 billion people to come into the planet in the next 50 years or so all trying to increase their quality of life, where will we get the resources to keep all these people satisfied.

Another interesting idea that I came across this week is planned obsolescence. This is the reason why many modern phones, car engines etc. don’t last as long as they did over 20 years ago. The companies making these products are designing them so they’ll fail in a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence is unethical and I think it should be made illegal. These devises, of course, have to be thrown out after they break. This puts an added pressure on dumps which are already running short of space and as I’ve said the increasing population all striving for better lives doesn’t help either.

However lately, we have seen an increase of green consumerism. Many people would rather buy organic food now instead of food that is grown by pesticides which can be harmful for the environment. Biodegradable plastics have also been invented lately and will certainly help.

Week 9

8 Apr

During this week’s lectures we discussed Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR as its better known. One really Interesting topic that came up was the working conditions at Foxconn factories in China.

Foxconn is the largest maker of electronic components and the greatest exporter in Greater China. I found it hard to believe that a company as large and Global as Foxconn could be treating some of its employees as bad as they were. In fact, Apple has taken a lot of the bad press and PR because of Foxconn. Many call on Apple to boycott Foxconn’s goods as they are Apple’s biggest suppliers. Apple has reacted as well, hiring the Fair Labour Association to audit working conditions at Foxconn in 2012. However, in my opinion, the press and public should hold Foxconn accountable for its own conditions and not offload the blame to Apple.

Foxconn have, under CSR, a responsibility to their employees. Until know, employees have worked under terrible conditions. Last year there were 14 suicides at Foxconn. To prevent the suicides, Foxconn instead of improving working conditions they installed suicide prevention netting at many factories. I also read that a study by 20 Chinese universities has described Foxconn factories as labour camps. Widespread abuse of employees has also been reported. In fact, Foxconn forced its employees to sign a legally binding contract guaranteeing that family of employees would not sue Foxconn as a result of unexpected death, self-injury or suicide.

The following link shows the working conditions at Foxconn.

However, Foxconn is not the only company in China undermining worker’s rights. In fact the suicide rate at Foxconn factories is actually below the national average and there standards in many Chinese companies are far worse than Foxconn. 36% of the Chinese population live under $2 a day. We’ve all heard of the sweatshops that exist all across China where the working conditions are amongst the worst in the world. Nike, the world’s biggest sneaker and Sportswear Company has many sweatshops throughout China. I believe the Chinese government has a responsibility to it’s citizens when it comes to employment. Large Global companies are getting away with mistreating their employees all across China. Many will say that these companies have a responsibility to their employees but I believe it all starts with the National government, then when the necessary laws are in place and enforced will these companies begin to treat their workers better and fairer.

Foxconn has made promises to greatly increase working conditions in its Chinese factories and this may begin to change, maybe in a very small way, working conditions in all the other factories across China. It’s ironic to think that Foxconn, the company loathed over its treatment of Chinese workers, may actually set the ball rolling in terms of change in factories across China.

How these changes can be achieved are explained in the following articles.

Week 8

3 Apr

During this week’s lectures we discussed European Law and how the mention of the environment has changed throughout the years. In the first treaty there was no mention of the environment, nowadays every treaty must have regard for impact on the environment. This to me represents a great change. If a country breaks any of these laws, a member state may end up in front of the European Court of Justice. Ireland has had many cases brought in front of it and this certainly highlights the need for a better strategy for implementing environmental sustainability.

Although, it’s easy to say we should just implement some of these European laws more strictly. The Irish Government are now implementing a law that will see no more turf cutting in Ireland anymore. They will certainly meet a lot of resistance from many rural people in the Irish midlands. Some of these people depend completely on the turf they cut; they have no central heating and don’t want to leave the oil on as it will be very expensive.

The septic tank charge is another controversial topic at the moment. Because of Ireland’s sparsely populated countryside, many one of septic tanks have been established. These septic tanks were not built to the standard as they should have been and leakage has occurred, polluting the land and sometimes polluting water. Polluted water is another big problem in Ireland as well. A few years ago, water restrictions were in place in many parts of the country. It’s hard to believe that a country like Ireland could have water shortages, but it’s simply down to poor decision making and lack of infrastructure.

For Ireland to reach its target emissions reduction, set out in the Kyoto protocol which we discussed earlier in the year, we may have to reduce the livestock numbers which will have a detrimental effect on the Irish economy. At the moment, Ireland’s economy is depending heavily on exports and many of these exports are in the form of beef and dairy produce. There is sure to be a protest or two also.

All of these problems above are recommendations from The EU to reduce environmental impact. I think it’s a good idea that Europe forces its member countries to become more sustainable as I don’t think Ireland would implement any of these environmental laws if we weren’t part of the EU. However, are the EU having too much of a say in how we run this country? They now input their opinions for the budget and these opinions are enforced as well. Are we really a democratic country now that is we’re run by the people we vote into power, or are we ‘under the thumb of France and Germany’?

Week 7

22 Mar

What are Ireland’s prospects going into the future in terms of general standards of living and economic growth? From the past weeks lectures, not so prosperous! We talked about how sustainable development will certainly reduce economic growth. Given the condition of the public and state finances at this moment, it’s not looking too good at all for Ireland Inc. Despite all these negatives the Irish economy is still managing growth, even if it’s just modest growth. However, Ireland is far from reaching its targets set out in the Kyoto protocol. In fact Ireland has one of the worst records when it comes to cutting carbon emissions. It’s very likely that we will miss our carbon reduction target for the period 2013 to 2020. I’m sure if we had implemented the changes we were due to; we would be in as bad a position as we’re in now. If this is the case, we will have to fork out 500 million on carbon credits every year.

However, we can’t keep buying carbon credits forever. We’re falling behind in the sustainable energy research and development industry. We need to get serious on the matter of sustainable development and to stop putting it on the long finger. However, this issue receives little coverage because of the financial meltdown and the corruptness of the banks and some members of the last government. I don’t agree with the carbon credit scheme either. If a country like Ireland, who makes no effort at all to reduce carbon output, can just buy carbon credits are we really moving away from our dependence on fossil fuels? If harsh sanctions were in place both companies and countries would be forced to rely on green electricity more and this area would see much more investment. But, this is a long way from happening because the world leaders are reluctant in implementing the Kyoto agreement. The USA should be a world leader in this field and giving an example, but it didn’t even ratify the Kyoto protocol and has been very uncooperative up to date. Unless we can get The US to get more involved, the process of moving from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources will be a long one.

We discussed during the week that developing countries are acting as pollution havens for some large companies. These countries have caused little of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere of today and believe they should have the right to develop as the developed world did. However, with severe weather effects of global warming affecting these countries also, they will have no choice but to live more sustainable. The first world should also pay grants to the third world so they could begin to develop more sustainably.

Week 6 Blog

12 Mar

Before this week’s lectures, I thought sustainable development was about delivering a sustainable replacement for oil and other fossil fuels so that we could reduce the rate of global warming and deter the associated dangers. That is until I learned about the amount of energy used to produce food, damage done to the land by the usage of GM technology.  The world’s population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050. To cater for this rise, either more land has to be used for agriculture or we have to get a lot more efficient in how we do things. Also vast amounts of land will have to be used for biofuel plantations and I believe a lot more trees must be planted to act as a filter for the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. Can this increase in land usage, along with a large increase in population actually be feasible? Theoretically, we could but a lot of energy and money will have to be invested and we still may not see the expected outputs.

I was surprised to see how much energy is required to produce food. From fuel usage to buildings and irrigation so much energy is used. Although this energy usage is necessary, I believe there’s always room for improvement and we could surely reduce this energy usage. I’ve learned that the developed world ecological footprint is much higher that it’s bio capacity; this is especially so in North America. We have to start living more sustainable and to begin to produce more locally.

This week we also visited the eco village in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. I was interested in the design and how eco-friendly each house was. I intend to take the management stream next year so it was especially relevant. The designs of the houses are certainly the houses of the future. One resident told us that it costs him 18 euro a month to heat his house. Another resident’s house was so well insulated that it didn’t have a heating system; it retains even one’s own body heat which I thought was very impressive. But, we found out to build a eco-house in Cloughjordan is expensive. For projects like this to become more wide scale the cost has to be significantly reduced. One thing I noticed was that all the houses had vastly different designs. In my opinion, this type of project could be a lot more viable if only one house design was used; maybe like a typical modern estate, except with the design features of the houses in the eco-village. I was also impressed by their district heating system and how efficient it is. I believe this type of system should be used in every village, town and city in Ireland.

Since the EU have a strong environmentally based ethos and have a mention of environmental impact in every law they now make, I believe that it would be appropriate for them to introduce  standards to be set in all newly built houses. A certain amount of public spending should be allocated to make these houses less expensive.  However, I don’t believe that this kind of law will be enforced for quite a while. And that is for 2 main reasons; that we only have passed peak oil and we have half of the oil left on this planet and simply the cost of such a project in these difficult economic times.

Week 5: Energy

10 Mar

During this week’s lectures we discussed peak oil in debt. I didn’t really understand what peak oil was beforehand. Of course I heard the phrase mentioned several times in the media. I thought peak oil meant that oil supplies were running dangerously low. In fact it means that we’ve only used up half the oil available in the world. Maybe this is the reason why many countries put renewable energy development on the long finger.

With the demand for oil ever increasing and production decreasing, the value of oil has skyrocketed which effects our economy disastrously. This, of course, is on top of the financial meltdown we have to endure, which means that quick recovery is made even more difficult. The developing world has vastly increasing its consumption of oil in the last 20 years.  Countries such as China and India are booming and it will be very difficult to convince them to develop more green economies, when it was mainly the first world that has caused most of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

The following pie chart shows the reliance of oil, coal and natural gas of the world’s economy.

In my opinion, we need to change from using these fossil fuels to  much more renewable  energy sources. And the sooner we begin this change the better. All our economic and social systems are based on oil and fossil fuels. We need oil for everything, weather it’s the food we buy in the supermarket or the clothes we wear, oil plays a vital part in it’s production and transportation. It’s going to be a difficult transformation but a vital one. The current path is simple unsustainable. The process of change is going to be very long and expensive and should be taken more seriously by many countries who are currently reckless in their energy usage.

We also discussed the positives and negatives of fracking in Leitrim. I’m think we should continue with the project. Although we should be trying to get away from fossil fuels and moving towards a greener society, the economic benefit will out weight the negatives I believe. It will create jobs in a time where it seems every second young person is emigrating. Also the financial benefit could be invested in renewable energy projects and research.