Archive | April, 2012

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’?