The Student Academic Conference 2012

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I have to be honest; I’ve never thought that I would ever be Student Academic Conference (SAC) material. Last semester I took an environmental history class, because learning about human practices that are harmful to the environment is something we should all be aware of. I knew it would re-enforce what I already knew and also present new scenarios that I didn’t. For instance, the Green Revolution is about the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) like wheat and rice into third world countries. I was aware of GMOs, but wasn’t aware of the science, funding and introduction into countries like India for the purpose of producing a higher yield of food and combat famine. The subject seemed interesting, but I learned otherwise that it was actually devastating to the Indian people. I presented “The Green Revolution in India” at the SAC.

India was suffering from famine at the time and the World Bank, Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation were inclined to push these higher yielding seeds as a way to combat famine and make a profit. The problem that came with these seeds was their need of large amounts of water, synthetic fertilizers (left over nitrogen supplies from WWI used to produce this) and pesticides (using harsh and untested chemicals). You can imagine the wear and tear on the environment. I’m not an environmentalist, but it doesn’t seem healthy to use chemicals in the ground especially for producing food. I can only imagine the seeds absorbing all these chemicals they are being fed and later going into my body.

The United States uses this agricultural model today. Patenting and scientifically changing seeds to support agriculture is the new way. The upside is that it keeps food prices low, because initially you’re producing more food. The seeds are a hassle of having to use new seeds every few years to fight off pests and disease. These seeds deplete nutrients at higher rates than organic seeds and use a ton of water.

Pesticides are used on crops to destroy insects that harm the plants. The issue is that these pesticides kill more than the targeted insects and the worst part is that these insects have mutated. New and stronger pesticides need to be produced. When pesticides were first introduced to India, they were not tested or made to target one type of pest. They killed insects and their predators; you can only imagine what kind of problems that has caused.

Organic farming uses natural ways to build nutrients with organic fertilizers, small amounts of irrigation and no pesticides. Today, most farming needs synthetic fertilizers, large amounts of water and pesticides for plants to grow and some say it has permanently damaged the environment and is irreversible. Let me just say, this is a small slice of the Green Revolution. Learn more about the Green Revolution in Vandana Shiva’s, “The Violence of Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology and Politics.

I also made a poster for a paper written about the dangers of water privatization (picture of poster depicted above). My paper was based off the book called, “Water Wars,” by Vandana Shiva. Her main argument is that water has gone from a basic right to humans and all living things into a commodity sold for profit in the U.S. and global market.

People have always colonized around rivers, one of her chapters refers to the “Theft of Commons,” meaning the water is no longer owned by us all and now owned privately, by the state or federal government.

Dams have given people the opportunity to live farther from rivers and water because water can be delivered (irrigated) directly to your home. This control over natural resources is the common way of life. Man controls nature by moving the water to the person and not the person moving to the natural resource. People control nature and the environment is to be used at our disposal. We move water all around the world, by transporting it where it’s washed down the sink or flushed down the toilet into another river. Water that is bottled in one state is transported to another state and can easily be combined into that water supply. The one argument that Shiva makes that we can all agree with is that science is removed from the general public. Most of us aren’t scientists, so we don’t know what that does to the ecosystems around us.

Both subjects were eye opening; it makes me uneasy that people are making choices based on money rather than how it will affect the environment, ecosystems and all living things in general.

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