Thursday, September 3, 2009

It was great meeting with you all today.

As discussed in class, for this week your assignment is to read 1) Plastic Ocean in your Best American Science and Nature Writing text, and 2) the Preface, Acknowledgements, and first ½ of Chapter 1 in On Becoming a Biologist (through p. 20). By 3:00 am on Tues (Sept. 8) (or as soon as you like) you will post a question from your reading of Plastic Ocean at this blog site.

I look forward to working with you all this semester.

Beth Mathews


  1. Having read "Plastic Ocean" out of SNW, I find it interesting that the text states that mankind manufactures some 60 billion tons of plastic a year, and that only 3-5% of this is recyclable.

    Given this, doesn't it mean then that the long term monetary cost of dealing with Plastic products is higher than that of using glass or metal? If so, how can the general populace be shown that this is the case?

    Nathan Bodenstadt
    Section J04

  2. After reading "Plastic Ocean", I found myself wanting to do something about the plastic build-up. However, the passage didn't say much about the role of individual consumers, discussing more the role of manufacturers. Without a viable alternative for most products, how can I help but buy plastic? And if recycling doesn't help, since the passage says that most plastics cannot fully be recycled, what can I as a consumer do to help prevent plastic from building up in landfills?

    Kimberly Watt

  3. Susan Casey's excerpt from "Best Life," entitled 'Plastic Ocean;' begins in a morbid tone that foreshadows a lasting darkness in Captain Charles Moore's life.
    "Fate can take strange forms, and so perhaps it does not seem unusual that Captain Charles Moore found his life's purpose in a nightmare." (pg 9)

    The lasting darkness this sentence foreshadows is the increasing plastic pollution in our world. Plastic Companies massively produce a product that spread and create airborne, and foodborne toxins and illnesses world wide; and yet we are ill informed of such matters. Polybrominated Diphenyl ethers (PBDE's), Phthalates, and Bisphenol A (BPA)are toxins in plastic that are proven to cause major health problems in humans. The health problems scientist and doctors have found while studying the effects of these toxins include liver and thyroid toxicity, reproductive problems and development (in gestating fetuses)and memory loss.
    According to professionals who study these toxins and their effects say the constant ingestion and inhaling of these toxins may have led to, and in some instances, have a direct correlation with major 'epidemics' such as the decrease in fertility rates, cancer (mainly breast and prostate), obesity and diabetes.
    These toxins are not only in the air, but in the very products we depend on. Polycarbonate baby bottles are extremely dangerous to the very babies they feed. Most common problems steaming from these plastic bottles are brain dysfunction, weakened immune systems and may stunt other developing parts in infants.
    The question now becomes, if the very products we rely on are built to kill us, what are are chances of us evolving further? What is the possibility of changing the chemical make up that is deadly to us?

  4. I was thinking the same thing as Kimberly; what actions can we as consumers take to reduce our plastic waste and the deadly chemicals it produces? It's hard to do so since the world seems to revolve around plastic products that are apparently more difficult to get rid of than the average person knows.

    It seems as if this problem is going to get worse in the future rather than better, and since I don't know much about the social sciences or biology, to avoid going down that road I was wondering what occupations would be the most benefical to pursue in attempt to fix this problem on our planet?

    Chelsey Welch, J02

  5. As I was reading Plastic Ocean, a particular quote caught my attention.
    "If you could fast-forward ten thousand years and do an archaeological dig… you’d find a little line of plastic,” he told the Seattle Times last April, “What happened to those people? Well, they ate their own plastic and disrupted their genetic structure and weren’t able to reproduce. They didn’t last very long because they killed themselves” [1].
    I began to wonder similar questions as Curtis Ebbesmeyer quoted above. The pollution on the earth is rising rapidly, so will we be consumed in our own mess? Will our problems catch up to in the end? Will we “choose to spend out days in a toxic wasteland…spend our day being pumped full of drugs to deal with our haywire endocrine systems and runaway cancer” [2]?

    [1] pg 18
    [2] pg 18-19

    Danielle Orbistondo, J01

  6. If you take a look around you, most of the items used in every day life are plastic. with all the harmful chemicals found in plastic, one becomes to wonder which of these have contamined OUR bodies. Plastic Ocean states, "There's a growing - and disturbing - proof that we're ingesting plastic toxins and even slight doses of these can severely disrupt gene activitiy" (pg12)After the generation of humans that is killed off because of these toxins are gone, the same plastic will still be aound to affect the newer generation. Is there any major and effective way to stop AND reverse the damage done by plastic?

    Jenny Danner
    Section J03

  7. After reading ( Plastic Ocean ) I really had to site down and think , why did it take this story in this book to make me open my eyes ? Is it because the government tries to cover up these issues because they depend on them so much ? Or is it because we as individuals really never wanted to hear it or face the ugly truth on plastics ?

  8. As we have read in Plastic ocean, persistent organic pollutants(POPs) are "lentil-sized pellets", plastic in its rawest form, they contain deadly chemicals such as DDT and PCBs. They can be mistaken for fish eggs and can be consumed by the very fish that Alaska's fishermen are after. POPs or "supersaturated poison pills" as Susan Casey calls them, account for ten percent of ocean debris. What does Alaska fisheries do to make sure that we aren't consuming those fish?

    Whitney JO3

  9. How can the America Plastics Council be so excited about plastic bags when in Twenty-three countries, including Germany, South Africa, and Australia plastic bags are clogging sewers and finding their way into the throats of livestock?

  10. How can the America Plastics Council be so excited about plastic bags when in Twenty-three countries, including Germany, South Africa, and Australia plastic bags are clogging sewers and finding their way into the throats of livestock?

    Nick JO2

  11. In the article "Plastic Ocean" by Susan Casey it said that some alternitives are new biodegradable starch- and corn-based plastics, are there other alternitives along with these to help reduse the pollution of the environment with plastic?

    Ty Yamaoka J03

  12. I agree that the use of plastics in today's world is inevitable. The idea of starch and corn based plastics seems like an easy solution, however I wonder what the pros and cons of this option are. Can industries produce these plastics without contributing other type of pollutants into the Earth? Often the obvious solution has hidden consequences.

    Deema Ferguson J02

  13. after reading this article i decided i did not want to drink anything out of plastic bottles then i remembered that this article mentioned something about metal cans being lined with plastic my question is are all metal cans lined with plastic or just metal cans that contain foodstuffs? is it safe to drink my redbull?

    travis johnson j02

  14. In the book it states that Twenty-three countries, including Germany, South Africa, and Australia, have banned, taxed, or restricted the use of plastic bags
    because all of the harm they are causing.
    Why are we still using them?
    Mandie Dixon j02

  15. The book talked about oceans currents taking alot of the plastic out in to the ocean and being caught in certain drifts so does that mean that thier are massive amounts of trash and plastic built up just floating in the middle of the ocean just sitting thier or did i misinterpret this?

    Malcomb Vrecenar

  16. In the article "Plastic Ocean" by Susan Casey it states that "Moore has sailed Alguita back to the Garbage Patch several times. On each trip the volume of plastic has grown alarmingly. The area in which it accumulates is now twice the size of texas." This was written before 2007 and it was twice the size of texas, what is the size of it now and what action is taking place extract the waste from the ocean?

    Freddie Munoz

  17. Just reading "Plastic Ocean" makes many of us want to do something to help at least hinder the process of ruining our planet. If being "green" was a new fad then why aren't more people aware of the true effects of plastic?

    Kymberly Hoyle J04

  18. Reading 'Plastic Ocean' was a serious eye opener, however I can't help but wonder why none of these things were discovered earlier?
    I also am curious as to whether companies that produce all these toxious substances are aware of their effects and choose to ignore them for profit, or if these companies are simply ignorant.

    Dominic Lodovici Jo1

  19. It is great reading through your questions. I think we will have some lively discussions tomorrow (Th 9/10). For Thursday, you should post at least one question from each of the readings from OBAB and the SNW book.

  20. In "For the Love of Lemurs," Wright talks about going to South America to obtain a mate for her owl monkey. I was wondering if any of her researched or published studies help to end the traffic of wild animals as pets into the United States?
    Janvy discusses certain values that most biologists should have, I was wondering if these values are realist and if you can find these values in biologist today?
    Kim Wickman

  21. SNW(Love of Lemurs):If Pat never bought that monkey as a pet back in the 60's do you think she would be in the same line of study today?

    OBAB(Naturalists):The author talks allot of interconnections between different sciences and backgrounds, do you think that scientists are almost required to have innate knowledge of many different scientific fields in order to operate and research properly?

    Stephen Bishop J03

  22. OBAB: Naturalists

    I had a hard time understanding the scientific information in this piece. I think more about the psychological, and emotional standpoint. How could one committed professor influence such a life changing decision?

    Richard Ringle J02

  23. SNW For Love Of Lemurs

    I had no Idea that these primates had such complex societies. Each species is different in their social structure, and diverse in their lifestyle. Almost like humans, they display a diversity that interests me. Could Humans draw closer to a perfect society if we took lessons form the Lemur?

    Richard Ringle JO2

  24. "... again and again, biologists claim that their earliest memories are most often not of humans." (Naturalists pg 5) Since we were all born with a curiosity of the nature of everything, to ask questions, can't each one of us be called a biologist?

  25. SNW-Fishering
    The last sentence, "Where there are no fishers, there was a fisher. Remember that." What does he mean?

    -Kelly Fernanez, JO4

  26. OBAB ch2
    What is the average amount of projects a biologist will have going at one time?

    SNW Q3
    Are there any other animals as violent as the gryllacridids?

  27. OBAB ch2
    What is the average amount of projects a biologist will have going at one time?

    SNW Q3
    Are there any other animals as violent as the gryllacridids? (originally forgot to put my name)

    OBAB ch5
    Do biologists ever get grants that result in them having to oversee the project then being unable to participate as they originally planed? If so, how often does it happen?

    Edith Grover J04