Friday, March 16, 2012

Distribution of Natural Resources

Water, an essential mineral of life, yet its distribution is always link to greediness and monetary value. Based on statistics the proportion of the world’s population that does not has sanitary drinking water is as many as 3 billion people, and 1.2 billion people doesn’t even have access to clean drinking water. As a result, more than 5 billion people die each year from preventable waterborne diseases. In fact, there’s a contrast in the rural population that shows that the minority of urban dwellers, around 14%, are lacking access to better sanitation. But “the issue is not whether urban dwellers have provision for sanitation at all, but whether they have a quality of provision for all members of the household (Michaud). 

This is a clear problem of money and distribution. A good example of greediness and lack of distribution is happening in Peru. I was doing a tour through the highlands behind the city of Cajamarca and the tour guy was saying that the most profitable gold mine in Latin America, Yanacocha, wants to expand the mine and explode the Quilish Mountain that serves the indigenous community as a water resource.

Photo retrieved from:

This mountain is high enough that during rainy days it absorbs all the water from the earth and keeps it, so during summer time when there’s no water available, the community utilizes this water. The rock containing the gold is loosened by daily dynamite blasts, and then piled up and sprayed with cyanide solution. The solution that runs off is then processed to remove the gold. The mine is already affecting the environment of this community, if they get to explode the mountain there would be no water available for farmers, plants, and even the people that live in the rural area.

Cajamarca protest projects on Mount Quilish. Photo retrieved from:

The shortage and imbalance of water of suitable quality will become the most important factors in limiting future agricultural production as well as the availability of food in all parts of the world. What is happening in Peru is just an example of what happens in many countries. Nature gives us all the resource, even in the most remote place, yet we still manage to focus on the materialism and survival of those who can. The hungry masses of the world have come to depend upon dams for irrigation of cropland and a continued water supply. Instead, conservative water use practices such as drip irrigation and water re-use that should be practice as a long-term solution. We have the technology to process any water source for any use. It’s a matter of the governments of the world sitting down with the common goal of long term survival and setting up their priorities straight.


R. Schertenleib. (2005). From Convenient to Advance Environmental Sanitation. Water Science  and Technology, Vol51. Retrieved from

Michaud. (February 2001). Is Our Future Dammed?. Water Conditioning & Purification. Retrived from

Langdon, Shanna. (September 2000). Peru’s Yanacocha Gold Mine: The IFC’S Midas Touch?. Retrived from.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Puget Sound watershed

I used to live in rainy Washington State, although as I already mentioned IT ALWAYS RAINS, I still got the opportunity to see the beauty of the state that enables residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoor activities and landscape of this state. As a result, I thought it will be nice to talk a little more about the great Puget Sound, including topography, majors rivers, near cities, as well as environmental issues related to this watershed.
The Puget Sound watershed is located in Washington State, bounded by sub-alpine meadows of the Cascade and Olympic mountain. It covers nearly 42,800 square kilometers and consists of over ten thousand rivers and streams that drain into the Sound. Counties involving the Puget Sound watershed are Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, and Thurston. The watersheds going upstream are Strait of Georgia, Lower Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Lake Washington, Duwamish, Puyallup, Nisqually, Deschutes and Hood Canal. Watersheds going downstream are Nooksack, Lower Skagit, Snohomish, Duwamish, Hood Canal, and Dungeness-Elwha.

Puget Sound is an estuary, in which fresh water from the watershed mixes with the salt water from the Pacific Ocean. The bottom of the Sound is made up of a series of valleys and ridges, which disrupt the movement of water and help it mix. Puget Sound is the second largest watershed that flows through abundant forestlands and wilderness, including the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Some of the environmental issues that Puget Sound watershed faces are the increase of toxic compounds discharge into the water, such contaminants become bound to sediments, spreading to other areas and contaminating the food chain. The release of these contaminants has created serious health risk to humans and harm to marine plants and animals. As far as watershed groups, there are about 99 groups already established such as the Boeing Creek Watershed Outreach Program, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, American Rivers-Northwest Regional Office, etc.

Photo retrieved from:

While searching the web I discovered important information about the increase of storm water runoff due to the development across the Puget Sound watersheds. As natural surfaces in Puget Sound watersheds have been covered with roads, homes and parking lots, populations of salmon, herring, bottomfish and many other fish have decreased, water quality has declined, shellfish beds have closed, and contaminated sediments have been washed into the near shore environment. As a result, citizens and organizations of the Puget Sound area need to be aware of what’s happening to their fresh waters while increasing volunteer groups and managing the preservation of watershed more effectively.

Anonymous. (n.d.). Welcome to Puget Sound. Key to the Fishes of Puget Sound. Retrieed from

Anonymous. (n.d.). Watersheds. Retrieved from

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Agriculture Expansion

Studies have shown that population growth causes some unbalances in the world; such as hunger, therefore the need to expand agriculture in order to feed human population is inevitable. The article presented talks about the recent increase in agriculture as well as the viewpoint of future intensifications. Agriculture food production has been doubling for the past 35 years, with a 6.87-fold increase in nitrogen fertilization, 3.48-fold in phosphorous fertilization, 1.68-fold in irrigated cropland, and a 1.1-fold increase in land cultivation. (Tilman) These changes would provoke dramatic impacts on the diversity, composition, and performance of the remaining natural ecosystem of the world. One of these changes to suffer the most would be fresh water and marine ecosystem with high rates of nitrogen and phosphorous release from agricultural fields.
Grain production such as wheat, maize, and rice has been one of the fields that have increased the most. Although grain production has decreased the rate of malnourished people in the world, we would still expect to see the world population rate to increase around 10 billion, therefore increasing the need to feed the population and livestock with the most common agricultural production, grain.
The article also explains the factors involved in the recent doubling of food production during the past 35 years. Among these factors is the higher-yielding strain of crops, increased use of herbicides and fungicides, as well as the high amount of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers applied yearly worldwide.
In addition, doubling agriculture would have impacts on the existing nonagricultural ecosystems, such as forests on slopes and wetlands that help release water into streams and rivers. Agriculture depends on soil fertility, which would be destroyed when agriculture expands. The article then ends by stating that agricultural practices need to be modified in order to minimize environmental impacts, even though such practices would increase the cost of production.
Based on the statements made in this article, agriculture food production is facing a two way situation. One way is the fact that is almost impossible to stop agriculture expansion due to the increase in human population, on the other hand rate of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization are increasing as well as the doubling amount of land irrigated. Therefore, the destruction of nonagricultural ecosystem would increase the rate of threatened species in the world. However, if we can properly manage both agricultural and nonagricultural ecosystem, the natural ecosystem would be able to sustain resources used by society, such as fish, timber, and others. 


Tilman, D., (1999, May 25). Global environmental impacts of agricultural expansion: The need for sustainable and efficient practices. Retrieved from

Human Dimensions of Global Change

Human dimensions of global change are surrounded by different questions, some of them without answers. Although it’s true that world’s climate changes naturally due to “the earth’s orbit and the way energy is received from the sun, volcanic eruptions and the way the ocean and the atmosphere work together” (Environment and Cleaner Living) we still can’t forget that human behavior is also one of the main reasons for this cause. By looking at the atmosphere through human history, we can clearly see that concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide increased rapidly around 1800, mostly due to industrialization. At the same time land use and land cover had also significant changes over longer periods of time. Human causes of changes have been happening over decades and the main reason is because humans need to meet the needs of a fast growing population.
However, and this is what intrigues me the most about this subject, the role of human population as the major cause of land cover, is in fact more complex. Several cases suggest that population growth and/or migration show a relationship with increasing rates of tropical deforestation. At the same time, others suggest that population growth wouldn’t need of deforestation if in fact there would be other process available as alternatives to land clearing such as employment. In addition, there’s supporting evidence that “only at higher population densities does one find more intensive and efficient use of land (National Research Council, pg 305).

On the other hand, political and economic structures limit individual choices on the management of land and resources, leading many peasants to overuse their land, opt for polluting technologies, or cut their forests. Therefore, after considerable understanding of human causes, is clear that there is no simple correlation between population and deforestation, or common property rights and resource degradation. There’s still to develop land management institutions that would act to local needs and diminish global change, such development is difficult to achieve but not impossible. If we can at least follow the Kyoto Protocol and keep the commitment as the European Union has offered, we can still reduce emissions by 2013 and later on in 2020.


National Research Council. (1999). Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

(2010). Causes of Climate Change. Environment and Greener Living. Retrieved from

(2010). Climate Change. Environment. Retrieved from