My favorite guest lecture this semester was Karen Piper’s talk on environmentalism. I loved that she talked about water shortages, climate change, population growth, pollution, and many other topics as global problems that need to be addressed. Her lecture brought together many world problems dealing with human rights and the depletion of the environment into one big picture through one vital element for human life: water.
Piper relayed how climate change, groundwater loss, and pollution are all contributing to a global water shortage. Water consumption, nutrient pollution through fertilizers and pesticides, along with a loss of biodiversity are problems that I could personally impact! It was interesting how means that had been used to enhance life were now depleting life like fertilizers and antibiotics from overuse. Before her lecture, I had not seriously considered the effects of my water consumption on the rest of the United States. There were so many elements and factors that affected water shortages that Piper wove together to create an action plan for reducing water consumption and adapting to climate change. By adapting to the environmental changes around us and avoiding overconsumption of resources, intense problems like water shortages can be minimized. It was astounding and overwhelming to me that many factors culminated into one huge issue. Thankfully, readings from the day before the lecture talked about ways to reduce water consumption like shorter showers and decreasing car emissions, so the huge issues of climate change, pollution, and less water did not seem totally unchangeable. Honestly, I thought it was very interesting how huge problems are not exclusive like water shortages, deforestation, wildfires, polluted water, and erosion are all interconnected and related. This mindset helps me understand that by attacking one problem like pollution, I can make a tiny impact in other issues too.
Before the beginning of the semester, I had not heard of Oceania and only recognized the name: Papua New Guinea. My research on Papua New Guinea definitely opened my eyes to an entirely unfamiliar world that is very different from my own. I had no idea that one place could contain more than 800 different languages, nor that the government could be very corrupt even under supervision from the United Nations and the United States. It was new that people would want to live in isolation from the rest of the world for the sake of keeping their culture and way of life just as it is without technology. The tropical and mountainous geography of PNG also helped remote tribes remain independent from other people. Yet, voluntary isolation also excludes opportunities for modern medicine and vaccines that could help save lives in the community. The way of life is old and education, gender equality, human rights, and the like are all behind as well. Even so, modern advances like mining, logging, and sex trafficking are all over PNG isolated or not.
The logging industry works towards deforestation in PNG. Without as many trees, biodiversity depletes because there are not enough trees to absorb carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide pollutes the atmosphere and creates a ripple effect on the environment. The mining industry brings polluted air and possible erosion to the ground. Mining and logging both bring job opportunities along with negative environmental effects.
Sex trafficking is pervasive since women are generally regarded as inferior to men due to traditions like the bride price, a payment a husband brings to his finance’s family for her hand in marriage. Divided gender roles like hunting for me and gardening or taking care of children for women help enforce the superiority of men.
It is still hard to imagine living in a tribal community in PNG after stopping by the urban areas like the capital, Port Moresby. Before the blog, I had no exposure to living in traditions and isolation, but PNG research helped broaden my scope. Like Karen Piper’s presentation on environmentalism, I was exposed to a variety of issue that were wrapped into one small country. The blog and presentations throughout the semester showed me that problems I thought could be solved with a little work were a lot more complex than I imagined. Gender inequality runs deep within societies especially in indigenous tribes like ones in Papua New Guinea. Climate change stems from humans polluting and taking advantage of the environment’s resources along with a myriad of other problems. The 30 United Nations Human Rights standards is the best picture of how humans should be living each day, but few know or live their full rights out. All of these problems are way more complex and broad than I ever thought. To reverse an issue, there will be a complementary set of complex steps towards a solution. These steps are similar to the actions it took to create the problem like human error and selfishness. A viable solution will take lots of errors and corrections to be made right along with a selfish desire to make the world better for one’s own sake.