On Humanity, Pollution, and Earth

4 04 2014

I’ve decided to start recording some of my thoughts on things I see in the news (e.g. SoCal earthquake at then end of March 2014, the WA landslide, Chilean earthquake/tsunami of 4/2014 etc.)


Starting off, I thought it best to consider the NYTimes article “Pollution and Dust in Britain Bring Health Warnings”.  On 3 April 2014, a smog alert was issued in London because of domestic air pollution, pollutant particles from the European Continent, and dust from the Sahara, all brought in on easterly winds. This comes after Paris recently implemented partial driving bans and offered expanded, free mass transit to residents after the city’s air quality reached unhealthy levels.

In light of this, I propose that our lessons here should be at least two-fold: (1) I think this is an important time to bring particulate matter into the forefront of the emissions conversation.  Too often I think we talk about “emissions” and our attention falls on greenhouse gases that, granted, are hugely important constituents to consider when talking about global pollution.  However, I think the global emissions/pollution dialogue forgets about particulate matter that contributes to visible smog and public health issues, particularly for those with asthma, heart, and lung conditions, among others.  We need to remember that the same habits – e.g. internal combustion – that contribute to greenhouse gas emission and thus climate change also impact our atmospheres in other ways, such as generating the PM 2.5 material (particulate matter 2.5 microns in size) that are responsible for things like the choking smog for which Beijing is famous.

(2) I think an article such as this one – though not directly – also demonstrates the extreme degree to which our planet is “interconnected” (for lack of a better term; I’m trying to say everything – be it natural or anthropogenic – has an impact elsewhere, even if it’s too far away in time or space to be immediately obvious).  After all, if dust from the Sahara Desert in northern Africa can impacting air quality in London, what does that say about the scales (physical and temporal) over which humans might influence the planet?  Indeed, another article (link to come once I find it) indicated air pollution from China may be carried on winds so far that it contributes to the smog for which Los Angeles is famous.  A realization such as this tells me, as it should everyone else, that reducing local pollution (e.g. in Southern California, to which I’m partial because I went to uni there) is not merely up to area residents: it’s a global problem whose solution requires global collaboration and global cooperation…not to mention global AMBITION to clean up our one and only Earth.  Think of helping others as helping yourself: cleaning up pollution elsewhere on the planet may very well help mitigate environmental damage nearer to home, which can only be beneficial for current and future generations.

A Hobbit Who’s Always Abroad

13 02 2013

So I’m up early today: something about a phone interview with the NSF for a job with them next year(!!!!).

Anyway, as I wait for my posterior to slowly unclench itself, I find myself perusing the blogs of friends currently in New Zealand.  First off, I miss you guys!  Secondly, as the California suns rises through my common room window, I am reminded of how I felt as I looked out over the wing of a 747 both as I approached Auckland for the first time, and Los Angeles on my return journey — and it makes me think that one is never really not abroad.  I mean, even after 4 years, I see a different side of California every day, and am repeatedly floored by some of the things I see out here, be they natural, or the actions or personal qualities of other people.  Does that mean I’ll post here frequently, now?  (“More frequently” – hah, I haven’t been at all; who am I kidding?)  Not necessarily.  But at the very least, I think right now is as good a time as any to remind myself (and others) to just “try to live” — after all, as the saying goes, “There might be a hundred routes to the top of the mountain.  However, it doesn’t matter which route you take to get there.  The only person who is wasting time is he who runs around the mountain telling everyone else their chosen path is wrong.”

So remember, just treat every day like one more adventure; an adventure where the destination IS the journey.


That, and count down the time until I can return, no matter how briefly, to my beloved NZed.

It’s Sweater Weather Somewhere!

18 10 2012

Oberlin Blogs | Blog Entry: “Fall in[to] My Blog!”.


Cool blog post by a friend of mine from NZed, with AMAZING fall photos.  (Paris, you rock!) Wish CA was that colourful, and that it wasn’t 97 degrees out in mid-October so I can wear that sweater I’ve been optimistically carrying in my backpack for a week now…

Education, and the Quest to Remain Relevant

4 10 2012

I still recall my college search, and my first few semesters at uni, talking with my dad about the purpose of education which, he claimed, was to learn how to think critically, and work with others to loftier heights.   I still agree with this.  But lately, I’m also willing to argue that education today – no matter what the learning is about – is also about learning how to be relevant.

Just this afternoon, I tried to make the argument (though maybe not as successfully, or succinctly as I intended) that geology majors are as adequately prepared as others for medical school, or some gainful employment that has human implications because (a) when we look at outcrops, we approach them as a surgeon would a patient: observing symptoms to diagnose a cause; and (b) the geosciences – like any science, and arguably, any major – has taught me which are the right questions to ask, and how I can apply my personal skill set to answer these questions.  (This, however, isn’t to say that I’m not poorly prepared for medical school at the moment, because the truth is that I know nothing of the system that is the human body – a deficiency which I’m well aware would need remedying should I ever decide to pursue an MD.)  Nonetheless, it seemed to me that my conversation partners got lost in the idea that somehow, my lack of “life science” knowledge was an analogue for lacking the necessary mindset, methodical approach, and research skills needed to succeed in a field like medicine, were I to decide that’s where my interests lie.

It was this that made me realize how I struggle sometimes to convince others – and reassure myself – that geology is inherently important to the greater good….even if the processes I study don’t operate on the same timescale as humans.  Sure, because the principles of geology are founded largely on common sense, for example, I understand how geology might appear to be an inherently “easier” science.  However, I would argue that better understanding the world around us is immediately relevant, because it directly influences how we interact with this world; for example, better understanding the hazards posed by Earth’s ever-active, ever-dynamic systems can, one day, be *the* reason why human lives are saved in the event of a natural disaster.  I would also argue that it’s only because of my liberal arts education (which I have been extraordinarily privileged to receive) that I’m learning to be confident in defending my academic pursuits against any detractors who would posit that, “my studies aren’t relevant to society because they haven’t aided my acquiring the mental flexibility necessary to (a) utilize my inquisitive mindset, research skills, and critical thinking ability in addressing any problem, and (b) apply my discoveries to the advancement of mankind.”

Therefore, especially seeing that 2012 is an election year, I’d encourage people to reflect on what they believe the purpose of education is, what role they believe education will play in the development of our collective future, and thus, what level of support we should dedicate to education as we move forward.  Should we only teach that which has an immediate, and direct impact on humans, or the economy, et cetera?  Or do we instead teach our youth how they can, with a sufficient amount of mental flexibility, make themselves relevant in fields (be it geology, the arts, sciences, or humanities) that, as Robert R. Wilson said, “…may not inherently help defend the country, but [that] will help keep the nation worth defending”?



Disclaimer: I’m sure there are many things I don’t address here, or serious shortcomings in what I say, or arguments to be made that this post is kind of like, “Well, uh, yeah. Duh.” or, “What the heck is he even trying to say?”  Regardless, I intended this merely as a way to record some of my own thoughts (“middle school girl writing in a diary” style, ya know?) while providing a forum that could be the nucleus of a thought provoking discussion, should anyone who reads this feel inspired to begin one.  Should anyone feel inspired to discuss this at greater length, please, I welcome any and all conversation about any and all things.

The Blog Still Lives

24 06 2012

Soooo…. It’s official: I’m home.  After hitting up Chch, Auckland, Los Angeles, and finally JFK, I’m back on the east coast, and soaking it all in.  That said, I’m still reflecting a lot on my semester abroad, and I know that at the very least, I won’t forget it, and better yet, that I really learned a lot (academically, socially, etc.).  Lots of thoughts were, especially on the last day, running through my mind, and I spent the entire 11 hour flight from Auckland to LA awake, just replaying the semester and thinking back to some of my favorite moments, how lucky I was to spend 6 months in New Zealand, who I was fantastically fortunate enough to get to know, and who I was fantastically unfortunate enough to have to go without seeing for 6 months.  All of that, I assure you, is still on my mind, and I’m sure I’ll dedicate a blogpost to just that, especially once everyone has departed New Zealand (because let’s face it, when I’m Skyping people in Chch, I still kinda feel like I’m livin’ the “YOU DO YOU GURL” lifestyle right there with them.  If only….).


However, I figured that just because my abroad experience was over doesn’t mean this blog should die with it.  After all, abroad taught me to observe and treasure the little things you otherwise take for granted, and aren’t there still little things that I can’t pick up on for the first time and truly appreciate even though I’m home?  So, as I ingeniously suggested to my sister as she begins a 5 week traipse through Spain, I’ve decided to challenge myself to notice one small thing per day about my surroundings, and really *observe* it, as opposed to just seeing it, so that maybe I can really connect with the place(s) I call home.  And so, getting started, yesterday was all about the thunderstorms.  I woke up at 7AM to go for a run, only for it to be 85 degrees and humid already.  But by the time the afternoon rolled around, a front was coming through, the jets seen landing at La Guardia changed their approach patterns in response to changing winds, and stormy skies started developing, before UNREAL lightning started flashing.  Arguably one of the best summer Tstorms ever.  Check it out:


Stormy skies on this steamy day in #NYC. on Twitpic.


Lightning Strikes in NYC


6 06 2012



Christchurch: Christchurch City – Weather Forecast from MetService.com.

Chch: Now and Then

6 06 2012

Having spent basically six months here in Chch now, I like to think I’ve gotten to know the city pretty well.  However, it still troubles me that a lot of my New Zealand experiences haven’t come actually within the urban area of Christchurch proper, which is slightly disappointing being a city boy (more or less).  A lot of this is due to the earthquakes here, but a guy I met in my geothermal class last week told me, “Christchurch was a bit more lively, but there was never a ton going on, and now the only thing to do here is get the fuck out,” and I’m inclined to feel similarly, though I hate to admit it.  Christchurch just never has had (at least in my experience) a really vibrant kind of city life associated with it – between cordoned off areas, the city being relatively spread out, things closing pretty early, and uni being located in the suburbs (separated from downtown by a bus ride that runs once every 30 min), the area has had this aura about it that reminds me of a turtle withdrawing into its shell: people come out to go to work or whatever, but then return home to their own private lives immediately after; nightlife, for example, just isn’t a thing here, be it clubbing or sitting out in a well lit plaza enjoying food, drink, conversation, and scenery/environment.

However, Christchurch finds itself in a really unique position following all these earthquakes in that it has the chance to start from scratch once more, and for this I’m somewhat jealous.  How great, for example, would it be to get to redesign Los Angeles to increase mass transit, green spaces, and accessibility to compact, defined zones where there is stuff to do, and improve environmental standards simultaneously?!  And in the years upcoming, I’m excited to see that Christchurch has some exciting stuff planned, from the implementation of new transit systems (yes, light rail connecting the airport to uni to downtown!  Maybe I’ll be back for my Ph D once this is complete…?  Still sad to think that my time here is drawing to a close in a mere 2.5 weeks, but that’s fodder for another post…), to the greening of public spaces, to increasing the vibrancy of city life via a myriad of techniques.

If you’re curious as I was, excited by Christchurch’s future prospects, and want to know a little more, there’s a big draft plan (unfortunately only current as of Aug 2011) that can be found at link near the bottom of the article here.  Enjoy!


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