We examined three different hybrid objects this week — tuna, lawns, and bottled water. Each time we took a different approach to exploring them. First we made a concept map that illustrated all thedifferent actors related to tuna consumption. After that, we split off into groups and discussed a specific actor. My group discussed the impact on the states adjacent to fisheries, and decided that there would be ecological consequences, job opportunities, and shared maximum sustainable yields. It was really interesting to think about how to manage this resource; even when trying to decide on maximum sustainable yields, it’s nearly impossible to determine the amount of fish in a certain area since they’re not constrained to a certain space. The numbers fluctuate, so the maximum sustainable yield needs to be reconsidered often. The idea of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) was also interesting because usually the ocean is a shared resource, and even when one country has jurisdiction over its uses, it’s extremely affected by the choices that other countries make since the oceans are all connected.
I’ve never really liked lawns, but having a debate about them in class helped me see the different sides of them. There was one group arguing in favor of them, one group arguing against them, and one group arguing that they are hybrid objects and cannot be categorized. My group, against lawns, argued that fertilizer used for lawns led to eutrophication in nearby bodies of water, aggravated a socioeconomic divide, and increased water use. The proponents of lawns argued that they provided jobs, they were aesthetically pleasing, a safe place for kids to play, and increased property value. Ultimately we argued that people should just use native plants in the areas in front of their house because that would solve the water use and fertilizer problems, and still maintain landscaping jobs.
Finally we talked about a taboo at Lewis & Clark, and quite possibly the whole Pacific Northwest: bottled water. It was an interesting object to discuss, because I’ve definitely been the tourist who is too scared to drink local water in certain Asian countries. We explored bottled water as a social construction: water companies, especially those owned by huge corporations such as Pepsi, Coca Cola, and Nestle, all advertise their products as more pure than other water, when in reality they just use purified tap water. Risk assessment in conjunction with bottled water was also interesting since people are more willing to take voluntary risks. If they have control over the consequences, they’re more likely to take that risk. The bottled water industry has become a huge cycle of consumerism since people are convinced by essentialist statements that water is bad or unhealthy. Another problem with bottled water is the spacial fix we create by shipping our trash to less developed countries.
A reassuring aspect of discussing bottled water was that we discussed possible solutions, which is not the norm in ENVS 160! We said that education, research, incentivising tapwater filters, taxing bottled water, and making information about the quality of water nearby easily accessible were various options we came up with. In San Francisco, where I’m from, the city just banned the sale of bottled water in public spaces. Since there are huge music festivals and food truck pods everywhere, this legislation will actually have a significant impact. It’s exciting to see that this type of legislation is actually possible! A few years back San Francisco was the first city to ban plastic bags, and now a bunch of other cities have followed suit. Maybe in the future, there will be significantly less plastic water bottles as well.