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The Sounds, Chemicals, and Creatures of Our World

For this week’s readings, I visited the Earth Island Journal website and found three interesting articles on the human affect to the environment. “Chemically Altered”, “Extremely Loud”, and “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Planet Earth” were only a few of the reports featured on the website that give a new perspective on what is becoming known as the Anthropocene.

“Chemically Altered” by Elizabeth Grossman, is ironically a gross look into the development of synthetic chemicals that are altering not only the environment, but human life as well. In the 1930’s began a new age of science, in which the creation of synthetics based on petroleum products took center stage. Tens of thousands of these chemicals have been created since, which create useful products such as nonstick cookware, cosmetics, perfumes, and even children’s toys. However, these chemicals have been linked with causing fertility, metabolic, and behavioral problems, and even is cause for some cancers. One of the most prominent synthetic chemicals, BPA, is found in the inner-linings of plastic bottles (including baby bottles) and is linked to causing an increase in fat cells in the body. All of these synthetic chemicals pose a hazard to the environment as well: the chemicals escape into natural resources such as water and the air. Although these chemicals are used to create practically everything that we humans use everyday, there are underlying health and environmental effects that get overlooked.

“Extremely Loud” by Maureen Nandini Mitra explains the effects of man-made sound on the environment and the people who lend their ears to such noises. For humans, sounds emitted from turbines, ventilation systems, and electronic devices can cause damages to hearing, can be disrupting to communication and sleep, it affects heart function and cognition in children, it reduces productivity, provokes unwanted behaviors, and en increases accidents. However, the environment is affected the most. These man-made sounds disrupt the communication of air and marine species, which has ultimately lead to the decrease (and even extinction) of such species. This “anthrophony” disrupts the harmonies of the environment.

Finally, “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Planet Earth” by Nate Seltenrich shows the different animals, fish, and insects that have affected the environment positively and negatively. For example, the Asian Carp, which came to the US in the 60’s as a sewage management tool, escaped into some of the largest river basins. They have affected not only endangered species, but are also disrupting the food chains within the rivers. However, animals such as the Black Angus Cattle have proven to be beneficial for humans and the environment. Introduced to Kansas in 1873, the Black Angus Cow provides us with 60-70% of consumed meat. There are around 1.3 billion cattle alive on Earth today, all thanks to the original Black Angus, Black Meg 43.

There are plenty of other reports and essays to read on the Earth Island Journal which range in topics and subjects. I recommend reading not only these three reports, but also glancing through some of the essays, especially if you are interested in getting to know the world that we have created in this so-called Anthropocene.