Sunday, June 5, 2011


After it goes down, what happens next?

 Many people probably don’t think about what happens to human waste when it gets flushed down the toilet.  It’s not the most current topic, and frankly, not one that many people find pleasure in talking about.  After being flushed down, human waste can be treated in a wastewater sewage facility and used for various agricultural activities such as:  for a fertilizer and for compost, i.e. it forms “biosolids”.  I know what you’re thinking, EW!  Why should my community invest in that?  Upon investigation, I’ve found that biosolids are very helpful.  Here’s why…

Shedding Some Light on Biosolids

Schematic illustration of a typical wastewater treatment process.
Biosolids contain micro-nutrients such as:  copper, phosphorus, iron, and zinc which are essential for healthy growth.  Biosolids are very useful as a fertilizer because they:  “reduce the need for regular fertilizers, reduce production costs, improve soil fertility, enhance soil structure, add organic matter that maintains good soil tilth and reduce soil erosion and runoff.”[1]  As you can see, biosolids are very good for plant growth.
Now that recently we are very conscious about the environment, it’s a huge upside that recycling biosolids helps promote this. Human wastes dumped in the ocean causes the reduction of oxygen in water due to the presence of nitrogen and amino acids.  This is bad for all marine life and algae are over-produced.  Also, recycling biosolids reduces the amount of human wastes in landfills which is great because less land is being wasted for landfills.     

If you’re worried about how healthy biosolids are, don’t, because they’ve been tested numerous times and are proven to be 100% safe and reliable.  They undergo rigorous treatments and are made sure to meet standards of Ontario’s Ministry of Environment.  In fact, in Ontario they’ve been used since the 1970s.  Because they’re so successful they have caught on globally as being noted for relizbility. 
Now don’t be afraid to ask the question you’ve to, the answer is, yes, they smell.  However, odour is reduced because biosolids are treated in anaerobic conditions (conditions with no air), so there are slight traces of smells.  Plus, odour is further reduced because of they are injected very deep into the field.  Biosolids can contain pollutants, but that only depends on what the everyday citizen drops down the drain.  When there’s less paint and biohazardous chemicals in the sewage, there are fewer pollutants in biosolids. 

This also brings us to another bonus of biosolids, there’s less fertilizer being used.  Fertilizer is good for plants, when used in moderation.  Fertilizers contain harmful elements that cause excess plant growth, and can harm humans over time when washed down sewages on rainy days.  Fertilizers also, like human wastes, minimize oxygen in the ocean therefore increasing algae growth and it can kill marine life.     

Royal Flush
As you can see, biosolids are very good for plants and can be an effective replacement for fertilizer.  So next time, don’t be afraid, BE PROUD!  FLUSH IT DOWN, knowing that you’re doing a good thing, and you’ve just helped make the environment a little healthier, and a plant, a little greener. 

-    "Sewage Biosolids: A Valuable Nutrient Source." Ontario: Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Ontario; Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 07 Apr 2011. Web. 5 Jun 2011. <>.
-    "The Calgro Program - FAQ." The City of Calgary. The Calgro Program, 12 Nov 2010. Web. 5 Jun 2011. <;/>.
-    "FAQ." BioTech Agronomics. BioTech Agronomics, National Biosolids Partnership, 2006. Web. 5 Jun 2011. <>.
-    Bailey, Kenny. "Environmental Concerns With Fertilizer Use." NC State University; The Fertilizer Zone . NC State University, 25 Mar 1999. Web. 5 Jun 2011. <>.
-    Renner, Rebecca. "Sewage Sludge Pros and Cons.", 24 Oct 2000. Web. 5 Jun 2011.


* 500 words without titles exactly!*

Blogs I commented on:

[1] "Sewage Biosolids: A Valuable Nutrient Source." Ontario: Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Ontario; Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 07 Apr 2011. Web. 5 Jun 2011.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Harder Economic Times, Greater Problems with Biodiversity Arise

Food For Thought


Ever questioned the viability of your food?  Where is this grown?  How?  Is it safe?  Well the modern food industry doesn’t want you to question because then they can continue  producing food through industrial agriculture.  The world’s population is ever-increasing, and a greater population means higher demand.  But is it worth risking losing biodiversity to mass-produce this food?  

Industrial Agriculture
Industrial agriculture perceives farms as factories.  “The goal is to increase yield (such as bushels per acre) and decrease costs of production, usually by exploiting economies of scale.”[1]  Industrial agriculture’s goal is solely to up production and lower costs due to the fact that there is such high demand for food. 

Farmers use a technique called monoculture; (feeding animals only one food to minimize costs of production and save money.)  In this situation the term “livestock,” (to refer to these animals) is more accurate.  These livestock are produced in bulk so that the food companies can get more food quicker onto the market.  Livestock aren’t just for food, but they also include sheep for fur or deer for leather.  But by using monoculture to produce livestock, we are actually getting rid of the diversity of certain natural foods and animals by focusing our attention and mass-producing these same things artificially.  Consequences include health hazards as well as a lack of certain traits not only passed down in these species but in human beings also.

Is There Hope?
Yes there is and it is the completely contrary to what is mentioned above!  It is called sustainable agriculture and it benefits everyone.  It is environmentally conscientious by more frequently using renewable resources, but at the same time striving to get the best bargain and not taking advantage of less fortunate communities.  It focuses on naturally growing food and not harming evolution, the possibilities of the future, not just in animals but in human growth and development as well.  By doing all of this, this form of agriculture is the greatest way to sustain our resources while making profits with the least amount of harm done to animals, our communities and wallets.


Looking Towards the Future
Since the 1950s, organizations in Canada such as The Land Fellowship (first ever), try to continue sustainable agriculture efforts.  Even with all of the damages that industrial agriculture has caused such as the swine flu, in a tight economy we get lost trying to obtain the most for our dollar.  But we must be conscientious of every single species on this Earth and not try to cancel them out because we want better profitability.  Every life is important on Earth, from humans to plankton; we all have an impact on our ecosystems.   Let’s focus on trying to preserve every single life; whether animal or human, we are all equally important.

[1] "Food and Agriculture." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists, 05/17/07. Web. 16 Feb 2011. <>.

1.  "What is Sustainable Agriculture?." University of Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. University of Carolina, 2006. Web. 16 Feb 2011. <>.

2.  "Livestock Farms." The Inside Scoop on Farms. Think Quest USA, n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2011. <>.

3.  MacRae, Rod. "A History of Sustainable Agriculture." Ecological Agriculture Projects. McGill University, 1990. Web. 16 Feb 2011.

4.  Steck, Ted. "Human Population Explosion." The Encyclopedia of Earth. Environmental Indormation Coalition, 14 Dec 2010. Web. 16 Feb 2011.


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Designer Babies: A Closer Look

Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if we could completely assure that no one would ever have to deal with a genetic disorder such as diabetes or cystic fibrosis or anything else of the type ever again?  Science has come up with a cure, not exactly a cure for each individual genetic disorder but a way for future children to completely avoid having to deal with genetic disorders.   This “cure” is through the format of designer babies.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of a designer baby is, “a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with In Vitro Fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics.”[1]  This means that babies’ genes are being tampered with to add or eliminate certain genes (that could disorders) or features that could create the desired look of the baby.   But the real question is, is it right?  Scientists and ethicists are still formulating their opinions as this technology is still pretty fresh.  In this edition I will analyze both sides of designer babies in an effort to come up with my opinion and hopefully help you with yours.

The Medical Side
There can be many positives to designer babies, such as gene therapy:  the correction of faulty or unwanted genes; this is referring to genes that would cause genetic disorders such as muscular dystrophy or diabetes to name a few.  In our world there are so many illnesses or handicaps that exist; it would truly be amazing no child was born deaf, blind, or with Down syndrome, autism, or victim to fatal genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis.  There would be much fewer children dying before they reach the age of ten, every child will be equal; perfect vision, hearing and bodily functions will be natural and smooth.  We could abolish the need for wheelchairs and we would breed young capable minds that will really feel like they are capable and can achieve anything they want to in life because they are all able and equal.

The Cosmetic Side
Although this is commonly viewed as a negative aspect, many people are taking interest to making investments in this cause.  According to Dr. Steinberg, Director at the Fertility Institutes, 70% of parents who are coming in for In Vitro Fertilizations are completely able to produce babies but were only there to choose the sex of their babies.  Aside from that, gene therapy can also be used to modify physical characteristics from eye colour to height, you can correct just about anything with a gene. And they don’t even have to be real genes as it has now become easier to create artificial genes. 

Scientific vs. World Views
Aside from the above sides, genes can also be used to increase IQ, athletic ability and even modify personality.  But are we taking it too far?  There are many different views as this is a very controversial topic.  People are literally going to be able to “Play God!”  We would be creating a super mega-mind race but in doing that we would also be destroying individuality, our own moral and ethic values and going against our own faith and the natural course of life.  On a health-related note, it would obviously be incredible if no child would have to suffer with any kind of genetic disorder but is it up to us to decide?  There have been many protests from people of Catholic beliefs and activists groups against it but there have also been many protests from health officials and the parents of children whose children were or will continue to struggle being victims of genetic disorders.

In my opinion, even though I don’t believe this is ethically right, if it were going to happen indefinitely, I would like rules to exist that could be set up in favor of those who want to protect their children from genetic disorders versus people who want to change the physical characteristics or enhance the performance of their children.  Then again, if that were to happen it could entice illegal practices to be set up and it really wouldn’t do anybody any good. 

The following is a link to a video by RussiaToday talking about designer babies and the effect this possibility could have on people who already have disabilities. 

How do you feel about what was done to the baby or on this topic?   Do you believe that designer babies will exist more commonly in out society?  Only time and a lot discussion will tell.  

1.      [1] Soanes, C., and A. Stevenson (eds). 2005. Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. (retrieved December 01, 2010)

2.    Keith , Kleiner. "Designer Babies - Like It Or Not, Here They Come." Singularity Hub (2009): n. pag. Web. 1 Dec 2010.

3.  Agar, Nicholas. "Designer Babies: Ethical Considerations." actionbioscience (2006): n. pag. Web. 1 Dec 2010.

4.  "Designer Babies." TIME (1999): n. pag. Web. 1 Dec 2010. <,9171,989987


2.  dailyme. Web. 1 Dec 2010. <

3.  dailymail.  Web.  1 Dec 2010.  <


1.  Are 'designer babies' next?." Youtube. Web. 1 Dec 2010.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Human Intervention is Bad AND Good

Just like any other time in life, sometimes it is hard to see the positive in a situation if there is also a negative side present.  This is the case similarly with the fragile topic of human interaction with the environment.  It is a known fact that humans are doing damage to the Earth and their diverse ecosystems.  There is too much deforestation which destroys the habitats of many creatures big and small, there are many chemicals leaching into oceans and rivers that pollute and destroy its organisms, there is over-fishing, and the list goes on.  When hearing about human impacts on biodiversity, how often do you hear about the positive interactions humans have on the environment?  Sometimes when scientists educate us about human interactions, they can come across as ranting and raving even when they do present facts.  They also tend to focus on the negative; evidence of this is in the media. 

This topic has been touched upon, but I feel that it hasn’t been enough.  As a member of GreenQuest in our school and a decent human being on this planet, I am all for making up for mistakes.  And it can be argued that negative human interactions aren’t mistakes but they are necessary; and I agree with that to a certain extent but at the same time all of the good human interactions are forgotten.  Tree planting, multiple-country committees, activist groups and “green” organizations are among the list of the forgotten.  Sometimes the media can come across as a little harsh, and this is the worst thing to do if you want to convince people to change.  Aside from all of this, even with the continuation of pollution and the long list of other problems, we must not forget the many solutions that society and various individuals have come up with.

There are many organizations known for all of their environmentalist movements.  But one of the most well-known and supported is WWF (World Wildlife Fund.)  Its mission is, “To stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.” (1)  Their goals are also to protect biodiversity, make sure that humans obtain resources from sustainable environments, and to promote “green” consciousness.  They have created many natural reserves so that they can never be harmed, they have also funded many rallies to promote change, for example the rally where Greece earned the right to clean energy and to not use coal/nuclear resources on February 10, 2009.  They also do various expeditions like tree-planting and bird-watching. 

So if it’s as small as planting butterfly weed, using the NHL’s new Green website, or walking that extra step to the recycling bins, or as big as donating to The David Suzuki Foundation or helping WWF Canada plant trees, it should never be forgotten.  Because if we have learned anything from biodiversity, it’s that the smallest little change can make the biggest difference.


(1) -   "About WWF."  WWF - Canada. Web.  Sept. 25 2010.    <>

*        "Population and the Environment:  A Global Challenge."  American Institute of Biological Sciences.
           Don Hinrichsen, Bryant Robey.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.

*       "Protected Areas as Biodiversity Benchmarks for Human Impact: Agriculture and the Serengeti
         Avifauna."  Proceedings of The Royal Society, Biological Sciences.  A. R. E. Sinclair, Simon A. R.
         Mduma, Peter Arcese.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.

*      "Greece wins acclaim saying yes to clean energy, no to new coal and nuclear."  WWF-WWF.  What 
        We Do.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.  
        < energy-no-to-new-coal-and-nuclear>


*    Vanishing Earth.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.  <>

*   World Nuclear.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.  <>

*   Treehugger.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.  <>

*   Eco-Fresh Clean.  Web.  Sept. 25 2010.  <>

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