In 1963, the Venezuelan government issues the building of a hydroelectric dam on the Caroni River.  The

 dam raised the water level over 390 feet (120 meters) above that of the original Caroni River. however, this was just the beginning. In 1986, Venezuela finished up the project and increased the hight of the river another 164 feet (50 meters). This massive increase in the hight of the river created a giant lake known now as Lake Guri.  This massive man-made lake is the size of almost two Rhode Islands. Where there were once vast valleys there are now deep trenches, where there were once high hill tops, there are now almost-barren islands. At first, no one really expected the damage this would create. Officials believed that most species would just migrate to other surrounding wildernesss and all would be well, unfortuantaly this was not the case. The bioderversity of the region was about to be met with an unexpected disaster. 

 As Flood waters began to settle into there new found homes, the animals and plants began to feel the damage. This event is a huge example of the dangers of Fragmentation. Though this an extreme case it still holds the same qualities of fragmentation. In the beginning, the predators were the first to suffer. With  no room to roam and prey becoming scarce the predators of the area, such as pumas, jaguars, anacondas, eagles, armadillos, and some weasels were forced to flee the area. The predators were able to swim or fly away from the area, however some were starved to death or drowned in the flood waters. Without these main predators, the future looked bleak. “Taking out predators has a cascade of effects on other populations, down to the plant life,” said John Terborgh, a professor of environmental science at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. As the predators diminished, their prey, such as howler monkeys, iguanas, and leaf-cutting ants began to multiply at unseen rates. though this may not seem like a large problem, there was no where enough room and resources for them on the chains of islands they now inhabited. These animals, being huge plant eaters, began to destroy to natural plant life all around. This problem is still huge today and many ecologist still try to go to each Guri island to try to free each marooned species from there island of certain starvation. 

           Though this ecological diaster is thousands of miles away from our countries borders and doesn’t have a direct effect on our daily life, we must look at this problem and learn from the consequences. As I stated before, the Lake Guri Disaster is a prime example of fragmentation. Ecological Fragmentation occurs when areas of land are broken apart from one another creating bunches of little “islands”. This cause huge ecological problems, such as the ones created by Lake Guri. Fragmentation can also cause other problems such as the prevention of migrating species and the loss of usable land for consumers. Fragmentation does not need to occur via water however. Here in the United States, where we feel everything is so ecologically sound, we are surrounded by fragmentation. Be it large inter-states dividing forests, farm land disrupting the prairies, or cites destroying miles of natural landscapes,  Fragmentation plagues our beautiful country. If there are any positives we can take from the disaster at Lake Guri, we can look at the vast destruction and look for ways we can avoid this problem and never let it happen again.




October 30, 2008

Cars. Can’t live with them, Can’t live without them. This saying applies even more to the huge car manufacturing companies and to Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFÉ standards. As environmental problems begin to sprout up all around the globe, all eyes have been turned to the major contributors of CO2 emissions. The most obvious place to look was to the transportation world which happens to be the third largest contributor to the CO2 problem. It is impossible to walk down a street without seeing a car, truck, train or plane billowing out an overwhelming amount of greenhouse gases. CAFÉ standards urge green standards such as more efficient cars, less dependency on fossil fuels and the over all less CO2 emissions. However, its not as simple as we think to just implement these new standards. These standards take money. Money that the major car manufacturers do not want to spend and money the big oil companies want to make.
The major resistance to these standards comes down to the dollar. Simply put, it costs more money to create these clean, oil-less cars, that the CAFÉ standards are trying to enforce. Major car companies are making money selling the dirty, gas guzzling cars they have been making for years. Honestly, why would they change? In a world like today, where everything seems to down to a dollar, the car companies are simply trying to make a buck and who can truly blame them? Also, the major car companies still do not see the direct success of the CAFÉ standards that are implemented and deeming them as failures. With this mind set, it is not surprise that the companies would resist the changes.
California has always been the forefront of environmental improvements. In the seventies, California forced the car companies to deal with the smog problem in the state. “ The auto business has always had a love hate relationships with California. Obviously, they love the fact that we are the biggest car market on earth, (but) they hate the fact that we try to regulate what comes out of their tail pipes.” This quote from Terry Tamminen, California’s environmental advisor, perfectly describes the relationship California has with the car companies. California attempted to implement new, high fuel economy standards, different than the federal standards, however they needed a ruling from the EPA, which they never received due to car companies lobbying the EPA, white house, the transportation department and Congress.
However, there was a compromise. Congress implemented higher standards than the ones set in place at the time, however these standards were no where near the fuel economy standards California and 18 other states were trying to implement. If the California standards were to be implemented the CO2 emissions would have been reduced by 40%. This was truly one of the largest loses of environmental improvement in the United States.
Electric cars just like any other car have huge benefits and huge problems. Outlooks on the electric car have been mixed. Its name has defiantly been bantered over the years by being an outrageous idea and as of right now this would be a true statement. The electric car right now is no where near marketable. However, there is new hope! This hope is the new GM volt. However the volt couldn’t make it up a small hill and even died. Though there is know price or date for the new volt, GM is still hopful.

Hybrids: Whats a Happening?

October 21, 2008


With the future comes a plethora of new problems. With those problems come a multitude of inventions to combat those problems. Ironically however, with those inventions come more problems. Brutal cycle isn’t it? Well, unfortunately we are going to have live with this cycle just as we live with the carbon or nitrogen ones. One example that falls in this cycle is that of the Hybrid car. As the 21st century rolled around, so did problems with fossil fuels. We began to see fuel prices sky rocket, carbon emissions climb and global warming take affect. We understood we were in turbulent times, so we moved to step two of the cycle. We invented something. That invention happened to be the eco-friendly hybrid car. Half electric, half gas, 100% trendy. As you may have predicted however, the new “answer to our prayers” came with its new set of problems, outrageous price tags, relatively low battery life and a shear lack of power we all seem to have a biological desire for. However years have passed since the first, ever exclusive hybrid and many U.S. consumers are anxiously wondering how far have we come? Is it worth it? Will we ever be able get our grimy little hands on one? And most importantly, would it be worth it? The truth can be found in the numbers. With the numbers Mr. Mck gave us, we are gonna have to look at it from a economic point of view.

Average distance drive every year: 12,000 miles

Cost of gas per gallon: $4.00

The Cost of the Toyota Prius: $21,500

Mileage of Prius: 45 mpg

Cost of Chevy Aveo:  $11,460

Mileage of Chevy: 34 mpg

Gas tank capacity for both: 12 gallons

So! Lets open up the act with the Prius.



So if you drive 12,000 miles per year at an average of 45 miles per gallon that comes to 266.666 gallons a year. Add that to the initial cost of prius of 21, 500 and plus the amount of gallons multiplied by the cost of fuel  (266.66 x 4.00= 1066.6667) and you get just around 22,566.667 buckeroos the first year of driving green ( 1066.6667 on gas)!



Act Two: The Avevo

In short, 12,000 miles divided by the 35 miles/ gallon comes out to 352.941$ gallons multiply that by the price of gas and you get 1,411.765 dollars spent on gas per year. Add that numeber to the intial cost and you get 12, 871.765, the first year of driving the Toyota. 


Now lets put these numbers to work! Driving the Prius you would save 345.098 dollars per year. However the initial price difference would be 10,040.00 dollars. Therefore, you would have to drive that hybrid for 29 years before it would pay itself off…. this is disheartening…. BUT FEAR NOT! Besides the economical aspect, which commercial full fuel obviously wins ( Also you can add in the 3,000 bucks you would have to spend on a new battery every 8-10 years you drive that hybrid, which puts salt on the wound.  There are other aspects as well. One of which is the environment.  According to The Green Car Club, “hybrids reduce health-threatening tailpipe emissions by 90% and evaporative emissions to almost zero.  (The Green Car Club) The hybrid vehicle does contribute to green house emissions just at a reduced rate because the fuel that powers the hybrid comes from a petroleum based fuel.” That’s good news! However, from my research, it looks the Hybrids can’t even win the environmental front.   According to the green car club still, regarding the production of the hybrids batteries, ‘The caustic substances that power the batteries are very poisonous and when released into the environment leech into the waterways and poison groundwater.” That is not good news.

From my research i doesn’t look very good for the hybrid on the roads of today. However, I feel that by just looking at the pure numbers and the environmental downfalls of the hybrid we are missing the point. The point of the Hybrid is that we now have a choice. We have a choice to stop giving all our bills to the oil companies and we are given opportunity to break away from our oil dependency. As i said in the beginning of this blog, problems come with the new inventions created in hopes of solving other problems. However, we can’t forget that this cycle comes full circle. Soon someone will invent some thing to solve the problems of the Hybrids. The only way we can further our quest for the perfect fuel source is by supporting the new alternatives so they get a chance to develop and take the true form that were meant be. Hybrid owners of the world unite!