Jan 27

One of the crops I am interested in growing in the community garden are strawberries. I have researched strawberry cultivation and have posted my response to research questions (found on John’s DP) here.

a. The strawberry is a delicious fruit with many uses including jam and juice.

b. The growing season for the strawberry is during the Spring, and they do best in moist, cool regions. San Diego’s Mediterranean climate should be accommodating for this crop as the weather is never too hot for them, and moisture on the coast of San Diego should be fine for the strawberries.

c. The strawberries should be planted where other crops have already been grown from, because pests and weeds harmful to the strawberry can be found in beds not previously cultivated. Also, the strawberry plant should be purchased in plant form, and then planted into the beds.

d. The strawberry plant will continuing bearing fruit for over two years! It will be ready for harvest in approximately 2-3 months, and should be replanted every 2-3 years. This will allow for continuous harvest of strawberries through the class of 2013.

e. If we wanted to grow by seeds, the best way would be to ascertain strawberry achenes to plant. This will take an additional 2-3 months, so it might not be feasible for a harvest this semester.

f. The plants need to be 15 inches away from each other, so we can probably plant up to 20 and have enough. Also, this plant SHOULD NOT be planted near peppers, tomatoes, eggplant or potatoes as it causes devastating wilt to the strawberries.

g. Strawberries thrive best in a soil environment that is drained (as strawberries do not like to be damp) Strawberries will not grow in soil with high lime content. The soil should be somewhat acidic (between 5.5 and 6.0 on the scale). The best NPK ratio for the strawberry is 10-10-10.

h. Strawberries require 1 inch of water per week. Do not allow standing water to saturate the soil for a day or longer, as it is bad for the crop. Drip irrigation would be ideal as it will minimize the water to make the strawberries happy.

i. Definitely not peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes! These are fatal to the plant. Also, it is best to keep away from cabbage. Plant near beans, lettuce, onions, spinach, and thyme.

j. The strawberry is not a true berry because of the absent of seeds inside the plant. The yellow seeds on the exterior are considered individual fruits.

Strawberries were used back in the 1200s in Rome for medicinal purposes.

Strawberries contain salicylates, which is found in Asprin.

I look forward to getting this approved and to start planting this in our Media Arts Community Garden.

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Jan 21

Proposal

I would like to do my senior project on the global energy crisis but focus on nuclear energy generation. I want to investigate both the pros and the cons citing Three Mile Island and bringing it home to the controversy at San Onofre. A cool video idea to satisfy Margaret’s requirement is to do a 2110 post apocalypse movie that shows what happened when only two people survived a major radiation leak at SONGS. This will be cool to film because SONGS is locally based and the point will hit home to show people what could happen if something goes wrong.

I like the source straight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because they are acknowledging the problems that have occurred but don’t doubt the pros of nuclear power generation. Because of this, I can incorporate nuclear energy as a feasible option for power generation over the next 100 years.

Also, it would be interesting to evaluate nuclear powered aircraft and vehicles as a feasible option for fueling propulsionafter we deplete our fossil fuels that we have stored.

Whatever I do, I want to collaborate with Jake Neighbors as he is doing his senior project on energy as well. The collaboration would work well as we both have our own essential questions but they can be merged into one final deliverable at senior exhibition.

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Jan 21

Nuclear Energy

“Nuclear Energy.” Oracle ThinkQuest Library. Web. 20 Jan. 2010. <http://library.thinkquest.org/3471/nuclear_energy.html>.

Can occur naturally and artificially. The energy produced by the sun is a nuclear reaction and is thus nuclear energy. Artificially, humans create nuclear power in reactors.

There are two main types of nuclear energy generation, Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion.

Fission involves splitting the atoms and fusion involves joining atoms, both create substantial nuclear power.

The atomic bomb is an example of nuclear fission while the hydrogen bomb is an example of fusion.

Nuclear Energy has many advantages, including pollution mitigation (nuclear energy is clean air). One of the main concerns however is the storage of nuclear waste.

This article also shows examples of negative effects of nuclear energy citing the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island incidents of radiation leaks.

Burge, Michael. “Problems at nuclear plant concern regulators.” San Diego Union-Tribune. SignOnSanDiego.com. 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 21 Jan. 2010. <http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jan/21/problems-nuclear-plant-concern-regulators/>.

This article, published in our local newspaper today is regarding the  San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). On January 13, 2010 engineers found cracks in the reactor’s cooling system and caused them to go into situation mode. Due to a miscommunication, they shut down the wrong cooling system in an attempt to mitigate the problem.

This situation could have been bad had the emergency been severe, and officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) are upset.

“In March 2009, the NRC gave the plant poor marks for a loose connection on a backup battery that’s used to start a backup diesel generator. And in 2008, it disciplined the plant after a contract fire inspector was found to have falsified reports for five years.

In November 2009, two plant employees filed a whistle-blower complaint against the plant, saying that managers retaliated against them after they reported a safety violation. San Onofre officials deny the accusation and say they are improving the safety culture at the plant.” –via SignOnSanDiego.com

The two reactors of the plant generate 2,200 megawatts of electricity.

This is an interesting source as it is of local interest and affects San Diego County.

“Background on the Three Mile Island Accident.” Nuclear Regulatory Committee. 11 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html>.

“The accident at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI‑2) nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa., on March 28, 1979, was the most serious in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, even though it led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community. But it brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. Resultant changes in the nuclear power industry and at the NRC had the effect of enhancing safety. “

The accident happened when cooling pumps failed spontaneously, allowing heat to build up in the steam generators. The reactor automatically shut down, as it was programmed to do so.

Pressure began to build up and the operators opened a relief valve, which did not shut off automatically and drained coolant. Since the coolant drained, the nuclear fuel overheated and the majority of the reactor core melted. This is one of the most dangerous kind of nuclear power accident, as only 1 millirem of radiation was present per 2 million people in surrounding communities (compared to 6 millirem of radiation people are exposed to during a chest x-ray), thus health affects from the accident were not a huge concern.

The main concern was how the operators and personnel at the plant dealt with the accident. The NRC changed many policies in wake of the accident, including minimum requirements for the reliability of automatic shutdown of individual plant components (such as the valves and circuit breakers)

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Jan 18

“Farmer in Chief” was an interesting, thought provoking read. I’ll be honest, before reading it I didn’t really think twice about where my food came from. Being a student on a budget, all I cared about was the cost of my delicious food. The cheaper the food was, the more likely I was to buy it. After all, I didn’t know that there was a negative correlation between cost of food affecting environmental problems.

This text went in depth describing what needs to be done to mitigate the environmental problems. One of the biggest cases it makes is the need to decentralize the food industry.

Let’s face it, businesses all around the world are doing whatever they can to keep costs low during this time of economic uncertainty. Even the airlines are charging for items that should be included in the fare, such as checked baggage and soft drinks. They are forced into taking these measures in order to stay profitable, or at least break even. The same goes for the food industry. Centralizing works very well from an economic standpoint, they can focus solely on one product (such as bananas) cheaper than if they processed the product in local distribution centers.

Reading about how inefficient and how environmentally harmful these practices are actually made me think about the positives of globalization. We should be lucky that we live in the age of being only 20 hours (give or take) from anywhere on the globe. While it may seem inefficient shipping products from NorCal to SoCal via Alaska, it is important to realize that centralization allows for faster distribution with the resources given to us (i.e. not local farms). It is amazing to think how produce can be literally moved to the other side of the world overnight.

The text also gives an interesting resolution of bringing farming to the White House, with the Executive Chef preparing food from locally grown farms. I found it interesting how the author recommends for the chef to post where he got the daily ingredients. One of my original thoughts were, “Who would actually read this?”  Then I realized it would be interesting for incentives for the farms such as “White House Featured Farm” to boost the moral of farmers and the consumers who buy from those farms. It is also an interesting proposal to have the first family do gardening to try to encourage more Americans that “farming isn’t dead”.

Along the lines of listing sources, another resolution is putting an auxiliary barcode on food to track it’s origins, even showing pictures of where the animal is slaughtered. At this point, who would even considering buying the food, when they see the gruesome steps it took to get to the supermarket.

After reading this, I can’t look at cheap food (such as Fast Food, “snack food”, etc.) the same as I did before. I don’t want to admit it but by purchasing the food and supporting these companies I am contributing to the problem, reminding me of the phrase “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”.

This all seems to come down to economics, this could only happen if everyone, both producers and consumers, has money in order to “invest” in this. Economics will trump environmental concerns as more people are concerned about their personal finances than the future of the planet and everyone as a whole.

Lastly, I find an ethical dilemma regarding having the government pass regulations on food to consume as well as changing the definition of “food”. Ethically, can the government regulate what people put in their body? Giving incentives to purchase locally grown, nutritious solar food makes sense, but redefining what “food” is going to far.  They have good intentions, but ultimately it is limiting freedoms.

I wish I could have attended the Socratic Seminar on “Farmer in Chief” as I had a lot of observations and connections to make and wanted classmates insight, however, I was out of the class due to an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation. If I were to attend the Socratic Seminar, I would have used these prompts in order to spark discussions:

1. Whose decision is it to what citizens of a certain country put in their body? Is it ethical for congress to pass laws banning certain types of food?

2. Would changing the definition of “food” be beneficial to the decentralization of the food industry? Can we really change the definition of something millions of people are accustomed to?

3. Apart from educating the youth (as the text says through nutrition classes, lunch programs, etc.), how will the public be made aware of this campaign to decentralize the food industry?

4. In the interim, what can global agriculture leaders (such as Dole and Chiquita) do to mitigate their carbon footprint?

5. Will economics trump environmental concerns in implementing a plan to decentralize the food industry?

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Jan 10

I just talked to my mom and found out that my grandparents (on my mom’s side) parents and grandparents have a rich history in agriculture. They resided in Calabri, Italy and farmed everything from grapes for wine to wheat for bread. It was interesting talking to my parents about this as I didn’t think any of my close ancestors were farmers.

I guess being half Italian, I should have known. The Italians like their food!

This discussion with my family sparked curiosity in finding out more about my ancestors, I want to learn more about where I come from and the rich history of my family.

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Jan 07

Today in Environmental Science we explored how big the universe is. Some may think that the world is a huge place, however, it is a merely a tiny speck. There is a lot out there far away from us. The stars, for example, are so far away that we are seeing the light that the emitted many many many years ago. Looking up in the sky is like looking back in time, and it is trippy considering that they are really huge, they are just far far away. The universe is so vast, and our society of mankind is not in control. There is a good chance for life other than us in parallel universes, and it is hard to comprehend.

Tonight, I am going to look at the sky and post a blog reflecting on what I saw.

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Jan 05

One thing that has always struck me as interesting is the EPA. My understanding of them is that they are a government agency that has the ability to fine individuals and corporations for infractions such as polluting the environment or discharging waste (e.g oil, batteries, etc.) improperly. I am curious to know what are these standards and how can the EPA enforce this. Does the EPA enforce actively or passively (do they rely soley on tips or do they conduct their own investigations)?

Throughout Environmental Science this semester, I am hoping to get a better understanding of the standards in place in the US as well as worldwide. It will be interesting to compare these standards to pollution data to see if countries without enough enforcement are more polluted that countries with ample enforcement.

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