Ecological Footprint

The Plan:

Initially, I had not expected my ecological footprint to be as big as it turned out. I calculated 8.35 hectares. My footprint seemed to be average, however, as compared to Kevin’s ecological footprint of 7.05 hectares, Kimi’s ecological footprint of 12.45 hectares, and Yoonha’s ecological footprint of 7.35 hectares, my footprint fell in near the middle of the range. From calculating my footprint, I was also able to see which actions increased my footprint the most. The top ten actions are as follows.

  1. Buying brand new clothes
  2. Using a shoe box’s worth of garbage everyday
  3. Eating imported, non-local food
  4. Eating non-organic food
  5. Eating a lot of meat every week
  6. Taking the car everyday
  7. Using warm/hot water
  8. Eating factory-raised chicken
  9. Not composting all my fruit and veggies
  10. Watering the garden every week

Some of these actions can be changed for a bit of inconvenience, and the ones I plan to change are as follows.

  1. Using less garbage. Currently my daily garbage fits into a shoe box, but I could easily fit my garbage into something much smaller, such as a cup, or have no garbage at all. I can use less garbage by buying less packaged foods, and by trying to buy food that isn’t packed in plastic. I can also use paper bags instead of plastic bags when shopping. Paper bags are compostable and using them will allow me to use less plastic.
  2. Eating local food. Since I seem to buy a lot of non-local produce, I could try to buy  more local BC produce, such as apples, pears, and peaches. While they might be a bit more expensive, buying local will allow me to lower my ecological footprint substantially. I could also grow some of my food, such as lettuce, corn, and peppers, as there happens to be a plot of land in my backyard.
  3. Walking. Although I walk home most days, it has almost become a morning routine for me to take the car in the morning. With my house only being a 20-25 minute walk away from school, I can definitely try to get up a bit earlier and walk to school. School isn’t the only place to walk to. I can also walk to libraries and grocery stores. While I may lose a few minutes of sleep, walking will allow me to burn less fossil fuels and might even prove to be physically beneficial.
  4. Not using warm/hot water. I will only use cold water for showering, brushing my teeth, washing my hands, washing my face, and washing my clothes. Using less water and using colder water is not very difficult to do, as I can just turn the tap the other direction and the water magically turns cold, so this will be easy to do as long as I stick to the plan.
  5. Eating more organic food. Factory raised food and certain methods of agriculture aren’t very sustainable, and organic farming is relatively sustainable. This would be a pretty easy thing for me to change, as most major grocery stores carry organic produce and I could easily substitute my non-organic veggies for organic veggies. Also, with organic produce becoming more and more affordable, buying organic won’t make a really significant difference in my family.

The Reflection:

After a week of following the plan to the best of my ability, I can say that the experience has had it’s share of ups and downs. First off, the good news. Using cold water proved to be a success. When washing my hands, I’m usually too lazy to turn both taps, so using cold water to wash my hands was very easy. Showering on the other hand was not as easy. The first few days were relatively brutish, as my body was not used to the ice cold water, which was a sharp contrast with the warm, soothing water that relaxed and embraced me every night. The temptation to slightly turn the hot water tap was great and bracing myself to voluntarily be rained on by bullets of cold water proved to be mentally difficult. Eventually, I managed to endure it, and with the weather getting warmer, I found that a cold shower was pretty refreshing. Also, having a cold shower also drastically lowered my shower time to about two minutes, which was a pleasant surprise. I also found using less garbage to be easy, as I was able to buy less goods packaged in plastic. I managed to purchase pasta, rice, and cereal packed in cardboard boxes or paper bags, instead of those packaged in plastic bags, which really decreased my garbage, as I could simply compost the paper bags and the cardboard boxes could be recycled. Some of my changes, however, were only partially successful and were a bit challenging. Waking up early and walking to school was a bit harder than I had initially expected. With extracurricular activities running late into the night and AprilMayJune sinking in, I found that waking up with less than seven hours of sleep was quite difficult. I only managed to walk in the morning to school a few times, but I did walk to grocery stores and libraries instead of taking the car. Eating local and eating organic was a bit difficult, as being an ardent consumer of fruit, I found out that while I was buying more local apples and pears, I was still buying imported tropical fruits that didn’t grow in B.C. Organic milk, tofu and veggies were easy, but the rest, such as meat and tropical fruits were still not organic. The main obstacle to this was availability. Certain meats and tropical fruits, such as starfruit or dragon fruit, were not available organically, and organic food turned out to be a lot pricier than I had initially expected. Since the food was meant for the entire family, buying everything organically for the entire family was financially not possible. To conclude, I managed to accomplish all my goals, either partially or completely, but faced obstacles, such as mentally waking up with little sleep and financial obstacles.

In the future, I plan to improve on these five changes. Walking, eating smarter, and eating local are all things that can gradually be adapted into my lifestyle, and I hope that by doing so, I will be able to decrease my ecological footprint. After improving on these five changes, I plan to start changing the other five actions that increased my ecological footprint.



Social Studies Blog Post #7: Stay Alive

“Stay Alive” starts with the Schuyler sisters and an ensemble of women wishing for Hamilton to “stay alive”. The song then immediately moves into the Valley Forge encampment. Hamilton explains the unfavourable conditions of the encampment, supplies are low and the men have been pushed to dire measures, such as eating their own horses. Morale is also low. Washington is despondent and many have deserted the Continental army. Despite the unfavourable conditions, however, Congress’ orders are to “attack the British forces”. This leads Washington to turn to guerrilla tactics, relying on stealth and strategy than on brute force. The death toll is high, and Lafayette, Laurens, and Hamilton each work on different tasks with the war still going on. Lafayette continues to request French aid, while Laurens and Hamilton get busy publishing “essays against slavery”. Although previous songs, such as “My Shot”, touched on Laurens’ abolitionist ideas, it was during the war that Laurens started to really turn his ideas into actions.

Hamilton persistently asks Washington to give him command but is constantly refused by Washington. Hamilton’s desire to rise above his station is so great that later he threatens Washington with resignation if he doesn’t get put in command. Charles Lee is promoted, but his command is soon revoked when Lee orders a retreat during Washington’s advance at the Battle of Monmouth. Instead of Hamilton, however, Lafayette is put in command. “A thousand men collapse in hundred degree heat”, but the Continental Army emerges victorious. Infuriated at Washington, Lee proceeds to question and mock Washington, much to the vexation of Laurens and Hamilton. Washington sees the bigger picture, however, and argues that they “have a war to fight”. Hamilton refuses to accept this but is unable to duel Lee because he is under orders from Washington to not duel Lee, so Laurens offers to duel it out on his steed.

Although the Schuyler Sisters and Hercules Mulligan play minor roles in the song, the main cast for this song is Hamilton, Washington, Lafayette, Laurens, and Lee. Hamilton, at this point, is in a relatively low position of power. His want to rise above his station has been prevalent in previous songs, and “Stay Alive” is no exception with Hamilton asking Washington to “entrust him with command (..) ev’ry day”. As commander-in-chief of the Continental army, Washington faces multiple challenges with the dire conditions at Valley Forge and constant attempts by Congress to remove him from power. He wants Congress to send money and reinforcements to back up the troops at Valley Forge. Lafayette, a French aristocrat, plays a large role in Valley Forge as second in command during the latter half of the Battle of Monmouth. He fears that the colonies may be defeated without reinforcements, which leads to him wanting France to send troops to the colonies. Laurens comes from a relatively powerful background with his father being a member of Congress. He wants to abolish slavery, but fears opposition from the south will deter his plans. “Stay Alive” is also the first appearance of Charles Lee. Previously a soldier for the British Army, he decided to help the revolutionaries when war broke out, expecting to be named commander-in-chief due to his seniority. Instead, Washington was given command, much to Lee’s displeasure, and Lee continues to resent and fear Washington’s decisions, even ordering a retreat against Washington’s orders.

“Stay Alive” details the historical encampment of Valley Forge. Conditions during the encampment were terrible. The Continental army struggled to maintain a disastrous supply line while facing a deluge of British Forces at the same time. Malnutrition and disease killed up to two thousand soldiers, and many “resorted to eating [their] own horses”, which wasn’t even the worst part, as some soldiers had been forced to kill their dogs and eat old shoes to fight off starvation. The lack of supplies wasn’t the only burden to the Continental army. During the Battle of Monmouth, “a thousand soldiers died in a hundred degree heat”. While this is a bit of an exaggeration, as less than a thousand soldiers were wounded or killed, temperatures did rarely drop below a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, and more soldiers were said to have died from heat stroke than from musket fire. With the rage of war still ongoing, Laurens and Hamilton simultaneously work on publishing essays on the first black battalion, where slaves could serve in the Continental army in exchange for their freedom. Despite getting a proposal approved by Congress through Lauren’s father, the Southern colonies’ strong opposition to the abolitionist movement leads to their idea being dismissed. This gives us insight about the colonies’ perspectives and values, as unlike modern-day America, the colonies still consider slaves to be property and have little value for the slaves’ wants and consider them to be economically valuable to the colonies.

The big idea, “the physical environment influences the nature of political, social, and economic change”, really defines this song. George Washington was given the position of command-in-chief over Charles Lee, as the colonies were reluctant to entrust a position of high power to someone who was born in Britain and had previously served in the British Army. Had Charles Lee been in an environment without a negative perspective towards Britain, he might have been chosen over Washington for his seniority and experience. Additionally, Laurens and Hamilton’s ideas for a black battalion might have become a reality in a different environment where the south didn’t have such a strong support for slavery. Social change wouldn’t have been delayed and the first black battalion might have even been formed during the early stages of the war.

Personally, I find this song to be really interesting, as it has a very different atmosphere from previous songs. Unlike the upbeat and happy tone of former songs, “Stay Alive” has a tense beat to it that takes on a darker atmosphere. Although Hamilton’s want to rise above his station is clearly portrayed in the song, Washington refuses to give him command, calling Hamilton only to tell him to have Lafayette take the lead. Additionally, the song shows the dark side of the revolution, the starvation, death, and the dire measures of the soldiers, such as “eating [their] own horses”, which is a sharp contrast from the glory and honour of revolution that the musical portrays early on.

“The cavalry’s not coming.” On the surface, the line might only be taken for its literal meaning, which basically means that reinforcements are not coming from Congress and that the Continental army will need to depend on foreign intervention or do without reinforcements. To me, however, it also shows the perseverance of the revolutionaries and how they are unwilling to give up even when knowing that backup is never coming. They are willing to fight for their beliefs even if it means death and is united through a single, common belief.

“Don’t do a thing, history will prove him wrong.” Washington stops Laurens and Hamilton from acting out and challenging Lee. Rather than retaliating, Washington calmly dismisses Lee’s irate comments, showing his ability to keep his cool. Additionally, by saying “history will prove him wrong”, Washington corroborates the idea that history only shows the victor’s thoughts and what actually happened, rather than what someone said was going to happen.

“We have a war to fight, let’s move on.” Once more, we are shown Washington’s competence as a leader and his ability to see the bigger picture. While Laurens and Hamilton are squabbling over small insults (which might ultimately lead to their deaths), Washington sees the bigger picture, the war, and is willing to let it go and continue with what’s important, winning the war.

The predominant theme of the song is ambition. The revolutionaries continued to persevere through the catastrophic conditions of the Valley Forge encampment, even while knowing that reinforcements were not going to arrive. This is also seen with Hamilton and Laurens. Despite knowing the southern colonies’ strong opposition to any kind of abolitionist movement, the two men carried out their plans and presented their ideas to Congress, fully aware that there was a high chance that they were going to be rejected.