The entire semester of ST 197 is closed with an amazing poster session featuring students from the ST 297 class and their incredible research. Out of numerous posters presented, I want to talk about three of them that struck me the most.
Jessica Tregidgo’s prompt “just because we can does not mean we should” makes many of us think about the range of human power and if this power is abused. In her poster, impressive manmade landscapes are shown, including hoover dam and the Dinah Shore Golf course in California. Humans have altered these landscapes dramatically and permanently, creating massive impacts on the local ecosystem. In the case of hoover dam, it halts the natural mud circulation and in the case of the golf course, humans built an artificial oasis in the center of dessert just because we have the money and the force, and therefore, we can. Pouring tons of energy and resource to build something merely for human entertainment—is it worth it?
Another poster that left a deep impression is on stadiums. The over-built and under-use of stadiums is a very practical yet very huge problem, with every four years as a new city is selected to host the Olympics, this problem gets amplified. A stadium can hold tens of thousands of people, yet after its use tied to the Olympics, the city might not see such a big event for decades. What happens to the stadium afterwards? Sometimes, abandoning them is more economical than maintaining them, given that maintaining huge stadiums require an exorbitant amount of resource. For instance, Detroit’s Pontiac Silverdome was demolished after its dome—what it’s known for—collapsed. Quote from the poster: “Their failure shows a poignant beauty in some cases when overtaken by nature, but overall these sites represent embarrassing failures. What once stood as a proud monument has now been overtaken by the environment around it”. Nature ultimately wins.
Another impressive poster was “Unintended Consequences: Health and the Environment: When Humans Intervene with Nature” by Lucas Lam. In this poster, Lucas talks about the uncertainty factor that plays in human’s actions on our environment and their consequences. To explain this concept, Lucas used the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as an analogy of how humans cannot control the results of their own actions. This has been manifested a long time ago in the black plague—people killed off cats and dogs thinking that they were the source of the plague; however, without predators, the rat’s population was out of control and they were proven in the end to be the vector of the black plague. The use of antibiotics also exemplifies this perfectly. Within 100 years, loads of strains of bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics—a problem whose rate and scale not predicted by humans at the time of the invention. Another example is smokestacks: by building higher chimneys, we reduced the local emissions and pollutions, but in return shot the smoke into upper atmosphere which contributes to a global rise of acid rain.