What has Climate Change Done?

Climate change greatly impacts the types and availability of the food that humans consume. A few examples the effects of climate change are: a year of not enough or too much rainfall, a hot spell or cold snap at the wrong time, or extremes, like flooding and storms, can have a significant effect on local crop yields and livestock production. Contrasting the negative effects of climate change, carbon dioxide emission could increase production of some crops, such as rice, soybean and wheat. (Ranger) Although there are some positive effects, the changing climate affects the length and quality of the growing season. Also farmers could experience increasing damage to their crops, caused by a rising intensity of droughts, flooding or fires. When events such are droughts or flooding occurs, it makes it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places that had been used in the past. (EPA) A prime example of a type of food source that is greatly impacted is the fishery industry in both the Illinois and Puerto Rico. Fisheries are stressed by overexploitation and pollution. Warming surface waters in the oceans, rivers and lakes, as well as sea level rise and melting ice, will adversely affect many fish species. The absorption of carbon dioxide emissions by the oceans also has a direct impact on marine ecosystems through ocean acidification. (Ranger) Along with fish, other food sources that could be affected are wheat, corn, and rice. In the case of Puerto Rico, crops such as coffee can be affected by climate change. Due to high rains and not enough sun, plants cannot flourish. Because of this, different strands of coffee beans were created in order to provide a high yield.

The food industry could have positive and negative effects on the environment. Carbon sequestration in soils leads to a possible solution of climate change.  Organic agriculture can remove from the air and sequester 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre per year. In drought years, it increases yield, since the additional carbon stored in soil helps it to hold more water. In wet years, the additional organic matter in the soil wicks water away from plant roots, limiting erosion and keeping plants in place. (Dunn) Another solution is local food systems. Local food systems can help reduce agriculture’s impact on global warming even further by employing organic agricultural practices which have significant potential to help mitigate climate change and strengthen local, seasonal food systems. By maintaining certain practices such as local food systems and carbon sequestration in soils, some of the harmful effects of climate change can be fixed. In contrast, the food industry can contribute to the problem of climate change. One way this can happen is excessive production of greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer and pesticide use.  The manufacture and use of pesticides and fertilizers, fuel and oil for tractors, equipment, trucking and shipping, electricity for lighting, cooling, and heating, and emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases” bumps the impact up to between 25 and 30 percent of the U.S.’s collective carbon footprint. (Dunn) All the factors and practices that are involved in producing and selling agricultural products is a process that can greatly harm the earth. Another practice that causes a problem is land use changes and agriculture. In almost every case, land use changes result in more surface warming. Examples of land changes are deforestation and paving over green space for suburban expansion and agricultural practices. The effect of land use conversion on rising surface temps is an underestimated component of global warming.

One practice that people whom care about environmental conservation can implement immediately that will reduce climate change is unplugging or using energy efficient appliances. Unplugging electronics or appliances that are not in use save energy and money. Similarly, buying energy-efficient gadgets saves on both energy and money. (Biello) By saving on energy, the production of greenhouse gas emissions is prevented. For example, efficient battery chargers could save more than one billion kilowatt-hours of electricity which prevents the release of more than one million metric tons of greenhouse gases. One practice that can be a long term project that individuals within the environmental industry can implement in order to reduce climate change is infrastructure upgrade. Buildings worldwide contribute around one third of all greenhouse gas emissions. By installing thicker insulation and investing in other cost-effective, temperature-regulating steps, a building save money in the long run. Investing in new infrastructure would help cut greenhouse gas emissions and drive economic growth in developing countries. (Biello) Even though building new infrastructure leads to use of cement, which is a larger producer of greenhouse gas emissions, building energy-efficient buildings will benefit the world’s population. Both solutions could have a major impact on reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore reducing factors that cause climate change.

Besides climate change, there are oh so many different factors that are affecting the earth. Along with factors that are occurring within nature, a majority of them are caused by humans. Some of these problems include clean water supply, enough food to supply a population and lack of resources. With populations growing, chemicals being spilled in the water a lot of resources are becoming limited. In creating complex changes, we could potentially cleanse the earth from the maladies that have been plaguing it. Slowly but surely, a change can be made.

This sign, found at the coffee farm, instructs migrant workers to specifically pick a certain type of bean. Due to a parasite, some of the crops has been destroyed, therefore the onwner does not want those seeds being put through processing.

While exploring a water plant, we learned that the canals found on site were used to transport water to the surrounding farms.

Works Cited

Biello, D. (2007, Novermber 26). 10 Solutions for Climate Change . Retrieved from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/10-solutions-for-climate-change/

Dunn, C. (2009, November 19). 6 Ways Agriculture Impacts Global Warming. Retrieved from Tree Hugger: http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/6-ways-agriculture-impacts-global-warming.html

EPA. (2016, August 9). Agriculture and Food Supply. Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency : https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts/agriculture.html

Ranger, N. (2012, October 12). How will Climate Change Affect Food Production? Retrieved from The Guardian: https://learn.illinois.edu/course/view.php?id=18362

Exploring a New World

One major difference that I noticed between the states and Puerto Rico was time. In the states, everything is done with tasks fast and on time. While at a restaurant in the states, it takes about fifteen to thirty minutes to receive a meal. We use instant coffee as a common practice and the streets are densely populated with fast food restaurants. But once I arrived in Puerto Rico, all of these common luxuries went out the window. Ordering and receiving food takes about an hour to an hour and half to be completed. Convenience stores open later in the day, around ten o’clock maybe and could close as early as six in the evening. Life is leisurely and slow but that’s what you call “island time”. This “island time” is very common in the Caribbean islands. One time for example, a few of the girls and I went to a convenience store down the street from our apartment and we arrived around six o’clock. Apparently the stores closed at that time but we didn’t know. So instead of letting us in to quickly buy some food, the owner locked the door in our face. Instead of making profit, they cared more about closing on time, but I guess they can do that since they were the only convenience store located within a five mile radius. They had the capacity to close because they knew that they were the only place near us that we could go to buy food. So, of course we went the next day and bought food at that convenience/grocery store.

Another aspect that I noticed often while looking out the windows of the van that transported us from place to place was that a vast majority of the land in Puerto Rico is used for agricultural practices. While I know that a decent amount of land in the United States is used for farming, the farms are separated through many different counties, cities, and states and the United States does not solely depend on agriculture. Also maybe it’s the fact that I live in the city that agriculture was not evident to me. It was not until I attended a specialized high school whose main focus was agriculture that I found out about what agriculture was and how it benefits the world. I learned that agriculture is very much part of everyday life no matter if you live on a farm, in a suburb or in the city. It effects all of us. It was with this mindset and knowledge that I applied and got accepted into the College of Agriculture at University of Illinois. It was how I found out that I wanted to have a career in sustainability and conservation. From this previous knowledge, I knew a little about agricultural practices so when we arrived in Puerto Rico and toured a few farms, I knew the general machineries and practices. But what surprised me was how dependent the economy is on agriculture. Majority of the land on the island is not developed therefore, the crops are a major source of income. The crops produced here are vastly different from the main ones produced in the states. A big crop that has been grown here was sugar cane but in the 19th century, other countries started to become bigger producers therefore leaving Puerto Rico in the dust. After visiting an old, no longer in use sugarcane planation, we were lucky enough to see the last standing steel mill of its kind that was used to extract the sugar. The machine was beautifully restored and was from 1861! It was a true piece of artwork. We also visited a coffee farm and learned about the different varies of coffee plants, where they are from and the process from plant to bean of how coffee is made. Being able to experience these places here in Puerto Rico has opened my eyes and really made me appreciate the environmental and cultural diversity of the world.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the coffee farm. There we learned the process from start to finish of how coffee is produced.

While driving on the express way, this is a common site to see. Many citizens participate in loading their trucks full of bananas or other agricultural products.

The Ins and Outs of my Experience

Upon arriving to the beautiful land of Puerto Rico, I did not feel any real impact or wow factor. Having been to Puerto Rico a few times before, I had already seen the beautiful beaches, mountains and rainforest that the land has to offer. The culture in Puerto Rico was not surprising or different to me since I come from a Hispanic background. While hanging around the bars by our apartment in Boquerón, Cabo Rojo, I realized that the music that was being played was very familiar to me. Songs that I grew up listening to such as Suavemente by Elvis Crespo was played. I sang and danced along with the locals while my peers looked at me with fascination. While passing the bars, I would hear familiar music and start to dance where I stood. I liked hanging around this one specific bar because it was the only one playing bachata. Bachata is a form of Hispanic dance that is usually found within the states and is my favorite style to dance to. Surprisingly enough, one of my male peers wanted to learn the dance. Step by step, I showed him how to do it. Within in minutes he was able to follow along with me doing the simple steps of “side, side, hit”.

Another element that I found of similar of back home was the style of houses, but the houses I’m talking about are the ones found in Mexico. With the gates outside and colorful houses, it looked like I was in any neighborhood in Mexico. The atmosphere felt familiar and the people spoke the same language that I was used to. Spanish is such a common language especially in Latin American countries or some Caribbean islands. The cultures in each area are vaguely similar so I did not have a hard time adjusting to the life here in Puerto Rico. When the locals found that I could speak Spanish, their whole demeanor changed. It went from nonchalant to engaged and friendly.

Although a lot of aspects felt familiar to me during my stay in Puerto Rico, there was some things that were new. For example, during our stay in Cabo Rojo, the holiday of Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) occurred. At night the streets of the downtown area was congested with people for all walks of life and all ages. Music filled the streets and atmosphere was joyful. Streets were blocked and people partied in the streets. Having the opportunity to experience that, for personally, I’ve never celebrated that holiday, was very special to me.

On another note of positivity, a certain event became a repetitive experience that surprised me. I quickly realized that I was the only one of my peers that could speak Spanish somewhat fluently. Because this, my classmates would ask me to translate things all the time but I didn’t mind. I was happy to help. There were numerous occasions where I would order food for people or ask questions in Spanish. One of my friends here on the trip, has asked me numerous times to stand by her side while I help her order food. By doing this simple act that I have no trouble doing, I feel appreciated and useful. It has made me look at my life differently because even though I had an advantage over my peers, I used my knowledge to help people. I want to continue learning the language in order to further help other individuals and feel more at home within the people of my culture.

While exploring the downtown area by our apartment in Cabo Rojo, some of my friends and I stopped to eat a few ostras (oysters).

While exploring the downtown area by our apartment in Cabo Rojo, some of my friends and I stopped to eat a few ostras (oysters).

While meeting Dr. Rodriguez's parents, the whole crew used our Spanish speaking skills to order our food.

While meeting Dr. Rodriguez’s parents, the whole crew used our Spanish speaking skills to order our food.


Enjoying and Exploring Playa Sucia or La Playuela, Puerto Rico

January 8, 2017

By 9 AM, my entire group was packed into a van excited to go to a “beach”, but little did we know, this beach that we were heading to had so much more in store for us. Upon driving up, some of my cohorts started to notice large pools that contained a questionable white substance. Soon after asking our professor what the substance was, we learned that the mounds of white substance on the ground was salt and that the location contained dozens of salt flats. Salt flats are flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, which shine white under the sun. They are found in desert-like environments, and are natural formations. Flats form by evaporation of a water pools such as a lake or pond. This happens in climates where the rate of water evaporation exceeds the rate of precipitation. Some of the students found this interesting, but our curiosity was quickly overshadowed by the excitement seeing of the beach.

With a cooler in tow, all 12 of us briskly walked towards the beach, eager for the day’s activities. After setting up camp and being told of a few hiking trails, we all went running into the water. With great splashes and some stumbling, we all were in the slightly warm water. Although the water was not exactly clear, the color was a brilliant blue. The calm waves made it extremely relaxing for me to just float on top of the water. Along with a few friends, I enjoyed the water, swimming around and talking, but after about an hour or so, my friends and I had the urge to be children again. With a frisbee that we found on the beach in hand, my friends and I began to build a mini pool within the sand. With the sun scorching our backs, we dug and dug in the sand until a slightly deep hole started to form. In order to protect our creation and fill it up with water, we constructed a sand wall and dug a little channel going down towards the water so that when the waves came to shore, it would flow into the pool. When we finished, we turned to admire our work and sat down inside of it to quickly take a picture before it was washed away.

After working together to create a pool like structure, we celebrated by spending some time sitting down and relaxing.

After working together to create a pool like structure, we celebrated by spending some time sitting down and relaxing.

Famished and exhausted from the sun, we decided to take a break and eat some food. During this break, we decided that we were going to do some exploring. After finishing our food and asking our professur what exactly what was available to see, we set off in search of the lighthouse located near by. Not wanting to change into my gym shoes, I went on this venture in flip flops. While walking up, we found two trails: the clear path and the one less travelled. Being adventurous, we took the one that was less travelled. The path being riddled with plants and the path hardly visible, we made our way up a hill only to find the pathway disappeared. With a small sense of disappointment, we turned around and took the clear pathway to the lighthouse. After climbing up a very rocky and pebbled path, we reached the light house. After looking around the main floor and finding that we could hardly read the information that was displayed because it was all in Spanish, we decided to see the views from the top. After walking up a winding staircase, we reached a rooftop like clearing and I saw one of the most beautiful sights I ever experienced. To the left, I could see various large pools of water all different in color and the salt flats. In the middle I saw glorious grassy hills and rock formations; and to the left I saw the magnificent ocean and the sheer, jacked and breathtaking cliffs.

After, spending a great deal of time taking in the views, we decided to go to the cliff. Walking up, you would not think much about these cliffs, but as we started we reach the edge, we quickly realized how dangerous they were. The cliff’s edge dropped down more than a hundred feet and ended with raging waves and jagged rocks. Filled with adrenaline, I walked to the edge and sat down and stared out into the ocean view. One of my friends was even daring enough to climb down and around the rocks to a lower cliff ledge. With considerate caution, we navigated the cliff’s edge and saw various views from different locations. Each time we moved, we continued down the rocky, and hilly terrain. At various times during the descent, we would walk to the edge, each time getting closer and closer to where to beach began. During certain points of the descent, the floor was pebbly and once when I was walking down, my feet slipped on the rocks and I tumbled down. Luckily for me, I was not close to the edge and one of my friend caught me before I could completely fall to the ground. Scared that a horrible event would occur, we retraced our steps to the main path and continued our descent and before long, we rejoined the group.

While at Playa Sucia or La Playuela, I along with other students explored around the area and sat along the death defying cliffs.

While at Playa Sucia or La Playuela, I along with other students explored around the area and sat along the death defying cliffs.

The events that day impacted my life in many different ways. It taught me how beautiful nature can be and to appreciate it. It taught me that I am more courageous and adventurous than I thought I was. It taught me that sometimes, exploring new places can lead to the best memories and lastly, it taught me that making new friends and experiencing things together for the first time is a way to possibly create lifelong friendships. This experience has sparked my interest and has makes me look forward to future study abroad opportunities and my future career in environmental science. I am extremely grateful for the experiences that occurred.