This blog is an exercise of exploration, both internal and external, of the pale blue dot and its inhabitants, through one pair of eyes amidst the many..

Models of Sustainable Development

The discourse surrounding sustainable development often revolve around the "three pillars of sustainability," which are: social, environment, and economic. 

The model (Figure A below) proposes that sustainability lies in the intersections of these three factors. It makes a lot of sense when drafting management plans or perhaps any plan (that utilizes physical/natural resources) to consider these aspects. What is the impact on the environment? How is this model financially feasible? Is it inclusive, participatory and equitable? etc.

However, perhaps a more accurate and realistic model, in regards to these three factors, is in thinking that they are not independent of each other with slight intersecting parts, but rather that they are embedded into one another (Model B above). The economy is a purely anthropocentric social construction that deals with human interactions of material prosperity through production and consumption.  It simply does not exist without human social dynamics. However, our social world is constructed by the environment around us. Perhaps our displacement from the "idea" of the natural world (especially those of us in urban areas) blinds us to this fact, but historically our cultures have developed based on the availability and vicinity of certain natural resources (regional specialties, inland vs coastal cities, etc.). It still does, just with more intermediary parts (tin mined in Borneo, processed in China, foil used in the U.S.). Each embedded circle emphasizes the point that economic growth must take into account the limiting socio-ecological factors that are inherent to our reality. Overextending economic concerns and values over environmental and social values for example, is not sustainable.

I've always been taught about sustainability in terms of Figure 1, but it's interesting to look at it from the perspective of figure B. Though I think both has its uses (Figure A certainly appeals more to the creation of management plans), Figure B, in my mind, is a better visual  for thinking about our relationship with the environment and adapting these ideas into our own personal philosophies/approach to life.

Which model do you like better? 

DEET Tales in the tropics

When I went to rural Malaysia this past month in the Heart of Borneo, I was extremely hesitant to put any DEET on me when living in the rainforest.

The risks associated with mosquito-borne diseases are real, but they are also simply a part of life in the tropics. One cannot expect to work in tropical regions applying mosquito repellent every few hours. If you are concerned about mosquito bites, wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed shoes. The trade-off might be that you'll be a little hotter, but at least DEET is not being diffused all over the immediate surroundings -- especially in an area where the locals directly depend on the natural resources around them for their livelihoods (using the river for drinking water, bathing, etc). DEET does not dissolve easily in water (<0.1g/100mL @ 20°C), and is potentially toxic to fish and humans.

Even when using DEET, there's no point in using 95%+ DEET. The costs of exposure to higher concentrations outweigh the benefits of its effectiveness as a repellent. The 7.0% works almost just as well. A better alternative is eucalyptus oil, or better yet... Victoria Secret's Bombshell perfume! 

The chart below from the Journal of Insect Science shows different types of repellents and their effectiveness over time.