Posted: October 24th, 2013
Argument essay 1
The building of the Keystone XL pipeline has been considered by some as unavoidable. It is a known fact that any pipeline poses significant risks to the area around. Several risks to the environment are raised with the first one already underway. Clearing of forests especially in Canada where the pipeline is expected to pass has already begun. Other risks such as spillage resulting from high pressure are likely to occur every year as some sources cite. The impacts of such adverse risks are hard to recover (Korman 2011). Despite these risks, one side feels that it is necessary to have the pipeline considering the ever-increasing demands of energy. The proponents suggest that the effects brought by the pipeline will not be greater than effects of driving a vehicle every day. Precisely, proponents suggest that, without a near alternative such as enough solar energy, the pipeline is an option that cannot be ignored. While the opponents to the pipeline feel that risks poses are too much to bear, the main question is whether the current demands or urgency for energy surpasses the need to ensure the soundness of the environment.
When one mentions a pipeline, the idea of environmental degradation comes into mind. Almost every person knows that a pipeline would pose a serious danger to the environment. One fact is that completion of this pipeline means clearing an area equivalent to the whole state of Florida or even more. With such a large area to clear, one should consider other environmental effects such as loss of habitat for some wildlife. This further means loss of biodiversity among other effects associated with clearing of forests. This will also see the displacement of many people from their homes and their sources of income.
The pipeline poses a risk due to possible spillages. One might say that spills are not likely to happen soon. However, statistical data does prove that, in United States alone, around 50 or more barrels of oil are spilled every three days only from pipelines (Hopkins 2013). With such spills, the environmental pollution is greater and permanent since reversing such damage is quite hard. A recent example of pipeline spillage is the Exxon Mobil pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas where around 157,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled to the surrounding area. With such risks, completion of what is to become one of the biggest pipelines would mean a greater danger.
While the damage to the environment is quite huge and irreversible, the biggest harm comes from what it takes to get oil from the tar sands or bitumen. Unlike other crude oils, it requires three barrels of water for the production of one barrel of oil. The worst part is that, when used, this water becomes contaminated with pollutant chemicals such as cyanide, ammonia and others, making it unusable or unsafe for consumption. This water is later released to the environment, causing increased harm, especially when the tar deposits sink below the water bodies, thereby contaminating them forever. Further, development of oil from tar sands produces three times the amount of greenhouse gases produced by other oil types. This makes it a very unclean source of energy. Such risks are causing many people to oppose the building of this pipeline considering the cost to the environment will be immense. However, some people are for the opinion that the pipeline should be completed.
One of the major benefits to the economy is employment to many people especially during construction. Several companies have received contracts from the Canadian company building the pipeline. Proponents do contend to the fact that this pipeline will have unfortunate damage to the environment. However, they cite that urgency should be the main point to consider. While environmental and climatic changes are important, they are not as urgent as the need for energy. Thus, United States should not refuse the oil from Canada. Moreover, realities concerning the current situation in environmental risks caused by burning of fossil fuels involve huge damage to the environment, as well as other forms of energy. “The idea of turning away the oil from Canada because of its higher greenhouse-gas profile—about 17% higher than other fossil fuels, according to some sources—strikes us as a luxury, not a life-and-death issue” (Korman 2011). In this regard, the proponents to building of the pipeline feel that environmental degradation should not be an issue considering the current demand for energy. Although it is not a life and death issue, environmental degradation costs us future generations, which I consider a matter of life and death.
A further argument is made citing that United States and other nations across the whole world will continue to depend on fossil fuel burning for energy in a long time considering there is no close substitute to oil (Korman 2011). This is very true. However, I do not think that this allows us to continue exploiting unclean sources of energy. This implies that, as demands for energy increase, we shall have to keep exploiting such sources of energy while instead we should be seeking cleaner sources of energy. According to Pastel, “Dams and Diversions now alter the timing and volume of river flow on a wide geographic scale,” (2). In a world where the best action means reducing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing cleaner energy such as solar energy and wind energy, making a decision to continue with production of energy that increases production of greenhouse gases by 17% than usual is unethical.
Considering the current issues about environment, increasing environmental degradation on the account of urgency in demand for energy does not make sense. The demand for energy will continue to rise even in the coming future. At this time, the government should be exploring cleaner sources of energy to meet the increasing demands. Continuing with building of the pipeline because of the current urgency for energy at the expense of our environment is not worth especially considering that this could go on for many decades. Instead, the government should start the exploration of newer and clean sources immediately.
Argument essay 2
In an effort to meet our needs, we humans have tamed the environment. The environment now comes back with a lash threatening every person’s life. Water is one of the basic commodities without which any living organism cannot live. Yet, water is becoming a precious commodity that many cannot get. It is surprising that in an effort to produce more crops and generate electricity people have constructed dams and dykes on rivers to reduce impact of floods. As usual, changing nature comes with its costs to the same people who changed it. Additionally, human activities continue to make water unsafe for drinking while preventing most of it from flowing to the seas. This has caused serious consequences never foreseen before. Therefore, allowing rivers to flow ensures the maintained health of ecosystem as opposed to stopping water flow through dams and irrigation (International Rivers 2012).
While irrigation is necessary for growing food considering that rain is not enough, it comes with costs especially when water is blocked from flowing. Building of dams slows the flow of water and allows creation of sediments or alluvial deposits at the bottom of the dam. With slowed water, breeding of insects such as mosquitoes increases and causes diseases to the people around. Such diseases can be prevented by allowing flow of water down the river.
Water is considered life despite being a basic commodity that many take for granted. When dams are built, animals down the river are faced with a hard time. For instance, fish that swim upriver for spawning are blocked. This poses a risk to the extinction of such a species since it cannot reproduce. The sediments trapped at the bottom of the dam are necessary for supporting fertile plain lands downstream, coastal wetlands and productive deltas. Further, people living down stream are faced by huge water crisis when rivers are blocked up stream. The stagnant water changes some of the water properties such as temperature, oxygen levels as well as dissolved chemicals making the water unsuitable for aquatic plants and animals living around the area as well as downstream. Variation in river flow has the greatest environmental impact where life evolves depending on the amount of water flow and sediments transported downstream. Slight changes can change the ecosystem balance and cause changes in aquatic as well as riparian life.
Considering these effects of building a dam, it is clear that having one costs the river’s ecosystem. This means that preserving and conserving rivers in their natural form is the best way of ensuring a balance in the ecosystem of the river. The current number of dams and artificial lakes in the United States is said to be more than 2 million small ones and about 75,000 large dams. Many rivers in the United States are dammed some with several dams. Although they are important for farming and hydroelectric power generation, supplying water to people and other places, it is important to consider the environmental impacts. Although we cannot eliminate all dams and reservoirs, we can reduce them to leave those that do not affect the flow of the river greatly.
It is not surprising that some lakes that got their water from rivers are shrinking rapidly. Reduced flow of water downstream is reducing the flow of water into these lakes, which further threatens the life of some of the species (Muir 2013). Dams tend to favor predators especially with increase in water temperatures. The reduced levels of water especially near the dams ten to give predators a higher hand. Lack of balance threatens some fish species that swim upriver for spawning. Further, rivers ensure the existence of some places such as wetlands, floodplains and watershed that have their purpose such as absorbing rainwater and slow runoffs, which they help in recharging groundwater. The natural ecosystems have a great value that all people should value.
Although damming is not good for the ecosystem, the economy has to be considered. Sometimes such activities have to be engaged considering their value to the economy. For instance, hydroelectric power is one of the clean energies that provide a substantial percentage of electricity worldwide, as opposed to other means such as nuclear power that people would not want near their homes (Postel 2009). Additionally, dams are important for supplying water to the people. However, the dams should only be limited to those that serve such important purposes. Otherwise, those that do not serve such purposes should be removed to allow natural ecosystems to thrive.
Dams and reservoirs have their functions in the environment such as supplying water to people, irrigation and production of hydroelectric power. Although many purposes exist including entertainment, I feel that the three are the most important that can be allowed to exist since they support human life. Other purposes that might not be so significant should not hinder the flow of rivers downstream (Pastel 2). However, despite the purpose of a dam, water should continue to flow downstream in order to support the life downstream to avoid the adverse effects of varying flows down the river threatens the lives of both animals and people living in the lower areas.
Hopkins, Ruth. Keystone XL equals Death. indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com, April 30, 2013. Web. July 2, 2013.
International Rivers. Environmental Impact of Dams. internationalrivers.org, 2012. Web. July 2, 2013.
Korman, Richard. “Building the Keystone XL pipeline: A Necessary Evil.” Engineering News-Record, 267.11 (2011): 104. Print.
Muir, John. Dams and Rivers: Human and Ecological Consequences. globalchange.umich.edu, February 12, 2010. Web. July 2, 2013.
Postel, Sandra. “Water for Life.” Guest Editorial, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2009. Print.
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