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Interactive Simulations

Sep 27, 2016 by Lexi Stein

I found these simulations to be really helpful because they made it very easy to visualize just how massive our impact on the environment can be, even on an individual level. The main thing I learned from these activities is that every little thing makes a difference; good or bad. At first it may seem that the day to day things aren't a big deal, but those little things accumulate as the years go by and as the population grows. All three of these simulations are great tools to promote awareness, and even if there are some inaccuracies they at least give people a good basis to start from. 

Water Footprint Calculator 

I found this one completely mind blowing, because it shows just how careless we tend to be when we have an abundance of something. I knew before that Canadians wasted more water than most other countries, but this really opened my eyes. It made me realize that there were many areas that I could cut down on my water use. 

Canadians on average use far more water then the global average, and I personally use more than the national average. I would say this is because of how much meat I eat (almost daily). However, while I know I consume a lot of water through the meat I eat, one thing this simulation didn't take into account was that different animals require different amounts of liquids. For example, sheep (which is mostly what I eat) require far less water then cattle, in both consumption and meat processing. 

Regardless, I am now inspired to reduce my household water use by showering less, doing less laundry, as well as little things like turning off the tap while bushing my teeth. It also inspired me to investigate more about why Canadians and Americans use so much more water than the rest of the world, and what we can all do to reduce the amount we use. 

Ecological Footprint Calculator

This calculator was probably the least accurate, simply because it wasn't as specific as the other ones. Nevertheless, I was still shocked by how many resources I waste everyday unnecessarily, the main one being electricity, and water. According to this simulation, my Eco footprint was lower than the city average, but higher than the country average.

This simulation seemed to be directed more towards people living in a city, and because I live on a farm, many of the suggestions on how to reduce my ecological footprint were not practical. For example, using a bike as transportation isn't an option because I live a half hour drive from the nearest town.

However, I realized that because I come from a middle-class family, who has very little disposable income, my family is actually very conservative with our resources anyway, simply because we can't afford to be wasteful. Like I said before, we live a half hour away from town, and since gas costs money, we always try to get everything we need from town in one trip so we don't have to drive too much. On top of this, we also try to pick days when we have something we need to do near town (such as music lessons). We also produce most of the food we eat, and anything we can't grow or raise, we try to buy from our neighbors, therefore cutting down on freight.

Nevertheless, I am more aware of my Eco footprint now then I was before, and I will try to be more conscious of things like reducing one-time use products, frivolous energy wasting, and recycling.

Climate Challenge 

I found this simulation really helpful in understanding that these issues are far more complex than just solving one area; you have to consider everything. It would be really easy to reduce carbon emissions (in the game that is) but it's really hard to reduce it while keeping everything else in balance. 

I tried to reduce emissions by developing and trading innovative technology, as well as supporting and promoting individuals taking action in their day to day lives, by installing meters so the public could be more aware of how much water or other resources they were using. This was actually very effective. I think this strategy would also work in real life, because I think the population simply needs to be more aware (at least in developed nations). While doing research about water, I can across a statistic that said in "2009, it was found that Canadian households with meters on volume-based water pricing schemes used 73% less water than unmetered households on flat-rate water pricing schemes" (Environment and Climate Change Canada). This demonstrates that when people are more aware, and when there is some financial incentive, people will reduce their waste. 


After doing the Climate Challenge, I starting thinking about the most effective ways to get people to take action against climate change. As I said before, I think installing volume-based water meters, or perhaps a carbon emission meter would go a long way in making people more aware of how much they are using. I also think that supporting innovative technology and promoting more environmentally sustainable habits is an alternative and more proactive solution than taxation.  

Another thing I learned from this, apart from the importance of general awareness in the public, is that developed nations need to be more efficient with their resources when it comes to agriculture. After doing the Ecological Calculator and seeing how much water is being used in agriculture, I started doing some research. I found that a large portion of water used in Alberta is used for agriculture. That would be fine if nothing could be done, but being familiar with the agriculture community, I know that there is a number if areas where there is a lot of room improvement, particularly with regards to water.

In the end, I really believe it comes down to individual people supporting each other, spreading the word, and trying to make change. That's how a movement starts; with a few people.

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1 Comment(s)

Sep 28, 2016

Hey Lexi! Your thoughts are really insightful very interesting to read. I do agree with you when you say that ecological footprint calculator is a bit inaccurate but none the less I enjoyed it. I look forward to working with you on this project.

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