Pressure mounts on the GJPD

During the year 2011, the Grand Junction Police Department (GJPD) of Grand Junction, Colorado, was asked to look into creating a plan to relocate around 500 homeless persons within its operating area by 2023.  This ten year plan was to be implemented starting 2013 in light of an 11 percent increase (KJCT, 2012) and create safe places for the homeless and transients which occupied areas near the Colorado River and other public areas throughout city limits.  The first step that the GJPD took was to create a Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and start building relationships with the local homeless persons.

GJPD Hot Team

GJPD Hot Team

As the HOT team started to get to know some the locals they found that there were camps settled along the river near the train yard, and that some of the camps had been there for much longer than they had thought.  The rivers bends were littered with debris and, although the sites were unable to be seen from the roadways, some people and business owners started to complain about the “unsightly trash” and pressure started to build on the city council members.  Although Police Chief John Camper had modeled the HOT team after a successful program in Colorado Springs he had not expected for such a blowback from the local community to the city council (Sullivan, 2012).

As business owners started hearing about the HOT team and what its proposed goals were they started to voice more opposition to the local homeless and increased the amount of time taken up during the city council meetings.  This added pressure then turned from the elected city council members to the Police Chief. The Chief had no other option than to give into the demands of the city council and move away from the proposed 10 year plan in an attempt to ratify what the local populous wanted, a cleaner river basin and fewer if any homeless persons visible.  The HOT team then set out to remove or evict those who lived along the river.

It Happens

It Happens

“The evections came without warning. Notices were stapled to the peoples tents, and when the day came to have everything out, some of the Police Officers slashed the tents clean through with knifes, leaving only shards of fabric.” Eric Niederkruger said while talking to one of the local groups about the differences between what is seen on the media and what actions actually took place (Personal correspondence with Eric Niederkruger).

Although the actions of the officers in the HOT team and other supporting officers were not direct reflections of the police chief himself, as the pressure built on the organization the set plans went out the window.  Business owners put pressure on the city council to “clean up the town” only after the initial phase of the ten year plan was already set into motion but that pressure boiled over.  The Police Chief was then put into a situation where the pressure from the elected body that governed his jurisdiction influenced his decision making and causing what some people would consider an unethical course of events; the destruction of personal property by those sworn to uphold the law.  When pressure can be put on someone with decision making opportunity there is a chance of unethical behavior, even if the victims are victims already.

References

KJCT. Dec 11, 2012. KJCT News 8. Colorado homeless numbers increase, local shelters not surprised. Retrieved from http://www.kjct8.com/news/Colorado-homeless-numbers-increase-local-shelter-not-surprised/-/163152/17740960/-/y8ivyqz/-/index.html

S. Sullivan. May 25, 2012. Grand Junction Free Press. HOT pursuit: GJPD’s Homeless Outreach Team promotes rehabilitation, understanding. Retrieved from http://www.gjfreepress.com/article/20120525/COMMUNITY_NEWS/120529960

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UniversiTea with the Humanists Doing Good in Colorado

I had the chance to speak at one of the local humanists events a few months ago.  Below are the topics covered and just a few of the highlights from the conversations that followed.

Military

  • Working with military and veterans
    • There is a difference between military and civilians when it comes to a work environment.
    • Military, from my observations, have a different way and different culture that is ok when it comes to working with others.  Military will expect those around them to know the job they are assigned to do and how to do that job.  We are also trained to understand that we may have to do the job of those above or below us.  Understanding and being able to do the job above yours is what got me into trouble in my current employment.
    • Busy work is despised when it comes to simply filling time.  spending hours cleaning, stripping paint, painting, preparing for war, and so on has build a distaste for needless tasks like re-mopping an area that was just mopped.  In these cases we will tend to work much slower and use that power to show a kind of disrespect toward whomever tasks us with that task.
    • It was brought up that most of what we talked about could be compared to shared experience.  Not only a shared experience type of setting but also the upbringing of each other.  One member stated that his upbringing has played into his discipline in taking care of others.
    • Talking about transiting from one chapter to another, substance abuse is the topic, there has to be some sort of training that will indoctrinate the person as to how to act around others and not become selfish.
  • Differences between civilian and military
    • There are certain things that military have gone through that act as a kind of glue.  When you talk to a vet or active duty member, you know that they have spent time being beaten down and then built back up on the same basic principles.  every member of the armed forces goes through boot camp and that is one thing that most civilians will never understand.
    • For that reason, most military can fight with one another and the next day carry on like there was never an issue.
    • There is an unspoken understanding between veterans and military personnel that should something happen then they will not be left behind or forgotten about.  This will play heavily when talking about a large workload or partying.
    • We talked about one experience that a fellow veteran had where a friend was left at the airport and he had to drive to get him.  He was later accused of drug use because of the drive and lack of sleep that hindered his next day’s performance.
  • Differences between moral or ethical standards
    • What is moral in the civilian world is very different when in a closed system such as the military.  There are many different actions that can and will be taken in the military that would be looked at as unethical or immoral in a civilian stance.
      • Wire brush experience
    • Shared a story about one of my shipmates that chose to never shower or wash his clothing.  The process that we used to change this behavior was to throw him into the shower and attack him what wire brushes.
      • This behavior was allowed and even endorsed by the chain of command.  Dealing with things at the lowest level meant that we were to deal with the issue ourselves and correct that deficiency using any means necessary.
    • The use of ostracism was one of the main tools that we used to correct issues that we were unable to solve otherwise.  One of the most utilized and overlooked of all tools that we were trained in.
    • The cycle perpetuates itself.  crossing the equator or passing through the arctic circle are huge hazing accomplishments.

Transition: Civ to Sol, Sol to Civ

    • The transition going from a civilian to a soldier is one that each member will go through.  Boot camp is something that each of us completes before being called a soldier.
    • Boot camp = breakdown of the civilian and then the rebuilding of the soldier
    • No transition from active to civilian.  When you get out you sign the DD214 and then walk out with just what you are wearing.  All gear is returned and that is the close of that chapter.  There is no training, military feels that it is a waste of time as they do not receive any benefit from the time spent.
  • Organizations for veterans
    • There are many different organizations for veterans.  There are two major problems with the way that they are set up.  Much money is spent on advertising leaving a lack of funding for the actual program.  Or on the flip side, there is no money spent on advertising and an excess of funding at the end of the year.
    • VETS CAFE
    • IVAW
    • Wounded Warriors
    • America’s Wounded
    • Welcome Home Montrose
    • VA Rehab center
    • VA hospital
    • Veterans Court (in the works for mesa county)
    • Voc rehab through VA
  • Reasons for ways of thinking
    • Everything we have already talked about
    • The culture is aggressive and the members are trained to think and act in a certin way that will allow others to learn the ways either by choice or through actions taken against them.
    • Trained to not show weakness.
    • Hazing
    • Physical abuse
    • Mental abuse
    • Ostracism
  • Post 9/11 compared to pre 9/11 veterans
    • PTSD
    • No Gulf War Syndrome
    • TBI
    • Civilian murders
    • First war fought in the streets (urban)
    • MTS

Environmental

  • Community gardening
    • Guy works over 12 plots in Denver (land that is not his but gained the approval to use), he is able to produce enough food for 33 employees and still sell $400 a week at the stand.
  • Guerrilla gardening
    • Using others land to grow food
    • Repurpose land usage to grow food
    • Grow food not lawns
  • Burn scars and the effect they are now having on the communities near Colorado Springs
    • Landowners near Co Springs are needing help with the burn scars.  The city is not willing to help the landowners pay to have mulch laid on the property.  They are laying mulch on the forest.  1600 an acre.  The burn scars have allowed the rain water to create mud flows that have washed out many of the private roads in the area.

I would like to hear the opinions of those in the group about the local police force as well as if anyone feels the nation is heading toward a society that is accustomed to dealing with violence in the community and if that is justification to allow officers to act with current levels of force.

Air and Water Pollution

A paper written about air and water pollution.

Air and Water Pollution

The human race has been able to accomplish many feats as it evolves and adapts to the surroundings and ever changing environment. Some look at the changing environment as something that is uncontrolled or cannot be effected by the actions taken by human. From the standpoint of science there are many observed changes that take place on a daily basis including the exponential release of pollutions into the atmosphere and waterways. Explosive growth of algae in waterways due to excess phosphorus and other nutrients from runoff of fields sprayed with chicken bedding and compost as well as higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have shown to affect the world that the human race lives in.

The industrialized nations of the world are producing many items of convenience and have been at a rate that exceeds the demand. The increase in goods production has put a stronger pull on the infrastructure of these countries. In the United States, as estimated by RITA, had a total of 250,272,812 highway vehicles registered in 2010 (RITA, 2012). Production consumes energy, in turn more energy is needed to produce and maintain these vehicles. Production of parts, assembling, maintaining, and repairing all put more strain on the power gird increasing the need to burn more fossil fuels. As the amount of fossil fuels consumed increases so does the pollution which is the byproduct of the choice to live at a higher standard. Carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide are all byproducts of consuming fossil fuels and are the major contributors to global warming, the observed changed that humans are having on the earth. These three gases are all primary sources of air pollutants but once in the atmosphere they are likely to react and form secondary pollutants (The Habitable Planet, 2012). When nitrogen oxides mix with hydrocarbons the resulting gas is ozone. In the higher atmosphere Ozone protects the earth from the harmful radiation of the sun but at lower elevations it has a chance to raise air temperatures and cause respiratory track issues.

One of the most effective ways that some of these byproducts have been mitigated is by the addition of catalytic converters to all modern vehicles. The catalytic converter is used to convert excess hydrocarbons that made it past the combustion cycle into steam and carbon dioxide. This additional piece of equipment was put into place due to new regulations passed by the government to help reduce the about of emissions released by automobiles. Although the amounts of nitrogen oxides and residual hydrocarbons have been reduced the amount of carbon dioxide has increased. Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide are trapping the energy from the sun causing the surface of the earth to warm. Warmer surface temperatures cause larger and more frequent forest fires as well as melting of the polar ice caps, ice shields, and glaciers. This increase in carbon dioxide has had and is still having a lasting effect on the air and waterways.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have a direct relation to the amount of carbon dioxide in any given waterway as the gases in the atmosphere will always try to obtain equilibrium between the water and air. As the amount of carbon dioxide has increased with a decrease of carbon dioxide sponges such as vast land covered by forests, the waterways and oceans are now soaking up the excess carbon dioxide in an attempt to reach equilibrium. This increase in carbon dioxide in the water is creating a more acidic ocean, dropping the pH levels. As the pH levels drop, life forms such as crustacean and coral will no longer be able to maintain their shells or form. When the pH of the ocean reached below 8, the calcium carbonate that is the shell or body will no longer maintain a solid form and the life form will die, increasing the amount of decaying material in the waterway and adding to eutrophication.

Not only an increase in decaying matter can lead to eutrophication but also point and non-point sources of pollutants. When a waterway is allowed to gain addition there can be a swing in the balance of the system. When a natural system or ecosystem is working in equilibrium then there is little chance of one single organism taking over the system. If this equilibrium is thrown out of balance by an introduction of addition nutrients such as nitrogen via excessive fertilization of aquiculture or excess accumulation of phosphorus and nitrogen from runoff surrounding compost or bedding from factory chicken farms then lower level organisms can exploit the surroundings (B. Champion, personal communication, September 5, 2012).

A bloom of algae can completely destroy the native organisms in any water way by reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. The lower level life forms such as algae will soak up the excess nutrients, gaining an advantage to out compete the other higher life forms in the waterway thus causing effects such as blocking out light from entering into the water, removing major amounts of critical nutrients, and reducing the dissolved oxygen to levels that will not allow any aerobic life forms to survive. Whether the excess nutrients are from one single source or many different sources the effect can be the same, a breakdown of the balance and equilibrium in the system.

Humans have been able to adapt to these changes and are always working on improving life, however, there needs to be a shift from improving the standard of living to that of improving the standard of the environment. Having the ocean become pH neutral thus losing its ability to produce food for consumption could inevitably cause the demise of the human race. Understanding the problems and the effects of the action humans take on the environment around them is the first step. Learning new ways to cut the pollution and changing the culture of industrialized nations is the second step. Maintaining the balance within the natural world and doing everything possible to not upset the equilibrium will ensure that all future generations of humans are able to thrive and live their own sustainable lifestyle. Correcting the damage and allowing the balance to find itself again is paramount for the survival of the human race.

References

The Habitable Planet, 2012. Unit 11: Atmospheric Pollution. Section 3: primary Air Pollutants. Retrieved from http://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/unit/text.php?unit=11&secNum=3

Research and Innovative Technology Administration Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2012. National Transportation Statistics [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html

Global Warming?

The causes and consequences of global warming have been talked about and debated for some time now.  There are many people who don’t think that global warming is a real trend and that it is just something that some scientists got together and thought up.  It is an interesting tie that most who feel this way do believe in Immaculate Conception, at least in the American government.  From a science standpoint, there are many trends and observations that lead one to think that global warming is actually occurring and that there is some influence to this from humans.  Acidification of the oceans and other waterways, acid rain, an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, trends of warmer weather, increased forest fires, longer and dryer droughts, receding glaciers and the melting of artic ice sheets, and a larger amount of transpiration.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have a direct relation to the amount of carbon dioxide in any given waterway as the gases in the atmosphere will always try to obtain equilibrium between the water and air.  As the amount of CO2 has increased with a decrease of CO2 sponges such as vast land covered by forests, the waterways and oceans are now soaking up the excess CO2 in an attempt to reach equilibrium.  This increase in carbon dioxide in the water is creating a more acidic ocean, dropping the pH levels.

This excess in CO2 as well as other gases, like sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, has led to the normally clean rain waters to now become slightly acidic.  Nitric acid and sulfuric acid are the resulting compounds that are now precipitating from the once almost pure waters in the sky.  All of these gases are greenhouse gases and have the ability to capture energy from the sun in the form of heat.  This increase in captured heat is also slowly raising the temperature of the planet.  As the temperatures rise across the globe, there are now more forest fires and droughts.  In South America, NASA was able to track fires over many years and show that as the temperatures rise there is a direct correlation between those temperatures and the amount of fires during a given year.  In Colorado, there have seen studies that show, although this year has been wetter than normal, the amount of transpiration is greater, meaning that although we are receiving more water to the ground, we are also losing more water to the atmosphere.  Thus soils are drier and there is an increased chance of damage from drought.

Human Population at its Capacity?

I was asked this question the other day in my environmental science class.  Below is the question and my response

What evidence suggests that the human population has reached its capacity on the planet? How can the health of the environment be measured?

When talking about the world as a whole, this is a huge topic.  I would rather take things down to the lower levels.  Say a family of six lives on 3 acres of land and they are able to provide 80% of the items needed to live.  There is no waste and everything produced is able to be reused or composted, 80% is enough to survive but the standard of living is nothing like what we are used to in the higher developed nations such as the United States.  Say two families of 5 work together on 6 acres and are able to diversify what they farm and trades that they make between them, now both sets of families are able to live at a higher level and sustain for themselves through trade.  Add a third family and the need to have more children goes down but the ability to create a more robust trade system grows.  Now you can have one family that focuses on food, one on cattle, and maybe one that works on other items such as technology.  When gathering as a community the human population can accomplish great things.

Once people are gathered in very large groups is when the balance can be thrown off. Meaning in a large metropolitan area, say New York City, people no longer focus on things needed by the community like food production.  The areas that are not as highly populated are then taken and farmed to produce the food that is needed and shipped to different area.  As technology advances so do things like yield but there will be a point when the vast diversity of crops grown dwindles down to only a few strands of each crop.  When the population of any given area has given up its ability to produce what it needs on its own I believe that they have then passed over the capacity.  As a whole, the planet is on the verge of reaching this level unless people start looking for a way to become more self sustaining where they choose to live.

The health of the environment cannot be measured per say but by any one test or type of test.  There are many different valuables that need to be found and or compensated before a large picture can be drawn for the entire planet.