Final book PDF:
Week 1: Bread
I didn't know much about the process of making bread before this class, but I was immediately intrigued after seeing the Netflix episode on the history of bread and the science behind the making of bread in the past and now. I never knew you only needed three ingredients to make bread, and I didn't know that you could make bread without yeast and that bread could naturally arise from the fermentation of microorganisms. I also didn't know how much unnecessary ingredients were put into the bread we usually purchase from the grocery store. I assumed that there were preservatives put into the bread that is being sold, but I didn't know about the supplements and vitamins added at all. The slogan of Wonder Bread “helps build strong bodies 12 ways” is referring to the number of added nutrients. Watching the documentary, and then right after, actually getting to make tortillas simply just from flour and water, has made me really think again about all the choices I make regarding food. Why is it normal for us to just accept that eating bread with all these unnecessary ingredients is making us sicker, while it's only just making the corporations behind them more money?
Another issue that we discussed in class was the use of GMO’s, and also what we should or shouldn’t classify as something that has been genetically modified. Everything has been genetically modified in some way, sometimes big sometimes small. For example, bananas used to be extremely smaller than the typical banana we see right now. But that doesn’t cause any concern until a “GMO” label is slapped on. The topic of genetically modified organisms can be extremely controversial, but in my own opinion, I think that they can be used in completely positive ways but also in harmful ways, it all depends on the person using it, and what their intent is. So I believe that GMO’s could be great, as long as we’re using them in the right way and under moderation. Especially now, there is a lot of concern about genetically modified corn and cross-pollination that may occur with an organic farm, for example.
I feel like if GMO’s are used right, many problems can be solved, one of the bigger ones being the issue of food security.
Week 2: Animal Testing
For this week I wanted to talk about animal testing in everyday products. Not just in cosmetics but in other everyday products like toothpaste, shampoo, soap, moisturizer, and household products like windex. I’m a huge advocate for using cruelty-free certified products, but just purchasing cruelty-free isn’t enough to help the cause. Over the past couple years, some companies that have come under fire for testing on animals have changed their policy. For example, the latest giant makeup brand that has recently become cruelty-free is Covergirl. But a lot of companies don’t really care about the negative comments, because they know that no matter how much hate they get online, that they’re always going to have customer and that their products will always sell. For example, one of the biggest makeup companies of all time, Maybelline, tests on animals, and receive a lot of hate online for it, but still make huge profits and are regularly coming out with new products all the time. Not only do they know that the products are still going to be purchased by consumers, but also that they have a bigger international market if the do test on animals. China requires all products that are sold to be first tested on animals, including products that are being sold online. Many companies would rather test on animals in order to sell to more people and therefore make more profit.
The FDA hasn’t set a legal definition on what cruelty free really means, and therefore allowing some companies to find their way around it and still be able to claim to be “not tested on animals.” In addition to this, there is already a large argument around the topic of animal testing in the context of human disease and drug development research, and whether or not that is ethical. Besides the question of ethics, some also point to the significant difference between expression of genes and how the animal research doesn’t always accurately translate to human research. Personally, I believe that animal testing for products like makeup and household products are completely unnecessary and should stop. Why should animals be sacrificed for our “beauty”, and why do we keep testing on animals if we already know what formulas work and what doesn’t? Why do we keep producing unnecessary alternatives and creating a massive amount of waste and also hurting other beings in the process?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are thousands of ingredients that have a long history of safe use and have been used in products. They also mentioned how there are around 50 non-animal tests that have been validated for use, so if there are new ingredients to test, there are many other methods of testing that doesn’t involve animal cruelty. Also mentioned was the unreliability of animal testing. Some species react differently to the exposure of some chemicals, so tests on them might not be relevant to human safety at all.
Sheehan, Kim Bartel, and Joonghwa Lee. “What's Cruel About Cruelty Free: An Exploration of Consumers, Moral Heuristics, and Public Policy.” Journal of Animal Ethics, pp. 1–15.
Palmer, C. Eddie, and Craig J. Forsyth. “ANIMALS, ATTITUDES, AND ANTHROPOMORPHIC SENTIMENT: THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF MEAT AND FUR IN POSTINDUSTRIAL SOCIETY.” International Review of Modern Sociology, pp. 29–44.
Bailey, Jarrod. “Can Animal Experiments Be Ethically Acceptable When They Are Not Scientifically Defensible?” The Ethical Case against Animal Experiments.
Baier, Stephen W. “The Impact of Animal Rights on the Use of Animals for Biomedical Research, Product Testing & Education.” The American Biology Teacher.
Matheny, Gaverick, and Cheryl Leahy. “Farm-Animal Welfare, Legislation, and Trade.” Law and Contemporary Problems.
Week 3: Nanocellulose
One of the topics that really interested me that was mentioned in this weeks lectures was nanocellulose, or nano-structured cellulose produced by bacteria. Some of the special properties of nanocellulose are strength, tendency for film formation, produced from natural resources, and are, as far as we know, safe to produce and use. There are three classes of these nanomaterials: CNF (cellulose nanofibrils), CNC (cellulose nanocrystals), and BC (bacterial cellulose). CNF’s are manufactured from different wood pulps and produces nano-scale fibrils. According to the website cellulosefromfinland.fi, the potential different applications of nanocellulose are: light materials with increased strength, fibre-based packing and composites, polymer composites, strong yarns, rheology modifier, smooth transparent films, barrier material, electronic displays, coloured films, water absorbing, retaining and releasing materials, medical applications, hygiene products, porous structures, reactive networks, and much more applications are mentioned on the site as well.
Another website that mentions this is Processum, which works in close collaboration with industry from laboratory to demonstration scale for sustainable growth. They say that nanocellulose should be tested to be used as an additive in textile and bioplastics. They have seen improved results on their test with paper, saying that the paper had higher tensile and tear index. The issue with producing nanocellulose is that the methods that need to be used are inefficient and expensive, so it’s hard to scale up the production of, limiting the different potential growth and research of the material in the production industry.
Another important use of nanocellulose as a material besides using it as an alternative production material, is to use nanocellulose in the medical field. Plastic platforms are being used today to support medical testing, but nanocellulose platforms can potentially replace them. They can be made to be waterproof, its electric charge can be changed, and it won’t absorb the sample, making them the perfect material to be used as medical platforms. Some examples of testing that has been brought up are how the film can be used in medical diagnostics and also testing water purity, and may other medical testings as well.
According to the website AZONANO, here are some other properties of nanocellulose (but I am unsure about accuracy):
Stiffer than Kevlar®
The crystalline form is transparent, and gas impermeable
It can be produced in large quantities in a cost-effective manner
It has a very high tensile strength - 8 times that of steel
It is highly absorbent when used as a basis for aerogels or foams.
The raw material - cellulose - is the most abundant polymer on earth
If all of these properties are true, and with the fact that it’s produced merely by just basically feeding wood pulp to algae, then nanocellulose has so much potential to replace so many different materials used in everyday objects and even specialised objects. Some people even say that nanocellulose materials can potentially be used as body armour due to its tightly packed array of needle-like crystals. Apparently the way these arrays are arranged in the material makes it an incredibly strong material. The nanocellulose material also has been reported to have an eight to one strength-to-weight ratio to steel, which is incredible.
“Nanocellulose – CellulosefromFinland.fi.” CellulosefromFinlandfi, cellulosefromfinland.fi/nanocellulose/.
Back, Sören. “Bacterial Nanocellulose Can Become a Strength Enhancer in Board, Textiles and Bioplastics.” Välkommen - RISE Processum, www.processum.se/en/sp-processum/information/news-archive/2476-bacterial-nanocellulose-can-become-a-strength-enhancer-in-board-textiles-and-bioplastics.
“Nanocellulose Film to Ease Performing Medical Tests.” Finnish Forest Association, smy.fi/en/products-services/nanocellulose-film-to-ease-performing-medical-tests/.
Soutter, Will. “What Is Nanocellulose?” AZoNano.com, 31 July 2017, www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3139.
Condliffe, Jamie. “7 Incredible Uses for Nanocellulose.” Gizmodo, Gizmodo, 17 June 2013, gizmodo.com/7-incredible-uses-for-nanocellulose-5994113.
Week 4: Bio Medical Lab
This week we got the chance to visit the Biomedical Library and got to see the research library’s special collection and rare book collection led by Russell. He had a collection of the most interesting objects and books. I was really happy to see that many variety of books, all so different — bounded differently, made with different materials and medium, one of the books even contained lead. Personally, I really love bookmaking so being able to see all these amazing rare books from the past century really inspired me to think beyond the traditional book and think about what I can do when I start to work on my book for the final project. I would have never expected to see any of these objects and books in the Biomedical Library, and was really blown away by each piece that Russell showed us from his collection. Besides the books, my favourite thing from the collection was the “Complete Test Material for Form L”, a box with small toys glued inside of it, separated and grouped together by smaller boxes within the wooden case. Here are some photos that I took from our visit to the library:
On Wednesday, we got to go more in depth with our research on our final project and discuss our different ideas and options in class. I decided to go with the topic of Bioplastics and real life integration. I decided to dig deeper and find available recipes online that were easy to recreate. Out off all bioplastics, starch-based bioplastics were definitely the easiest to recreate. Some examples of starch that can be used are potato starch, corn starch, etc. The basic ingredients are the starch, water, and a lot of times people add in glycerine to help with flexibility. So they’re real easy to make with just a couple ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. I decided to go with specifically plant-based bioplastics just because I feel like there would be no point in doing animal-based bioplastics (because of the large carbon footprint that it would still create). Obviously, plant-based bioplastics are also not 100% carbon free (processing the materials, and transportation will still be a problem), but it would reduce our carbon footprint in the plastic industry by a significant amount. I decided to think about the products I use in my everyday life that contain plastic, and also plastic products that I try to avoid but still buy once in a while anyways. For the final, I would like to try to create different kinds of bioplastics using different recipes and try different variations of those recipes myself. After that, I’m thinking of putting those different variations through different durability and flexibility tests, and try to create 10 of the plastic products that I use in my everyday life to see if it holds up to traditional plastic.
Instructables. “Make Your Own Bioplastics!” Instructables, 13 Feb. 2018,www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Bioplastics/.
“Bio-Plastic Experiment.” Bioplastic Experiment,www.engineeringessentials.com/doeexperiments/bioplastic.html.
“The Secrets of Bioplastic.” FabTextiles, fabtextiles.org/the-secrets-of-bioplastic/.
Chakraborty, Debaditya. “Home.” Home, 1 July 2015, contest.techbriefs.com/2015/entries/consumer-products/6045.
“Bioplastic.” Ellen Arolin Textile Design, arolin.se/bioplastic.
Week 5: Project Proposal
Project proposal PDF:
Week 6: CRISPR
One of the conversations that we had this week in class that I thought about a lot afterwards was on the topic of CRISPR, how important it is, but also how it could negatively impact the future. There’s so many things to think about when it comes to CRISPR. One of the most obvious uses would be to get rid of diseases and negative hereditary conditions — but how will that impact future generations? Will fixing problems in the near-future have a long-term effect on us? One thing that I never thought about but someone brought up that I thought was interesting was the idea of the future generations not being able to give consent to being genetically modified. Another topic that comes to mind is, when CRISPR becomes an acceptable thing, how accessible will it be? Can anyone have access to CRISPR, or will wealthy people be the only ones who can afford it? If and when it becomes accessible, will we stop at just curing diseases or will we go overboard and start modifying genomes in order to “enhance” as well?
Another thing that I was wondering about was what CRISPR will mean to the biohacking community and “DIY biology”. What are the dangers of people experimenting with genomes on their own? We already know that some people in the biohacking community have already attempted to modify their own genome (the video that we watched in class of the guy injecting himself with a CRISPR plasmid), but what if people started using CRISPR unregulated with other people? Personally, I’m not really sure where I stand myself. On the one hand I think that we can’t be too careful, and that the impact from this in the long run will be huge, whether that’s a good or bad thing, and on the other hand, I think it’s really cool that people have the liberty and the tools out there to be really hands-on and experiment with CRISPR themselves, literally in their own homes. A lot of it just comes down to safety and responsibility, I think.
Week 7: Michael Pollan Talk
This week I was able to go see Michale Pollan speak live in downtown Los Angeles about the history and effects of psychedelic drugs and that field of research. His focus on the topic of psychedelic drugs is supposed to be surrounding the inner workings of the human mind and consciousness but also the mechanics of the actual drugs themselves. Pollan also talked about different clinical trials where results showed significant reductions in the measure of anxiety and depression. This interested me and led me to do more research on LSD in the context of biotechnology and clinical trials on how the drugs could impact the brain. LSD, first synthesised by Albert Hofmann in 1938 (out of ergot-a fungus), and besides being tested as antidepressants, it was also tested for the treatment of alcoholism, schizophrenia, paranoia and fatal loss of judgement, but after LSD became widely consumed in the 60s, the drugs became illegal and declared the most dangerous by the UN. During that period, LSD was also sold as medication for research purposes too as Delysid, but has never gotten an approved medical use since.
I was able to find several journals online that detail the studies the relationship between hallucinogens and the human consciousness, and expansion of consciousness itself. Hofmann himself did many experiments, and believed in the capacities of LSD “as a molecule that allows for an almost unique position as a retroactive observer and real-time participant”. There also seems to be a lot of research on the relationship between PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) and LSD. There is also a current study being done at the Habor-UCLA Medical Center on how the effects might ease anxiety in patients with terminal cancer.
Week 8 + 9: Progress
For the last two weeks before the exhibition, I spent most of my time gathering research about traditional plastics and focusing on the source of where plastic is produced and why plastic is produced. I decided that I wanted to focus my book on bioplastics ultimately on the fossil fuel industry and plastic production, while still talking about the bioplastics that I had experimented with. During the critique, Kaitlin suggested that I could approach the topic of bioplastics as a sort of “field guide” type book, and I really liked that idea so I decided to go with it. I thought it was a nice way to talk about a serious topic while still being playful with it. I decided to name the book/zine: A Field Guide to Making Bioplastics and Overthrowing an Industrial Capitalist System (with easy-to-follow visual instructions). Even though my book is about bioplastics, I really wanted to focus on and emphasize the things that happen with these industries, and what is very likely to happen in the incredibly near future based on investments and research. I did research into the figures behind these companies and how much these numbers are going to go up in the next five years, and it’s truly terrifying. This week, I was able to work on writing the introduction to my book:
Every little effort counts when it comes to stopping, or at the very least, slowing down climate change, and plastic production and disposal are major factors in that. However, it’s also important to remember that the industry behind plastic production is only going to grow from here. It’s important that we do what we can as individuals, but it’s also important to remember that the industry giants will not stop producing what makes them profit just because you own a metal straw and a canvas tote bag.
I do believe that a lot of the waste issue could be dealt with by the actions of everyday consumers, but I also do believe that a lot of actions that we can take as consumers are only surface level, visible, and comforting gestures. Climate change is way bigger than us, and regulations have to be enforced on a larger scale if we want to see any result.
Obviously, waste management is a major environmental problem, especially when it comes to plastic. Right now the approach we should take with plastic waste is to reuse, shred and remold, and this is something that we should take action on immediately. Even though that waste, landfills, and marine pollution are all things that we know is killing the planet and all of us on it, large corporations and manufacturers are not going to stop continuing to produce plastic. As of 2018, the fossil fuel industry was estimated to be worth $4.65 trillion dollars. Today, Exxon Mobil alone is worth $308 billion dollars. According to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), over 99% of plastic is made from fossil fuels and confirms that the plastic and fossil fuel industry are deeply connected. Meaning that the plastic and fossil fuel industry will have to go hand in hand when it comes to transitioning and phasing out the production of plastic.
While we continue to tackle the waste issue, we shouldn’t just ignore the fact that plastic is still being produced on an extremely large scale, and is only expected to go up from here. Currently, an estimate of 8% of the world’s oil is being used to produce plastic and researchers say that figures will only grow to an estimated 20% within the next 30 years.
Despite the large cultural shift around the world encouraging consumers to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly by no longer using single-use plastics, new plastic production facilities are still being invested in by both the plastic and fossil fuel industry for hundreds of billions of dollars. No matter what, at least for the next decade, these manufacturers are only going to continue to produce more plastic, and continue to burn fossil fuel. Why does the plastic industry continue to produce by using harmful resources like fossil fuels and NGLs, when there are more sustainable alternatives to producing plastic that we know about? Is it really that much more expensive and complicated to make?
I do still firmly believe that as individuals, we should all try our best to reduce and stop our use of plastic and reduce the waste we produce as consumers. However, I feel that to make a huge enough impact, we should be targeting plastic manufacturers, facilities, and the industry as a whole in order to make a significant impact. Because they will continue to produce plastic, and will continue to abuse our natural resources, and will continue to destroy our ozone, and will continue to create more waste as we’re already going nowhere with the current waste we already have.
In this book, I’m going to detail my attempts to make different variations of plant-based bio-plastics and test the durability, reaction to different scenarios, and the rigidness and flexibility of each batch. From that, I will list the potential products that could be made from each batch. I’m avoiding bio-plastics that involve any kind of animal or animal by-products in order to avoid muddying the waters with separate questions about sustainability engendered by the practices and processes of animal farming for industrial purposes. I believe that if any sort of plant-based bioplastics could be produced on a large scale, that they should come from crops that are sustainable and easy to grow, like hemp for example, so that there is no interference with food sources. If this is something that I can make in a $10 pot in my kitchen, I don’t think it can be that much more complicated to produce on a larger scale–combatting the issues behind the toxic production of plastic, and also helping with the future process of waste degradation, which is now completely ineffective, toxic, and is easily another example of systematic inequality.
Week 10: Final Product
Sources for all the research done for my project:
“Are Shareholders Adequately Informed about the Future of Fossil Fuels?” World Finance, www.worldfinance.com/strategy/are-shareholders-adequately-informed-about-the-future-of-fossil-fuels.
Barrett, Axel. “Bioplastics Will Help Fight Climate Change.” The Essential News on Bioplastics, 4 Dec. 2018, bioplasticsnews.com/2018/12/03/bioplastics-fight-climate-change/.
“Bioplastics.” Bioplastics - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/bioplastics.
“Bioplastics: A Scam or the Solution to Plastic Pollution?” Pond, 5 Mar. 2019, pond.global/bioplastics-scam-solution-plastic-pollution/.
“Bob Dudley | Who We Are | Home.” BP Global, www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/who-we-are/board-and-executive-management/executive-team/bob-dudley.html.
Carriker, Megan. “Are Bioplastics the Answer to Our Plastic Waste Problem?” Plaine Products, 28 Aug. 2018, www.plaineproducts.com/are-bioplastics-the-answer-to-our-plastic-waste-problem/.
Carver, Edward. “Humanity Is Drowing in Plastic.” Jacobinmag, 17 May 2019, jacobinmag.com/2019/05/plastic-production-recycling-waste.
Chevron Policy. “Meet Mike Wirth, Chairman of the Board and CEO.” Chevron.com, 10 Apr. 2019, www.chevron.com/about/leadership/michael-wirth.
Cho, Renee. “The Truth about Bioplastics.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 14 Dec. 2017, phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html.
Dann, Carrie. NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 6 Feb. 2019, www.nbcnews.com/card/fact-check-trump-boasts-energy-revolution-says-u-s-no-n967741.
Day, Katie, and Trent Hodges. “The Link Between Fossil Fuels, Single-Use Plastics, and Climate Change.” Surfrider, 2 May 2018, www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/the-link-between-fossil-fuels-single-use-plastics-and-climate-change.
“Divest from Damage and Invest in a Healthier Future.” David Suzuki Foundation, davidsuzuki.org/story/divest-from-damage-and-invest-in-a-healthier-future/.
ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Stanford University GCEP, exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=81.
“Fueling Plastics: Untested Assumptions and Unanswered Questions in the Plastic Boom .” CIEL, www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Fueling-Plastics-Untested-Assumptions-and-Unanswered-Questions-in-the-Plastics-Boom.pdf.
Gibbens, Sarah. “What You Need to Know about Plant-Based Plastics.” Bioplastics-Are They Truly Better for the Environment?, 21 Nov. 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/11/are-bioplastics-made-from-plants-better-for-environment-ocean-plastic/.
Hermes, Jennifer. “Use of Bioplastics May Slow Demand for Fossil Fuels.” Environmental Leader, 1 Feb. 2018, www.environmentalleader.com/2018/01/growth-rate-bioplastics-erode-demand-oil/.
“How Much Oil Is Used To Make Plastic? .” US Energy Information Administration, 24 May 2018, www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=34&t=6.
Industry Agenda: The New Plastic Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics. Jan. 2016, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf.
Kolhatkar, Sonali. “Plastic Is Just as Destructive to the Climate as Oil and Gas.” Common Dreams, 31 May 2019, www.commondreams.org/views/2019/05/31/plastic-just-destructive-climate-oil-and-gas.
Leather, Amy. It’s Time to Break up Capitalism’s Love Affair with Plastic. 9 Nov. 2018, climateandcapitalism.com/2018/11/09/break-up-capitalisms-love-affair-with-plastic/.
Miller, Daniel. “So, What’s Wrong With Consumerism?” RSA Journal, pp. 44–47.
Steele, Anne. “Exxon Mobil Taps Darren Woods to Replace Rex Tillerson as CEO.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 14 Dec. 2016, www.wsj.com/articles/exxon-mobil-taps-darren-woods-to-replace-rex-tillerson-as-ceo-1481746854.
“Top 10 Things You Can Do about Climate Change.” David Suzuki Foundation, davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/top-10-ways-can-stop-climate-change/.
Treat, Jason, and Ryan Williams. “We Depend On Plastic. Now, We're Drowning in It.” We Depend on Plastic. Now We're Drowning in It., 16 May 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/.
“What’s Wrong With Plastic, Anyway? .” My Plastic Free Life, 27 July 2007, myplasticfreelife.com/2007/07/whats-wrong-with-plastic-anyway/.
Yaggi, Marc, and Gabrielle Segal. The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Plot to Stay Relevant Is Made of Plastic. 22 Apr. 2018, waterkeeper.org/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-plot-to-stay-relevant-is-made-of-plastic/.