1. Ajou University Volunteer Work in Mongolia’s Suwon Citizen’s Forest
Ajou University volunteer group participated in the “Suwon Citizen’s Forest” creation event held in Mongolia. The event was held in Erdene Sum, Mongolia, from July 17 to 21, 2023. About 60 people, including Suwon-si officials, the students of Ajou University, and civic volunteers, participated. Since it was the first event to be held after the COVID-19 pandemic, a volunteer group at our school was formed on a smaller scale unlike before. Director Kim Heung-sik and other officials from the Graduate School of Public Affairs, faculty members of the College of Social Sciences, and the students participated.
This volunteer group conducted volunteer activities by investigating the status of the forest, the growth status of the trees, and managing the afforestation. They also visited the НАЛАЙХ (Nalahh) District Office and the Korean Embassy to continue discussions on exchanges between Mongolia and Korea. Suwon-si signed an agreement with the Mongolian government and Blue Asia company in 2011 to prevent the spread of deserts in Mongolia and reduce yellow dust and began to create a “Suwon Citizen’s Forest”. At that time, Suwon-si decided to plant 10,000 trees on 10ha of land every year by 2020 and plant 100,000 trees on 100ha of land for 10 years. This goal was achieved early in 2016 thanks to the efforts of Suwon citizens and volunteers, who have been steadily participating for five years. Ajou University has also participated in forest restoration work in Mongolia since 2015. Ajou University volunteer group has participated in volunteer activities, tree-planting events, and exchanges with local residents and college students.
During the visit, the Ajou University volunteer group participated in exchange events at Ulaanbaatar University to inform the global environment and share the need for overseas relief projects. An official from Suwon-si said, “We would like to thank the students of Ajou University for always cooperating in the ‘Suwon Citizen’s Forest’ project,” adding, “Please show us a lot of support so that the ‘Suwon Citizen’s Forest’ can be maintained well.” The “Suwon Citizen’s Forest” in Mongolia will be a great hope for the drying earth, in that we are in an era where the earth is boiling, beyond the era of global warming.
By Kim Da-hye, AG Reporter
2. The Bitter Side of a Sweet Tanghulu
Tanghulu, a Chinese sweet consisting of several sugar or starch syrup coated fruits on a skewer, is currently very popular among the younger generation. Tanghulu’s search volume in delivery applications was found to have increased 47.3 times in July 2023 over January 2023. However, with Tanghulu in vogue, there are social problems.
There are concerns regarding excessive sugar intake. The recommended daily sugar intake is 50g, and the amount of sugar per skewer of Tanghulu is approximately 10 to 25g. The sugar content of Black Sapphire Tanghulu is 24.7g, so if someone eats one, they will eat half the recommended daily amount of sugar. If a large amount of sugar is suddenly consumed, excessive insulin is secreted to lower the blood sugar. Continuous excessive insulin secretion raises the risk of diabetes due to insulin resistance, and the calorie intake increases, increasing the risk of obesity. Recently, “Zero Tanghulu” has appeared due to concerns of excessive sugar intake. Instead of sugar, artificial sweeteners are used. Some experts have also said that it is better to avoid “Zero Tanghulu” as much as possible because it can keep people looking for sweets. The Tanghulu epidemic is also causing problems with waste as the used skewers are thrown away on the street, on road floors, in front of power poles, and in recycled garbage bags. Tanghulu skewers inserted into garbage bags are called Tanghulu Hedgehogs because they are reminiscent of hedgehogs. Street-cleaning workers have complained that even if they wear safety gloves, they may be pricked by long skewers that protrudes through the plastic garbage bags. Although there has always been trash from street food, the amount of trash to be cleaned up has increased due to the trend of Tanghulu. In particular, the sugar in Tanghulu dissolves, attracting bugs, such as flies. As a result, “No-Tanghulu Zones” have appeared. This phrase asks people to refrain from entering a store with Tanghulu. Even in Chinatown in Jung-gu, Incheon, which is known to have been the first to sell Tanghulu in Korea, the number of “No-Tanghulu Zones” is increasing. Cafes, convenience stores, and museums have also banned Tanghulu. Tanghulu stores were placed in an awkward position because of damage to nearby merchants. It is not enough to place a trash can in front of a store and clean the trash with care.
As Tanghulu can cause various health problems, it is necessary to adjust its intake. In particular, children and adolescents, who are in the period when their eating habits are formed, need attention. This is a time for education, both at school and at home. Some argue that regulations are required when Tanghulu is sold around schools. Therefore, addressing these environmental and health problems is essential. Because Tanghulu has various negative aspects, it is necessary to raise people’s awareness so that they can take proper care.
By Park Seo-hyeon, AG Cub Reporter
3. Controversy Regarding Fukushima Wastewater Emission
How would you feel if wastewater was emitted into your environment? Japan has experienced this situation. In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami occurred in Japan causing many casualties. Furthermore, these natural disasters affected the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The cooling system of the plant was destroyed, and the fuel rods in the plant were overheated, contaminating the water in the plant with radioactive materials. Tokyo Electronics pumped cooling water into the plant to cool the fuel rods. Therefore, this plant has produced a large amount of wastewater. The wastewater is being emitted in stages with the permission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Four emissions are scheduled, and the overall emission will take at least 30 years to complete. The first emission was implemented on August 24, 2023, into the ocean in front of Fukushima. As the wastewater contains, tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen primarily used in nuclear weapons, the wastewater emission has aroused a great controversy. Some people criticize emissions, whereas others do not. What are the opinions on the emissions?
Is it safe?
According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), some experts argue that the emissions are safe. They state that tritium occurs naturally in sea water and that its influence is minimal if its density is low. Furthermore, the IAEA has shown that the density of tritium in the emitted water, is lower than the emissions cap that the IAEA sets. James Smith, a professor of Environment and Geological Sciences at Portsmouth University, stated that you could theoretically drink this water. David Bailey, a scientist who operates a radioactive estimation laboratory in France, agreed with professor Smith.
Is it hazardous?
Although most scientists argue that the emissions are safe, some argue that they are not. For instance, marine biologist Robert Richmond of the University of Hawaii says, “Radioactive and ecological evaluation may be inadequate. In addition, Japan cannot know which material is in the pollutants, sediments, or organisms. Even though this is recognized, there is no way to eliminate this material.” Additionally, environmental organizations like Green Peace argue that this element affects animals and plants. It is believed that if animals or plants consume tritium, it will have adverse effects on them, including damage to their cellular structure. Jeju haenyeo (female divers) who earn their living by diving and gathering sea food feel threatened because they must work in the sea for their living.
As previously stated, the issue of wastewater pollution in Fukushima is still controversial in Korea and other countries. Since several emissions remain, many people will need to check the emissions periodically. The more attention that is paid to this, the better off we will be.
By Kim Ju-young, AG Reporter
4. Fueling a Greener Tomorrow with Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicles
Imagine cruising down the highway in a vehicle that emits nothing but water vapor. This vision may be closer to reality than you might think, thanks to the innovation of hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). As transportation emissions pose increasingly pressing environmental challenges, the global priority has shifted toward clean and sustainable solutions. The urgency of climate change was recognized with the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, which came into effect on November 4, 2016. This agreement sets a goal to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while also pursuing efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C. The ultimate objective is to achieve carbon neutrality, which involves balancing the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere with what can be absorbed. This goal has already been committed to by over 110 countries, aiming for achievement by 2050. In this pursuit of sustainable solutions, hydrogen holds immense promise for reducing emissions, particularly in the transportation sector.
Hydrogen FCVs have a rich history, dating back to the late 1990s when they emerged as contenders to replace internal combustion engines. Initially, they were overshadowed by the rising popularity of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), but recent technological advancements and unique advantages have reignited interest in hydrogen as a sustainable solution. The distinct technology of hydrogen vehicles directly generates electricity through fuel cells, offering significant benefits such as high fuel efficiency, quick refueling times, and extended driving ranges. Despite these advantages, hydrogen FCVs face challenges, including higher costs and limited refueling infrastructure. In contrast, BEVs excel in having lower fuel costs and more accessible charging infrastructure. However, they also have longer charging times and performance issues in extreme temperatures. Safety concerns have also affected the perception of hydrogen FCVs compared to BEVs, mainly owing to doubts about hydrogen’s viability as a fuel source given its flammability. Nevertheless, hydrogen FCVs are built to adhere to strict safety measures and precautions, making them as safe as other vehicle types. In fact, hydrogen in its gaseous state at normal pressure may be safer than traditional fuels like petrol or diesel. In the unlikely event of a fuel tank puncture, hydrogen disperses quickly into the air, reducing the risk of a major fire. Additionally, for a fire to occur, hydrogen would need to mix with a sufficient amount of oxygen outside the tank, further reducing the likelihood of an explosion.
Although hydrogen FCVs have made significant safety advancements, it is important to acknowledge that no vehicle can be considered 100% safe. While the development of hydrogen technology has reached a point where these vehicles can safely share the roads with BEVs, maintaining awareness of potential safety concerns is essential. Automakers are fully aware of these concerns and are continuously prioritizing advancements in this area. Similar to BEVs and traditional vehicles, each option has its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and potential weaknesses. The key is to sustain a focus on technological development to ensure vehicles remain safe while contributing to a sustainable future. Recognizing the unique advantages and challenges of both hydrogen FCVs and BEVs allows for more informed choices towards a greener transportation landscape that prioritizes safety, environmental preservation, and a future free from carbon emissions. In this context, the automotive industry’s commitment to ‘Environmental’ and ‘Social’ aspects of ESG is evident. However, integrating ‘Governance’ is equally critical. Effective governance in automakers’ strategies ensures ethical practices and robust management, vital for advancing these technologies in a responsible and sustainable manner. This holistic approach to ESG, encompassing ‘Environment’, ‘Social’, and ‘Governance’, is key to driving forward a future of safer, cleaner transportation.
By Kim Ji-yeon, AG Reporter