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Better Together Journal!

Interested in learning about current events, societal issues or do you have some time for a quick read? Browse our diverse catalog consisting of articles written by our fellow members!

Economics: The Basics

by Tiffany Tang

The study of economics helps individuals understand society and the world around them. All of the choices we make, the products we buy, and the money we receive plays a detrimental part in the economic growth of our country. Without further ado, here are some important definitions to think like an economist! Economics: The study of scarcity and how the production and demand of goods and services contribute to economic growth individually and collectively. The study of economics is divided into two parts, Microeconomics, which focuses on individual choice with the concern of single factors, and Macroeconomics which looks at the economy as a whole and deals with decision-making with factors such as interest rates and productivity.  Inflation Inflation is the continual rise in the price level of goods and services and purchasing power declines over time. Essentially, wheneach unit of currency buys less than in previous periods. To calculate inflation, we use the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI tracks the prices of common goods and services, then compare it over time.  Contrastingly, deflation occurs when prices decline and purchasing power increases. Inflation can be caused by excess printing of currency, demand-pull, cost-push, and structural inflation.  Printing excess money causes more money chasing the same amount of goods resulting in no real growth, only nominal growth. Demand-pull inflation occurs when there is an unusual increase of demand, this can happen when there is a change in income and a rise in the stock market. Cost-push inflation (Stagflation) occurs when resources that suppliers use are in short supply. For example, shortages of labour, land and oil. Structural inflation occurs when costs increase in one sector/area which increases the prices of other goods. An example is the increase in oil prices. Oil is used for the transportation of every good, therefore when the price of oil increases, everything will increase.  GDP: GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product. This is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country. GDP is a monetary measure of a country’s production over time, usually calculated annually. Another term for GDP is GDP per capita. Essentially, it is the GDP divided by the number of citizens in a country. This measures the income earned per person and determines the prosperity of the nation’s growth per person. Another related term is Gross National product which is the market value of all final goods and services produced by citizens of a country.  Real GDP is the actual amount of GDP in a year that is adjusted for inflation, nominal GDP is not adjusted. For example, in the first year apples cost $0.50 cents a pound, and we have a GDP of $1000. The second year the apples cost $0.55 a pound with a GDP of $1200. $1200 would be our nominal GDP as it isn’t adjusted for inflation, the real GDP would be $1091 since year 2’s prices are adjusted to the price in year one.  A way to grasp the concept of GDP is by comparing it to stock and flow. Stock is the accumulated activity and flow is a year's worth of activity that resets annually. Thus we can think of GDP like flow. GDP only includes goods that flow out of one year’s production as opposed to it being stockpiled.  Specialization: Specialization is the process where a company or organization narrows down what they are good at to maximize efficiency. Specialization enables them to create an advantage in the competitiveness of the economy. This can be conducted through individuals, companies or countries. For example, a worker can specialize in a specific task and countries can specialize in particular goods. Economic specialization can help organizations appeal to greater audiences. For example, when a consumer is in search of buying a particular good, they would rather buy it from a company that established expertise within the respective field. Specialization also decreases the cost of production. When a company decides to produce a certain good, the output will be increased, resulting in charging their clients less. The small costs lead to more clients, so the company will result in more sales overall. An example of a company that sells one single product is Crocs!  Market Equilibrium: Market equilibrium is the state where supply and demand are equal in the market. When the market is at the equilibrium the price will not change unless there is a change in the supply or demand. If the price is above the equilibrium, that means there is a surplus of supply and less demand. In this situation, sellers tend to slow down the production of goods and lower the price. The lower the price, the more purchases are made by consumers which will lower the inventory. With these changes, the point will slowly reach back to the market equilibrium. If the price is below the equilibrium, there is high demand, but low supply. In this situation, the prices will go up. Eager buyers will continue to buy the goods or services, and some buyers just can’t afford them. Sellers will start to supply more of the goods and the market equilibrium will be normal and stabilized Trade; Pros and Cons: Trade is the exchange of goods and services between economic organizations. Trade optimally benefits both parties. For example, a country that specializes in oil, but lacks mattresses can trade with a country that specializes in mattresses and lacks oil. In free trade, consumers can purchase international goods at the same price as domestic goods. Since tariffs are sometimes placed on traded goods, a tariff will be added to the price to turn consumers away from buying it. Tariffs force consumers to buy more domestic goods which boosts GDP. Trade keeps an economy open, competitive and dynamic. Goods that a country is unable to produce can be obtained from trade with another party. With trade, countries are able to efficiently produce what they have the absolute advantage of. For example, Canada can specialize in maple syrup, and trade that for mangos from Brazil. Consumers are offered a variety of choices. Trade can lead to fierce competition, lower prices and innovation.  With these advantages, there come many cons. Trade can lead to undeveloped countries relying on developed countries. For example, it would not be efficient if a country had sole reliance on another country to provide food since many transportation factors come to play when trading. During the 6-day Suez Canal Crisis, 12% of global trade was blocked and held up $10 billion worth of cargo a day. This crisis led to the increase of prices for food making affordability an issue for many families. Along with this, trade can also lead to the loss of local jobs. International imports displace goods that otherwise would have been made by domestic workers.  Opportunity Cost: Opportunity cost is sacrifices and potential losses made in order to obtain something different or the next best alternative. When making a decision, the factors that come to play are the benefits and the costs. Although costs aren’t necessarily monetary, they can also be time and happiness etc. Opportunity costs are the desirable sacrifices made when making a decision.  Comparative Advantage: Comparative advantage occurs when a party can produce goods with a lower opportunity cost than another producer. Comparative advantage is measured in units of what you give up. This suggests that countries will engage in trade with one another, letting them be able to specialize. For example, for every hockey stick that Canada makes, the opportunity cost is 1.5 maple syrups. In Germany, every hockey stick sacrifices only 1 maple syrup, thus Germany has a comparative advantage.

Plastic Pollution 

by Alycia Ma

Imagine snorkeling in clear blue waters looking at the many fish and colorful coral reefs. But that may not happen because many animals and plants are dying, and many more will soon be extinct. The ocean has become the global dump of man made-plastic and National geographics says that we only have until 2050 when there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This global crisis is called plastic pollution, and it must be stopped. The plastic in the ocean remains there forever. Plastic is non-biodegradable, meaning it can't be dissolved in water. According to ocean crusaders, plastic has been traveling through the waves and currents, slowly breaking apart into smaller pieces. Acidification occurs during this process. This means that the alcohol used to make plastic begins releasing acid into the water. This acid then changes the pH in the water, and fishes need a certain Ph to survive. If it becomes very acidic, animals and plants will die. Acidification causes the coral reef to lose colour, which impacts the locations of where fish can hide from prey. Currently, our world has about 400 death zones because animals can't survive in these parts of the ocean. Plastic contaminates the animal food chain. Animals believe plastic is part of their food source and attempt to eat it. The plastic they eat remains in their stomach forever and eventually leads to a slow death from starvation. Dr. Jennifer Laver, a scientist of seabirds, has been picking up dead seabirds around the shore of a beach. She opened the bird's stomach, and all she was able to see were the many small pieces of plastic inside. The highest count was 277 pieces, adding up to 15kg of the bird's weight. Dr. Jennifer's calculation says that the plastic in the bird's stomach is like 20 pizzas sitting in our stomachs. In 2019, one million seabirds and 100,100 sea animals died from plastic. We must take action and not allow these innocent animals to die in such cruel ways. What small actions can we do to save the ocean? We can reuse and recycle instead of surrendering to our need for the convenience of disposable plastic. David Katz once said: "when you see a sink overflowing with water, what is the first thing you will do to clean it up? You probably will grab a sponge, towels, a mop and a bucket, but that is incorrect. Instead, you should turn off the tap to stop the water." That is how we should treat plastic pollution. We should stop throwing plastic into the trash and recycle it instead. It takes a small amount of time to go to a recycling depot. 86400 seconds a day. What is so important that we can't give up a few minutes of our time to save our oceans? Another way we can help is by using reusable water bottles. Using reusable bottles is less expensive than buying bottled water. Additionally, try to use disposable utensils or stainless steel straws. When we go grocery shopping, instead of constantly paying for plastic bags, we can bring and use fabric bags. To reduce the use of saran wrap or plastic containers, buy metal or glass Tupperware to put your food in. These ideas may be hard to follow because we have been using plastic for so long, and it feels easier, but it is better for our oceans and future. The ocean is like our heart. Pumping life from our heads to our toes. We need it. It is 70 percent of our planet—one of the earth's most valuable natural resources. Water, animals and plants are all the things that we need to survive. We have to stop acidification and pollution by changing our ways. Every small action counts, such as using reusable water bottles. The ocean gives us so much, and it is our turn to give something back before it is too late. Let's eliminate single-use plastic.

Climate Change 

by Alycia Ma

Since 1965, our world has been facing the consequences of climate change and some scientists believe that we have eleven years remaining to fix the problem before it becomes too big to fix. Scientists have observed that about 51 million tons of carbon are released into our atmosphere each year, from daily activities like burning coal and oil, agriculture and transportation. These daily activities have increased the amount of heat absorbed by the atmosphere, which has a major impact on climate change. Climate scientists have estimated that the world's average temperature will increase between 2.9°C and 3.4°C by 2100. Earth is the home to humans and many organisms as it contains all the resources we need to survive such as water for hydration and the perfect temperature for life to thrive. From our actions, the earth is changing in ways that are becoming one of the greatest problems to the human population. The ocean is becoming acidic, the weather is more unpredictable and resources are becoming scarce resulting in food shortages that make survival more difficult for any living thing.


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