December 2012 Archives

West Of Everything (Delvonne McCullum)

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When I was first asked in the beginning of the course if I had ever been to a few of the places out West, I shrugged my shoulders because I knew I hadn't nor did I plan to. Since taking this ENG 003 course I've grown to have a greater appreciation for things out West than what I may have ignored before. In this piece I encourage all my readers to visit anywhere out West to experience some of the things discussed in this course. Although the novels read during the course were fictional, they still held a true meaning to what the West is all about. The west side of the nation has rich history with land, Native Americans and the struggle to preserve both. We've discussed on numerous occasions in class about how Native Americans don't seem to have much of a voice anymore because of their numbers. I want to encourage readers to try to be the voice for Native Americans in helping out in any type of movement they're involved in. I got a great vibe  from students who seem motivated to make a difference. Now is your chance to do so. I challenge you to educate yourself about any probable issues facing Native Americans in today's society and to see if there is anything you can do to help their people, their land, as well as yourselves. At the beginning of the semester I was hesitant to visit the West because it didn't seem as interesting to me as much as did Dr. Mulford made it sound. I'm still not completely sold on the West but I'm at least willing to visit. Why not?

 

Thank You                                                                                                            

 

Delvonne McCullum

Challenge Accepted Pt. 2 (Delvonne McCullum)

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on the lines of a recycling bin shoot. Having something like a laundry chute except for plastic bottles and cans could be very beneficial. Therefore making it that much more easier for people to recycle in the privacy of their own homes.   

            In regards to reusable resources, we need to be more considerate of the energy that we waste while we're not using it. For instance, I'm going to mention phone chargers. Phone chargers are one of those items that have a tendency to be left in the walls or other electrical power surges while they are not in use. The only time that I unplug my phone charger is when I know I'll need it later, but other than that it's exactly where I last had it plugged in. When these phone/etc chargers are left plugged into outlets there is just that much more energy that we are not using and is going to waste. This problem occurs with  gaming devices as well. I have an XBOX 360 that I rarely play because of school and it just sits in my room plugged in all day. Since taking this course I've began to get better at unplugging any useless devices that I may not be using at those current moments. I'll be checking on the next electric bill to see if it made any huge significant differences, but something tells me that regardless of the outcome, I did a good thing anyway.

            In our class a lot of things were said about situations regarding water and the importance of preserving it. What I'm about to say ties in a bit with what I said earlier about the water bottles. A classmate told her story about another resident on her floor who has a tendency of leaving water running while brushing her teeth. After being confronted about it she did eventually turn off the water while brushing her teeth. Things like that need to be done so that people could understand the importance of preserving the water that we do have. The main problem in our society is that we don't realize how dependent our water is to us because we fill that we have an unlimited supply of it. If we lived in another country where water is hard to come by, I think we would begin to see how important water really is. Something Dr. Mulford suggested to the class dealt with the way we wash our dishes. She suggested that instead of using the dishwasher that we instead wash dishes manually to minimize the water intake. Going along with that, she also suggested that instead of washing dishes with running water that we instead wash dishes by letting them soak in water first. These suggestions are just a small part of what we all can do as a whole. There are many ways to be innovative, we just have to do it.

Since taking this ENG 003 course I've learned to change the little things about my lifestyle that could safe myself some money and the earth. Next time I go home for a visit I do plan to look into getting a recycling bin for my home. This class was very beneficial for me.

 

Thank You

Delvonne McCullum

Challenge Accepted Pt. 1 (Delvonne McCullum)

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            I want to address a serious topic that doesn't get the right amount attention that I believe it deserves. That topic I'm referring to is the importance of recycling and the use of renewable resources. This class (ENG 003) has taught me to be more considerable about some of the unhealthy habits that I know I partake in that could potentially be harmful to the earth and very careless to say the least. I want to persuade to my readers in my blog to educate themselves to be more knowledgeable about this subject as a whole.

            For starters, I would like to discuss the importance of having an reusable

 water bottle. It seems as if nowadays most people on campus have their own reusable

 water bottles for whenever they're on the go . I personally see it as a good thing to

 carry one of these around because not only are you saving yourself money by not

 having to buy water, but you're saving the earth as well. Penn State University is a

 very recycle-friendly campus, but most people outside this campus or other college

 campuses don't have the luxury of having recycling bins accessible to them wherever

 they go. Speaking for myself I know that while I'm home for breaks it seems

 reasonable to throw an empty water bottle into the garbage can simply because I don't

 have access to a recycling bin in my neighborhood. Before coming to this prestige

 university I used to rarely recycle nor did I care. Since being enrolled in 2008 I try to

 recycle any chance I possible have after I use anything that could possibly be

 recycled. I've gone as far as to recycle other people's items if I know they are about

 to throw it in the garbage can. If given the opportunity I would suggest that

 communities who don't already have their own personal recycling bins, to have a

 community recycling bin on each corner of the neighborhood so that people have

 somewhere to place their recyclables instead of throwing it into the garbage can.

 Another alternative would be something

We need to stop polluting water

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Water pollution is defined as any chemical, physical or biological change in the quality of water that has a harmful effect on any living thing the drinks, uses or lives in it. Unfortunately, the dominant cause of water pollution is human beings. Human activities ranging from car exhaust to factory work play large roles in contaminating our water source. Something needs to be done soon to prevent this from getting any worse than it already is. 

We use water for almost everything that nourishes our bodies whether it's us or our food supplies taking in the water it plays a large role for all forms of life. Infected water will eventually make its way to human beings either through directly drinking it or eating something that had consumed the infected water. Any type of pollution will eventually work it's way into our water sources. If we continue to pollute our sources of water we will not only increase our chances of getting sick because of it but the price of clean drinking water and clean food will continually rise. It will become increasing difficult to find pure water with life in it to provide for our civilization. 

 I think the first steps to decrease how much we pollute has to do with gas emissions from cars. The switch to electric cars is not coming fast enough and car companies need to find a way to either speed this up or produce cars that emit less harmful gasses into our world. Will changing the way cars operate be more expensive? Yes, but I think that by cleaning our environment this is definitely worth it. 

 I've seen the effects of polluted water first hand. I spent 10 days building houses on a service trip to a small village in the Dominican Republic with my high school. These people did not have the financial resources to afford clean drinking water and were forced to use the small stream running through town for whatever they needed water for. Because of this you could see many children who had even infected by the water. Whenever these small malnourished children had strangely round bellies it meant that parasites that were growing in the water were now growing inside of them. These parasites would slowly eat away at whatever they could inside of these kids and could eventually do serious bodily harm to them. Most of their families cannot afford treatment for this so they are forced to persevere and hope it does not get any worse. 

 Those kids have no choice; they have no other source for water and are forced to drink this dirty water. Having pure drinking water more readily available worldwide starts with us. By decreasing pollution the cost of clean water will begin to fall, eventually into something those families can afford. There are no negatives to polluting our world less, something needs to be done about it now. 
 
You can read more about water pollution here: 
 http://www.lenntech.com/water-pollution-faq.htm 

 http://www.nrdc.org/water/

Stepping Up - Taking Energy Conservation in Our Own Hands (Feet?)


large scale instalations at transport hubs jpg.jpg

Think about all the energy humans expend every day: Pushing open a door. Typing on a keyboard. Exercising in the gym. And something all Penn Staters do everyday - walking. What if we could harness the power of walking to light the lamp we walk under? Or light the classroom we're going to? Turns out, we can. 


Now I'm not talking about walking on a treadmill and powering the world like guinea pigs. There is a company called Pavegen that is making pavement slabs from recycled rubber. These slabs, when stepped on, compress approximately five millimeters and then collect kinetic energy from the step. The energy is immediately transferred to nearby sources or stored in a battery. This system allows electricity to be created and used off a grid.


how does it work pavegen.png

One step creates enough energy to light up an LED street light for 30 seconds. In addition, once stepped on, the slabs light up with a built-in LED light, which uses only 5% of the energy gained. This interaction shows the user that they have contributed to electricity around them. Imagine these slabs in high-traffic places, such as train stations and tourist attractions. Put them in Disney World. Put them in Times Square. Heck, even put some at the HUB! Hundreds of thousands of people and millions of steps a day. 

But again is the curse of innovation. Now you may be wondering why these slabs are not everywhere. It is the usual reason - money. Currently, the slabs are costly to produce and not yet in mass production. Even though the slabs would save money in the long run, investors are reluctant to spend their money on products that are so innovative and could only sell to a niche market. 

Personally, I think that this genius idea should be in the headlines. Being green is a trend. Being lazy is a reality. With these slabs, people could feel as if they were making a difference (and they would be!) just by doing something they already do. I can just imagine little kids jumping from slab to slab, watching them light up at recess. What about competitions to see who could light the most slabs in a given amount of time?

The best part about this technology is that it is here, right now. There are slabs in the Westfield Stratford Mall in London that are fully functioning. Hopefully, as the technology improves and word spreads, more corporations and businesses will see ideas like this as progressive and worthwhile.


Pavegen school jpg.jpg

To a lot of people, being environmentally friendly is a chore. A lot of people are unwilling to take a small detour and recycle a bottle, or to bend over and pick up someone else's trash. A lot of people think that to reduce their carbon footprint, they have to resort to more primitive ways, such as riding a bike or walking places. But it is important to realize that someone can be both technologically innovative as well as ecological.

We continually see, though, that money is always at the forefront of the issue. Nobody wants to invest in something that might fail to sell, that hasn't captured a lot of popular attention. But the potential of technological innovations, especially the environmental benefits, are crucial to sustaining life, both that of humans and the earth.

The important part for us, as students, bloggers, and internet-users is to spread the word. The first step is to make people aware of new ecological technology. As more people become familiar with the innovations, and get more excited about new technologies, they will be inspired with more eco-friendly ideas. A clean future can be a reality if we nourish and support it, and if we all do our part.


Part 1 - Magnetic Levitation

Part 2 - 3D Printing


For additional reading:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/13/tech/innovation/pavegen-kinetic-pavements/index.html 

A New Dimension of Recycling

In the past few years, we've seen a surge in 3D. Movie theaters inflate their ticket prices so viewers can experience a movie surrounding them, instead of a film on a 2D surface. As the hype surrounding 3D movies has died down, an opposite reaction has occurred in response to 3D printing.


3d printer.jpg

3D-printing is a surprisingly simple idea and has been in development for over 20 years. Basically, a printer takes a computerized 3D design and uses that to print a physical object, layer by layer. The first printer was invented in 1984. It printed things by having a UV laser beam trace out each individual layer of the design in liquid polymer. As the design hardened layer by layer, the platform that the polymer was on was slowly lowered. Hours later, the final design was created.

Nowadays, a common 3D printing technique called selective laser sintering (SLS). The printer lays down a layer of find powder, then selectively fuses some of the granules by using a laser. This version is already very established and SLS 3D printers can use a multitude of powdered materials ranging from glass, to wax, to aluminum. The excess powder from printing can also be recycled. 

The most evident environmental benefit for 3D printing mostly affects manufacturing. If 3D printing becomes more widespread, it will be possible to store and deliver objects digitally. This will directly impact the environment by cutting down on all the pollution from manufacturing plants and will also reduce the fuel use in transportation of goods. In addition, it will be possible to recycle already 3D printed items as material for new items, eliminating waste.


 

Even more exciting is the current development of 3D projects. One recent group of undergraduates at the University of Washington has invented a 3D printer that turns plastic waste into pieces for rainwater harvesting systems and composting toilets. They hope to use their invention to help get clean drinking water for third world countries, as well as develop new ways to recycle.

But the benefits don't stop there. Scientists have only touched the tip of the 3D iceberg in terms of discovering ways to reduce waste and enhance production. People right now are working on printing 3D food. Although it sounds crazy, it does have logical backing. Many foods are made of different physical arrangements of ingredients, and if a 3D printer uses the right materials, edible objects can be printed.

A company called Modern Meadow is focused on ending the cycle of consumer dependence on animal slaughter. Andras Forgacs, the co-founder of the company, says, "if you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck." Modern Meadow is hoping that with this new technology, they can produce 3D-printed leather products, and that bioprinted meat can be an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional beef.


burger problem.png

The best thing about 3D printing is that it's already becoming very popular. Just doing a simple Google search on 3D printing leads to countless websites manufacturing and selling customizable products such as jewelry and art. Right now, at-home 3D printers are expensive, prices ranging from a couple hundred dollars to over two thousand. Although a lot of the current designs are for people already knowledgeable about 3D printing, there are a lot of printers in the market that are user-friendly. Within the next couple years, more advanced and less expensive 3D printers will be available to a wider population. 



For additional reading:
It is not certain that the earth we should be trying to save today will exist to see the technology of tomorrow. In my posts, I'd like to introduce different examples of how technology is being used to help create a more sustainable way of life.

With each year comes exponential growth in the development of new technology. As consumers, we have seen the effects of this: cheaper televisions with better image resolution, more compact laptops capable of performing more complex programs, and the ever-upgrading ubiquitous i-devices such as the iPhone and the iPad. While it appears that the focus of development has been conveniences for us, shouldn't the focus equally or even more so be on developing technology to help the earth on which we live?

Luckily, professionals have been addressing technology and the environment for years. We've all heard about innovations such as solar panels and wind turbines. But there are other ways that technology is being used to help reduce the human footprint, and it is extremely likely that you'll see these advances in your lifetime.


Levitating Transportation to a New Level


maglev.jpg

Magnets probably amazed you when you first played with them in science class. The fun of pulling them apart is only beaten by the joy of using one to push the other one away. But one of the most interesting tricks of magnets is magnetic levitation. With strong enough magnets, you can lift anything you want.

Now imagine an entire train, magnetically levitated, transporting passengers to their destinations at over 250 mph. Such trains exist. As of today, there are two commercial maglev trains in operation, one in China and one in Japan.

The idea of using magnets for high speed transportation is not new. Patents have been around since the early 1900s, but the technology to use magnets for transportation was not available until the late 1980s. The concept, however, is simple. The underbody of the train is lined with magnets, all facing the same way, and the train track is also lined with magnets. Opposite sides push the train from the track, creating an air cushion.

As of right now, there are three main forms of maglev: the Electromagnetic Suspension (EMS), the Electrodynamic Suspension (EDS), and the Inductrak.


levitation techniques.png

The EDS has magnets on both the train and the track, and the magnets repel each other; this system needs less feedback from computers, but still needs wheels to operate. The EMS has cars with arms underneath the train that wrap around the track. Electromagnets, when energized, lift the train and propel it forward. The Inductrak system uses a special arrangement of magnets to converge the magnetic field on one side, while canceling it on the other. The Inductrak goes slower, which could be a benefit for a train with multiple stops, such as commuter trains. The maglev trains currently in development in the United States use this system.

The benefits of maglev trains are substantial. The ways that trains currently run involve an electric motor, which produces air pollution from emissions. With maglev trains, there would be little to no air pollution. In addition, since the train doesn't touch the track when moving, there would be no mechanical friction, which means less wear and tear on the parts, less maintenance costs and less noise. And most importantly for the passengers, the trains would be much faster. Transportation costs would go down as trains would rival airplanes for longer travel.

Now you may be wondering why these trains are not everywhere. It is the usual reason - money. Maglev trains and tracks have an extremely high start up cost. People are wary to invest when we already have working transportation systems in place. Widespread adaption to maglev would require building new tracks all across the country.

As technology develops further, it is likely that we will see commercial Maglev trains in countries besides China and Japan (they have already tested or are developing tracks in the UK, Germany, and the United States). One of the most exciting things about Maglev train development is the potential for future transportation. An entire city on a magnetic grid could pave the way for a science fiction fan's dreams - hover crafts and hover boards (and without pollution, too!).


japanese maglev train mlu002n on test bed.png

Japanese Maglev train MLU002N on test bed


http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120504-the-floating-future-of-trains/1 

Oil Drilling and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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America is at a crossroads. This country's dependence has on oil has driven it to several big decisions it must make in the upcoming decades. America could make an attempt to abandon oil as its primary source of energy, or it can cling to oil and try to not be as dependent on other countries for it and regain its old position of the world's biggest oil producer it held a decade ago. The latter is extremely harmful to the environment, especially in the state with the most untouched nature America has today: Alaska.

If America wants to become self-sufficient with oil and gas, the environment of America will suffer greatly. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska is the site some Americans want to drill because it is suspected to have a large amount of oil under its surface. Former President George Bush spearheaded initiatives to drill this area in order to lessen America's dependence on foreign oil, but Senate has vetoed the bill to this date. This land contains roughly 180 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, and 36 species of fish among its abundant and diverse wildlife. It is also home to Inupiat Eskimos and Athabascan Indians. The drilling of this area will result in the displacement of these people, and subsequent loss of a land and culture that they have lived in harmony with for generations.

 If America agrees to drill these lands the country is giving in completely to the mindset that profit is more important than environment. In order to avoid this wilderness from being destroyed, the American public must bring many things to the government's attention. First, the country must commit itself entirely and genuinely to alternative energy research. Solar, wind, water, and electricity have all been explored. America must fully engage in the use of these materials in order to make a change. Also, American families must work diligently to decrease their consumption of oil. For the last decade this has been quite a trend but it hasn't been taken as seriously as it should. This means the obvious changes of less SUVs, more carpools, and other car-related issues. This also means being aware of oil use in the places we don't normally think of such as the heating of our homes. Over the next 50 years, America is going to experience a drastic change concerning energy, hopefully it is a change that takes the environment seriously.

 

For Additional Reading:

http://search.proquest.com/docview/870522499

 

http://library.fws.gov/Refuges/arctic00.pdf

 

http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic/?verb=sr&csi=138620&sr=HLEAD(Senate+blocks+Alaskan+oil+drilling+plan)+and+date+is+December+22%2C+2005

 

http://search.proquest.com/docview/1170553782

Alcoholism in the Native American Community

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Alcohol and drugs play a large role in American culture, but before settlers came and occupied what is now the United States, Native Americans have been using substances in rituals for centuries. The use of these substances in rituals had not caused addictive tendencies or widespread problems during this time. Since the loss of their original lands and continued struggle to maintain their culture, alcoholism has become an epidemic in the Native American community.

There are many variables that could be contributing to this issue. Coping with the loss of their way of life can be very emotionally taxing on Native Americans, who then run the risk of consuming alcohol in an unhealthy manner in order to deal with these emotions. The introduction of alcohol to the Native American community long after the rest of the world had established social norms and "rules" for drinking could also contribute to the pervasive mishandling of alcohol by Native Americans. They did not have the same amount of time to find and maintain acceptable behaviors concerning alcohol use, so it is not a different physiological response to alcohol in Native Americans that causes its misuse. The Native American concept of community and sharing has also been seen as a possible explanation for the increased drinking due to social drinking and peer pressure.

Regardless of the explanations people come up with for this epidemic, it must be agreed on that something must be done. Alcoholism has been reported in Native Americans more than any other race, and deaths due to alcohol and alcohol related illnesses in the Native American community are occurring at an alarming rate. In a 2008 study it was found that more than one in ten Native American deaths are alcohol related, compared to 3.3% for the rest of the United States population.

There are many things that the rest of America can do in order to better this issue. The Federal government can work to restore the rich culture of Native American communities in which alcoholism has run rampant by giving more liberties to tribal governments in these areas. This could influence a greater interest in former traditions of their Native American ancestors and take a focus off of coping with an increasingly "Americanized" Native American way of life. Funds can be raised and allotted to these tribal governments in order to treat alcoholism as the disease that it is versus viewing it as just a social problem. A lot of work is necessary, but I am confident that it is possible to make a significant change in the Native American community.

 

For Additional Reading:

http://pao.chadwyck.com/articles/displayItemPage.do?FormatType=fulltextimages&QueryType=articles&ResultsID=13B0F9EDEE5768A87&ItemNumber=1&PageNumber=1

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26439767/ns/health-addictions/t/native-american-deaths-alcohol-related/#.UM9c5lGASxI

 

http://search.proquest.com/docview/303566341

 

http://search.proquest.com/docview/362740349

The Tohono O'odham Nation

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Not necessarily a broad scope issue, but an issue nonetheless, the situation of the Tohono O'odham Nation is a problem that must be handled by the United States and Mexico. The people of the Tohono O'odham Nation reside on a reservation in what was their original land in southern Arizona. This area of land stretches beyond the Mexican border, which has caused a problem for the Tohono O'odham. Mexican drug cartels have begun using the people of this nation as drug carriers, as it is easy for them to cross the border without trouble from the government due to the land being their own to govern. This creates a problem in the community of the Tohono O'odham because the rich and powerful drug cartels are able to offer them large sums of money or possessions in order to transport drugs across the border. Tohono O'odham children and teenagers are targeted by cartels to smuggle the drugs because they are easy to influence with large sums of money and appear less suspicious to law enforcement. If they accept these rewards in exchange for their services they run the risk of being arrested, which is happening to more and more of the Tohono O'odham Nation in the recent years. 

The Desert Diamond Casino and the Golden Hashan Casino on the reservation bring in a lot of money for the law enforcement of this nation, which has resulted in the means to arrest many offenders. This increased crime threatens the Tohono O'odham Nation because as scrutiny from the government increases, the chances of the natives losing their land to the government increase. 

The United States contributes to this problem with the large demand for drugs in our country. Americans can help this problem by creating a fund for Tohono O'odham law enforcement in order for them to be able to handle the issue on their own and avoid interference from the United States government. The people of the Tohono O'odham Nation have had their land for centuries and losing the reservation would have a huge impact on their culture and the way they operate. The future of these people lies with the handling of this situation.

 

For Additional Reading:

http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1208/120820tuscon.htm

 

http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/state/tohono-oodham-nation-fighting-new-drug-business-trend

 

http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/362610770

Dangers to Biodiversity: Pollution

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Pollution is the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects. Synonyms include contamination, smog, fumes, litter, trash, toxic waste, and defilement. The word pollution has become a generalized term used around the word, but what does it mean to you? Is it the smog released from the giant smokestacks into the air, or the fumes from your car? Maybe it is the toxic waste dumped on to our land and into our oceans. Or, maybe it's just the trash littering the ground because we were just too lazy to find a garbage can. Pollution has many faces, but in retrospect it is all the same, the contamination, the defilement of the world around us.

The pollution we usually hear about in environmental classes, or in news reports have many major effects on the environment. Air Pollution, Water Pollution, and Soil Pollution exist as one huge cycle. Toxins that are released into the air or water can become toxic rain, absorbed by the soil. Producers suck up the polluted rain and contaminants can be transferred through the food chain. In other cases it is possible for whole ecosystems to begin to diminish, such as how the coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef has led to a drop in the marine life found there. They cycle continues and the effects become worse each time, not just for the wildlife, but for us as well. How many times do you think you have been sick due to something you ate or drank?

Unfortunately there is probably not much you can do alone about larger issues such as Water, Air and Soil Pollution. However, the spit out old gum chilling in the grass or the plastic bag floating in the sea can do just as much harm as the poison released into the air. Start by cleaning the area you live in. Volunteer, pick up trash, recycle; sometimes the little things do make a difference. Additionally, if you really want to attack the larger issues then become involved with various environmental groups and write to your representatives. You, as an individual can make a difference, and we as a team can change the world. So, what is pollution to you?


References: 

http://www.ehow.com/list_7488297_effects-water-soil-pollution-biodiversity.html

http://www.ehow.com/about_5463657_effects-water-pollution-plants-animals.html 

http://www.ehow.com/about_7229206_air-pollution-effects-plants-animals.html

http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2001/publications/theme-reports/biodiversity/biodiversity04-1f.html

Dangers to Biodiversity: The Invasive Species

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            The Zebra mussel population in the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary by the Maryland and Virginia area, has exploded. But wait, that is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, no. The Zebra mussel is an Invasive Species, a non-native species of plant, animal, or pathogen that have adverse effects on the habitat it was introduced to. They are usually brought into an ecosystem to replace a similar species, through "hitchhiking" on boats, boots, and off road vehicles, or in an animal's case just moving to a different habitat. Unluckily, the introduction of invasive species is difficult to prevent and once introduced they can weak havoc on a habitat.

            Invasive species can be found almost any ecosystem, and more often than not there is more than one of these life forms present. In the case of the Chesapeake Bay, currently there are over 200 known invasive species living in the environment. Although most of the species are relatively undamaging six (one being the Zebra mussel) are tremendously harmful to the region. The greatest impact of these harmful invasive species is that they change the function of the ecosystem. Food webs can be disturbed; foreign diseases can be spread, competition increases, and the way of life is changed. In extreme cases an invasive species can "choke" the natives species and wipe out the population. Additionally, the invasive will lack a natural predator, allowing their population to boom, leading to a quicker decline in native life.

            The National Invasive Species Council (NISC) was created in order to minimize the effects of the invasive species in different habitats. The council focuses on prevention, detection, response, control, and recovery. However restoration of native species and the control of the invasive are difficult, making prevention the best weapon against the invasive species. One of the best ways to keep your community free of an invasive species is to spread the word, and learn about what is happening where you live. If you hike or own a boat, watch out for the "hitchhikers". If you garden watch what you plant, or use in your soil. Knowing how to be able to prevent the introduction of an invasive species is the best way to preserve the environment you live in, but being able to stop the spread is just as important!


References:

http://www.invasivespecies.gov

http://www.chesapeakebay.net/issues/issue/invasive_species#inline

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasive_species

 

  

As we have previously discussed in class in our culture we tend to overuse, which is exactly what overexploitation is. Our overuse of resources such as plants and animals has created a fast growing resource exhaustion. This rapid exhaustion has begun to reach the point where resources can no longer replenish fast enough to meet the rising demand. With the increase of overexploitation many other environmental issues have also worsened, such as the endangerment and extinction of animals, deforestation, and desertification.

            For example only 22 percent of the original forests remain, and about 30 percent of the total land in the world is forestry. The largest contributors to deforestation include agriculture, logging, and urban sprawl. Our need of objects such as paper products is destroying what few forests we have left. If we continue at the current rate the Rain Forests will have disappeared in only 100 years!

Another issue that has arisen is desertification, or the transformation of fertile land into desert. Population growth, livestock grazing, and farming on arid lands have accelerated this process. Today, many of the deserts in countries have begun to encroach on town and city boarders. The percentage of fertile land is shrinking, and without proper farming techniques desertification will only occurs more rapidly.    

            However, the various ecosystems are not the only things affected by overexploitation. Our use of animals for food, hunting, pelts, and so on has driven many species to endangerment, and even extinction. Animals such as tigers and crocodiles have been hunted for their pelts, while various sea life populations are in decline because of overfishing. The California Parakeet, a species of parrot native to the US was recently hunted to extinction. Even though the Endangered Species Act strives to protect these animals many are still collected illegally to be sold on the black market, or not protected at all.

            To prevent, or at least improve the situation we have found ourselves in from overexploitation is small, but will make a huge difference. If you change irrigation systems in arid areas desertification will begin to slow, and if the number of trees cut each year are minimal and are then replaced so will deforestation. What we need to do is find efficient ways to produce what we need, and only use what is needed. If we do not, then the Earth will eventually be depleted, left to die.  


References:

http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/1514.html

http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Threats-to-Wildlife/Overexploitation.aspx

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/            

http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/deforest/deforest.html  

http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/deserts/desertification/  

Why can't we all recycle?

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According to a poll done by harrisinteractive.com, roughly 23% of Americans do not recycle. While that may not sound like a very large number, it translates to 71.7 million people. It takes the same amount of energy for us to recycle as it does to throw our waste in the trash. All you have to do is take your bottle, can or paper and throw it into a bin. Why is it so hard for our government to make a law forcing all citizens to recycle in their homes?

 

            According to Wildlife Fact File, Americans throw out about 160 million tons of trash annually. Approximately 40% of that trash is various kinds of paper products. Paper. Something we all should know is very recyclable. Apparently Americans need to be better taught what type of materials are recyclable, this could be the start of better recycling nationwide. Forcing citizens to recycle could create more jobs in our society. Towns would have to build recycling plants, which in turn would need workers to operate them. By helping our environment we would also be improving our economy, something our country desperately needs right now.

 

            Recycled materials are also a lot cheaper than new items. Since it takes roughly 5% of the energy to produce a recycled can as compared to a brand new can, producers can charge their consumers substantially less money to buy their good. This could also help to boost our economy because we could use the money we save here to purchase many other useful things.

 

            By not recycling we create many unnecessary risks in our environment, shattered glass can cause serious harm to any humans or animals that walk over it. Animals can be caught and choked by plastic in oceans and wildlife. Glass and plastic are valuable resources that we can use over and over again but when they are disposed of improperly that does not happen. By mandating recycling, and making it even easier for people to do, some of us may be more willing to hold onto any types of bottles and cans until we see a way to recycle it rather than littering or just throwing it in the trash. That type of behavior is definitely something we need more of in this country.

 

References:

 

http://environmentalchemistry.com/yogi/hazmat/articles/trash.html

 

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris-Interactive-Poll-Research-FMI-recycling-column-2007-07.pdf

 

http://www.organic-items.com/what-percentage-of-people-recycle.php

Compost your Scraps!

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            When eating a banana, you probably don't save the peel after you're finished. Chances are the peel gets thrown right in the garbage along with all of the other food scraps, old papers, and other miscellaneous junk that we stuff into our garbage cans each and every day. What many people don't realize is that a large chunk of what we throw out each and every day can be composted and reused in a new form - as highly nutrient, organic soil.

            Composting is a natural process that takes organic material and breaks it down, turning it into a dark, nutrient rich substance, also known as humus, to be used for gardening and soil.

In 2010, Americans alone produced over 250 million tons of trash. Of that, almost half of the items are compostable. Products able to be composted include fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and filters, egg shells, grass clippings, dead leaves, shredded paper and cardboard, and old wood chips, bark, mulch, and top soil, among many other things. Items that aren't compostable include meats and bones, dairy products, pet waste, fats and oils, and anything treated with pesticides.

            Although you won't completely rid yourself of trash, you will greatly reduce the amount of trash you accumulate and therefore contribute to land fills by repurposing the usable products and putting them back into the Earth where they belong. Compost is used as a soil conditioner, helping to keep hold of all the nutrients and water, so it in turn will help plants grow bigger and better as well as reducing the risk of pollution.

            As stated earlier, lawn clippings and leaves can also be composted. Yard and garden waste account for almost 20% of the total amount of trash thrown away each year. That's 20% of material being thrown into landfills that don't need to be there, but instead can be put back into the environmental cycle and actually benefit us. Composting reduces the need to burn or bury this perfectly good organic material and in turn increases the quality of topsoil. It is something that can be done with little effort, and, once you know what can and can't be composted, little thought. It can be a start to leading a greener lifestyle, and may even push you towards using the compost to your advantage and begin growing some of your own food.

 

References:

 

http://organiclifestyles.tamu.edu/compost/home_composting_faq.pdf

 

http://www.composting101.com/

Our Mission: Clean Water for All!

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Throughout the world there are many who don't have access to clean water. Many of those who are faced with this crisis are from developing countries, such as those in Sub-Sahara Africa and Latin America. Unfortunately these areas are struck with poverty and their only access to water is through rivers or swamps that only contain unsanitary water. By swallowing this water many put themselves at risk for diseases such as E. Coli, Hepatitis A, Salmonella, or Cholera. However, through our donations and volunteering we can help provide these countries with clean water; we can help save lives!

As previously stated many live without clean water in developing countries, making it extremely hard for them to not suffer from dehydration, disease, or death as a result. Due to their poverty, many don't have faucets in their homes, so most women and children have to walk for countless hours to the nearest river or swamp in order to collect their water. By making this part of their daily routines, the children are not able to go to school and therefore do not gain an education. If this fact wasn't heartbreaking enough, once they are able to actually collect their water, they have to walk all the way back to their house where the possibility of being hurt by attackers along the way is extremely likely. Finally, once reaching their home they must then quench their thirst only to realize the water they are drinking does anything but meet their needs properly. According to statistics ninety percent of the thirty thousand deaths per week that are a result of unsanitary water and unhygienic conditions are of children under the age of five. However, twenty-percent of these water-related deaths can be reduced as a result of clean water, and a little less than thirty-eight percent of water related deaths could be reduced just from sanitation (Charity: Water, "Why Water?").

Taking this into consideration, we can make a difference and make those reduced statistics a reality if we take a stand and help those suffering from unclean water. There are so many ways to help and many include donating! Through multiple organizations such as charity: water at https://www.charitywater.org/donate/#step-1 (Charity: Water, "Donate and Give Clean Water"), water.org at https://donate.water.org/ (Water.org), or live earth at http://liveearth.org/en/give (Live Earth), you can donate money to help families receive sanitary water. As all three websites directly state not a single penny is taken from your donation and used for something else, all proceeds go directly to the cause! If you donate and want to help further, you can also volunteer through some of these organizations. For instance, through charity: water you can either volunteer to help through their offices across the states or decide to actually go to the developing countries to install water filtration systems in the homes or dig wells for them to use (Charity: Water, "Join Our Amazing Team of Volunteers")! Through water.org you can volunteer and make friends at the same time by joining the TEAM where you spread awareness of the water crisis, and participate in races, of any type, matching your race fees for a donation to the cause (TEAM.Water.org).

All in all, living without clean drinking water is something no one should have to deal with, but unfortunately in today's world there are some who do live with this crisis. Undeveloped countries need our help and by taking a stand we can make a difference! We can volunteer and donate for the cause; all it takes is a small amount of time and money to save a child's life. Though arguably the links are right above, so you're already half way there! Make your donation today!

 

Bibliography

Charity: Water. "Donate and Give Clean Water." Charity Water: Donate to. N.p., 2006-2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <https://www.charitywater.org/donate/>.

Charity: Water. "Join Our Amazing Team of Volunteers." Charity Water: Volunteers. N.p., 2006-2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://www.charitywater.org/getinvolved/volunteer_form.php>.

Charity: Water. "Why Water?" Charity Water: Why Water? N.p., 2006-2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <https://www.charitywater.org/whywater/>.

Live Earth. "Give." Live Earth: Give. N.p., 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://liveearth.org/en/give>.

TEAM.Water.org. "About TEAM.Water." About TEAM.Water. N.p., 1990-2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://team.water.org/about/>.

Water.org. "Donate." To Water.org. Charity Navigator, 1990-2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <https://donate.water.org/>.

 

Preserving Coastal Dunes

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utz.jpg

Photo courtesy of doowopusa.org, to see the full image just press this one.            


            Many shore towns along the coast are protected from the ocean by manmade or natural dunes. Over time these dunes have become filled with natural wildlife as well as many animals. Yet for some reason many people think that it is OK to destroy these dunes for more space to build houses and other types of construction projects. Dunes played an integral part in protecting towns from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy a few weeks ago. Who knows how much worse the damage could have been along the coast without these dunes.

 

            In my town of Avalon, New Jersey for around the last 10 years people have begun to dig up natural dune areas to build monstrous homes. The worst of these came a few years ago when the President of Utz Quality Food Inc. built a 40-room home in 2008. While the construction of the house was met with much protest from start to finish the house was eventually finished in early 2009. In order to build this "home" 14,000 square feet of wildlife was destroyed. That is six times the size of the average home. What kind of person really needs that much room to house their family for, at most, four or five months a year? All throughout Avalon there are signs posted outside of the dunes stating, "Please stay off the dunes". I guess you don't have to abide by these rules if you have $20 million to spend.

 

            These dunes are a very important part of life for human beings as well as animals. Without them, my home most likely would have been washed away by the storm. But because they were there no water got into my house and there was little to its exterior. The dunes are the home to many different species of animals; from the endangered Piping Plover bird to stray cats you can find all kinds of different life there. They play a crucial role in protecting the lives of many humans and animals and more needs to be done to protect them.

 

You can find more information on how the dunes played a crucial role during Hurricane Sandy and on the development of the Utz house at the following links:

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57558606/sand-dunes-spare-nj-homes-from-sandys-destruction/

 

http://www.app.com/article/20121212/NJOPINION03/312120033/WEBER-No-beach-without-dunes-Army-Corps-flat-wide-strands-didn-t-stop-destruction?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7COpinion%7Cp

 

http://spectator.org/archives/2008/06/10/beach-economics

Green Space for the Urban Place

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If the kids are the future, it only makes sense to spark a change in them, right? The American youth are becoming increasingly detached from nature. Whether it be a result of the newfound dependence on technology or simple ignorance to ones surroundings, simply enjoying ones surroundings seems to be a foreign idea. This phenomenon continues to grow and influence society, and is reflected in the various environmental problems we face today. In order to generate an appreciation for nature in the urban youth, an important and typically neglected demographic, more open, green space needs to be found in major U.S. cities.

            The green space movement, made possible by organizations such as The Urban Greenspaces Institute, presents a potential solution to many environmental and social problems by working to create "cities where the built and natural environments are interwoven, not set apart". Although a somewhat simple idea, it is also one with immense potential. Urban areas continue to be used by companies and industries as a home for skyscrapers and major factories, as parks and green space continue to decline.  One cannot blame a generation for failing to appreciate an environment they've never seen. Should major cities designate open areas for relaxation and the appreciation of nature, it is probable that at least a fraction of the youth living in the city will take advantage of the opportunity and recognize the beauty and importance of the natural world. These green spaces can be anything from a park or pond to a community garden. Essentially, it can be anything that will give those used to concrete and skyscrapers a taste of the wild.

            Although the green space movement will not immediately solve any of the environmental problems facing the United States today, it will spark the change that does by showing (rather than telling) a generation of urban youth why they should care about the environment. Additionally, green spaces could help to address social problems by providing the community a place to take care of and call their own, promoting collaborative effort and responsibility.  Although the idea of a large city that is just as wild as it is urban seems a bit unrealistic, the dreams of companies such as the Urban Greenspaces Institute are far from that: provide those with an urban lifestyle a bit of nature to call their own.

 

 

References:

http://www.urbangreenspaces.org/

http://www.csmonitor.com/1998/0330/033098.us.us.6.html

 

Water Conservation is Key! Part Two of Two

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For all of the above statements, I could almost guarantee that most American teenagers, at least those living around me, benefited from the same luxuries. However, considering an individual requires about a gallon of drinking water per day (GOOD Magazine and Fogelson-Lubliner), it is safe to say that we, as individuals and as a society, use way more than what is necessary.

 

This being said, conservation of water is extremely important because in doing this so much water can be saved. Taking that extra step to turn off the faucet if you aren't using it in between washing your hands or teeth really does make a difference! So does deciding to take shorter showers; on average shower faucets flow at a rate of two gallons per minute, making a five-minute shower use 10 to 25 gallons of water (Lipka). 10 to 25 gallons! Think of how much water can be saved if instead of showering for five minutes, you showered for less than two? Another approach to conserving water is to stop buying water bottles and choose to invest in a reusable container. If water bottles aren't in demand, the supply will decrease, meaning that tons of water can be easily saved!

 

In the end, we as Americans need to realize that water is depleting around the world, despite the fact that our world population is continuing to grow. While most of us have had the luxury of never knowing what living without clean water feels like, that doesn't mean that those living elsewhere enjoy the same extravagance. If we want to continue to live in a world where water is available for us to use, we need to change our lifestyles a bit and conserve. Not only is conserving easy but it saves you money in addition to improving the environment. So the next time you decide to take a five-minute shower or buy a case of water bottles, remember that although you may not think it could affect the world's current water shortage problem, every little bit makes a difference. Shorten those showers, use those reusable bottles, and pat yourself on the back because you are helping the Earth keep its well-known reputation as the water planet!


Bibliography

GOOD Magazine, and Fogelson-Lubliner. "GOOD Transparency: Water Conservation." Youtube. Youtube, 22 Oct. 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=GOLf2RbxmzE>.

 

Harrabin, Roger. "Shortages: Water Supplies in Crisis." BBC News. BBC, 19 June 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012.

 

Lipka, Nate. "Help Solve the Water Crisis." Earth911com RSS. Infinity Resources Holdings Corporation, 26 Oct. 2009. Web. 14 Dec. 2012.

 

"Problem: Fresh Water and Oceans in Danger." Web of Creation Ecology Resources: Transforming Faith and Society. Lutheran School of Technology, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. <http://www.earth- policy.org/Updates/Update28.htm>.

 

Rosentrater, Lynn. "Oceans Alive!| The Water Planet." Oceans Alive!| The Water Planet. The Museum of Science, 1998. Web. 14 Dec. 2012.

Sucking the Ocean Dry

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One major environmental problem facing the United States today is over-fishing. Due to its vast resources and sheer size, the oceans have been used to essentially feed the world to this point, as over 2 billion people rely on the ocean for protein and diet. However, this reliance has led to the overfishing of many species causing declines of many fish populations important to the ecosystem. In order to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the ocean, rules must be set governing fishing rates and methods.

            Although private restrictions designating certain areas of the sea and dividing "portions of fishery" amongst different crews do exist, more needs to be done to monitor fishing methods and the rate at which certain fish are being caught. Should the ocean continue to be sucked dry of its resources and life-forms, extreme environmental and economic problems will surely arise. According to a 2008 UN Report, fishing fleets across the world are losing approximately $50 billion a year due to overfishing. This number will continue to grow if steps are not made to slow down the rate at which fish are caught and the freedom fishermen have in doing so. Additionally, should the overfishing trend continue, the extinction of various species is inevitable. In fact, many species have already been run so low that it is impossible to catch the number of fish that could have been caught just years before.

            Yet another problem concerning the ocean that needs immediate addressing is the protection and restoration of many critical habitats such as the aesthetically pleasing coral reefs and mangroves. Aggressive, sometimes illegal fishing methods are negatively impacting the reefs themselves, while simply overfishing has completely altered the ecosystems of many of these habitats. This change in the ecosystem then affects the ocean and even on-shore companies as, according to the University of Michigan in an online article concerning human impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, "the biodiversity of reefs supports the aquarium and aquaculture industries, biomedical industry and other commercial industries".

            Due to its sheer size, the ocean has been taken for granted, as man seems to assume that its life forms and benefits are endless. However, this has been proved false as over-fishing has led to a decline in fish populations and the economic success of many fleets. In order to preserve the ecosystem of our oceans, fishing rates need to be monitored and capped. Similarly, the government needs to determine what methods of fishing should be allowed within a certain proximity of critical marine habitats, such as coral reefs and mangroves, among others.

 

References:

http://overfishing.org

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-overfishing/

Sucking the Ocean Dry

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One major environmental problem facing the United States today is over-fishing. Due to its vast resources and sheer size, the oceans have been used to essentially feed the world to this point, as over 2 billion people rely on the ocean for protein and diet. However, this reliance has led to the overfishing of many species causing declines of many fish populations important to the ecosystem. In order to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the ocean, rules must be set governing fishing rates and methods.

            Although private restrictions designating certain areas of the sea and dividing "portions of fishery" amongst different crews do exist, more needs to be done to monitor fishing methods and the rate at which certain fish are being caught. Should the ocean continue to be sucked dry of its resources and life-forms, extreme environmental and economic problems will surely arise. According to a 2008 UN Report, fishing fleets across the world are losing approximately $50 billion a year due to overfishing. This number will continue to grow if steps are not made to slow down the rate at which fish are caught and the freedom fishermen have in doing so. Additionally, should the overfishing trend continue, the extinction of various species is inevitable. In fact, many species have already been run so low that it is impossible to catch the number of fish that could have been caught just years before.

            Yet another problem concerning the ocean that needs immediate addressing is the protection and restoration of many critical habitats such as the aesthetically pleasing coral reefs and mangroves. Aggressive, sometimes illegal fishing methods are negatively impacting the reefs themselves, while simply overfishing has completely altered the ecosystems of many of these habitats. This change in the ecosystem then affects the ocean and even on-shore companies as, according to the University of Michigan in an online article concerning human impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, "the biodiversity of reefs supports the aquarium and aquaculture industries, biomedical industry and other commercial industries".

            Due to its sheer size, the ocean has been taken for granted, as man seems to assume that its life forms and benefits are endless. However, this has been proved false as over-fishing has led to a decline in fish populations and the economic success of many fleets. In order to preserve the ecosystem of our oceans, fishing rates need to be monitored and capped. Similarly, the government needs to determine what methods of fishing should be allowed within a certain proximity of critical marine habitats, such as coral reefs and mangroves, among others.

 

References:

http://overfishing.org

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-overfishing/

Sucking the Ocean Dry

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One major environmental problem facing the United States today is over-fishing. Due to its vast resources and sheer size, the oceans have been used to essentially feed the world to this point, as over 2 billion people rely on the ocean for protein and diet. However, this reliance has led to the overfishing of many species causing declines of many fish populations important to the ecosystem. In order to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the ocean, rules must be set governing fishing rates and methods.

            Although private restrictions designating certain areas of the sea and dividing "portions of fishery" amongst different crews do exist, more needs to be done to monitor fishing methods and the rate at which certain fish are being caught. Should the ocean continue to be sucked dry of its resources and life-forms, extreme environmental and economic problems will surely arise. According to a 2008 UN Report, fishing fleets across the world are losing approximately $50 billion a year due to overfishing. This number will continue to grow if steps are not made to slow down the rate at which fish are caught and the freedom fishermen have in doing so. Additionally, should the overfishing trend continue, the extinction of various species is inevitable. In fact, many species have already been run so low that it is impossible to catch the number of fish that could have been caught just years before.

            Yet another problem concerning the ocean that needs immediate addressing is the protection and restoration of many critical habitats such as the aesthetically pleasing coral reefs and mangroves. Aggressive, sometimes illegal fishing methods are negatively impacting the reefs themselves, while simply overfishing has completely altered the ecosystems of many of these habitats. This change in the ecosystem then affects the ocean and even on-shore companies as, according to the University of Michigan in an online article concerning human impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, "the biodiversity of reefs supports the aquarium and aquaculture industries, biomedical industry and other commercial industries".

            Due to its sheer size, the ocean has been taken for granted, as man seems to assume that its life forms and benefits are endless. However, this has been proved false as over-fishing has led to a decline in fish populations and the economic success of many fleets. In order to preserve the ecosystem of our oceans, fishing rates need to be monitored and capped. Similarly, the government needs to determine what methods of fishing should be allowed within a certain proximity of critical marine habitats, such as coral reefs and mangroves, among others.

 

References:

http://overfishing.org

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-overfishing/

Water Conservation is Key! Part One of Two

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Just like every elementary school student I was taught that the Earth was considered the water planet, because seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface consists of water (Rosentrater). It wasn't until I grew a little older that I learned that only a little under one percent of that seventy-one was actually safe for humans to put into their mouths (Harrabin). Despite knowing this fact at a young age, it seemed like less than one percent was more than enough to sustain the world based on how available water was for me. Meaning that the water I used to drink as well as wash my body, clothes, and food with was always sanitary and abundant. However, once I reached my last few years of High School I began to learn that water shortage was a dire concern that could and was occurring all around the planet because of our societal habits among other things. In addition, I discovered that one of the main ways to help fix this problem was for everyone to change their habits and start conserving water. Making water conservation key if we want to live in a world where clean water is still available for generations to come.

When looking at why this water shortage is occurring throughout the world, the answer can be found through many statistics. For instance, seventy percent of fresh water is being used for agricultural purposes, leaving twenty percent for industrial use, and ten percent for residential use ("Problem: Fresh Water and Oceans in Danger"). At first these statistics may seem shocking but if you truly think about how our society runs in today's world, it becomes less so. We live in a demanding society where we constantly want, and so demand increases. So naturally agriculture and industries have the higher percentages of water usage because those involved in both categories work quickly to supply us with the food, energy, and other products we demand

Residential use is another category to consider. As I stated earlier, throughout my entire life, water has never been something thought of as scarce. If I was thirsty I could always just get up and walk over to a faucet to fill a glass with nice clean water. When I needed to get a shower I could jump in and shower for as long as my heart desired. My clothes were always clean because we never had to worry about not having water to wash them with.

Make the Switch to Powder Detergent

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          We all know the dreaded laundry day, when you drag your weeks (or longer) worth of dirty clothes to the nearest Laundromat. A lot of you probably don't put much thought into what kind of laundry detergent you use and its affect on the environment. I certainly didn't before reading more into the topic. Washing machines use a lot of water, which can eat up almost 22 percent of a household's water use. What the average laundry-doer doesn't realize is the amount of extra water that is potentially being wasted due to over-diluted liquids or extra rinse cycles.             

            Liquid detergent seems like the norm for most. It is easily dissolved in water, so there is no worry about having residues left on your clothes. However, it takes water to make these liquid detergents. Standard, non-concentrated detergents can contain upwards to 80 percent of water! It's a complete waste of water, fuel, and energy to produce and ship diluted detergents all around the country when a washing machine can do the same job by turning powder detergent into liquid with the water that is already going to come out of the machine. Liquid laundry detergent is also much easier to overuse, wasting your own money and causing build-up in the machines, making them less effective and efficient. Liquid detergents also have much more surfactant, which is the stuff that makes everything sudsy. When surfactants make their way into our oceans, they can interfere with the aquatic ecosystems, in particular interfering with the normal function of fish gills, leading to fish populations decreasing.

            Powder detergent, on the other hand, is a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to liquid detergents. The ingredients found in powder detergent, which includes bleaching agents and surfactants, are more stable in powders, and therefore have a longer shelf life than their liquid counterparts. Due to the longer shelf life, powder detergent can be bought in bulk, reducing excess packaging, and stored for longer periods of time without the fear of it becoming ineffective.

            Taking the time to educate yourself on how to effectively use powder detergent can save you both money and recycling, as well as reduce the environmental impacts that come with producing liquid detergent, like disposing of the plastic bottles they come in and the water used to produce the product. Although it may take some getting used to when transitioning from the convenient liquid to powder, ultimately your wallet and environment will thank you in the long run!

 

References:

 

http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/the-greener-detergent-liquid-or-powder

 

http://www.simplesteps.org/es/node/51

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

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            Growing up on the East Coast, I'm sure many of us are familiar with vacations and summer days spent on the beach. What you may not quite remember as clearly, however, is the amount of trash that accumulates on the coastlines of these beaches and thus winds up in the ocean. What a vast majority of people do not know is that there is an enormous garbage patch stretching for hundreds of miles floating in the Pacific Ocean. Although it is unknown as to exactly how massive this patch is, what we do know is that a majority of the contents are made up of plastic, since most of the other products sink or break down before they get there. Unlike a lot of other materials, plastic isn't biodegradable, meaning that it is unable to break down. Although sunlight can reduce the size of the initial plastic product, the plastic never actually goes away, but instead becomes microscopic and available for smaller organisms to ingest it. Although there is other various materials found amidst this garbage patch, including fishing nets, metal, glass, and rubber, the majority is by far plastic.

            Within the Pacific Ocean is one of the largest oceanic gyres, known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. It is basically a giant spiral of seawater formed by colliding currents. Although it may take several years for the debris to travel from the coasts of oceans and rivers to reach the patch, nearly all of the garbage that enters the sea from Japan, Korea, China, Russia, Canada, and the United States will ultimately end up among the mass.

            Plastic contains many toxic chemicals and colorants, as well as having the ability to absorb pollutants like PCBs that are already in the water and atmosphere. Going back to sunlight breaking down the plastic into more concentrated, smaller particles, known as photodegradation. This presents a major problem because these microscopic plastic bits can then be ingested by microspoic organisms, such as phytoplankton, which make up the basis of our food chain. Therefore we end up ingesting these toxins!           

            The problem with trying to clean up the enormous patch is that such an effort would kill a lot of wildlife in the nets in the process and the question of what to do with all the trash arises. Currently, the international Project Kaisei team is studying the contents of the patch in hopes of eventually recycling them or finding some use for them, such as fuel. Ultimately, we need to control the use of plastic products and implement the use of more biodegradable products. We as a worldwide population need to begin educating ourselves on the idea of reusing products as opposed to wasting them. This can be as simple as using dishes and glasses instead of Styrofoam and plastic plates or utensils. Using paper bags instead of plastic bags when grocery shopping is also another easy alternative, or better yet using reusable cloth bags of your own! We need to move away from people of convenience and start to become aware of the problems coming from our very hands.

 References: 

http://www.newlyswissed.com/?p=12885

 

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/what-is-the-great-pacific-ocean-garbage-patch                                                                                    

The "Clear" Menace

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The use of plastic bottles has become increasing popular in recent years. More than one hundred million plastic water bottles are used worldwide EACH DAY. The United States, alone accounts for nearly sixty million of these one hundred million mentioned. On average, one person uses one hundred and sixty-seven plastic bottles per year. Multiply that times the population of the planet, Earth, and the results add up to chilling numbers. The general population needs to begin taking advantage of the many alternatives to plastic bottles today's market has to offer! People are failing to realize the implications their use of these plastic bottles, let alone not disposing of them properly, are having on the environment.

 

Approximately eighty-six percent of all plastic bottles aren't recycled in the United States. This means that if we are polite enough to throw the plastic bottles away instead of litter, they are being sent to landfills. Roughly 1,500 bottles end up in landfills every second! It takes plastic bottles seven hundred years before they even begin to decompose. That is just the beginning! It can take all the way up to one thousand years for them to completely decompose. People who don't recycle are wasting valuable space within our landfills.

 

Scarier than not recycling the plastic bottles is the fact that a lot of people don't even bother to throw them away. Instead, he or she litters. Did you know that only twenty percent of garbage found within the ocean comes from sea activities? That means that the remaining eighty percent comes from land. The United Nations Environment Program estimates that out of every single square mile of garbage found within the ocean, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating around worldwide. Algalita Marine Research foundation recently did a study of six hundred and sixty fish that, on average, showed each fish contained more than two pieces of plastic. One fish was found to contain twenty-six particles of plastic. It has also been discovered that over eighty species of seabirds have ingested plastic. It is beginning to get so out of hand, that many researchers and environmental organizations are listing plastic as the number one threat to our marine life.

 

Realize the implications the use of plastic bottles, let alone not disposing of them properly, are having on the environment. Take advantage of alternatives to plastic bottles! Save marine life! Save the Environment!

 

References:

 

http://greenupgrader.com/3258/plastic-bottle-facts-make-you-think-before-you-drink/

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5279230/ns/us_news-environment/t/plastic-bottles-pile-mountains-waste/#.UM5JrKXd7dk

 

http://www.unep.org/search.asp?sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa=go%21&q=plastic&cx=007059379654755265211%3Ajkngxjgnyii&cof=forid%3A11

2030 Cannot Get Here Soon Enough!

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There is no question that the world needs to invest in renewable energy. The current sources for creating energy are too environmentally damaging. Right now, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) account for ninety percent of all energy creation. The burning of such fossil fuels is adding to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, which is directly responsible for global warming. This is not to mention that these fossil fuels are being used at such a rate that they are expected to be completely exhausted within the next two hundred years--if not sooner. It is time for renewable energy!

 

The cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source is solar energy. When people hear the words solar energy they often think of solar panels, or photovoltaic (PV) cells, found on things like rooftops or calculators. The cells are made of semiconductor materials like those found in computer chips. When sunlight hits the cells, it knocks electrons loose from their atoms. As the electrons flow through the cell, they generate electricity.

 

However, there are other kinds of solar energy as well. On a much larger scale, solar thermal power plants use the sun's energy as a heat source. They use the heat to boil water when then drives a steam turbine to generate electricity. This is very similar to how nuclear power plants use coal to supply electricity for thousands of people. There are currently eighty solar plants in the works. It is hoped that by 2025, fifty percent of the United States' energy will be generated by such solar plants.

           

The United States is also investing in wind generated renewable energy. In 2008, wind turbines produced ninety-three percent of the United States' renewable energy. This allowed the United States to surpass Germany in wind generated renewable energy. Windmills stand three hundred feet tall so as to capture the full force of the wind. When the wind blows, the blades begin to spin and a turbine within the windmill creates an electric generator. The electricity created then travels down the windmill to an underground electric grid where it is stored and then distributed to different sources. The United States Department of Energy predicts that twenty percent of all energy created, will be a direct result of wind power by 2030. This energy, combined with the hoped fifty percent from solar energy will account for seventy percent of the United States' energy by 2030!

 

References:

 

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/energy-environment/wind-power/index.html

http://www.sierraclub.org/energy/renewables/default.aspx

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

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I am sure that everyone has heard of the term greenhouse gas before. I remember being in sixth grade the first time that I was taught what a greenhouse gas was. Don't remember what a greenhouse gas is and what its impact on our lives is? This doesn't come as a surprise. These gasses are odorless and colorless. If they are so easily out of our perception and detection does this give them the right to be out of our concern? The correct answer to this question is no!

 

A greenhouse gas is actually a mixture of gasses, that when combined trap heat in the atmosphere, thus contributing to Earth's warming. This mixture is composed of four separate gasses--Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Fluorinated Gasses. Knowing what gasses are responsible for the warming is not enough. It is important to also consider how much of these gasses are in the atmosphere, how long they will remain their, and how much each individual gas effects global warming. The frightening reality of this greenhouse gas situation is that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, currently, exceeds the threshold that can cause dangerous climate change.

 

This in mind, it is entirely plausible that you are thinking about what you--individually, as a community, or even as a nation--can do to combat dangerous climate change. The good news is that there are a number of things, some easier than others, which can be done. The most vital, but perhaps most intimidating, change needed is eliminating any and all dependence on fossil fuels. So much of what the population comes into contact with on a daily basis is made as a result of burning coal or the use of oil and natural gas. Realistically, the complete elimination of dependence on fossil fuels will take time.

 

However, this doesn't mean that there are not some simple things that can be done now to make a difference. By moving closer to work, you will use less gas on your daily commute to and from work thus using less fossil fuels and decreasing the emissions from your motor vehicle which contribute to the greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. By consuming less in general--using less plastic or using reusable grocery bags--the amount of fossil fuels necessary to produce goods is reduced. Perhaps easiest and most overlooked, is unplugging devices. Take your plasma screen TV for example; even when powered off, the plasma screen TV consumes energy. Unplugging your electrical devices when not in use will reduce your amount of daily energy consumption and possibly lower your energy bill. Moving closer to work, consuming less, and even unplugging different devices are all fairly simple things that can make a BIG difference in this cause.

 

References:

http://globalstewards.org/issues.htm#.UMzoyKXd7dk

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases.html

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=10-solutions-for-climate-change

Overcrowding on Reservations

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It seems ironic to say that homelessness is a growing epidemic on Indian reservations around the country. One would think that these land plots that are overseen by a government agency, namely the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, would be tended to accordingly. Instead tribes all across the country are facing housing shortages, which is worsening the already impoverished conditions of most reservations. A poll from 2004 stated that living conditions on reservations across the country are comparable to third world conditions. Another study from the same year said that 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and around 90,000 Indian families are under housed or completely homeless. As poverty and overcrowding increases so does homelessness which can lead to many other side effects like increased spread of disease. All of these issues cannot be solved unless the source of the problem is taken care of.

            A prime example of the issue of overcrowding on Indian Reservations can be seen on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. Many of the people of Red Lake do not fit the government's definition of homelessness, which leaves them with only one option. They shack up with family and friends. In a study done by the Wilder Foundation the residents of the Red Lake reservation along with five others in Northern Minnesota earn an average of $517 dollars per month and nine out of ten people surveyed were temporarily staying with friends and family. The combination of low incomes and overcrowding hinders the possibility of the people living in those conditions of being able to get themselves out of it. With upwards of twelve to fifteen people in one house just getting ready for work and or school becomes a full-scale operation. Many of the people who are living in temporary residences are looking for solutions. Many are on waiting lists for housing but the catch is, the housing they are waiting for does not exist.  There are many ways that one can reach out to help Native Americans living in these conditions on reservations across the country. One way is to donate to the Native American Aid (NNA), which depends on private donors and funds to raise money for Native American families everywhere. Many Americans are unaware of the happenings on reservations and by spreading the word more and more changes will be made.

 

 

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/12/10/reservationhomelesssurvey/

 

http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=naa_livingconditions

 

Pennsylvania Bog Turtles

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 You probably never heard of the Pennsylvania Bog Turtle, but it is Pennsylvania's smallest species of turtle, only growing 3 to 4.5 inches in length. Currently, the bog turtle is classified as federally threatened on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species List. Even though it does not require large areas of habitat to survive, its populations have suffered from more problems associated with habitat loss than any other turtle in the Commonwealth. Now, you are probably thinking that it is just one species of turtle and it won't make a difference if it goes extinct. However, that is absolutely not true. Like all animals, this turtle is part of an ecosystem. The ecosystem is built around everything in it and if you start taking its parts away, the whole ecosystem will collapse. Therefore, it is imperative that everyone knows and does their part to help preserve the bog turtle and its environment.

 Bog turtles prefer to live in spring seeps and open, marshy meadows, which are usually found in flat or gently rolling landscapes of the valleys of southeastern Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the area in which the bog turtle thrives is also one of the most population dense areas in Pennsylvania. Bog turtles are habitat specialists that require very specific environmental conditions to ensure their survival. Another factor that contributes to the decline of the bog turtles is their appeal to people. This appeal the bog turtle has is a double-edged sword. On one side it makes people want to help the species, while at the same causes others to try to obtain the species as a pet. Although the bog turtle is protected under federal regulations, illegal poaching has occurred to supply the black market pet trade.

 Now that you know about the Pennsylvania Bog Turtle, you must now know what you can do to save it. If you live in the habitat range of the bog turtle, never remove a turtle from its habitat. Even you think you are trying to help it from a dangerous situation, it is better to just leave the turtle go. If you see a bog turtle in the wild, the best thing you can do is contact the Fish & Boat Commission Nongame and Endangered Species Unit and report the finding. Also, make sure any development proposals near you are done with respect to the bog turtle and report any illegal selling of bog turtles to the proper authorities. You and I can make a difference to save the Pennsylvania Bog Turtles!

References:

http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/factsheets/11522.pdf

http://www.fish.state.pa.us/education/catalog/ab/bogturtle/bogturtl.htm

 

Shark Fin Soup

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  Many people may not be very fond of sharks, but they are a crucial part of the oceanic ecosystem - something we all need whether you realize it or not. Sharks are apex predators and they maintain the health of the ocean ecosystem by keeping the food chain in check and balance. Unfortunately, many sharks are on the brink of extinction due to a horrific act called finning. Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark's fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death. At the rate the sharks are being harvested, many sharks will quickly go extinct if nothing is done to prevent this tragedy. It is our responsibility as inhabitants of our earth to protect it and the animals that live on it. Sharks are more useful to have with us than to be gone forever. Therefore, we must take action to protect the sharks of our earth.

You may be wondering, "Why do people want shark fins?". As saddening as it is, the only use people have for sharks fins is as an ingredient in a single dish called shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is mainly sold along the coast of Asian countries and is thought of as a delicacy. However, shark fin soup is currently sold all around the world. The shark fin in the soup is tasteless, nutritionless, and is only there to provide texture. Many sharks are caught using a method called 'long lining'. These lines are over 100 miles long and have hooks every hundred feet or so. Unfortunately, other animals of the sea are victims of being kiled by long lines. During the past century, the industry of shark finning has decimated some shark populations by 90%. Currently, an estimated 32% of open ocean shark species are threatened with extinction. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year, 73 million of which are for shark fin soup.

 What can we do to stop the industry of shark finning? There is a lot you can do. The most important thing you can do is to not eat shark fin soup! There is a good chance that an Asian restaurant near you sells shark fin soup. You would be best off to avoid these restaurants entirely. Your next step should be to contact this restaurant and inform them of the dangerous outcomes of shark finning and ask that they remove shark fin soup from their menu. Lastly, there are many organizations you can donate to that are fighting to stop shark finning. Remember, you can make a difference!

References:

http://www.stopsharkfinning.net/index.htm

http://www.sharktruth.com/

 

Pennsylvania's Rivers And Streams

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     Do you enjoy hiking or fishing? Or maybe just walking along a beautiful stream and enjoying nature? If you do, your time may be limited. Pennsylvania's rivers and streams have been the victim of carelessness and neglect. A large amount of toxic chemicals and other trash is dumped into our local waterways every year. At the current rate of pollutants entering the rivers and streams, it will soon be unsafe to fish from or come in contact with water from these rivers and streams. Many of the local streams have already been categorized as unsafe for swimming, fishing, or other activities by state environmental officials.

   Pollutants have been entering the waterways of Pennsylvania for a couple of decades already. According to a recent 2010 report, industrial facilities dumped more than 10 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Pennsylvania's waterways, making the state's waterways the seventh worst in the nation. Out of all the pollutants entering our rivers and streams, mostly all of them are the result of a careless industrial company trying to find an easy way out to get rid of their toxic waste. As another example, a toxic waste dump has sat on the banks of the Allegheny River, slowly leaking a mix as potent as pure ammonia into the river for 40 years now. This toxic waste dump was created by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory in the early 1900s. The factory has been closed since 1992, but the toxic dump site remains today. Situations like this one have occurred multiple times throughout Pennsylvania and may even be occurring today. To make matters worse, elected officials in Harrisburg and in Washington, D.C., are pushing proposals that will weaken protections and eliminate programs - like the Keystone Fund - that clean up our waterways, prevent pollution and preserve our streams' beautiful shorelines. Obviously, our laws on environmental preservation are too weak and lenient, but government officials are looking to further reduce these laws.

   Now everyone can see how badly our local waterways are affected by pollutants, but you might be wondering how can I stop this unnecessary pollution. Fortunately, you and I can make a big difference if we all do our part. The first thing you can change is yourself. If you have ever thrown your own trash or dumped waste you made in a local stream, you can start by committing to stopping that behavior. There are much more environmental friendly methods that involve recycling your waste and trash. The next step of action you can do is contact your local legislator and urge him to defend for the Keystone Fund and other similar acts. Lastly, you can write to the notorious companies responsible for these pollutants and demand a change in their behavior. If everyone does their part, we can make a difference.

 

References:

http://www.pennenvironment.org/programs/pae/protect-our-rivers-and-streams

http://www.pennenvironment.org/news/pae/10-million-pounds-toxic-chemicals-dumped-pennsylvania%E2%80%99s-waterways

http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/industrial-site-leaking-toxic-waste-into-allegheny/nGqPB/

 

     

Environmental Racism

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Indian Reservations have been targets for nuclear waste dumping for years. In 1987 Congress created The Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator with the purpose of offering large sums of money to reservations around the country to host nuclear waste dumps. This created uprisings and very few reservations accepted the money. The Nuclear Waste Negotiator was then dissolved in 1994 and 8 nuclear utility companies banned together to fill its shoes, which again regrouped as Private Fuel Storage (PFS). A target of the nuclear power industry was the Skull Valley Goshutes in Utah. The goal of PFS was to store 40,000 tons of commercial high-level radioactive waste right near the reservation. Many other dangerous companies surround the reservation already and adding a nuclear storage site was the last thing they need.  Companies such as the Magnesium Corporation releases hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas into the air, Envirocare dumps "low level" nuclear waste in a nearby valley, and even the U.S. Army has a chemical weapon stockpile in the vicinity. It is clear the well being of the small twenty five person population on the reservation is not a concern of PFS or anyone on Capitol Hill for that matter. PFS provided large sums of money to campaigns in Washington in order to get the deal of using the land as temporary storage in the first place. It is obvious that nothing here adds up. A large and powerful corporation with ties to the government is exploiting a small group of innocent people who are already downwind and downstream from numerous other hazardous and unhealthy waste sites and companies.

            This is a perfect example of something that is going on all over the country. This is environmental racism. Many think that racism is just based on beliefs and that race is determined by culture, when in reality race is much more than that. It also deals with advantages and privileges. The idea that people of a lower class have less of a say in issues is what enables those who have the advantages, privileges, and connections to act as if they have power over them. In this particular case the Goshutes are being bribed to submit to a higher power with little to no benefit on their end. Environmental racism is not only affecting the Goshutes, it is affecting other Native Americans and minorities everywhere. It is unjust and extremely bad for the health of our country both culturally and environmentally.

 

http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/pfsejfactsheet.htm

 

http://www.pollutionissues.com/Ec-Fi/Environmental-Racism.html#b

 

Stop The Northern Pass

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In recent years the state of New Hampshire has been fighting against The Northern Pass Transmission Project. This project involves running Hydro Québec's High Voltage Direct Current Power Line right through the state of New Hampshire and the beautiful White Mountains. This HDVC power line would import 1,200 megawatts of unneeded power into lower New England. New Hampshire and other New England states are already working towards goals of reducing carbon emissions, and by constructing these 135 foot high voltage power lines their energy diversity will not only be decreased, it will also be foreign. This power line will be an obvious environmental disturbance and certainly a very noticeable eye sore.  It will effect the environment, economy, and will present dangerous and unnecessary health risks to everything that surrounds it.

The presence of this power line will heavily impact Northern New Hampshire's economy which is primarily based in tourism. The visual pollution that this HVDC power line will cause will significantly cripple an industry that is already struggling on its own. It will also create severe health risks. Studies show that living in close proximity to high voltage power lines increases one's risk for cancer and the static electricity it would produce would also make people susceptible to many other diseases and pre mature aging. Both the visual and environmental pollution this power line would create is not worth the risk especially because it is not even necessary in the first place. New Hampshire already produces more energy than it consumes and provides that excess to surrounding states. The Northern Pass Project would only benefit foreign companies due to the lack of a need for the extra power in the New England area.

There are some alternatives that have been proposed to avoid the construction of the above ground power line. One is burying the line in the existing North East HDVC corridor which is a safe alternative with nearly no draw backs. Despite this option there is still no need for the power line because of the over production of power in New Hampshire and the increase of dependence on foreign power. To learn more about the Northern Pass Project and find out about all of the effects and risks it could create you can visit the link below. New Hampshire and the White Mountains are not only very special to those who live nearby, they are an important and beautiful part of our country to people everywhere that hold so many unique ecosystems. Help stop the Northern Pass Project and preserve the irreplaceable home of many.

 

http://www.livefreeorfry.org

 

How Much Water Do You Waste in a Day?...

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I drink at least one bottle of water a day, how about you? I also shower about once a day and I'm sure most of us do. We don't think twice about having water to drink and wash ourselves with, but should we? One third of the world's population is living in countries that are experiencing water shortage. Even if those countries are not near to us that does not mean we could not help to reduce that water shortage for the countries that are experiencing it. One of the easiest environmental issues for us to help change is the water shortage; because there are little things for us to do that can have a huge impact. Every morning and night as we brush our teeth let's think about how much water we could save by turning off the faucet while we are not using the water. When we shower, is it really necessary to just stand in the water? If we get in the shower just to clean ourselves as we should we could cut back on the water that goes down the drain and maybe a child in Africa would get the chance to wash himself for once.  These are easy tasks for all of us to do, but maybe we cannot help the water shortage all on our own, so our next mission is to pass on the task to our friends and family. On average families of four people use 400 gallons of water every day. Think about how much water we could all save if all of our families took shorter showers and conserved water while brushing our teeth. The water we safe can help people are around the world in the countries that are suffering from the water shortage. Not only can we help the people that suffer the water shortage, but also our natural water ways and the animals that live in and benefit from these rivers and streams. The more water we save the more water can be left in the streams for the animals to use as well as the people who need clean water. The next time we brush our teeth and take a shower let's think about all the water we are saving and all the people and animals we are helping.  

References:

"Environmental Own Goals: Wasting Water." WWF. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/teacher_resources/own_goals/wasting_water/>.

"Conserving Water." American Rivers. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <http://www.americanrivers.org/take-action/other-ways/conserve/?gclid=CMjaw4X5l7QCFQ-e4AodDmYAbQ>.

Is That a Jellyfish I See? No it is a Killer Plastic Grocery Bag!

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Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This is a phrase that we hear often, but I feel as if the last word of that phrase has been put in the back of our minds. Maybe we do recycle, but do we think about how important it is to the environment we live in? The most common items to recycle are plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and paper, but what about plastic bags; do you recycle those? I have not recycled plastic bags before, but I also have not thought about the effects they are having on the environment when I throw them in the trash. I would call myself an animal lover, and some of my favorite marine life is dying due to the amount of plastic bags that end up in our world's waters. Whales, sea turtles, seals, and birds are some of the animals that are dying in our waters. When plastic bags are floating in the water the animals see them as jellyfish and once they eat them there is no way of digesting them or passing them therefore it will eventually kill the animal and once that animal decays the plastic bag is released back into the water to kill another animal.  Every year this plastic kills 100,000 marine animals every year.  Plastic bags are just as easy to recycle as anything else. Penn State has made it very convenient to recycle our plastic bags. With the new whole rooms that are in the dorm buildings there are bins for every different thing to be recycled including plastic bags. As we bring back our groceries and all of our clothing and other new items, instead of tossing our plastic bags in the trash, let's find the recycle bins for plastic bags and dispose of them properly. Even if we do not live by water OUR plastic can still end up in the water. The trash that we throw away can travel all over and into the waters of our world. As we buy holiday presents for all of our friends and family we can easily give a little holiday present back to our marine life by recycling all the plastic bags we receive from the stores where we purchase our holiday gifts. 

Reference:

"Planet Ark Plastic Bag Reduction." Effects on Wildlife. N.p., 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <http://plasticbags.planetark.org/about/wildlife.cfm>.

Coral Reefs Losing Their Color?!

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As we have discussed multiple times in class, there are many actions of humans that are threatening and destroying the environment. One more area of the environment to add to the list that is being destroyed is the coral reefs all around the world. What a lot of people probably do not know is, not only are the coral reefs some of the most beautiful, exotic places in the world, but they do more for our world than many people realize. We need to make some changes in our lives to help save these glorious escapes of our world. The coral reefs around the world protect the shores from the harshness of the oceans, provide all of us with food and medicine and especially benefit our world economically. The NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that the economic benefits of the coral reefs through jobs, food and tourism, values about $375 billion each year. Through the killing of these coral reefs we would be hurting ourselves, not just the biodiversity and life in the coral reefs. One of the main causes of their destructions is coral bleaching. Coral bleaching occurs when there are major changes in the water temperature. This causes the coral to release algae from their tissues, turning them completely white. This does not actually kill them, but it puts much more stress on them which is extremely hard to recover from and a lot do not recover. One report predicts that 24% of the world's reefs are under imminent risk of collapse through human pressures; and a further 26% are under a longer term threat of collapse. Although it may seem as though we cannot do much to change the temperature of the water, we can. This change in temperature is caused from the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, this we can do something about. If we adjust our lives slightly by walking, carpooling, or taking the bus more, we can help the coral reefs. As we have mentioned multiple times in class one of the easiest ways to reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to turn off our lights and unplug our electronics when we are not using them. These easy little life changes can affect the coral reefs of our world. Who would have ever thought that these changes could save our beautiful coral reefs?

References:

 Shah, Anup. "Coral Reefs." Global Issues. 16 Jan. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/173/coral-reefs>.

 "When Corals Are Stressed by Changes in Conditions Such as Temperature, Light, or Nutrients, They Expel the Symbiotic Algae Living in Their Tissues, Causing Them to Turn Completely White." What Is Coral Bleaching? N.p., 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. <http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html>.

Marine Debris

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        Could you imagine swallowing a hard plastic cap from a water bottle-- or how about getting your head stuck in one of those plastic packs that cans of soda come in? Could you imagine your diet becoming not only the food we eat today, but loads of trash and objects that could harm you? Marine creatures don't have the choice. More and more debris every year is getting dumped into the oceans severely harming our marine life more every year. These animals swallow things that could be harmful to them, get stuck in fishing nets that have been lost, and potentially can be killed from this debris. Would you be willing to help?

      Marine debris is typically defined as man made things that are discarded, disposed of, or abandoned that enters the oceans and the marine environment. It can be plastics, metals, glass, or discarded fishing gear. Normally this debris finds its way into the ocean by people leaving it on beaches, leaving trash on the roads which then water picks up and takes it into the storm drains which discard into the ocean, poor waste management, extreme natural events such as hurricanes, and fishing vessels and cargo ships. Plastic and cigarette butts are two of the most common things found in marine debris. The main problem of plastic is that it does not biodegrade. Plastic will stay in the ocean and just break down into smaller and smaller pieces eventually becoming what is known as "plastic dust" which can be harmful for sea creature to ingest and as  you can imagine cigarette butts are also seriously harmful.

      Marine debris doesn't have an effect just on marine life, it can be harmful to us humans too. Harmful plastic or glass shards can wash up on shore that someone could step on and injure themselves or little kids could pick up and potential choke on or other things like this. Not only this but when beaches are dirty and not enough clean up is being done, who wants to visit it? Shore communities can lose lots of money from dirty beaches with a lot of marine debris from people not wanting to visit them. So overall, marine debris doesn't just have an effect on the harmless sea critters.

      There's a million things you can do to help with this problem. One of the easiest things to do is DON'T LITTER! Not only can littering make the ocean life suffer, but our whole environment! It's so easy to just walk to the next trash can or recycling bin to discard of our trash. The next big thing is to buy reuseable grocery bags. Most grocery stores have their own reusable grocery bags that you can buy for a small fee and some stores even give you rewards for using them! Thousands of plastic bags get discarded into the ocean every year and sadly they kill a lot of sea turtles. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and to them, a plastic bag floating in the ocean can look a lot like a yummy jelly, so intern they ingest these plastic bags and can suffocate and die. Plastic bags don't seem like they can cause that much harm, but they do and its super easy to change. One other huge thing to remember is that all our waterways are connected, so the trash that you throw on the street can eventually end up in a stream and river which will eventually connect to the ocean.

     Unless you want to continue to see hunderds of sea creature killed each year and possibly your favorite beach be run down and in need of some serious tourism and cash, I suggest that you take it into your own hands to do something whie you can. There are plenty of ways to find out how you can help including noaa.gov which has a ton of information to keep you updated on marine debris!

 

Heres a short interesting video for more information!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmnz-8p0AB0

References:

http://water.epa.gov/type/oceb/marinedebris/factsheet_marinedebris_debris.cfm

http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/outreach/pdfs/InfoBrief.pdf

http://www.cleanupday.org/education.htm

Global Warming Threatening Mountain Ecosystems

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     Global warming is obviously threatening to us all in every ecosystem. I would like to specifically talk about the affects of global warming on the mountain ecosystems. More specifically about how Whitebark Pines are being killed off. These dying pine trees could be disastrous for mountain ecosystems that support grizzly bears, birds, and water supplies.

     Whitebark pine is the foundation species for alpine ecosystems all throughout western North America. Whitebark pines grow at very high elevations. Because of this they provide food and shelter for animals where other pines could not survive. The Yellowstone grizzly bear is being affected by the whitebark decline. In the fall, before the bears hibernate, the grizzlies raid whitebark pinecones. This is the way they acquire a large amount of nutritious pine seeds. When this food is not available female grizzlies have to enter hibernation with low nutrition. This could lead to females having fewer cubs. Another result of failing white bark pine crops are that grizzilies are driven to find food in lower elevation areas. That makes their risk of being killed much higher and they are already on the endangered list. Other animals are affected by the limited white bark pine as well. Birds use the white bark seeds as an important food source. Birds also help plant new white bark. Red squirrels and other small mammals rely on the pines in the mountains where food can be scarce. It is clear that whitebark pines stabilize and shade the mountains. They also reduce avalanches and extend snowmelt flows into the summer months. This slow melting process keeps rivers cool for trout and other aquatic wildlife. It also helps maintain water resources for people living in the American West. Which we have learned is not always a place that is rich in water.

     There are a few risks that endanger whitebark pine. Thos include Blister rust, global warming, and mountain pine needles. Blister rust was a disease brought to the pines by humans through imported seedlings. Blister rust wiped out fifty percent of the white bark pine in the Rocky Mountains. In Glacier National Park it has killed eighty five to ninety five percent of the pine. This disease affected the grizzlies and other wildlife. Another threat to the white bark is the mountain pine needle. This insect bores into mature pine trees and kills them by eating under the bark. The beetles hatch in the summer and take over an entire forest all at once. These beetles never used to be able to survive at the same temperatures as the whitebarks but global warming has allowed them to expand into higher elevations. Combining the attack of the beetles on mature whitebark and the blister rust which kills the smaller trees they could potentially wipe out white bark pines all together. This could impact a very important part of mountain ecosystems.

     We need to come together and support an important part of America. We need to get behind the Endangered Species Act. It could help federal agencies focus their efforts on the white bark. We need to increase resources for research, conservation, and restoration any way we can. We could give our time and or donate money to help preserve mountain ecosystems. We can also stop Global Warming by improving our everyday habits that affect the environment. Let's Join together for a better world and cleaner future!

Referenceshttp://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/whitebark/default.asp

http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/whitebark/saving.asp

Farms and Antibiotic Abuse

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     There are many people who are not informed about antibiotic abuse on farms. It is very common for large commercial farmers to feed low levels of antibiotics to their livestock even when they are completely healthy. Adding antibiotics to the livestock's feed or water promotes faster growth and it is used as prevention for animals that are housed in crowded, unsanitary, and stressful conditions. Using antibiotics when they are unnecessary creates super bugs that are antibiotic resistant and those bugs are passed to our communities.

     This unnecessary use of antibiotics is a very big reason for the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. This is a huge health threat for all of us. Illnesses such as ear infections, pneumonia, and strep throat will not always be able to be treated with antibiotics if these super bugs keep growing. As the result of this new super bug phenomenon new antibiotics are being created. But these new antibiotics are more expensive and have greater risks and side effects. The Infectious Disease Society of America estimated that about 99,000 deaths per year are due to antibiotic resistant pathogens. Over eighty percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are used in livestock. Most of those livestock are completely healthy. Another staggering statistic I have found is that drug resistant infections cost Americans up to twenty six billion dollars per year. There is an agreement from health experts that industrial farms need to stop the use of unnecessary antibiotics. Because industrial farms are the main source of overuse of antibiotics most of the meat and poultry products in grocery stores contain antibiotic resistant organisms. The bacteria on food are carried into kitchens where other foods can be contaminated. The bacteria is then spread to others through the food. Other ways the bacteria spreads is through air, water, and livestock workers.

     What can we do about this problem? We could come together and try to get stricter laws on the use of antibiotics in industrial farms. We can also start action right now by buying our meat from local family owned farms who do not use antibiotics and that also raise the livestock in clean less crowded barns. This will benefit you as well as the local farmers and your local economy. If you still choose to buy from commercial farms please take correct measures to handle and prepare the foods properly. Finally, please take every measure you can to support the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA).

References:http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-6191530.html

http://www.nrdc.org/food/saving-antibiotics.asp

Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania

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     Washington County is just one of the total thirty one counties in Pennsylvania that have Marcellus Shale drilling. In order to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale drillers must use hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing, fracking, also can have very negative affects on the areas water where the drilling occurs. The township where I am from is having many problems with the fracking affecting our water.

     Amwell township is a rural area in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. It is home to about 4,000 people. Our small piece earth has turned from quiet farmlands to a natural gas field. Amwell townships forty four square mile area currently has sixty gas wells, a compressor station, and a chemical pond. This all began about five years ago. Many of our neighbors singed leases to allow drilling around their homes. They did this because of the immense amount money they would make off of the lease. A study at Penn State shows that the Marcellus Shale industry has produced 23,000 jobs. But sometimes the negatives outweigh the positives in this situation. Fracking in our area has spurred one of the first Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) investigations. They are investigating the affects of hydraulic fracturing on rivers, streams, drinking water, and human health. These negative affects first started to show in animals. Two dogs passed away suddenly, then a barrel horse died of toxicity in her liver, and another goat had to be put down due to sickness. After this many neighbors began to notice changes in their water. Most of the neighbors, including my own family, buy bottled water for drinking. After a young boy became mysteriously ill many people started having their water tested and began to have blood work done. It turns out that many people had signs of carcinogens in their blood. All of this sickness called for action.

     Many people in our area have came together to fight against hydraulic fracturing. Their case is still ongoing. It is clear that there needs to be careful thought before signing contracts with big companies. No amount of money can buy health. But given our energy needs Marcellus Shale drilling will continue to increase. It is going to be up to us the people to stand up and demand action for strict regulations and laws that involve our environment and our health.

References:http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/magazine/fracking-amwell-township.html?pagewanted=all

The Largest Animal on the Planet May Change

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           The blue whale-- it's such a majestic creature that very little people in the world get to see, but they're out there. Sadly the blue whale is an endangered species by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). Blue whales weigh as much as 200 tons and can be up to 80 to 100 feet long. Also, this animal is the loudest animal on Earth, louder than a jet take engine! Sadly this amazing animal may one day become extinct if nothing is done about Global Warming and the effect that humans are having on the environment today.

           Some may argue, who have no sensitivity to the extinction of animals, well, why do they matter? Blue whales are at the top of the oceanic food chain and have a very important role in the health of the marine environment. The environmental changes that Global Warming is causing may cause them to go extinct and have a huge impact on the survival of other oceanic creatures in the future! Global Warming melts the glaciers allowing too much fresh water to pour into the oceans which can disrupt the thermohaline circulation. In other words, the fresh water from the glaciers could disrupt the temperature and ratio of salt in our ocean waters and overall disrupt the density of them. Since blue whales migrate based on the thermohaline circulation this could affect not only their migration- but also their eating and mating habits. The effect global warming has on our ocean waters is astounding and something needs to be done about it so not all of our gorgeous animals on Earth one day go extinct.

            I propose a solution to each and every one of you reading this. There are so many little things you can do to help stop global warming-- would you consider doing just one, every day? There are little changes you can make, such as carpooling to school or work. Or if you have the money and the means too, buy a more environmentally friendly car such as a hybrid. Start walking short distances or even riding a bike to cut down on the fumes coming from your car and contributing to global warming. Heres yet another simple solution: how many of you have extra refrigerators or freezers somewhere in your house? Did you know that one of the MAIN causes for families having so much carbon dioxide emissions is from refrigerators and freezers being plugged in? Unplugging just one extra refrigerator and using only one can decrease a family's carbon dioxide emission up to 10%! If everyone would do just this one little thing, it could seriously help the environment. One of the last, simplest ways to help the environment is to change your light bulbs. How easy is it to buy a different kind of light bulb and with just a flip of a switch help change the world? Replace your light bulbs with energy saving models like fluorescents and cut back on the pollution harming our environment.

         I've proposed to you just a few small, simple ways to help stop Global Warming and improve conditions for us, our animal relatives, and our beloved planet in just one short entry. Imagine the improvements you could make by researching some yourself? Save the majestic blue whales and the THOUSANDS of other endangered or critically endangered species around the world today.

 

References:

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/what_you_can_do/ten-personal-solutions-to.html

http://worldwildlife.org/species/blue-whale

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_whale

Nuclear Waste: We Need Solutions

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Nuclear waste is one of the most pressing issues, that a lot of times goes disregarded by the general public because it had been concealed for so many years until leaks and scandals brought it to front page news material. It can harm us and our environment is too many ways to count. Nuclear waste is radioactive waste material that for example can be produced by generating nuclear weapons. Not only this, but also when cleaning up nuclear waste, you produce even more of it. Every shoe, coverall and glove used in handling nuclear waste then also becomes nuclear waste itself. Nuclear waste it put in several categories based on the potential hazards and length of time it will remain hazardous. A few of the categories are spent fuel (highly radioactive and found in core of nuclear reactors), high level waste (also highly radioactive and most is from production of plutonium), and low level (radioactive waste that doesn't fall into any of the other categories). Besides for these three categories, there are three more. The way we dispose of nuclear waste is a huge problem. As you see, most nuclear waste is highly radioactive which can cause cancer, death of humans and animal, pollute underground and above ground water sources and many other detrimental things to our environment. As of now, most nuclear waste is buried in the ground or stored in special storage tanks that are supposedly "safe" and keep nuclear waste from leaking. On the contrary, leakages have happened multiple times in not only our history but all over the world causing terminal cancer, death of animals, and the deformation of children and even human deaths and burying such waste safely can cost up to and over $10,000-$15000 per cubic foot. We're already running out of storage space and then what happens next?  How does anyone come to the conclusion that we can continue to make nuclear waste and have these things happen? We already have the problem of cost, safety, and the argument of "I don't want that waste close to my home". With all of these problems coming along with nuclear waste- why continue with it? I propose that we REALLY need to start looking into new energy sources like solar energy and wind energy. Turn nuclear power plants slowly into solar energy and wind energy power plants, this way less people will lose their jobs. Also, if you have more factories making these types of other power sources than it can become more readily available to the public and less costly. This could benefit not only us as human beings, but our world around us. Solar and wind energy could seriously help save our environment in the future. We could put all the funding that probably goes into nuclear waste research and clean up and put it into finding new ways to improve solar and wind energy and possibly even find even more alternatives.

 

References:

http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1433&context=elr

http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/archivestory.php/aid/531/Sustainable_solutions_for_radioactive_waste.html

 

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