God of the North at my Subway Stop

The A and C trains have a transfer for the G train at Hoyt Schemerhorn.  The G train gets me within a block of my home.  I am one of those subway riders who calculate the best location to stand for the shortest walk to the exits.  So, every day I stand next to this tile column waiting for the train to arrive and the doors to open.  One day, during a longer wait than usual, when there was nothing else one can do except wait and entertain oneself, I looked a little closer at the surface of the tile.  There he was!

 

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

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Sierra Club Annual Report

Explore. Enjoy. Protect.

How bad has this year been for our environment?    Here are 60 things in the last 12 months:

29 rules overturned 24 rollbacks in progress 7 rollbacks in limbo

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

More Precious Now Than Ever Before

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Since 1916, The National Parks Service has been preserving the natural beauty of our country’s diverse environments, educating us about their value and protecting them from the negative influence of industrialism and capitalism.  The NPS is charged with the dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management, while also making them accessible for public use and enjoyment.

Climate Change is easily experienced in our National Parks.   In response, the National Parks Service created the Green Parks Plan to directly record the causes and effects. The plan’s “call to action” details goals like being energy and water smart, committing to buying green, and making the grounds themselves more sustainable.  By dedicating themselves to direct action, The National Park Service is taking another big step in their goal to maintain and protect our most precious resources.

In 2015, the National Parks Services decreased water use by 13%, diverted 50% of its waste away from landfills, and decreased energy emissions by 11% .

Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke,  cut spending at the department by 13%; meaning 4,000 fewer employees at NPS, 3,800 positions cut at the EPA, and 2,000 fewer jobs at the State Department.

Zinke, during a meeting with oil executives, described these reductions as career bureaucrats who were obstacles to his plans for widespread drilling.  He went on to state that these employees were disloyal to the nation itself.

During this time of harsh changes in the way America was devotedly taking care of its resources, a look to the future is a must.  If we need to give away our most precious resources in order to maintain our lifestyles, then we need to ask ourselves what is gained by choosing to reduce ourselves in this way.  This could be a time where we get excited about shifting our wants and desires to better match our ability to live happy, productive lives.

Once the extraction industries take control of our Public Lands, the most remote places on earth will go away.  Martin and I will be joining our friends, Stuart and Mike to cross-country ski Yellowstone National Park this winter.  We consider this a once in a lifetime experience to be in a natural setting with natural sounds, natural smells, natural light, and a natural sky over our heads.  Nature will do what it wants with us.  We will get to experience what that feels like.

When I returned from rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, I found it very challenging to return to the same wants and desires I had three weeks prior to that special experience.

When Martin and I picked up the plastic littered in Jamaica Bay, I couldn’t see plastic ever again as a miracle to modern living and our convenience.

Take a moment to reflect what brings happiness to you.  Challenge yourself to break free of the routines you developed.  See yourself with the potential of that person before you became part of “The Race”.  This time is so much bigger than us.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

From Cup To Car

Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Coffee gets us started every morning.  Now it gets your car started too.

With help from Shell Oil Company, bio-bean, a company that has been collecting London’s 220,000 tons of annually spent coffee grounds, put their new biofuel into the gas tanks of London’s famous double decker buses.  By partnering with large coffee shops like Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero, a steady stream of grounds will produce enough fuel to power a city bus for a year.

On the American front, Mano Misra’s , Susanta Mohapatra’s, and Narasimharao Kondamudi’s study has been published online in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.  Written by Mark T.Sampson, they report that waste coffee grounds provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel.  They found that spent coffee grounds contain between 11 and 20 percent oil by weight, which could add an estimated 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world’s fuel supply.

In 2016, about 143.22 billion gallons of finished motor gasoline (a complex mixture of relatively volatile hydrocarbons with or without small quantities of additives, blended to form a fuel suitable for use in spark-ignition engines) were consumed in the United States.

The new “B20” coffee-based fuel smells like java and has the major advantage of being more stable than traditional biodiesel; due to coffee’s high antioxidant content.  Solids left over from the conversion can be converted to ethanol or used as compost.  The biofuel is 20% coffee oil, while the rest of the mix comes from fossil diesel.

Biofuels burn cleaner than fossil fuels, releasing less carbon into the atmosphere, but the production and harvesting of plants destined for fuel (like corn, wheat and sugarcane) can cancel out the benefits.  Using waste products—like coffee grounds—to create fuel minimizes damage to the environment on the production end, and reduces overloading of landfill.

Through a partnership with Argent Energy, many households in the UK have begun to use this in their homes.  This is a technology I want to hear more about.

Put Put Put Off You Go

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Butterfly Solar

As scientists seek ways to improve the efficiency of solar , some have increasingly turned to thin film solar cells. Such cells are lighter and more manageable than traditional crystal-based cells and are expected to be more efficient if engineers can find a way to get them to work for longer periods of time.  One of the roadblocks to improving the efficiency of is the high expense of motion hardware that tracks the sun.  In this new effort, the researchers took inspiration from the rose butterfly, found commonly in India.  It has soft black wings that warm the cold-blooded insect during cool periods.

To learn more about the , a team of researchers from California Institute of Technology and the Karlsruh Institute of Technology collected some samples and looked at them under an electron microscope.  They found that the wings were covered with scales pockmarked with holes.  In addition to making the wings lighter, the holes scattered the light striking them, which allowed the butterfly to absorb more of the sun’s heat.

In their paper, published in the journal Science Advances, the group explains their inspiration for studying the butterfly wings and the details of their improved solar cells.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-black-butterfly-wings-solar-cells.html#jCp

The researchers created similar structures in their lab using sheets of hydrogenated amorphous silicon sheets.  A top layer with extremely tiny holes of various sizes caused light to scatter and strike the silicon base below.   The design allowed for picking up roughly twice as much light as previous designs. The process took just five to 10 minutes.

Get off the fossil fuel grid!  Go butterfly solar.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Weather Wonders From NASA

NASA just released this spectacular animation of the atmosphere during hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA: The Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has developed the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS), a family of mathematical computer models.  Combined with data from NASA’s Earth observing satellites, these supercomputer simulations enhance our scientific understanding of specific chemical, physical, and biological processes occurring in our atmosphere.

This GEOS simulation shows how Aerosols (fine dust, smoke and salt particles), move through the atmosphere to make hurricanes .  It is a huge step forward in our understanding of the earth’s atmosphere, weather and climate.

Watch the hurricanes (salt) and the vast plumes of dust coming off Africa, the western wildfire smoke, Hurricane Ophelia; an unusual hurricane moving NE as it picked up smoke from Portugal’s extensive fires streaming it north into the UK and Ireland as a post tropical cyclone.

Exciting and incredible work by NASA.

Look for more NASA GEOS videos on You Tube to learn about our climate from the experts.  https://www.youtube.com/watchv=M8PERZQQYhM     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goFNjIAWLfs

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

 

Extra Plastic Bags?

This Coop next to a highly littered bus stop in our neighborhood let me attach my really cool Bag Bottle to their fence in hopes of creating waste awareness while people wait for the bus.

The Bag Bottle is made of plastic soda bottles and stuffed with plastic bags. Dog owners, litter haters, or people who may just need a plastic bag are welcome to give a tug!

I easily collect a bag full of plastic litter everyday on my way to work.  I will be bringing my own so there will be plenty to inspire others.  Our Waste Matters will be starting a block sponsorship for those of us who want to keep plastic out of our environment.

In NYC, we failed to pass Ban the Bag legislation because people with less means would be disproportionately affected.  If their neighbors provided extra bags for them to use at anytime, maybe we could be Bag Free?!

How is your state doing?   http://www.bagtheban.com/in-your-state

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Black Mayonaise

What Exactly Is the Black Mayonnaise at the Bottom of the Gowanus Canal?

Photo by Susan De Vries  by Craig Hubert

There are numerous mysteries about the Gowanus Canal. But the most baffling, not to mention terrifying, is the thick dark sludge that makes it way through the oily waters, that which has been called black mayonnaise.

Aside from its gross name — which is a pretty good descriptor, to be honest — there has rarely been an acceptable explanation of what black mayonnaise is, exactly, and how it is formed. So we reached out to Christos Tsiamis, the EPA’s Senior Project Manager for the Gowanus Superfund cleanup, and asked him to explain.

gowanus canal black mayonnaiseA core sample from the former First Street Basin near the BRT Power Station. Photo via EPA’s Gowanus Canal Facebook Group

Black mayonnaise is the “result of chemical waste that was discharged from the industries that operated along the canal as well as by New York City sewage and street runoff,” wrote Tsiamis in an email.

“The combination of the chemicals and sewage gave the sediment the soft texture of mayonnaise, while the combination of liquid tar from the manufactured-gas plants, petroleum products (such as motor and lubricating oils), decomposed organic matter and sewage gave to this sediment its black color.”

gowanus canal brooklyn superfund sitesPhoto by Hannah Frishberg

A 10-foot-high layer of black mayonnaise lays over the original native sediment at the bottom of the canal. But is it dangerous?

The answer is a resounding yes.

“It contains a multitude of chemicals (in the dozens) many of which are toxic and dangerous to human health upon repeated exposure or from consumption of fish that is caught at the canal (or at close proximity to it) over time,” wrote Tsiamis. This was determined by a risk assessment study conducted by the EPA in 2010.

Will the cleanup cleanse the canal of black mayonnaise forever? Two months of dredging, starting in December, is expected to permanently clean the bottom of the canal, according to Tsiamis. Meanwhile, the Gowanus’ two new underground holding tanks are expected to keep a good part of sewage and street run-off from overflowing into the canal during storms. “After the storm passes, the liquid held by these tanks will be pumped for treatment to the city’s treatment facilities,” he said.

Tsiamis says these measures will free the canal of black mayonnaise forever. But the EPA will be checking every five years anyway, just in case the substance inexplicably returns.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Earth Rights

Bolivia feels the challenge of Climate Change as snow capped Andes recede and water becomes more scarce

Bolivia’s “Law of Mother Earth”

“We believe that we cannot survive on this planet if we fail to see that human life cannot exist outside of nature.”

The Bolivian law that defends Mother Earth as a living system grants her a presence in a legal framework.  It is an important ideology that should be considered globally.

In highly urbanized areas, the built environment does a remarkable job of masking the resources that allow all forms of life to continue their existence on this planet.

As human populations grow, the majority of human activity will take place in urban areas.  Overcrowding brings traffic and exhaust, water quality and quantity issues, food shortages, air pollution, and a variety of natural disasters that destroy infrastructure and disrupt lives.   These issues can bring unrest, displacement, homelessness, war and death.

Bolivia’s law reestablishes deeply indigenous concepts concerning Earth within a political and legal framework.  It is a model for prioritizing the health of our planet and it should be configured into every nation’s environmental policies and sustainability goals.

The Law of Mother Earth outlines Seven Rights this planet is entitled to:

  1.  Life.  Maintenance of life systems’ integrity and the natural processes which sustain them, as well as the conditions for their renewal.
  2. Diversity of Life.   Preservation of the variety of beings that comprise Mother Earth, without being genetically altered or artificially modified in their structure in any way that threatens their existence, functioning and future potential.
  3. Water.  Preservation of the quality and composition of water to sustain and renew life systems and protection against contamination.
  4. Clean air.  Preservation of the quality and composition of air to sustain and renew life systems and protection against contamination.
  5. Equilibrium.  Maintenance or restoration of the inter-relation, interdependence, ability to complement and functionality of the components of Mother Earth, in a balanced manner for the continuation of its cycles and the renewal of its vital processes.
  6. Restoration.  Effective and opportune restoration of life systems affected by direct or indirect human activities
  7. Live free of  contamination.  Preservation of Mother Earth and any of its components with regards to toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities.

The Law of Mother Earth will be exacted into policy via five strategies:

  1. Incorporation a prevention and managed response to natural disasters.
  2. Agricultural risk management to prevent diminished crop yields and food insecurity.
  3. Adopt risk management for disasters and climate change.  Develop informational networks to issue early warnings during natural crisis. Assist the agricultural industry and indigenous communities to plan according to climate conditions.
  4. Strengthen territorial management of organizations, public lands and any other local governmental bodies through the incorporation of risk management and adaption to climate change.
  5. Articulation between public and private scientific research sectors to share knowledge and co-ordinate research regarding vulnerabilities related to climate change.

Bolivia is dependent on the glaciers in the Andes mountains as a reliable water source.  Their disappearance has severe and dangerous consequences forcing people to face the challenges of how and where to access clean water. The New York Times, “a World Bank report concluded last year that climate change would eliminate many glaciers in the Andes within 20 years, threatening the existence of nearly 100 million people.”

andes

The images of snow-capped peaks we associate with the Andes mountain range are disappearing due to rising global temperatures. photo: New York Times

In an article from the Huffington Post, Peter Neill writes, “Change must begin somewhere, sometime; perhaps Bolivia is inventing the social model and role of governance that will demonstrate how we can transcend the global divisions and conflicts, beyond the destruction and despair that we feel, toward a harmonious, effective, efficient, and equitable society connected by the true value of nature as sustainer.  If so, should we not pay attention?”

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Pie Hole Lovers Competition

Even though the following is littered garbage, I enjoy finding the huge variety of plates in their unwanted environments.  Now I see them everywhere.  Passersby and subway riders are stopping to watch me compose the images and some are asking me what I am doing.

Penelope and Martin contributed to this week’s collection so I invite all of you Pie Hole Lovers to send in your photos. ourwastematters@gmail.com

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

      

    

Some rats have been feasting on some of the plates.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl