How bad has this year been for our environment? Here are 60 things in the last 12 months:
April 22nd is Earth Day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day In connection with Arbor Day, https://www.arborday.org April is Earth Month. Events happen all over the globe to support initiatives that will make living on our planet more beneficial for all of us. A good place to get information about activities is through the Earth Day Network. http://www.earthday.org Their goal is to build the world’s largest environmental movement.
The mission for Earth Day Network is to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, mobilize the movement to build a healthy and sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations.
Many climate change experts would suggest that green initiatives and public policies are moving too slowly in the wrong direction to make any meaningful impact on our current survival challenge. NPR reporter and author, Wen Stephenson unpacks the issue in his book What We Are Fighting For Now Is Each Other. http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-17/what-we-re-fighting-now-each-other-new-book-declares
He’s calling for a radicalization of the mainstream. “At this late hour, to be serious about climate is to be radical, because it’s really a radical situation. It requires us to go to the root of the systems that have created this. That’s not going to happen until enough people come to terms with and face up to the radical nature of the situation.”
In 1970, the first Earth Day activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Passage of landmark, groundbreaking, environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act soon followed and Richard Nixon became known as the Environmental President by setting up the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Today, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year. This is the largest civic observance in the world.
Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in 196 countries, (the total of all countries in the world) to build environmental democracy working through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns. They broaden the definition of “environment” to include issues that affect our health and our communities, such as greening deteriorated schools, creating green jobs and investment, registering voters and promoting activism to stop air and water pollution.
With partner organizations, EDN provides civic engagement opportunities at the local, state, national and global levels around the world. Recognizing that climate change impacts our most vulnerable citizens first and most severely, EDN often works with low income communities to bring their voices and issues into the movement.
How You Can Help:
In upstate New York, two trucks a day, seven days a week arrive at Neil Rejman’s dairy farm from Chobani with 8,000 gallons of acid whey, a byproduct of Greek yogurt.
The straining process that gives Greek yogurt its high protein content and lush mouthfeel creates acid whey, resulting in a byproduct as acidic as orange juice. Most of it is water with five to eight percent other materials such as lactose (milk sugar), some minerals and a very small amount of proteins.
For every four ounces of milk, Chobani can only produce one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The remainder, acid whey, is illegal to dump because its decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. If it can’t be used, it must be transported to approved water filtration facilities.
The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting. The Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in the food industry with production in New York, alone, nearly tripling from 2007 to 2013. New plants continue to open all over the country adding to the waste stream.
Chobani is so desperate to get rid of their whey that they pay farmers like Rejman to take it off their hands.
Rejman, a third-generation dairy farmer with a Cornell animal science degree, mixes it with silage to feed his 3,300 cows, combines it with manure in a giant pit to fertilize his fields and converts it into biogas to make electricity for his farm and others.
There are challenges to integrating acid whey into the workings of a farm like when dried silage to feed the cows gets mixed with the watery, sugary whey it quickly becomes an unmanageable slop. Due to the high sugar content of the whey, Rejman says its like feeding cows candy bars — they really like it but too much is bad for their digestive systems so it only makes a small dent in the waste problem.
Policy makers in Albany are also interested in addressing this issue. The first-ever Yogurt Summit was convened in 2012 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and attended by state and industry officials who are trying to deal with the ocean of whey that Greek yogurt is producing. They are racing to find solutions, some of the most promising of which are listed below.
Attendees like, Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell, specializes in filtration methods for the separation and recovery of protein. The tiny amount of protein in acid whey might be usable as an infant formula ingredient if he can figure out how to extract it in a cost-effective way.
In a related part of the dairy industry, cheese-makers developed a lucrative business selling their byproduct, sweet whey, as body-building supplements and food ingredients. Sweet whey is more valuable than acid whey because it has a lot more protein and its easier to handle due to its lower acidity. The Greek yogurt industry would welcome a similar outcome.
Scientists from the Center for Dairy Research @ University of Wisconsin-Madison have been experimenting on how to get edible-grade lactose out of acid whey. Dean Sommer, a food technologist at the center thinks that many companies are already considering building plants to convert acid whey into lactose. The industry-financed research is proprietary so the conversion process is not being shared.
What a smell! Acid whey mixed with the large amount of cow manure Rejman’s farm produces creates a river of shit that flows into an underground concrete tank known as an anaerobic digester. Here the fetid mixture percolates, gets heated up and keeps for 20 days so the bacteria can break up the lactose and release the methane. The methane is fed into generators to power the farm and sell to the local utilities. Odor control was one of the benefits that Rejman found by converting acid whey into methane. The processed manure smells a lot less.
Only 20 of New York’s 5,200 dairy farms are operating with digesters because the $4.5 million setup cost is out of reach for most farmers. Even with the Rejman’s $1 million state subsidy, this huge issue needs many simultaneous solutions to make a dent in the problem, according to Curt Gooch, a waste management engineer at Cornell.
If and when any of the big yogurt companies come up with a better whey, they’re being guarded and the tidal wave of acid whey is not slowing down. As one producer said at New York’s Yogurt Summit: “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become heroes.”
How You Can Help:
Many areas of the country have sites that are a serious health concern and we don’t even know about them. Some of them are your driveway. Coal tar is the reason.
A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology is one of the first steps in understanding how this widely used carcinogen is impacting human health. Further information can be obtained from the blog Coal Free America. http://coaltarfreeamerica.blogspot.com/p/references.html
Coal tar is a thick, black or brown liquid byproduct of carbonized coal for the steel industry. Coal-tar used for pavement sealants is the viscoelastic polymer resin that has 50% or more PAHs by weight and is known to cause cancer in humans.
PAHs are a group of chemical compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) that form whenever anything with a carbon base is burned. PAHs are of environmental concern because several are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic (causing birth defects) to aquatic life, and seven are probable human carcinogens. Of all known PAH sources, the highest concentrations are in coal tar and the related compound creosote. The International Agency for Research on Cancer states that up to one-third of the contents of coal-tar sealants is cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
PAHs are substances that remain in the environment for a long time, do not decompose and bioaccumulate in the human body. Substances that combine these characteristics represent a particular level of environmental concern labeled PBTs. (Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic substances)
And! PAHs don’t stay put. Wear and tear from tires and sneakers on coal tar sealed pavement breaks down the dried sealant allowing tiny PAH particles to be tracked into homes or blown through open windows. The small particles from tire abrasion can be washed off by rain and carried down storm drains into streams. Other sealcoat particles adhere to tires and get transported to other surfaces or blown offsite by wind.
Sealcoat in high traffic areas wears down within a few months and manufacturers recommend a new application every 2 to 4 years.
Black house dust is a source of human exposure to many contaminants, including PAHs. Small children, who spend time on the floor and put their hands and objects into their mouths and active kids playing ball games are most vulnerable. In 2008, the United States Geological Society measured PAHs in house dust from 23 ground-floor apartments and in dust from the apartment parking lots. PAH concentrations in the dust from the parking lots with coal tar seal coats were an average of 530 times higher than parking lots with other surface types. The indoor concentrations were 25 times higher.
Anything above 1.0 is considered a mutagen. Coal tar sealants average 450. Mutagens are physical or chemical agents that change the genetic material of an organism and increase the frequency of mutations that can cause cancer.
Motor oil, a product that’s illegal to pour down storm drains, contains about 500 milligrams per kilogram of PAH chemicals. Coal tar contains about 50,000 mg/kg, but we’re still spreading it on our parking lots, driveways and playgrounds with the potential for rains to wash it down storm drains.
Oddly enough, coal tar is rated Category I (safe and effective) for over the counter products to treat dandruff, seborrhoea, eczema, and psoriasis, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Because of its use in medicines, as well, many studies have been performed over nearly a century to see if the patients who intentionally expose themselves to high level doses of coal tar for long periods of time have increased risk of cancer. All the studies have reached the same conclusion – there is no evidence of cancer.
Brand name products using coal tar to treat skin disorders are Betatar Gel, Cutar Emulsion, Denorex, DHS Tar, Doak Tar, Duplex T, Fototar, Ionil-T Plus, Medota, MG 217, Neutrogena TDerm, Neutrogena TGel.
How You Can Help:
What the civil engineers’ ranking really shows is that the United States can create an opportunity to surpass our competition, succeed at “A” levels in the global economy and improve our quality of life if we understand the needed improvements at all local levels. Our country continues to demonstrate an ability to compete and innovate at high levels when we grasp the problems we face.
How You Can Help:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/392e5b652af00cc435c60662b7b82119.htm The Polar Bears in The San Diego Zoo woke up to a snowstorm! This project brings awareness to their plight and the rapid meltdown of their natural habitat.
Micro beads are banned! These unbelievably destructive, tiny pieces of plastic are out numbering the plankton in our oceans and rapidly moving up the food chain. http://beatthemicrobead.org/images/pdf/RED%20UNITED%20STATES.pdf
The Sponge Park is here! Pollution absorbing plants are now part of New York’s Gowanus Canal working 24/7 to clean up decades of pollutants. http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/38/40/dtg-gowanus-canal-garden-2015-10-02-bk.html
The Paris Conference negotiated a global agreement to reduce climate change! The agreement will become legally binding in New York between April 22, 2016 and April 21, 2017 when 55 countries, representing 55% of global greenhouse emissions sign it and adopt it within their own legal systems. The consensus of the 196 parties attending the UN climate deal experienced many frustrations and a lot of drama but it proved that we can compromise for our planet.
Eco Ministries are popping up all around the globe! From wealthy industrial countries to the poorest and least powerful, their community service driven models declare that the climate crisis is a crisis of values—the essence of how we live our lives, share our resources, and respect one another.
How You Can Help:
Our most prized possession, earth, needs our help in more critical and time sensitive ways than ever before. This Holiday Season, give her the gift of life by donating time, giving money, teaching others, and becoming a conscientious consumer who wants to do what is right for our planet.
Our Waste Matters has over 150 followers its first year! Thank you for your support and interest in this very important issue. I will continue to work hard bringing waste awareness information and choices to your life. With your friends and families we can make an even larger difference this coming year in reducing the amount of waste we produce.
How You Can Help:
Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season filled with joy from family and friends. And I thank you again!
Mr. John D. Rockefeller made a fortune from our love of mobility and the freedom it represents. As a young professional, he recognized the power of oil to fuel transportation and America went wild!
Mr. Henry Ford, a farmer, designed the first assembly line automobile. It ran on alcohol. His fuel was made anywhere, anytime, by anybody, out of anything that is or was a plant.
So, Mr. Rockefeller got his buddies together to formulate and pass Prohibition Legislation banning the transportation of all alcohol. In the meantime, Mr. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly was split into 34 companies. All 34 were in his stock portfolio. America’s love for freedom was turning into an oil guzzling addiction that could no longer be supplied by choice.
Trolleys were everywhere. Anyone could ride them anywhere. They ran on electricity. It was possible to travel from San Francisco to New York City by transferring from trolley to trolley.
What happened to those trolleys? I guess Mr. Rockefeller needed some more money. Standard Oil, Mack Truck, General Motors, Phillips Petroleum and Firestone created a company that bought them all up and trashed them. The replacement option? Fuel guzzling buses.
Even though the Federal Government indicted all five companies for their part in the conspiracy, they started the largest public works project ever. It was based on oil; highways, suburbs, shopping malls, and the beginning of a consumer society that uses oil for fuel, clothing, food, medicine, lubricants, plastics, furniture and construction materials.
Freedom? Well, that was based on cheap oil and loads of it! Limitless supply? Ummm, China now has more cars than we do. Cheap? OPEC acting as a cartel ended that idea in the 1970s. Choice? Hmmm, there doesn’t seem to be one.
Until you see the movie, Pump. https://www.youtube.com/user/PUMPtheMovie2014 It will change your mind about our fossil fuel addicted future.
Natural gas may be here to stay. Unfortunately, though, we can’t keep up with our own demand and its controversial extraction process is leaching into some of our water. Natural gas is a shale oil or methane gas commonly associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses water pressure to fracture shale and release the oil or gas. We produce about 10 million barrels a day, we use about 18 million barrels a day and the world uses 88 million barrels a day. We are running as fast as we can to stay in one place so it isn’t saving us any money at the pump. Areas the size of states, like the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, are being shattered to bits.
But it gets better! Alcohol has always been the better fuel and anyone can make it. Beets, sorghum, buffalo gourds, corn, prickly pear and the alcohol producing giant…cattail flowers make it possible to produce fuel wherever you live. Are you worried about food prices and supplies? Don’t be, ethanol is the other byproduct of feed corn for animals. You get more feed AND more fuel. The same guys who want you to buy oil let you believe food prices rose because of ethanol production when food prices always rise after oil prices go up.
And it gets even better still! Methanol is the cleanest burning, simplest, most abundant alcohol. It can even be made on Mars and it isn’t as flammable as gasoline so race car drivers have been using it for decades. Oak Ridge National Labs estimates that we have 1 billion tons of biomass for methanol available to use every year. That includes 240 million tons of trash of which 160 of it currently goes to landfills. Iceland is making it out of CO2 and Hydrogen. For more on the Methanol Economy read http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-3527608354.html written in 2006!
Then there is electricity. It can be made from wind and solar energy. Nikola Tesla set out to convince us that we can have cars, clean air AND clean water. By partnering with solar giant, John Paul Mitchell and Tesla owner, Elon Musk, along with many others, they are developing the infrastructure to produce and run affordable, luxurious, electric cars. Even Roland Hwang, Director of the Energy & Transportation Program of the NRDC is excitedly reporting the vast improvement of lithium ion batteries because of electronics.
So what’s stopping us? Back to those oil guys. Our companies and our government mask our choices. Cars that run on methanol, ethanol and gasoline have been around since Ford offered them in 1994. Most people don’t even know they have a Flex Car. If your gas cap is yellow, your car can be fueled by any combination of fuel. To find out if your car can use other fuels go to Fuel Freedom Foundation’s website. http://www.fuelfreedom.org
Even if you don’t own a Flex Car, the changes required to make it one are as simple as a piece of software that you install yourself. Kits are easily available, just google flex fuel kits. But, the EPA considers it tampering with your car’s computer so its important to educate yourself thoroughly. http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/fuels/altfuels/altfuels.htm#2 For installation and emotional support click https://www.change2e85.com/E85-Myths-FAQs
Alternative fuel stations can be located on line or you can go to http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/stations.html.
How You Can Help:
When one considers how magnificent the human design is, one has to wonder why our needs and desires became so wasteful.
Wasteful design begins with the creator not considering the full impact their creations have on the surrounding environment, both in the making of the design and the finished life of the design.
So, should we fault our creator for making us the most wasteful design on our planet?
Probably not. Whether we were created by God or evolved from bacteria, we have cumulatively turned into a real threat to the only place we can live.
We are unable to mobilize defenses against this threat. We consciously or unconsciously ignore it. We are misinformed about it. We cannot avoid it because the threat is us. So, what we have become is so big and so destructive that it hijacks our own sense of common good and responsible choice.
The symptom is not being able to full cycle everything we desire and need. And our desires and needs are never ending.
We produce pervasive contaminants, harmful pollutants, damaging particles, poisonous atmospheres, everything we use, eat, and do everyday takes something from the earth and does not give back. The waste is inescapably part of everyday life.
Could our planet reject us? Could we change? What is required of each of us to affect a change that is large enough to reverse the direction we are heading?
Spiritual communities may have the answers. For the first time in human history, our continuing existence depends on our ability to unify with one another. Our fractious political systems have not produced that unity, so we need to do it ourselves. We need to inspire each other to tackle change. The effort we put forth to unify humanity and protect the planet can have an enormous impact.
What you can do to help: