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

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Nature Tackles Carbon

Over the past two years, the world experienced unprecedented global climate momentum.  In September 2015, international leaders adopted the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to fight poverty, promote sustainability and address climate change.  Shortly after, nearly 200 countries came together in Paris to adopt the world’s largest ever international climate treaty.

At The Nature Conservancy, Bronson Griscom  radiates an optimism somewhat rare for seasoned environmentalists.  As an ecological accountant, he measures and analyzes the “carbon economy” of nature: the everyday role that trees, grasslands and coastal habitats play in the carbon cycle.  He can measure the carbon impact of logging in old growth forests, or how well different forest ecosystems work as sponges for absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.  Griscom helps link our economy with the economy of the biosphere.

Encouraged by what he sees, the goals of carbon reduction the world wants to meet by 2030 are closer to possible, if we act now.  Current business-as-usual trajectories, increased emissions entering the atmosphere and continued environmental degradation will lessen the impact that nature can have.  If natural climate solutions are mobilized over the next 10 to 15 years, they could provide 37 percent of the needed mitigation for global climate targets.  But if action is delayed until after 2030, that number drops to 33 percent, and drops again to only 22 percent after 2050.

https://global.nature.org/initiatives/natural-climate-solutions/natures-make-or-break-potential-for-climate-change?src=a_f.social.facebook.site_globsol.cam_ncs.link_initative.d_oct2017.info_sci

Plant trees, create city forests, adopt a city street divider, help sponsor a GreenBelt, learn and understand how your local ecosystems contribute to carbon absorption.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Lobster Die Off Finally Explained?

Baby Lobster Die Off in Baja, California

Molecular biologist Hans Laufer, of the University of Connecticut, has discovered that waterborne chemicals leached from plastics and detergents seem to contribute to “shell disease,” which has caused huge dieoffs among lobsters of Long Island Sound during the past ten years.  According to University of Connecticut, after three years and $3 million invested in a research initiative, Laufer found that chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) are interfering with growth hormones in young lobsters, slowing their molting patterns and changing their development, which then leads to deformations, susceptibility to disease, and for many, death. This seems to explain a huge lobster dieoff that began in the late 1990s, bringing lobster catches to about 1/6 of their 1998 levels.

Continue reading

POPS, PCBs and Plastic Pellets

In 2005, Dr. Hideshige Takada founded International Pellet Watch (IPW) to track and study plastic pellets.  Pellets are the raw material that gets remelted and molded into plastic products.  Citizens across the globe collected plastic pellets from the beaches they visited and sent them to his laboratory at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.  The content of the pellets are analyzed to determine its global POP distribution. The results are sent to the participants via email and released on the web.

So far, pellet samples from approximately 200 locations in about 40 countries have been analyzed.  Five samples are analyzed from each location to see piece-to-piece variability.  About 1000 pellet samples have been analyzed so far.  POPs were detected in every one of those 1000 pellet samples from around the world, even from remote islands, providing evidence that plastic pellets transport POPs for long distances.

POPs are hazardous human-made chemicals that are resistant to degradation in the environment. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), different sorts of organochlorine pesticides (e.g. DDTs and HCHs) and brominated flame-retardants are all POPs.

Analyzing plastic pellets enables IPW to observe spatial patterns of POP concentrations. For example, PCB concentrations were two to three orders of magnitude higher in highly-industrialized areas.  Even though, usage of PCBs was banned in the 1970s, they accumulated in the bottom sediments in coastal zones and rivers.  (General Electric caused The Hudson River to become a Super Fund Site by dumping PCBs into the water for decades).  Due to their persistent and hydrophobic nature, PCBs are easily remobilized by wind, waves, and currents, sediments stirred up by organisms, dredging and underwater construction.  PCBs continue to contaminate coastal waters by becoming absorbed into plastic pellets.

I googled plastic pellets and . . . . yikes!

https://www.google.com/search?q=plastic+pellets&oq=plastic+pellets&gs_l=psy-ab.3..35i39k1l2j0l4j0i67k1j0l3.165391.167158.0.168302.11.11.0.0.0.0.166.1252.3j8.11.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.11.1249…0i22i30k1j0i22i10i30k1.0.qqd1N-bxI3U

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Where Does a Used Plastic Cup Go?

A plastic cup that was used once for probably less than a minute?  About 450-1000 years will pass before it decomposes in the ground.  That’s if it made it to a landfill.

Plastic is made from petroleum or natural gas.  Plastic production is estimated to use 8 percent of yearly global oil production—both as the raw material and for energy in the manufacturing process.  Because plastics embody energy from fossil fuels (and actually have a higher energy value than coal), leaving so much of it in landfills is not only an environmental hazard, it’s an unconscionable waste of a valuable resource.

If it ends up in the water, it will keep breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces that our marine life will ingest.  And eventually end up back in you.  If the plankton are eating plastic then you are eating plastic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97XpXhCgtEQ

Start saying, “NO!” to that plastic cup.  You will feel tons better!

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Sebago Canoe Club Launches Boy Scouts for Annual Trash Bash

Martin and I were back at Jamaica Bay this past weekend to make another attempt at cleaning up the NYC side of Canarsie Pol.   We happily found ourselves lined up behind 4 Boy Scout Troops from Queens.  They were there to earn merit badges by participating in Sebago Canoe Club’s Annual Trash Bash.

The New York State Beach Cleanup has been run for 30 years by the American Littoral Society’s Northeast Chapter and is part of the International Coastal Cleanup campaign that happens every September.

890 pounds of trash in 48 garbage bags was retrieved, transported by canoe and deposited on the Sebago dock.  The volunteers counted and weighed their haul so that the effects of legislation on polluting our waterways can be measured.

We are so grateful to those who care about our marine environments.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

When You Have That Plastic Bottle

More fun to watch the cleverness of this post!!!

Single use plastic should be avoided at all times to send a clear signal to the producers of these horrible products that are harming every ecosystem in devastating ways.

The latest evidence of the harm these bottles are doing to our environment is the saddest ever!  North Face and many other environmentally friendly companies have been making polar fleece from recycled plastic bottles.  The unfortunate truth of this process is that we need to wash these garments.  All polyester and polyester polymer fabrics release micro fibers from our washing machine rinse cycles straight into our waterways.  Civic filter systems cannot remove these tiny fibers.  Once in our waterways, they are ingested by oysters, mussels, lobsters and other marine life that we eat.

Can it get much more sad?

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

I Wish I Could Say It Felt Good

Honoring International Coastal Cleanup Day, Martin and I paddled our kayaks toward Jamaica Bay, an 18,000-acre wetland estuary surrounded by the Rockaway Peninsula to the South, Brooklyn to the West, and Queens to the East.  The 10,000 acres of parkland (almost equal to the size of Manhattan)is managed by the National Park Service.  It consists of numerous islands, a labyrinth of waterways, meadowlands, and two freshwater ponds, providing a unique environment for both wildlife preservation and urban recreation.  A favorite stop for migratory waterfowl, the area is an essential part of making the larger regional ecosystem complete.

http://www.nyharborparks.org/visit/jaba.html

Jamaica Bay was a prime fishing and oystering center but it became so polluted by 1916 that all of those businesses ended.  It took over 5 decades, but the Clean Water Act finally made dumping and polluting illegal by 1972 and the big bay has since made a comeback.  Mussels (still inedible) are now embedded in the reeds along the shores. 50,000 oysters were planted in beds composed of broken porcelain, harvested from recycled toilets as part of New York City’s Water Conservation Program.

The Bay is full of islands and channels whose names have been lost in the mists of time: Point Elders Marsh, Old Swale Marsh, Nestepol Marsh, Grass Hassock, Jo Co’s Marsh, and many more known only by local mariners.  Non are inhabited by humans.

We kayaked to Canarsie Pol with two extra large, clear garbage bags and the intention of making a dent in the amount of plastic washed up on the shore.  All of this plastic was ocean bound trash from storm runoff, boats, the mainland and careless recreational practices while people were out enjoying what nature brings to them but not caring about what they bring to nature.  A lot of this plastic becomes a structural part of the reeds and the beach.

A Ghost Pier Abandoned Long Ago on Canarsie Pol

After 4 hours, along a mere 200 yard stretch of reeds just west of this old pier, we filled 3 large bags (we found another one on the island) with plastic single use items. Mind you, this was only what was accessible to us where the reeds met the beach.  The plastic we could see but could not reach went into the reeds for yards.  Its anyone’s guess how much plastic is buried under the sand.

I wish I could say it felt good to be out on a beautiful fall day picking up garbage.

Plastic bags were so enmeshed in the reeds and the sand dunes that they are now a permanent part of Canarsie Pol. Weathered plastic shattered in our hands as we tried to pull it out of the sand.  The amount of small pieces of styrofoam broken up over time was impossible to collect.  We didn’t even bother with glass or aluminum.

The black bag to the right is filled with plastic lids, shopping bags and single use items.                                                          A third clear bag was left on the island.

Thanks a lot Gatorade. You must feel proud to have your name on this waste.

The third bag had to be tied and securely left on shore for another concerned citizen to bring back to the mainland.  We couldn’t securely attach it to our kayaks and we dreaded the thought of us and the other bags spilling into the bay.

I thought I could at least get a good feeling by knowing that the person who picks up our redeemables each week could make some money.  He told me that all of these bottles are destined for the landfill because the barcodes which are printed on the plastic brand labels are gone.

The beverage companies must stop their practice of making the environment pay for their irresponsible profits.

We must stop giving these companies our hard earned money and our beautiful home.

NYC needs to lead the ban on single use plastic bags once and for all.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Drive Your Car Or Eat?

Global temperatures increasing steadily at their fastest rates in millions of years? Glaciers calving and collapsing into the sea?  The Atlantic Ocean lapping down the streets of Miami?  Extreme weather and massive flooding. Front page news everyday.

Declining soil health may be less dramatic, but it is equally impactful and even more far-reaching. Over time, erosion, pollution, losses in organic matter, and other climate change impacts on the soil will imperil a very basic human need.  Eating.

Founded and chaired by former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, The Climate Reality Project is dedicated to catalyzing a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society. https://www.climaterealityproject.org/sites/climaterealityproject.org/files/Soil%20Health%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf?utm_source=advocacy&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=general&utm_content=soil_health_ebook

One of the project authors, Chris Clayton, is the agriculture policy director of DTN/The Progressive Farmer and the author of The Elephant in the Cornfield: The Politics of Agriculture and Climate Change.  He examines the conflict in rural American farming communities over climate change.  “The idea that you could have millions of migrants moving all over the world because they can’t eat, and the disruption and instability created by that doesn’t get enough appreciation around the world.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council has the following guidelines:

1. MESS WITH IT LESS   No-till is a method of farming or gardening successfully while minimizing any physical disturbance of the soil.   Overworked, compacted soil is a hostile environment for important soil microbes.  Chemical or biological additives can damage long-term soil health, disrupting the natural relationship between microorganisms and plant roots.

2. DIVERSITY, DIVERSITY, DIVERSITY   Diversity creates a better, more productive environment for everything.  Different plants release different carbohydrates through their roots, and various microbes feed on these sugars, returning all sorts of different nutrients back to the plant and the soil.  Planting the same plants in the same location can lead to a buildup of some nutrients and a lack of others. By rotating crops, and deploying cover crops strategically, farms and gardens can be more productive and produce more nutrient rich crops, while avoiding erosion, disease and pest problems.

3. LEARN TO LOVE THE RHIZOSPHERE    Every living plant has a rhizosphere; the area near the root where microbial activity in the soil is concentrated.  It’s the most active part of any soil ecosystem.  Providing plenty of easily accessible food to soil microbes helps them supply nutrients that plants need to grow.  Alternating long-season crops or a succession of short-season crops followed by a cover crop and a healthy dose of fresh compost will build out a healthy and diverse rhizosphere environment for your plants.

4. COVER IT UP   Bare soil is bad soil.  It’s important to both allow crop residues to decompose so their nutrients can be cycled back into the soil and to keep the soil protected with cover, because left exposed to the elements, soil will erode and the nutrients necessary for successful plant growth will either dry out or quite literally wash away.  Additionally, the rhizosphere discussed above will starve and diminish without plants to feed it.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Agricultural and Biological Engineering , “Society gains from no-tillage systems on both large and small farms by:

  • much-diminished erosion and runoff
  • less downstream sedimentation and flood-damage to infrastructure
  • better recharge of groundwater, more regular stream-flow throughout the year, and the drying of wells and boreholes less frequent
  • healthier ponds and lakes with reduced phosphorous nitrates leaching into the water from flooding over fertilized fields
  • cleaner civic water supplies with reduced costs of treatment for urban/domestic use
  • increased stability of food supplies due to greater resilience of crops in the face of climatic drought
  • better nutrition and health of rural populations, with less call on curative health services.

After years of severe drought, the state of California, led by Governor Jerry Brown, has developed programs that place a financial incentive on the adoption of no-till techniques and healthy, soil practices.  Exposed, compacted, soil would have washed away during the intense rains California recently experienced.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

The Best Way To Rethink Waste

These are the Top Ten single use items collected, on one day, each fall, when volunteers around the world participate in the Ocean Conservancy’s Annual International Coastal Cleanup Day.  The next one is Saturday, September 16.
https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/international-coastal-cleanup/

According to the Ocean Conservancy, 275 metric tons of single use plastic waste becomes 100 metric tons of single use plastic waste on our coastlines and 8 metric tons of that single use plastic waste enters our oceans.  With 2 billion people living within 30 miles of our coastlines; we let 1 in 30 single use plastic items enter our world’s oceans.

When you stand in front of that “convenience” store refrigerator, before you reach for that beverage, take a moment to think about what you are actually looking at.

Try one day without buying any single use plastic.  Ask for your deli sandwich to be wrapped in paper and leave the plastic clamshell for the deli to deal with.  They bought it.  Choose a glass or aluminum container for your beverage or better yet, bring a reusable one with you.   If you do find yourself making bad choices or if you are not faster than that lightning-fast deli server, bring all of the trash home with you. Take responsibility for it. You bought it.

Observe the kind of waste you create, and think how you can change to reduce it.

Challenge yourself to reduce your waste each day.  Its really fun!  And you won’t believe how good it feels!

Follow and support the growing number of responsible institutions, states and governments who just stopped being crazy.

Vancouver Aquarium Bans Plastic Bottles

Until next time,

Garbage Girl