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


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:

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

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.”


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

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.

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

Corporate PR Is Immorally Wasting Our Valuable Time

Aquafina=PepsiCo Dasani=CocaCola Pure Life=Nestle because Poland Springs was a fraud

Definition of morality: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

Our Earth needs us to behave morally and do the right thing.

The Earth Crisis we have created will not go away by eliminating plastic water bottles one at a time.  BUT, that water bottle can get us to think about what is right.

1/4 Of Your Water Bottle May As Well Be Oil

These products are brought to us by the extractive oil industry.  They spend billions of PR dollars annually to convince us to pay them to drink water (we can get for free) from their containers that can only be used once.

Their product makes annoying crunchy noises when handled.

Their product is made of a material that mimics hormones; causing bodily changes when ingested.

Their product is ugly compared to every other container you can drink water from again and again.

Their product says the contents are “natural spring water”.  This is often not true at all, having come from   municipal sources. Would you pay $2.50 for 16 oz. of water from your kitchen tap?

Their product often contains flouride and other chemicals like Bisphenol A which is linked to obesity, diabetes and cancer.   Their product is not required to be tested as frequently or as closely, under Federal and State laws, as Municipal Tap water.  Their product is not required by law to list the ingredients found in their water on their labels.  Their product is not required to make public the results of all tests done on their product.

Their product wastes 100oz. of water for every 16oz. bottle they sell.

Their product has to get to you in boxes, wrapped in single use plastic film.  Their product contains 24 bottles in the cardboard case requiring you to buy all 24.  Their product is loaded on to trucks or planes using MORE oil for fuel, traveling many miles to get to your market.    At its retail destination, their product gets refrigerated — powered by fossil fuel derived energy — in beverage cases that are giant open rooms, with giant glass doors that are optimized for your easy access, not for containing the refrigerated air.

Worse: their company has no obligation to deal with all of this packaging.  Once the water has been purchased and consumed, it flows into the waste stream at no cost to the producer/originator of the waste.

If you do not dispose of their product correctly, it contaminates our water ecosystem, killing marine life up and down the food chain.  The 1 in 5 bottles of their product that get into a landfill will take 1000 years to break down.  Their product essentially never goes away.

This  process is being repeated more than 100 million times a day all over the world.

How You Can Help:

  • The moral thing to do: If we are to act as moral beings, their product would be so repulsive to us that we would not allow these corporations to produce it.
  • The immoral thing to do: Less than a minute of convenience for you = thousands of years of contamination for Mother Earth.

Until next week,

Garbage Girl



Google Maps Didn’t Waste an Earth Day Opportunity!


This Earth Day, explore our beautiful planet with Google Maps.   

The main page gives you a selection of extraordinary places to visit.  Click on one and take a virtual vacation that will remind you of the glorious place we call home and how important it is to keep it alive and healthy.

How You Can Help:

  • Make a pledge to do whatever you can to keep our planet bountiful.
  • Take climate change seriously.   Yes, this video will scare you. Gwynne Dyer brings it home.
  • Reduce consumption.  All products use extracted oil or gas to produce them, package them, ship them to the store or directly to you.
  • Do not buy anything plastic.  Especially single use plastic containers, bags and packaging. Have you ever noticed how much plastic is in a drug store?
  • Create a community around waste awareness. It is the obvious tip of the iceberg.  Clean air, land and water is a really good thing!


Do your best.

With love!

Until next week,

Garbage Girl