Archive for the 'environment' Category

Happy Earth Day! Take a stand with your money

Late last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release listing the 50 organizations that use the most electricity from green sources.

On Earth Day 2013, it’s appropriate to know who these companies are, and to ask: Why aren’t any Kentucky-based companies and universities on the list?

According to the EPA, here are the 10 companies that use the most annual kilowatt hours of green energy to power their operations:

1. Intel Corp.
2. Microsoft Corp.
3. Kohl’s Department Stores
4. Whole Foods Market
5. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
6. U.S. Department of Energy
7. Staples
8. Starbucks company-owned stores
9. Lockheed Martin Corp.
10. Apple Inc.

“We applaud the leadership demonstrated by organizations that are helping reduce carbon pollution and spur the growth of clean, American-made energy sources by increasing their use of renewable energy,” EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in the news release. “As President Obama has made clear, clean energy is critical to our health, our economy, our security, and our ability to effectively address climate change.”

FYI: EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.

Granted, the top 10 are all major corporations, or government agencies, with significant resources. Intel uses green power to cover 100 percent of its electricity load, according to the news release.  Apple, which is new to the top 50, now has 85 percent of its electricity used in the U.S. coming from green power.

But universities are scattered throughout the top 50. The University of Pennsylvania ranks 25th, and the University of Oklahoma is 34th.

On the list of top 20 universities, in addition to these two schools, fellow SEC member Tennessee ranks 10th.

To see all of the companies, universities and other rankings, go to EPA.gov/greenpower/toplists.

And then, use your buying power to tell companies, organizations and schools that green power matters to  you.

– Linda J.

 

Soon, you too will be able to make your own whatchamacallit right from your printer

I heard a story on NPR this morning about the falling price of 3-D printers and scanners and copyright issues.
Does anyone really think that Disney, et. al. won’t have an issue with people making their own plastic princess or Star Wars character?

I heard another version a week or so ago about the possibility of making a functioning gun with such a 3-D printer. The consensus was that at least at this point, no gun made in such a way would work.
The tack the companies making these printers and scanners take is how wonderful it would be for everyone to make their own version of things to save money or design them the way they want.
But nowhere have I heard anyone discuss the environmental side of this. First there’s the do-we-really-need-more-stuff issue, and then there’s the matter of of making your own whatever out of molten plastic.
Basically, with one of these printers, you scan the picture of the image you want to make, put it in the printer and it turns it into a 3-D image that is then laid down in hot plastic a few microns at a time.
In a few hours, ta da, you have your very own whatchamacallit, possibly for a fraction of the cost of going out and buying the real thing, which might or might  not be made of plastic.
And I’m guessing it’s not plant-based plastics steaming out of your $2,000 printer.
So there are likely to be chemicals steaming out and off-putting from your kid’s new toy.
The technology side of it is fascinating, I grant that. But really, do we need more plastic stuff?
– Linda J.

Welcome aboard, Mr. President

During the first four years of President Barack Obama’s presidency, he said very little about climate change, much to the dismay of most liberals.

While I’ve long known he accepts that climate change is real and based on science, taking this public step matters.

In three paragraphs about halfway through his second inaugural address Monday, he put it out there clearly and decisively.

Here’s the part of his speech Monday that dealt with climate change, thanks to the Washington Post for posting the transcript:

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.

We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet… .”

He has tied the need for addressing climate change to future generations much in the way others have tied their concern for the debt and deficits to future generations.

If one is good for the future, why not the other? Because truly, debts and deficits won’t matter much of we destroy the only planet we have upon which to live.

Welcome aboard, Mr. President.

– Linda J.

 

Now is the time to act in NY and NJ

OK, now that the election is over, can we please have an adult conversation about climate change?

Pretty please?

Climate change is real, it is not a hoax. The world is changing dramatically. Just ask folks in NY and NJ who never expected to have water in their homes, businesses and subways to the extent it happened. The water surged at the level it did because of rising sea levels.

Some are trying to get around the issue of how to deal with it by saying basically let’s not talk about why it happened, let’s just do something. But I don’t think that works.

As I tell my daughter, actions have consequences. They can be good consequences, or bad or somewhere in between. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Remember that from Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of motion in middle school science? How can you solve problems if you don’t know why something happened?

To President Barack Obama: congratulations on winning a second term. I was very pleased to hear you mention the climate in your speech (very) early this morning. It’s a start.

Now, it is time for you to take the lead on climate change,  something you failed to discuss during the campaign. I get it; you were being pilloried by the right for everything else, why give the climate deniers and Obama-haters one more sound bite?

But you have an opportunity, here, Mr. President. Hurricane Sandy’s overwhelming destruction should be used as an opening to re-make New York and New Jersey better, stronger and green. Use your powerful voice and speaking ability to rally the nation and use federal money to make it happen. If countries in Europe can put up gates to keep the water out, so can we.

And, please sir, don’t wait years like it’s taken in New Orleans. Grist.org published a story today about a Katrina-ravaged neighborhood that has been re-built into the largest solar project in Louisiana. That’s great, but Katrina hit in 2005.

Let’s not wait seven years to launch a new way forward in New York and New Jersey. Now is the time to act.

 

 

 

What to do with old pantyhose? Recycle them!

OK, ladies, listen up.

For those of you who haven’t found 20 other uses for old pantyhose, here’s an option that you might just like.

If you are like me, you have a drawer full of old hosiery, mismatched knee-hi stockings, and ruined tights that you’ll never wear again and the thought of dumping them into a landfill isn’t appealing.

Here’s how to get that drawer back and do something good for the environment along the way.

No Nonsense wants your old hosiery, any brand, size, type, condition you have.

They’ll ship it to a recycling company which will turn it into all sorts of things from park benches and playground equipment to carpet and toys, according to the company’s Web site.

Download a mailing label, ship them off, and be done with them.

Guess what I’m doing tonight?

– Linda J.

 

NYT op-ed nails it: Wolves matter in more ways than you might think

A New York Times op-ed on Sept. 28 lays out in very clear terms why wolves are an important and necessary part of our world and of their habitats and why the lifting of the endangered species protections could spell their doom in Wyoming.

And with a headline like this — ‘Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf’ — the piece, by author Mary Ellen Hannibal, should be the most-read online item this week.

It turns out, no surprise here, that wolves aren’t the worst of the food chain, valued only for their hides. They are an integral part of maintaining the ecosystem.

Since wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s (they were wiped out in the early part of the 20th century), “scientists have noted an unexpected improvement in many of the park’s degraded stream areas.”

Animals behave differently when wolves are around, and that helps the vegetation and waterways. With predators around, for example, elk don’t have time to browse vegetation down to the ground, so the plants can reproduce, and the vegetation in turn stabilizes stream banks.

This is a good line: “The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver.”

That sounds fun, but it’s very serious.

The extinction of top predators, like the endangered wolf, will have repercussions far beyond the loss of one species. Their place in the planet’s ecosystem matters.

– Linda J.

 

The story of a dog, a dead rabbit and a plastic bag

We did a little science experiment in our yard, unexpectedly, thanks to the laws of nature and survival of the fittest a while back that we came across last week.

A little background:

About a year ago, our aging dog managed to kill a rabbit and eat about half of it before my husband called her off it.

He brought her in the house, where she promptly threw up, right in front of the fridge and my daughter.

As she stood over the steaming pile of blood, bone and guts exclaiming “eeeww” repeatedly, my husband swore, then cleaned up the mess and buried the remains (including the part the dog didn’t eat that was still in the back yard) in a plastic grocery bag behind our shed. He marked the spot so we would know where it was.

Fast-forward a year.

While digging a new compost area last week, he dug up the bag that had contained the remains of the rabbit. Guess what?

The rabbit was gone, completely decomposed and turned to dust.

And the bag?

Completely intact. And I mean completely intact. It had decayed not one little bit.

So please, ponder that the next time you’re in the grocery store or anywhere else they are likely to give you a plastic bag. That bag, which took chemicals to create, will be around for a very, very long time.

– Linda J.

 

New monitoring efforts to track water quality improvements in KY and 11 other states

A task force of federal and state officials announced Wednesday two new efforts to monitor water quality through reductions in nutrients in Kentucky and 11 other states flowing from farms and other sources into local waterways that reach the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient (Hypoxia) Task Force, which began in 1997, set up the Mississippi River Monitoring Collaborative to analyze data from the states to see which conservation practices are working and where “new strategies” are needed, according to a news release.

The monitoring efforts will specifically track nitrogen and phosphorus throughout the watershed, according to the release.

Nutrient runoff from agricultural, urban and industrial sources has polluted waterways for decades and contributed to a hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico – an area of low oxygen that is largely uninhabitable by fish and other marine life, the release said.

The Task Force consists of five federal agencies, 12 states and the tribes within the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin.  For more information, visit http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/named/msbasin/index.cfm

 

Leave the believing for faith and religion, not science

Do you “believe” in the science that led to the cure for polio?

How about modern medical treatments of everything from acne to zoster (shingles)?

Do you “believe” in the science behind the technology that created the World Wide Web , and the computer, iPhone, iPad, Android, or whatever you are using to read this?

Do you “believe” in the science that led us to drive cars vs. horse carriages, to cross the country or the world in an airplane, or the science behind the development of heating and air conditioning?

If you “believe” in these things, how can you not “believe” in climate change?

And why would you need to “believe” in technology or medical breakthroughs or humans traveling to the moon?

Belief is for things that facts, study and science can’t explain: say, religions.

Belief as explained by Webster’s New World College Dictionary: “1 the state of believing; conviction or acceptance that certain things are true or real 2 faith, esp religious faith 3 trust or confidence 4 anything believed or accepted as true; esp. , a creed, doctrine or tenet 5 an opinion; expectation; judgment.”

Science, by Webster’s (online): “1 the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding 2 a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study <the science of theology> b : something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge <have it down to a science>3 a : knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method b : such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : natural science 4: a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws <cooking is both a science and an art>”

Need more?

Climate Change 101

Nearly 100 peer-reviewed papers

NASA’s Climate Change: Evidence

State of the Climate Report 2011

Note the peer-reviewed links. That’s important, they are annotated and documented, i.e., not made up.

I would be happy to read any current (within the last three years) peer-reviewed study or studies documenting how climate change is not happening to support the climate-change deniers’ “belief”. Any takers?

– Linda J.

Appeals court focuses on facts, science

What a good idea.

A court, and a high court at that, ruled Tuesday in favor of facts, science and reality.

I knew they could do it!

The subject is, of course, the EPA ruling on greenhouse gases that came down Tuesday afternoon.

I especially loved the quote cited by the Associated Press and McClatchy writer Renee Schoof:  “It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of ‘syntheses’ of individual studies and research,” the court said. “Even individual studies and research papers often synthesize past work in an area and then build upon it. This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.” (The bold is my doing)

That is just beautiful.

– Linda J.

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