Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fuel of The Future

Hydrogen Fuel/Power

Friday, December 11, 2009

Green Roofs

Many people may be wondering "what is a green roof?" Basically green roofs which have also been referred to as “eco-roofs” are rooftop gardens or parks or meadows. These roofs carry a host of environmental and economic benefits. By using soil and plants on rooftops instead of hard, impenetrable roofing materials city governments, developers and/or individual homeowners can reduce air pollution, reduce rain water runoff, add insulation to a building, help reduce global warming by capturing carbon dioxide, create new habitat for birds and double or even triple the life of a roof. Many cities are offering incentives to encourage homeowners, developers and local businesses to install green roofs on new and existing buildings.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also known as the EPA encourages the creation of green roofs for solving the urban "heat island effect" whereby temperatures in crowded cities can soar some 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in less developed areas nearby. The green roof works by the cool roof reflecting and emitting the sun’s heat and rays back to the sky.

When it comes to outlasting traditional roofs, green roofs surpass them in lifespan. Metal roofs which are known to be relatively maintenance free and last longer than shingles don't even compare. Slate roofs also have an excellent reputation for lasting long, although getting work done on them can be expensive when they do need repairs. The Slate Roofing Contractors Association states that sea green slates can last anywhere from one to two centuries, depending on where the slate is obtained and how well it is installed.

I find that there are many benefits to a green roof. The idea of it is very simple and it does save you money in the long run also by not having to spend as much to maintain a roof. The green roof also provides many benefits, and people who have it would probably never even realize that. To me a green roof should definitely be considered by all.

Lithium Power

The Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia is the world's largest salt flat, the salts their contain large amounts of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and lithium. Lithium is a soft alkali metal and when put in its carbonate form it is a power source which can be used to power electric cars and plug in hybrids. Bolivia has nearly 35% of the world's lithium resources, and with the increase in the amount of the electric vehicles, this could lead to great things for South-America poorest country. As we have found out there is a coming of peak oil production and we will no longer be able to fuel our growing need for petroleum. We must find another source of energy and it could use Lithium powered batteries. There is enough lithium in the Salar de Uyuni for almost 4.8 billion electric cars. Another good thing is that lithium is recyclable, so we will be able to use then reuse over and over again.

Many believe that bolivia and other lithium producers could turn into a cartel like OPEC, by artificially inflating prices, blackmailing the rest of the world. But the thing is lithium is inexpensive and even if it did become expense new sources could be found via exploration. This is not the case with oil we have already found the vast majority of the sources. Also as we improve the technology of lithium recycling of it will also become better.

While there are many things that could go wrong with a dependence on lithium, we would be better off then our current situation with oil. It only takes a few pounds of lithium to make a battery that lasts for years, with oil you need to refuel with many gallons at least 2 times a week depending on the amount of driving you do. Lithium is another promising alternative and the sooner we cut or dependence from foreign oil the better off we will be as people, and a planet.

Is The Sky The Limit For Wind Power? High-Flying Kites Could Light Up New York

A new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution and California State University identifies New York as a prime location for exploiting high-altitude winds, which globally contain enough energy to meet world demand 100 times over. The researchers found that the regions best suited for harvesting this energy match with population centers in the eastern U.S. and East Asia, but fluctuating wind strength still presents a challenge for exploiting this energy source on a large scale.

Using 28 years of data from the National Center for Environmental Prediction and the Department of Energy, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology and Cristina Archer of California State University, Chico, compiled the first-ever global survey of wind energy available at high altitudes in the atmosphere. The researchers assessed potential for wind power in terms of "wind power density," which takes into account both wind speed and air density at different altitudes.

This would be a great way to produce alot of energy if we can get this working soon. Wind energy right now is very environmentaly friendly but it does not produce alot of energy. With this it would fix the problem that wind energy is missing right now which is to produce enough energy. With results that would light New York i feel that this is a very good way to produce energy and i hope we get on this project soon.

Ethanol and Water

A recent article has found that farmers in the Northern plains are using much more water to produce a gallon of ethanol than farmers in other parts of the country. This comes from a study about whether or not an increased use in bio fuels could drain the nations water supply. Ethanol industry advocates report that the study offer little new insight consider that a majority of the ethanol is made with rain-fed corn.
The study showed that farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas use 323.6 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol from corn, with only 3 gallons used for irrigation. That's nearly 20 to 30 times the amount of water used by the nations other two main corn producing regions. In Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri they use about 10 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol, while the other region containing Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan uses almost 17 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol.
The demand for water is increasing in various sectors, it places more and more stress on our already dwindling supplies. We are wasting a valuable commodity on a fuel that is only causing more problems for our environment than we can handle at this moment. Vice president of research for the renewable fuels association said " it's disingenuous to suggest increased ethanol production is somehow driving irrigated corn acreage. He quoted a National Renewable Energy Laboratory article that said 96 percent of corn used for ethanol production is not irrigated." The VP also noted that new technologies are being used to develop more resistant seed that require less water and are drought tolerant.
I believe we are only wasting more resources and time on a technology that isn't holding it weight. Biofuels such as ethanol use much more time and energy to produce then they give off. We are only digging ourselves into a deeper hole, other energy sources are much more efficient and plentiful such as electric. But many people in positions of power are making way too much money on the production and consumption of corn derived products.
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Climate Conference

Today the United Nations climate conference called for the world’s greenhouse gas emissions to be cut in half in the next 40 years. This would be amazing if we could actually make it happen. Today 40 years seems far away but in reality it is a very short time in which to make such a dramatic reduction. This reduction would require developed countries and especially the United States to work together and devise a plan to bring our greenhouse gas emissions down. To do so we would have to cut our emissions by about 13% a decade this is fairly substantial. Developed nations would also have to work with developing nations and try to help them curb their desire to consume more energy and therefore emit more greenhouse gasses. We as a world would have to put aside our conflicts and work together. The United States would have to get over its fear of losing to China, and other developing nations. That is the only way that this lofty goal will be possible.

Solar Tower Energy

While searching for alternative forms of energy I came across a very interesting video on You Tube, which showed a Solar energy tower in Australia that should be up and running in the year 2012. The tower combines the power of solar energy and convection to form an efficient and powerful energy source.
Technically it is known as a solar updraft tower and it is a proposed renewable energy power plant. The tower combines three proven technologies of the chimney effect, the greenhouse effect, and the wind turbine. In the solar updraft tower air is heated by the sun in large greenhouse structures that surrounds the base of the tower, which is basically a very large chimney. As convection occurs it causes concentrated airflow to rise up the the updraft tower. The resulting airflow from greenhouse to the updraft tower drives powerful turbines which produce electricity.
The solar updraft towers ability to generate power depends on two things, the size of the collector area and the height of the tower. One downfall of the tower is that is requires very large amounts of land for the collecting areas, if they want to produce comparative energy amounts to modern power plants. Therefore solar tower construction would mostly be in hot areas, with a low value such as deserts. Another disadvantage of the solar tower is that it has a much lower energy conversion efficiency than other solar energy concentrating power plants.
Even though these towers are expensive they do not leave a footprint on the environment, and the only fuel they require is the sun of which there is much abundance. I think that we should install a solar tower in the U.S. so we could be able to see the costs and benefits first hand of this innovative technology.

Oxidation and Remediation

As I was researching climate change, I came across an interesting website called Intellishare Environmental. Their web page can be found at, Intellishare Environmental is dedicated to engineering and manufacturing of oxidation technology for the environmental remediation industry. Intellishare is the leading manufacturer of thermal and oxidative technologies which aid in soil and groundwater remediation, violitale organic compounds, hazadrous air polluntants, odor abatement.
This company is at the forefront in the battle against climate change. They use the process of oxidation where they take harmful compounds and break them down into carbon dioxide and water vapor. Intellishare also uses thermal oxidation, which is process where extreme temperatures heat the containminated air, causing it to break into CO2 and water vapor. A third was in which Intellishare remediates the environment is by Catalytic oxidation. During this process hydrocarbons are combined with oxygen at certain temperatures, between 400 and 800 degrees farenheit, this process yield the same nonvolitale byproducts of CO2 and water vapor. With catalytic oxidation a catalyst is used as the name suggest, to accelrate the rate of a chemical reaction without consuming itself. The catalyst allows for the oxidation process to occur at a much lower temperature than that of thermal oxidation, and also has lower operating cost, because it requires less energy.
I think it should be mandatory for all companies that release harmful containments into the atmosphere, to install some variation of the Intellishare products. It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a large amounts and make our planet a cleaner and healthy place to live.

Ways to Reduce Global Warming

Throughout the year we discussed many things that have been occurring on the planet. One of the most significant is global warming. I read an article recently about how we can reduce this problem.
Something that we many of us do already, recycle can contribute to a lot of the pollution we see as-well as reuse the materials we recycle.
During the summer and winter months we use all forms or electronics to either heat our homes or cool them down. This is huge being that we use an abundant amount of energy t heat our homes. If we can chalk our doors and windows to prevent heat loss and reduce heat use when we don't need it as much such as when we go to work or at night we can solve this problem.
If we can use more energy efficient products such as light bulbs or more energy efficient cars we can get rid of old products that are consuming more energy than we can prevent from being used.
The article also mentioned planting trees. Due to an increase in the demand for crops and other resources many forests are being demolished and although we will not be able to replant all the trees that have been torn down we can still make a contribution to replant one.
But the biggest way to reducing global warming to me, and to the article was to encourage other people to contribute to doing these small things like changing your light bulb, using less heat. Too many people don't think they need to do anything because they feel enough people around them are contributing enough as it is. In reality if everyone we to help out it would make these global affects less significant and i feel it is important to encourage people around you to be smart and more energy efficient.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crude Oil Spill

On November 29th ice build up was blamed for an oil spill in the Alaska which lead to 1,095 barrels or 46,000 gallons of crude oil to spill onto the tundra.
This is one of the worst oil spills since March 2006 when 200,000 gallons of crude oil were spilt. We talk about how oil is in such high demand and that we consume and consume without thinking their is an end. But with the way things are in our society and with this as a small example that the oil we use in our society today is being consumed at such a high rate and with mishaps like this can be gone sooner than we think. If more things like this were to happen and oil were to diminishing from our economy i really do not think people would know what to do let alone have a back up plan. Alaska is one of the largest oil reserves we have left in the US and without it we would become more and more dependent on imported oil. This spill is somewhat minor is seems to BP's Prudhoe Bay but is something to keep in mind with the way our economy has become and our dependance on oil.

Climate Change is REAL act now

Whether we like it or not climate change is a real process, and this is the first time in our history, where our everyday activities have a drastic effect on our planet. " EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. "Our commerce and trade, our population growth and our social behavior are having profound effects on our environment." The troubling thing is that we have only started to realize now what we are doing after we have caused 100's of years of destruction. Jackson spoke at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen on the third day. The conference is trying to address the problems of global warming by creating an international binding treaty to control greenhouse gas emissions that are believed to raise Earth's temperature.
President Obama will also be speaking at the conference and is scheduled to speak on the 18th of December. Since taking the job of President Obama has been a advocate for positive change, and many believe the climate conference is a steppingstone to a full accord in 2010. The presidents decision to be apart of the conference is a sign of his commitent and leadership to find a solution to the global threat of climate change. This will lead to a new era with a sustainable and prosperous clean energy future for our planet.
The new climate accord will take the place of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emission by an average of 5% by 2012. Nations like the United States, Japan, China, and India where at the center of the talks considering they are widely regarded as the main contributors to global warming. President Obama is prepared to set the U.S. target emissions reduction of 17% by 2020 and has his sights set for a 83% reduction by 2050.
On December 7th the EPA made a statement that greenhouse gas emissions pose a grave danger to the environment and human health. The Obama administration has also established new energy standard for commercial and residential products and strict fuel standards for cars and light trucks. The administration is also starting to promote offshore energy projects such as wind energy and the government has proposed new vehicle standards which require 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Starting in January the government will be tracking 85% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which is seen as the first move toward greenhouse gas reduction.
The government is starting to take many promising steps to reduce climate change and turn it in the opposite direction. We are developing new technology and energy efficent ways to get things done without the greenhouse gas emissions. This is only a start and much more will need to be done for a clean energy future.

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Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are toxic pollutants that cause a plethora of health problems. Recently, there have been traces of PCBs found amidst the snow atop the Andes Mountains. An article titled Snow at Highest Elevations No Longer Pure discusses the findings of scientists who have been testing the snow from the highest peak in the Americas. "PCBs are man-made organic chemicals that contain chlorine atoms, and are part of a larger group of compounds known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. Before being banned in the United States in 1979 (and around the world in 2001), these chemicals were found in a variety of products, including electrical equipment, paints, plastics and carbonless copy paper, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)" When testing the snow atop the Aconcagua Mountain in South America, they also found low concentrations of these PCBs. "However, it's interesting to see this contaminant in the Southern Hemisphere at all, said Ricardo Barra of the University of Concepcion in Chile, because most PCB use was in the Northern Hemisphere."
In our BIO230 class, we discussed the significance of the Northern Hemisphere. Because there is more land, there is more activity, meaning more emissions of chemicals into the air. This is why the finding of PCBs in the Southern Hemisphere is so peculiar. In the article, they state that climate change could potentially spread these pollutants. "The shrinking of the glaciers could lead to the pollutants stored in the glacier snow being carried down with the meltwater... Since the meltwater is used for agriculture and drinking, contaminants in the water could pose a health risk."

Plastic Bottles...Not So Good To Reuse Afterall

Over and over again we hear about the importance of not putting things to waste which is why every so often you may see people refilling and reusing plastic bottles. With all this talk of recycling and not throwing anything away that can be reused, we may think that reusing bottles is a great idea. The reality is that it's not. In fact it can even cause many health problems to unsuspecting consumers assuming they're doing a good thing.

Studies have shown that drinks stored in such certain water bottles can contain a trace amount of Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, a synthetic chemical that interferes with the body’s natural hormonal messaging system. With the repeated re-use of such bottles due to wear and tear and excessive washing chemicals can increasingly leak out of the tiny cracks in the bottles that have developed over excessive use. According to Environment California Research and Policy Center BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels. Not only that but due to BPA being found in most bottles and sippy cups, it can also get into and affect a child's system. In small dosages BPA has no harmful immediate effect on the body but the real concern is the long term effects due to eventual accumulation.

This is in no way trying to tell anyone to not try to find a way to recycle. The idea or finding a reuseable bottle is a resourceful and inexpensive thing to do. The important thing it to look at what the water bottle material is made of. If made out of polyethylene terephthalate, which is commonly referred to plastic #1 on bottles, it is only safe for one time use. Studies show that it may leak DEHP, a human carcinogen, harmful to anyone. Another bad bottle material is polyvinyl chloride/PVC, also referred to as plastic #3. This material can leak hormone disrupting chemicals into the liquid contents of bottles they are storing and will release synthetic carcinogens into the environment when incinerated. Polystyrene/PS, also referred to as plastic #6 has been shown to leak human carcinogen, styrene, into food and drinks as well. With this list of "bad" bottles one might thing what are the good bottles to drink from. Safer options are to look for plastics bottles made from materials such as high-density polyethylene, HDPE, known as plastic #2, low-density polyethylene ,LDPE, known as plastic #4 or polypropylene, PP, known as plastic #5. The best choice is an aluminum bottle, which can be found at most health food stores, and can even be recycled when done with.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Reasonable Life

After reading the exerts from “A Reasonable Life” by Ferenc Mate, I was thinking about the point he makes about people in our society today always wanting more and very infrequently being happy with what we have. I think that this is a very strong point and I think that this is one of the reasons we have come to face the environmental crisis we are facing today. For example we work for years to save up to buy our first house then when we get it and we make improvements and then we might decide we need something we consider better so we buy a bigger and better house and then when we get older the house is too big so we might sell it and buy a smaller house. We go through the same cycle with almost everything we buy. Most of the time we strive for a newer car, or a better cell phone, a bigger TV, newer furniture, the latest fashions, or a faster computer. Never are we truly satisfied with what we have, we continually want more.

This time of year is one of the best examples of this. We buy gifts for people that we hope they like but rarely are they gifts that they truly need. A few Christmases ago my brother got me socks, a more boring unexciting gift I could not think of, however, I used those socks all the time unlike most other gifts I received. We as a society have this idea that new shiny gifts are better, yet these are just contributing to the environmental problems we are facing today. Each year my parents give me gifts that I rarely use, some of these gifts I actually asked for. I have a guitar that sits in the case, clothes that fill my closets, books that overflow the bookshelf. All of these I wanted and I like, but I do not need them and in reality I rarely use them. It is sad to think about how much is wasted because we always feel we need newer and “better” things. One example is when the iPod first came out I got one and I loved it and used it all the time. When the newer smaller one came out I needed that one because it was smaller and easier to carry while I was running. So I got one and replaced my old one, never mind that it worked just fine. The same goes for almost everything I use and I’m sure many people can relate because most of the time the newer models always seem a little better than the previous.

I am unconvinced that this cycle is completely our fault, mostly but not totally. The media and society plays an important role. We always see advertisements telling us that in fact this product is better and suggesting that we run out and buy it. As a society we tend to admire and respect people who have the things that we strive for. Which in a way makes us strive for them more so we can be the people being admired and respected, but this is just a circle because most of the time when we gain these things something newer is already in style and then the cycle continues indefinitely. This is a cycle that needs to be stopped. One way to do this I think is to look to our grandparents for an example. My grandfather never throws anything out. He uses tools that he has had his whole life. Every spring he fixes his ancient lawnmower. Most of his clothes are older than I am. Before I used to kind of get annoyed and my dad still does when he refused to buy a new tool that we assured him would make his life easier, and my dad was furious when he bought him a new lawnmower that he told my dad to take back because his still worked just fine. Now however I think there is a whole lot of wisdom behind this, and besides my grandfather is the happiest person I know and he truly doesn’t need anything.

E.P.A. Issues Final Ruling on Greenhouse Gas

On Monday, The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed what most have already suspected: greenhouse gases pose a danger to both human health and the environment. This ruling coincides with the Copenhagen Conference, thereby providing environmentalists with more ammunition. According to the NY Times' John M. Broder, the ruling will "[pave] the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, power plants, factories, refineries and other major sources." It's strange to think that the E.P.A. has just now officially declared its stance on greenhouse; it seems like something that should have been done long ago. In 2007, the Supreme Court finally ordered the agency "to weigh whether carbon dioxide and five other climate-altering gases threatened human health and welfare and, if so, to take steps to regulate them."

As you might expect, industry groups, primarily those of the auto-making industry, were quick to criticize and belittle the E.P.A.'s announcement. These groups condemned the ruling for the potential harm it may do to the economy. They fear it will lead to future legislation enforcing stricter regulation of emissions. Several Republican Congressman sought a delay in the announcement of the findings. The head of the E.P.A., Lisa P. Jackson, rejected their request, declaring the "overwhelming amounts of scientific study show that the threat is real.”

The author of the article ( speculates that the E.P.A. may use this finding as an opportunity to apply some pressure to Congress, in order to spur action. While the White House prefers such action to be done through the legislative process, the E.P.A. will use its authority, if necessary, to limit harmful emissions.

The agency can expect some interest groups to file lawsuits with the hope of at least delaying any actions. The National Association of Manufacturer's Vice President, Keith McCoy, attacked the finding, invoking possible economic woes as a result of it. He says the decision will "put additional burdens on manufacturers", and that “It is doubtful that the endangerment finding will achieve its stated goal, but it is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy.”

There is certainly a possibility that the E.P.A.'s findings, and any subsequent regulations, will have negative economic consequences; America's floundering economy may face some further suffering. We should not forsake the long-term well-being of our environment merely so that we may alleviate a little pressure on the economy, however. The economy will always have its ups and downs; some years will be good, and some will be bad. If we continue to ignore the damage we are doing to the environment, however, we will eventually reach a point of no return. We need cooperation from every branch of the government, as well as agencies like the E.P.A., in order to find a way to reverse this destructive cycle. It's time we started taking responsibility for our effect on the environment. We are aware of the damage we can cause, and now we must take action to lessen, if not stop, it.

Unleashing The Power In Beer

Wolfgang Bengel, the technical director at German biomass company BMP Biomasse Projekt, saw a business opportunity in solving the breweries’ grain waste headache. He reasoned that the leftover grain could be used to create steam and biogas, which would provide energy for the breweries, cheapening their energy costs as well as their costs of transporting grain to farms.

Bengel has successfully treated the residue from rice and sugar cane in boilers with atmospheric fluidized bed combustion systems, to produce energy in China and Thailand, and Bengel thought a similar process could be developed for the breweries’ spent wet grain. Water would first have to be removed from the wet spent grain, the grain would have to be dried and then burned to produce energy. “Beer making is energy intensive – you boil stuff, use hot water and steam and then use electric energy for cooling – so if you recover more than 50 percent of your own energy costs from the spent grain that’s a big saving,” says Bengel.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Power Of Compassion

This blog is in part a response to the video of Daniel Goleman and his thoughts on compassion

We humans unlike any other species on this planet are equipped with the tools needed to exhibit great acts of compassion. Everything from the wiring in our brains to the genes encoded by our DNA all at some level help us not only connect more with other people but demonstrate great acts of sympathy, kindness and compassion. In our brains for example we have the recently discovered neural-circuits known as mirror neurons, which fire when we see other people performing a particular task such as running or kicking a ball or even when we see other people experiencing any specific kind of physical pain such as getting hit in the head or stubbing a toe. These neurons not only fire when we see other people performing a task or experiencing pain but also fire when we ourselves perform the same task or experience the same physical pain, meaning to these neurons there is no real difference between seeing someone do something and you doing it yourself. More importantly there is no real difference between someone else’s pain or suffering and that of your own.

Yet another example is in child development and how it is only at a certain age or stage of development that children are able to see themselves through someone else’s eyes, or understand that what they see or know may not be what some else’s can see and vice versa, thus truly placing themselves in someone else’s shoes. This ability sets the foundation for greater communication, connection and understanding and occurs very early in child development. I believe the most profound example would be in our DNA where we actually have genes that encode for altruistic behaviors, behaviors that drive complete strangers to risk their lives for one another such as in the known cases of people jumping in front of a bus to save a baby or carrying a stranger with them out of a burning building. These tools for compassion are very powerful and do have the potential to help us do great things when it comes to the way we treat other people or our surrounding environment however they are only a set among many tools we as humans have to unsure our survival, meaning it is not the only voice in our heads so to speak and it does not have the final say when it comes to our actual behavior.

Although compassion is deep rooted in our biology, constantly urging us to show empathy and be compassionate we humans can suppress that urge just in the same way we can suppress many other biological urges or sensations like pain, hunger, sleep, and even the urge to use the bathroom. However unlike other biological urges there are no real physically harmful consequences for suppressing your urge for compassion, are at least not in the same way that suppressing your urge for hunger will cause you bodily harm and even death if done for too long. Therefore there is really no limit to how long or how often you can suppress the urge for compassion where as not giving in to hunger can lead to death and ignoring the urge to urinate can only be done for so longer before the body takes back control and gives in, compassion has no real physical tides to the body and thus no way to enforce itself. This is why compassion has become so easily ignored in today’s society. We are so easily distracted by our fast placed culture with our almost endless assortments of toys and gadgets, advanced technologies, high work expectations, extreme levels of stress and anxiety and very little free time, that we forget to act on and even sometimes fail to notice that the moments where caring or compassion is needed.

As in the video where Daniel Goleman talks about getting on the train and seeing everyone walking right pass a man laying on the side of the steps in obvious pain failing to notice that something is wrong. Well that’s us right now we are all just going about our day failing to notice that our planet is in pain and in need of some serious help because we are too busy with all the distractions taking away our attention. In the video all it took was one man, Daniel Goleman to notice and take action not only helping the poor man but getting other people to realize that there was in fact and problem and the man did in fact need help. After that the man got the help he needed and was back on his feet within a matter of minutes, showing that all the people previously walking over the man were not bad people without compassion just distracted and once the distraction was gone all that was need was to give in and yet the urge of compassion take over and do what is has been trained for millions of year of evolution to do –give aid to a person in need. Just as the people in the story did this for a man on the side of a subway staircase we can do it not only for the people we encounter on the street but for the planet as a whole because it too can be seen as a person and it too is in desperate need of help.

This is why when it comes to the many problems we are facing with the environment I like Daniel Goleman am optimistic because if there is any species on the planet that can save the planet my guess would be on the one best able to show compassion and we humans are that species. Once our eyes are open and we become fully aware of the problem there is no limit to the things we can do and with all the tools needed to exhibit great acts of compassion already at our disposable we won’t need to go any further then look into our own hearts for guidance. Our instincts have already been there all this time telling us what we should do all we have to do now is listen and give in to the urge that we have been suppressing for so long. Even a small child knows when someone needs help (picture below) the only difference between that small child and we adults is that we are just not paying enough attention.

Recycle Your Cell Phones

With newer models emerging everyday people are always on the race to get the hottest model on the market, replacing their phones every 18 to 24 months. In the case of cell phone what that means is new cell phone in, old cell phone out. The question is what happens to that out cell phone after you get that upgrade? Maybe they get donated or maybe they end up in a landfill somewhere, left to pollute the Earth with hazardous materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and arsenic, and in the end amounting close to about 65,000 tons of waste . The truth of the matter is, a consumer who upgrades their phone doesn't really know, so the best thing they can do is to take the matter into their own hands: recycle their own cell phone.

Luckily their are alternatives to having this happen. Americans can either have their phones recycles by an electronics recycling company or donate them to a non profit organization that allows poorer citizens to be able to have cell phones. Call2Recycle is a non profit organization that allows consumers and retailers to find drop box in their area where they can recycle their old cell phones. Many people are taking part in this including major electronics retailers, such as Radio Shack and Office Depot. Call2Recycle recovers the phones and sells them back to manufacturers, which either refurbish and resell them or recycle their parts for use in making new products. Another organization called the Collective Goods organization takes donated cell phones, refurbishes them and then re-sells them to distributors for use primarily in developing countries to afford communication for poorer citizens. Another organization, ReCellular, works along with major cell phone companies such as Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, tries to get their customers to change their attitudes about recycling to a point where it's just a natural thought.

In my opinion I think that these organizations are doing a great thing. Cell phones are thing that are constantly getting updated and older models basically have no use. The organizations are putting them to use instead of having them take up space in land fills where they could be potentially dangerous. I like the idea of refurbishing them and distributing them to less fortunate people in countries unable to afford communication means that the US has. It shows that we are able to make use of these old cell phones and give them to some one who can use them. We're not just trying to make money off of them, it's going somewhere for a good cause. I also like that by doing that, they're building a communication bridge between the people of different societies.

There are many things out there that we throw away that can be put to good use. This made me realize all the things that can be recycles, such as old TV's, movies, books, furniture, all of which are good use to others yet we just throw them away. I'm sure if people just look into ways to recycle them, just as we do with salvation army and goodwill, we can find ways to donate items of great value to others. "One person's trash is another person's treasure." I never realized how true that quote was and with the help of people we can provide people with their "treasure."

New Way to Get Electricity from Natural Gas

MIT researchers could provide electricity with zero carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere with a new type of natural-gas electric power plant. The costs of this natural-gas electric power plant will comparable to or even less to that of natural-gas plants and coal-burning plants meaning it's even cheaper and better on the planet. The U.S. Congress and other governments are considering this as a way to bring about a change or slow the progression of climate change. The way the system works is that, without requiring any new technology just a combination process of old, existing ones, a proposed system is that it uses solid oxide fuel cells and produce power from fuel without burning it. This system runs on natural gas, saving an equivalent of half to one-third the emissions from coal plants a year. There is hope to be some sort of carbon pricing, which attempts to take into account the true price exacted on the environment by greenhouse gas emissions. The natural-gas electric power plant is quite possibly the lowest. The market for the best, lowest system will be a competitive market, which would be a great thing. Although haven't being built yet, small prototypes are on the way and they show initiative on the progress of at least future thinking on how to save the environment. Its an idea to consider, well thought out and a foot in the right direction.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Man Who Planted Trees

Today in class we saw a narrative true story video called "The Man Who Planted Trees" written by Jean Giono. The story is a bout a man who's been walking for a while until he come upon an empty treeless valley where there is no trace of any kind of civilization except for the remains of old buildings of small towns that eventually died off due to the harsh environment, resulting in the bitterness of the people to only want to help themselves even at the cost of everything else around them. The narrator is thirsty but has no water until he is saved by Shepherd who takes him to a well feeding his thirst. The Shepherd houses the unknown man and at night the man watches as the Shepherd carefully selects perfect acorns and bags them up not stating what they are for. The next day the man follows the Shepherd and realizes that he is planting the acorns to grow trees in the barren land, which was dieing in need of trees and that the Shepherd felt he needed to solve that problem. The Shepherd knows that not all his seeds will grow, only a portion, but he hopes to grow so much that his efforts now would only seem like a drop in the ocean. The man leaves but every year continues to visit the Shepherd, now turned Bee Keeper, who continues to plant and tend to his trees. The few seeds planted everyday have eventually turned into a beautiful forest that no one is sure how it came about but environmentalist place a governmental protection act over it, hoping to protect its marvel and beauty.

This story shows something that we've been talking about throughout the entire semester, which is that every single has person has the potential to bring about change. In the story the Shepherd single handedly created a forest to save the land. He shows that if one person has an idea on how they can do their part to protect or save the environment, all they need to do is take action. No deed is useless. One person is able to make a change. Most of the time that is not the mentality people have. The believe that change can only happen if everyone does it and if that's not the case then what's the point. The point is that one person is better than none. One person trying to make a difference is one less person killing the environment. Not only is that the case but also one person doing his or her part also bring inspiration. By being headstrong and doing what you feel is right and doing your part to save the environment, others notice and reciprocate and do the same. They are inspired by seeing that if one person can try to make a difference, then why can't I? Why can't I be apart of the change for the better? The answer is that anyone can be apart of the better. Just take the iniative and do your part to save the world.

The Hempire

I stumbled upon a youtube video the other day presenting a brand new sports car - the Lotus Eco Elise. At first glance, I found it to be extremely attractive. The shape, color, and overall style of the vehicle really captured my attention. When investigating further, I found an article from which stated, "the Brits tried a holistic approach to ecology by using sustainable materials, cleaner manufacturing processes, renewable energy generation and of course, by reducing the car’s weight." Hemp (industrial cannabis) is used to make the car's body, spoiler, and seats, which makes it extremely durable. As a person who is pro-legalization, I was so happy to find this, a perfect example to show the plant's multiple uses. "As for renewable energy generation, the Eco Elise’s hemp hard top incorporates a set of solar panels that provide power for the car’s electrical systems." These environmentally friendly changes help save 70 pounds from the weight of the car. Wow...could this car get any better?
The youtube video called Building With Hemp shows how using hemp in construction projects is extremely energy efficient. It eliminates carbon emissions that would have been used with traditional materials and also saves money and energy as the building would not have to use any heating method whatsoever...hemp provides natural insallation!
These new methods for reducing our carbon footprint by using hemp is radically efficient as well as beneficial. I hope these kinds of changes are adopted by the U.S. in the near future.

Good Guide Making Headlines

If our new acquaintance needed some exposure to grab the masses attention, it certainly succeeded this past weekend. The San Francisco-based group made a splash recently for it's allegation that the popular kids' toys known as Zhu Zhu Pets contain "higher-than-allowed levels of the chemical antimony", according to Yahoo! ( This story is huge due to the outrageous adoration of the toy hamsters. Zhu Zhu Pets have reached the feverish Christmas-time popularity of toys such as Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids.

On Good Guide's 10 point scale, Zhu Zhu Pets received an overall rating of 5.2, and a health rating of only 4.5. Ignored by the article, tin was also red-flagged on the breakdown of toy contaminants. The website contends that "This product contains tin, which is potentially harmful to the immune and nervous systems.", and "This product contains antimony, which may be linked to cancer, lung, and heart problems."

Unsurprisingly, the toy's maker, Cepia LLC, responded swiftly , with their CEO, Russ Hornsby saying, "I have been in the toy industry for more than 35 years, and being a father of children myself, I would never allow any substandard or unsafe product to hit the shelves." While he denied any danger from the toys, he provided no data or evidence to support his claim.

Despite this negative publicity, Zhu Zhu Pets do not appeared to have suffered any significant damage to their reputation or sales, reports Kelsey Volkman of the St. Louis Business Journal. One projection predicts sales to hit $70 million by the end of the year.

I think there are two ways to view this controversy. On one hand, it's great to see Good Guide making noise and trying to protect the public. They did not back down in the face of corporate heavyweights and legal repercussions. They trusted their findings, and stood by them. On the other hand, it's disheartening to hear the total lack of response American shoppers. You would think parents would shy away from buying their children a toy that could be linked to cancer and ulcers. I think it's kind of a sad commentary on the state of consumerism in this country. Parents worry more about disappointing their kids on Christmas than health concerns. At the very least, hopefully many discovered the existence and usefulness of People may not take it seriously yet, but it's influence may grow exponentially over time.

Another Bit for Congress to Chew on Regarding Healthcare Reform

“People are more likely to buckle their seat belt than follow the speed limit”
This is how Washington Post reporter Alec MacGillis starts his article about people’s behavioral response to the new healthcare legislation entitled, “If you build a coverage mandate, will they come?”. He has an interesting speculation that combines the idea of behavioral economics with something that was also spoken about in our class often.
MacGillis begins by setting up his argument against compliance by explaining that the proposal would force all Americans to either receive healthcare through their employer or purchase a plan as an individual. It’s something that we should all think about seeing as a large amount of current college students would have to think about purchasing a plan if they don’t qualify for healthcare through their employer and don’t meet the age requirement to remain on their parent’s plan. Would this be a difficult transition for your average student? MacGillis points out that if noncompliance becomes set as the social norm for the younger generations then a majority of young people would end up, “pay[ing] the penalties [for noncompliance] instead of buying coverage… [which will] upset the legislation's balance, resulting in higher premiums for less-healthy people or bigger costs to the government.” (MacGillis)
MacGillis uses the general opinions of behavioral economists to validate the use of behavioral theories to healthcare. “[Economists] point to the large number of eligible people who fail to take advantage of Medicaid, food stamps and Pell grants as a sign that perceived inconvenience can keep people from taking steps in their economic interest. By contrast, the Medicare drug benefit program has achieved high enrollment partly because low-income Medicare recipients did not need to apply for subsidies if they already qualified for Medicaid.”
His article continues to criticize the proposed health-care bill by attacking the penalties themselves. When a similar mandate for insurance was adopted in the state of Massachusetts they quickly altered their penalty for non-compliance to about $1000 per year, which was taken immediately through use of the state’s tax system. This mandate proved to be successful in Massachusetts raising their percentage of insured residents from 91% to 97%. This type of penalty is not seen in the Federal bill where a penalty will not be enforced until the year after the bill goes into effect and the penalty for noncompliance will slowly increase but only to a max penalty of roughly $750 per year.
However, is it fair to say that these penalties are quite similar? In addition MacGillis’ comparison of the Medicare drug benefit to Medicaid is misleading. Anyone that has applied for Medicaid could tell you that the conditions for approval are less transparent and quite convoluted, a veritable shell game for coverage, while the process itself is not just “inconvenient” but demeaning. Imagine a DMV-esque scenario at the end of which you are processed like a convict. Applicants are forced to be fingerprinted and have a “mug shot” taken despite having a valid photo ID and then, after revealing every detail of their current income and expenses and filling out numerous forms, are released back into the world awaiting an answer in 2 to 3 weeks.
I’m not saying that MacGillis doesn’t have a good point though. As we’ve seen in lecture when reading the report done by Goldstein, Cialdini and Griskevicius social norms can be incredibly powerful influences on behavior. Therefore regardless of your view on his comparisons we should all agree that were it to be generally perceived that applying for healthcare through this new system is difficult and/or not being done by the majority of those without healthcare then it could mean bad news for the planned financing measures of the bill. There is hope though. Just as we did with the switch to digital broadcasting of television and just as Massachusetts did in its mandate of healthcare coverage we can inundate the public with advertising. What better way is there to sway a potential social norm of noncompliance than the use advertising to produce a social norm of compliance and the ease of transition? Therefore I cannot see why this hurdle could not be crossed when we come to it. I wonder what my fellow students would say.
Link to Article-

Climate Change and water

I came across an interesting article on the Ottawa Citizen website ( which spoke about climate change and the important of water. Even though water is a basic necessity of life, billions of people all over the world do not have access to safe and portable water, also billions more do not have access to sanitation.
When we talk about the impacts of water from climate change, it often involves melting glaciers, increased flooding, or severe drought. What we do not realize is the our abuse, mismanagement, and treatment of water is actually one of the causes of climate change and environmental destruction. It is hard to believe that water will not be a part of the official agenda at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where government officials from around the world will be talking about ways to reduce emission and adapt to the impact of climate change. As climate change increases, "all of the world's climate refugees will be water refugees. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington argues that in 1995, 166 million people lived in areas lacking sufficient water for basic needs. In 2050, that number will rise to 1.7 billion." This is a staggering statistic considering the number of people without suffcient water for basic needs will rise almost ten fold in just 55 years. Also with the water quantity and quality dropping, this could lead to great food shortages and poverty among rural farmers in the global south. Water is a necessary part of our survival and I believe every person on the planet should have access to adequate supply of clean water. This should never come into question. Many members of the Canadian union for public employees are taking the water crisis message to Copenhagen with members of other groups in order to try and make it a key element in the climate talks.
The private sector is also attempting to get into the water business. On a recent trip the Canadian water industry minister Tony Clement dogmatized the water crisis situation then made a sales pitch promoting Canadian technological solutions which would not only delete government protection of freshwater but, also take water out of the hands of communities and sell them to corporations seeking large profits. This has already begun in Michigan with their Blue Economy. The rules of trade are much stronger than international human rights laws or environmental agreements and they undermine the power of government to protect the environment and public policy against their right to make a profit. "The North American Free Trade Agreement, for example, allows foreign investors to sue governments if a social or environmental policy were to restrict profits."
We must start to promote ways to make water a central aspect of maintaining healthy communities. Every person has a right to have sufficent clean water for whatever use they deem necessary. Climate change and the coming water shortages must not be allowed to add life to a failed economic model of unregulated free trade. We as a people must learn from the past to adapt to what the future brings. If we do not it could lead to the end of humanity as we know it.

The Factory Assembly Line That Is Your Education

I believe the problem with education is not the system but the current approach. We currently have a system that approaches teaching and learning the same way a factory or industry approaches product production - let’s put the fewest resources needed in order to get the maximum amount of product out. The same way cars are manufactured on an assembly line students are pushed through the education system in a uniform step by step manner with little attention to detail or concern about specific differences. Students are treated as if they are all the same just as the car parts on a assembly line and although this system may work well for a few it doesn’t work for all. Those who are different and need more attention in specific areas are left out of the equation and are allowed to fall through the cracks. They are assembled as you will incompletely or with all the wrong parts, parts that works well for others but not for them, parts that have now become the new standard. If the student does not succeed he or she is made to believe it is their fault, made to believe that it is their lack of skill or ability when in reality it is the system itself, the assembly line that is not designed to meet their personal needs, an assembly lines whose attempt to be uniform results in the lost of anything that does not fit the standard, not matter how skilled or talented that anything might actually be.

Another major problem with the assembly line approach is that it cut cost at every possible corner and when it comes to education the goal should not be to cut coast but to increase quality. The problem is that higher quality is often correlated with higher coats and if cutting coast is all you are concerned about then you can grantee there will be great losses in quality, but you won’t care because in your mind you will have the cheapest product money can buy and where you loss out in quality you can make up in quantity. This thinking is wrong and although it may work great for a factory setting it can be very detrimental to education. The best example of this would be when it comes funding for extracurricular activities, after school programming, the arts, vocational studies, and even physical education. These programs are not seen as important or necessary to a “standard education” and are easily cut to save on coast. While one can easily make the arrangement that these are important and are not only inductive but vital to a high quality education, if quality is not the goal then it is clear to see how and why these programs would be the first to go. In addition to this those students who especially take refuge in these areas or even excel at them now become left without the area or areas that best suits them and are forced to accommodate to the new much cheaper standard.

In a sense the assembly line approach is doing itself a huge injustice because every student is not the same and treating them as if they are is not doing anyone any real good. The students loss out in that not all of them may succeed even ones who do have talent and the system losses out in that there will be less highly talented and skilled students turned further workers to continue the cycle and replace those currently in charge of running the system. In reality the system does not benefit from a constant swam of standard students but from the occasional above standard students, those who excel way beyond the standard and create the new innovations that keep this country going, the new ideas, the new policies, the new technologies that keep this country on the cutting edge. The assembly line approach is not inductive to these students and does not activity seek them out but instead just pushes them through the line with the hopes that they will somehow retain their skill and find their own ways to practice and use those skills. Yes there are always a few select students that do rise above in despite of all the problems in the education system and accomplish great things, a few even become the further leaders of these country, but why have it this why when there is so much more potential out there that is being overlooked and going untapped.

I strongly believe that In order to successfully tackle many of the problems we and facing in this country, problem like globe climate change, peak oil production, and the loss of biodiversity, we are going to need all the talent and skill we can get and that starts we making serve changes to our education system. We can no longer afford providing our children with a very cheap very standard education anymore. We have to put the focus back on quality and not quantity, even if that does mean we have to spend more money, because in the end the money is only really going back to ourselves in the form of the bright new minds of tomorrow who will have the challenge of solving those many problems that we ourselves have getting ourselves into. Why not equip them with the best education possible.

Like Albert Einstein said - You can't solve a problem with the same thinking that created it

Thus we cannot expect our children to solve the problems of tomorrow with the same education that we were given, an education from a much older time, a time where these problems did not even exist. Because if we do then our children are Destined to fail just as we are currently failing now.

Artificial vs. Real Christmas Trees

Every holiday season, there is a growing debate on whether artificial or real Christmas trees are, in the end, better for the environment. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of Christmas tree, but in the end one type of tree is better for the environment.
For a growing number of families, the artificial tree is hands-down the better option. The thought of cutting down a brand new tree each year seems somewhat harsh to many families. The biggest advantage of buying an artificial tree is its convenience. Families will only need to buy an artificial tree once and it will last them nearly a decade. Their convenience is also appealing to families because they don’t need watering, they don’t leave pine needles all over the floor and transportation from tree farm to home isn’t an issue. But when considering the life-cycle, artificial Christmas trees are not as environmentally friendly as they appear. According the, today’s artificial trees are typically manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. Also, many older artificial Christmas trees may contain lead, used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing process. Along with their PVC contents, artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, meaning they will sit in a landfill for centuries after disposal. Finally, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), nearly 85% of artificial trees sold in the U.S. are imported from China, adding to their overall emissions.
As for real Christmas trees, one of my favorite characteristics is the smell. I, along with many U.S. families love the fresh smell of a real Christmas tree inside our home, instead of the smell of cheap plastic. But other characteristics of real Christmas trees show that they are very environmentally friendly. According to the EPA, nearly 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year and about 93% of those trees are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs. Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and used in landscaping and gardening or chipped and used for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways. They can be used for beachfront erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization and fish and wildlife habitat. According to the EPA, a single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime. With more than 350 million real Christmas tress growing in U.S. tree farms alone, you can imagine the yearly amount of carbon capturing associated with these trees. In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of real Christmas trees is that this growing industry employs more than 100,000 Americans full-time. Although real Christmas trees seem completely environmentally friendly, they are farmed as agricultural products, meaning repeated applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers may be used throughout their lifetime.
So which tree is better, when considering the environment and economy? Believe it or not, real Christmas trees are in fact the better buy. Although cleaning up needles is not appealing, the advantages of real Christmas trees outweigh those of artificial trees. Real Christmas trees are grown and sold in the U.S, making them a U.S.-based product. Unlike artificial Christmas trees, real Christmas trees are carbon-neutral, and their nutrients can be returned to the soil through recycling.

Climate Conference

Today the international climate conference opened in Copenhagen Denmark. 190 nations will send delegates to this two week conference. Barack Obama and 110 other world leaders are expected to attend the final meeting at the conference. The conference hopes to achieve many things. One of the main things is to replace the Kyoto protocol which will end in 2012. As we learned the United States was one of the only countries not to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The conference also hopes to gain financial support for less wealthy nations we are affected by climate change. The conference opened today with dire warnings and examples of what might happen if officials fail to come to an agreement on how to curb climate change. As the delegates entered the conference they walked past a melting ice sculpture symbolic of the melting ice around the world. Demonstrators and protestors from around the world are in Denmark this week to try to help persuade the delegates to make changes and come to decisions to try to help our environment.

It will be interesting to see the decisions the conference will come too in these next few weeks. It will also be interesting to see if the United States will sign the new protocol. This conference will attempt to find ways to solve environmental issues in two weeks that have taken hundreds of years to make. While I think good things will come out of this conference, I think many people have unrealistically high expectations. New protocols and treaties will help us work towards our goals. But it will take decades to really start to see the results of these changes we are trying to make.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

US Energy Use Drops In 2008

Americans used more solar, nuclear, biomass and wind energy in 2008 than they did in 2007, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The nation used less coal and petroleum during the same time frame and only slightly increased its natural gas consumption. Geothermal energy use remained the same.

I saw this and thought it would be good to share. Even though the US needs to make more steps in lowering energy use it is good to know that as a country we did improve our energy usage. Hopefully we lowered it even more this year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Key Step Made Towards Turning Methane Gas Into Liquid Fuel

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have taken an important step in converting methane gas to a liquid, which would make it more useful and easier to get.Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is plentiful and is an attractive fuel and raw material for chemicals because it is more efficient than oil, produces less pollution and could serve as a practical substitute for petroleum-based fuels until renewable fuels are widely useable and available.

If this is possible and easy to produce this would be a great way to replace oil until we can find a renewable resource to use. Methane in its gas state is very expensive to transport so that would not work because no one would be able to afford it. It is stated in the article that converting mathane from a gas state to a liqued state without the use of high temperatures is still fareaway, i think the investment in time could be worth it to have a new form of fuel we can use until we find a renewable resource.


Scientists still struggle to find the exact cause of the first Permian extinction, but they believe it was most likely global warming, possibly caused by volcanic eruptions. I have located an online article entitled, "Antarctica Served as Climatic Refuge in Earth's Greatest Extinction Event." It states, "A new fossil species suggests that some land animals may have survived the end-Permian extinction by living in cooler climates in Antarctica. Jörg Fröbisch and Kenneth D. Angielczyk of The Field Museum together with Christian A. Sidor from the University of Washington have identified a distant relative of mammals, Kombuisia antarctica, that apparently survived the mass extinction by living in Antarctica."
So if global warming continues to escalate, the planets align and the poles switch, and we are faced with cataclysmic events, could we find refuge in Antarctica?
Another article titled "Fossil Record Supports Evidence Of Impending Mass Extiction" reveals scientific data which shows "future predicted temperatures are within the range of the warmest greenhouse phases that are associated with mass extinction events identified in the fossil record." Dr. Peter Mayhew, a population ecologist and supervisor at the University of York, is quoted saying, "Our results provide the first clear evidence that global climate may explain substantial variation in the fossil record in a simple and consistent manner. If our results hold for current warming — the magnitude of which is comparable with the long-term fluctuations in Earth climate — they suggest that extinctions will increase."
Yet another article, titled "Mass Extinction's Cause: 'Sick Earth,'" states that "a warming of the earth and a slowdown in ocean circulation made it harder to replace the oxygen sucked out of the water by marine organisms...microbes would have saturated the water with hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic chemical."
With all of this scientific data and evidence supporting global warming as the cause of mass extinction, it is clear that the present rise in global climate is bad, to say the least. But would Antarctica really be the place to escape to if it all came crashing down? Let's examine the Earth for a moment: it is spherical with a bulge in the equatorial region which suggests that as the Earth spins on its axis, the middle ground is what gets thrown outwards by gravity, much like a merry-go-round. Antarctica and the Arctic Circle region, being at the bases of the axis, seem to be the steady and sturdy ground to be upon if our world should experience significant changes.
After reading through these articles and support for climate change causing extinction, I am ready to suggest that us human beings should start preparing for an arctic climate...just to be on the safe side.

Rise in Cancer Near Nuclear Plant

A few days ago, I found out that my friend's mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. My friend told me that thyroid cancer has been on the rise in Rockland county due to a rise in emissions from a nearby nuclear power plant, called Indian Point. I decided to see if this was in fact the case.

I was able to find a Fox News report dated March 8, 2009 called "Cancer Cluster" that reviewed this trend. Thyroid cancer, which is highly sensitive to radiation, is caused by radioactive iodine found only in nuclear weapons and reactors. This radioactive iodine destroys and injures cells in the thyroid gland, leading to cancer and other disorders. The Fox News story reported that the four counties surrounding the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester) had the highest rate of thyroid cancer in the state, and among the highest in the U.S. The report stated that between 2001-2004 there were 992 reported cases of thyroid cancer, the highest amount in the country during this period.

Joseph Mangano of the research group called the Radiation and Public Health project also reported on this trend. Mangano reported that "before the Indian Point reactors began operating, the thyroid cancer rate in the four surrounding counties was 1.5 percent below that of the state. Now they are 54 percent higher." In his attempt to have the plant completely shut down, Mangano analyzed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he says showed that "from 2001-2005, the thyroid cancer rate for the four counties was 66% above the U.S. average The rate of the disease in Rockland County is 106 percent above the national average; 102 percent above in Putnam; 87 percent higher in Orange and 42 percent higher than average in Westchester."

This trend, in my opinion, can be linked to the actions of Enron right before they went bankrupt. The "it's just business" practice of nearly all companies seems to apply both to Enron and Indian Point. These companies simply turn their heads and focus primarily on gaining profit. It is confusing to me when some businesses put "customer satisfaction" at the top of their priorities, when, in this case, their very own customers are becoming diagnosed with cancer. Instead of "customer satisfaction" at the top of the list of priorities, I think many companies put "comany satisfaction" at the top, ignoring the satisfaction of their very own customers.

Sweet Solution to Energy Production

Engineer Vikram Seebaluck of the University of Mauritius and energy technology Dipeeka Seeruttun of the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, Sweden, have demonstrated that an optimal blend of sugarcane agricultural residues (30%) mixed with 70% sugarcane bagasse (the fibrous residue left after sugar production) can be used to generate electricity at a cost of just 0.06 US dollars per kilowatt hour. That figure is on a par with the costs of other renewable energies, including wind power at $0.05/kWh.

I saw this artical on line and thought this would be a pretty good source of energy. Sugar is a huge industry and to use the residue left over to produce energy is a really good idea. It is also very cheap to produce just being 1 cent more than the cost to produce wind energy. If this works well i think this would be a very effective way to produce electricity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

5 Ways to Save the Planet

Today I stumbled across this article titled “Five Ways to Help Save the Planet in 30 Minutes or Less” and after reading it I thought it summed up a lot of what we have discussed in class. The first thing the article mentions is to drive less. If you are only going a short distance ride a bike or walk, and when traveling longer distances take public transportation if available. This article says that a family who uses public transportation may save enough money to cover their food costs for a year. The second thing the article suggests doing is to eat more vegetables. The article talks about how the raising of animals contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and how vegetables are better for you anyway. The third and fourth items the article suggests is to use reusable shopping bags and to change your light bulbs to more energy efficient ones. The last suggestion the article makes is to pay bills online, as this will cut down on paper mail, and paper being thrown away.
These are all small changes but as we have discussed in class these small changes can make a big difference. Many of these small changes we can make are not only better for the environment but can also save us money, time, keep us healthy, and help make our lives more hassle free. These changes not only benefit the environment they benefit us. There is no reason that all of us can’t make small changes in our everyday lives, we just need to find the motivation to do so. What we need to realize is that there is motivation for every person to make these changes. Whether one wants to save money, get healthier, or help the environment motivation can be found. We just have to teach ourselves to think differently. For example if one wants to lose weight, they might join a gym; they pay for their membership, then drive to the gym then drive home. Instead why not go for a run outside, or eat more vegetables, or walk to work or school. We need to learn to think differently and teach ourselves not to keep buying more and more.

Global Warming is a Hoax?

About two weeks ago, one of the world's leading climate change research centers was hacked into, revealing shocking files and emails. Hackers targeted the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and published the files, including some personal messages, on the internet. After the emails and files were read, the research center was accused of manipulating data on global warming. "There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request", George Monbiot of the UK Gaurdian states. He continues and says Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change." The CRU, which plays a leading role in compiling UN reports and tracks long-term changes in temperature, has repeatedly refused to provide detailed information about the data underlying the temperature records. It is thought that this could have triggered the theft. Climate change skeptics claim that some of the leaked messages discuss ways of manipulating data that fails to comply with the establishment view that climate change is real and is being driven by man. Here is an excerpt taken from an email sent by Phil Jones, the director of the Unit:

"I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90."

Now what I found interesting is that this excerpt taken from ONE email that was sent by Phil Jones was sent nearly 10 years ago. In an interview with Phil Jones, he angrily stated to the reporter "Do you remember exactly what an email you sent said 10 years ago? No, didnt think so". Since the integrity of the global warming theory is being questioned by the media, I am now questioning the integrity of the media and their pattern of blowing stories way out of proportion. Should the entire global warming theory be viewed as a scam due to a variety of emails sent by three or four scientists? Should all physical evidence of global warming now be entirely ignored because of a few emails? Do these few scientists represent the entire global field of science? Is every scientist a liar and merely creating a scam for no reason? These are my questions for every skeptic and the media. I believe that the media is fighting to downplay global warming and yet again manipulate the publics opinion. Will it work? Nope.

The Copenhagen Conference

Starting on December 7th, and stretching until the 18th of the same month, representatives from 192 nations will work together to develop a collective strategy for combating global warming. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss the best way to follow up the expiring Kyoto Protocol. Needless to say, the eyes of the world are watching China and the United States, the biggest CO2 contributors, and hoping the two giants will be a part of the proposal this time around.

Let us all hope that China and the US will find the terms of any agreement reached acceptable, for the sake of the planet. According to NY Times' Elizabeth Rosenthal, "In 1997, 37 industrialized nations and the European Union agreed to emission targets in a pact known as the Kyoto Protocol. (American lawmakers declined to ratify the pact, which took effect in 2005 and must be renewed or renegotiated by 2012.)" The US refused participation in Kyoto due in large part to China's rejection. China passed on the protocol because they felt it would severely hinder their flourishing economy. Their country is considered "developed", but they are still developing in many parts, and emission caps would hamper them. The US turned down Kyoto because they felt in unfair for them to agree when China would not. China believes, justifiably, that they deserve the opportunity the US had to build up their country.

Copenhagen aims mostly to provide a bridge between now and 2012, when Kyoto expires. Kyoto has fallen short of many of its goals. Its successor, Copenhagen, shares the same goals, for the most part, primarily aiming for "reductions in emissions and aid for developing nations to adapt to a changing climate." It's time the two world leaders stopped shirking their responsibilities to the world at large and to future generations. We need to find a way to work together, with the rest of the world, to set ambitious, yet realistic goals for reducing emissions. This is not just about Americans or Chinese. It's about the world. If we continue to fail planet, we will all lose. If we find a way to work together, however, there is still hope. The world is watching our country and China. Let's not let them down this time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Today I got a coffee and after I was finished I was looking at the sleeve I put on the paper coffee cup to keep my hands from being burned. This particular sleeve advertised saying it was eco friendly and was made from 100% recycled paper. At first when I thought about this I thought it was good. Then I realized that probably all these “eco friendly” sleeves are going to be thrown out. So really we just used an old resource that we no longer found useful and used more energy to make it into something else useful then we throw it away. Yes it is made from recycled paper so it is better than using paper we just cut down new trees to make. But a coffee sleeve is something that we really should not be using anyway. So in reality it is just a waste of energy and resources.
We use an enormous number of disposable coffee cups every single day. These coffee cups are sometimes made from recycled paper, sometimes from Styrofoam and when we are finished with them we throw them away. Billions of coffee cups are thrown away every year. They fill up our landfills and are one item that we could easily go without. It would be easy for everyone to purchase a reusable coffee mug and use it instead of using a new disposable coffee cup every time. I know for me sometimes I forget my reusable mug, and I’m sure this is the case with many other people as well. There are things we could do to promote people to use reusable mugs instead of disposable ones. For example I know some places offer a small discount if you bring your own mug. The discount may not be significant if you get it once but it you get it every day for a year it could be quite substantial. We need to make reusable mugs more of a habit in our everyday lives rather than something we use when we remember it. It is a small change in our daily lives that could have a large impact on our environment in the long run.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Junk Mail

Everyday we go and check the mail only to find it filled with tons of ads, coupons, promotions, letters, "pre-approved" cards and fliers. Yes...junk mail. We all know what its like to go through these countless pieces of mail only to throw a good 85% of them away. Junk mail is constantly sent to many peoples homes in hopes that they will be interested in the item being advertised. Most times the person receiving the mail doesn't give it any thought. Instead they discard of it. If these letters are sent out in bulk to numerous people across the world and at the same time being discarded by numerous people around the world that can only lead to one thing: waste.

I did some research and found some interesting facts about the amount of waste produced due to the junk mail that ends up in land fills:
-In the US, the Enviormental Protection Agency estimates that 44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened or read
-The amount of junk mail being thrown away equals four million tons of waste paper per year
-Only 32% is recycled
-In 2002 advertised mail accounted for 500,000 and 600,000 tons of paper, only 13% of it being recycled.
-5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually.
-The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees

The best way to help with the problem created by junk mail is to get you name off the advertisement mail isting. This prevents companies from sending letters that will go unopened to your house. Start by contacting the companies that are already contacting you and have them put you on a do not promote list. Next off try investigate websites that help find junk mails such as