Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Global Warming is Speeding Up

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

“May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 21, 2017—Nearly three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean and it is ocean temperatures which control global atmospheric temperatures. Approximately 90% of the energy absorbed by Earth goes into the oceans. The other 10% is absorbed by the land masses.

In the early years of keeping weather records there was very little data available concerning the world oceans. Now there is much and the data is constantly increasing. The oceans are absorbing heat energy at a faster rate now than in the past. A recent study indicates that the amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans has doubled since 1997. The oceans are estimated to have absorbed as much energy since 1997 as in the previous years of record.

Most of the heat added to oceans is absorbed near the surface. The actual change in temperature in the ocean surface is extremely small due to the high heat capacity of water. It takes more heat energy to change the temperature of a given unit of water than to change the temperature of air or earth materials.

The amount of energy it takes to change the temperature of a given unit of water one degree Celsius will change the temperature of a unit of dry air by four degrees. The same amount of energy will change dry land by about five degrees. This helps explain why the atmosphere and bare land get so hot.

Planet Earth is warming.

Record temperatures around our planet.

Evidence of Global Warming

The majority of people, including both scientists and non-scientists around the world, understand that our planet earth is warming. There is overwhelming evidence that this is the case. Geological evidence indicates that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Data also indicates the 20th Century was the warmest century in the past 1000 years.

The year 1880 marks the beginning of the modern historical record. Analysis of the collected data indicates the temperature on the planet has been increasing rapidly in the years since the global record was established.

The number of weather stations collecting temperature data has increased rapidly with time. There are now more than 6000 sites where data is being collected. Satellites are now also contributing data.

Global warming

Records are being broken around the world.

Global Temperatures for the 21st Century

Since 2000 global monthly temperatures have broken records more than 30 times. The average global temperature has increased about 0.8ºC (1.4ºF) since 1880. About 2/3 of this increase has been since 1975. Most of the warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000. It is significant, that in comparison to all the record warmth, the coldest year on record was more than one hundred years ago in 1911.

Record Temperatures Since 2000

Regions where record high mean annual temperatures occurred since the beginning of the year 2000 are:

Africa, 7 countries
Antarctica Asia, 21 countries
Europe, 23 countries
North America, 4 countries
Oceania, 2 countries
South America, 5 countries

Global Warming: 2015 to Date

The year 2015 was the warmest year on record up to that date. The mean temperature was 14.7 ºC (58.62degrees F). This was 0.9 ºC (1.62degrees F) above the mean of the 20th Century and 0.2 ºC (0.29degrees F) over 2014. It was the largest annual temperature increase on record. All months in 2015 set new records with the exception of January and April. December of 2015 was unusually warm, even for 2015. It was more than one degree Celsius warmer than the 30 year normal. Climate normals are set by 30 year intervals. The current normal is the period from 1981 to 2010.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Record Breaking Temperatures

Many global temperature records were recorded in 2015 and the trend continued into 2016. February 2016 continued a string of nearly a dozen straight months of record monthly temperatures. The winter season, December through February, was also a record.

In February 2016 global temperatures were not only record temperatures, but they rose drastically. The increase over the previous year was also the most since records began in 1880. May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began. July of 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded since 1880.

Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced extreme high temperatures in the spring of 2016. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 47.2°C (117°F) occur.

In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 51°C (124°F). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 40°C (104 ºF) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were:

New Delhi 47 °C (117 ºF)
Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)
Philodi 51.°C (124 ºF)

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Global Warming and Population

High temperatures in India had a huge effect on the human population. The impact on the country was immense. More than 300 million people were adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in during the growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. Approximately 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region. It has been classified as one of the deadliest heat waves in modern history.

The Hazards of Extreme Temperatures

It needs to be understood that temperature numbers are just a measure of atmospheric heat. What is truly important is the impact of the greater heat. Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur. What future temperatures will be is unknown. Since record high temperatures are occurring more and more frequently it seems highly probable that new and more frequent high temperature extremes will occur and that the effects will become more hazardous to life on the planet. The only real solution to the problem is to reduce the emissions producing the warming and curb population growth.

Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur!


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The Origin of Lawns and Their Environmental Impact

“We should all know by now that lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment.”

By Linn Smith

May 10,2017—Lawns are not a natural part of our environment. Lawns originated around the 16th century as grassy fields around English and French castles. Trees were cut down around the castles, leaving only grassy fields that would reveal an enemy coming forth in the wide open spaces. When the trees were cut, the grasses and flowers sprouted naturally, creating a meadow. “Lawn” originated from the word Launde, which means an opening in the woods. The moist climate of Europe supported these grassy meadows which eventually became our lawns of today.

Origination of the Lawn

The castles created meadows, “lawns”, to watch for
approaching enemies.

The History of Grass Lawns

“Grass” is from the plant family Gramineae, which has over 9000 species of plants. In the late 16th century “grass” lawns became fashionable, rapidly catching on among the wealthy. In 16th and 17th centuries lawns were mostly wildflowers and herbs such as chamomile.

Gardeners maintained the lawn with a scythe

Only the wealthy could afford lawn care.

Until the 19th century, mowing consisted of a scythe, shears for edge trimming, a gardener to maintain the lawns, and/or cattle and sheep grazing around the estates. In the 18th century this was a sign of the wealth, the vast lawn showing the amount of wealth of the owner (reminds me of Jane Austin novels)–lawns implied a staff and servants with scythes, shears and edging irons.

Mowers: Creating Easier Lawn Maintenace

In 1870 the push mower was invented, and in 1919 the gasoline mower allowed for much less effort in maintaining a lawn. (A note of interest: during World War 1, Woodrow Wilson had a flock of sheep, about fifty, cutting the White House lawn, which saved manpower during the war. He sold their wool to the Red Cross.)

When the suburbs sprouted up in the U.S. after the war, the architects created lawns around homes, which increased the value of the house and was inviting to the post war families who enjoyed lawn games of croquet, badminton, ect. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, houses were sold with lawns already in place. With the gasoline mower and the sprinkler system, the lawns were easily maintained.

The Downside of the Beautiful Lawn

So, here’s the downside of our beautiful, European lawns today: In an article on Smithsonian.com, Sarah Zielinski says it nicely, “We should all know by now that lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment. Keeping turf from turning brown wastes water, people use too many pesticides and herbicides, toxic chemicals that contaminate the fish we eat and water we drink. And mowing burns fossil fuels, releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Plus nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere with fertilization!”

And one more negative impact of our nice lawns–we are harming the bee population which we depend so heavily on for pollinating the wonderful foods we love! So, unless you are maintaining your lawn with only a scythe, push mower or sheep, maybe it’s time to rethink what we plant in our yards!

Xeriscaping:  The Green Lawn

Xeriscaping can reduce cost and care of lawns.

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a water conserving method that orginated in Colorado. It originated from the Greek word “Xero”, which means dry and “Scape” meaning view. It does not mean zero landscaping. It does mean planting plants that will do well with little watering. The plants are not necessarily native to the area, but are selected for their water conserving abilities. Xeriscaping makes more water available to the community and the environment and reduces maintenance, with just occasional weeding and mulching. Less cost and less maintenance leaves more time for other things! Xeriscaping also reduces water pollution, as herbicides and pesticides don’t end up in the groundwater.

New Mexico has been planting the most beautiful yards using water conserving plants for centuries! It’s time to rethink our beautiful lawns and think about creating beautiful Xeriscaped yards instead!

Lawns of green grass aren’t so “green” for the environment!


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The Symptoms of Over-population and Limits to Growth

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

Even a cursory examination of the world today indicates there is a major problem of overpopulation by the human species.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

May 1, 2017—At the time of this writing the global population is estimated to be about 7.4 billion. It is growing at the rate of a billion every 12 years. Earth is a finite object traveling through space with a size which is essentially fixed. An important question is whether the earth can continue to provide the resources to support a continually growing population. Limits to growth implies that there is an upper limit to the size of population a region can support. There may not be an absolute limit to growth in any region but it can certainly be overpopulated. The resources humans need are those things which provide food, clothing and shelter. Overpopulation occurs when the available resources cannot sustain the number of people without damage to those very resources the people depend on. There are some common symptoms of overpopulation.

Hunger

Overpopulation can devastate the world’s food supply.

Human health problems

Among the health problems are undernutrition, dehydration, and declining resistance to disease. Globally undernutrition is probably the greatest health problem. At this time it is estimated that nearly a billion people suffer some form of it. This is the equivalent of the population of North America and South America combined. Undernutrition does not mean starvation, but that the people in question are in some way being physically affected by not getting either enough food or not getting the right kind of food. Starvation is the extreme case. There are a variety of types of malnutrition based on what is missing in the diet. Essentially malnutrition is the imbalance between the body’s need for nutrients and energy and what the body is actually getting. Another billion do not have fresh water for drinking.

An untold number are suffering from disease related to health problems. Scientific data shows that the most important factor in experiencing physical illness (as distinct from mental illness) is undernutrition. When people are undernourished the probability of getting an infectious disease increases significantly. Children suffer more from undernutrition than adults because of the high demand for energy and protein associated with physical growth. Some form of undernutrition affects as many as a fourth of all children. A large majority of these children live in the developing countries. The most common form of malnutrition in children is kwashiorkor. It results from lack of protein and manifests itself in distended stomachs.

world hunger

Overpopulation depletes resources

Resource Depletion

Resources used to sustain people include a variety of elements in the environment. Some sort of resource depletion occurs in almost all types of environments. Land degradation has become widespread. In grasslands, where most intensive agriculture takes place, soil erosion is widespread. Soil has been the basis for agriculture for thousands of years. Some of the most valuable land on the planet consists of land with the best soil for growing crops. Soil erosion is widespread. In some areas the erosion has been and is so bad the land is no longer usable for agriculture. In the dryer parts of the grasslands overgrazing is common. Desertification often results. This is the reduction of the land to essentially desert conditions.

Deforestation is another example of resource depletion. Vast areas of the tropical rainforest are disappearing rapidly. It is being cleared for agriculture purposes. The huge band of forest in the sub-Arctic is also disappearing. In this case the timber is being cut for lumber. With the lost of the forest cover soil erosion becomes pervasive. These forests are important to the climate of Earth as well as a means of livelihood for people. Once these resources are reduced or eliminated overpopulation inevitably results. With land degradation and deforestation animal species are also disappearing. Animals of all variety provide food, and clothing, and other items. There is currently a global demise of species taking place so great that it is being referred to as a mass extinction.

Overpopulation and hunger

A depletion of resources.

Migration

Human migration is the movement of people from one location to another. It can be from one part of a country to another or across national boundaries. It can involve individuals or numbers in the thousands or millions. The human species has engaged in migration nearly as long as the species has existed on Earth. Present consensus is that the earliest humans developed in an area of East Africa known as as Olduvai Gorge in what is now Kenya. The species spread out from there in all directions. It moved southeast through the open forests into what is now the country of South Africa. Later the species spread north and east across the middle east and all the way to Australia, Asia, and the Americas.

People migrate for a variety of reasons. In the past people may have migrated out of curiosity. A more likely reason is the search for more abundant resources. The massive wave of migration in Europe and the Middle East at the moment is the greatest since the period just before and during world War II. The world is now focused on this current migration due to the problems it is creating. Some of the migration is an attempt to move from areas suffering from overpopulation and a shortage of resources. Another portion is to escape violence in their homeland. Declining employment opportunities is another force driving migration. No continent is exempt from problems due to migration. An influx of large numbers of people into any region can generate major problems. The building of wall, fences, and moats came into existence by groups of people to keep migrants out of their territory.

Violence

It is predictable that when overpopulation occurs, in some cases at least, there will be violence among individuals and groups. Tribalism, indigenous uprisings and terrorism become predictable. Violence among groups may be along ethnic lines, economic status, or political power. Violence has become pervasive around the world as competition for resources increases. Personal violence is epidemic in many cities and countries.

Indigenous uprisings are violent acts by people native to an area. Indigenous uprisings by tribal people have occurred throughout history and on every continent when an external population becomes too oppressive. Many such uprisings have occurred around the world as Europeans moved to take over land used by the people originally occupying it. Such uprisings are now forcing governments to recognize the native people as a political force.

Terrorism is what appears to be a random act of violence, usually directed against groups of people. It almost always involves the killing of unsuspecting people. It is usually carried out to serve the purpose of those committing the act. It can be directed against a political group, a government, religion, or other group. It has been engaged in by individuals, groups, and even governments. These acts of violence are often done in a spectacular fashion so as to attract attention to the perpetrators. Revolutions are an example of violent reaction to government policies

Population Growth: Limited or Uncontrolled

Even a cursory examination of the world today indicates there is a major problem of overpopulation by the human species. There are examples everywhere. Is it possible that the entire planet has reached this stage? If this is the case there are options. We can foster a population in which there is less undernourishment, less massive migration and less violence. Limiting population growth is an alternative to the dominant economic and political policy of economic growth. It is a viable option that would be healthy for both the human population and the planet. The alternative is to allow uncontrolled growth of the population and increase the hazards to all.


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Global Warming Facts: 2016/2017

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

By Linn Smith

April 27, 2017–New data put out by the EPA shows the current trend toward global warming….it’s not improving! Our planet is continuing to heatup!

2016 Climate Facts

* 2016 marks three consecutive years of record breaking temperatures for our planet.

* Our planet experienced 8 consecutive months, January to August, of record heat. The highest since recording began in 1880.

* The average temperature of land and ocean surfaces was 1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average.

* The 2016 global ocean surface was highest on record–1.35 degrees F above average.

*The 2016 global land temperature was the highest on record–2.57 degrees F above average.

* North America had the warmest year on record.

* The area of Arctic sea ice was depleted to a new record low since recording began in 1979.

* The average mass of Antarctic sea ice was 2nd smallest since recording began in 1979.

* All 6 continents have recorded record breaking temperatures in 2016.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

The Trend Continues for 2017

* The global average temperatures over land and ocean surfaces for March 2017 were the 2nd highest for the month since recording began, 1.89 degrees F above 20th century average of 54.9 degrees F.

* The year-to-date global temperature was the second warmest on record.

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

Other Climate Facts

* To date, all 16 years of the 21st century were among the warmest ever recorded. The 5 warmest have been since 2010.

* The average annual temperature for ocean surfaces around the world was 1.35 degrees F (.75C) higher than 20th century average.

So those of us fighting to leave a planet that is livable for future generations…..the fight is still on!

Stand up to coal and oil

Fight to against global warming!

Fight Against Global Warming


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Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?

An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green


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Trump: Human Health, the Environment and Profit

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

The changes being enacted will have a huge effect on public health and the environment

By Dr. John J. Hidore

April 5, 2017—-Millions of people are astounded at the sudden change in the position of the government of the United States on such issues as public health, public education and the environment.. The policies of our national government changed in an instant when Donald Trump was elected president and the Republican Party retained control of the House of representatives and the Senate. The platform of the elected president was to return the nation’s policies to another time when corporations ruled supreme with no regulation. At the beginning of 2017, the majority of the states already were under control of people that wanted to set the United States back to another time. With the election of the president, the Republican Party began planning for the takeover of the United States government. They are moving rapidly to make sure their agenda is in place.

President Trump’s Goals on Public Health and the Environment

The current president has filled his cabinet with men and women that have made it their business to use whatever means necessary to do two things. (1) eliminate or bypass the regulations this country has established to protect its citizens against heavy handed treatment by individuals and corporations, (2) to remove all regulations that protect the natural resources that sustain life on the planet. Many of the newly appointed government officials have publicly denounced or denied that global warming and climate change are real in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They have also started to cut many social services in favor of free enterprise.

The Barefoot College

Gandhi’s Philosophy: The small villages must be empowered.

The Environmental Protection Agency

One of the primary organizations, whose purpose it is to protect the public from adverse environmental changes and provide safeguards for natural resources, is the EPA. There are (or were at the beginning of 2017) more than 9000 employees in the EPA. They included men and women from a variety of sciences along with management personnel. The EPA was established in 1970 by congress to protect and to create and maintain a healthy environment for the people of the United States. In past years it has set an example for the rest of the world. The clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were both created by the EPA.

Global Greenhouse Gases

Climate Change

Scott Pruitt: An Opponent of the EPA

Less that a month after his election, President Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, a lawyer and former attorney general of Oklahoma, to head the EPA. A brief examination of Pruitt’s past record establishes his credentials for fulfilling his task. He has often expressed his doubts as to whether global warming is real. Pruitt has filed 14 different lawsuits against the EPA. One of these lawsuits challenged the EPA regulations limiting the emission of greenhouse gases from power plants using fossil fuels. He also sued the government over regulations established under the Clean Water Act. As a supporter of the fossil fuel industry, in his confirmation hearings he refused to turn over large numbers of emails between himself and corporate executives of energy companies. In the hearings he indicated he doubted that greenhouse gas emissions were the fundamental cause of global warming or that sea level was rising. He joins President Trump and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in this opinion.

Pruitt Begins the Process of Gutting the EPA

Scott Pruitt was appointed head of the EPA to lead the way in eliminating environmental regulations that have or would cut into corporate profits. He began his task almost immediately by reducing personnel and cutting spending. President Trump’s proposed budget to the next budget period cuts the EPA budget by 31% and employees by 20%. President Trump has accused the agency of creating junk science. Pruitt is in the process of taking science out of the EPA and replacing scientists with industry representatives.

The changes being enacted will have a huge effect on public health and the environment. Pruitt plans to eliminate nearly 50 programs now operated by the EPA. Some of the most effective programs run by the EPA will be cut back or eliminated. These include the Clean Power plan, the Clean Water Plan and the Office of Environmental Justice. which was enacted in 1992. A bill has also been introduced into the house that would eliminate the EPA altogether by the end of 2018.

New Legislation in 2017 Eliminates the Progress Made Over Many Decades

To accomplish his goal of eliminating regulations on corporations, Trump’s team is proposing the Honest and Open New EPA Science and Treatment Act of 2017 (HR 1430). It is being referred to as the Honest Act. Another new piece of legislation enacts the EPA Science Advisory Board. The act would prohibit scientists who receive funds from the EPA from serving on the board. However, the bill allows industry representatives to sit on the board.

Republican Controlled Legislatures Play Follow the Leader

Many state governments began the process of eliminating regulations protecting people from corporations before Trump was elected president. Beginning in 2011 the state of North Carolina began passing legislation to protect polluters. In response to pressure by some major companies they rescinded previously enacted laws protecting the people from atmospheric pollutants. They also took the step of eliminating nearly half of the air quality monitors in the state. These steps made it difficult to deny applications from corporations to exempt them from emission regulations. Other states have now followed the lead of the federal government.

This attack on the EPA is in line with the President’s policies. There will be no regulation of business. Free enterprise and the accumulation of wealth is what the Trump administration represents.

Every citizen who objects to these new policies should become an activist by whatever means they can. Act now before it is too late!

Trump, Pruitt and the EPA


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Pollution and Child Labor: The Tanneries of Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Bangladesh and Child Labor

By Linn Smith

March 26, 2017—-Following is a recent article concerning Bangladesh, child labor and the polluting tanneries published by the Associated Press.

 In a Planet Earth Weekly article, May 2014, Bangladesh: The Poster Child for Climate Change https://planetearth5.com/?s=bangladesh I recieved the following comment about the tanneries from Solid Bangla, a newspaper in Bangladesh:

solid bangla..
June 18, 2014 at 1:54 am
Such a good article. Bangladesh is going through its most difficult time and things seem to get worse. Climate change will severely affect Bangladesh for sure and also the rise in tanneries and unregulated brick fields are ruining the environment so badly. Corrupt politicians can not see this as most of them are uneducated and corrupt. But thanks for identifying some good and concerning sides. Good job and good luck to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh

Tanneries, child labor and pollution

The Polluting Tanneries of Bangladesh Mar 24, 11:37 AM EDT
BY MARTHA MENDOZA AND JULHAS ALAM
ASSOCIATED PRESS

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Hazardous, heavily polluting tanneries, with workers as young as 14, supplied leather to companies that make shoes and handbags for a host of Western brands, a nonprofit group that investigates supply chains says.

The report by New York-based Transparentem, released to The Associated Press on Friday, didn’t say leather from the tanneries ends up in American and European companies’ products, only that the manufacturers of some of those goods receive it.

Some companies say they’re certain the leather used to make their products was imported from outside Bangladesh, and the manufacturers concur. Still, in response to the report most brands had switched factories, banned Bangladesh leather or demanded improvements and audits.

The abuses alleged have long plagued Hazaribagh, a Dhaka neighborhood that’s the hub of Bangladesh’s leather industry with more than 150 tanneries. The air is noxious with an eye-stinging rotten-egg odor, and children play on small hills of rotting hide trimmings. The Buriganga River, a source of drinking water for 180,000 people, shimmers with poisons from tannery chemical runoff, as well as other human and industrial waste.

The $1 billion-a-year industry was ordered to shut down and move more than 15 years ago, but deadlines have passed without consequence and fines go unpaid. Last week, Bangladesh’s High Court told authorities to stop supplying gas, water and electricity to the tanneries. Rawhide supplies have also been ordered halted.

And yet they’re still in business, fueled by consumer demand for ever-more-stylish but low-priced wallets and boots.

Child labor of Bangladesh

Tanneries of Bangladesh

Transparentem uses investigative journalism practices to tackle labor and environmental abuses, producing detailed reports that are privately shared with companies involved. The group gives companies time to respond before sharing its findings with investors, regulators, advocacy organizations or journalists.

Its confidential Hazaribagh report and accompanying video, shared late last year with about a dozen U.S. and European brands and companies, showed workers at five different tanneries bent double under the weight of soaking wet cow hides, shuffling past heavy machinery delivering heavy loads. Workers are seen whipping handheld razors through leather, tossing off loose trimmings. Barrels of chemicals lean against walls. The floor is wet, and some workers are barefoot.

Bangladesh law prohibits workers under 18, but some appeared to be teenagers. The report says that in 2015, a mother confirmed her child working in a tannery was 14. Footage from 2016 showed the child was still working there. On the video, a 17-year-old told the videographer his age. And there’s 2016 footage of two workers agreeing that there are 15-year-olds onsite.

Transparentem is not publishing its findings but showed the video to an AP reporter before sharing the report. It said the discretion was needed to protect its investigators and the workers, and that the research is ongoing.

Bangladesh child labor

Tanneries, pollution and child labor

The nonprofit said its Hazaribagh team tracked leather first-hand and with corporate reports from two tanneries, Apex Tannery Ltd. and Bay Tannery Ltd., to Bangladesh shoemakers Apex Footwear and Bay Footwear. Apex Tannery also sent leather to South Korean leather dealer White Industries, said the report. From White, Transparentem tracked leather to Simone Accessories, a South Korean handbag maker.

Using customs records and business documents, they found those factories make shoes and purses for Clarks, Coach, Kate Spade, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Sears, Steven Madden and Timberland. Also included were Germany-based Deichmann, a shoe and sportswear chain, and two U.S. firms – Harbor Footwear Group and Genesco – which design and market shoes in even more brands.

No one followed a piece of leather produced by a child to a particular purse or shoe.

E. Benjamin Skinner, founder and principal of Transparentem, said the group investigates endemic problems within an industry, and looked into Apex and Bay because they are among the largest.

“We tell brands and retailers what they may not, but should, know about those with whom they do business. This gives them the opportunity to use their influence with their suppliers to address questionable activity and advance positive action,” Skinner said.

The American and European brands that responded to queries from the AP stated their commitments to prevent labor abuse in manufacturing. But some brands, the Bangladeshi companies involved and industry officials disputed the report’s findings.

“That NGO went to our buyers too,” said Shahin Ahmed, chairman of the Bangladesh Tanners’ Association. “They showed them some video clips of child workers who are engaged in manufacturing some byproducts. … They are no way part of the main industry, I can challenge anybody.”

Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear and a director at the Apex Tannery, calls Hazaribagh “an environmental disaster” and said they’ll soon close their plant there. But he said the report is a “smear campaign,” allegations of child labor are unsubstantiated, and Hazaribagh leather doesn’t end up in exported products.

Manzur said Apex Footwear and Apex Tannery are separate entities, although they have some owners in common and are associated businesses. He said Apex Footwear has two separate shoe-making factories, one for local markets and another, across the street, for exports. The Hazaribagh leather goes only to the local factory, he said.

Bay Footwear technical adviser Rezaur Rahman, speaking for Bay Group, which includes their tannery, called Transparentem’s findings “absolutely baseless.”

“We worked with the International Labor Organization and trade unions. I don’t understand how and where they found child workers in the industry,” Rahman said. “We don’t have any child workers.”

Coach – whose website says their produce is “handcrafted from the finest American and European hides and textiles” – said they get no more than 1.5 percent of their leather from Hazaribagh and Kate Spade said they get just 1 percent. Both said they’re stopping any purchases from Hazaribagh.

Michael Kors and Harbor Footwear said they were a few steps removed from the Hazaribagh tanneries, hadn’t knowingly sourced leather there, and would make sure not to.

Clarks and Deichmann said they are certain no Hazaribagh leather ended up in their products.

Deichmann said Apex Footwear only makes their shoes with imported leather or hides processed at Apex Gazipur tannery that they’ve audited.

A Clarks spokesman said the company “is only responsible for the sourcing of materials in our own products and cannot control the sourcing of others.”

Sears, Timberland, Macy’s, Genesco and Steven Madden all said that while they weren’t getting leather from the tanneries, they saw an opportunity to use their companies’ leverage at the related factories to bring improvements, with some using threats, others offering auditors and support.

Attorneys representing Apex Footwear and Macy’s, Steven Madden and Genesco signed an agreement last month that says Apex will verify that all tannery workers are adults using protective gear, and that independent auditors would oversee longer-term improvements.

Steve Park, sales director at White Industry Co., said the South Korean company stopped using raw materials from Bangladesh late last year after U.S. clients such as Coach, Michael Kors and Kate Spade informed them about environmental problems and child labor issues. Now they use American, Brazilian and Pakistani suppliers, he said.

Scott Nova at the Worker Rights Consortium in Washington, D.C., said a brand or retailer that is serious about protecting worker rights, and about honoring its public commitments to do so, would not do business with a factory that sources from suppliers that engage in dangerous and abusive practices.

“This principle applies, whether or not leather from the tanneries in question is being used in a brand’s products,” he said.

Global brands are drawn to manufacturing in Bangladesh by low wages, and leather shoes, belts and purses are top exports. But many Bangladeshi manufacturers depend on domestic tanneries for their leather, and 90 percent of those tanneries are in Hazaribagh.

Conditions in the neighborhood are deplorable. Chemicals and defecation run milky-white through open sewers, pouring untreated into the river, more of a waste pond than a waterway. Metal tarnishes quickly; electronics corrode.

Tannery workers live in small, hot, steel-walled rooms perched on precarious stilts above creeks of raw sewage and mounds of stinking scraps.

AP journalists were not allowed inside Apex and Bay’s Hazaribagh tanneries, but workers walking out said no children were employed there now.

Reporters did find children working in smaller Hazaribagh tanneries not mentioned by Transparentem. The work is hazardous, with large equipment and little to none of the protective clothing, splash aprons, safety goggles and respirators mandatory at North American and European tanneries.

The AP team watched as a man tasted liquid from a drum that processes leather to test for salt levels.

“We would hope to avoid the harm that can be caused by the liquid when the body and the limbs are exposed to it,” said another Hazaribagh leather tanner, Mohammed Harun, 52. “There are some powders and chemicals that infect us when inhaled.”

He said they need boots, gloves and masks.

“If the owners provide us with these things, it will improve the situation,” he said.

A British Medical Journal study published this week found that Bangladeshi tannery workers as young as 8 frequently have untreated rashes and infections, as well as asthma and other lung problems. Pure Earth – a nongovernmental organization that addresses industrial pollution – has put Hazaribagh on its Top 10 list of polluted places, along with Chernobyl. Similar problems exist at tannery clusters in the Philippines and India.

Human Rights Watch advocate Richard Pearhouse, who has reported on pollution and child labor at Hazaribagh tanneries, said none comply with national environmental laws or repeated court orders to move.

American shoppers can make a difference, he said.

“Consumers should be asking plenty of sharp questions on the shop floor about what retailers are doing to guarantee they are not sourcing leather from Hazaribagh’s toxic tanneries,” he said.

Banladesh tanneries: child labor and pollution


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Making a Difference: President Obama, Marine Preserves and Monuments

Obama and  coral reefs

Obama Preserved Many Coral Reefs

“President Obama established the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

March 19, 2017—-President Obama joined an elite group of people that led to the establishment of our national parks and monuments. Two of those men were John Muir and  President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906 under which many of our national parks and monuments were established. The Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to set aside sites that are historically or scientifically important.

The Antiquities Act of 1906

Since Roosevelt signed the act more than a thousand different marine protected areas have been created. President Obama used this act to further our federal park system 29 times during his eight years in office. Some of the area is on land and some is in the global ocean. President Obama set aside more ocean environments, as monuments and reserves,  than any other person in history. Altogether he added more than 850 thousand square miles (1.3+ million km2) of ocean for new reserves and additions to existing one.

Seamounts and ocean monuments

Seamounts preserved by President Obama

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument

Under American law oceans existing within 200 nautical miles of land can be included in protected reserves. On September 5, 2016 President Obama established the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. It is the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States. It covers approximately 4,913 square miles (12,725 sq km) and includes two separate sections that are near each other. One includes three canyons cut into the continental shelf,  and the other includes four extinct volcanoes or seamounts that exist on the deep sea floor off the shelf.

Coral bleaching and reefs

Coral bleaching is happening along many reefs today.

Seamounts of the Oceans

Along much of the Atlantic coast of the United States there exists an underwater shelf that extends out to sea for a great distance. Scattered along the edge of this shelf are deep canyons cut into the edge. The canyons drop thousands of feet. The exact origin of these canyons is unclear. One section of the monument includes three of these canyons. The larger section of the monument includes four seamounts. A feature of this section is that approximately 50 species of deep sea coral reside nearby. Some at depths of more than 12,800 feet (3900 meters). Commercial fishing and the taking of any physical or organic material from the site is prohibited. Some crab and lobster harvesting will be allowed for several years but then terminated.

Marine monuments and Obams

President Obama set aside marine monuments.

Papahänaumokuäkea Marine National Monument includes the Hawaiian Islands and extends to the northwest to include Midway and other islands. This monument was first created by George W. Bush. In 2016 Obama quadrupled the size of the reserve. It now includes nearly 600,000 square miles (966,000km2) of ocean islands making it the largest marine reserve in the world. It is also the largest single area protected by the United States and is a United Nation Heritage Site. It contains thousands of marine species, half of them unique to the Hawaiian Islands.

Seamounts and the Tropical Oceans

One of the significant aspects of the marine monuments and preserves that Obama set aside is that they are north of the tropic of Cancer. Most coral reefs are in the tropical oceans. These reefs are being destroyed by bleaching due to warming water. The most severe damage to coral reefs is between the equator and 30 degrees either side of the equator. More than 30 countries in this region have reported bleaching to offshore reefs.

The establishment of the reserves and monuments in higher latitudes not only stops damage by fishing and collecting but promises to provide time to study the reef life before the seas have a chance to warm enough to destroy them. Thanks President Obama!


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The Trump Administration and the Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

What kind of planet will we leave our children?

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines!”

By Linn Smith

March 9, 2017—-Mike Pence, now Vice President of the U.S. under the Trump administration, has had a long history of denying climate change. In 2001, Pence wrote in an article titled, Global Warming Disaster, “global warming is a myth, the earth is actually cooler today than it was 50 years ago,” and in 2009 he stated it was not clear whether our changing climate was due to human activity, saying there was a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.

Pence and the Clean Power Plan

In 2009 Pence led 27 states, along with Indiana, where he governed between 2013-2017, in a fight against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a “commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, while maintaining an affordable, reliable energy system, which would cut pollution and protect our health and environment now and for future generations.” In a 2014 speech Pence stated that Indiana is a pro-coal state which will continue to fight “overreaching schemes” of the EPA until the war on coal comes to an end.

Letter to Pence from Scientists

Indiana scientists sent a letter to Governor Pence in 2015, pleading with him to call on their expertise, a letter which went unanswered. Part of the letter states:

“Dear Governor Pence, Our understanding of the Earth’s climate has come a long way in the past 100 yrs. and the role of greenhouse gases is now well documented. The Earth’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat from the Sun that would otherwise be transmitted back out to space. Changes in the carbon dioxide concentration strongly influence Earth’s climate. In the past century, the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere has increased by 30%. This increase, in large measure, is the result of human use of fossil fuels for energy. This carbon transfer has increased global temperatures in our lifetimes, with a set of secondary effects such as weather patterns that are more erratic and extreme. Like the overwhelming majority of scientists, we project that this human-produced effect will continue to grow into the foreseeable future…….Our challenge today is to explore opportunities to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies in Indiana that reflect our interests to protect energy and transportation infrastructure, the health of the public economic development. We would be privileged to help you in this effect……..” Again, this letter has remained unanswered.

clean power plan

Is Trump good for the environment?

Clean Power Plan and the Lawsuit

The Trump administration is currently attempting to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which was part of Obama’s effort to fight global warming. The lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is currently in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, waiting a decision. The court decision could be made anytime between now and several years down the road.

The clean power plan

The Clean Power Plan for the health of our planet!

According to an article by Brad Plumer on http://www.Vox.com, the court process could take years as the EPA will have to write a new coal power plant rule, along with a legal explanation of why it’s changing its mind, followed by responses from the public. Because of regulations regarding the court battle, the Clean Power Plan is currently not in effect while the decision is being made. The court could rule: A) that the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under Section 111(d), B) It does not have the authority, or C) the law is ambiguous and its up for interpretation. Matt Pilon says in, “Clean Power Plan Repeal could have Mixed Impacts”, the short-term impact of a Clean Power Plan delay would be that utilities would be able to lower emissions more gradually, relieving them of some potential costs.

Clean Power Plan

Keeping our nation clean.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines! The jobs have been lost to natural gas, renewable resources, open pit mining and mountaintop mining, which is less expensive and requires less manpower—even though it is environmentally devastating. The answer? Retraining coal miners and rebuilding the infrastructure of coal mining country.

Retraining Coal Miners

Wind technician is one of the fastest growing fields in today’s job market. President Obama allotted $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out of work coal miners and to develop the economy of coal country.

Change must be accepted! It was also devastating for small farmers in the midwest to lose their family farms to large corporations. But all the Willie Nelson farm aide concerts that took place couldn’t save the small farmer. Change happens!

Clean Power Plan


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Overpopulation Results in Global Stress

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region.

By Dr. John Hidore

February 23, 2017—The human population has been growing in size and spreading out over the planet ever since its origin in Africa long ago. It is currently growing faster than at any time in history. Today it is equivalent to adding the populations of the earth’s three largest metropolitan areas each year…or between 80 and 90 million people every 12 months. Various estimates place the global population at between seven and seven and a half billion. Of this two billion has been added in just the last 24 years.

Overpopulation Defined

There are a number of concepts being used today in relating the size of the human population to the environment. These are population growth, limits to growth and overpopulation, and they are each related. The basic resources people need are food, water and essentials for clothing and shelter. Ideally, in any region the size of the human population remains below or in balance with the resources available to support it. When in balance it results in the population being sustained for long periods of time. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the sustainable population seldom exists.

Population growth in any region may result in the area no longer having enough resources to sustain the growing number of people at a healthy level. When this occurs either the people, the environment, or both become stressed. The symptoms of population stress include human health problems, resource depletion, migration, and violence. Environmental stress includes a variety of processes, including deforestation, soil erosion and climate change. In any event when human stress or environmental stress takes place the region is overpopulated.

Carrying Capacity and overpopulation

What is Carrying Capacity?

Processes That Create an Unsustainable Population

Even if the population in a region stays fairly constant it can become overpopulated by environmental changes. Climate change can increase the number of people a region can support. Rainfall may increase in a dry region, or temperatures may get warmer or cooler to favor plant growth.

Carrying capacity is the number of organisms a region can support without environmental degradation. Climate change can decrease the carrying capacity of a region. During the last ice age, large areas of what are now dry lands or deserts received more rainfall than they do now. The Sahara Desert and much of the middle east contain the remains of cities that flourished during wetter times, but are abandoned now due to climate change.

Changes in technology can also change the carrying capacity. As technology has progressed through time many regions have been able to support an increasing number of people. However, the effect of technological change tends to be short-lived and ultimately encourage overpopulation. Even with a more favorable climate and the addition of technological advances there is still a limited carrying capacity and overpopulation can occur.

The green revolution of the 20th Century is a good example of how the carrying capacity can be increased. Modifying plant species allowed crop production, particularly grain, to greatly increase and feed a growing population. 

Just as humans can increase the carrying capacity they can also decrease it. Over-grazing by livestock, soil erosion, salinization of soils, deforestation, or human induced climate change can reduce the carrying capacity. This lowers the level of the sustainable population so that overpopulation occurs.

overpopulation

Overpopulation and climate change creates environmental stress.

Overpopulation: The Big Question

The big question, “Does overpopulation occur regionally or globally?” Clearly on a regional basis the answer is yes. All the symptoms are there. Whether it is occurring on a global basis in today’s world is not clear. There are symptoms of overpopulation on every continent except the Antarctic.

Many scientists say the evidence of overpopulation is severe. For example: more than a billion people are undernourished. Another billion do not have clean water to drink.

 Climate change is taking place at an astonishing rate. The extinction rate of plant and animal species is the highest in recorded history. It may be that the resources available to us will support a population of only half what it is at the present time. If the latter is the case, immediate, and perhaps extreme, measures must be taken if world stress and turmoil is to be avoided!

The evidence of overpopulation is severe!