Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Patagonia: An Environmentally Friendly Company

By Linn Smith

“We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation.”

As I was listening to the radio this morning, I heard an interview with the founder of Patagonia sports gear and clothing. I realized that Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, is a phenomenal man! His methods of sustainability and helping Planet Earth have been consistent throughout Patagonia’s almost 50 year existence, with the company’s environmental practices ranging from discouraging people against buying new products when they can fix the old, to sending trucks around the U.S. to fix Patagonia products, thus saving them from being discarded.

As an owner of a Patagonia jacket for many years, I not only realize the hardiness of this product but I now know if the zipper breaks, Patagonia will fix it!

Yvon Chouinard developed an environmentally friendly company because, not only does he make a quality, long lasting product, he witnessed the environmental injustices when Patagonia was new and attempted to create a low carbon footprint as his company developed.

Fighting for our Environment

In an excerpt from Yvon Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing,” he states, “We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation, the slow, then not so slow, disappearance of fish and wildlife. And we saw what was happening closer to home: thousand year-old Sequoias succumbing to L.A. smog, the thinning of life in tide pools and kelp beds, the rampant development of the land along the coast. What we began to read – about global warming, the cutting and burning of tropical forests, the rapid loss of groundwater and topsoil, acid rain, the ruin of rivers and creeks from silting-over dams – reinforced what we saw with our eyes and smelled with our noses during our travels. At the same time, we slowly became aware that uphill battles fought by small, dedicated groups of people to save patches of habitat could yield significant results.”

Environmental Practices of Patagonia

Following are some environmentally friendly practices of Patagonia (from http://www.patagonia.com):

* In 1986, they committed to donate 10% of profits each year to these groups. They later upped the ante to 1% of sales, or 10% of profits, whichever was greater. They have kept to that commitment every year since
* They participate in grassroots efforts to save our planet.
* They make donations to small groups that restore/save the environment.
* In 1988, they initiated their first national environmental campaign on behalf of an alternative master plan to deurbanize the Yosemite Valley. Each year since, they have undertaken a major education campaign on an environmental issue.
* They took an early position against globalization of trade when it meant compromising environmental and labor standards.
* They have argued for dam removal where silting and marginally useful dams compromise fish life.
* They have supported wildlands projects that seek to preserve ecosystems whole and create corridors for wildlife to roam.
* Every eighteen months they hold a “Tools for Activists” conference to teach marketing and publicity skills to some of the groups they work with.
* They have been using recycled-content paper for their catalogs since the mid-eighties.
* They worked with Malden Mills to develop recycled polyester for use in their fleece.
* Their distribution center in Reno, opened in 1996, has achieved a 60% reduction in energy use through solar-tracking skylights and radiant heating; they use recycled content for everything from rebar to carpet to the partitions between urinals. They retrofitted lighting systems in existing stores, and build-outs for new stores became increasingly environmentally friendly.
* They assessed the dyes they used and eliminated colors from the line that required the use of toxic metals and sulfides. Most importantly, since the early nineties, they have made environmental responsibility a key element of everyone’s job.
* They changed to organic cotton because, the “natural” fiber used in most of their sportswear proved to be by far the greatest environmental evildoer of the fibers studied. They learned that 25% of all toxic pesticides used in agriculture was (and is) used in the cultivation of cotton, that the resulting pollution of soil and water was (and is) horrific, and that evidence of damage to the health of fieldworkers is strong, though difficult to prove. Cotton was the biggest villain – and it didn’t have to be. Farmers had grown cotton organically, without pesticides, for thousands of years. Only after World War II did the chemicals originally developed as nerve gases become available for commercial use, to eliminate the need for weeding fields by hand.”
* They continue the search for more environmentally friendly fabrics. They are using more hemp, in some products in combination with recycled polyester.
* They will repair their products.
* Worn Wear is an online program that will sell your old Patagonia gear. They say, “Why extend the life of your gear? Because the best thing we can do for our planet is get more use out of stuff we already own, cutting down on consumption, repairing, sharing and recycling your gear.” During the 2017 fiscal year, they made 50,295 clothing repairs. They also have a trade-in program to swap old gear and Patagonia’s Worn Wear trailer makes stops across the U.S. to repair their products.

Patagonia products may be a bit more expensive but they hold their value in resale. So, for all of the environmentally friendly practices of this company, I want to give a “hats off” to Patagonia for caring about our environment!

Patagonia

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Record Heat Waves Plague the Planet

There will be more severe heat waves. They will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and occur in more varied places.

By Dr. John J. Hidore
February 12, 2019——Heat wave is a general term. When it seems unusually warm someplace there is often a tendency to describe the weather as a heat wave. As it turns out it is very hard to define a heat wave. The reason is simple. Normal summer high temperatures vary greatly from place to place. What would be defined as a heat wave in one location would not be appropriate for another location, perhaps not even too far away. An adequate definition might be, “A heat wave is an unusually warm or hot period lasting for days or perhaps weeks.” We associate them with summer but by this definition they can actually occur at any season.

climate change

The exchange of energy is causing rapid arctic melting.

At least one country makes a clear definition of a heat wave and that is Pakistan. India also defines heat waves and uses different temperatures in different parts of the country to establish what constitutes a heat wave. In the plains regions of the Unites States, temperatures above 40degreesC (104 degreesF) constitute a heat wave. They also define a severe heat wave for this region as experiencing temperatures over 46 degreesC (114.8 degreesF).

Distribution of the 2018 Heat Waves

In 2018 the northern hemisphere experienced major heat waves. Heat waves occurred over most of the northern hemisphere as well as Australia. Europe experienced a major heat wave in the spring and summer. These extreme heat waves were largely a function of climate change, particularly of global warming.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

Global warming also increases the probability of higher extreme temperatures during a heat wave. Such was the case in 2018. All-time highs were recorded in North America and Europe. At one location in Finland that is north of the Arctic circle, a temperature of 33.3°C (92°F) was recorded. Undoubtedly extreme highs were recorded in many other areas as well. Qurayyat, in Oman, experienced a 24 hour period when the temperature did not drop below 42.6°C. This was the highest minimum daily temperature ever recorded.

The Impact of the Heat Waves

The impacts of the heat waves were many and varied. They included:
A. Increased mortality: Japan, Algeria, and Canada recorded fatalities attributed to the heat.
B. Droughts and agricultural losses. In parts of Europe precipitation amounts fell to as little as 20% of normal.
C. The closing of nuclear power plants due to a shortage of water for cooling.
D. Frequent and severe wild fires. Severe wild fires occurred on every continent except Antarctica.
E. In 2016 and 2017 there was major bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. In all probability 2018 will turn out to be the same
F. In the summer at one point the combined concentration of greenhouse gasses reached 500 ppm, approximately 100 ppm above the average for this time.

The Deadly Heat Wave of Europe in 2003

Some heat waves have become deadly. Perhaps the most deadly heat wave of the 21st Century was that which occurred in Europe in August of 2003. Temperatures in France reached as much as 40°C (104 DegreesF) and remained exceptionally high for two weeks resulting in nearly 15,000 deaths in that country alone. The death toll over Europe reached approximately 35,000 and may have been as high as 50,000.

Climate Change

The earth’s overall temperatures are increasing every year.

A large contributing factor in the high death toll was warmer than normal nighttime temperatures. As a result people without air conditioning could not cool down during the night. The heat stress accumulated over time. Extreme heat waves also can devastate agriculture. In Europe, in the heat wave of 2003, temperatures averaged 5.5°C (10°F) above normal. In Italy corn yields dropped 36% below average. In France fruit yields fell 25% and wine production 10%. Heat also affects the rate of plant pollination.

Asian heat waves of 2015

That year a May heat wave in India claimed at least 2,500 lives. Heat waves are fairly frequent in India but this was the greatest loss of life from a heat wave in over 30 years. Extremely high temperatures were reached in cities scattered over the country. Power outages were wide spread as a result of high demand for air conditioning. The city of Khammam recorded the highest temperature ever recorded there at 48 degrees C (118.4 degreesF). Other high temperatures that were recorded were:

Allahabad 47.8 degrees C (118.0 degrees F)
Delhi 45.5 degrees C (113.9 degrees F)
Hyderabad 46 degrees C (115 degrees F)
Jharsuguda 45.4 degrees C (113.7 degrees F)

In June the deadliest heat wave known to have occurred in Pakistan took place in the southern part of the country near Karachi. The death toll is unknown for certain but may have reached more than 1000. The heat wave struck during the month of Ramadan which made the impact of the event more severe than it might have been. Unfortunately, city services were not in condition to cope with the heat.

As the planet warms it can be expected that: (1) there will be more severe heat waves. They will become hotter, more frequent, last longer and occur in more varied places. As cities grow larger in area and population they will experience increasing heat waves. (2) new record high temperatures will be set more frequently on the planet.

Heat Wave


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The USA National Phenology Network: Taking the Pulse of our Planet

Phenology

Climate change affects all life.

“Phenology is nature’s calendar. It’s the study of plant and animal life cycle events.”

By Linn Smith
June 14, 2018—–I learned about Phenology when visiting Biosphere 2 several months ago. Upon entering I asked the question, “But where is Biosphere 1?” “It’s our Planet Earth!” our guide answered. (I knew little before entering!) On the grounds of Biosphere 2 is the Biosphere Village Phenology garden.

Climate Change

Birds depend on insects to feed their young.

What is Phenology?

Phenology is nature’s calendar. It’s the study of plant and animal life cycle events, such as leafing and flowering of plants, emergence of insects, and bird migration. Many of these events are sensitive to climate change. Birds build their nest to coincide with insects coming to life after a long winter. The insects are the necessary food for the baby birds and, as the climate warms and winters shorten, this nesting time period will change.

Phenology

What is it?

Monitoring animal and plant life, or Phenology, can help scientists predict which populations are in danger of extinction. It can also help manage invasive species, help predict human health problems, such as allergies, and predict optimum times to plant and harvest crops.

The Biosphere Phenology Garden

“The garden at the Biosphere is part of a nationwide effort to help scientists track impacts of climatic variation and change on the natural world. We are monitoring the timing and occurrence of seasonal events of this garden and reporting the observations to USA-NPN’s national data base.” (USA National Phenology Network)

Phenology

It helps us understand our changing environment.

How You Can Help!

And this is how you can get involved! Citizen Scientists were developed so all can participate in monitoring nature and recording the data. The USA National Phenology Network brings together citizens, government agencies, educators, students and nonprofit organizations to monitor the impacts of climatic variation and change on plants and animals across the U.S. The network harnesses the power of people and the Internet to share information and provide data to researchers.

USA-NPN invites anyone interested to volunteer as an observer so that they can better understand environmental trends and adaptation to climate change. Your own yard can serve as a phenology garden where you observe plants and report your findings. You can track the phenology of plants and animals through Nature’s Notebook, which is an online monitoring system, contributing to a national database that can be used by scientists and resource managers.

Phenology

It can help us understand why nature is changing.

Citizen Scientists at Work

“Cathie Bird finds being outdoors healing and inspiring. She goes outside nearly every day to see what other species are up to, and after she heard about Nature’s Notebook, she decided to record what she observes for the benefit of science. She feels “being an observer has connected me even more deeply with life in my neighborhood” and has “enriched my lifelong commitment to cultivate a deeper relationship with Earth.

Chris Nielsen started using Nature’s Notebook to observe native plants in the Northwest several years ago. Chris not only monitors plants at his home, but also at the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, WA. What does Chris recommend for getting started with Nature’s Notebook? Don’t take on too many plants! Start out with just a few then take on more as you get comfortable with the program.”

Now is the time to step up to the plate and help out…..the time was actually yesterday, but as the old saying goes, better late than never! Find out more information at: https://www.usanpn.org/natures_notebook

Phenology, You can help!

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Climate Change is Adding to the Sixth Mass Extinction

Species extinction

Extinction of species is happening at an accelerated rate.

More than 90% of the threatened species are due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting, and the introduction of exotic species.

June 26, 2015–Scientific studies indicate Planet Earth was formed some 4.6 billion years ago. Most of us have difficulty comprehending that length of time. For some time after our planet was created there was no life in existence as we know it today. Primitive life developed 3 ½ to 4 billion years ago because of ideal conditions.

Mass Extinctions

Once life appeared, the number of species generally increased. At the same time the overall number was increasing, individual species disappeared (became extinct). Thus extinction is a natural process that has been taking place over time. When a majority of existing species disappear in a relatively short time it, is referred to as mass extinction. A mass extinction is defined by a loss of a least 75% of existing species within a relatively short period of time–as measured by geologic time.

Extinction of species

As human population accelerates, so does extinction of species.

Climate and Mass Extinction

Climate change was responsible for the first mass extinction. It occurred when oxygen replaced carbon dioxide as the primary gas in the atmosphere. Organisms that had developed in a carbon rich atmosphere had to adapt to the change or die. Most organisms succumbed to the change. It took place approximately 1.5 billion years ago. A number of other such extremes took place over geologic time. The last was about 65 million years ago, known as the K-T boundary. It was thought to have been caused by the impact of a large object from space, which lead to the demise of the dinosaur.

There have been several periods of extinction in recent times. One was at the end of the Pleistocene glaciation, when many large animals disappeared in a relatively short time. There is some debate as to whether it was due to the sudden environmental warming, or if human hunting was a main factor. A spurt of extinctions also occurred with the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. Extinctions increased even faster with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, about 200 years ago, and are accelerating today.

Human Activity and Extinction

The current high rate of species extinction is due primarily to human activity. More than 90% of the threatened species are due to climate change, habitat loss, hunting, and the introduction of exotic species.

At the present time, species of plants and animals of all types are being eliminated at a rapid rate. The natural rate of species extinction prior to human intervention was one in five species per year. The actual rate of species extinction now is not known for certain. Scientific estimates range from 100 to 1000 times the rate prior to the agricultural revolution. In actual numbers determined by statistical theory, there may be an annual loss of species of at least 100,000 species each year. The large number of extinctions includes amphibians, arthropods, birds, mammals, and reptiles. Thousands of species probably became extinct even before they were described. This modern extinction is known as the Sixth Mass Extinction or the Holocene Extinction. The Holocene is defined as that period of known history that goes back to the beginning of agriculture some 10,000 years ago.

Species that are becoming extinct

Many species of life are accelerating towards extinction–except human.

Amphibians and Invertabrates

No one actually knows how many species are in danger of becoming extinct in the future. Plants and animals of all types are in danger of being eliminated. It is estimated that approximately 2/3 of all plants evaluated are in danger of extinction. For species of animals evaluated by the IUCN, the highest rate of endangered species appears among amphibians and invertebrates with a projected loss near 30%. Among fish, mammals, and reptiles about 20% are endangered.

Climate Change and Extinction

Global warming and climate change contribute to the loss of many of the species already extinct and those that are in danger. The warming of the planet endangers plants and animals on land and in the sea. Two examples serve as illustrations. Cloud forests exist in mountain regions in many parts of the world. These are forests that exist high enough in the mountains so as to be immersed in clouds much of the time. In some areas they are being restricted to higher and higher elevations or are disappearing altogether.

One such cloud forest is the Monteverde Forest in Costa Rica. In the world ocean many coral reefs are in danger, as species associated with reefs are dying due to warmer water. The end result is coral bleaching, the dying of the many species of organisms that lived there in the past. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is an example of a reef which is undergoing bleaching.

Forecasts are based on current as well as past data and projected into the future. There are forecasts which provide an idea of the extent of the problem of the disappearing species. Based on the use of different data and different forecasting methods, the results differ. There are forecasts that thirty to fifty percent of all of species known to exist during historic times may be permanently lost to extinction by 2050. More conservative forecasts suggest that a loss of half the spices will not take place before the year 2100.

It needs to be stated that the current crisis of life on Earth does not yet qualify as a mass extinction. However, at the rate extinctions are occurring, it could classify as mass extinction within a century or two. What is clear is that the rate of extinction is increasing and will continue to increase unless action is taken soon. As a major contributor to extinction, reducing the rate of climate change is essential to saving Earth’s biodiversity. It must be done now!

Reducing the rate of climate change is essential to saving Earth’s biodiversity


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Dengue Fever

Dengue distribution in 2006. Red : Epidemic de...

Dengue distribution in 2006. Red : Epidemic dengue and Ae. aegypti Aqua : Just Ae. aegypti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By John J. Hidore
September 14, 2013–Global warming and climate change are having a significant affect on human health in a variety of ways. Changes in temperature and rainfall affect the life cycles of disease carrying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks. As the planet warms it also increases the range and frequency of tropical diseases. Tropical diseases have become more prevalent in their traditional zones and have broken out in areas where they were unknown previously. Diseases that have increased in frequency or severity include malaria, cholera, yellow fever, the plague, dengue fever, meningococcal meningitis, influenza, diarrhea disease, Hantavirus, West Nile encephalitis virus, and chikungunya. Rising temperatures may lead to increased frequency of some of these diseases n the United States
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that is found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. It is a viral infection carried by day biting mosquitoes. The symptoms are excruciating pain in the bones, fever, muscle aches, and rash. Most cases are not serious, and only last a few weeks. A more severe form known as severe dengue (dengue hemorrhagic fever) has similar symptoms but also causes internal bleeding and bleeding through the nose and gums. This form of the disease can lead to shock and death. The world health organization reported that this fever is now the fastest spreading vector-borne virus on Earth. There have been 50 to 100 million new cases reported each year in the last decade. The range in which it occurs is expanding horizontally and is increasing its range upward in mountain areas as warm temperatures move to higher altitudes. Most cases are found in urban areas. Mosquitoes that carry the fever are increasing in numbers in urban areas where stagnant pools of water form in unused containers and puddles. There currently exist no vaccines or medications specifically for the disease.
There is currently a worldwide pandemic and it is most common in India, Viet Nam and the Caribbean. It appeared in South America in the last decade of the 20th century and it existed on the Pacific side of Costa Rica for some time. There were epidemics there in 1993 and 1994. In 1995 unusually warm weather allowed the mosquitoes to cross the mountains into the rest of the country. Outbreaks of the disease occurred in other areas of South America also. Thousands died of the epidemic and nearly 150,000 were infected.
In the fall of 2007, dengue fever spread across the Caribbean in one of the worst outbreaks in decades. Health agencies declared the disease was at near record levels in 2007. It affected hundreds of thousands of individuals and killed more than 200. Puerto Rico reported some 5000 cases in 2012.
An epidemic of the fever ravaged Charleston, S.C as early as 1828. The fever was endemic in the south of the United States prior to World War II. Following the war a nationwide program to eliminate flies and mosquitoes was begun. This attempt included ridding the country of malaria. The program largely eliminated dengue fever in this country. However, cases are now diagnosed in the United States nearly every year in persons that have traveled to regions where the disease is endemic. The Center for Disease Control reported that 1167 of these cases were reported between 1996 and 2005. There were 25 cases reported in Brownsville, Texas in 2005. Blood tests were conducted by the CDC on residents of Brownsville. Thirty-eight percent showed signs of past dengue infection. Eleven percent of these had not been outside the country and so had to be infected in the local area. Two and one-half percent of those tested showed signs of recent infection.
In 2009 the first case in 40 years was reported in Florida. In 2010 an outbreak occurred that reported 63 cases among people that had not traveled in tropical regions. A strain of the Aedes mosquito had established itself in Key West. The last case there was reported in November of that year. This summer the fever appeared in Martin County Florida. As of August 27, 2013 four cases had been confirmed
Chikungunya (Chicken Guinea) is a disease similar in symptoms to dengue fever. The disease is a relatively new mosquito borne viral fever. The symptoms are sudden high fever reaching 39ºC (102ºF), a variety of skin rashes and other skin irregularities, arthritis of the joints, and headache. Severe joint pain may last for weeks or months. In the recent epidemic in India, high fever and joint pain were the most common symptoms. Fever normally lasts about 48 hours before breaking. The mosquitoes carrying the virus are found in the United States, especially in the South. The Center for Disease Control reported that cases have developed in the United States in persons who have traveled to the areas where outbreaks were occurring. An unknown number of Canadian and Europeans have also contracted the disease. None are known to have developed in individuals that have not traveled to regions where the disease is endemic.
Several factors have led to the increased numbers of persons contracting these diseases. The higher temperatures associated with global warming increases mosquito activity, the human population is increasing in the areas where the mosquitoes are found, and more people traveling into and out of the affected areas.

World Health Organization
Center for Disease Control