Planet Earth Weekly

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


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A Positive Environmental Impact: Recycling Steel

recycle steel

Recycling steel will make a positive impact on our environment.

“If our government doesn’t support clean technology, then we need to clean up our own back yards to counteract this lack of environmental support.”

By Linn Smith

July 27, 2017—-In June, Acosta mining company opened the first new mine in Pennsylvania in many years, stating that 2/3 of the coal mined would be used in steel production. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It remains to be seen to what extent the coal industry can rebound……the industry will continue to contend with cheap natural gas and clean energy.” Not a mile from the Acosta Mine, clean energy is found! Dozens of wind turbines line the ridges!

Can we produce steel without coal? According to http://www.letstalkaaboutcoal.co.nz, “Making Steel Without Coal”, the answer is no, not at the scale we need at the present time. We produce about 1.6 billion tons of steel worldwide each year. Half of this is produced in China.

To produce 1 ton of steel, .8 tons of coal is used, emitting 2.1 tons of CO2 into our atmosphere. Producing steel and iron accounts for approximately 6.7% of CO2 emissions worldwide. This is a major contributor to climate change!

Coal and steel

Steel making contributes to climate change.

Making Steel

In New Zealand ironsand, a type of sand which has a heavy concentration of various metals, is used instead of coal to produce steel, and New Zealanders have improved on their steel plants by using by-product heat, a method of using the waste heat from steel production. This use of waste heat lessens the contaminates that are put into our atmosphere. Some ironsand is exported to other countries for steel production, but the amount available is not significant.

The most common method of steel production uses coke, a bi-product of coal. The average blast furnace used to make steel needs 800kg of coal to produce a ton of steel! Recycling steel for new products uses 50 times less coal! The average electric arc furnace (used in recycling steel) uses about 16kg of coal. We can reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere by recycling steel products that are no longer used. If our government doesn’t support clean technology, then we need to clean up our own back yards to counteract this lack of environmental support. We, as individuals, can make a conscious effort to recycle, not only packaging materials, but steel.

steel and coal

Making steel causes pollution, contributing to global warming.

Any Grade of Steel can be Recycled

Steel is the most recycled material on the planet. According to Wikipedia, “Any grade of steel can be recycled to top quality new metal, with no ‘downgrading’ from prime to lower quality materials as steel is recycled repeatedly. 42% of crude steel produced is recycled material.”
You can recycle many things that may have seen better days, such as bikes, broken toasters, and cars or car parts.

By recycling steel, you are doing your part to reduce the need for new mined minerals. In fact, two of every three tons of new steel comes from steel scrap.

Recycle Steel: How You Can Help!

The American Iron and Steel Institute has put together some interesting facts about steel recycling. Here are a few of them:
1. Millions of tons of iron and steel are diverted from the waste stream to the recycling stream due to steel’s magnetic properties that make it the easiest material to separate from the solid waste stream.
2. Almost 69 percent of all steel is recycled in North America each year – more than paper, aluminum, plastic & glass combined. North America’s average recycling rate has been in excess of 60 percent since 1970.
3. More than 80 million tons of steel are recycled each year in North America.
4. For every ton of steel recycled, 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved.
5. Steel products can be recycled repeatedly without loss of strength.
6. Recycling steel saves the equivalent energy to power about 18 million households for a year.
7. When you buy steel, you’re always buying recycled.
8. More than 14 million cars in North America were recycled in 2006.
9. In 2006, the steel industry recycled enough steel from old cars to produce nearly 13.5 million new ones.
10. One scrapped car produces more than four steel utility poles.
11. 95 percent of the steel taken from commercial construction demolition sites was recycled and made into new steel products in 2002.
12. It takes more than 40 trees to build a wood-framed home. A steel-framed home—eight recycled cars.
13. All 99 pounds of steel in the average major appliance can be recycled to make new steel products.
14. Appliance motors are made from steel.
15. Steel comprises approximately 75 percent of all major appliances.

Do your part! Prevent old appliances and steel based products from taking up space in our landfills, where they will still be sitting thousands of years from now!

Recycle Steel


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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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The Repeal of The Stream Protection Rule

smog

Coal causes major pollution!

“The Congressional Review Act clears the path for the new Republican administration to repeal any of Obama’s legislation signed after mid June of 2016.”

By Linn Smith

February 19, 2017—This week Trump signed a bill which repeals Obama’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulaton that protects waterways from coal mining waste by placing restrictions on coal companies that dump their waste in streams. Obama signed the Stream Protection Rule in December 2016, several weeks before the Trump administration took power.

The Congressional Review Act

The 1996 Congressional Review Act allows the House and Senate to kill any recently finalized federal regulation signed by an outgoing administration, in this case Obama. It allows congress and the new administraton, Trump, to repeal an act by a majority vote in congress, as long as the new president agrees to sign it, and Trump has agreed to the repeal!

The Congressional Review Act clears the path for the new Republican administration to repeal any of Obama’s legislation signed after mid June of 2016, and there is a lengthy list of repeals pending! The Stream Protection Rule was finalized by Obama in December 2016, so the Congressional Review Act is well within the limits for use in repealing this rule. Since its creation in 1996 the Congressional Review Act has only been put in to use one time—George W. Bush rolled back legislation in 2001 that would have further protected employees in the workplace.

The Stream Protection Rule

The Stream Protection Rule would have required new mining companies to set aside money to restore surrounding streams that would be effected by the mine and all mining companies would be required to monitor water quality. The Interior Department estimated the regulation would have cost the coal companies only 0.1 percent or less of their entire annual coal industry revenues!

According to sciencemag.org, “Demise of the Stream Rule won’t revitalize coal industry,” killing the rule will reset to its 1983 version when, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers usually issued a permit for blocking a stream with mine waste with the EPA also signing off. The repeal puts the pressure back on the Corps.”

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

No Return of Coal Mining Jobs

The coal companies stated the Stream Protection Rule would have reduced mining jobs. But in Appalachia it’s predicted that jobs will never return because mountaintop mining is more economical and requires fewer workers. In the Planet Earth Weekly article, From Coal Mining to Renewables, planetearth5.com, I stated, “Coal jobs have been trending down for decades, partially because of mountaintop mining. Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.”

Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

In 2015 the coal industry employed just under 70,000 people. There will always be some need for coal, as in the production of steel, but as an energy source it’s becoming the more expensive fuel. Natural gas and renewables are more economical, with renewables eventually being the future!

Trump signs Stream Protection Rule


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Our Throw-Away Culture

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not!”

Linn Smith

December 29, 2016—Well, Christmas is over and garbage cans and dumpsters are loaded with boxes, wrapping paper, bows and various discards from the holidays. “Take, Make, Waste” is what Annie Leonard calls it in “The Story of Stuff”.

I grew up in a rural farming community. Our yearly garden produced the vegetables we ate. Our trees produced the fruit we would enjoy until the following year’s vegetables and fruits were harvested. What our garden and fruit trees didn’t produce, my grandmother’s house did. Grapes were turned into jelly and so sweet, I have never tasted anything like it since! My parents canned…….and canned some more. The walls in the basement had shelves full of glass jars filled with the beautiful colors of vegetables and fruits. The taste……well, nothing you can buy in a grocery store today! After the fruits and vegetables were consumed the jars were washed and stored back on the shelves for next season’s crop.

Our milk came from our dairy herd, strained through a cheese cloth to get the black floaty things out…never pasteurized! Our meat came from pasture grazed cattle, raised either on our farm or my uncle’s farm and eggs were just a short walk to the hen house.

The Barefoot College

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

Family Farms Today

Today the family farms where I grew up have all but died, replaced by corporations raising corn for ethanol. Meat and poultry products are mass produced for the consumer in feed lots or small confined cages. How often I walk past fruit trees and the fruit is laying on the ground rotting. Is the art of preserving our food being lost for the next generation?

And what about all the things we Americans tear down or throw away because we’re tired of it and it’s time for something new?

How to be a More Mindful Consumer

Annie Leonard states in “How to be a More than Mindful Consumer, “Let me say it clearly. I’m neither for nor against stuff. I like stuff if it’s well-made, honestly marketed, used for a long time, and at the end of its life, recycled in a way that doesn’t trash the planet, poison people, or exploit workers. Our stuff should not be artifacts of indulgence and disposability, like toys that are forgotten 15 minutes after the wrapping comes off, but things that are both practical and meaningful. British philosopher William Morris said it best: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Save Planet Earth

Sweden: Creating a Sustainable Community

Sweden is a leader in being an environmentally conscious country. In 2017, they will reduce the sales tax when citizens repair things like bicycles, shoes and cloths. And when people choose to fix white goods, such as washing machines and dishwashers instead of carting them off to the dump, they will receive tax refunds….a reward for being less wasteful. They believe that changing the economic incentives will change people’s thinking toward creating a healthier environment.

Colin Beavan: A Year of Deprivation?

Colin Beavan spent a year trying to live with the least impact on the environment. He tried creating no waste, eating no pre-processed meals, no t.v., no car, and bought no new stuff. Here’s what he had to say about that year, “”They assumed I just finished a year of deprivation,” Colin said. “But I realized that it was the prior 35 years that I had been deprived when I use to workaround the clock, rush home late and exhausted, eat take-out food, and plop down to watch TV until it was time to take out the trash, go to sleep, and start all over again. That was deprivation!”

Take Action

With a new administration entering power in the U.S. it’s time to take responsibility for leaving a healthy planet for future generations….because our government is not going to do it for us! The incoming administration does not support the scientific facts that state our planet is warming and our weather is changing. So it’s time to do what we can, when we can, where we can! We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not make a healthy planet a priority–or worse, works for the reversal of steps taken to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free from the consequence of those actions!

Take Action to Create a Sustainable Future


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International Action on Climate Change Surges in 2016

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“In order to halt global warming, all countries need to participate including the U.S. under the new administration!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 7, 2016—–There have been a number of events this year which have both indicated the growing awareness of the extent of climate change and also a willingness for nations to work together to solve the problems of climate change. Among them are two of particular importance. They are the actions taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to reduce or eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

Implementing the Paris Agreement on Limiting Greenhouse Gases

In December of 2015, a conference was held in a suburb of Paris, France to discuss the effects of global warming and actions to take. Attending were more heads of state than had ever before attended a single conference in world history. The outcome was that nearly all of the countries presented plans to reduce greenhouse gases in the near future. But in order for this agreement to become a working document enough countries must sign up, sharing the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an additional 55%. The goal is to keep global temperatures from rising 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. The goal is to keep the level below 1.5ºC. Enacting this agreement would be a huge step forward in slowing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

The time table for implementing the agreement was the year 2020. In a surprising show of support for the agreement it took just 10 months for the requisite number of countries to sign on. This meant the participants wanted action now, not four years from now. So far more than 75 countries have signed on. If these countries meet their goals it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions more than the required 55% set out in the agreement.

There is, as one might expect, some opposition to the Paris agreement. Donald Trump, the president elect of the United States has said that he would cancel the U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. This is in spite of the fact that the U.S. is one of the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. If the U.S. pulls out of the agreement it will be more difficult to reach the goals of the plan. The president of the Philippines has also indicated that he would not honor the agreement. Politics in Brazil may result in that country pulling out as well. Only time will determine how dedicated the international community is in reducing greenhouse gases and global warming.

Cop 21

There is a lot of hard work to be done after the Cop21 agreement.

International Action on Hydroflourocarbons (HFC’s)

In 1974, scientists warned there was evidence to suggest that compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have a depleting effect on stratospheric ozone layers. They first came into use in refrigerators in the 1930s. Since World War II, they have been used as propellants in deodorants and hair sprays, in producing plastic foams, and in cleaning electronic parts.

Chlorofluorocarbons rise into the upper atmosphere where they break apart and end up reducing the ozone concentration. The most disturbing reduction in atmospheric ozone is that found over the Antarctic Continent and is referred to as the ozone hole. The ozone hole over Antarctica has occurred in September and October since the late 1970s. Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment. The U.N. Environment Program called for a conference in Montreal, Canada, in September 1987, which drafted a treaty restricting the production of CFCs. The agreement is officially termed the Montreal protocol. International support for the treaty led to a substantial reduction in CFC production. Evidence now indicates that the average extent of the Antarctic ozone hole is declining. In the Antarctic spring of 2015 (September and October) the extent of the hole was only about ½ of what the previous maximum area had been.

Save Planet Earth

In an extremely important event with implications for global warming took place in Vienna, Austria in July of 2016. Most countries that took part in the Paris conference attended the meeting. The participants in this conference reached agreement to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals used as refrigerants in place of the Chlorofluorocarbons that resulted in the Antarctic ozone hole. HFCs are not a large percentage of greenhouse gases, but they are perhaps the most effective in terms of absorbing earth radiation. Use of these chemicals has grown rapidly in the last decade due to the increasing use of air conditioning and refrigeration. It was hoped that an agreement would be reached before a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in October. The proposal would result in an amendment to the Montreal protocol that limited the use of CFCs. The main problem holding up the agreement was the date when the participating countries had to begin reducing the use of the HFCs.

The Kigali conference was major success, 170 countries sent representatives that worked for four days to negotiate the amendment. The result was a document that would eliminate 90% of the current usage of HFCs. A compromise was reached on when countries would start the reduction. The reduction efforts would begin for some of the wealthier countries in 2019. More than 100 countries, including China, have a beginning date of 2024. A few others, including India, committed to a 2028 start. Making the change is more difficult in developing countries which are tied to older technology. The reductions are based on changing corporate usage and in new alternate chemicals becoming available. There are already alternate chemicals available and new ones in development. If the countries met their goals it would reduce the forthcoming temperature rise by a half degree Celsius.

In order to halt global warming, all countries need to participate including the U.S. under the new administration!


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The Republican Plan to Eliminate the Clean Air Act

Smog  devastates the town

Donora, origination of the word “smog”.

“Why all the effort to eliminate the regulation of toxic emissions? Because pollution control costs money!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 30, 2016—Anyone who watches national or international news often sees videos of Beijing or other Chinese cities, where the air pollution becomes unsafe to breath. The air often contains carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. In the worst cases the authorities recommend people stay indoors. This is not a new phenomenon. The same problem exists in other places.

Historic Urban Pollution Episodes

On October 27, 1945, a thick mixture of smoke and fog formed over the town of Donora, Pennsylvania in the United States. Donora was a town of about 14,000 people, with two large industrial mills in the town. One was a steel and wire company and the other was a zinc plant. The next day, after the cloud formed, people started getting sick and dying. The hospitals were soon full and a temporary morgue was established in the community building. People could not easily leave town because the cloud was too thick to drive. Thousands of the town’s population became sick and 20 perished. Four days after the poisonous cloud formed a storm broke up the cloud. In spite of the fatal event in Donora, the two plants continued to operate for years. The cloud was a mixture of smoke and industrial chemicals. It was this event which gave birth to the term smog. Just four years after the Donora, Pennsylvania event, a week long smog hit London, England. It was largely the result of burning coal and was estimated to have killed 4,000 people.

smog

Factories send chemicals into the atmosphere.

Encounters With Brown Clouds

Smog and brown clouds of pollutants became global and remain so today, if not quite as pronounced. I remember several decades ago when two personal experiences shocked me as to how extensive and serious the air pollution was in some American cities. I flew into Denver, Colorado one clear and sunny morning to attend a conference. As we approached Denver all I could see was a brown smudge. The only evidence there was a city was a revolving restaurant atop a tower, which rose above the brown cloud. The other experience was being on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater in east Africa and seeing a brown layer of pollution in the lower atmosphere that spanned the entire horizon.

Smog

Clean Air Act cleans up Manhattan.

Enactment of the Clean Air Act

In 1963, largely due to the events in Donora and London, the US Congress passed an initial piece of legislation to control air pollution. The Clean Air Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. This forced the closing of the plants in Donora several years later. President Richard Nixon signed a tougher version in 1970. The Clean Air Act put a limit on the concentration of sulfur dioxide in industrial emissions and power plants. In the Donora event, the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the air was more than 200 times the limit set by the law. As a result of the Clean Air Act, lead has been virtually eliminated from emissions and poisonous gases greatly reduced. Worldwide attention to air pollution and greenhouse gases resulted in the historic climate conference in Paris last year. It brought worldwide agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

Federal Efforts to Turn Back the Clean Air Act

In spite of the international response to harmful emissions, the Republican party is working to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act. They would return us all to breathing unhealthy air! Corporate lobbyists continually encourage legislation to attack the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to set emission standards. Both houses of congress have introduced bills to eliminate or reduce emission standards of harmful substances. Senator Imhofe introduced a bill that would eliminate regulation of mercury, lead, zinc and other toxic substances from power plants. These are some of the very substances that created the disaster in Donora!

Republican Controlled Legislatures Play Follow the Leader

Many state governments have followed the lead of the federal government. Beginning in 2011, after the election of the Governor McCrory, the state of North Carolina began passing legislation to protect polluters. In response to pressure by major companies, they rescinded previously enacted laws protecting the people from atmospheric pollutants. They also took the step to eliminate nearly half of the air quality monitors in the state. Along with these steps, they made it difficult to deny applications from corporations that would allow them to be exempt from emission regulations.

a vote for trump would devastate the Clean Air Act

Clinton supports renewable energy.

Profits Trump all Else

Why all the effort to eliminate regulation of toxic emissions? Because pollution control costs money! In the current congress, corporate profit trumps all else. Profits to them are more important than human health!


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Replacing EVAs with Algae Products: The Environmental Impact

Bloom Biofoam

Turn Algae into Biofoam

“Most of the footwear industry’s response to this increasing problem of end-of-life shoe waste has been negligible.”

By Linn Smith

October 7, 2016—Ever thought about what your athletic shoes are made of? Or where they end up when they’re discarded and no longer on your feet? Most likely the landfill. Over 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced yearly and over 300 million pairs are thrown away in the same year. And all of these shoes are still laying somewhere in our landfills, year after year, for up to 1,000 years!

Athletic Shoes and EVA’s

Most shoe midsoles, from the major running shoe companies, are derivatives of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate foam), with additives, such as polyurethane, to create the desired results of the individual shoe brand. What’s the down side of using EVA in today’s shoes? EVAs release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air when decomposing.

VOCs contribute to the formation of tropospheric ozone which is harmful to humans and plants, and can pollute groundwater and rivers when decomposing. According to Wikipedea, “Although there are some companies that are taking initiatives to produce environmentally friendly athletic footwear, most of the footwear industry’s response to this increasing problem of end-of-life shoe waste has been negligible.”

Turning algae into sustainable products.

Replacing nonsustainable products with biodegradables

Today several companies are working to create biodegradable footwear using materials that will compost when your shoes are tossed into the landfill. One such company is Bloom Holdings LLC, a new company which started production in early 2016, manufacturing a foam product from algae found in freshwater lakes and rivers. The company uses a mobile vacuum to harvest problematic algae from around the world.

Harvesting Problematic Algae

Problematic algae are often called red tides, which are algae blooms that have become so numerous they can discolor the water, depleting oxygen and often releasing toxins. Algae can also cause human illnesses via consumption of seafood contaminated by the toxins.

There has been a rise in problematic algae for several reasons including global warming, which is causing an increase in water temperatures encouraging algae to flourish. Nitrogenous fertilizers and detergents can also cause problematic algae bloom, making their way into freshwater rivers and lakes, killing many fish. And finally, overpopulation can lead to overfishing of predator fish which results in a massive increase in small fish and large blooms of algae.

Bloom algae

Creating Sustainable Products

Bloom Biofoam

Of about 5,000 plus species of marine phytoplankton that exist on earth, only about 2% are toxic or have harmful effects. BLOOM harvests these algae, making them into pellets, then turning the pellets into a flexible, biodegradable foam which can replace the harmful, non-biodegradable EVAs. The products are competitively priced, hypoallergenic and naturally antimicrobial. Bloom biofoam can be molded, made into sheet foam, or compressed.

The first product made from algae blooms is a surfboard material in collaboration with pro-surfer Kelly Slater. The surfboard pad contains 25% algae foam. Most products will have a minimum of 25% algae bloom. Bloom Company estimates that making the surfboard pad will return 28 gallons of clean filtered water back into the habitat, per pad. And it will prevent 22 helium-balloon sized equivalent of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere–per pad.

“We try to incorporate sustainability and practicality into everything we do. We want to help make more sustainable product options an accessible and easy choice,” says Mike Van Drunen, co-founder and CEO. BLOOM offers a sustainable answer to conventional flexible foams, with less environmental impact.

What we do today effects tomorrow!

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The Irresponsible Practices of the Palm Oil Industry

Palm oil and negative environmental impact

Palm oil plantations are in demand as the world uses more palm oil

The use of palm oil products, that further the destruction of our planet, its people and wildlife, is not acceptable!

By Linn Smith

December 4, 2015—Being curious about palm oil and its devastation to wildlife habitats and the environment, many questions have lingered in my mind. What are the various kinds of palms and what palms are used as oil palms? What is the relationship of oil palms to coconut palms? (I use a lot of coconut oil!) How is the harvesting of products from palm trees effecting our environment? So I decided to investigate and here’s what I found:

Palm Oil Products

According to Philadelphiazoo.org, a zoo currently working towards spreading awareness of the negative impacts of palm oil, the oil can go by many different names in many different products, such as foods, cosmetics, hair and lotion products, cookies, toothpaste, cleaning products, and the list goes on. Here are some of the different names for palm oil you may find on these products: Cetyl Palmite, Ethyllhexyl Palmitate, Hydrated Palm Glycerides, Octyl Palmitate, Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol, Palmolein, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palmate….and more!

The Arecaceae Family

Oil palm and other palms, including coconut, come from the family Arecaceae which means “palm”–but there are thousands of different species of palm trees which grow a variety of different fruits, from dates and acai to coconuts. The fruit of the palm oil tree has kernels which are pressed to make palm oil. Most palm oil comes from the species Elaeis Guineensis. Coconut palm is from the species Cocos Nuciferas. A website, davesgarden.com, describes many of the various fruits of the palm family.

The Palm tree, which we get our coconut oil from, is mostly cultivated in Indonesia, the Philippines and India on a very small scale. The coconuts, harvested by local farmers, are a renewable resource. The coconut palm is known as a “three generation tree”, as it continues through three generations, supporting the farmer, his children and his grandchildren. The farmers produce coconut for coconut milk, coconut oil, fibres for rope, mats, mattresses, and paint brushes.

Removing tropical forests for palm oil

Tropical forests are burned to make room for palm oil plantations.

The Negative Impacts of Palm Oil

Quite the opposite of coconut production is the environmentally unfriendly production of palm oil. The oil palm is mass cultivated on large plantations that have been created by removing not only the indigenous people from their homes, but also have devastated the habitat of wildlife, mainly the Orangutan and Tiger in Indonesia and Malaysia. Tropical forests have been cleared to create plantations. This clearing has added to the warming of our planet as the valuable trees are cut and sold, leaving the rest to be burned down. Burning of the tropical forests emits large quantities of smoke into our atmosphere. Oil palms are then planted.

When the forests are cut they release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, driving up temperatures by the greenhouse effect. Indonesia is the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. It is estimated that 714 million acres of tropical forests will be cleared by 2050 adding another 169 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the the atmosphere, significantly raising global temperatures.

Oil palm industry and child labor

Child labor is used by the oil palm industry.

Violations by the Palm Industry Corporations

Corporations involved in the palm industry are accused of human rights violatons by employing child labor and taking the land owned by indigenous people for their own financial benefit–to supply the world with palm oil! Without their own land, the indigenous people have no choice but to become palm plantation workers, getting paid barely enough to support their families.

Another negative effect of cutting tropical forests for palm oil plantations is the destruction of peatlands, which store carbon. These peatlands, which have developed over thousands of years, are drained and cleared. According to biofueldaily.com, “Draining the peatlands exposes the upper layer to oxygen, raising decomposition rates and soil carbon losses. Most of the carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, speeding up climate change by emitting still more greenhouse gasses.” Clearing a single acre of peatland rain forest can release up to 15,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, (one hectare releases up to 6000 tons of CO2).

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

In 2004 the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by producers, manufacturers, traders, bankers and investors of the palm oil industry, with the objective to “promote growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards.”

Greenpeace and many other environmental organizations have criticized this group as, “Falling short of protecting the rain forests and reducing greenhouse gasses,” because the RSPO which has created the certified sustainable palm oils is not guaranteed to be deforestation-free. The RSPO also allows the destruction of peatlands by the industry. In 2013, 200 scientists asked for stronger standards, but the RSPO failed to respond.

In 2014, 67,000 tons of palm oil was used by Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Nature Valley, requiring 44,700 acres of tropical land to be cleared to grow the palm oil.

According to the Union Of Concerned Scientists there are steps we can take to let the industry know these practices are not acceptable. By going to the website:https://secure3.convio.net, you can sign a letter to the industry to increase sustainable practices.

The use of palm oil products, that further the destruction of our planet, its people and wildlife, is not acceptable! Do what you can to make a difference!