Planet Earth Weekly

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


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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!


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Solar Powering Your RV

Generators are loud, noisy and smelly! Plus, it can be expensive to use gas generators, which send emission fumes spewing into our atmosphere.

By Linn Smith

October 2, 2015—-A market for solarizing the RV (Recreational Vehicle) is currently growing, as more people are becoming full time RVers and spending winters in desert communities without hookups or on mountain peaks in the national forests (Boondocking). Why go solar with your RV? Generators are loud, noisy and smelly! Plus, it can be expensive to use gas generators, which send emission fumes spewing into our atmosphere. Solar is clean, requiring little maintenance, and it’s possible that it can pay for itself in the long run if you’re a full timer.

Our Solarized Scamp

Here’s an example of a simple solar system for a small trailer or pop-up. About ten years ago we created a solar set up for our little 16′ Scamp travel trailer from two solar panels. We bought the panels from a friend who owned a small business and was no longer using them. Each panel measured approximately 2′ by 4′. We hooked them together with two heavy door latches so they would fold up for storage. Battery cables were attached to the negative/positive wires which connected to the posts on the trailer battery.The result? All lights that worked off of the battery (except one flourescent that needed an electrical connection) continued to work into the night when the battery was charged by the sun. When the sun changed directions, we moved our panels around so that they were directly facing the sun.Two long metal rods were used to support the panels, leaning them back to catch the overhead sun. Ten years ago this set up was a good topic of discussion with other campers on our camping path who inquired about our “free electricity.”

Solar for rvs, travel trailers, solarize.

Solar for RV

Relying on the Sun’s Energy

Today, most solar panels for RV’s are laid on the roof and are unable to track the sun, but are more convenient than moving the panels around during the day to face the sun, as we did with our Scamp system. Also, regular solar panels mounted on top of an RV will lose voltage as they heat up, with temperatures above 77 degrees. So panels should be high voltage panels and mounted with space underneath to allow air to flow.

Boondocking and relying on the sun’s energy may require you to conserve electricity, as most RVs have a limited amount of battery storage, although in the future this most likely won’t be an issue. More efficient appliances might also help to conserve electricity when boondocking.

Building a Solar RV Swamp Cooler

I have a friend who built a swamp cooler for his RV. And, it works well in a semi-desert environment like Colorado. And, to go one step further, how about setting it up as a solar swamp cooler? (See website below for details).

Solar Power and RVs

You can design your own method of solar!

Online Solar RV Sites

To be on the safe side, if you know nothing about wiring, I recommend hiring someone who knows the ropes, as it may be dangerous to you and your RV, if you attempt installing a solar kit without the necessary knowledge. That said, there are several good sites that will explain the technicalities of wiring your RV for solar and sites to find installers:

1. local.thesolarguide.com/RV_Solar Kits– Gives local resources in AZ that will provide advice, businesses that deal in rv solar and solar kits.
2. handybobsolar.wordpress.com– From this website you can access many links on solar rvs and descriptions of the sites.
3. jackdanmayer.com-This site is by a couple who are full time RVers. Among other information the site has a section on RV Electrical/Solar, in which they describe “various wiring techniques and electrical designs which conform to the electrical code.” If you want to hire an installer they recommend AM Solar (Greg Holder) in Springfield, OR, Palmer Energy in Florida, D&R Family RV, in Glendale, AZ or Starlight Solar in Yuma, AZ.
4. builditsolar.com-on this site you can download directions for not only building a swamp cooler for your rv, but also turning it into solar.
5. gonewiththewynns.com-with help from their Solar Guru they give you an idea of the perfect solar setup for 3 types of RVers: Basic, Medium and Heavy use.

Home Depot, also, has most of what you would need to convert your RV to solar. You can order these parts at homedepot.com: solar panels, chargers, inverters, amp charge controller, battery or everything in a kit.

Solar and Your RV

Boondocking in the Desert.

Troubleshooting Your System

If your solar system doesn’t work well, it is almost always an installation issue. “Very few systems installed by RV manufacturers are done in an optimal fashion. Even dedicated solar installers often do not match components correctly or configure the system optimally. That is one reason I encourage people to implement their own systems, where they have the desire and the minimal necessary skills. Designing the system will teach you enough to ensure a good installation by others.”

So, if you have an RV, or pop-up, and you’re thinking about a cleaner, greener environment, I hope this will give you some ideas.

Working for a cleaner planet!


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Why Mines Are Polluting Our Waterways

Contaminating our waterways from mining

Aug. 10, 2015 – The EPA team accidentally released waste water into a creek which flows into the Animas River–Image by Jerry Mcbride

“There is no state or federal program for systematically inspecting these mines, tucked away in high mountains, the hangover from mining booms and busts that made Colorado a state.”

By Linn Smith

August 23, 2015—The recent mine disaster that resulted in contamination of the Animas River in Colorado and downstream tributaries has lead to much discusson on all levels–what to do with the mines that are leaking contaminants which, in many cases, miners have just walked away from? The EPA didn’t know how much water they were dealing with in the Gold King mine. Why? Being a Coloradan, I have been inundated with news on the subject–from national news and articles to extensive speeches by Govenor Hickenlooper and representatives from other states effected by the spill. So why haven’t the mines been cleaned up? Why are such big mistakes made from lack of knowledge about the mines?

Mines use water for processing the minerals being extracted. The mill water was used to crush and grind the ore, with much of the minerals and metals being desolved in the water. Waters used to process the minerals often contain chemicals and the resulting leachate water, which has trickled through solid mine waste, may contain an excess of metals, minerals and chemicals.

Mining pollution from the 1800s Miners walked away from mines after striking it rich or going bust.

Bulkheading the Mines

When miners walked away from their mines, many were not properly bulkheaded, which is a means of containing the comintaminated water behind retaining walls to prevent the water from running into nearby streams and rivers below the mines. But the Gold King mine proved bulkheading may not always be the answer, as the bulkheading may “prime the mines for blowouts.” According to the EPA, bulkheading of the nearby Sunnyside Mine was a factor in the blowout of Gold King mine, and “led to loaded-up wastewater in the Gold King mine, worsening contamination of the Animas river.”

How Much Pollution from Hardrock Mining

A study in 2011 showed that mining of metals accounts for about 40% of the 1.9 billion pounds of toxins released into air, water and land. Often the state regulaters may not be aware of leakage from these mines until local residents start complaining about the color of their drinking water or the dead fish rising to the surface of nearby streams. In Colorado there are an estimated 23,000 abandoned mines, and at least 230 abandon mines are known to leak metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, arsenic, manganese, zinc and contaminates at a rate many times above the safe level. The combined results of the current mine leakage may be as much as the Gold King mine, or 3 million gallons every other day, effecting nearly 2000 miles of rivers and streams.

Who will clean up our mines?

Mines are often high in the mountains and difficult to get to.

The EPA has estimated there are half a million abandoned mines in the Western U.S., with an estimated $50-$75 billion needed to clean them up, and the cleanup for many mines will take years. Many of the mines date back to the 1800’s when the prospectors walked away from their mines after extracting the sought after metal. Their only thoughts were of striking it rich.They had no environmental concerns of contamination of groundwater or restoration of the land.

Laws were not enforced the first 125 years of mining. Until the Gold King disaster in August 2015, the leakages of most mines have not been tracked. Along with lack of awareness of their effects until complaints are filed, the clean-ups have been “hampered by a chronic lack of resources, political battles and engineering challenges.” Congress has not required any sort of remediation payments for the hardrock mines, but since 1977 coal mines have been required to pay per ton of coal for clean up.

The law of 1872 leaves no responsibility for cleanup of mines

The Mining Law of 1872 still applies.

The General Mining Act of 1872

This brings us to the General Mining Act of 1872, which states that, “All citizens of the U.S. 18 yrs of age and older have the right to locate a lode (hard rock) on federal lands open to mineral entry.” It was an attempt by the U.S. government to populate and settle the West, opening federally owned land to the public that hadn’t been set aside for other uses. The price of the mining claim was set at $2.50 to $5.00 an acre and has not changed since 1872, except to require a $100 holding fee and to exclude coal and oil from the Act in the 1920’s. Approximately $230 billion of minerals have been mined since this act passed. Many bills have been introduced to change the Mining Act of 1872, but miners have fought against them and they’ve been dropped.

The Clean Water Act

And why aren’t our rivers protected from mining disasters under the Clean Water Act? After reading many documents it seems to be true–they are exempt by loopholes! The objective of the Clean Water Act (1972) is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our waterways in the U.S…..by preventing pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment for improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of our wetlands. The Federal government has set standards for controlling discharges to surface water. But, there appear to be two loopholes which miners take full advantage of: 1) Miners are allowed to designate lakes, rivers and wetlands as “waste treatment systems.” They can dam a stream and pour in their toxic wastes. 2) In 2002, the term “fill material” was redefined under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to include tailings from hard-rock mines, allowing exemption from pollution rules. And here’s what really is disappointing! The Clean Water Rule of 2015 expanded the government’s jurisdiction and “increased costs and regulatory burdens on businesses including the mining sector….expanding the types of water bodies that require the Clean Water Act permit, but excluded from the “Waters of the U.S.” under this Rule are waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds or lagoons designed to meet the Clean Water Act requirements.”

Superfunds for Cleanup

In 1980 a U.S. Federal law called the Superfund was passed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous materials, pollutants and contaminants and also giving rights to Federal and state agencies, and Native Americans to recover damages from hardrock mines, but, the Superfunds have rapidly dwindled due to the expiration of the corporate tax that supported it. The Superfund was intended to cleanup sites when the responsible parties are unable or can’t be found or the miners have walked away, declaring bankruptcy and tranferring their assets to a corporation with a different name controlled by the same people.

Suing the EPA

In May 2015, Earthworks and other environmental groups brought a lawsuit against the EPA stating, “The EPA has unreasonably delayed issuing financial assurance rules and seeks an order for the EPA to finalize rules by January 2016.” They petitioned the court of appeals for a Writ of Mandamus that would require the EPA to issue rules that make industries cleanup when handling hazardous waste. In an article by Jeremy P. Jacobs, May 12, 2015, he stated, ” Environmentalist are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to force the EPA to put the law into effect so that financial assurance regulations are required by the 1980 Superfund clean up program.” He also stated, “The Federal judges lost all patience with the EPA when considering why it has taken more than 30 years to fulfill a congressional mandate requiring large industries like hardrock mining to assure the EPA they can cover the cost of cleaning up their pollution.” A financial guarantee, in the form of trust funds or bonds from the miner would be established before mining on public or nonpublic lands and would assure the EPA and the public that reclamation and cleanup would be financially feasible if the company is not able or willing to pay when the mine is closed. If this is not enforced, the taxpayer ends up paying for the cleanup.

The Good Samaritan Act

Another possibility for clean up is H.R.963-Hardrock Mining Reform and Reclamation act of 2015. It encourages remediation of inactive and abandoned mine sites by good Samaritans, (individuals or entities who had no role in the creation of the historic mine residue or resulting environmental pollution and are not legally responsible for the remediation of the historic mine residue.) This is important because, in the past, individuals and conservation groups were not willing to take on the cleanup without liability protection from the Clean Water Act, as they would be left responsible for water quality while working on the site.

And Why Aren’t They Cleaned Up Yet?

So these are just some of the complexities of what seems like a no brainer–just clean them up! Time, money, laws or lack of, loopholes, lack of organization and responsibility, liabilities and just plain blunders have hampered the cleanup and led to the huge mistakes like the Gold King Mine incident which dumped millions of gallons of pollution into our waterways.

To support the cleanup of these mines let your voices be heard!