Planet Earth Weekly

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


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In Defense of the Clean Water Act: The Supreme Court Decision

Hawaii Wildlife Fund

The Supreme Court defended the Clean Water Act

“We are glad the Court has recognized the importance of protecting clean water for all Americans.” David Henkin

By Linn Smith

On April 23, 2020 the Supreme Court, in a 6-to-3 ruling, rejected arguments concerning Maui County Sewage Plant in Hawaii (County of Maui V. Hawaii Wildlife Fund) and the Trump administration which stated only pollution discharged directly into navigable waters requires permits. The Trump administration had previously filed its interpretation of the Clean Water Act saying, “The law does not apply to discharges that travel through groundwater before reaching protected waters.”

The Clean Water Act

Hawaii: Protecting the coral reefs

The Clean Water Act

The court held that the Clean Water Act “require[s] a permit if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” The Supreme Court clarified the Clean Water Act, which now requires permits for groundwater pollution running into oceans, lakes and rivers.

Environmentalists point to the once natural, living reef off of Hawaii’s coast that has been destroyed by the nearby waste water plant. The Supreme Court holds polluters responsible saying they must be held accountable for not only waste water discharged directly into lakes, oceans and rivers, but also into groundwater that eventually finds its way to the lakes, rivers and oceans.

Maui wastewater

Maui waste water dumping into the sea.

Maui’s Wastewater Plant

Maui injects 3-5 million gallons a day of treated wastewater into wells beneath its facility, which lie about 1/2 mile from the Pacific shoreline. Environmentalists injected dyes to trace the flow of the wastewater from 2 wells. The dyes revealed that half of the treated wastewater was entering the ocean from the underground wells, thus endangering the reef.

According to past articles, there have also been many raw sewage spills from Hawaii into the Pacific Ocean in the past few years and, until recent times, it was common for Hawaii to pour raw sewage directly into the ocean without any treatment.

Supreme Court decision

Wildlife Fund vs. Maui

The Supreme Court Decision

The sewage in Maui is treated and, when possible, reused for irrigation. The majority is injected into wells, leaking out and finding its way into the ocean. The question brought before the Supreme Court was whether permits were required for waste water that travels a distance from the polluting source, ending up in the navigable waters.

This decision of the Supreme Court will make it easier for parties to sue polluters for irresponsibly leaking of wastewater into oceans and rivers.

David Henkin, lawyer for Earthjustice said, “The Supreme Court has rejected the Trump administration’s effort to blow a big hole in the Clean Water Act’s protection for rivers, lakes and oceans.”

The case will return to an appeals court, but polluters who dump into groundwater which eventually finds its way to lakes and oceans will now be required to have permits. The ruling also allows some lawsuits to take place against the polluting source. Failing to obtain a permit could result in a fine of up to $50,000 a day.

And finally, an Ansel Adams quote, “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”

The Clean Water Act


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Success of the Ocean Cleanup Project

“The latest announcement has plans for the collected ocean plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to prevent its return to the ocean.”

By Linn Smith

Boyan Slat is one of my environmental heroes! At the young age of 25, he is leaving his legacy in the world by sustainably creating a healthier planet. (Also see my previous article at https://planetearth5.com/2018/10/08/boyan-slat-and-the-ocean-clean-up-project/)

The Ocean Cleanup

The last several weeks Slat’s non-profit company, The Ocean Cleanup, has reached a milestone in cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) and cleaning up the rivers at the source of garbage dumping with the latest operation called The Interceptor, a floating operation that extracts garbage in rivers. As he stated, “We need to close the tap.” to the garbage entering the ocean.

A Message from Boyan Slat

Boyan’s message on December 12 was, “Mission one completed– The plans to make products from the plastic catch. Welcoming the first of the plastic on land is the moment we’ve been looking forward to. I believe we can use this trash to turn a problem into a solution by transforming this unique material into products. As most people will never go to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, through these products we aim to give everyone the opportunity to take part in the cleanup.” After many months of trial and error and years of planning by Slat and his crew to get to this stage of the cleanup, success has been achieved!

Products from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The latest announcement are plans for the collected ocean plastic to prevent its return to the ocean. Sustainable products, launching in September 2020, will be made from the ocean plastic and sold to the public. Profits will be returned to the company to fund the continuation of the ocean cleanup.

How to Help

Go to link and fill out your contribution information:
https://products.theoceancleanup.com/26534150221/checkouts/094f916cf683ef170d11caa5d627736b?locale=en

The site states, “You are about to take part in the largest cleanup in history!
With a $50 donation you will:

*Help us remove more plastic from the oceans.

*Follow the plastic journey with front row seats to original content and other perks.

*Get early access to the first products ever made of verified plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which, if we succeed, we aim to launch in September 2020”

This is one of the many worthy causes that need your participation to clean up our Planet Earth!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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Recycling: Creating Hope for a Greener Planet

Recycle

Recycle and Conserve

“European countries are recycling 35% to 40% [of their plastic waste]. The U.S. only recycles 10%.”

By Linn Smith

I am spending time in a suburb in the Southwestern part of the United States. After being a diligent recycler most of my adult life, I have come to realize that many households do not share my passion for doing their part to prevent further negative impact on our planet. Even though I’m conscientious about buying goods in bulk from local health food stores, I still accumulate some bottles, cans and plastics. It’s the world we live!

I have been in the Southwest for several weeks and have repeatedly asked people and businesses about a drop off place for glass and plastic. The answer is always the same….the surrounding suburbs no longer take drop off recyclables as rates have gone up and in some sections there has been complete halt on even curbside recycling for glass and plastic. Cans are less of a problem, as many are willing to turn them in for cash, but plastic and glass? My efforts have produced nothing.

Recycle

Recycling Shut Down!

Following is the message I found when trying to locate a place to drop off my recyclables:

**CLOSURE NOTICE**
All City of *****recyling Drop-off Centers Are Indefinitely Closed
Due to increasing recycling processing fees and decreasing commodity values, the City of **** has found it necessary to reevaluate its entire recycling program. While we value the importance and place high priority on conserving our natural resources, we must also take into account financial considerations to ensure we are able to maintain a sustainable program. The total operating cost for the City of ***** three recycling drop-off centers is approximately $250,000 per year. While we have been pleased to offer this service for many years and appreciate you visiting our centers, unfortunately the decision has been made to indefinitely close all three locations.”

Landfill

A newly formed mountain of waste.

The Landfill: A Mountain of Garbage!

I then sought out the local landfill. I couldn’t enter as the truck in the picture was on guard to keep out private citizens. But standing on the road running parallel to the landfill, I took in the site of a mountain newly produced by garbage from the city that won’t allow recycled dropoffs. As I stood in disgust of this newly formed mountain of garbage in our once beautiful desert Southwest, I wondered, “Where did we go wrong? Was it just a hundred years ago that people were growing their own food, canning, reusing their jars, sewing their own clothes, living what would now be called a sustainable life?”

Landfill

Guarding the landfill.

The site of all those recyclable materials sitting in a landfill in our beautiful desert for a hundred years and accumulating day by day, year by year is almost too much for me to comprehend. To me you either care about out planet, leaving future generations with at least the knowledge that you tried, or you don’t…..you further the “pig sty” concept of what use to be our beautiful earth. The choice is ours to not be lazy!

Where will our Recyclables Go?

The excuse for many cities is this….China quit taking our dirty waste which we had been shipping over to them since 1992 and that alone broke the recycling system in the U.S. Keefe Harrison, CEO of the Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit that seeks to boost the industry, stated “European countries are recycling 35% to 40% [of their plastic waste]. The U.S. only recycles 10%. How tragic is that? We’re fighting an uphill battle to make it cost competitive from day one. The U.S. has previously outsourced so much of its recycling to Asia that the domestic industry languished. And there’s the fact that plastic manufacturers keep making more and more of it, and consumer brands like Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Walmart keep wrapping more consumer goods in it.”

According to an article in the Sierra magazine, China’s refusing to take our recyclables has given us the opportunity to develop a plan of our own if we care enough to go down that avenue. “The whole crisis narrative has been wrong,” says Steve Alexander, president of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. “China didn’t break recycling. It has given us the opportunity to begin investing in the infrastructure we need in order to do it better.”

Alliance to End Plastic Waste

There are many different types of plastic. Some can be recycled, some cannot. In the past companies have used the plastic most profitable without considering what happens to their product packaging.

Several petrochemical companies have joined big consumer brands in pledging to make most of their plastic recyclable, reusable or compostable within the next decade or two. Their group, Alliance to End Plastic Waste, has promised to spend $1.5 billion over five years to recycle their packaging products.

Every Bottle Back

Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper recently announced a plan, Every Bottle Back, to reduce their dependence on new plastic by collecting, recycling and remaking plastic bottles from plastic they have already produced. “Closed Loop Partners, the leading investment firm in sustainability, will manage upgrades to recycling infrastructure and fund upgrades to equipment at bottle recovery systems. The fund will also be used to help businesses that turn recycled bottles into plastic pellets for reuse in many products.”

The Ocean Clean Up

The Ocean Cleanup.

The Ocean Cleanup

Then there are the heroes of our planet.The Ocean Clean Up nonprofit organization, started by 25 year old Boyan Slat, is not only working on the clean up of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but has recently unveiled technology to clean up rivers that are streaming garbage to the ocean.
“The Interceptor is The Ocean Cleanup’s answer for river plastic waste. It is the first scalable solution to prevent plastic from entering the world’s oceans from rivers. It is 100% solar-powered, extracts plastic autonomously, and is capable of operating in the majority of the world’s most polluting rivers.”

The Interceptor

The Ocean Clean Up, Boyan Slat

But we cannot depend on a young man in his 20’s to clean up our planet, even though he has diligently done more than his part. We must all do our part also!

Sources:

*Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper team up for recycled plastics drive
Toby Hill,October 31, 2019
*NPR U.S. Recycling Industry Is Struggling To Figure Out A Future Without China August 20, 2019

Recycle

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The Carbon Footprint of Eating Beef

Carbon footprint of beef

The Carbon Footprint of eating beef.

“Livestock production takes up more than half the agricultural land used by grazing and producing crops for feed.”

By Linn Smith

First of all, I would like to say I’m not a vegetarian, but I go great lengths of time without eating meat. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest where we farmed the land, milked dairy cows, grew our own food (which was frozen and canned) and raised our own chickens and beef cows (which ended up on the table.) I say “we” because my brother and I were in the fields from the time we were old enough to reach the pedals on the tractors, plus in the dairy barn after school.

As a preteen I came to the conclusion I would eat meat, but I wouldn’t eat a cow I knew or had named and bottle fed from a baby. These were the Black Angus steers we raised for beef. My mom, in order to get me to eat, would tell me she bought the meat on the table at the store. I know, this makes little sense, but it usually worked to some degree. I just didn’t eat much meat as a child.

Global warming

Eating beef and the global impact

Today, I do eat some meat, maybe a couple of times a week and some weeks none. But with climate change and growth in world population, I realize I have a responsibility to cut back eating meat even more.

At first I didn’t understand the huge impact raising beef was having on our planet, but now, unless you are a hunter and survive on meat from the wilderness (I have friends that do), then we need to understand the impact that raising and processing animals to put on our table has on climate change.

Carbon footprint of meat

Why reduce your meat intake?

The Impacts of Cattle Production

Raising cattle can be a multifaceted process and varies from ranch to ranch, but here are a few of the negative impacts on the environment and ecosystem of our planet:

1. Agricultural land usage: Livestock production takes up more than half the agricultural land used by grazing and producing crops for feed. According to The Bloomberg, in the United States in 2018, 654 million acres were for pasture or range usage, while 391.5 million acres were used to grow crops. The crops grown are used for animal feed, ethanol and other practices. Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41% of the land revolves around livestock.

2. Deforestation due to raising livestock: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased in the past several years and cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation rates according to an article by Yale University, “Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Region.” Even though there are better programs through technology to monitor deforestation in the Amazon, restrictions and laws are not always enforced.

According to Evergreen State University in Washington, deforestation for human purposes represents 20% of global CO2 emissions, more than the entire transit sector. To prevent this there needs to be zero deforestation and suppliers and buyers need to be held accountable for the buying and selling practices of cattle raised in South America and the resulting deforestation.

The global impact of eating beef

Climate Change

3. Impact on freshwater systems: 1800 gallons of water or more per pound of beef is needed to produce the meat that reaches the cooler in your nearby grocery store. That’s a significant amount of water! If human and animal consumption of fresh water is greater than the restoration of fresh water from rain, freshwater will be depleted. Agriculture, for use in feeding animals and humans, uses approximately 70% of our fresh water!

4. Pollution due to fertilizers: Fertilizers and pesticides are used on crops to feed the cattle. These chemicals are either excreted by the animal into the ground and waterways, or end up being deposited in the animal fat which, again, ends up in the cooler at your local grocery store and consumed by you.

Global Warming

The global impact of eating beef.

5. Processing and transportation of meat: With the massive land usage and food and water it takes to raise cattle, also comes the huge energy impact to our environment in the processing and packaging of meat and the transportation to get it on the shelf.

Greenhouses Gases and Eating Beef

Experts estimate that 14% of all greenhouse gases come from cattle production and the processing of meat. You can look at the current push towards meat from plants as a fad, or you can view it as a way to help save our planet. The choice is yours.

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Environmental Impact of Beef


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Removing Carbon Dioxide from our Atmosphere

Carbon Engineering

Cleaning CO2 from our atmosphere.

“CarbonEngineering:“Commercialization of Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere at an affordable price.”

By Linn Smith

According to NASA, in a report from June 2019, CO2 in our atmosphere reached 412ppm (parts per million) which hasn’t been seen in human history. CO2 is the gas that we humans are rapidly releasing into our atmosphere, trapping heat similar to a greenhouse. It is a result of burning fossil fuels such as coal.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

The Rise in Earth’s Temperature

Earth’s average temperature has risen 1.62 degrees F since late 1800’s, with most of the rise in temperature occurring in the past 35 years. The 5 warmest years have occurred since 2010! At this point in history the answer to survival of life on our planet is multifaceted. We must work to not only offset our personal CO2 emissions, but also seek ways of CO2 removal from our atmosphere before it’s too late
.

Carbon Offsets

A carbon offset is an action everyone can take. It means compensating for your emissions in one part of your life by working to cut CO2 emissions somewhere else or contributing to programs that are working to combat global warming.

Unless you’re driving an electric or hybrid, an average car can emit about 5 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Can you plant enough trees in your yard to offset your car pollution? Probably not.

There are many online sites that will calculate your CO2 footprint with recommendations to offset emissions, such as planting trees, or you can go to the EPA website and use their carbon footprint caluculator to calculate the carbon footprint of you and your family.

Clean Energy

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

Planting Trees to Offset Your Carbon Footprint

According to http://www.urbanforestrynetwork.org, “On average, one acre of new forest can sequester about 2.5 tons of CO2 a year. Young trees absorb about 13 pounds per tree each year. Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years, at which point they are estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year.”

An MIT study states that the average CO2 emissions emitted per person per year in the U.S.. is 20 metric tons, compared to the world average of 4 tons.

Carbon Engineering

CO2 is turned into clean fuel.

Carbon Engineering

Jennifer Wilcox states in her TedTalk that we have the technology to clean up the atmosphere, but it has been too expensive until now. Companies are currently working to bring down this cost. One company, Carbon Engineering, www. carbonengineering.com, is focusing on “commercialization of Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere at an affordable price.” They do this in a “closed loop where the only major inputs are water and energy and the output is a stream of pure, compressed CO2 that can be stored underground or converted into fuels using AIR To FUEL technology.”

“AIR to FUEL uses CO2 captured from the atmosphere to synthesize clean transportation fuels. It uses renewable electricity to generate hydrogen from water, and then combines it with CO2 captured from atmosphere to produce hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel, gasoline and Jet-A, all with little or no fossil carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Individual facilities can be built to capture one million tons of CO2 per year which is equivalent to 250,000 average cars per year.”

Combating Climate Change

Cleaning our atmosphere

Carbon Engineering

Combating global warming

We all have a responsibility to do our part with no more excuses! We can’t wait for someone else to do it. For survival on earth, we need to stabilize the ppm (parts per million) of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The outcome of doing nothing about our changing climate is mass extinction of species, including our own, caused by extreme weather and our changing climate.

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Climate Change


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The Salton Sea: The Accidental Lake

Dead fish line the shores because of high salinity and lack of oxygen

“The Salton Sea was man-made…by accident.”

By Linn Smith

The Salton Sea controversy was generated most recently by the signing of the Colorado Drought Contingency Agreement, which was mandated to be signed by all states bordering the Colorado River by the end of March 2019. These states were mandated to water cuts by the agreement in an attempt to prevent further dropping of water levels.

The Hoover Dam

Why the water cuts? If Lake Mead continues dropping and reaches below 1,050 ft, the Hoover Dam will stop generating power to millions of people. If it continues dropping below 895 ft. it will become a “dead pool”, where water can no longer be piped out to states along the river border. It is today only 40% full at approximately 1,082 ft, thus the federal intervention demand on cutbacks of water usage from all Colorado River border states.

The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest holder of water rights in California, was in line to sign the agreement, but only if the Colorado Contingency Agreement granted water to revive the troubled Salton Sea before signing. California signed anyway and the Salton Sea wasn’t included in the agreement.

The Salton Sea

Old structures fall apart on what was once the shoreline.

History of the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea has a lengthy history and has not been sustainable since its beginning. Sustainability is an avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological balance. The Salton Sea doesn’t meet this definition.

The Salton Sea was man-made…by accident. From 1905 to 1907, water poured out of a poorly built system of irrigation ditches meant to divert water from the Colorado River to the dry, arid farm land in Southern California. The water flooded the Salton basin, developing a 400 sq mile lake named the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. Nicknamed the Salton Riviera in the 1950’s, the lake developed into a tourist destination, with resorts popping up around its edge. The Dept.of Fish and Game stocked it with many types of fish and boaters, yacht clubs and celebrities flocked to its shores.

The Salton Sea

The shoreline has been lost to evaporation and lack of water feeding into it.

The Decline of the Salton Sea

The decline of the Salton Sea began around 1976 with tropical storms, rising salinity due to no fresh water supply to counter evaporation, toxic agricultural runoff and a receding shoreline. Housing prices plummeted! Today, the main attraction is a wildlife refuge on the lake’s shore.

With the recent Colorado Drought Contingency agreement, the Imperial Valley District tried to demand its water rights for the declining sea, stating it has become a health hazard with toxic blowing sand due to agricultural run off, dying fish and abandoned buildings on a shoreline that no longer exists. California signed the Contingency Agreement without the support of the Imperial Valley District, its largest holder of water rights. According to the Washington Post, “The Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles, essentially wrote Imperial out of the drought plan to prevent delays in implementing it by taking on Imperial’s pledged water contributions to Lake Mead.”

In Support of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Was the Salton Sea ever sustainable? We can either support our communities who depend on the Colorado River for electricity and agriculture, or revitalize a dying sea that can’t survive and has little purpose today. With climate change everyone has to give for the greater good and for the survival of future generations.

The Salton Sea


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On Population Growth

“The momentum for an increasing population seems to be difficult to change.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

March 17, 2019—–During the earliest stage of modern humans the human species was struggling with the environment. They were just beginning to use stone tools. The size of the population was limited by the amount of wild food that could be gathered or caught. When food was scarce the population died back, and when it was plentiful the population expanded.

Diseases due to technological advances began at an early time. Sinusitis is a disease that irritates the nose as a result of breathing damp, smoky, or dusty air, such as was often found in inhabited caves. Evidence of sinusitis has been detected in skulls dating well back into the paleolithic. Only limited numbers of human lives were lost from storms and other short lived events as the population was small and widely scattered.

Overpopulaton

Overpopulation and turmoil leads to current migration patterns.

During the first 500,000 thousand years the population growth was slow. Birth rates were high, perhaps between 38 to 42 per thousand. The death rate was also very high, perhaps between 35 to38 per thousand. Evidence indicates that infant mortality was high and average life span was around 30 years.

Although life was difficult for hominoids during this time, the human species triumphed. Charles Darwin stated the case for these early people. “Man, in the rudest form in which he now exists, is the most dominant animal that has appeared on earth. He has spread more widely than any other highly organized species, and all others have yielded before him.” (1871)

Overpopulation and wallstreet

Does organized religion support overpopulation?

Current and projected Growth

The global population numbers began to grow and are now growing faster than at any time in history. We are now adding about 224,000 people per day to the planet. This adds 82,000,000 people to the planet each year. That annual increase is the same as adding the population of the United States to the planet every three to four years.

What is astonishing in the growth data is how fast the rate of growth has been increasing. It took hundreds of thousands of years for the first billion to be reached in about 1800. The time it has taken for adding each billion has dropped rapidly. The last billion was added in just 12 years from 1999 to 2011. At the beginning of 2019 global population stood at about seven billion. The key element in driving population growth is changing technology which has increased the global food supply.

Some estimates of early human population size:

125,000 1 million years ago
1-5 million 11,000 B.C
50 million 3,000 B.C
500 million 1,500 A.D.

Adding the billions Time Span for the growth:

1 billion 1800 200,000 to a million years
2 billion 1930 130 years
3 billion 1960 30 years
4 billion 1974 14 years
5 billion 1987 13 years
6 billion 1999 12 years
7 Billion 2011 12 years
8 Billion 2023-2025 12-14years

The human population reached its highest annual growth rate of about 2 percent per year, in the early 1970s. The growth rate in 2018 was around 1.1 percent. While the rate has dropped the absolute number of humans added to the planet each year continues to be greater than in the past. In mid-2019 the total population is estimated to reach about 7.7 billion.

Carrying Capacity and overpopulation

What is Carrying Capacity?

Region Growth

Today the fastest-growing countries are the developing countries. Many of the nations with the highest growth rates are in Africa and southwest Asia. China has the largest population of any country. However, India, which has a smaller population than China but has a higher growth rate, is adding 1/3 more people each year than is China. The UN projects India to surpass China as the most populous country in the world about the year 2028. At that time both countries will have a population of about 1.45 billion. China’s population will begin to stabilize near that time and India’ will continue to grow for some time. Most of the growth will be in developing countries with more than half in Africa. Population in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double from the 2010 population of 0.86 to 1.96 billion in 2050.

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Prognosis

The next billion people added to the earth will want and expect food, clothing, shelter, and some means of employment. How are these needs to be met? There are already a billion people with some degree of malnutrition. Most of the population supports themselves from agriculture. All good and even marginal land is already occupied, and much productive land is being removed from agriculture due to erosion and general depletion. How are these agriculturists going to find employment? These are critical issues.

The momentum for an increasing population seems to be difficult to change. Global business thrives on population growth. It seems the options are limited. Either the human species understands what is taking place and mandates a change, or these trends will continue until some unpredictable apocalypse eliminates a substantial portion of the people living at the time.

The world’s increasing population!

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Cities: Combating Climate Change and Pollution

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

“Innovative thinking must solve our current and future climate and pollution problems as cities grow, and individuals must do their part in leaving a planet that future generations can comfortably occupy!”

By Linn Smith
January 26, 2019—I live part of the year in a city that is rapidly growing. Along with this growth comes air pollution, traffic congestion, increased construction and industrial businesses which spew toxins into the air as they burn fossil fuels. Gone are the days of vacant lots, laid back life styles and traveling anywhere in the city or suburbs in under 20 minutes. Now every hour of the day looks like rush hour!

Plans to combat this city’s growth include expanding the transit system, which has greatly fallen short, as many times it’s down or not functioning at full capacity. There is a great need for more innovative solutions!

Rapidly Expanding Cities

According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, they account for less than 2 per cent of the Earth’s surface. It’s predicted that 2/3 of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Urban Heat Islands

As temperatures increase due to climate change, urban heat islands will be created by concrete and buildings holding in the heat. (See, https://planetearth5.com/?s=urban+hot+spots). As I wrote in this article, “If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the Urban Heat Island Effect. An Urban Heat Island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “ ‘The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).’ ” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.”

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Cities, Health and Pollution

Pollution, a by-product of urban living, is also linked with climate change. Both climate change and air pollution are a direct result of burning fossil fuels, which increase CO2 emissions causing the greenhouse effect in our planet’s atmosphere. The Energy Policy Institute in Chicago found life expectancy is reduced by almost 2 years from air pollution, driving up health care costs. In rapidly growing cities respiratory disease is on the rise causing many to wear facemasks as smog grows severe.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Cities and Smart Growth

The article, published by http://www.epa.gov titled, “Smart Growth and Climate Change,” outlines the following smart growth policies for managing city growth:

1. Reuse existing infrastructure and buildings to take advantage of previous investments and energy already used to build them.
2. Put homes, jobs, stores, parks, schools and public transportation near each other. This could reduce Co2 emissions by 7-10%.
3. Preserve green space and promote development in previously developed areas.
4. Discourage building in areas that are currently or projected to be vulnerable to climate change related disasters, such as fires, storms, flooding, ect.
5. Preserve areas that will mitigate the disasters of climate change, such as coastal areas which can absorb the water from floods and hurricanes.
6. Encourage water and energy efficient buildings and land use patterns which can better prepare communities for drought and disasters.
7. Use green infrastructure to reduce the amount of runoff from paved surfaces.
8. Encourage green roofs, parks and planting of trees and shrubbery.
9. Design buildings for passive survivability that will remain habitable even if they lose external power for extended periods, and save on energy bills as well during normal operations.

Researchers also have found that roadsides plantings of hedges and shrubs were effective at reducing pollution exposure, cutting black carbon by up to 63 percent.

China's Giant Air Purifer

China;s Air Purifier fights smog.

China’s Skyscraper Air Purifier

Another recent invention to fight air pollution is taking place in China. NBCnews.com published an article in 2018, “This Skyscraper-sized Air Purifier is the World’s Tallest”, stating, “It may look like just another giant smokestack, but a 200-foot tower in the central Chinese city of Xi’an was built to pull deadly pollutants from the air rather than add more. And preliminary research shows the tower — which some are calling the world’s largest air purifier — has cut air pollution significantly across a broad swath of the surrounding area. Built in 2016, the $2 million Xi’an tower, dubbed the solar-assisted large-scale cleaning system, stands atop an enormous glass-roofed greenhouse. Sunlight heats the air within the greenhouse, causing it to rise through the tower, where a series of air filters trap soot and other noxious particles. Xu, who wasn’t involved in the tower project, added that it’s important to take into account the energy costs involved with building and operating the towers. If the structure requires electricity from the grid that is fueled by coal, then operating the purifying system will itself generate harmful emissions. “That will be not so clever,” Xu said.

Dr. Robert Harley, Professor of environmental engineering at University of California says, “Real progress in solving outdoor air pollution problems will require reductions in emissions from the major air pollution sources, such as heavy industry, coal-burning power plants, motor vehicles, and residential cooking and heating, especially if people are still using solid fuels such as wood or coal for those purposes.”

Innovative thinking must solve our current and future climate and pollution problems as cities grow, replacing rural life, and individuals must do their part in leaving a planet that future generations can comfortably occupy!


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Pollution and the Clothing Industry

Dirty Fashion

Fashion and Climate Change.

“Collectively the fashion industry has a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

By Linn Smith

December 15, 2018—The clothing industry contributes 10% of the greenhouse gases to our planet’s atmosphere and is the second largest polluter of our freshwater lakes and streams. The industry has been producing 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year, making it one of the top polluting industries on our planet.

Cotton and pollution

Most clothing worn in the U.S. contains some cotton. Sixty percent of women’s clothing and eighty per cent of men’s clothing contains cotton, and the streams surrounding clothing factories are polluted with dyes and chemical runoff from the clothing industrial sites.

Many cotton fields are located in the arid deserts of the Southwest United States, where farming the cotton requires water that is slowly depleting the rivers and streams. It takes approximately 2.5acre feet of water to grow cotton. (An acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover one acre of the surface area to a depth of one foot.) To make one pair of denim jeans, 10,000 liters of water is required to grow one kilo (about 2.2 pounds) of cotton needed for the pair of jeans. In comparison, one person would take 10 years to drink 10,000 liters of water!

Climate Change

Clothing: Polluting our earth

The Fashion Industry and Sustainability

According to the World Resources Institution, “Growth of the multi-trillion-dollar apparel industry has been fed by “fast fashion,” which makes clothing cheap and fast with a low price-tag.” This is why the fashion industry is turning to sustainability in an attempt to mitigate some of its damage it has caused our planet. With the help of the United Nations many big corporations within the fashion industry have recently resolved to shift practices, following the guidelines of the Paris Agreement on Climate change.

An initiative of United Nation Climate Change attempts to lower the greenhouse gases attributed to the fashion industry by setting targets for the fashion industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The initiative attempts to work with the fashion industry by helping it select climate friendly and sustainable materials, by using low-carbon transportation to move the manufactured articles, by producing less carbon during the production of clothing and by encouraging sustainable fashion connections that offset the carbon emissions with investments in carbon emission reductions.

“Forty-three companies, including brands such as Adidas and Burberry, retailers such as Target, and supplier organizations – on Monday (Dec 10, 2018) pledged to find ways to reduce emissions in their value chains as part of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action that was launched during the ongoing United Nations (UN) climate change talks in Katowice, Poland.”

Climate Change

Clothing Producing Pollution

Fashion Companies and Sustainability

The fast fashion retailer H&M shared their strategy to be 100% renewable energy by 2040 with a fully circular production model, where the by-product of one industry serves the objective of another! Other signers of the Initiative include Esprit, Guess, Gap Inc, and Hugo Boss.

“Additionally, the famous blue jean manufacturer Levi, Strauss & Co has announced a new climate change action plan. Using Science Based Targets, the company plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% across its global supply chain by 2025. The plan also includes a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in all owned-and-operated facilities, which will be achieved by investing in onsite renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.” The initiative remains open for others in the clothing industry to follow suit.

Designer Stella McCartney recently stated, “Climate change is undoubtedly one of, if not, the biggest challenge of our lifetime. It is and will affect everyone on this planet and our future. I want to call on my peers in the business, from other brands to retailers and suppliers, to sign up to this charter now and take the necessary actions to address the reality of the issue of climate change in their business and value chains. Collectively we have a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

Fashion industry and pollution


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E-Waste: What Happens to those Electronics?

Renewable Resources

Building Sustainably

“E-waste does not belong in the landfills!”

By Linn Smith

October 1, 2018—Do you have a computer? Smart phone? Laptop? Half of the world’s population now uses the internet. In developed countries, nearly 90% of the population own some form of technology and many people race to get the latest up-to-date gadget without any thought of end-of-life disposal of that cell phone, laptop, or computer! There is no budget attached to the item purchased that reminds us of the need to recycle it, but what if we had to pay an extra 20% fee on the purchased item for recycling? Would that make you stop and think about its disposal?

In 2016, all countries combined generated 44.7 million metric tons of electronic waste. And where did it go? 4% was thrown in the trash, 76% was undocumented and just 20% was properly recycled.

The earth continues to warm

Fight against global warming!

Proper Recycling of E-Waste

What is proper recycling? Recycling electronics can be difficult because removing the wanted rare earth metals means removing glass, toxic metals, plastic and soldered connectors. Proper recycling is taking your unwanted e-waste to a certified company. A certified company has been audited to make sure the company is following strict regulations in compliance with state regulations.

Recycling electronics costs money, but often finding a certified company can cost less because the recycle center may receive subsidies from the local government. If the company isn’t certified you don’t know where your e-waste may end up. E-waste can create huge environmental hazards if not properly disposed of as it contains lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxins. Many uncertified companies are using unsafe methods to extract the wanted metals.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

E-Waste: Thailand

China use to take e-waste, but now much of it goes to Thailand where environmental groups have submitted a letter to the government demanding that the government ban imports of toxic waste. Many factories in Thailand are using the unsafe method of burning the plastics of the electronics to get to the copper, gold, platinum and rare metals, creating toxic fumes in surrounding residential areas.

Rick Neitzel, Director of Exposure Research at University of Michigan, says, “As most users grow dependent on their cell phones, laptops, computers and tablets, the production of electronic waste continues to grow.” His team studied the toxins entering the bodies of workers in contact with metals from electronics, measuring the amount of lead and other toxins that find their way into the bloodstream. The blood tests show high levels of toxins!

Working toward 100% renewables

Working Toward Renewable Energy

Urban Mining: Used Metals

Some electronic manufacturers are using recycled metals from out-of-date electronics in manufacturing new phones. DELL will recycle 100 million pounds of e-waste by 2020 and Apple has developed a robot to take apart old Iphones, dissembling 200 Iphones in an hour and sorting the parts for recycling. The goal of Apple is to completely eliminate new rare metals from its manufactured Iphones, using only recycled metals (Urban Mining). An Apple representative states, “The challenge is to extract the metals at a cost that can compete with virgin metals in sufficient quantities.”

In Chili the attitude is to fix things because they figure they can make more money reselling a product than selling recycled parts.

Clayton Miller of http://www.Sustainablebrands.com states,”In the early days of my career I spent a good part of my time explaining to people what e-waste was, that it was hazardous and that it shouldn’t be in the landfills, but today I find that the majority of people want to ensure their discarded electronics are properly recycled.”

What can you do? Find a local, certified center near you to recycle your e-waste!

E-waste: Recycle!

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