Planet Earth Weekly

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


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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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  The Depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer

Ogallala aquifer depletion

Depletion of the aquifer

“The Ogallala is recharged by rainwater but only about 1 inch of precipitation actually reaches the aquifer annually.”

By Linn Smith

April 12, 2016—–The Ogallala Aquifer is at risk of drying up! The aquifer, which is part of the High Plains Aquifer, underlies portions of 8 states, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, and spans 175,000 sq. miles in the midwest United States. Water from the aquifer has many uses but irrigation uses the majority—57 million gallons per day! The Ogallala also supplies approximately 82% of the drinking water for the overlying states.

Water Accumulation in the Ogallala

Water started accumulating in the aquifer 15,000 years ago. Brownie Wilson, a researcher for the Kansas Geological Survey, states, “If the topsoil were rolled up like a carpet the sponge beneath would look like an empty egg carton, with peaks and valleys of varying depths. In parts of western Nebraska, where the Ogallala is plentiful, the sponge extends as far as a thousand feet below the Earth’s surface.”

Depletion of the Ogallala

The Aquifer lies beneath 8 states.

Water Extraction of the Aquifer

Large scale extraction of water from the aquifer for farming purposes began after WWII due to improved farming methods and farm equipment. About 27% of the irrigated farmland in the U.S. lies over the aquifer. Currently the farmland above the aquifer produces about 1/5 of the beef, corn and wheat consumed in the U.S., but the water is depleting faster than nature can replenish it according to an ongoing 60 year study.

In some parts of western Kansas wells have totally dried up! Between the years 2000 and 2008, 25% of the Ogallala Aquifer has depleted from levels of the early 1800’s. Once depleted the aquifer will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally from rainfall. A 2013 study forecasted that the High Plains Aquifer, which the Ogallala makes up the greatest portion, would be 69% depleted by 2060.The Ogallala is recharged by rainwater but only about 1 inch of precipitation actually reaches the aquifer annually. Recharge of the aquifer ranges from 0.024 inches per year in Texas and New Mexico to 6 inches per year in parts of Kansas, but hundreds of thousands of years of rainfall will be needed to replenish it back to its levels of the early 1800’s.

Ogallala aquifer

U.S. Aquifers are being depleted.

A Depleted Aquifer will Affect Food Supply

In an article written by Laura Parker,” What Happens to the Midwest When the Water’s Gone?” she states “If they don’t reduce pumping and the aquifer is drained, food markets will be profoundly affected around the world. In the coming decades this slow-speed crisis will unfold just as the world needs to increase food production by 60 percent, according to the United Nations, to feed more than nine billion people by mid-century.”

Solutions to a Depleted Aquifer

Solutions? Farmers can either conserve water and extend the life of the aquifer or choose to deplete it. Farmers can dig deeper wells if they run out of water, but the cost has to be determined because eventually deeper and deeper wells could cost more than the income from the crops.

The North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in Texas has introduced a new project to conserve water. Participating farmers grow corn with just over half of the water they would normally require to irrigate the fields using pivot sprinklers rather than the water consuming drip system and they plant crops farther apart to help conserve water. Many farmers are choosing the dryland farming method which uses crops that are drought-resistant and conserve moisture without irrigation. Such crops include sunflowers and winter wheat, but these crops produce less income than crops from irrigated farming, so pressure is on many farmers to keep pumping.

The Ogallala Aquifer and Water Rights

What is happening to the Ogallala Aquifer is also happening to aquifers in Africa, Asia and the Mideast. Again, just as the population of our earth is exploding, our aquifers are becoming contaminated and depleted, taking thousands of years to refill. We need to conserve our groundwater to sustain food production for an increasing population. In Kansas and Nebraska, groundwater belongs to the public. Water rights are granted to property owners by the state, which assign a certain amount that can be legally used—-but what’s available on paper often exceeds what’s left in the ground! Farmers often feel the water is legally theirs to use until it’s gone!

Laura Parker says, “Hope lies in technology; farmers show me iPhone apps that track water use so precisely that as little as a tenth of an inch can be applied to their crops. In Colby, Kansas, Lon Frahm, who farms 30,000 acres of wheat and corn, irrigates with two billion gallons of water yearly. He counts among his farmhands an IT technician who collects data to keep his yields ahead of his declining wells.”

Wind Farms Replace Crops

In the past several years many farmers have retired from crop farming, leasing their land to wind energy. Outside Friona, Texas, northwest of Lubbock, Wesley Barnett leases wind rights on his land to an energy company. The going rate runs about $10,000 a year per turbine.  Barnett says he can’t water his land anymore so for some people, wind is a lifeline.

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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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A Trump Presidency: Can Our Environment Survive?

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

“Utilities companies will buy from sources based on economics, not politics, and its difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal.”

By Linn Smith

November 18, 2016—The big question on my mind the past several weeks concerns the effects of a Trump presidency on our environment. Will the years of effort towards clean energy, both locally and globally, survive under the new administration? I must admit to feeling more than a little worried! Trump has no clean energy plan and appears to have very little knowledge or interest in the environment, denying scientific facts of our rapidly warming planet!

Clean Energy Speaks Loudest

According to an article in Computerworld, “Trump’s Coal Revival Plan Won’t Work”, analysts say clean energy will be difficult to reverse because, “clean energy has become so cheap it will continue to increase its domination of the energy industry.”—the pocketbook speaks the loudest!

Trump and Energy Plan

Will it remain?

But Trump still may undo the tax credit for solar, the Clean Energy Plan and our support for the Paris Agreement (see planetearth5.com, “The Historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21”). Raj Prabhu, CEO for a clean energy firm, commented on the tax credit roll back that may happen under the Trump administration, “It could happen, but it’s unlikely, due to the bipartisan nature of how the bill was passed in Congress and the momentum solar has right now. Solar has gone mainstream with utilities companies, businesses, and home owners, not to mention that solar jobs exceed over 200,000.” Last year 31,000 new solar jobs were added to the industry, 20 times the national average for job creation. Plus, solar power systems prices are constantly declining–30% in 2016.

Prabhu also states “Contrary to election rhetoric, it’s not regulation or renewable subsidies that are killing coal; it’s actually natural gas, which is cheap and abundant. Utilities companies will buy from sources based on economics, not politics, and its difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal.” Added to this is the fact that, although environmentally devastating, many coal mining jobs have been lost due to table top mining, which requires less labor.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

Countering the Trump Administration

William Yardley of the Los Angeles Times, states in his article, “Will Paris Climate Accord and Other Environmental Pacts Survive a Trump Presidency?” that Trump will be the only world leader to question whether climate change is real. ” Many activists have long argued that government cannot be counted on to lead on climate issues. Some say a blend of global market forces affecting fossil fuels, the declining cost of solar and wind energy, grass-roots activism, legal action in U.S. courts and international pressure could help counter whatever efforts a Trump administration might make to undo existing policies.”

Lack of Leadership Won’t Stop Transition To Clean Energy

And K.C. Golden chairman of 350.org, “This is obviously a setback, in part because we started so damn late and there’s already quite a bit of damage, but this transition (renewable energy) is underway and it’s driven by a whole lot of things–human will, local policy, state policy, international policy, and technology development. There will be more of a price to pay and more climate damage will accumulate and be inflicted on people, because we’ll go slower than we would go if we had concerted American leadership, but the lack of American leadership won’t stop the transition.”

Maybe I have searched for the more positive aspects concerning predictions about our future under a new administration with no clean energy plan, but that’s ok. Me, and maybe a few of you, needed it! We, as individuals, must embrace the responsibility to create a cleaner environment, while supporting local, state and international efforts towards saving our planet.

Clean Energy and the Trump Administration


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Forecasting Global Change

Elections 3016

Predicting the future


Dr. John J. Hidore

November 16, 2016—–The desire to know the future is deeply ingrained in the human species. The future is extremely important to contemporary society, but it is probably no more so than it was to people at any other time in history. Forecasting is the process of predicting some event or the status of some phenomenon in the future. Forecasts can be useful for planning purposes, humorous, or even dangerous. In the past when a demand for knowledge of the future existed, mystical forms of prophecy came into existence. Priests, witches, prophets, crystal balls, astrology, palmistry, and oracles all played a part.

Climate change

Nothing is Permanent

The Great Pyramid of Cheops

There exist sites and remains of structures which have played important roles in predicting the future in ages past. One of the earliest is the Great Pyramid of Cheops (ca. 2650 B.C.) in Egypt. The size and finesse of construction of this pyramid, more than 4000 years ago, has led to speculation of every kind about its construction and what it means.

The pyramid is a monument to Pharaoh Cheops, founder of the fourth dynasty. Perhaps as many as l00,000 laborers built this monument. They moved more than two million stone blocks from a quarry down the Nile River to near Cairo. The blocks were then transported to the west side of the Nile valley and hoisted onto the escarpment. There they assembled the blocks into the structure which remains today. White limestone pieces were then fitted so as to provide a smooth surface to the structure. Most of the white facing is now gone. Only a few pieces still remain near the top. It was probably pirated over time for other structures.

All change is not growth

Moving Backwards

Inside the structure are a series of passageways which lead to two burial chambers, one for the pharaoh and the other for his wife. In 1864 a Scottish astronomer, Charles Piayyi Smyth, made accurate measurements of the direction and dimensions of the passageways. Based on his measurements he came up with a chronology covering 6000 years. He used one pyramid inch (25.25 mm) to represent one year. Downturns and restrictions in passageways represent hard times and world disasters. Upturns, broad passageways, and the burial chambers themselves represent good times and major advances for the human species.

Some of the structural chronology and significant world events coincide. However, either the human species did not heed the message, or there were mistakes made in construction because the system fails frequently. They built the passageways, as they are, for real reasons. Certainly, a people capable of the design and construction of the monument did not build the interior randomly. However, their reasons are now unknown. The end of the corridors implies a great new world by 2001, an optimistic prediction which unfortunately did not seem to be correct.

The Need for Forecasting

Today, as in the past, there are many questions about the future global system for which we need information. One whole group of question centers around the widespread and varied impact that climate change would have on other aspects of the environment. Among the many things that would change if climate changes are global temperatures, sea level, biological diversity both on land and in the ocean. Some notion of the difficulty of forecasting global environmental change is the complexity of the interaction and feedback between various parts of the global system.

For example, human induced increases in CO2 and other trace gasses are major elements in potential global warming. However, because CO2 is the primary raw material for photosynthesis, increased CO2 concentration is likely to have a direct biological impact on the extent and distribution of Earth’s vegetation.

Forecasting Today

As the human population grows, and the world enters further into a global economy, forecasting future events becomes ever more important. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the future for certain. There are now forecasts being made from climate change to space travel. Some forecasts are being made out as far as the year 2100, 85 years from now. If we look back 85 years to 1930, it is worth noting what has transpired. Technological developments that have occurred since then include such things as hybrid cars, self-drive cars, drones, television, organ transplants, satellites, travel to the moon, nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence. None of these could have been included in forecasting today’s world.

Today forecasts are being made for conditions as far away as 2050 and 2100. The question is, how can forecasts for conditions this far out be made accurately, when so many technological and cultural changes can be expected to occur during this time. Some cultural elements, such as regional over-population, income imbalance, indigenous uprisings, and resource depletion, are individually and collectively important factors in defining our world in the future. There can be no doubt that in 2016 the rate of change is taking place faster than ever before and how it will change simply is unknown in many, if not most, cases.

The effective life of forecasts may be very short. For instance, climate forecasts by the IPCC have often underestimated the extent of future changes. These forecasts have been revised every seven years. Forecasts of global conditions to 2050 are at least questionable. Those for 2100 even more so. It must be recognized, that for some forecasts that are continually being made, the reliability decreases on almost a daily basis.

As an example of forecasts going bad is the presidential election in the United States in 2016. A seemingly endless number of forecasts predicted Hillary Clinton to win up to the day before the election. Sadly they were all wrong.

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is purported to have stated, “There is nothing permanent except change!”


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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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When Fracking Takes Precedence Over People

Fracking, Earthquakes and Greenhouse gases

Fracking Contributes to Greenhouse Gases

“The essence of what the legislature and government have done is to give energy corporations a license to drill, wherever and whenever, they want!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 12, 2016—Fracking, as a mining tool, continues to spread! It has long been known by geologists that shale deposits deep underground often contain natural gas. In recent decades there has been a growing fracking industry, based on mining oil and natural gas from these deposits.

The Process of Fracking

The process if fracking involves drilling vertically into a deep shale deposit. Once in the shale, the drill is turned to work horizontally. A variety of chemicals and other ingredients are sent down the well under high pressure. This breaks up the shale and releases the oil or natural gas. This form of well drilling is called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. There are thousands of such wells in the United States and the number is growing rapidly. In the U.S. most of these wells are concentrated in the Southwest.

Fracking Increases Methane Emissions

While fracking produces large amounts of natural gas, there are a number of problems which result from this technique. In the drilling stage, there is often a flow back up the well that sends a mixture of methane and drilling material to the earth’s surface and into the atmosphere.

Methane is 20 times more effective, weight to weight, in absorbing earth radiation than is carbon dioxide. It is second only to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas emitted by industries in the U.S. The combination of carbon dioxide and methane combined account for 93% of greenhouse gas emissions at present! A survey of fracking sites in Pennsylvania revealed drilling operations emitting plumes of methane, up to 1000 times greater than the standards the EPA are in the process of finalizing.

Fracking is now the largest source of methane emission in the United States! It contributes to the concentration of methane in the atmosphere and, thus, to global warming. Fracking is associated with increasing earthquakes and a methane cloud above the earth. The concentration of these wells in some regions has also led to other problems. In the Great Plains, swarms of earthquakes have recently occurred which are associated with fracking. Earthquakes have always occurred in Oklahoma, but they have increased rapidly in the past few years. In September of this year, about 250 earthquakes were recorded and there have been more than 2500 in the past year.

Fracking and local water sources

Fracking can contaminate drinking water.

Fracking and Earthquakes

These earthquakes have been attributed to the injection of waste water which results from the drilling of wells based on fracking. The volume of waste water injection has increased nearly 80% in just the past six years. To reduce the hazard the government ordered several dozen waste water wells in one area shut down. In addition to the increasing number of earthquakes, a long lasting methane cloud has also appeared over parts of the great plains. The cloud covers more than 2500 square miles and is centered over New Mexico. At last report the cloud was still growing and adding to global warming problems.

In spite of the problems associated with fracking some states actively encourage the mining process. Among these is North Carolina. For years horizontal drilling for oil and gas was banned in order to protect the ground water supply upon which so many depended for fresh water. That protection was totally abandoned in 2012. In that year the Republicans controlled the legislature, passing a bill that legalized horizontal drilling and making fracking legal. The next year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered North Carolina $500,000 in grants to fund water quality monitoring in areas most likely to be affected by fracking. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected the grant. The state now protects the mining company’s right to drill.

Fracking and earthquakes

Fracking is contributing to earthquakes in the U.S.

Fracking and Lack of Regulation

In 2014 the legislature of North Carolina passed legislation which hastened the prospects for fracking in North Carolina. The legislation prohibits any local government, such as cities or counties, from attempting to regulate fracking in any manner. It also protects energy companies from any legal actions taken by individuals. The legislation permits mining companies to keep secret the chemicals it uses in the fracking process. It makes it a crime for any citizen to reveal the contents of the fracking chemicals under any circumstances.

The essence of what the legislature and governor have done is to give energy corporations a license to drill, wherever and whenever, they want!


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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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Investors Support Population Growth for Profit

Overpopulation and wallstreet

Do Republicans support overpopulation?

“Should the Republican Party sweep the coming elections, the availability of family planning services will be greatly reduced and our population will continue to grow at an unhealthy rate.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

September 22, 2016—-The human population of planet earth is under a great deal of stress. Civil uprisings and violence are widespread. There are a variety of factors responsible for the stress. They include population growth, resource depletion, climate change, and the rapid concentration of wealth in a small group of super rich.

Slowing Population Growth

There is no simple answer to these problems but slowing or halting population growth provides part of the answer. Much of today’s global unrest and violence can be traced directly to overpopulation. The population in large areas has simply grown to the point that there are no longer enough resources to provide even a basic standard of living. However, there are those that profit from the rapid growth and are working to prevent efforts to slow the rate of growth.

Population Growth and the Corporate World

The global population is growing—80 million people each year. It is now adding a billion every 12 years. It’s clear the earth cannot sustain this kind of growth. Wall Street and its investors want to see our population grow. The operating philosophy of the corporate world is economic growth. Economic growth has been the cornerstone of political and the economy since the advent of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago.

Corporate Profits and an Expanding Market

The industrial revolution was about increasing the production of manufactured goods for profit. Corporate profits depend on expanding the market for their manufactured goods and services. This can be accomplished in either of two ways. The first was to expand the market geographically and the second was by reducing the price of the commodity. In the United States, 70% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now generated by services, and so the major market is the size of the population itself. Increasing the population automatically increases the market for goods and services. Based on this simple principal of growth, corporate America has opposed any effort to slow the population growth.

Planned Parenthood

Opposition to Defund Planned Parenthood

In the United States, there is a substantial effort to reduce family size through methods of birth control. However, there are more than three million unintended pregnancies each year. Most are not using oral contraceptives simply because they do not have access to them. Planned Parenthood of America (PPA) is one of the most prominent groups providing these services. The demand for their services is high. It is estimated that twenty percent of American women have been to a clinic operated by PPA for health reasons. Most of the clients are low income and have no other health care provider.

The Republican Party vs. Planned Parenthood

There is now a major movement in this country to eliminate birth control. The opposition to these services is led by a variety of groups which consider themselves as being pro-life. One anti-abortion group even produced a video supposedly showing a clinic selling fetal parts after an abortion. The video has since been shown to have been fabricated.

In recent years the the government has supported Wall Street’s position. The Republican Party has long prevented US funds from being used for family planning in foreign countries. It is now supporting the religious right in efforts to defund family planning in this country. They consider contraception to be a form of abortion. They thus argue that contraception is not compatible with the pro-life movement.

Opposition to the Affordable Care Act

The current congress is also in opposition to the Affordable Care Act under which contraception is available. As a result opposing contraception has become a Republican strategy. The house of representatives proposed the defund Planned Parenthood act of 2015 (HR3134) last year. This bill would prohibit any funds from being used for any purpose by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The 114th congress blocked funding for Planned Parenthood for providing abortions. This bill would remove nearly half a billion dollars from the organization.

Also in 2015 congress setup several committees to investigate Planned Parenthood. Fortunately, President Obama has prevented these bills from becoming law. Many states have since passed their own laws limiting family planning. Should the Republican Party sweep the coming elections, the availability of family planning services will be greatly reduced and our population will continue to grow at an unhealthy rate.


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The World Solar Challenge: Developing Cars for our Future

Solar Car

The World Solar Challenge: Designing cars for our future/

“The World Solar Challenge contest is primarily designed to find the world’s most efficient solar car and to inspire some of the brightest young people on the planet to address the imperatives of sustainable transport!”

By Linn Smith

September 12, 2016—-The World Solar Challenge (worldsolarchallenge.org) is a solar car race that takes place in Australia every two years. Teams from universities, corporations and even high schools from around the world participate to promote research on solar-powered cars. The solar car race began in 1987 and in 2015 there were 43 teams from 23 different countries entering the race. The 30th anniversary of the race will be October 8-15, 2017.

The Solar Challenge

The Solar Car of the Future

Hans Tholstrup and the Solar Car

The idea for the contest came from Hans Tholstrup who was the first to navigate a solar car coast to coast across a country–Australia. In 1982 Hans Tholstrup, along with Larry Perkins, drove their solar car across Australia in 20 days. (See article, “The First solar Car to Cross a Continent”, Planet Earth Weekly, August 24, 2016.) The contestants in the World Solar Race are allowed 5kw hours of stored energy, which is about 10% of the necessary energy to make the trip across Australia, a total of 1900 miles. All other energy must come from the sun, or the kinetic energy generated from the motion of the vehicle.

The Solar Achiever

The solar car traveled 2500 miles in 20 days.

The Solar Car Race

Every two years the race starts in Darwin, Northern Territory in Australia and ends in Adelaide, South Australia. According to worldsolarchallenge.org, “Once the teams have left Darwin they must travel as far as they can until 5pm in the afternoon, where they make camp in the desert wherever they happen to be. All teams must be fully self-sufficient and for all concerned it is a great adventure – many say the adventure of a lifetime!” During the journey there are 7 mandatory check points where team managers may update themselves with the latest information on the weather and their own position in the field and perform the most basic of maintenance only, checking and maintenance of tire pressure and cleaning of debris from the vehicle.

Solar race across Australia.

Building cars for our future!

The Solar Car Categories

There are 3 categories of solar cars. The Challenger class makes the trip in a single stage from Darwin to Adelaide. The Cruiser Class is conducted as a regularity trial and the Adventure Class is a non-competitive class which consists of cars built for previous events.

Solar cars for our future

Driving Across Australia

The World Solar Challenge contest is primarily designed to find the world’s most efficient solar car and to inspire some of the brightest young people on the planet to address the imperatives of sustainable transport! You can find the entry forms online on the Solar Challenge website. A chance of a lifetime!

The solar Car race

Entry in the solar car race.