environment


There has been a lot of research coming out lately about pesticides. It seems like more and more people are becoming aware of the effects of these killing chemicals on us, not just the bugs they target. The information is fascinating. I thought I might put it all together as a general resource and provide some avenues for you to improve your life by reducing your exposure. After all, some of these new studies link pesticides to ADHD, others link them to Parkinsons Disease and yet others point to food and water contamination. It seems like it must be pretty wide spread considering that we grow a lot of food that bugs also eat. When we spray those plants with insecticide, we submit the chemical to the plants organism and this remains present in the plant after death, after cooking, after eating and swallowing. So you must have a lot of pesticides in you. That’s just the facts.

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I know you are hearing a lot about the water… the rivers, the oceans, the water in the tap.. and that it all seems complicated and overwhelming. Indeed, there are gyres of plastic in the ocean the size of a city and there are drugs in the tap water in New York City and the coral reefs are dieing off from pollution.. but there’s another one. One that hits really close to home and should be a major concern for you.

Recent studies prove that chemicals in the water supply (from the ocean up the waterways to your kitchen sink) are bending genders in wildlife. These chemicals are what is known as endocrine disruptors, similar to the BPA everyone has been talking about, and they change the sex in organisms. Aquatic organisms are switching from male to female and back again as a result of exposure to these chemicals. But the stuff isn’t isolated to distant waterways where nothing but creeping anemones sprawl on rocks and in caves; this stuff is right out there, where you might even be swimming. For sure, they are moving into the water that is used to make our tap water. No kidding.

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As you know from my previous writings on the subject, BPA or Bisphenol A is an organic compound used in a huge number of retail products, including plastic food and beverage containers, kitchen appliances, electronics (casings) and packaging of all kinds. It is even included in the resins used to line soda, soup and vegetable cans. It is currently known to be an “endocrine disrupter” or a synthetic chemical known to mimic the behavior of estrogen. It has been found to disrupt normal heart muscle function and prompt arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. BPA has come under increasing scrutiny by medical researchers for this endocrine-hormone-disrupting potential and has gotten a lot of media attention for this. This new information proves that it can interfere with reproductive, egg and fat cell development, as well as with thyroid hormone and neurological functions. The chemical has also been labled an “obesegen”, meaning it is linked to conditions that can prompt obesity and diabetes.

Suspected of being hazardous to humans since as early as the 1930s, current concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products began in 2008. At that time several governments and their agencies issued reports questioning its’ safety. The news media grabbed the story and many retailers quietly removed products containing BPA from store shelves. Up until now, the main concern have been regarding the exposure of fetuses, infants and young children to products loaded with the compound.

But there is new, disheartening (excuse the pun), news. A study released this week by researchers at the University of Cincinnati says that exposure to bisphenol A may increase heart disease in women. And guess what? New research proves that these effects can occur at very low levels of exposure. In other words, you don’t have to drink more than a couple sodas a day or use more than 1 or 2 plastic food storage containers.

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The concept behind biochar is a bit complicated but very interesting. Based on an ancient Amazonian practice of burying carbon in the soil, the industry plans to sequester vast quantities of carbon in the soil and sell the latent emissions as credits on the worldwide carbon market. The theory is that if terra preta (charcoal enriched soil) is created on a global scale as much as 6 billion tons of CO2 would be prevented from entering the atmosphere every year. Although this is only about half of the 8 to 10 billion tons of carbon emitted yearly by human activity it is still substantial enough to be investigated. In fact, scientists around the world are saying that burying biochar would not only slow the rate of global warming it would also enhance the soil and make a side dish of sustainable biofuels as well.

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This was all the news back in October 2009. Members of the airline industry group “IATA” pledged to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent a year until 2020, and called on governments worldwide to provide incentives to speed biofuel development. There have been advances made in jet liner biofuels and I will be posting more on this in the near future. The idea of airliners running on biofuel is an exciting one, but is it viable?

The industry group represents all the major airlines, worldwide, and it is noteworthy that they also agreed to reduce carbon emissions by a full 50% of current levels by the year 2050. This all occurred in a meeting on climate change held in Montreal in 2009.

IATA director Giovanni Bisignani has been quoted as saying that the meeting had made it “absolutely clear that industry is committed to improving environmental performance”. He also was quoted as saying that cooperation between states and airlines would be key to lowering emissions. It is my opinion, at this time, that this remains to be seen.

Mr. Bisignani also said that “Governments have some homework to do, improving air traffic management and accelerating biofuel development by establishing the right fiscal and legal frameworks.” At the same meeting, he also called for “aviation access to global carbon markets to offset emissions until technology provides the ultimate solution.”

All of this is fine and dandy but in light of the sad results of last years Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, these goals are merely goals and do not look doable in the long run. Not that airline carbon reduction would be a huge factor anyways. Accordiing to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), airlines are only responsible for 2% of carbon dioxide emitted worldwide and about 3% of emissions currently linked to climate change. This is really nothing compared to the farming industry, agriculture and the mowing down of the rainforest for toilet paper.

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This is such a cool idea that I just had to come at it, even though I’m a few months behind on the original announcement. In September, 2009, a new car aptly named the “Algaeus” completed it’s cross country tour successfully and refueled the idea that algae might bring natural solutions to our high tech problems after all. The algae fueled car traveled 3,750 miles across the country, spreading the word of new possibilities. After it completed it’s tour, it then joined the “Green Energy Bus”, the Veggie Van Organization and the FUEL team for a college tour to further spread the green word. The “Green Energy Bus” is a retrofit interactive classroom that shows students just how the new concept works.

The Algaeus is the brainchild of Sapphire Energy, the leader in algae-based renewable fuel, who joined with the team behind the award winning film FUEL, to complete the first cross-country car tour powered by a blend of algae-based gasoline in an unmodified engine. It took a total of 10 days after starting in San Fransisco and making it’s way to New York City, to which it arrived on September 18. The Algaeus presents a tantalizing peek into a very likely future which excites me. Sapphire Energy provides the fuel for the extraordinary car, containing a mixture of hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude and extracted through Sapphire’s proprietary process. However, there really is nothing extraordinary about the car in reality. It could be your car, the way things are hopefully going to turn out!

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In Florida, 12 waste-to-energy facilities from Miami to Panama City process nearly 20,000 tons of municipal solid waste each day while continuously producing over 500 megawatts of clean, renewable power. This amount of waste is enough to fill a football stadium, imagine that! The Tampa Bay area is home to four waste-to-energy facilities, located in the City of Tampa and in the counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Without these facilities, local governments would be faced with the daunting task of siting large landfills near rapidly growing residential communities. The issue of this development is another problem to be addressed in a different forum but there is no doubt that this landfill to energy idea is a good one.

I first heard about this idea several years ago when a small county northwest of where I reside started pumping landfill gas through pipes and converting it to energy. In fact, I later heard a follow up that claimed the entire city was running on this power alone. Amazing. Not only is this greenie meanie but it’s cheap, too. These waste-to-energy projects eliminate 90% of the waste that might have ended up in a landfill. But it isn’t nearly enough, as you can imagine, because landfills throughout the state are reaching capacity faster than anticipated. It is becoming increasingly difficult to expand landfills or open new ones as residential development encroaches on once-remote landfill sites. People are already living in homes where they can smell garbage 24/7 in various lower income areas around the state. Florida’s current population of over 17 million is expected to reach almost 23 million by the year 2020, bringing even more challenges to managing municipal solid waste.

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